Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Train Robbers

Some of the most captivating stories of hidden treasure are the ones about train robbers and the law men who pursued them. All treasure stories get told so many times that they grow and become a lot more colorful than the actual facts of the original event. This is one reason why research is so important, and digging for all the accounts and information you can find is what will make you successful.

One story that has been twisted so many ways is the Farrington train robberies. In July 1871 Hilary and Levi Farrington along with William Barton and Bill Taylor,  robbed a Southern Express car on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad at Moscow, Kentucky. This robbery got them a grand total of $1600.00. On October 21, 1871 they robbed the north bound at Union City, Tennessee and according to Allan Pinkerton they stole around $6000.00 and it was reported on October 23 in the Memphis Daily Appeal that $4000.00 was the take. How this turned into $20,000.00 is a mystery. There is no record of the Farringtons robbing any other train nor were they charged with any other train or bank robbery. In his confession, Barton said that Hilary Farrington mentioned robbing other Southern Express trains but there is no record of it. It is very unlikely that any treasure was hidden. When Levi Farrington was captured at Farmington, Illinois at the home of his cousin Mrs. Kate Graham, a large sum of money was recovered in his bags. Barton also said they had given money to Mary Farrington, the mother of Hilary and Levi. She is listed on the 1880 census living with her uncle and aunt Patterson in Lawrence County Missouri.

Research of these robberies is a great story and it led to the discovery of two very interesting sites. One is Lester's Landing Tennessee which was 12 miles below Hickman, Kentucky and the other I will quote from what Allan Pinkerton wrote:

Nigger-Wool Swamp, a description of it will be necessary.
The swamp is more than seventy miles long by about thirty-five miles wide, and, as a piece of bottomless ooze, its superior cannot be found in the United States. There are just two roads crossing it, one running from Hall's Ferry, at Point Pleasant, Missouri, and the other from Mitchell's Ferry, thirty-five miles below. These roads are mere bog-paths in themselves, being heavily overlaid with underbrush and corduroy logs, yet they afford the only means of crossing this vast morass. The period of the annual overflow turns it into a turbid, sluggish lake, the roads being then deeply buried under water; but even in the dryest seasons the greater portion of the swamp is a bottomless slime of mud and putrefying vegetation. Large tracts of thickly-wooded land are contained within the limits of the swamp, and these constitute a semi-substantial basis for the two roads which run through them; but even these clumps are impassable at most seasons, except along the artificially-constructed roads. Sometimes, for miles and miles, nothing but the rankest of swamp-vegetation is seen, growing in wild profusion and covering the treacherous ooze with a close network of leaves and branches, until the surface looks firm enough to be taken for solid ground; but should any unfortunate traveler venture to cross such a spot, his limbs would be clogged by these clinging water-plants, his feet would find no secure resting-place, and, sinking rapidly deeper and deeper into the mire, his bones would find a sepulcher where nothing but a general natural convulsion would ever disturb them.
Still, there are occasional islands of firm ground through this section, and these have become the resort of lawless characters of every nationality and degree of crime. Over the entrance to Nigger-Wool Swamp might be placed, with perfect truthfulness, the motto: "Who enters here leaves hope behind." Each man is a law unto himself, and he must maintain his rights by the strong arm and the ready shot-gun. In one thing only are the dwellers of the swamp united, namely: a bitter and deadly resistance to the law. No officer of justice ventures therein to perform any of the duties of his office; unless backed by a powerful body of determined men, he would never return alive, and, if so accompanied, he would never succeed in catching a glimpse of any criminal whom he might be seeking.
About the middle of the swamp, the two roads cross each other at a spot called "The Gates," and every person traveling through either way must pass this place. Knowing this fact, I felt sure that Mrs. Farrington would await the arrival of her sons at "The Gates," in case she entered the swamp, and I determined that, in such an event, I should try to capture them there. I was fully aware of the danger of such an attempt, but I knew that to take the bull by the horns is sometimes the safest means of overpowering him. To send officers to that point with the avowed purpose of arresting any one, would be equivalent to sending them to their certain death, and I had no intention of doing anything of the kind; but I had men of my force who could visit Nigger-Wool Swamp for the professed purpose of hiding there from pursuit for alleged crimes, and, when the moment came for action, I did not doubt that they would bring out their men before the neighboring outlaws could discover their object.
May all of your trails be smooth and your treasure sites many.
Best Wishes and Good Hunting