There can be no doubt that Carroll County was abuzz the first week in February 1895 over a crime spree involving a jail break, a marauding-armed gang of robbers, a posse of citizens and a shootout in Tannery (near Westminster).
Before it was over, one of the desperadoes was shot after the pillagers shanghaied a mandolin, poached approximately $2 from a cash drawer and spirited-away with a change of socks and underwear.
Thanks to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by Jay Graybeal, the highlights of the story can now be retold.
The Jan. 26, 1895 edition of the now-defunct American Sentinel newspaper carried a lengthy account of the wrongdoings: "J. E. Evans' Store Robbed Again. One of the Burglars Shot and Captured."
"The store of Mr. J. E. Evans, at Carrollton Station, which was robbed several months ago, was burglarized. … Three men were engaged in the commission of the crime. In the previous robbery, of which Charles Wells, who escaped from the county jail on December 15th, was accused, the entrance was made through the door … which was forced open…
"On the present occasion… (Wells and the) robbers… appropriated a lot of gloves, mufflers, underwear. They also changed their stockings and some of their underwear and carried away… a quantity of provisions. A small sum of money was taken from the money drawer."
Not content with this level of lunacy, the highwaymen then tried to break into the shopkeeper's house by breaking a window. Evans was awakened and shouted from his bedroom window; at which point, the robbers shot at him, and all-heckfire broke loose.
Evans aroused the entire community and a posse was formed to go after the roving band, which ended up cornered in a vacant home in Tannery.
As the neighborhood joined in, they "dispatched a messenger to notify Sheriff Arnold of the situation, who immediately started for the place with (another) posse of men," according to the newspaper account.
Meanwhile, "one of the robbers appeared at the door for the purpose of getting a better shot at the besiegers (and) a bullet from (a) Winchester rifle entered his left leg … making an ugly wound."
"Two of the men in the house made their escape, going in the direction of Houcksville. The wounded man was left behind, and called to the crowd of people … begging them not to shoot at the house and kill him."
The wounded robber was treated with "a tourniquet (applied) with a handkerchief and a new curling iron, probably stolen out of Evans' store. … He later admitted to being part of a band of robbers from Pikesville, who had previously stolen, among other items, a mandolin…
"The men who escaped from the house … were hotly pursued, but have thus far eluded capture. They are desperate men and declared that they would not be taken alive."
When he not hiding under the sofa, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at email@example.com.