Tales from the Morgue: The not-so-great, attempted train robbery, part 3

2013-11-28T09:00:00Z 2014-04-24T16:30:04Z Tales from the Morgue: The not-so-great, attempted train robbery, part 3Johanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 28, 2013 9:00 am  • 

By 1922, train robberies weren't quite as common as they had been before the turn of the century, if they had ever been considered common. Soon trains would not be the fastest and easiest way to transfer money, and robberies would not be worth the trouble and risk.

If it had not been for the death of a man during the attempted robbery in 1922, the story would merely be a romantic reminder of the wilder days of the west. A former Pima County sheriff shared some of his memories of past train robberies.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Wednesday, May 17, 1922:

 

ATTEMPTED TRAIN ROBBERY AT JAYNES IS FIRST IN MANY YEARS
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Ex-Sheriff of Pima County Recalls Bad Men of Early Day
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The attempted train robbery near Jaynes station Monday morning was the first incident of its kind in this county in 35 years, according to M. F. Shaw, formerly sheriff of Pima county.

"Two train robberies occurred at Vail station in 1887 within a few months of each other," Mr. Shaw said last night. "In the first one, the robbers cut off the baggage car and mail car from the rest of the train, and drove the engine and the two cars back in the direction where the rest of the train was standing. The engine got about half way back.

"The robbers came into town, took supper at a restaurant and went to bed."

The next robbery at Vail occurred in August, a few months afterward. The bandits ordered the engine crew to stop, but the latter tried to drive by. The switch had been left open, however, and the engine was ditched.

"As the locomotive whizzed by the robbers, they fired. One of the shots took off one-half of Fireman Bob Bradford's mustache as neatly as a razor would have done.

"This second time, the robbers got a lot of jewelry, which they buried.

"The same two men tried robbing a train a third time. This was just outside of El Paso, two or three months after the second Vail robbery."

By a coincidence, the two bandits came to their grief through an express messenger, just as in the Dugat case, according to Mr. Shaw.

"They had ordered the messenger to get out of the car. As he did so, he turned out the lights. One of them asked him why he had done so. As he clambered up on the car again, one of the bandits kicked him. He told me afterward that it was the kick that made him mad.

"His hand happened to touch his gun as he was climbing up. He let one of the bandits have one barrel of it. When the other robber came up to see what was the matter, he let him have the other barrel. Both bandits were killed instantly.

"Later, one of their confederates in the first Vail robbery pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to five years in the federal penitentiary at Columbus, Ohio."

Sheriff Ben F. Daniels said last night that no arrests had been made in the recent attempted train robbery case. He expressed disbelief as to one of the other robbers having been wounded in the gun play between the express messenger, Harry Stewart, and the bandits.

"The only man who was hit was Tom Dugat," Sheriff Daniels said.

Express messenger Stewart will probably arrive in Tucson this morning, and is expected to testify at the inquest before Justice of the Peace Oscar L. Pease, at 2 o'clock this afternoon.

On the same day it was reported that curiosity seekers were eager to see the body of the dead man, Tom Dugat. They were turned away. From the Star, Wednesday, May 17, 1922:

 

Tucsonans Crowd Undertakers to See Dead Bandit
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Over Thousand Turned Away At Wife's Request to Bar Curious
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Illustrating the morbid curiosity of crowds regarding persons who have been implicated in accidents or crimes it was state yesterday by H. H. Grimshaw, one of the partners of the Parker-Grimshaw undertaking establishment, that more than 1,000 persons visited the office Monday and Tuesday to ask permission to view the body of Tom Dugat, the goat rancher who was killed in the attempted hold-up of the Golden State Limited Monday morning.

The family of the hold-up man had requested that no one be allowed to view the body after identification had been made by the man's widow, and all persons who requested the privilege were turned away.

The first of the persons wishing to view the body appeared about 6 o'clock Monday morning, Mr. Grimshaw stated, and from 8 o'clock until evening a steady stream of about 100 persons an hour found its way into the office.

Based on Mrs. Dugat's statement reprinted yesterday, one can see that the grape vine was in good working order in Tucson on the morning of the hold-up. People began requesting to view the body hours before Mrs. Dugat was told of her husband's death.

Next: Coroner's inquest.

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About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com