Tales from the Morgue: The not-so-great, attempted train robbery, part 1

2013-11-26T09:00:00Z 2014-04-24T16:30:04Z Tales from the Morgue: The not-so-great, attempted train robbery, part 1Johanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 26, 2013 9:00 am  • 

This story has many of the elements needed to make a movie: a train hold-up, a gun battle and a dead body left behind by the surviving robbers. This story, however, unfolded in the pages of the Arizona Daily Star instead of on the silver screen. It wasn't "The Great Train Robbery," but it would do for Tucson in 1922.

Some notes: A "yegg" is a robber or safecracker, and yes, "clue" was indeed spelled "clew" in the article.

From the Star, Tuesday, May 16, 1922:

 

OFFICERS SEEKING DEAD BANDIT'S PALS
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FIND DYNAMITE LEFT BY YEGGS AFTER FAILURE TO LOOT TRAIN
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Robbers Flee After Attempt to Hold-Up Express at Jaynes Leaving Dead
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Despite energetic efforts made by Sheriff Ben F. Daniels and his deputies, as well as by officers of the Southern Pacific railroad, to apprehend the robbers, the identity of the six or seven men who aided T. O. Dugat, Tucson goat rancher, in holding up the Rock Island Golden State Limited near Jaynes Station early Sunday morning, remained a mystery at 1 o'clock this morning.

In the gun battle that attended the hold-up, Dugat was killed by Express Manager Harry Stewart. The other robbers escaped.

Five sticks of dynamite were found near the scene of the shooting, which occurred one and three-quarters miles west of Jaynes Station, or about 12 miles west of Tucson.

Four of the sticks of dynamite were picked up by J. W. Sinks, special officer of the Southern Pacific railroad, who also found a sack of putty and a flashlight, all believed to have belonged to the robbers. A hat, also thought to have belonged to a member of the gang, was picked up by Mr. Sinks, but since the inside hat band was torn off, this article furnished little in the nature of a clew.

The four sticks of dynamite found by Mr. Sinks were well taped up, indicating, so the officers said, that the caps and fuses had been adjusted by skilled professionals.

The dynamite and the putty were to be used in cracking the safes in the cars, railroad officers said, explaining that the putty would have been inserted in the cracks of the safes to deaden the sound of the explosion.

Dugat's body was found near the tracks, the head lying close to the rails. When the body was brought to Tucson, Deputy Sheriff Dave E. Wilson, finger print expert of the sheriff's office, assisted by Deputy Sheriff James Sargent, took the dead man's finger prints. The hands were encased in rubber gloves at the time the body was found.

Stewart, the express messenger who killed Dugat, will arrive in Tucson tomorrow evening, having continued on his run to the coast after the shooting.

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The inquest will be held before Justice of the Peace Oscar L. Pease, ex-officio coroner of the Tucson precinct, tomorrow afternoon at 2 o'clock.

The hold-up occurred shortly after midnight, according to Special Agent O. F. Hicks, whom at the instructions of County Attorney George R. Darnell and Deputy County Attorney Ben B. Mathews, conducted a detailed examination into the case yesterday.

After signaling the train to a stop, the robbers uncoupled the engine, baggage, mail and express cars from the rest of the train and, taking possession of the engine, drove forward 75 or 100 yards, Agent Hicks said.

The exchange of shots then began, Dugat taking the lead, according to the information reaching Mr. Hicks. As Dugat was climbing up into the express car, Stewart fired and Dugat fell.

At this juncture, Extra Freight No. 2702, in charge of Conductor B. S. Montgomery, came up from the east, and the remaining six or seven robbers scattered into the night. Conductor Montgomery backed his train into Jaynes station and wired a report of the affair to the chief dispatcher at Tucson, his quick work enabling railroad officials to reach the scene 25 minutes after the shooting.

At 3:30 a. m. Judge Pease was informed by the sheriff's office that there had been a train robbery, and that one man had been killed. Accompanied by H. H. Grimshaw, a local undertaker, and a representative of The Arizona Daily Star, Judge Pease visited the scene.

A dynamite cap and fuse were found near the track, presumably having been intended to be used in forcing open a safe in the car, Agent Hicks said. The dynamite was shot off by one of the officers as a precaution against accident.

Sheriff Daniels said yesterday after returning from the scene that a Ford truck said to have belonged to Dugat was found in the flat near Jaynes station.

Visits Scene of Killing

Sheriff Daniels made two trips to the spot where the attempted robbery occurred, once in the morning and again in the afternoon. Assisting him in scouring the country around Jaynes station for traces of the robbers were Deputy Sheriffs James Sargent, Sam McEuen, Patrick P. Sheehy, Carmen Mungia, J. Lew Tremaine, and Special Deputy Tom Burke.

The crew of the train that was attacked was composed of the following: Michael Madagan, conductor; George Reid, engineer; Maurice F. Ingham, fireman; W. C. Brainard and William M. Tucker, brakemen.

Upon arriving at the scene, the party was met by J. W. Draper, W. A. Warren and J. W. Sinks, special officers of the Southern Pacific, who had been left in charge of the body. The body was lying in the position in which the man had fallen after he had been struck by the bullet from the gun of Express Messenger Harry Stewart. The man was lying sprawled on his back, with the head in the direction in which the train had been moving. His right arm, which had held the gun, was bent over his chest, while the other was extended straight from his body, with the hand half closed.

The face was that of a man about 45 years old, with a four day's growth of beard. The man wore glasses, and all of his face below the glasses was covered by a black cloth mask. He was dressed in overall jumpers.

Many Identify Body

Following the inspection of the body by Judge Pease, it was placed on the car for return to town. The body was identified yesterday morning as that of Tom Dugat by a score of his acquaintances in town.

The wound was investigated on the return to the undertaking parlors, and was found to have been inflicted by a .45 bullet, which struck in Dugat's left shoulder blade, cutting a large artery, and then glancing downward directly into his heart. The wound bled profusely, and the ground on which he lay at the scene of the shooting held literal pools of blood.

One of the special officers, who had been on the scene since 2 o'clock, told Judge Pease that he had heard a distinct cough in the brush about 150 feet away. He had been alone at the time, and although he searched the brush he was unable to find anyone. Since one man was known to have been wounded, besides the man who was killed, it was thought that this man might have hidden in the brush, hoping to avoid detection until his conspirators could return to carry him away. A thorough search of the brush was made by the entire party, but the man had evidently made good his escape for no trace of him could be found.

Following the search Judge Pease and Mr. Grimshaw returned to Tucson with the body, while the special officers and The Star representative remained to complete the search.

With the coming of daylight it was possible to search the ground thoroughly, and the tracks of the hold-up party were clearly seen in the territory surrounding the scene. Tracks were found leading along the track towards the east, while others were found with longer steps, indicating the hasty return of the hold-up men to their cars after Dugat had fallen.

Car Tracks Examined

The tracks of two cars were found on the road, turning at a point about even with the point where the engine had been stopped. One of these was evidently a heavy car with cord tires, while the other was a light car, evidently a Ford, with plain tires.

At the point where the cars had turned, the hold-up men had evidently built a fire while waiting for the train, which was late. Ashes of two small fires were found, barely concealed within a clump of mesquite bushes.

The special officers and The Star representative remained until about 7 o'clock, searching thoroughly the brush in all directions for 500 yards. Sheriff Ben F. Daniels and Deputy Sheriff J. Lew Tremaine returned to the scene at about 6 o'clock and went over the ground again. With them was Charles Bailey, of Cincinnati, who was "beating his way" on the blind baggage when the hold-up occurred.

Bailey's experiences were nerve-racking in the highest degree, but nevertheless contain what is probably the one humorous element in the affair. It is Bailey's first trip west, and he says that it surpasses his wildest dreams of the "wild and wooly" west.

"I was stealing a riding on the blind when the Golden State stopped," Bailey told the sheriff, "and I heard the hold-up man tell the engineer and firemen to 'line up and be good,' and I heard a shot fired somewhere. I thought I had better make myself solid, so I hollered out 'I'm in here, brother.' The tall, thin hold-up, who seemed to be the leader, cussed at me and told me to get out and line up with the others.

Ordered Into Cab

"He backed us up against the fence, and then seemed to change his mind, and told us to get into the cab mighty quick, and we did. He told the engineer to drive the train up ahead, and then he turned around and asked me if I was riding on the blind. I said that I was, and he said not to be afraid, that they weren't going to hurt anybody but that they 'wanted what's in that car.' Then all of a sudden he poked his gun in my face and swore, and told me to get down the train and cut off the mail and express cars.

"Well, the way he said it, I didn't hesitate, but hopped out of the cab and almost hit my chin on the muzzle of another gun. 'This hold-up swore at me, and asked me who I was.' I told him, and said that I was going down to cut off the cars. He said 'All right, and you'd better make it mighty snappy.'

"So I started on down the track and got about even with the baggage car when another one with a gun crawled out from under the car and straightened up with his gun square in my face. Well, I explained to him in a hurry, but I was getting pretty well excited, and he poked me in the ribs with the gun and said I couldn't uncouple them from that side and that I'd better get on the other side awful quick.

Crawled Under Car

"Believe me, I crawled under that care right now, and I came out on the other side so fast that I nearly knocked another of them off his feet. He was the one that got shot afterwards, the one with the glasses on. Then he started poking me with the gun and told me to make the uncoupling awful speedy. By that time I was getting wild, so when I got in between the cars I crawled underneath, and started running along under the car. The fellow with the glasses on shot at me three times, and I could hear the bullets sing all around me."

Bailey ran the entire length of the train in this fashion, dodging about under the cars, and on reaching the end continued down the track to warn the freight train whose headlight he could see approaching. The freight had already been warned by one of the passenger brakemen, however. Bailey then returned to the passenger train, but the hold-up men had already been dispersed.

Among the first to arrive on the scene were Assistant Superintendent W. H. McBess of the Tucson division of the Southern Pacific, and Trainmaster R. G. Presole. they were accompanied by the special officers C. J. Draper, W. A. Warren and W. Sinks. The party arrived about 2 o'clock.

It was stated by trainmen last night that most of the passengers on the train were unaware that any untoward event had taken place until they awoke this morning, as all the shooting occurred at a point about 12 car lengths from the passenger section of the train, which had been disconnected. None of the passengers were molested.

While the Morgue Lady recognizes the danger to the stow-away, Bailey, she is amused by his story. Whichever way he turned, there was another robber sticking a gun in his face and forcing him to make explanations again and again.

Next: The wife of the dead robber tells his story.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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

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