Eckman mail crane robbery

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Thu Oct 15 23:40:03 EDT 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 4:21 PM Subject: N&W in 1910--Mail robbery
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
March 30, 1910

Man Alleged to Have Been a Partner of Kentucky Joe is Under Arrest At Keystone
The Keystone police have a man named Thurman Givens under arrest on suspicion of knowing something about the stealing of a mail sack from the mail crane at Eckman on the night of February 26th. The man denies that he had anything to do with the robbery and rifling of the sack but admits that he was asleep in a coke oven nearby the night the robbery occurred. When arrested he gave his name as Sam Spaulding, but since that time it has been found that he also goes under the name of Jack Perdue, although Givens is his correct name. He is alleged to have been a partner of Kentucky Joe, who was arrested in the west end yards about a year ago and who was a notorious postoffice robber. He also, it is said, was a pal of Fatty Dorn, who admitted robbing the postoffice at Tip Top. Red Cunningham, who was also arrested at that time, has been seen in and around Keystone since the rifling of the mail sack, and on account of his former connections with the
postoffice robberies it is believed that he had a hand in the matter. Cunningham has also made several attempts to see Givens while he has been in jail. Kentucky Joe, it will be remembered, was one of a gang which held out at Meg Lowe's at Tazewell, and Kentucky Joe was the only one of that bunch who got away. He came to this city where he was picked up by Officer Howell and Special Officer A. M. Wade. He is now serving time in the federal prison at Atlanta. The mail sack which was robbed at Eckman was hanging on the crane where it was placed by the postmaster. No. 16 was an hour and three-quarters late that night and while no one was around the sack was stolen, rifled and the letters and sack cut up and thrown in the Elkhorn creek.
[The names of these people sound like characters from a Damon Runyon novel.]

Gordon Hamilton

October 15, 2009

Good evening:

The Post Office Department required that the mail be protected at all times. Ordinarily, a pouch on a crane was supposed to the placed on the crane ten minutes before the actual time a train was to pass --not necessarily the scheduled time-- but I've never clearly understood how someone was to know when a train was late and expected to pass during the early years of the 20th Century. The catch was supposed to be witnessed, as well as observation of any mail dispatched from the Railway Post Office.

It's likely that the postmaster in a small town likely figured no one would tamper with the crane. 99.99 percent of the time, that was probably true. The postmaster had a lot of explaining to do to a Postal Inspector about this occurrence and could have been found to be in dereliction of duty.

Good night,


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