True Story of Outlaw and Murderer Tom Blanck, 1890s
Story by Thomas Duke, 1910
“Celebrated Criminal Cases of America”
Part II: Pacific Coast Cases
On September 30, 1894, Constable William Jeffery of Puyallup, Wash., visited some relatives a short distance from town, and about 5 p.m. he, in company with Thomas Alexander and Tom Bowley, was returning home on foot.
When they reached a little railway station called Meeker Junction the constable observed a young man and sixteen-year-old boy run from some box cars into an unoccupied structure near by. When the pair neared the building one of them dropped a bundle, which Jeffery hastened to inspect. Among other articles, he found a 45-calibre Colt’s revolver, which he was examining when the two fellows reappeared, and the older of the two exclaimed, “Drop that!”
“Is it yours ?” asked Jeffrey.
“Yes,” replied the stranger.
The constable then inquired if there were any marks of identification on the weapon, to which the man replied, “Yes, D. P.”
While Jeffery was looking for the alleged mark, the fellow suddenly drew another revolver and simultaneously with his command, “Hands up!” he fired at the officer, the bullet passing through his heart and killing him almost instantly.
The pair then escaped and a few moments later they held up a farmer driving along a road and seized his horse and wagon.
As Jeffery was a most efficient and popular officer, the indignant citizens formed large posses to assist Sheriff Matthews to apprehend the murderer.
At 2 o’clock on the following morning, Deputy Sheriff Harry Moore and John Ball met a suspicious-acting character on the road near McMillan. It was too dark to distinguish his features, but the officer commanded him to halt, whereupon the stranger fired at Moore, the bullet inflicting a serious wound in his breast. This man, whom it was subsequently learned was Tom Blanck, then disappeared in the darkness.
On the next day at noon Frank Murray, a sixteen-year-old boy, having respectable relatives residing at Hillsboro, entered a store in South Prairie, Wash., and purchased a large amount of provisions. As he acted suspiciously and answered the description of the youth who accompanied the man who murdered Jeffery, he was arrested and he freely admitted that he was with “Hamilton” when that individual killed the constable, but that they had since parted company.
On October 3, 1894, a robber attempted to hold up the “Mug” Saloon in Seattle, but as the bartender, Charles Brid-well, offered resistance the bandit shot him dead and then disappeared.
A few days later Detective Cudihee of Seattle arrested a suspect after a desperate battle, during which a bullet from the desperado’s pistol grazed the detective’s neck. The prisoner gave the name of Tom Blanck and subsequently made a confession substantially as follows:
“I was born in New York and my first crime was at Nelson, B. C., in January, 1891, when my partner and I held up a stage and killed the driver because he resisted. After obtaining $4500 from the treasure-box we escaped.
“In February, 1891, I committed a burglary at Kalarna, Wash., for which I was arrested, but I escaped from jail shortly afterward.
“I then went to Fairhaven, where I committed a burglary but as I was pursued by Policeman Peter Brugh I shot him twice and then escaped.
“On August 18, 1894, I robbed several people in the barroom of the Broadwater Hotel at Helena, Montana, and in the following September, I killed Steve Gross, a bartender, at Meaderville, Montana, and subsequently killed a deputy sheriff who pursued me.
“My next victim was Constable Jeffery, and it was I who shot Deputy Sheriff Moore the next morning. I also killed Bridwell, the bartender, in Seattle.”
Blanck was tried and convicted for the murder of Bridwell, and was sentenced to be hanged. At this time he was confined in the county jail at Seattle.
At 7:30 p. m. March 17, 1895, Jailer Jerry Yerbury was passing Blanck’s cell when the desperado pointed something at him, which resembled a black pistol, at the same time commanding the jailer to come close to his cell, or be killed instantly.
After some pleading, Yerbury finally complied with the request and the bandit then ordered him to open the cell door, which he did.
With the assistance of Frank Hart, a bunco man, Blanck bound Yerbury with a rope, took his pistol and then invited all prisoners who desired their freedom to accompany him.
The following accepted his invitation : Servius Rutten, convicted of murder; William Holmes, a negro, who murdered his comrade; C. W. Brown, a counterfeiter; R. H. Ford, and Charles Williams, burglars ; Frank Clinafelter, horse thief, and William Cosgrove, convicted of petty larceny.
Murderer James Murphy not only refused to accept the invitation but notified the officials of what had transpired.
After the excitement had subsided the weapon which struck terror to the heart of Yerbury was found and proved to be an excellent imitation of a revolver made of wood and blackened.
On the following day Cosgrove, the petty larceny thief, was recaptured near O’Brien Station.
On that night Deputy Sheriffs M. Kelly and Dick Burkman saw two men on a road near Black River Junction. It was too dark to distinguish their features, but when the fellows drew near the officers sprang out and ordered them to throw up their hands. The taller of the two, who proved to be Rutten, the convicted murderer, obeyed the command, but his companion, whom Rutten afterward admitted was Blanck, darted into the brush and escaped.
On March 21, 1895, a man of Blanck’s description obtained food at the home of James Nelson, which was located near Orillia, Wash. Deputy Sheriffs Robert Crow and John Shepich were notified and they started in pursuit. Near Kent, a small town near Seattle, they saw a man of Blanck’s description. As they drew near, they pointed rifles at him and commanded him to throw up his hands. After some hesitation he suddenly drew a revolver and during the general fire which followed Shepich was shot in the breast and seriously wounded. When Blanck had emptied his revolver, he darted into the near-by brush, but when commanded to come out he did so. By this time Charles Newell had joined the officers and when the bandit reappeared, all three men opened fire, with the result that seven shots entered Blanck’s body, killing him instantly.
The officers subsequently testified before the coroner that their reason for firing at Blanck when he obeyed their command and came out of the brush was because they thought he had two revolvers, but the only one found was the one which he stole from Jailer Yerbury.
Holmes, the negro murderer, was recaptured by Sheriff Hagan on the day Blanck was killed.