Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Train depot heist leaves thieves empty-handed

Multiple law enforcement agencies and special agents from Union Pacific Railroad and an express shipping company were called to Milton-Freewater in 1939 after a puzzling robbery of the Milton-Freewater train depot that left the would-be thieves with nothing to show for their trouble.

A package was stolen on July 13, 1939, from the express agency in Milton-Freewater’s train station. The package contained approximately $38,720 in negotiable bonds issued by the Eugene Bible College, which at the time of the robbery was defunct and in liquidation. The owner of the bonds, Laura Harris, had shipped the bonds to Eugene to be checked and the serially numbered securities, made out to Harris and her daughters, had arrived at the train station the day before the robbery. The coincidence led some of the investigators to believe the heist was an inside job.

Because of the failure of the college, the bonds were worth about 10 cents on the dollar “if anyone would buy them,” said a trustee of the college. Included in the package of securities were checks, also made out to Harris, as partial payments for liquidation of the bonds. But as the college had stopped payment on the checks as soon as the robbery was reported, the package was worthless to anyone but Harris and her daughters.

The bonds were found July 19 in brush along the tracks about a thousand yards west of the train depot. The worthless checks, however, were still missing. Speculation was that the thief took the package thinking it was an express currency shipment and, finding the bonds instead, simply threw them away.

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