“New Windsor Bank Robbery, 1869”
Carroll County Time article for 21 August 1994
By Jay A. Graybeal
When Frank J. Devilbiss prepared his 1895 history of New Windsor, he wrote that no one living would ever forget the robbery of the National Bank in January 1869. Mr. Devilbiss provided a brief history of the bank and a lengthy description of the efforts to recover the stolen securities and “greenbacks.”
This bank, from its inception, has had the desideratum of thorough and judicious management, and stands to-day, for its capacity, without a peer in the state. Until recently it has declared semi-annual dividends of 5 to 6 per cent clear of all taxes on its capital stock. An incident transpired in connection with this bank, which will never be forgotten by any citizen now living. New Windsor was never thrown in the state of intense excitement as on Saturday morning Jan. 23rd., 1869, when the discovery was made that the bank was robbed. The details of this robbery may be interesting, and I will recite substantially from published records.
For some days previous, two strangers had been in the neighborhood, who represented themselves as drummers for Baltimore houses. About 1 o’clock on Saturday morning, Dr. Gibbons, who was called up to see a patient, saw a man standing near the bank building, and although it was unusual to see any person on the street at that hour, he suspected nothing wrong. Saturday morning Mr. Jos. A. Stouffer, cashier of the bank, went as usual to his place of business, but discovered that the safe could not be opened. Mr. Stouffer immediately started for the city of Baltimore, and placed the matter in the hands of Smith, Pierson & West’s detective agency. The detectives came at once to New Windsor, and found that the lock had been successfully picked, and that important portions of it had been removed. Upon opening the safe, it was apparent that the whole contents had been removed. One hundred and thirty thousand dollars in all had been taken. Of this amount, one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, were in different kinds of securities, which were the property of private parties, and had been deposited in the bank for safe keeping. The remaining ten thousand dollars were in greenbacks, of the denomination of one thousand dollars and five hundred dollars and were the property of the bank.
An examination of the premises disclosed that the burglars had but little difficulty in gaining access to the bank. The upper part of the building was not occupied, and the entrance was effected though a second story window, after which, with the aid of burglar’s tools, the doors were easily opened. One of the tools, a jimmy, made with a screw thread on one end, by which it could be converted into a brace, was found on the premises, where it had been left. The robbing was done by expert burglars, and it is supposed the arrangements for its consummation had been perfected for some time, so easily and thoroughly was it accomplished.
A new and elegant light jagger-wagon, badly mashed, was found beyond the lime-kiln, close to Lawrence Zepp’s near Westminster. Wm. S. Brown found tied to his garden fence a very fine horse with a set of silver mounted harness on him. The harness and blankets were new, and of costly make. The impression was at the time that the robbers had intended to meet an accomplice here. The burglars left New Windsor in a hand-car and ran down to within a mile of Westminster, at the lime stone quarries. Here they threw the car off the track, and walked to Westminster, where they took the early train for Baltimore. A reward of 20 per cent commission on amount recovered was offered by the bank. The detectives learned that several persons, whose description he had with him, had registered at the hotels in Baltimore at different times previous to the robbery, and no doubt remained in his mind that these were the robbers.
The detectives in prosecuting the search visited Philadelphia, and gave the detective force there a description of a man whose identity could be established more readily than that of the others, and asked the co-operation of the Philadelphia officers. The latter recognized in him Max Schwinbourne, a notorious New York Burglar, who was then in New York, and for whose apprehension the New Hampshire authorities were offering a reward of one thousand dollars, he being an escaped convict from that state. An additional reward was also offered for his arrest by the Lehigh Coal And Navigation company, from whose office at White Plains he had stolen fifty-six thousand dollars worth of bonds. The Baltimore detective officers, in continuation of their investigation went to New York, and applied for assistance to the chief of police, relating the circumstances and their suspicion of Schwinbourne. At this junction Mr. S. S. Ecker, accompanied by Judge Jno. E. Smith, went to N. Y. After a relentless search they gained intelligence of the burglar’s whereabouts, and afterwards, even rode with him in a carriage. After considerable manipulation, a large part of the bonds were located, and they wired the information to Joseph A. Stouffer in Baltimore, who immediately sent a certified check on the First National bank of Baltimore for sixteen thousand dollars as commission on the recovered property.
The following night a box containing the securities safely arrived in Baltimore, and were placed in custody of the First National Bank of that city. The detectives afterward, at different times, secured amounts, which were restored to the bank, until one hundred and twenty thousand dollars had been recovered. Prior to this, Capt. John O. Young, chief of the police of New York city, to whom this check was given, had personally consulted with the officers of the bank here, and had made such provision, that in case of his success, there would be no doubt of his compensation. This check cost him his position, it being unlawful for an officer in his capacity to receive like compensation. Afterward, it was learned that Schwinbourne had a confederate named McQuade and both had been arrested and confined in the New York police central office, for about a week, and when called out for trial, proved an alibi, and they were allowed to depart in peace.
|Frank Devilbiss’s history of New Windsor will be included in the Historical Society’s new publication entitled “Carroll Record Histories of Northwestern Carroll County Communities.”
|Thomas F. and Harriet (Haines) Shepherd, c.1850. Mr. Shepherd was president of First National Bank of New Windsor when it was robbed in 1869. Historical Society of Carroll County.