Celebrated Criminal Cases of America: Browning and Brady

Murderers and Train Robbers

At 9 p. m., Oc­to­ber 12, 1894, two young men, one very tall and pow­er­fully built and the other of medium height, halted a track-walker named John Kelly as he was speed­ing along on a track tri­cy­cle about seven miles from Davisville, Cal.
They re­lieved Kelly of $5.50, some dy­na­mite car­tridges used for sig­nal­ing trains, and his red lantern. Their next move was to bind him hand and foot and ren­der the tri­cy­cle use­less.
The car­tridges were then placed on the track and the rob­bers awaited the ar­rival of No. 3 Omaha Over­land, which left San Fran­cisco at 6 p. m.
Presently it ap­peared, and in re­sponse to the wild wav­ing of the red lantern in the hands of one of the rob­bers and the ex­plo­sion of the dy­na­mite car­tridges. En­gi­neer Bill Scott lost no time in bring­ing his train to a stand­still.
The ban­dits then pointed pis­tols at the en­gi­neer and fire­man and or­dered them to ac­com­pany them (the rob­bers) to the third car back, which was Wells Fargo and Co.’s ex­press car.
The fire­man was in­structed to un­cou­ple the ex­press car from the cars in the rear.
The en­gi­neer and fire­man were then or­dered to ac­com­pany the rob­bers to the lo­co­mo­tive and pull the three cars about three miles from the re­main­der of the train, the rob­bers keep­ing them cov­ered with re­volvers all the while.
When they came to a stop, the fire­man and en­gi­neer were in­structed to ac­com­pany the rob­bers to the ex­press car, and En­gi­neer Scott was told to per­suade J. F. Paige, the ex­press mes­sen­ger, to open the door or he (Scott) would be killed.
In re­sponse to Scott’s plead­ings, Paige fi­nally opened the door, but not be­fore he had fired sev­eral shots, none of which did any dam­age.
The en­gi­neer and fire­man were then or­dered to enter the car and carry the con­tents of the safe, nearly $53,000.00, back to the lo­co­mo­tive.
The fire­man was or­dered to un­cou­ple the en­gine from the cars. The rob­bers then en­tered the cab and throw­ing the throt­tle wide open they sped away in the dark­ness, leav­ing the train­men stand­ing by the track dum­founded.
After trav­el­ing a cou­ple of miles they stopped the en­gine, and after re­mov­ing their loot, re­versed the lever, opened the throt­tle and jumped to the ground.
The en­gine re­turned to the three cars, but as the steam was then low, the only dam­age done was to cave in the end of the first car.
When the rob­bers jumped from the en­gine they were about two miles from Sacra­mento, and as their loot was too heavy to carry any dis­tance with­out at­tract­ing at­ten­tion, it was sur­mised that the money was cached near the spot where the ban­dits left the lo­co­mo­tive.
The rail­road and ex­press com­pany de­tec­tives co-op­er­ated with Chief of Po­lice Drew of Sacra­mento in or­ga­niz­ing and send­ing out posses after the ban­dits, but they re­turned de­spon­dent and empty handed.
For sev­eral years prior to 1895, the In­gle­side road­house was con­ducted in the south­west­ern sub­urbs of San Fran­cisco by aged Cor­nelius Stagg, who was a jovial host and boon com­pan­ion.
At 9:40 p. m., on March 16, 1895, two men, wear­ing linen dusters and white masks, en­tered the side door of this road-house.
At the time the bar­tender and three pa­trons were in the bar­room. The rob­bers cov­ered the four men with pis­tols and or­dered them to throw up their hands. The taller of the two then left these four in charge of his com­pan­ion while he pro­ceeded to the rear rooms on a tour of in­spec­tion.
In the sit­ting-room he found Mr. Stagg con­vers­ing with Robert Lee, his col­ored ser­vant.
The rob­ber or­dered the two men to hold up their hands, but Stagg, being a prac­ti­cal joker him­self, con­cluded that some of his friends were turn­ing the ta­bles on him and merely laughed at the com­mand.
The in­fu­ri­ated rob­ber then sprang at him and struck him a ter­ri­ble blow over the head.
The negro took ad­van­tage of his op­por­tu­nity and in­stantly bolted for the door.
It is pre­sumed that Stagg con­tin­ued to offer re­sis­tance, for im­me­di­ately af­ter­ward two shots were heard. The tall rob­ber then re­turned to the bar­room and after hur­riedly re­mov­ing the con­tents of the money-till, about $4.00, the two ban­dits backed out of the place and dis­ap­peared.
The men in the bar­room then rushed to the sit­ting-room to as­cer­tain the cause of the shoot­ing, and they found Stagg dying from two bul­let wounds.
At 1:45 a. m., March 30, 1895, the Ore­gon Ex­press train. No. 15, was run­ning at a high rate of speed near Wheat­land, a small town twelve miles south of Marysville, Cal., when En­gi­neer A. L. Bowser and Fire­man Bar­ney Nether­cott were star­tled by feel­ing a pointed in­stru­ment against their backs and at the same time hear­ing a com­mand to halt the train. Upon turn­ing around they ob­served two masked men who had re­volvers in their hands. The en­gi­neer lost no time in bring­ing his train to a halt at the next road cross­ing in ac­cor­dance with the com­mand of the taller of the two ban­dits.
The rob­bers then or­dered Bowser and Nether­cott to pre­cede them to Wells Fargo and Co.’s car. Upon being in­formed that his car would be dy­na­mited if he did not open it in­stantly, the ex­press mes­sen­ger opened the door and the shorter of the two rob­bers en­tered and began a search for money. The through safe con­tain­ing the valu­ables was locked with a com­bi­na­tion un­known to the mes­sen­ger, and as the rob­bers had no equip­ment for blow­ing open the safe, they handed Fire­man Nether­cott a sack made from the leg of an old pair of over­alls, and com­pelled him and the en­gi­neer to pre­cede them into the pas­sen­ger cars. The pas­sen­gers who had not gone to bed were in­structed to keep their seats and place their valu­ables in the sack which the fire­man car­ried. All the pas­sen­gers in the first car com­plied with the re­quest with the ex­cep­tion of a man named Samp­son, who pos­i­tively re­fused to part with his valu­ables. For his “ob­sti­nacy” the tall rob­ber beat him over the head with his re­volver in a most bru­tal man­ner. The ban­dits and their in­vol­un­tary com­pan­ions then pro­ceeded to the smok­ing car, where they began op­er­a­tions in the same man­ner as in the first car.
In the mean­time, a col­ored porter, know­ing that Sher­iff J. J. Bog­ard of Tehama County was in bed in a sleep­ing car, ran to lo­cate the of­fi­cial and no­tify him of what was tran­spir­ing. The Sher­iff dressed hastily and, pis­tol in hand, he rushed to the smoker. He im­me­di­ately opened fire on the taller of the two masked rob­bers and shot him through the breast, killing him in­stantly. The shorter of the two ban­dits then began fir­ing, the first shot killing the Sher­iff, and the next shot se­ri­ously wound­ing the fire­man, who still held the im­pro­vised re­cep­ta­cle for the loot.
After fir­ing sev­eral shots promis­cu­ously, the lone ban­dit backed out of the car and dis­ap­peared in the dark­ness with­out stop­ping to take the booty from the wounded fire­man. The train bear­ing the dead and wounded was then rushed to Marys-ville.
Peace of­fi­cers went to work on the case at once. On the day fol­low­ing the tragedy. Sher­iff Sam Inlow of Yuba County and Deputy Sher­iff Bog­ard of Tehama County, a brother of the mur­dered Sher­iff, lo­cated a bi­cy­cle in the brush near the scene of the holdup, and on the same day they found an­other bi­cy­cle hid­den under a small bridge near State Sen­a­tor Dan Os­trom’s home, which was about three miles from the scene of the rob­bery. It was the the­ory of the of­fi­cers that this was the bi­cy­cle upon which the short ban­dit es­caped and that the one found in the brush be­longed to the ban­dit who was killed.
As the rob­bers or­dered the train to stop near the spot where the bi­cy­cle was con­cealed in the brush, it was pre­sumed that the ma­chines had been pre­vi­ously hid­den there to be used as a means of es­cape.
The gen­eral ap­pear­ance and modus operandi of these two men con­vinced the au­thor­i­ties that they were the same men who held up the Omaha train near Davisville on Oc­to­ber 12, 1894, and also mur­dered old Cor­nelius Stagg in San Fran­cisco.
Be­liev­ing that these men pro­cured their bi­cy­cles in San Fran­cisco, the ma­chines were brought to the city, where they were pos­i­tively iden­ti­fied by Perkins & Speiker, bi­cy­cle agents, who had rented out the ma­chines to two men about one week pre­vi­ous to the last holdup. When shown a pho­to­graph of the dead ban­dit, the mem­bers of the firm at once rec­og­nized it as a like­ness of the taller of the two men who hired the bi­cy­cles. After show­ing the pic­ture to sev­eral peo­ple in the neigh­bor­hood it was fi­nally as­cer­tained that it was a pho­to­graph of the re­mains of a man known as O. S. Brown, who had resided at 626 Golden Gate av­enue, San Fran­cisco.
A fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion dis­closed the fact that a short man named John Brady, alias John McGuire, alias Henry Williams, an ex-con­vict who resided at 305 Grove street, had been Brown’s in­sep­a­ra­ble com­pan­ion, but had dis­ap­peared im­me­di­ately after the bi­cy­cles had been pro­cured. (These men had pre­vi­ously served a term in prison for horse steal­ing.)
Brady’s room was searched and in a trunk Cap­tain of De­tec­tives Lees found pho­tographs of Brady and the man known as Brown, whose right name was Samuel Brown­ing. The news­pa­pers pub­lished Brady’s like­ness, but the ban­dit re­mained under cover for many months.
On July 25, 1895, a man en­tered the gro­cery store con­ducted by Phil Reihl in the vil­lage called Freeport, a few miles from Sacra­mento. He pur­chased a can of oys­ters and some crack­ers, and while Reihl was wrap­ping up the pack­age the stranger picked up the news­pa­per of that date. He be­came so ab­sorbed in an ar­ti­cle that he be­came un­con­scious of his sur­round­ings and the ex­pres­sion on his face as he pe­rused the ar­ti­cle at­tracted Reihl’s at­ten­tion.
After fin­ish­ing the ar­ti­cle the stranger threw down the paper and his sup­pressed ex­cite­ment was ap­par­ent as he hastily left the store. Through cu­rios­ity Reihl picked up the paper and. saw that the ar­ti­cle which so afl­fected his strange cus­tomer was in re­la­tion to a clew which the of­fi­cers had re­cently ob­tained re­gard­ing the where­abouts of Brady. The gro­cer im­me­di­ately tele­phoned to the Sher­iff, who sent Deputies Alexan­der Mc­Don­ald and W. A. John­son in pur­suit.
At 8 a. m, on the fol­low­ing day the deputies saw a man sit­ting under a bridge near the vil­lage of Rich­land, about 17 miles from Sacra­mento. They man­aged to close in on him with­out being ob­served, and when they pointed their weapons at him he was so sur­prised that he had no op­por­tu­nity to re­sist.
At first he claimed that he was not Brady and that he had never com­mit­ted a crime, but a sawed-oflF shot­gun was lying be­side him which was sub­se­quently iden­ti­fied as prop­erty stolen from Wells-Fargo Ex­press car dur­ing the last holdup.
On July 27 the man ad­mit­ted that he was Brady and made a com­plete con­fes­sion, in which he stated that Brown­ing and he robbed Stagg’s place and also com­mit­ted both train rob­beries. He fur­ther­more took the of­fi­cers to the spot in the tules near Sacra­mento where he and Brown­ing had buried $50,000.00 of the money stolen near Davisville. The of­fi­cers re­cov­ered $17,000.00, but what be­came of the bal­ance re­mained a mys­tery until the year fol­low­ing.
On July 29 Brady was taken to Marysville by Sher­i­flF Inlow to be tried for the mur­der of Sher­iff Bog­ard. On Au­gust 13 his pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion was con­cluded and he was held to an­swer. On No­vem­ber 27, 1895, Brady was con­victed and sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment.
On the morn­ing of Feb­ru­ary 7, 1896, a stranger en­tered the of­fice of De­tec­tive Hume, of Wells, Fargo & Com­pany, and in­formed him that he sus­pected that a man known to him as Carl Her­man had gained pos­ses­sion of the money stolen by Brown­ing and Brady, When asked the rea­son for his sus­pi­cions he replied:
“I have a friend named Kohler who is a black­smith and a per­sonal friend of Her­man, who until Oc­to­ber, 1894, was com­monly called ‘Carl the tramp.’ Up to that time he never had a cent, never worked and was a typ­i­cal tramp. Sud­denly he dis­carded his rags, ar­rayed him­self in the costli­est gar­ments and had di­a­monds ga­lore. He be­came a con­stant vis­i­tor at the race­track, where he met a woman known as May Vaughn. Her­man spent money lav­ishly on her and her fe­male corn­pan­ions, and fi­nally fit­ted up a flat for the Vaughn woman at 412 Post street, San Fran­cisco. He then went to Chicago, but be­com­ing lone­some, he telegraphed $1,000.00 to May with in­struc­tions to join him im­me­di­ately. May got the money but did not go to Chicago. Carl then re­turned to San Fran­cisco but not to May.
“Her­man found no dif­fi­culty in get­ting ‘friends’ to help him spend his money and one night he gave a din­ner at Zink-and’s which cost him over $300.00.”
The stranger also in­formed De­tec­tive Hume that Kohler had an ap­point­ment with Her­man at Sec­ond and Howard streets that morn­ing. De­tec­tives White and Thacker were de­tailed to watch the place des­ig­nated, and at the ap­pointed time a man of Her­man’s de­scrip­tion made his ap­pear­ance. The de­tec­tives took him into cus­tody and using the in­for­ma­tion ob­tained from the stranger, they soon had the man so un­nerved that he vol­un­tar­ily made the fol­low­ing con­fes­sion:
“My right name is John P. Harms. On the night of the Davisville train rob­bery I slept in the tules near Sacra­mento, and on the fol­low­ing morn­ing I dis­cov­ered a spot where the ground had been re­cently dis­turbed and cov­ered over with leaves in a very care­ful man­ner. I in­ves­ti­gated and soon dug up the golden trea­sure. I could only carry $33,000 con­ve­niently, so I placed that amount in my blan­kets and beat a hasty re­treat.”
The de­tec­tives learned of de­posits in banks and notes which Harms held ag­gre­gat­ing $12,000.00. Wells-Fargo gained pos­ses­sion of this money through civil suits and Harms was charged with grand lar­ceny. He was con­victed and on May 31, 1896, was sen­tenced to serve three years in Fol­som Prison. On Oc­to­ber 8, 1898, he was re­leased.

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