Tales from the Morgue: The not-so-great, attempted train robbery, part 2

2013-11-27T09:00:00Z 2014-04-24T16:30:04Z Tales from the Morgue: The not-so-great, attempted train robbery, part 2Johanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 27, 2013 9:00 am  • 

The attempted train robbery happened in the early morning hours of May 15, 1922. For newspapers, this is bad news and good news.

The bad news is that the event happened after deadline and the paper wouldn't have the news for an entire day. The good news is that reporters had enough time to cover the story as thoroughly as possible for the following morning's edition.

Not only did the Star carry a detailed account of the attempted robbery, but it had the story of the rancher who had been killed.

Thomas Dugat, the man who was killed while attempting to rob the train, was a goat rancher who was upset that his wife had to work to help the family make ends meet.

Mrs. Dugat spoke with a Star reporter about her husband. From the Arizona Daily Star, May 16, 1922:

 

Dugat Turned Train Robber to Provide for his Family
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WIFE TELLS OF HER HUSBAND'S BREAK IN LUCK
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Says He Threatened to Make Supreme Sacrifice
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"It broke his heart when I had to go to work; he said he was prepared to make the supreme sacrifice so that I could rest, and he made it."

In this way Mrs. Thomas Dugat explains the participation of her husband, Tom Dugat, in the attempted hold-up early yesterday morning of the Golden State Express, which resulted in his death from a bullet fired by Harry Stewart, express messenger.

Mrs. Dugat's voice shook with suppressed emotion last night as she explained to a Star reporter the reason which, in her opinion, led Tom Dugat, goat rancher, to attempt the hold-up of the Rock Island's crack train.

"Six months ago Mr. Dugat found it hard to sell his stock, and to tide us over the hard times I have been working as a nurse. He had a proud spirit, and it broke his heart to see me have to do this. I didn't mind it, and I told him so, but he wasn't satisfied.

"A month ago he wrote me that it was driving him mad to think that he could not make enough to support me and our little baby, Corinne. He said he was prepared to make the supreme sacrifice so that I could quit the work. I couldn't imagine what he meant, but I see it now.

No Financial Troubles

"There was no other reason why he should have done it; none in the world. He didn't owe any man a cent, that I know of. He had no financial troubles, except that he couldn't sell his stock. There has never been any domestic trouble; never a cross word in the 20 years that we have been married. He was just trying to help me. That was why he did it.

"He was a good husband and father. He loved little Corinne more than anything on earth. He had not a single bad habit—I know he hadn't. He never drank, he never gambled, and he never stayed out late at night.

"I'm sure  he hadn't thought of this awful business until late Sunday night, for he acted perfectly natural all day. He came in from the ranch to spend the day. At 6 o'clock we had a tea. Afterwards he took little Corinne to the junior class at the Baptist church, and later he went back after her.

"About 9 o'clock he left to go out to the ranch, and he kissed us both goodbye, just as he had always done. And that was the last time we ever saw him alive.

"It was 10 o'clock this morning when I was told that he had been killed. I'm thankful that he didn't kill anyone on the train.

Went to Room Early

"The ranch hand said this morning that Mr. Dugat took a light and went to his room about 10 o'clock last night. He said he was going to read awhile, as that was his custom. Everything he did yesterday was exactly as he had always done.

"I think it was all because he had worried too much. He has been sick for the last six years, and he had two operations. I think they were too much for him, because he has always worried about me since I have been working, and he complained of terrible pains in his head.

"The last operation was about a month ago, and he had been out of the hospital only two weeks. When he came out of the hospital we took a cottage in town, so I could take care of him. But I think the operations were more than he could stand. His proud spirit would not be satisfied when he saw me working, and it worried him constantly, though I told him again and again that I didn't mind it a bit.

"He was a desperate man—no one can deny that. Whatever he set his mind to, he would carry on to the end, even if the end were death. This time he had set his mind to free me from doing this work. The end was death, and he met it for my sake."

As Mr. Dugat was not successful in the train robbery, it would seem that his widow would have to continue working to support herself and her daughter. So unless he had a good life insurance policy, Mr. Dugat's sacrifice was in vain.

Next: A little history and some morbid curiosity.

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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