Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Unprecedented for Boldness

18March1894    Knoxville Daily Journal    pg 9

Unprecedented For Boldness
Nine Stores in Ooltewah Entered by
Daring and Nervy Burglars

Special to the Journal
Chattanooga, Tenn. March 17
Robberies of a wholesale nature, unprecedented in boldness and character, were perpetrated at Ooltewah, a station fifteen miles out of Chattanooga on the Last Tenn, Va & Ga Railway Friday night. The whole town was ransacked. It is a place of about 800 inhabitants. There are nine stores. Every one was entered during the night and the goods carted off in wagons. Detectives and policemen were sent to the scene with bloodhounds, but had not caught the thieves when heard from late this afternoon.

I agree with the reporter, it was definitely bold. If they had taken so much merchandise that it had to be removed by horse and buggy, one would have thought that they should have been caught. They could not have gone too fast on the poorly maintained roads of the day in a horse and buggy. I would venture to say that the bandits were pursued on horseback, a much better mode of transportation in James County, Tennessee in 1894. Why were they not apprehended? Did they have a hide-out close by? In a local barn? Was the heist planned ahead of time? Did they have a get away driver? Were they local people and knew where to hide? Was this the 1894 version of Oceans Eleven?

My curiousity got the best of me. I wanted to know who had been the recipient of our thieves. So I went in hunt of the 9 businesses. I went straight to the 1900 Federal Census for civil district 10, town of Ooltewah. Here is what I found:
William Wooten,  a 55 year old Grocer
George Wells, a 61  year old Dry Goods Merchant
Zach Watkins, a 53 year old Dry Goods Merchant
Robert Parks, a 47 year old Dry Goods Merchant
Isaac Wolf,  a 43 year old Grocer
George Howard, a 42 year old Druggist
John Childers, a 46 year old Shoemaker
Osca(r) Weaver, a 35 year old Watchmaker
John McCallister, a 24 year old Jeweler
Daniel Evans, a 55 year old Blacksmith
Benjamin Murphy, a 33 year old Blacksmith

Now, I have made several assumptions here. I am assuming that the  business owners lived in the town of  Ooltewah, if they owned a business there, due to the transportation issues. I also looked at the outlaying parts of Ooltewah, which is included as a seperate section of civil district 10 and did not see any merchants living there. I also went to civil district 5, which is close to Ooltewah, and only saw a few peddlers of chickens and eggs. These peddlers eventually did have retail establishments in Ooltewah, but obviously, they were not merchants in a physical building  that could be robbed in 1900. I am also assuming that the 2 blacksmiths were working under the same roof, as well as, the jeweler and the watchmaker. If these assumptions are correct, than these would be the 9 businesses;  3 dry good retailers, 1 drug store, 2 grocers, 1 jewelry store, 1 shoe store and 1 blacksmith store.

Looking at the type of stores that got robbed, the bandits got away with quite an assortment of merchandise. There were probably medicines, food products, lamp oil, clothing, watches, shoes, boots, horse shoes, blades for the hoes, wagon wheel parts and many more items were in the back of that wagon. I would love to know who did this, did they get caught and what did they take?

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