Friday, August 21, 2009

The Train Wreckers Part II

Part II of the articles concerning the 1877 case of The Train Wreckers in Pulaski County, Missouri. Most of the records of this case were lost in the fire that destroyed the courthouse in Waynesville in 1903. Thankfully newspaper coverage of the events have survived, and I am posting them here so that others can read this colorful tale. The beginning of the story can be found in "The Train Wreckers Part I." This story is mentioned in Goodspeeds 1899 History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster, Wright, Texas, Pulaski, Phelps, and Dent counties. To learn more about Wood End, the settlement where this tragedy took place, please visit Mike Weber's article, "And Now, the Rest of The Story".

View of a railroad wreck.  Date and Location Unknown.
View of a railroad wreck. Date and Location Unknown. Picture courtesy of the Springfield-Greene County Library District.

Phelps County New Era June 23, 1877- Hon. V.B. Hill, Judge of this Circuit, we are informed, has ordered a special term of the Circuit Court, for this County to be holden at Waynesville on the 9th of July, (second Monday) for the trial of the parties under arrest with wrecking the train on June 2nd, near Woodend, this county. This will afford them an early opportunity of establishing their innocence, if innocent, as they claim, or mete out to them speedy punishment, as they deserve, if found guilty. [Richland Sentinel of June 22

Phelps County New Era July 14, 1877 The Train Wreckers.
WAYNESVILLE, PULASKI Co.,Mo.. July 10.- The men who, on the night of June 2, are supposed to have deliberately detached a passenger train just south of Woodend, on the St. Louis and San Francisco Road, killing Frank Caton, the engineer, his fireman, and E.L. Atkinson of Pacific, arrived here from Springfield at noon yesterday, in charge of Sheriff Hendricks and a large posse of deputies.
The names of the imprisoned quartet are: Geo. B. Gibson, son of a wealthy farmer living in Richland. Allen M. Greenstreet, a blacksmith, who did business in the same village. James Long, who never had an occupation. Leroy Oliver, who, like Gibson, is the son of a respectable farmer, living on the road between Waynesville and Crocker.
The prisoners are confined in the worst apology for a jail ever tolerated in a civilized community, the structure being built entirely of wood and affording neither protection for prisoners nor security against escape. The Grand Jury convened at noon yesterday, and were occupied all the afternoon in disposing of a couple of unimportant cases. This morning they gave their undivided attention to the case of
Which is being conducted on the part of the State by J.L. Johnson. Prosecuting Attorney of the county; assisted by John O’Day, Attorney for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad; Gen. E.Y. Mitchell, of Jefferson City, and O.H. Travers, of Springfield, Mo. The interests of the accused will be cared for by T.J. Moore, of Richland; Nixon of Lebanon, and Bland of Rolla; but Moore is the only one of the trio at present on hand. Mr. O’Day arrived this morning from Springfield, via Crocker, and at once went to work with a vim to expedite the investigation before
In order that the prisoners might be punished or liberated as quickly as possible, as the testimony warranted. There does not seem to be the slightest foundation for whispered rumors which have been current, to the effect that it was altogether probable that the citizens of the county would take the law into their own hands. Diligent and judicious inqury by your correspondent reveals the fact that there is surprisingly little interest manifested in the case, which, owing to its diabolical character, has obtained almost hational notoriety. While it is conceded that the
Who wrecked the train was to slaughter all who were not killed in the ditch, for the sake of securing what paltry sums of money, and articles of value, they might have on their persons, the atrocity of the crime does not seem to have agitated the community any more than if it had been an ordinary occurrence in the criminal line. Sheriff Hendricks has not the remotest fear of mob law, and does not anticipate a particle of trouble. The
also denotes that they are not in the slightest degree uneasy. En route to this village the sang songs and told stories in the most jocular manner. but whether their air of braggadocio was mostly for the sake of keeping their courage up could only be conjectured. The only St. Louisan present, except the newspaper correspondents, is John Eagan, the famous detective, who is known all over the land, from the extraordinary success which he achieved in hunting down such expert and sly old counterfeiters, as Driggs, Boyd. Wookey, Bebusch, Trout, Copping, Driggs, and nephew, Guthrie, and others of that ilk.
On the morning of the tragedy railroad officials sent for
who had previously been in their employ, and placed the case in his hands. On Monday morning--the accident occurred Saturday night--Eagan proceeded to Lebanon, where he met Assistant Superintendent D.H. Nichols, to whom probably more than any other one man the credit for discovering the perpetrators of the foul crime is due. After an interview, in which the programme to be adopted was laid out, Eagan went to Springfield, where he met that efficient officer, Deputy United States Marshall Langston. And the pair then took the night train to Richland, a station about five miles south of where the murder was enacted, and where some
was accomplished. Oliver, who had allowed his tongue to wag a little, was the first man placed under arrest, and he was prevailed upon to squeal in a very short time. Oliver detailed the particulars of the diabolical plot, and his three associates were at once placed behind prison bars. The particulars of their arrest have already been published. Oliver was the first witness taken before the Grand Jury this morning, and the confession which he made to the detectives was rehearsed for their benefit. George Morgan, the postmaster at Richland, had several
the morning after the wreck, in which many damaging admissions were made, was also examined at length in relation thereto. Smith, the brakeman, and Wilson the conductor of the ill fated train, were also heard. The former, who was out with his red light that morning, saw Gibson in its glare, and, it is said, can swear positively to his identification. The conductor, who was shot at, the ball passing through his hat, just above the band, gave the particulars of the shooting, but failed to identify his assailant. On the testimony of the brakeman who recognized Gibson, Morgan, to whom Gibson gave himself away and on
the testimony against Gibson is probably more conclusive than against any of the others, although it is most positive against them.
The indictments as drawn up occupy about thirty-eight pages of foolscap. The first indictment is for the killing of Frank Caton. It contains eight counts. The first count charges James Long, Allen Greenstreet, and Geo. Gibson, as principals, and Leroy Oliver and others, to the Grand Jury unknown, as accessories, with killing Caton, the engineer, by tearing up the railroad track, precipitating the engine into the ditch and scalding and burning him to death. The other indictments charge all four with killing Dr. Atkinson and Sam Richardson, the fireman, in the same way.
Less than a decade later, the town of Woodend had been renamed Swedeborg.  1888 Commissioners Official Railway Map of Missouri
Less than a decade later, the town of Woodend had been renamed Swedeborg. 1888 Commissioners Official Railway Map of Missouri

Although this special term of Court was called for the express purpose of trying these cases, and the prosecution has announced its readiness to go on with them; it is not likely that anything will be done untill the October term, the defense being anxious for a continuance mainly for the reason that the State law, which permits defendants in criminal cases to testify in their own behalf, goes into effect the 30th of the present month. Old man Greenstreet stated this morning that he was anxious to have the charges against his son investigated at once, but the others are not so willing.
RICHLAND, Mo., July 11.--The Grand Jury, before adjourning, last night, placed a fifth one of the Richland train-wreckers, who has not yet cut any figure in the case on, the road to the scaffold or the Penitentiary. The name of the individual is Jas. Woodward, who lives about twenty miles below Dixon. Woodward bought Greenstreet & Gibson’s saloon, at Richland, and ran it for two or three weeks, selling it back to to the original proprietors a day or two before
Of Caton, Atkinson and Richardson. While in the whiskey business Woodward violated the revenue law, for which he was arrested and placed in Jail at Rolla, where he now lies, but will probably be surrendered to the State authorities on the grave charge of murder. The prisoner is a gambler of the worst class, and border ruffian of the most pronounced type.
Your correspondent learned this afternoon that another man, in addition to Woodward, had been indicted for complicity in the train wrecking and murder. His name could not be ascertained, but the arrest will follow in a day or two, his whereabouts being known. It is stated on good authority that there were ten scoundrels engaged in the affair, and it will be proven on the trial that they intended to murder every soul on the train. They had clubs in readiness to brain to brain those who were mangled too badly to run, and intended shooting all who attempted to get away. The bodies were then to be thrown into the wreck; to which the torch was to have been applied, thus destroying all evidences of the crime. It has been stated that the affair was
because the Saturday night run is always the lightest of the week. This idea is a false one. It is true that passenger traffic is always light on Saturday night, which was a big point in favor of the robbers, their main object being to capture the express matter from Texas, which on Saturday nights only goes via the St. Louis and San Francisco Road, the Missouri, Texas, and Kansas not running a train on that night. At a late hour in the afternoon, the prisoners, Greenstreet, Gibson, and Long were
After which their shackles were removed. State Senator Wallace, of counsel for the defense, then made application for a continuance, which Judge Hill granted at the defendants’ costs. A request was then made that subpoenas be issued for certain witnesses, which was granted, and court adjourned for the term. The continuance granted throws the case over until the first Monday in September.

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