MOST DESPERATE PLOT UNEARTHED
Connection of the Montpelier Bank Robbery with the Murders Near Vernal Last Spring
There May Be a Battle
How Cassady and His Gang Proposed to Liberate Their Pals
Warner, Wall and Coleman
Looted the Bank to Get Defense Money
Prepared to Take Their Friends From Custody By Force of Arms as a Last Resort-The Arrest of the Desperadoes Confidently Expected This Morning-They Are Located Near Ogden at This Time-A Story of Daring and Crime That Recalls the Deeds of Jesse James-Clever Work of the Detectives and Officers in Bringing the Facts to Light-The Indicted Men Now on Trial at the Junction City.
Source: The Salt Lake Herald, Sep 9, 1896, Transcribed by J.S.
The identify of the three men who on August 13 last, in broad daylight robbed the Montpelier bank in Idaho of $7,160 and then escaped into the mountains, have been discovered.
They are George Cassady, alias "Butch," Ellsworth Lay and Bob Meeks. All are notorious outlaws and desperadoes of the first water, especially the former two who are leading stars of the old McCarty gang of cattle thieves, train and bank robbers.
The bandits are now camped in the mountains seven miles out of Ogden, and unless the officers change their plans, they wil be run down and captured today.
MAY BE A BATTLE
Should the officers go into the mountains a bloody conflict is looked for. The robbers, it is believed, have been reinforced by half a dozen members of their own gang and all are armed prepared for any emergency.
Coupled with the discovery of the identify and approximate whereabouts of the Montpelier bank robbers the most startling and sensational revelations have been made and compared with them the execution of the robbery itself is completely overshadowed in point of interest.
THE BANK ROBBERY
It has now come to light that the robbery was committed for the purpose of securing money with which to defend the notorious Matt Warner and his almost equally notorious associates, Walter Wall and E.D. Coleman, whose trial for the brutal murder of Richard Staunton and David Melton near Vernal last May is now pending in the Second judicial district at Ogden.
Matt Warner, now in the Ogden jail awaiting trial for one of his many crimes, and George Cassady who engineered the looting of the of the Montpelier bank, are both leaders of the old McCarthy bank of outlaws. They have been associated in many daring bank robberies. Either would lay down his life for the other if liberty was at stake and to secure it they would stop short of nothing.
THE GANG ORGANIZED
When Warner was taken in custody, charged with implication in the Vernal tragedy, Cassady resolved to secure his release. First he organized his gang to break into the Uintah county jail and liberate the men by force. The plot was fustrated[sic] by the removal of the prisioners to the new jail at Ogden. But this did not stop Cassady's efforts.
Realizing that all attempts to liberate his men by force would be futile, Cassady took it upon himself to furnish money with which Warner could secure the best legal assistance obtainable. The Montpelier bank robbery was planned. It was successfully executed and over $7,000 was realized. First the defense enlisted the services of D.V. Preston, an attorney from Rock Springs who has previously defended Cassady in criminal cases. Then the services of Judge Powers and D.N. Straup were enlisted and finally F.L. Luther, of Unitah county, completes the list of legal representatives for the defense. In connection with this it is boldly asserted that $1,000 of the stolen money has already found its way into the pockets of an attorney associated in the case.
A DESPERATE PLAN
But the members of Warner's gang are not relying solely upon the skill of lawyers to secure the release of their partner. A bold plot to set him free at the point of pistols has been discovered. Cassady, at the head of a gang of desperadoes, has planned to be present at Warner's trial. When the opportunity should present itself, Sheriff Wright and his deputies were to be overpowered-shot downlike so many dogs, if necessary, and the prisoners liberated.
And this is not all. The outlaws have a perfect organization. They have threatened to kill anyone who dares to take the stand and testify against any of the three men now charged with the murder of Staunton and Milton, and sufficient evidence has come to light to demonstrate the seriousness of the situation. Enough has been revealed to show that within the borders of this state exists an organization of thieves and cut-throats paralleled only by the notorious bandit organization headed by the James boys during the palmy days of yore.
It was thought that three years ago when two of the McCarthy boys were killed while attempting to rob a bank in Alta, Colo., the chiefs of the gang had been done away with and that the power of the organization had been broken, but leaders even more daring than any of the McCarthy's ever were have sprung up and the fact remains that with this bank in flouishing existence life and public property are unsafe.
DETECTIVES AT WORK
As soon as the news of the Montpelier robbery flashed across the wire, detectives began to work. The Bankers' Casualty company, which carried a risk of $5,000 insuring the Montpelier bank against robbery in broad daylight derailed one of their shrewdest and most trusted detectives on the case. He went to Montpelier, examined the bank, interviewed eye witnesses to the robbery, and after satisfying himself that none of the officials of the bank were implicated in the looting, began to look around for clues. He was satisfied that the robbery was perpetrated by men who were experts in their line. He heard of the Vernal tragedy and that Warner, one of the men charged with the crime, was a member of the McCarthy gang. He knew the trial of the accused men was coming off and he soon decided that there was a connection between the Montpelier bank robbery and the trail of Warner soon to come off. He came to Ogden and consulted with Sheriff Wright, who also had formed similar theories. How near correct they had viewed the situation soon developed.
MRS. MATT WARNER
The officials visited Mrs. Matt Warner, wife of the desperado, who is now in this city suffering from the results of an amputation of her right leg near the hip joint, and received valuable information. Mrs. Warner has lived with her husband for the greater portion of the past six years. While conscious of his many misdeeds she remained loyal to him, principally on account of the threats he made against her. Warner confided in his wife, and she was cognizant of his every move, and that he was the leader of a gang of desperadoes, who, in case she attempted to get away, would put her to sleep for eternity as easily and unconcernedly as they have done in many other instances when an exposure of their dastardly deeds was at stake.
Mrs. Warner was living with her husband at Vernal last May when the tragedy took place. Without attempting to say whether Matt is guilty of this crime or not, she told the officers circumstances which established beyond a shadow of a doubt the identity of the three men who robbed the Idaho bank.
A short time after Warner had been thrown in jail for the killing of Staunton and Melton, George Cassady, whom she knew to be a desperate man, and one of her husband's chief lieutenants, approached her and volunteered the information that he was laying plans for the robbing of a bank to secure money for her husband's defense. She implored of him not to do it, that she would rather she her husband convicted than set at liberty.
A short time before this took place Mrs. Warner had sustained a fracture of her leg, which caused her much trouble, and finally resulted in its amputation. She was not able to get out of bed. After the arrest of her husband she came to Salt Lake, where her people reside, to have her leg treated. It was while she was here the Montpelier bank robbery took place. She read the accounts of it in the papers, and the description of the men tallied exactly with those of Cassady, Lay and Meeks.
When the officials visited Mrs. Warner she gave a minute description of Cassady and Lay, describing even the horses which they were accustomed to ride when out on thieving expeditions with her husband. The officials became convinced they were suspecting the right man, but to make things even more sure a decoy letter in Mrs. Warner's handwriting was sent to Cassady at Vernal. In this she asked him not to assist her husband. A few days ago Cassady sent a reply, declining to visit her or to go back on Warner. He stated he had made a raise, and that he had engaged Lawyer Preston to defend her husband.
Everything that money could do would be at her husband's disposal. He wound up his letter with the words, "Believe me to be true to my own people." He also signified his intention to be present at Warner's trial in Ogden.
This gave the officials a most important clue. From the tenor of the letter it was evident that Cassidy[sic] believed Mrs. Warner still loyal to her husband. They had then every reason to believe that he would carry out his intention of being present at the trial. This belief was materially strengthened when a note from Cassady to Warner unintentionally fell into the hands of the officials. The missive stated in plain language that a "raise" had been made and that the author would stand by him (Warner) even at the risk of his own life.
BY FORCE OF ARMS
It then dawned upon the minds of the officiers that in all human probabiltiy Cassady and his gang were coming down ostensibly for the purpose of attending Warner's trial, but in reality to secure his freedom regardless of consequences. An investigation proved that Cassady in company with seven others who have been identified as members of his outfit left Vernal about the middle of last week. They had their camping outfits along and headed for Ogden, which they gave as their destination. Some of the witnesses who came over to attend the trial claim that the party was seen last Sunday only a few miles from the mouth of the canyon. All these developments combined to strengthen the old theory, and how near the sleuths came being correct many be determined from the developments that were to follow.
SWIFT VISITS OGDEN
Early Monday morning Robert Swift, the man who was with Coleman on the expedition which resulted in the killing of Staunton and Melton and subpoenaed as a witness in Warner's behalf in the pending trial, rode into town. Swift had been suspected of being on close terms with the desperadoes, and the officials determined to watch him. Swift remained in the city all day long, and about 5 o'clock in the afternoon mounted his horse and rode off toward Uintah station. A courier followed him and brought back word that Swift was camped in the outskirts of the little town of Uintah. It was then suspected that he stood in communication with the robbers and that his mission to town has been to ascertain the feeling. The mnions of the law decided, however, to delay action.
Yesterday morning Swift came into town again and spent the grater[sic] part of the day listening to the evidence against Holman. Last night he returned to his camp again. Sufficient developments followed last evening to increased the suspicions entertained by the officials.
A WARRANT ISSUED
It was learned later last night that a warrant hed[sic] been issued for Swift and that he will be placed under arrest this morning. On just what charge he will be held could not be determined, but the primary reason for the arrest is to ascertain if possible if he has any connection with the perpetrators of the bank robbery.
CONFESSION HOPED FOR
Sheriff Wright refused absolutely to talk about the matter. From apparently reliable sources, however, it was learned that a hope lingers in the officers' breasts that Swift, if he knows anything, will come out squarely and confess. If he does, a posse is likely to be organized and the robbers run down.
Should the desperadoes be encountered in the mountains they will make a desperate fight. They are well mounted, supplied with fire arms and in case of a conflict it is doubtful if any of them wil be taken alive.
George Cassady has a record as a bandit only equaled by his more notorious partner, now known as Matt Warner. The two have for years been the leaders of the McCarthy gang. It was they, in company with Tom McCarthy some years ago, robbed a bank at Telluride, Colo., where they secured $21,000. A short time afterwards Cassady was arrested for cattle stealing, convicted and served a term in the Wyoming penitentiary. Cassady is commonly known among his comrades as "Butch," a title accorded him, it is said, on account of his murderous instincts. One rather striking incident is the fact the Warner and Cassady resemble each other so closely that they are, even among their acquaintances, mistaken one for the other.
LAY AND MEEKS
Lay is somewhat of a late addition to the gang, but if any testimonial as to his nerve is needed one has but to refer to the Montpelier bank robbery. Meeks is also a stranger in this neck of the woods, but is evidently entitled to take a high degree in the Robbers' uinon.
To Matt Warner, however, belongs the uneviable distinction of having the most notorious record of any outlaw since the days of the James boys. He was born about thirty years ago near Manti of Danish parents. His real name is Rasmus Christensen. It seems that his thieving proclivities manifested themselves early, for it is related that when he was only 10 years old he stole a band of cattle.
WARNER'S CAREER OF CRIME
As Warner does not care to dwell upon his past career it is difficult to say just when he fell in with the McCarthy boys. His first bank robbery, as far as known, was that at Telluride, Colo., about ten years ago, where, in company with Tom McCarthy and George Cassady, he secured $21,000. After the booty had been divided Tom, who was then going under the name of Luke, and Warner came to Star Valley, where both were married. Warner was then known as Dougherty Willard. After a few months' stay in Star Valley they went to Montana, taking their brides along. They pitched their camp in the mountains about twenty miles from Butte, where they intended to enjoy their honeymoon in peace. It proved of short duration, however.
One evening when Warner returned to camp he told the folks about meeting a horse with a dead man tied to its back. A few miles further along he had met a sheriff in pursuit of the animal. It seems that Mrs. McCarthy suspicioned that something was wrong. At any rate when the first opportunity presented itself she informed the authorities. The result was the Warner was arrested and taken to the Butte jail, charged with murdering the man whose body, sure enough, had been found lashed to the back of the horse. Warner remained in jail several weeks. During that period he improved every opportunity and succeeded in gaining the confidence of the jailor. One morning he complained of being ill. He sent the jailor out to procure some whisky and asked that it be brought to him in a beer bottle. The officer did as requested. When the bottle was handed over, Warner took it and smashed the official across the head, knocking him senseless. He then made his escape.
AS RAS LEWIS
He next bobbed up under the name of Ras Lewis, near Baker City, Ore. There he met the McCarthy gang and the Roslyn bank robbery was planned. By arrangement the band met at Frank Beezly's ranch, about twenty miles from Coulee City, from which point the start was made. The robbery proved only partly successful, the bandits securing only about $6,000, which was far short of what had been expected. The officers were led on the wrong trail and finally arrested three innocent cowboys, who were brought to Ellensburg and one of them, Cal Hale, convicted and sentenced to serve seven years in the penitentiary. The others had undoubtedly been convicted also, only that Warner's sister-in-law, who knew all about the planning of the robbery informed on him. An exciting chase followed, and Warner and George McCarthy were finally overtaken near Baker City, Ore. They were brought to Ellensburg and tried. Mrs. Warner's sister appeared as principal witness against the gang, but despite the convincing evidence, a hung jury was the result. Shortly after the cases were dismissed.
A BREAK FOR LIBERTY
While confined in the Ellensburg jail, McCarthy and Lewis, alias Warner, made a bold break for liberty. The robbers succeeded in making their escape into the street, where a battle took place between them and the citizens, by whom they were recognized, in which both robbers and one citizen were slightly wounded. The desperadoes then escaped into a private house, offering profuse apologies for their sudden intrusion. When the marshal entered they agreed to go back with him to jail, stipulating that they should carry the pistols their accomplice had provided them until they reached the jail, as they feared violence by the crowd. The marshal and robbers then went back to jail, each covering the other with weapons.
DELTA BANK ROBBERY
In September, 1893, the famous Delta bank robbery in Colorado took place, where Fred and Bill McCarthy were killed.
In the spring of 1892 Matt and the McCarthy's attemped to hold up an express train at North Powder, Ore. It was planned at first to ditch the train, but Tom McCarthy finally decided to bring it to a standstill by the use of signals. The hold-up failed, for the reason that the engineer had an intimation that something was wrong and shot past at full speed. At the next town a posse of citizens were organized and sent in pursuit of the robbers. They took the wrong trail and instead of capturing the real perpetrators caught five innocent men who were now doing servitude in the state penitentiary for the crime someone else has committed.
BRUTAL TO HIS WIFE
Warner had treated his wife in a most brutal manner and has only been enabled to keep her under threats that she would immediately be killed if she should attempt to get away. Early last spring he was the cause of her fracturing her right leg. He refused to procure medical aid and had not some of the sympathetic members of his gang furnished her money with which to procure a physician she would undoubtedly have succumbed. When she finally reached a physician it was found necessary to have the limb amputated near her hip joint, to prevent blood poisoning setting in. She is now being cared for by relations in this city. The terrible strain upon her nerves has been telling and her condition is considered very critical. She is a very attractive woman and is spoken of very highly by those who have came in contact with her.
FEARS FOR HER LIFE
She fears that Warner's friends may learn of her whereabouts and now that she has decided to aid in his conviction is very apprehensive that they may kill her. She knows them to be a deperate set, speaking from the experience of the past six years.
THE VERNAL AFFAIR
The crime for which Warner, together with Coleman and Wall are now to be tried stands out prominently as one of the most cold-blooded murders laid at the door of this gang of desperadoes. The prosecution expects to prove that the killing was done without provocation and actuated alone by the desire of Coleman to gain possession of a valuable mine and of Warner and Wall to make $500 for getting Melton and the Stauntons out of the way in order that Coleman might secure the bonanza.
One of the chief points relied upon by the defense is the lack of direct evidence on the part of the prosecution. Warner has many friends of his stripe who would cheerfully lay down their lives to free him and it is an open secret that many who have been summoned as witnesses in his and Coleman's behalf are in full sympathy with the prisioners and will sacrifice anything to save them.
On the evening previous to the morning of the tragedy Warner, it is alleged, told his wife he was going out to do the killing. His wife and mother-in-law pleaded with him with tears in their eyes not to go but it was all in vain. He left the house and when he returned the following day he told them the "job" had been finished. He gave his mother-in-law, Mrs. Rumel $20 to keep for the use of the family. This according to his story was a portion of the "blood" money.
In addition to this Issac Staunton, Richard's brother, who was not entirely killed in the conflict, will go on to the stand and testify that outside parties opened fired while he and his two unfortunate partners were asleep in their tents.
Combining the stories of these two witnesses, who will take the stand at the peril of losing their lives, the prosecution is expected to present a very strong case. Before Mrs. Rumel left Vernal she was made to understand that to say anything that would militate against Warner's chances for acquittal would be to endanger her life. This threat coming from a gang to whom human life is of no consequence, it was no wonder that she hesitated before deciding to go on the stand against her daughter's husband.
The prosecution is very reticent about what its evidence will be, but the above is in substance the most direct and, hence, important testimony that will be adduced. In brief, the state expects to show that the Staunton boys and Melton were located on the disputed property, and that Coleman hired Warner and Wall to kill the former to get possession of the claim; and that the killing was done in cold blood.
To believe the story of Coleman and his associates in the Ogden jail the inevitable conclusion would be that they are the victims of most cruel circumstances. Coleman is an old prospector and fairly well known in mining circles. He is a resident of Salt Lake, where he has a wife and family, and naturally his friends are loath to believe that he can be guilty of implication in such a dastardly crime as he is not charged with.
Coleman's version of the circumstances leading up to the tragedy is to the effect that last fall Robert Swift discovered a fabulously rich mine in Dry canyon, about eighteen or twenty miles from Vernal. The strike was made just as the stormy weather was setting in. Some of the ore, so the story goes, went 8,000 ounces in silver. On account of the snow and unpropitious weather, all work in the way of establishing the location was abandoned.
And so Coleman says that early last spring, in company with Bob Swift, he left Vernal for the purpose of relocating this valuable mineral ground. They had a jack train and horses with them. After stopping a short time in the vicinity of Vernal they went over to Dry canyon. Finding the snow still too deep they returned and camped at a ranch a mile or so from Vernal. Here they met Richard and Isaac Staunton, brothers, and David Melton, who were also out on a prospecting tour, and they pitched their tents near the Coleman camp. Coleman relates that Melton approached him with the proposition that the Coleman outfit should hire them to work. This Coleman refused to do, stating that his party wanted no men, and that it was impossible to do any mining at that season of the year. Melton then, Coleman says, informed him that he must locate the Melton-Staunton party on the mine both parties were after, or else pay the latter $500 to keep away for a period of ten days. Coleman spurned both propositions. He then suspected that the Melton party was after the same mine that Swift is alleged to have discovered the preceding fall.
The Coleman party moved their camp repeatedly but Melton and the Stauntons clung persistenly to them and could not be shaken off. As the spring weather set in the Coleman party moved its camp, one Sunday when Melton and his outfit was in Vernal, to Dry canyon where they pitched their tents on the side of the gulch. Congratulating themselves that they were rid of their persecutors they returned to rest. In the morning, however, when they awoke they were surprised to find that Melton and his partners had followed them and during the night had pitched their tents on the opposite side of the gulch. Moreover, the Stauntons and Meltons were sitting on the outside of their tents with rifles across their knees evidently waiting for an opportunity to open fire on the Coleman party as soon as any of its members should put in an appearance.
Coleman says that to make matters worse Melton, who seemed to be the spokesman of the party, called him a "gray-haired s of a b-," and that if he would not show them where the bonanza was located the Melton party would kill both him and Swift. Coleman told them it was an impossibility to locate the mine at that time on account of the deep snow. He claims that he pleased with tears in his eyes that he might be permitted to escape safely with his life.
Melton and his men then offered to compromise the matter for $500, and Coleman, to get away from them agreed to it, but not having the cash proposed that he and Swift should go to Vernal and get it. But this the Melton party objected to and it was finally arranged that Coleman should go alone to Vernal and get the money while Swift was held a prisoner as hostage. Coleman was informed that if he did not return with the money the next morning before daybreak Swift would never see another day, and that if Coleman came back without the money both men would be killed.
THE START FROM VERNAL
Coleman then went to Vernal and here is where the ingenuity of this story stands out most prominently. He attempted to raise the money, he says, but failing in this he told the tale of his predicament to Matt Warner and Walter Wall. They at once listened with sympathetic ears and agreed to accompany him back to camp and release Swift from his perilous position. Coleman, Wall and Warner started out from Vernal at night and reached the crest of the hill overlooking the two camps just as daylight was coming on. At this point Wall and Warner rode on ahead and left Coleman behind. When the two former were a short distance away from the tent, Melton, so they say, thrust the muzzle of a Winchester out throught the flap of his tent and fired, killing Warner's horse from under the ridder. The conflict then began in earnest, about twenty shots being fired, and when the smoke cleared away it was found that David Melton and Richard Staunton had been mortally wounded, while Isaac had been shot through the thigh. Coleman, who disclaims having any hand in the conflict, then came up and everything was done that could be for the doomed men and their injured companion. Swift, who had three bullet holes in his clothes-for it is alleged he was in direct range with Melton and his men-was sent to Vernal for assistance.
The wounded men were then taken to Vernal, and according to Coleman's story they told some people on the way that they did not hold Wall and Warner responsible for the shooting, but that it was "that s- of a b- Coleman" who brought them instead of the $500.
STAUNTON AND MELTON
Soon after reaching Vernal, Richard Staunton and Melton died. Coleman gave himself up the same day, and when it was noised about that the story told by the men who did the shooting was rather fishy, Warner and Wall were taken in custody.
The manner in which Warner was arrested is rather interesting, and the credit of his skilful capture belongs to Marcellus Pope, deputy sheriff of Uintah county. A warrant was issued and placed in the hands of the deputy sheriff, his brother being away. Marcellus knew that he had a very desperate character to deal with, and approached Warner in a pleasant manner and informed him that the law compelled that he place him under arrest. Warner objected, but the plucky deputy persuaded him that if he would accompany him peacefully to the county jail he would let him out the following morning and allow him to breakfast with his wife. Warner finally consented, and once behind the bar he was never permitted out. He made all sorts of threats the next day when he found he had been duped, but all in vain.
A short time afterwards the men were removed to the Ogden jail, the Uintah bastile not being considered very safe, beside the constant danger that members of Warner's gang might at any moment break into it and liberate the prisoners.
THE TRIAL COMMENCED
The trial of Coleman was begun before Judge Rolapp at Ogden yesterday. The forenoon was consumed in securing a jury, a task which proved much easier than had been anticipated.
When court convened in the afternoon Prosecuting Attorney Evans made his opening statement, which was to the effect that the prosecution intended to prove it was a cold-blooded case of murder.
F.S. Holdaway was the first witness placed upon the stand. He described the appearnace[sic] of the place where the tragedy occurred. It was bare and untimbered, he said.
Heber P. Riest, a resident of Vernal, knew Coleman but not Warner nor Wall. He remembered Coleman and Swift being camped near his place in Vernal, and on the day before the killing Coleman came to him on business, Coleman had said that he was in trouble with some men on the mountain and wanted some money to help protect himself and property. He had also asked witness to suggest some good men who would go up the mountain and help protect him. Witness had referred them to the sheriff or his deputy. The next night Wall, Warner and Coleman passed by his house, which was on the road to the place where the trouble occurred. He noticed that Warner had a gun strapped on to his horse. He was with them in town when they bought some liquor to take along. Coleman had said the men on the mountain wanted $500, but that he did not like to give it.
Mrs. Russell, mother-in-law of Matt Warner, was next called. She was in Vernal at the time of the tragedy. She testified that Warner told her he had received $100 from Coleman and was to receive $400 more. He gave her $20 to keep. On the evening before the killing Coleman, Warner and Wall got ready, took ammunition and guns and went off. She had heard Warner say to the others, "You must be ready to shoot like h-ll." That fellow will shoot at the drop of the hat."
Mr. Bennion, superintendent of Co-op at Vernal, said that Coleman had asked for money from him on the forenoon before the killing occurred. Had arranged for $125. Coleman had said he wanted to pay about $1,000 to some outlaws who were holding a valuable claim belonging to him. Had further said that this was blood money.
Charles Teeter, of Vernal, said he had been present at a meeting between Coleman and Melton. Coleman had said to Melton, "If you don't let that mining property alone I'll get the Warner gang and shoot you up.