(Note: I have had some computer problems for the past few days. My apologies.)
This article was posted years ago, but a recent contact reminded me that I have yet to get any further documentation of it. If anyone is a railroad historian, or crime buff, or has just encountered some other mention of this on another site, please let me know.
November 25, 1948
You Can’t Win, Caddo
Express Robber Found
E. Note- The story of the Wells Fargo Express Company robbery at Caddo in 1889 and the fate that befell the robber and his well-hidden loot has been published frequently, but in view of the Caddo Golden Jubilee and the history it depicts, the Democrat feels that the story is well wroth re-telling. The express company has never substantiated the story, but here it is anyway:
On September 8, 1889, the head of the Wells Fargo Express at Kansas City received one of the most unusual telegrams ever sent. The telegram read: “I have stolen your gold shipment of $50,000. I await your arresting officer. John Dale Hammond, Caddo, Indian Territory.”
When the territorial marshal took Hammond into custody, he readily admitted that he had taken the shipment of gold, entrusted to his care as agent for Wells Fargo at Caddo, and he had buried it.
Under the then existing law, the maximum penalty for this type of theft was 20 years- not a short stretch by any means. By Hammond’s own words he could serve the full 20 years and would still be making $2,500 a year instead of the $600 he earned as express agent at Caddo and $2,500 a year in those days was considerable money. Furthermore he would still be comparatively young when he got out.
The marshal endeavored to dissuade Hammond from this line of reasoning and tried to prevail upon him to return the gold. But he was obdurate. He pleaded guilty and received the 20 year sentence.
Numerous attempts were made to induce him to reveal the hiding place of the money. Clemency was promised if he would cooperate. Fellow inmates tried to wheedle information from him for their own use. But Hammond wouldn’t talk. The woods were searched for miles around. Likely spots in Caddo were dug up. But not the slightest trace of gold was ever found.
Wells Fargo finally accepted the loss, and Hammond settled down to do his time. As the years passed the $50,000 was mentioned less and less frequently, but whenever it was, Hammond laughed. At night he dreamed about the loot that would someday be his. He spent it mentally a thousand times over. It helped him forget the years that dragged slowly by. And at last he had only two more years to serve.
In 1907 the Missouri and Kansas Railway was being double-tracked from Parsons, Kansas to Denison, Texas, passing through Caddo, parallel to the old line at a distance of less than 50 feet. It became necessary to make a deep cut through Caddo, and here Fate played her hand. In back of the railroad station, the steam shovel brought up the stolen Express safe.
Not one penny had been removed by Hammond at the time of the theft, and even the combination was in working order. The Missouri and Kansas Railroad turned over the money to Wells Fargo.
Hammond was released in 1909 at the full expiration of his 20-year sentence, no doubt convinced that “you can’t win…”