The robbers start their Great Train Robbery
Two robbers murder a man on a train and escape with a small amount of cash, some watches and jewelry. They evade law enforcement for over 100 miles and take refuge with an unsuspecting family. But the neighbors are suspicious. They summon the sheriff, who forms a posse. The posse shoots one down and burns another one to death in a sod house. This sounds like a Western movie plot, doesn’t it?
But the events of August 1900 were no Great Train Robbery movie.
On Aug. 10, the Goodland Republic reported that “two masked robbers” had robbed a Union Pacific Railroad (UP) train in Limon, Colo., at 12:10 a.m. During the 15-mile trip from Limon to Hugo, they had robbed eight people in two Pullman cars and had murdered a man from Los Angeles, W.J. Fay. They had jumped from the Union Pacific train in Hugo and escaped.
Hugo is 115 miles from Goodland.
The search for the robbers began as soon as a posse could be formed and messengers were sent to warn people that the robbers were at large.
Sheriff William Walker of Goodland learned about the robbery, but not everyone was in the loop.
The robbers arrive Goodland
They arrived Goodland Monday morning. In their Aug. 17 issue, The Republic speculated that the robbers had hopped aboard a Rock Island train. They met several Goodland residents, even fixing a pump for Mrs. Claxton. They ordered a gun from George Hess’ hardware store at 1020 Main, now The Insurance Agency, between 4 and 5 p.m. The robbers showed up at the D.E. Bartholomew place (above photo), 3 1/2 miles northeast of Goodland, at 10 p.m. Tuesday.
The Bartholomew family was in bed when two men, who later identified themselves as Howard and Gould, arrived. Mr. and Mrs. Bartholomew refused to allow the visitors to stay in their home, but the men persisted. They offered to pay. Finally the Bartholomews relented and fixed a bed for the pair on the kitchen floor. Howard and Gould said they were from Iowa and were traveling to California. They were armed in order to resist tramps. They requested that the Bartholomews’ son go into Goodland each day and buy a newspaper. They said they were “too tired and footsore” to go. Bartholomews accepted their story.
Others were not so accepting. William Hogeboom Sr. told Walker about the Bartholomews’ visitors. Hogeboom’s daughter-in-law had visited Bartholomews on Wednesday and thought their visitors were suspicious. Mrs. O.C. Dawson also visited the family. Walker questioned her when she returned to Goodland. He was convinced the Bartholomews’ paying guests were the wanted men. He wanted to go after them that night. His wife persuaded him differently.
Howard and Gould were not too tired to return to Goodland Thursday night for their gun. They arrived after Hess had left his store. They offered to pay Hess to unlock his store after hours so they could obtain the gun. Hess refused.
The sheriff forms a posse
Sheriff Walker deputized John Riggs and George Cullins, who rode toward the Bartholomew residence on horseback. Hogeboom Sr. acted as surrey driver with C.E. Biddison, G.M. Phillips and C.B. Cox as well-armed passengers. Posse left Goodland around 9 a.m. Friday. They were all dressed as cowboys to deceive the outlaws. Bartholomews’ house was L-shaped sod and frame structure. The east-facing frame part was two stories and the one-story sod part faced south. Howard and Gould were in the sod part. When they saw the posse approaching, one stood in the west and one in the south doors.
The Bartholomew family and visiting Mrs. Hogeboom came out to meet the posse. Eventually, they all went to William Hogeboom, Jr.’s home.
The robbers refuse to surrender
Walker and his temporary deputies dismounted and ordered the man in the west door to put up his hands. He refused. Riggs and Walker entered the house. The surrey drove up. Biddison, Phillips and Cox jumped out. Cullins had gone to the south door, but the man in the south door had joined his companion. The house filled with smoke as posse and robbers exchanged shots. Cullins shot Howard in the chest. Howard jumped out of the window. Gould escaped through the south door, but Cullins shot him also. Gould jumped back to his feet and shot Riggs in the upper right abdomen. Riggs and Walker had run out of the west door to confront the robbers outside.
Someone shot Howard again in the left chest. Gould ran into the house, but Howard ran southeast from the house. Biddison shot him with his Winchester behind and above the temple. Howard fell dead onto his face.
Riggs and Cullins were loaded into the surrey and rushed into Goodland for treatment. Both had been shot through the lungs. Riggs also had an abdominal wound. The remaining posse members formed a cordon around the house to prevent Gould from escaping. More armed men came to strengthen the cordon, including Hess. He carried the gun that the robbers had ordered.
The house is torched
After an attempt to burn the house failed, someone secured a dozen fuses from the railroad. Cass Hogeboom and C.R. Teeters volunteered to throw them at the house. They threw the lighted fuses upon the roof, which caught fire. As flames leaped higher, the cordon tightened in order to catch the criminal when the fire had flushed him from the house. He died inside. He either committed suicide or his exploding ammunition killed him.
Howard’s corpse was searched for identification and placed into a farm wagon. His body was taken to “Bowers’ undertaking rooms.”
A guard was posted around the ruined house overnight. The next morning, the sheriff retrieved Gould’s body and other items, including a gold watch which had been robbed from a train passenger. The outlaws’ bodies were laid out at Bowers’ and many people came to view them.
The case is closed
An inquest was held at 11 a.m. Saturday. W.P. Canada, the UP’s Superintendent of Special Service from Omaha and UP Detectives Peppin and Murray testified that the two men “were undoubtedly” those who had murdered Fay and had robbed the passengers between Limon and Hugo. The inquest’s jury decided that the outlaws “came to their death by resisting officers of the law.” After the inquest, their remains were placed into a single wooden box and were buried in Goodland Cemetery.
According to Kansas Semi-Weekly Capital‘s Aug. 14 edition, UP’s detectives told Sheriff Walker, “Wish you had waited for us. We would have gotten the robbers out alive.”
A posseman replied, “Never heard of you railroad detectives taking any prisoners.”
The robbers are identified
One week later, Foster Burns and W.G. Robinson, Springfield, Mo., came to Goodland to identify the robbers. They carried photographs of James Jones, a double murderer. Many people in Goodland recognized Howard as the man pictured. To be certain, the bodies were exhumed for identification. Gould had been burned so severely as to be unrecognizable, but those who had seen him alive thought the robbers looked like brothers. The pair from Missouri concluded that the robbers were indeed the Jones brothers. Legends say that the brothers were buried underneath a Goodland Cemetery road in a north-south orientation in order to dishonor them.
The Union Pacific pays reward, expenses
O.H. Swingly, UP Tax Agent, paid Bartholomew $1,100 for his house, the Aug. 24 Republic reported. Since it had been fired in UP’s service, the railroad was glad to pay. Walker, Riggs and Cullins split the UP’s $2,000 reward. Biddison received $100. The UP apparently paid at least some of Riggs and Cullins’ medical expenses. The sheriff and his possemen thanked the railroad in an ad placed in the same issue. “The material rewards and unsolicited assumption of the property loss entailed in the capture … have been enhanced a thousandfold by the sympathy and kindliness … extended to the wounded members.”
The possemen’s connections
Biddison was the engineer on the first Rock Island Railroad train to enter Goodland. That train is commemorated in “The Railroad Window” in Goodland Public Library. Sheriff Walker was a partner with William Ennis in Ennis & Walker of Eustis. When Eustis lost the County Seat Fight, the store moved to Goodland. Later Ennis’ widow would build what is now known as Ennis-Handy House. Bowers later moved into that house, turning it into a funeral home. Cullins worked at a pool hall at 1017 Main, now part of Elliott’s Inc. The Coors sign that hangs above the sidewalk is a remnant of Ralph & Esther’s bar. Riggs managed Commercial Hotel, 925 Main, currently home to Janice Minner, CPA, and Sherman County Convention & Visitors Bureau.by