The Loup City northwestern. (Loup City, Neb.) 189?-1917, August 17, 1916, Image 6

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    The Ruse That Worked
Stories of the Greatest
Cases in the Career of
Thomas Furlong, the Fa
mous Railroad Detective,
Told by Himself
Copyright bv W. G. Chapman
The ruse which I am about to de
scribe was perpetrated by me at the
time when I was chief of police of Oil
City, Pa., and resulted in the appre
hension of an anonymous letter-writer.
The case was more serious than that,
however, for the property of a number
of men, valued at several hundred
thousand dollars, and the lives of an
entire city as well, were imperiled.
One cold winter morning in the
month of February I received a visit
from a gentleman named Sam Ackert.
Mr. Ackert was well known in the dis
trict, being the owner of a large oil
lease, on the Towles farm, as it was
called, situated upon the Plummer
road, to the northeast of Oil City, and
in Venango county.
Mr. Ackert was considered to be at
that time one of the largest oil oper
ators in the district. He was operat
ing from twelve to fifteen oil wells, all
of which were producing large quan
tities of oil. Some of it was being
pumped while others were flowing
wells. One of the latter kind was
producing as much as four hundred
barrels a day. and at that time crude
oil was selling at the well for about
eight dollars a barrel.
Ackert employed a large number of
n.en to attend to the wells and to look
mfter his general interests. Some of
these men were employed as en
gineers, being generally known in the
oil regions as pumpers. To operate
each well two of these pumpers were
required, each man working for 12
hours at a stretch. Their work was
divided into watches, and men who
were so employed usually lived in
houses or shanties adjacent to the
wells at which they were employed.
The cause of Mr. Ackert's visit to
me was that some months previously
he had received a threatening letter
in his mail. It stated that unless he
wonld discharge his superintendent, a
man named Joseph sullivan, and thor
oughly competent and trustworthy,
the property would be destroyed by
fire or by other methods. Mr. Ackert
paid no attention to this letter, which
was followed in the course of time by
three others of the same threatening
character, each one being anonymous,
and each demanding the discharge of
the superintendent, Sullivan. The
three letters followed each other at
intervals of four or five days. As Sul
llvfn was not only a competent man
but thoroughly reliable and of good
character as well, Mr. Ackert paid no
attention to these letters, but laid
them aside In his desk.
A short time after the receipt of the
last anonymous letter one of Mr. Ack
ert’s oil tanks, containing at the time
from four to five hundred barrels of
crude oil, was emptied one night, at
a time between midnight and daylight,
by seme person who had gone to the
tank and opening what was known as
the lower faucet. This faucet, which
was two inches in diameter, entered
the tank at a point about six inches
above the bottom. It was placed
there for the purpose of drawing oil
the salt water at the bottom of the olL
All oil wells In that locality which <id
not flow but were operated by pump
in* npodnrmt a certain nercentaae ol
I*—** *• * **•“- - •-*??T - -T '..
I settled to the bottom of the tank, and
for this reason, when the tank had
become nearly filled with the mixture,
it was the duty of the men employed
as pumpers to open the salt water
faucet at the bottom of the tank and
let the salt water escape through it.
the oil thus settling down and making
room for a fresh influx above.
On the night when this tank was
emptied in the manner described,
there was about three feet of snow
on the ground. The weather was cold,
and the snow had been heaped up
around the tank by the wind, so that
it was piled about four feet above the
salt water faucet at the bottom. The
constant drawing off of the salt water
had thoroughly saturated the ground
for a space of two or three square
feet under the faucet, and the ground
was soft and muddy, since the satu
rated earth would not freeze on ac
count of the large quantities of salt
which had intermingled with the dirt.
Salt and snow form a muddy slush
which does not harden.
When the faucet was opened the salt
water ran out, followed by the total
contents of oil within the tank,
amounting, as has been stated, to four
or five hundred barrels. This oil.
which was highly inflammable, even
in its crude state, ran down into a
ravine, which was thickly dotted w-ith
oil wells, partly belonging to Mr. Ack
ert and partly to other producers, for
the distance of more than a mile. Had
this stream, in the course of its jour
ney, reached any of the fires that
were under the boilers of the pump
ing stations, it would instantly have
been converted into a fiery river, car
rying destruction all along the mile
of its course, destroying hundreds of
thousands of dollars' worth of property,
and probably sacrificing many lives.
Mr. Ackert called upon me on the
morning after this occurrence.
“I have not the slightest idea who
was dastardly enough to commit this
malicious act,” he said. "I am not
aware that I have an enemy on
He begged me to use all possible ef
forts to discover who the person was
and to bring him to justice. He then
told of having received the anonymous
letters, which he laid before me. 1 at
once perceived that they were all writ
ten upon the same brand of paper, in
a legible and penmanlike manner, and
evidently by the same hand and pen.
By the end of the third day of my
investigations, I had hit upon a clue.
Joseph Sullivan, the superintendent,
had employed two engineers whose
names were George and Henry Book.
George was a young man, married,
and living in a cottage on the leased
property, near the well. Henry, his
brother, was single, and lived with
George and his wife. They were both
employed on the same well as pump
ers. George, who was employed on
the day watch, waB considered a very
good engineer and a reliable man,
while his younger brother, Henry,
though known to be competent and en
ergetic, was not nearly so reliable.
He had been found asleep while on
duty by Superintendent Sullivan on
various occasions, fot which he was
'"i"' ... ”
Ackert had received the first of the
anonymous letters.
In addition to the attempt to destroy
property or, at any rate, to the drain
ing off of Mr. Ackert’s tank, there had
been the theft of oil well tools and
other material on the Ackert and ad
jacent leases. This corroborated the
supposition that the perpetrator of
these acts was familiar with that por
tion of the oil territory. In fact, every
thing pointed to Henry Book as the
guilty man.
Being familiar with the manner in
which oil leases were operated, I
donned the suit of an oil driller, con
sisting of overalls spattered over with
sand pumpings, which gives the wear
er the general appearance of a bill
poster. Thus equipped, I set forth
on a cold night in February, the ther
mometer at the time standing below
zero. My objective was the pumping
house of a well where I knew George
Book would be on duty until midnight,
when he would retire, to be succeeded
by the man who had taken the posi
tion formerly held by his brother,
Before making my way from Oil
City to Ihe Ackert property, I visited
a meat market in the town, where I
asked for five cents' worth of liver.
“'There's a pet cat that seems tD
have adopted me." I explained to the
meat market owner. "She stays round
my place and cries for food regularly
at meal times, and so I guess it's up
to me to see that she gets it.”
Having planked down my nickel, I
received the chunk of liver which
the proprietor cut off and wrapped up
in a piece of paper. I took it around
the corner, where I made further in
roads into it with my jackknife. A
small slice I placed in the hollow of
my right hand. I then cut a thin
piece and spread it on the back of the
same hand, which I afterward tightly
bandaged with a piece of white mus
lin. The liver soiled the tightly
drawn bandage, which gave the ap
pearance of a wound extremely in
flamed and sore. I then tied two hand
kerchiefs together and improvised n
sling in which I could put my right
hand at the right time. So equipped I
left Oil City, passing unrecognized
through the streets by reason of my
costume, and walked through the dark
ness and bitter cold to the pumping
house on the Ackert property, where I
arrived a few minutes after nine in
the evening. ■
Inside the pumping house George
Hook was seated alone in a large easy
chair, close to the boiler, which was
fired and well lighted with natural
gas, and was kept warm and neat.
He was reading a novei when I en
The engine house was located only
a few feet off the main road that ran
between Oil City and the neighboring
town of Plummer, and it was not an
unusual thing for oil men, or any other
men for the matter of that, to stop
at the door while passing, to get a
drink or to warm themselves, espe
cially on a February night with zero
temperature. Book, looking up from
his book, was consequently not in the
least surprised to see another of his
fraternity—as he imagined me to be
—standing at the door at that hour
in the evening.
“Would you mind my standing by
your boiler to get warmed?” I asked.
“Not a bit,” responded George
Book. “It's mighty cold outside, and
I'll be glad of your company. Where
do you work?” he continued, eyeing
me closely, and a little suspiciously
at first.
“I have been working on the Foster
farm,” I replied, naming a property
which was situated on the Allegheny
river, about fifteen miles southwest of
Oil City.
“How did you get hurt?" asked
Book immediately afterward, observ
ing the bandaged hand, which I had
slipped into the sling just before en
tering the pumping house.
I muttered something inaudibly and
stood nearer to the boiler. After a
period of silence I said in a slow
manner, as a man uses who is about
to reveal a confidence:
"You have been mighty kind in al
lowing me to get warm in front of
your boiler, and you look to me like
you would not get a fellow into
trouble by giving him away, so I will
tell you all about it. You see,” I
continued, “I am a driller, and I was
working under a superintendent. We
had some trouble over a girl, and
he had a gun. He shot me through
the hand.”
With that I pulled my hand out of
the sling and showed him the hand
age, to which the liver, adhering, had
given a hideously stained appearance,
while the liver itself looked like a
chunk of raw and quivering flesh.
“Gracious! You’ve got an awful
hand there,” said George Book, look
ing at the liver and the bandage and
shuddering. “You ought to it
attended to at once.”
“I’m going to have it attended to
when I reach Petroleum Center,” I
answered. “I don't want to stop on
the way, either, because of the other
fellow. I shot him, but I don’t know
whether he is dead or not; in fact, I
didn't wait to see. I left immediately
he dropped, and have walked the en
tire distance, only stopping long
enough to get a cup of coffee at the
eating house in the Oil City depot.”
Book’s sympathy* was now fully
aroused, for he was really a good
hearted fellow. “You must be awful
hungry,” he said
"Not very,” I answered. “I have
some good friends at Petroleum Cen
ter who will feed me and look after
me. and keep me under cover while
the police are searching for me; and
I guess they will get a doctor, too.
What is worrying me most just now
is that I cannot write with my left
hand, and I want to write a letter.
You see, my folks live at Fort Erie,
Canada, which is just across the Ni
agara river, opposite Buffalo. I have
been saving my money and sending it
to my people at Fort Erie, and they
have it all deposited in a bank at
Buffalo, to my credit. I have several
hundred dollars there, and if I could
only write a letter tonight and mail
it on the early morning train tomor
row morning, it would reach Fort
Erie tomorrow night. My friends
could then send me ail the money I
need, which I would receive the day
after tomorrow at Petroleum Center.”
George Book was thoroughly taken
off guard.
“I am a pretty good penman and
would be glad to write the letter for
you,” he answered. This, as a matter
of fact I knew already, for I had
learned that George Book was a good
scholar, having been a country school
teacher some years before in his na
tive county, Crawford county, Pennsyl
vania. He was also considered an ex
tra good penman. At the same time,
it was on Henry and not on George
that the suspicion had naturally fallen.
George Book excused himself and
went to his house, which stood near
by, returning in a few minutes with
letter paper, envelopes and a big lunch
for two, including a pot of coffee.
We ate the lunch together, and then
I produced cigars from my pocket,
and we lit up. After we had finished
George Book started to write the let
ter at my dictation. In dictating this
I used as many words as I could
which had been used in the anony
mous letters, with whose contents 1
of course thoroughly familiarized my
I at once perceived that George
Book was using the same quality of
paper as that upon which all the
anonymous letters had been written
and, in consequence, did not make
my letter very long. I also perceived,
before three lines had been set down,
that he used the same handwriting,
the same kind of ink and, in all prob
ability, the samo pen as had been used
previously. It was uow obvious that
the letters had been written by
George. Whether or not he had
drawn the oil out of the tank had
still to be shown, and that was the
more serious offense, by far.
When the letter had been written
Book addressed the envelope, inclosed
the missive, and sealed and stamped
It. Apparently profusely grateful, I
thanked him and departed in the di
rection of Petroleum Center, but in
reality toward Oil City, which I
reached early the following morning
after I had set out.
During the course of the forenoon
I submitted the dictated letter, which
It developed then t*mt both fhe
brothers were in the ti.nnp:racy, the
one having written the teeter? and the
other having acted upon tar threat
contained in them. Unooubtedl?
George Book had been more or less
a tool in ills brother’s hands, Mr with
a wife and a good position he au.1 no
reason to feel a grudge aga.iut his
employer on account of the superin
I at once procured a warrant for
the arrest of the Book brothers, end
that night returned to the Ackert
lease, this was a sleigh and accom
panied by two officers. Arriving about
It o'clock I found George Book in
the ^Uhiping house on duty, as he
I had taken away, as though to post
it, togther with the anonymous let
ters which had been sent to Mr. Ack
ert, to a writing expert who was con
nected with the First National bank of
Oil City. He compared the four and
said without hesitation that they had
all been written by the same person.
That afternoon I went back to the
Ackert lease, knowing that George
Book would be off duty and in bed,
and that, in consequence, there would
be no probability of my meeting him.
Approaching the emptied tank, I care
fully shoveled the snow from around
the salt water faucet and, when I got
down to the muddy ground, I found
very distinct traces of a No. 8 boot.
The boots had been very recently half
soled, and the shoemaker who had
made the repairs had placed three
nails in a row across the center of
the half sole, as his trade mark and
sign manual.
Returning to Oil City, I made dili
gent inquiries among the shoemakers
of the town. There was not a large
number of inbn who did repair work
of the rough and ready type which
was required by the men employed in
the oil leases, and after a short in
vestigation the man who had soled the
shoes was discovered. He at once
remembered having repaired a pair of
shoes for Henry Book a couple of
days before the oil tank had been
had been the night before, and at
once arrested him. I then proceeded
to George’s house, where I found his
brother Henry in bed and arrested
him also. After this the house, which
was a one story building with an
attic, was thoroughly searched, and
wagon loads of loot were found, all of
it taken from the Ackert and adjacent
leases. This was afterward identified
by the owners as having disappeared
from time to time.
After a preliminary hearing the
Book brothers were committed to thfe
county jail in default of bail.
Henry Book soon confessed to the
emptying of the oil tank and George
to the writing of the anonymous let
ters. There seemed no doubt of their
conviction. However, about a w’eek
before the trial was to have begun
there was a jail delivery from the
county jail at Franklin, Pa., fifteen
or more prisoners making their
escape, among them being the Book
brothers. They boarded a northbound
freight train on the A. & G. W. rail
road, now known as the Erie. When
at a point about twenty miles north
of Franklin this freight train collided
with another train and in the wreck
Henry Bock was killed instantly,
while George was so badly hurt that
be died the following day.
Thi3 was the ending of the Book
(•ase, which occupied in all only six
days of my time.
Scientist Points Out Why Such a
Thing Is Beyond the Realm of
Will the seas ever be displaced from
their areas on the surface of the
globe? The question is dealt with in
a paper by L. do Launay, reprinted in
I he annual report of the Smithsonian
Institution. He writes:
“it is not likely that the seas can
evef be lacking on the earth, at least
not until the day when the earth be
comes only an extinct and frozen globe.
It does not seem, in fact, that the loss
in water could be very great at the
surface. Granting that to a certain
deptli there surely do not exist empty
cavities in whicli this water could be
engulfed, it can disappear only
through chemical reaction by yielding
it? oxygen to the oxidation of rocks,
while the hydrogen escapes into the
heights of the atmosphere.
“But this is a much-re3tricted phe
nomenon compared with the immense
volume of the seas which, if spread all
over the earth, would form a mantle
of water three kilometers thick, and
which even now covers three-quarters
of the land. The oxidations, to be ef
fectual, must become more and more
limited by the fact that the region of
the crust where they act would not
exceed 60 kilometers. On the con
trary, it is even very possible that vol
canism and certain thermal springs
may furnish at the surface some new
water, fresh, never having seen the
With Spats, Sir.
Wd like to see an elderly man, or a
professional “dresser,” walking along
* ,f» irrenronehnhle snats. Pleased
we wondered who Invented spats, who
was the first man to sport them. The
name of the hero that first used the
umbrella and that of the one kho
first donned a plug hat are on a me
morial tablet in the vast hall of fame.
The dictionary informs us that “spat”
Is an abbreviation of “spatter-dash."
end gives the date, 1802, as that of the
first appearance of “spat’ 'in litera
ture. But here comes a writer who,
beginning his story, “One of those
things not generally known,” says that
the wearing of spats originated as a
compliment to the kilted regiments
who wore them in the Indian mutiny.
“The glorious deeds of the Highland
ers in that campaign made thine popu
lar heroes, and the public adopted
many things in dress in imitation of
the Scotch uniform. Among these
things were spats, and they have
never been out of fashion among
smart people since the days of Sir Colin
Campbell.”—Boston Herald.
Conversational Diplomacy.
“11 ho is your favorite composer?’'
“Wagner,” replied Mr. Cumrox.
“Ycu must be a student of music!"
“No. I mention Wagner for the
suite of relieving myself of conversa
tional strain. If the other man doesn’t
like Wagner, he won’t want to hear me
fay another word.”
“And If he does?”
“He’ll want to do all the talking
An Agreement at Last.
Silas fled before his Irate wife, and
seeking the first shelter that presented
Itself, crept under the bed, from whence
after a short time, he peered cautiously
Seeing his wife standrtin near by,
with an uplifted broom, he shouted:
“Mirandy, 1 think it’s about time
Improvement of Right Kind Making
Profit of 125 Per Cent in Wayne
County—Upkeep Is Less.
Money spent in road improvement
of the right kind is making a profit of
125 per cent a year in Wayne county
The county spent $2,000,000 on con
struction and maintenance during the
eight years from 1906 to 1914, inclu
sive, and in this period the assessed
valuation of property in the county,
outside of the city of Detroit, in
creased from $02,707,000 to $114,548,
120, or 82.6 per cent.
Of this increase 35 per cent, or $22,
000,000, is credited to road improve
ment, because the assessed valuation
of Detroit increased only 47.7 per cent.
The increase in county valuation
above the rate of increase in the city
was eleven times the cost of road
work, or 1,000 per cent profit in eight
years on the total investment in im
proved roads.
More than 125 miles of concrete
road have been put down by the
Wayne county commissioners since the
county, system was adopted in 1900
and the roads built with the $2,000,000
bond Issue are still in good condition
and give every promise of more thaD
outliving the bonds.
The commissioners state in their
ninth annual report for last year that
they never have had to take up and
replace a single 25-foot section since
Good Roads in Michigan.
they have been developing this type of
road, although some of the roads have
been down more than seven years.
Every mile of durable roads laid is
cutting down the cost of upkeep. Lust
year the commissioners had 45 miles
more roadway to care for than the
year before, yet they spent $5,178 less
for maintenance, notwithstanding they
have supervision over 1,245 miles of
other types of road, such as macadam
and gravel, outside of incorporated
cities and villages.
It is estimated that 90 per cent of
the traffic in the county is carried on
20 per cent of the road mileage and
thnt concrete construction should 1>e
continued until there are about 350
miles of such roads.
Most Farmers Would Rather Live Six
Miles on Hard Road Than Three
on Muddy One.
From a study of 050 farms in John
son county of that state thp Missouri
experiment station concludes that lo
cation is more important than crop
yield as a factor in land values. Here
nre the figures: Seventy-nine farms
within two miles of market averaged
In value $78.80 per acre; 183 farms,
two to four miles from market, $70.20
per acre; 126 farms, four to six miles
from market, $60.90; 113 farms, sir
to eight miles from market, $53.20, and
149 farms, over eight miles from mar
ket, averaged $55.90 per acre. An an
mentioned but Important factor is con
dition of the road. Were these farms
located on hard roads or on dirt roads
inclined to be heavy in wret seasons?
Most folk would rather live six miles
out cn a permanent hard road than
only half as far on a muddy road. Let
us have more light on this Interesting
question.—Farmers’ Review.
Attehtlsn New Road.
When a pieot of permanent road Is
finished it Is a big mistake tt> iet it
go without frequent attention. It be
gins at once to deteriorate through
wear and weather, and if neglected it
will oe only u few years before it will
require an expensive rebuilding. It is
economy to employ a “road builder’
* hose duty it is to give the roads a
weekly mending
Makes Good Road Booster.
1 he make:; a kicker into a good
Shorten Distance to Market.
A good road shortens the distance
to market. Other things being equal,
1 farm near a market is worth more
than one farther out. But establish
ing a good road past the farm into
town overcomes much of this handi
cap. If the long haul is made easy
iuul certain the season through, the
farmer five or ten miles out can com
pete with the man next to town on
i little better footing.
-Tfi ninl’a frrwwl hnffAi. U __