Marion Hedgepeth, Gunslinger, Train Robber, HH Holmes Informant
Story by Thomas Duke, 1910
“Celebrated Criminal Cases of America”
Part III: Cases East of The Pacific Coast
On the night of November 30, 1891, two masked men boarded the “Frisco” Express train as it was leaving St. Louis, Mo. They remained in seclusion until they had traveled a few miles, and then crawling over the tender, they presented pistols at the heads of the engineer and fireman and ordered them to stop a few miles from St. Louis, where two accomplices of the highwaymen were stationed.
The engineer and fireman were then ordered from the cab and kept covered while the party proceeded to the express car, where the robbers demanded admission, but were refused by the messenger. The robbers then set off a stick of dynamite and blew in the side of the car, seriously injuring the messenger. They then entered, blew open the safe, and after taking $10,000, made their escape.
The Pinkerton Detective Agency and Chief of Detectives Desmond of St. Louis investigated the case and gathered evidence which convinced them that the robbers were Marion Hedgepeth, James Francis, Dink Wilson and Adelbert Slye. The latter was traced to Los Angeles and arrested by Robert Pinkerton.
Hedgepeth was traced to San Francisco and was arrested at the general post office. It was learned that he was traveling under the name of H. B. Swanson, and a decoy letter was mailed and finally advertised. On January 14, 1892, a watch was set, consisting of Detectives Bryam, Whitaker and Silvey, and on February 10 Hedgspeth called for his mail. He was heavily armed and made a desperate struggle, but was overpowered by the officers.
Sly and Hedgepeth were returned to St. Louis and were sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment.
Francis was killed in Kansas while resisting arrest, and Wilson shot and killed Detective Harvey of Syracuse, N. Y., for which he was electrocuted at Sing Sing, N. Y.
While in jail in St. Louis, Hedgepeth gained the confidence of Holmes, the “criminal of the century,” and subsequently rendered great assistance to the authorities. (See Holmes’ case.)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Marion Columbus Hedgepeth (April 14, 1856 – December 31, 1909) – also known as the Handsome Bandit, the Debonair Bandit, the Derby Kid and the Montana Bandit – was a famous Wild West outlaw.
Hedgepeth was born in Prairie Home, Missouri on April 14, 1856. He ran away from home at age 15, worked as a cowboy, and was an outlaw by the time he was 20, having killed in Colorado and Wyoming, as well as having robbed trains.
Appearance and reputation
In a 1996 American Cowboy article titled “The Debonair Killer”, David P. Grady noted: “Marion Hedgepeth looked like a dude, but ‘dangerous’ and ‘deadly’ fit him better”. The dark-complexioned, wavy-haired six footer, who roamed from town to town as a hired gun, Grady wrote, maintained the fastidious, gentlemanly appearance of a dandy, sporting a bowler hat and diamond stickpin. WANTED posters noted that his shoes were usually polished.
An article published in the Express Gazette, Volume 20 by “a man from Missouri”, who described himself as “a disinterested student of train robbing”, indicated that appearances were strategically important to Marion and his crew. In preparation for the Glendale robbery, he noted, Hedgepeth, “his three pals” and his wife “assembled in that city and rented a house in a fashionable quarter of the town. They furnished the house well, and during the two or three weeks prior to the holdup, each robber purchased for himself swell attire piece by piece, so as not to attract attention.”
Despite his swell appearance, however, Hedgepeth “was a deadly killer and one of the fastest guns in the Wild, Wild West”. Allan Pinkerton, whose National Detective Agency had sought to capture Hedgepeth and his gang for years, noted that Marion Hedgepeth once gunned down another outlaw who had already unholstered his pistol before Hedgepeth had drawn his revolver.
In November, 1883, Hedgepeth was sentenced to serve a term of seven years in the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri, on the charge of larceny and jail breaking. He was discharged on February 16, 1889.
Hedgepeth lived for a while in a lawless region of Kansas City, Missouri, known as “Seldom Seen” because the police were seldom seen there. He became a member of the “famous Slye-Wilson gang of safe blowers and highwaymen”.
On November 30, 1891 Hedgepeth and the other members of Slye-Wilson gang (Adelbert Denton “Bertie” Slye, James “Illinois Jimmy” Francis and Lucius “Dink” Wilson) – which by 1890 newspapers referred to as the “Hedgepeth Four” – robbed a train of $40,000 in Glendale, Missouri near St. Louis, Missouri personally escaping with some $10,000. The gang fled to Salt Lake City and disbanded. After being relentlessly pursued by the Pinkertons, he was finally arrested on February 10, 1892 in San Francisco, along with Slye, and brought back to Missouri for trial. Convicted, he was sentenced in 1893 to 25 years in the Missouri State Penitentiary. Hedgepeth informed on a former cellmate, whom he knew as “H.M. Howard” but was really H. H. Holmes, which eventually resulted in the notorious killer’s unmasking, conviction and execution in 1896. For this Hedgepeth was pardoned by Missouri state governor Joseph W. Folk 14 years into his 25-year term. He was released sick with tuberculosis and “looked like a skeleton and appeared 60 years old.”
He was arrested in 1907 in Omaha, for the burglary of a storage house at Council Bluffs, Iowa. He was convicted and sent to the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa in March, 1908, and was released after serving one year.
- Adelbert Slye was arrested in Los Angeles California
- James Francis killed a Ft Scott policeman S.B. McLemore January 23, 1892 and was killed in Pleasanton Kansas
- Lucius Wilson was involved in the killing of NY Syracuse Detective James A Harvey August 1, 1893 and was arrested; he was executed May 14, 1894
Hedgepeth was shot and killed by police officer Edward Jaburek, on December 31, 1909 during a botched Chicago saloon robbery at 18th and Avers Avenue. He died at St. Anthony’s Hospital and was buried in the Cook County Cemetery on the grounds of the Cook County Poor Farm at Dunning.