Carrollton Patriot Newspaper

15 Mar 1907
20 years ago - The question of dividing the town of Wrights and settling over to the town of White Hall that portion north of Ajysle Creek, was taken up; by the board of supervisors and was finally voted on.
13 Jun 1907
The Great Safe Robbery of 1855
Russel's Recollections
Older citizens remember, and those of the younger generation may have read about, the court house safe robbery of 1855. On May 18 of that year the safe in the county clerk's office was blown open, and $3,100 in gold and about $8,000 in notes and county orders were taken. A little over a month before -on April 3- David Pierson's store was burglarized, and the burglars were captured. In the reminiscences which S.G. Russell wrote several years before his death he tells some inside history of the two cases and shows the connection between them.

About the first of April, 1855, burglars broke into several stores in town. From David Pierson's store they took $250 in money, besides a lot of dry goods. From Billy Winn's gunshop they extracted several pistols and guns. David Pierson, Sheriff Zach Morrow and several others went on a scout for the robbers and came back from Calhoun county with five suspects, leaving three others in the Calhoun county jail. They were found inhabiting a large two-storey log cabin, situated on the highest point of the dividing ridge of Calhoun county. On the roof was a lookout stand from which they could overlook all the surrounding country for miles. The captors had a hazardous time arresting them, although they were not armed.
April 10. There is a terrible excitement over the prisoners in jail. The jail is guarded by citizens, much to the disgust of old Abner, the jailer, who, the people believe, has heretofore let prisoners escape for a small but sufficient bribe, and several of these prisoners are supposed to be able to command quite a sum of money.
April 12. This morning another supposed member of the gang was captured. He calls himself a Methodist preacher. He was brought to our office and guarded all day, and at night had his temporary trial and was committed to jail. When it was proposed to put him in jail for safe keeping before the trial, he broke out in tears and lamentations - "Oh, for God's sake, don't disgrace an innocent man by putting him behind iron bars!" So they kept him in my office to my great annoyance, and he was afterwards known as "Russell's preacher".
May 10. One Waggoner, sheriff of Fulton county, came down with a requsition for one or two of the prisoners whom he took home with him for trial on an older indictment in that county, promising to return them for further development and prosecution.
I went down to the jail with Jim Pursley, who is an old criminal lawyer. We talked to the prisoners and found out that they had no money. Jim told them that men who had no money nor friends ought to go to the penitentiary.
Jack Ross, who is said to be the leader of the gang, was stylishly dressed, had a gold watch and ring, and appeared very anxious for Pursley and I to take up his case and defend him. He said he had several hundred dollars buried over at the look-out cabin in Calhoun. I pretended that I would take his case for the buried fee. He then drew on a card a kind of plat showing where the money was buried, and said he would give me a plat so that I could not fail to find it. I went over to the other side of the room and talked with Jim. He pooh-poohed the story, and said he never knew an impecunious thief but had a few thousand buried out; that in one or two cases, when he was young and a fool, he believed them, but not now.
So I told Ross that we could not take his case unless he had some money to start on. "Well," said he, " I'll tell you what I'll do. If you know of any "crib" that's got money in it, I can get a cracksman that will blow the h-ll out of it, and give you all the money you want." "Yes," said I, "your cracksman is out in the hall now, for I think he followed us down here. He wears a blue blouse and carries a driver's whip under his arm." "Is that so?" said he; and stepping up to the grating, he gave a low sound, between a whistle and a hiss, and the stranger I had noticed vanished immediately.
I told Ross that I knew of cribs that had money in them, but that I would not take money if I knew from whom it was stolen. So we parted, and I went over to talk with "Marietta Preacher", as he called himself. Just then Giles H. Turner came in, and Ross took him to the same corner, and, in all probability made him the same proposition he had just made to me about the "crib". Anyhow, Turner took Ross' case. They held a long and secret council and we left them still conferring.
The "preacher" had a little money and I took his case as far as it went, and promised to get him a continuance and fianlly a change of venue. Turner, too, had a change of venue for Ross to Jerseyville.
On May 18, 1855, the day before the court set at Jerseyville, the county clerk's office in the Greene county court house was burgarized, the safe (or "crib" ) was blown open, and $3,800 stolen.
"Uncle Abe" Spencer, who was circuit clerk, was the first to find it out. I saw him from my office window run out and [said] "hello". I knew that something unusual was up. I ran over and found Alfred Hinton and Abe Spencer there, the office door broken down and the safe blown to pieces. Pretty soon King Custer came, then Giles H. Turner. Some kind of explosive, gunpowder, perhaps, had been picked into the lock and the door blown off. The papers in the safe were scattered over the floor, but the money was all gone. Giles took me to one side and asked "Whom do they suspect? Do they suspect me?" I told him that there had not been time to suspect anyone. In a few minutes the room was full of men, very much excited.
Then began an investigation. They found a very large track in stocking feet, accompanied by a small, neatly made boot track, which went out of the court house yard and out on the west road from town. There they found, in a fence corner, several hundred dollars worth of county orders, notes and other papers that were of no value to the robbers and would be dangerous to handle. I knew that I had seen the barefooted track somewhere, but could not recllect where or when. The question of Giles Turner as to whom they suspected came curiously into my mind; then the offer that Jack Ross had made me in reference to blowing up a "crib" came to me and made me a little thoughtful.
There was intense excitement, and almost the whole male population of the town turned out and scoured the adjacent county, but in vain.
The county commissioners met and offered a reward of $500 for evidence that would convict the robbers. My mind settled at once on Giles H. Turner, Larkin Massey and Ross' crackman. Larkin had at one time been a first-class man, but strong drink had reduced him to poverty and disgrace. He was smart enough for any deed of daring where there was no work and lots of money. His having more money to spend than he would ordinarily have had aroused my suspicions. I told Zach Morrow and F. P. Vedder that I was going into an amateur detective business, and they said they would give me all the assistance in their power.
When court convened in Jerseyville, Turner and his assistant, Hudson, were on hand, but in spite of all they could do, Ross was convicted.
Turner had been a sort of dead beat, with little money and no credit, but now he seemed to have plenty of the former. I learned that he had been to Iowa (August, 1855), had purchased several land warrants and had located them, beside entering several hundred acres of public land. I asked him where he got his money. He told me that it was none of my business.
Wesley Rickart, his brother-in-law, said to me one day (we were intimate and confidential friends) "Where did Giles get so much money? He wants me to go into the banking business with him and others in a small way, and says he will furnish $1700 of the capital."
Two pieces of money that could be identified were among that which was stolen. One was a ten-dollar gold eagle, with the initials "M.N." cut on it, and the other was a fifty-dollar eight square gold slug from California, worth in the bank $49.50. By and by Alfred Hinton received the slug in payment of rent on a house. I traced it from one to another back to Wesley Rickart, who said he had changed it for some one, but to save his life he couldn't say from whom. Giles Turner was his sister's husband.
Massey had been down to Grafton on a prolonged drunken spree. I went down and found that he had been drunk in a saloon there for a week. I asked the bartender, and found that Massey had tendered a fifty-dollar Missouri state bank bill for his first drink and had received change for it. Two hundred and fifty dollars of the stolen money belonged to F.P. Vedder and was all in Missouri bank bills, which were then a premium.
One Sarah Jane Gilleland, the hired girl at Turner's house, said that Giles did not come in till almost morning on the night of the robbery. It was so early that he did not go to bed, but pulled off his boots and lay down on the lounge to sleep until breakfast, and that the bottoms of his socks were covered with dirt; that his wife said to him, "Giles, how in the world did you get your socks so dirty?" He replied, " I ran a foot race yesterday with G. L. Williams, and pulled off my boots." G. L. Williams said that Giles had not run a race with him on that day, but at another time. By and by, he did run a foot race with Turner, and I got the measure of the latter's foot.
Turner said to me more than once, "I believe you suspect me of blowing open that safe, and I would like to know why you suspect me?" He asked me frequently whom the people most suspected.
Finally at the September term the grand jury found a true bill against him. They kept me before them for three hours giving them alll that I have written here and more that I have forgotten. Turner saw me coming out of the grand jury room, and followed me to my office. "What have you been before the grand jury so long for?" was his first question. "You were giving evidence against me about that d-d safe business, weren't you?" "Yes, I was," was my answer. "Do you think that I am guilty?" he asked. " Yes, I do," was my reply. He made a rush at me, but Dr. Alexander Bowman caught him and said " None of that here!" " Why do you think I am guilty?" he asked. " Because," I answered, "twenty-one grand jurymen have found a true bill against you." Turner dropped into a chair as if he had been shot. "By --, I'll never stand in the dock as a criminal," he said, while his face blanched as white as a sheet. I was deeply affected, and was very sorry I had ever had anything to do with the case, out of supreme pity for an old friend, but it was then too late.
He went home, and in less than an hour his wife came into town and retained every lawyer in the city except Wyatt & Russell.
From that time Turner seemed to re-double his friendship for me, always shaking my hand and seeming more than usually cordial. He immediately gave bail, for his brothers-in-law, were rich. When court convened he took a change of venue to Scott county. At the Scott county court the people by my advice, took a continuance, because Sarah J. Schuyler (born Gilleland) was lying at the point of death with typhoid fever. When the deputy circuit clerk made out the affidavit he forgot that Sarah Gilleland had married Alfred Schuyler. The defense took advantage of the error, and asked that the motion be overruled, because no such person as Sarah J. Gilleland had been subpoenaed.
The motion was overruled and the people were left in a tight place. The case was dismissed, and before another arrest could be made Turner had disappeared from public view. So farcically ended the great safeblowing case.
01 Aug 1907
Thursday, Nov. 29, 1855, was Thanksgiving Day. I went hunting with Jim Pursley. At night I went to the house of Rev. Rankin to a social party, thence I went to several other places of amusement until it was very late at night, or rather, very late in the morning. Then I came to my private room over my law office, which was the ante‐room of the Masonic lodge where I had a bed and my private books; my office was immediately below.
J. M. Pursley, whose wife had gone on a visit to Tennessee, had moved a bed into my office, & together with his boy, about 6, slept there.
It was so late when I came back that I did not think it worth while to undress and go to bed, but threw myself on the outside of the bed and was soon asleep.
It was a very bright moonlight night, as light as day almost. I suppose it must have been about 5 o'clock when I was awakened by a shrill scream as of a woman, and thought, "it's Lark Massey and his wife in a general melee, as usual", for Lark had been on a protracted spree, and the evening before had terrorized the whole town.
I soon heard someone running rapidly along the pavement; and soon someone smashed in the door of my office below, and a general skirmish immediately took place between Jim Pursley and Massey. Jim was very much excited and tried to drive Massey out of the room. Then I heard Jim run out at the back door into a little enclosure fenced with a plank, about 8 feet high.
As Jim went out, he held the door fast behind him, and Lark, after striking the door several times with his knife, ran to the window and went through it, bursting out a sash, glass and all. By this time, Jim in his nightdress, had climbed up on the board fence, and as I looked out, Lark was cutting at him with his big, ugly knife, but could not quite reach him.
Jim hallooed to me "Spence, hand me down your gun quick!" I then opened the window and told him," My gun is not loaded!" "Load it quick Then!" he said, "and hand it down to me, for Lark Massey has gone as crazy as a mad man, and I'm afraid he'll kill me or my boy."
I then ran down to the foot of the stairs for my gun, when Lark dashed back into the office and Jim after him. In the rush they knocked down the stove, making a terrible racket.
I thought that it would not do to wait to load my gun, that probably Jim was killed. So I ran out the back way and around to the front door, and as I came up, Lark was just in the act of going in the front door, having been shoved out, I suppose, by Jim. I caught hold of Lark, but as he was a powerful man, I could do nothing with him. As he entered the door I still had hold of him, when Jim shot him! Lark and I both fell together on the floor, the flash of the gun burning by face, and I felt the hot blood on my hands. I heard Jim cock the other barrel of his gun, when I cried out to him, "Don't shoot any more for God's sake, for I believe you have hit both of us!"
As Massey fell he exclaimed, " Jim, I'm killed! You've gone and killed me, Jim!"
I then called 2 men, who had been attracted to us by the report of the gun, to come and help me. One was Henry Day, watchman at the mill, and the other was J. H. Davis, an apprentice to Virginius Williams. These boys carried Massey home, bleeding all the way terribly, the blood pattering like rain on the sidewalk, and leaving a trail that lasted for months.
I sent one of the boys for a doctor, but no doctor would come; ""It's old Lark Massey and I hope he'll die", was the only answer. Lark was shot in the knee cap at a range of only a few feet, cutting a hole in his leg as large as the palm of my hand. I saw that he would bleed to death in a few minutes if something was not soon done for him. So I took a big silk handkerchief that I had and tied it around his leg above the wound and then put a stick through and twisted it with all my might till the blood stopped, and then fastened it in its place.
I then began to examine him and soon found a fearful gash cut over his right eye. Jim Davis, the town bully, was holding a candle while I was making the examination. When he saw Lark's eye looking out of the frightful gash, he dropped the candle and fainted outright. He soon came to himself and again took the candle, but as soon as he saw Larkin's eye he fainted again. I laughed at him for he was a regular bully, and I had fined him several times for raising disturbances in town. He said to me, "Now don't; you ever tell that I fainted over anything. If you do, I'll make it hot for you!"
It seemed that Massey had come home in a drunken frenzy and tried to shoot his wife. She had taken the precaution of taking the lock off his gun and hiding it. When he found it out, he grabbed a butcher knife and made at her; she ran screaming to "Ginny" Williams' shop where Ed Furgeson, her son by a former husband, slept. He, hearing the scream, came meeting her and Lark with a piece of wagon spoke timber, and struck Lark over the eye, cutting the horrid gash above described.
This blow aided in some degree to set Lark crazy to kill someone, and as he disliked Jim Pursley very much, he had selected him to commence on. On going back to the office, I found several holes cut through the quilts where Massey had cut at him and I also picked up a big ugly knife out of the pool of blood on the floor.
Dr's. Davis, Armstrong, and Hardtner came when appealed to again, and took up the arteries as well as they could. Hardtner sewed up the ghastly wound over his eye. They all said his leg would have to be amputated, and that owing to his long debauch, he would not live over the operation.
They then held a consultation and decided to let the case rest for a time. I then old Lark that the doctors had said that his leg would have to be cut off or he would die in a short time. "Oh, God! I'd be noaccount in the world with only one leg. I'd rather die and be done with it."
I told him it that was determination, if he had anything to say about the safe blowing he'd better say it now. He repeated several times " 'Put' Vedder shall have his money back again for he has helped me when no one else would. I know who blowed the safe open and who got most all of he money, and if you will go and get Davy Pierson to help me get religion, I'll tell you and 'Put' all about it."
Vedder went after Pierson who came, and between the Lark got religion. During all this time Turner had been very anxious about the state of Massey's health and made many and frequent inquiries, but Vedder and I were very careful that he should not see Lark alone for a moment; yet he watched the house day and night for an opportunity. We, as carefully watched on our side that he should not see him alone.
We took turns in holding guard over him, but finally, I being tired out with almost constant watching, went to my room and went to sleep, leaving Vedder strictly on guard, for it had become rumored around that Lark had promised to make a clean breast of it before he died.
Now, while I was away, Vedder, who was county clerk, ran over to the courthouse for something, which was only about 200 yards away. But alas! While he was gone, Turner, ever on the watch, popped in at the back door, and in spite of all that Massey's wife could do, made his way to Massey's bedside and told him that Vedder and Russell were trying to make him believe that he was going to die in order to get him to tell something about the safe blowing. He told him not to believe a word that they said; that he would be all right in time; that there was no danger of his dying.
Before Vedder got back, only 10 minutes gone, Turner was off and away. Vedder then sent for me, and when I came back, Massey was as silent as the sphinx; not a word would he say.
I examined his pulse which was becoming very weak, and saw that a great change had taken place in him in the last 2 hours. In fact, I saw that he was dying and said to him, "Larkin, if you have anything to say about the safe, say it quick for you are dying!" "I believe it myself", said Massey. "Turner just told me."

Transcribed by Leigh Gallimore

Sep 1907
Coats mill pond would catch water enough through the night to run the mill from daylight to bed-time, and I verily thought it was the finest piece of property I ever saw, for ease and comfort. Someone, out of spite probably, got into the habit of going sometime in the night and raising the gate and letting all of the water out of the pond, so Coats was compelled to frequently rest from his labors. He determined to watch for the miscreant, so I loaded up his shotgun, with fourteen buckshot in each barrel, and he watched night after night but never got a shot. The perpetrator was probably Jake Johnson with whom he was at deadly enmity.
Jake and his brother Perry both went to school to me. Toward the close of the school, one of the Bridges boys told me that Perry and Jake had been making their brags that, when they had to quit school to go to work, they intended "to break up the school and whip the master." Jake quit without any fuss. Perry still kept on at school until at last he was about to quit also, I saw that the devil was in him as big as a woodchuck, and I ask Thad Bridges to stand by me in case of trouble. So one evening all at once Perry broke out cursing me for all that he could think of, and tried to pull off his coat, but before he could get it off, I caught up a stick of wood about four feet long and knocked him end over end and kept after him until he begged for quarters. I followed him up till he had gathered together, his books, and then I opened the door and let him go, and this was the last of Perry. He told Jake when he got home "that master is chock full of fight."
Several years afterwards Jake and Perry got into a quarrel. Perry got his gun, walked up within a few step of Jake and blew a hole through him in cold blood.
Perry absconded immediately to parts unknown. When the grand jury they indicted him for murder in the first degree, but before the jury was dismissed, for some reason they recuiled the bill and found a new one for manslaughter, which was bailable and Perry came home. It cost Jimmy Johnson, the father, a fine farm to clear him, after years of delay and continuance. Jimmy Johnson, himself was one of the best of the men, but his family turned out as bad as they could and live. Jimmy finally died penniless. Their mother was born Jenny Brown.
When Jenny was an old maid, one Jim Hamilton went to spark at her mother's home, on a very cold Christmas night. Jenny was very angry, for Hamilton was a disreputable old fellow. She cried out "Jim Hamilton, you get right out of this house! Take the door, Mr. Hamilton! Come take the door!" Now the door of the cabin was, like the door on most cabins those days, hung on big wooden hinges.
"Very well, madam," politely answered Mr. Hamilton, and he backed up to the door, lifted it off it hinges and carried it two miles to Apple creek and threw it in - leaving sweet Jenny doorless in the bitter cold night.
In 1885, Perry Johnson was active in bloody tragedy that took place at Walkerville, in which Frank Painter killed Thomas S. Tatman, mainly because Tatman, being a prohibitionist, was violently opposed to having whiskey sold in the town. Perry was a salon keeper, and was interested in having Tatman removed. It was through his influence that Frank Painter, a boy of eighteen, killed him.
Painter served out his term in the penitentiary , while Johnson went free. Now comes the result of God's mills which "grind slow but grind exceedingly fine." Painter came home much more than when he went. In the course of time he and Johnson fell out, and in a street fight Painter killed Johnson.
Well, to wind up this rambling
About the 22nd of January, 1867 there was to be a surprise party at our old Bluffdate home. Mother and Julie had got wind of it some way, and had made elaborate preparations therefor. Julie had lived at father's ever since she had been a widow. Bainbridge Gillingham had been paying him addresses for some months in that direction and as he was a number one man had gladly been accepted as a future member of our family. So they all determined to surprise the surprisers and sent word out to me at Hard_____ to go to town at the appointed time, get a license and come down on the night of the great surprise. Now at the party, among other __________it was proposed to be a mock marriage. This was agreed to and some time suggested to Bainbridge Gillingham that he should get a partner and furnish the fun. He agreed and selected Julie as his partner. Some one said "Let Spence marry you; he's a regular justice of the peace and knows how." Someone objected that "It would stick if he married them." I told them "In order to avoid that, the lady instead of saying the everlasting "Yes" must ________out "No" and it will all be correct."
So Gillingham with Julie on his arm _____up. I began "We are now about to join in the holy bonds of matrimony Mr. Bainbridge Gillingham and Mrs. Juliet A. E. Tilden. If anyone knows any reason why they should not be so joined together let them now, make it known and if not let them forever hold their peace. There being no objections, Bainbridge, do you take the woman you hold by the right hand to be your lawfully wedded wife, promising to love honor and cherish her as long as you both shall live?" "Yes." "Juliet, do you take the man you hold by the right hand to be your lawfully wedded husband, promising to love honor and obey him as long as you both shall live?" "Yes."
"Then by the authority vested in me by the people of the state of Illinois as a justice of the peace, and by virtue of this instrument which I hold in my hand, I pronounce you husband and wife!."
A profound stillness fell over the assembly, several caught their breath short and sharp.
"Why it's a real wedding!" said Henry Yates. "That is a marriage license he's got – I know it by the picture on it!" Then there was a wild _____of congratulations. The surprisers were indeed surprised.
While I am at it, I may as well tell another wedding story. While teaching some of my larger pupils kept up a large amount of what they called sparking, so that old Mother Cade jumped onto me about it, and said that I kept a "kept a sparking school, and no good would come of it." So I told the school that there must be less sparking and more marrying done in the future, for folks said I had a matrimonial class and I'd like to graduate some of them; that if any of them would marry I would do the job free of charge.
In a few days Issac T. Smith told me to come that night to old Lady McAdams and join him and Matilda together.
I went over and found that they had made extensive preparations for the occasion and that the little cabin was filled to overflowing with kith and kin.
In anticipation of the momentous event I had gotten up a very long and elaborate ceremony. In order to scare "Ike and Tildy" as much as I could. But somehow on account of the big crowd, I suppose, I suddenly in the midst took a panic and came very nearly choking down completely. Some one said to me afterwards, "Why Russell you were worse skeered than the bride!" I owned up.
Well we had a big feast of all that was eatable, and on the next night, had an "____" at Ike's father's.
24 Oct 1907
30 yrs. ago
A second saloon opened in Wrightsville.
12 Dec 1907
Absence of chimney it's a new problem for Santa - probably first house without a chimney and Illinois this erected in Carrollton ‘ a Twentieth century home
A comfortable, wholly modern residence has been erected in Carrollton without so much as the site of a chimney, either in or up it. This is no smoke-consuming joke. The chimney-less house is a fact, but so far as we can ascertain, it is the only one of its kind in the state of Illinois. The house is not quite ready for occupancy yet but its owner expects to have a "house-warming" before the winter in over.
F.M. Sinsabaugh if the man who thought he would like to live in a house without a flue. The idea was not entirely original, for man another man has hopelessly longed for the same thing while putting up the sitting room stove. But the other fellows were not so well fixed to put their wish into execution; Mr. Sinsabaugh is manager of the Carrollton Heat, Light and Power Company. The house will be heated by steam from the company's plant –- as are many of the business houses on the square—and cooking will be done exclusively by electricity.
The new residence is 34x30 feet, two stories, with attic and basement, and has eight rooms or the two main floors. It is built of the Miracle cement blocks and its architecture is of the plain, substantial mission style. It is fronted by a porch, 8x32 feet.
The interior woodwork is of various shades of oak. On the left of the parlor, and on the right is the Library; back of the latter, the dinning room, connecting through the pantry with the kitchen.
It is in the kitchen that interest will center, especially about mealtime. With not steel range visible, a hungry man would consider his chances slim. The principal articles of furniture here will be an antique oak cabinet—somewhat like a sideboard, but lower—with a row of knobs projecting from its back. This is one of the General Electric Company's cooking cabinets. It is fitted with two electric lights, seven switches and the following cooking utensils: Two-quart cereal cooker, four-quart teakettle, coffee percolator, ten-inch frying pan, broiler, griddle and four quart vegetable cooker, all of aluminum ware. There is also a metal oven for baking. The cost, at the meter rates, of electric current for cooking for a family of five persons is estimated at $3.50 a month.
There are pressed steel steam radiators in every room. In the bathroom is a tank heated by steam pipes, and in each of the sleeping rooms upstairs is a bowl to which is conveyed both hot and cold water.
The electric light fixtures instead being wrought in metal will be fashioned in wood, in designs harmonizing with the mission architecture of the house.
The house combines more features of the Twentieth century home than perhaps any other in Greene County. Its cost will be about 3,500. It is located on North Main Street, three blocks west of the square, and within a block of the heat, light and power plant. Mr. Sinsabaugh has expressed in a practical way, his own faith in the ability of the plant to keep this household comfortable and cook his meals. To build a chimney-less house is the strongest possible expression of confidence.

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