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Highwaymen targeted wrong victim, took $14

This week in history

120 years ago, 1901

Taken directly from The Vindicator:

“Held up. Bold highway robbery on the Wick Ave. Extension Saturday night. At point of revolver. Charles Stevens, assistant Erie agent of Hubbard, is relieved of his money.

“Charles Stevens, assistant agent of the Erie, was held up by highwaymen and robbed late Saturday night on the Wick Avenue Extension. The highwaymen secured about $14 and then permitted Stevens to go on his way. They did not beat their victim or leave him unconscious as is usually done by such cowardly thieves.

“The robbers thought that their victim was A. W. Johnson, the horseman, or at least that is the opinion entertained by those familiar with the case. Mr. Johnson had just returned from Fostoria where he had bought horses, and as he usually has some money about him and wears a costly diamond and a watch, he would have been desirable prey.

“Mr. Stevens came to town Saturday night in his rig. After putting his horse up in a livery stable, he called on a young lady and the two attended the theatre. After the show, Mr. Stevens secured his horse and buggy and started home. On the Wick Avenue Extension, two men made their appearance from the darkness. One of them cried out, ‘Hello Bill, I want to see you.’ Stevens drives a pacer (a common horse breed) and so does Johnson, the horse owned by Johnson being a half brother to Star Pointer. The circumstances indicate that the thieves were after Johnson. One of the men grabbed the head of the horse while the other, the one who cried out, ‘Hello Bill,’ whipped out his revolver and commanded Stevens to turn his head in another direction, and at the same time hand over his money. Stevens obeyed the command and after he delivered over the $12 in silver, the cowardly thief said, ‘Now give us the green.’ Stevens declared that they had stripped him of all the money in his possession, but this statement they would not believe.

“The highwayman who acted as spokesman proceeded to search their victim only to discover that Stevens had told them the truth. ‘Let go of the horse’s head, Enoch, and let him go,’ cried the thief to his pal, and the horse started on the journey to Hubbard. Stevens did not return to town to report the robbery to the police out of fear that if he did, the two thieves might have met him again and inflicted bodily injury, or perhaps shot him. Stevens is unable to furnish a description of the thieves.”

100 years ago, 1921

The past crimes of an attempted burglar finally caught up to him. Youngstown Police Special Officer Eugene Doyle had recently been detailed to guard the Stambaugh family home on Belmont Avenue. Late one night, he heard a noise coming from the driveway and went to investigate. Thinking it was the chauffeur, Doyle called for him but received no response. As Doyle got closer, the man tried to get away and furnished something shiny from his pocket. Doyle, fearing it was a gun, fired two shots. The man ran across Belmont Avenue and collapsed. Doyle rendered assistance and carried him to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where he died of his wounds. The only identification on the man was a club receipt with the name of Elmer A. Anscott.

What appeared to be an open- and-shut case was turned inside out when reports came in from both Erie and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Anscott had been living in Erie for two years and was well liked; a member of the Erie Automobile Club and the Irwin Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows. Friends were shocked to learn that he was involved in anything criminal and vouched for his innocence in the attempted robbery of the Stambaugh home. Anscott’s friends called on Officer Doyle to explain his actions. Doyle regretted the incident, especially after discovering that the shiny object was only a flashlight but was confident that his actions were justified.

Pittsburgh detectives became involved on the following day when they learned of the flashlight and the description of Anscott. It turned out that Anscott was actually Elmer Anstatt, a lifelong criminal who had previously pleaded guilty to 66 robberies around Pittsburgh and spent more than five years in the Western Penitentiary. He never carried a weapon, only a flashlight and was often accompanied by his wife, Lena, who dressed as a young boy serving as Anstatt’s co-conspirator. Lena also had served time, two years at the Huntington Reformatory. Pittsburgh detectives had been tracking his movements and were finally successful in locating him in the morgue at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

• Compiled from the archives of The Vindicator by Traci Manning, MVHS Curator of Education

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