Sunday, May 1, 2016


Oliver Curtis Perry.
The Cortland Democrat, Friday, February 26, 1892.

The Burglar and His Pursuers Have a Race With Locomotives—Flying Fusillade of Pistol Shots.
   ROCHESTER, Feb. 21—The shooting of an express messenger on a Central-Hudson train, the rifling of a valuable safe, the flight of the robber on another train from which he drives the crew at the point of a revolver, a running fight from the engine cab for miles, another engine filled with railway men, and the final capture of the desperado by a sheriff's posse in a swamp after a wild pursuit across the country, are some of the sensational features of the most desperate attempt at train robbery in the history of the Central-Hudson railway and which cast in the shade, as an exhibition of coolness and nerve, the famous exploits of the Jesse James band or other outlaws of western fame.
   Train No. 34 on the Central-Hudson is known as the American Express company’s special. It runs every day in the year between New York and Buffalo, and carries only goods and property shipped by that company. The express company pay the Central-Hudson many thousands of dollars yearly for the use of this train, and it runs on the same time and with the same privileges as the limited expresses. The train leaves New York at nine o'clock each evening and is due in this city at 7:05 in the morning. Nearly all the cars are run through to Chicago, and contain the most valuable express matter. One car is known as the “money” car, and in it is sent the specie from the United States treasury for western banks, as well as the money in process of exchange between the banks of New York and the west. The load of wealth sent out from New York on this train is usually greater Saturday evenings than on other days and often amounts to more than a million dollars in addition to jewelry and other valuables. One of the most trusted messengers of the company, and sometimes several, are placed in charge of this car and its contents that often the crew of the train do not know in which car the money is carried.
   Daniel T. McInerney of this city was in charge of the money car on the trip Saturday night. The train was made up of eight express cars and one day coach for the accommodation of the regular train crew. Only one messenger was assigned to the money car as the work of billing was light. The other cars had two messengers. The train left Syracuse at five o'clock this morning in charge of Conductor Emil Laass of this city. The train was drawn by engine 682 with Caleb Cherry engineer. The coach was in the rear of the train and the money car was just ahead.
   When the train was near Weedsport the conductor, who was in the coach with his two trainmen, thought he heard the air whistle sound very faintly. It was enough to arouse him to the belief that something was wrong in the express car. Going out on the platform of the coach, he climbed on the rail and looking through the hole where the bell cord comes through. He saw the upper part of a man whose face below the eyes was concealed by a red flannel mask. The messenger he could not see. He went back, set the brakes and called his two trainmen. The three stood leaning out from the platform looking forward along the sides of the express car. Revolver bullets whistled past their ears and a voice was heard commanding them to signal the engineer to go ahead or take the consequences. The trainmen were unharmed. The conductor told one of his men to jump off, run back to Jordan and telegraph along the line to Rochester that they had a train robber on board. This was done and the conductor signaled the engineer to go ahead full speed, thinking that the robber would not dare to jump and would be captured at the next stop. The train went to Port Byron. Here the brakes were set again, and the conductor and the trainman went to the express car.
   The car showed signs of a desperate struggle. Money packages and jewelry were lying scattered about, everything in the car seemed stained with blood, and Messenger McInerney was lying bleeding from several wounds and almost unconscious. The robber was nowhere to be seen and was supposed to have jumped and made good his escape. McInerney wanted to be brought on to Rochester. A telegram for an ambulance was sent on to Rochester and the train went on to Lyons, the next stop.
   The news had spread all along the line by this time and the station at Lyons was all alive. Among others in the crowd was a well dressed young man, wearing gold eyeglasses and carrying a satchel slung by a strap over his shoulder. Now it so happened that the trainmen had noticed this young man at the station in Syracuse before the train pulled out, and they had not seen him since, and the question of what he was doing at Lyons and how he got there at once suggested itself. An attempt was made to seize him, but he pulled out two revolvers, held the crowd back and backed across the yard until he reached a coal train, the engines with steam up ready to pull out for the west. He pulled the pin holding the tender to the first car, climbed over the coal into the cab, drove the engineer and fireman out with his revolvers and started the engine.
   Conductor Laass and one of the switchmen procured a shot gun, freed the engine of the express, and with the firemen and engineer started in pursuit of the fugitive. It will be remembered that the Central-Hudson is a four-tracked road and the two engines, though both going west, were not on the same track. The express engine soon overtook the robber, who suddenly reversed his engine and let his pursuers pass him, pouring a perfect trail of pistol bullets into the cab as his pursuers went by. Then the pursuers stopped and the pursued went ahead. Another artillery duel ensued, the shot gun taking part this time. No one was hurt in either battle.
   About two miles beyond the robber found his engine’s steam was giving out. So he jumped off at a cross road and started across the country, going south. He managed to terrorize a farmer into letting him have a horse, and rode on about two miles further south. Here he procured a horse and cutter, persuading the owner, a German farmer, to entrust them with him, by firing upon him.
   The party on the express train had returned to Lyons, where the sheriff of Wayne County had organized a posse, which, under command of Deputy Sheriff Collins, started in pursuit. Meantime the farmer’s along the robber’s line of retreat, had also turned out fully armed in pursuit. The runaway was sighted about five miles south of Newark. The roads are very bad and he had made poor speed. He abandoned his rig and ran across lots to Benson’s swamp. But the swamp proved too full of water to be penetrated and the fugitive took up his position behind a stone wall and faced his pursuers. After some parley, he surrendered to Deputy Sheriff Collins. He was taken back to Lyons and lodged in jail. He gave the name William Cross, said he was from New Mexico and had been living in Syracuse for some time. He admitted that he was the man who had attempted the train robbery to Chief of Detectives Hayden of this city who had been wired for. He is believed to be the much wanted Oliver Curtis Perry, who robbed Express Messenger Moore near Utica last fall.
   The story of the attempt of robbery as far as it can be gathered is this: The express messenger, be it understood, will not talk. Cross boarded the train when it pulled out of Syracuse and climbed on top of the express car. He was provided with a hooked rope. Fastening the hook in the slight cornice of the roof on one side of the car, he let himself down on the other, and resting his toes on the ledge that runs around the car he looked in the glass of the side door and saw the express messenger in front of the safe, which was open, making up his bills. He smashed the glass with his revolver, covered the messenger, and shouted to him to hold up his hands. Instead of doing this, McInerney reached for the signal cord with one hand and for his revolver with the other. A bullet smashed the hand on the cord, but not before it had given the signal that aroused the conductor. Then McInerney fired on the robber and put a bullet through his coat. Then the robber shot the messenger twice, once in the right leg, and once in the left temple. He climbed into the car and a desperate struggle took place which did not end until the train was stopped for the first time near Weedsport. It is evident that the robber had climbed out on top of the cars and remained there through the stop at Port Byron until the train reached Lyons.
   So far as can be learned the robber secured absolutely nothing, for which the company can thank the readiness of Conductor Laass and the pluck of Messenger McInerney.
   LATER. It is now learned that Perry, the Lyons train robber, was formerly a cowboy and later worked as a railway brakeman.
   Oliver Curtis Perry, the daring train robber, was arraigned before Justice of the Peace Theodore Fries in Lyons at 2 o'clock Tuesday afternoon upon the charge preferred by the officers of the New York Central and Hudson River railroad company of discharging firearms and damaging one of their locomotives. Perry said he did not wish counsel assigned to defend him and then pleaded not guilty and waived examination.
   Perry was then taken before Police Justice Carver and arraigned upon the charge of assault in the second degree upon Engineer Alexander McGilvery. Again Perry declined the offer of counsel, pleaded not guilty and waived examination. Mr. Dunwell was allowed to examine a few witnesses and Mr. McGilvery repeated the evidence which he had given before Justice of the Peace Fries.
   Judge Carver held the prisoner in $3,000 bail for the offense charged.
   The first charge is not bailable and the prisoner will have to remain in the Wayne county jail. It is presumed that he will be held for trial in Wayne county for the attempted express robbery, and also for assaulting Messenger McInerney with intent to murder.
   When Perry and the deputy were about to leave the court room for the county jail, Perry’s father, Oliver H. Perry, came hurrying in from the railroad station from his home in Syracuse. The prisoner seemed much affected. Stepping up to him he said: "Hello, father," and kissed him. The father showed much emotion, and the prisoner seeing it said "Don't cry, father. It will be all right."
   He was taken back to jail, followed by his father and a large crowd.
   Perry has not been in the Lyons jail long but he is already dissatisfied with the place and he will try every scheme that a desperate man, deprived of his liberty, can invent to regain his freedom. His first plan, which was formulated yesterday afternoon, was discovered and it is said that the officials intend to chain him to the floor of his cell. After Perry was taken to the jail from Police Justice Carver's court he was visited by his father, Oliver H. Perry, of Syracuse. While they were in conversation with Deputy Sheriff Collins, a guard in the corridor detected the prisoner passing a note to his father. After the conversation had been finished Collins requested the elder Perry to step into the office and closing the door informed him that he was compelled to make him submit to being searched. He immediately proceeded to search him and was rewarded by finding the scrap of paper and on it was drawn an exact outline of the key which unlocks the corridor door. In addition to the drawing the paper contained these written instructions: "Make of hard wood. Be sure and not get it brittle, for it must be very tough and strong. Make it about the size of this drawing; hole in key three-eights of an inch. Make the key blade as thick as is drawn above."
   Orders were given after this discovery to keep the prisoner's father out of the Jail.
   Yesterday's New York Sun contained this sketch of Perry:
   Superintendent Bangs of the New York branch of Pinkerton's detective agency says that Oliver Curtis Perry is the wickedest and nerviest man that ever stood in two boots, that he absolutely does not know what fear is. Yet he is polite and effeminate in manner, and is nervous and uneasy in behavior. His counterpart, according to men who know all about criminals, is not to be found among the criminal classes in the United States. He is twenty-six years of age, five feet six or seven inches in height, of slight build, weighing about 130 pounds, has dark brown hair, wore until recently a small sandy mustache, has brown eyes, a high, white forehead, with wrinkles between the eyes that give his face a troubled and thoughtful expression, thin lips, a rather long nose, slim white hands with knuckles enlarged by hard work. He has a scar about three inches long on the upper part of his forehead, which is noticeable when his hat is off. He also has scars on the left arm and above the right nipple. He has a girlish voice. He dresses in dark clothes, invariably wears gloves, and is noticeably particular about keeping his hands clean. This is the description of the train robber that was sent out by the Pinkertons after he had successfully held up the express at Utica last September.


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