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History of Cedar
County, Iowa, 1878.

  
 

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The Goudy Robbery

In 1839, John Goudy, a married son and a son-in-law, Thomas McElheny, settled just over the Cedar County line in Linn, being equally well known and respected among the people of both counties.  The senior Goudy was a man of considerable means, and, among the majority of the settlers of the country, was reported to be very wealthy.  In April, 1840, it was noised about that he had about nine thousand dollars in his house, which report at once aroused the cupidity and avarice of the gang, and they determined to possess themselves of the treasure.  As a preliminary measure, Henry E. Switzer, who lived on a claim about seven miles southeast of Tipton, was sent on a visit to Goudy's home, about the 1st of April, 1840, under the pretense of wanting to borrow some money to pay for his land.  The real object, however, was to acquaint himself with the arrangement of the premises where the money was kept, in case he succeeded in making the loan, and taking such other observations as would facilitate the thieves in their work of robbery.  Either because Mr. Goudy did not have the money, or for want of confidence in Switzer's honesty and ability to pay, the loan was declined.  In other respects, Switzer learned enough to enable him to report the situation to his accomplices, and on the 14th of April the gang started from Conlogue's on their plundering and murderous mission.  They passed up the west side of Cedar River to a point above Goudy's, and then crossed over and started leisurely in the direction of Goudy's.  Between the point where they crossed the river and their point of destination, they were met by a settler who recognized Conlogue and had some conversation with him, when the different parties went their respective ways.  From the fact that Conlogue was not with the gang when they entered Goudy's residence, and that he afterward showed his whereabouts on that night, it is believed that he left his companions in villainy, after being recognized, and went to Gower's Ferry, where he remained over night, for the express purpose of being able to prove an alibi, and thus avoid identification as a participant in a robbery, the proceeds of which he afterward admitted he shared.  At the hour of 11 o'clock on the night of the 14th of April, the doors of the Goudy cabin were forced open, and the inmates awoke to find themselves in the presence and power of five desperadoes.  The cabin had only one room and a shed-kitchen at the side from the road.  In the main room were two beds.  One of these was occupied by Mr. Goudy and his wife, and the other one by the son-in-law, McElheny, and his wife.  One of the robbers covered Mr. Goudy with his rifle, another one stood guard over McElheny and his wife, and a third one stopped the clock.  The wife of Judge Shane, a daughter of Goudy, was a girl then, but remembers the circumstances with remarkable precision, and to her the reader is indebted for the most of these details.  The man who stood over her father demanded his money, threatening that if its whereabouts were not revealed, they would kill the entire household.  Mr. Goudy replied that he had but little, only $40, which he had saved to buy some hogs, and that they would find that in his vest pocket.   The vest was searched, and the amount found.  They insisted that he had more, and demanded it.  The old man protested that it was every dollar he had, or that here was about the house.  The leader of the gang then ordered the house to be searched, and directed the occupants of the beds to cover their heads at once, so as, it is supposed, to prevent the family from recognizing any of their number -- especially Switzer, who had been there only a few days before under the pretext of wanting to borrow money with which to enter his land.  In the excitement, the girl Hannah had got out of her own sleeping place (probably a trundle bed), and crawled under the bed occupied by her sister.  Paying to attention to the order to "cover up," Hannah sought to climb into bed with her sister, and, in doing so, climbed over the knees of one of the ruffians who was sitting by the side of the McElheny bed.  By the time, a brighter light had been raised, and as the girl got upon her sister's bed, the clothes were so raised that Mrs. McElheny could see the faces of the villains, and she recognized Switzer, and whispered to her husband:  "That is Switzer, the man who was here the other day to borrow money."  The husband admonished her to be still, or they would all be killed.  "Why, it is Switzer, and that other fellow is -------   ---------," who was also known to the family.

The search commenced.  Boxes, barrels, trunks, drawers and pockets were ransacked, but with little success.  At last, a flour barrel was upset and its contents scattered out on the floor, and with it a purse containing $120, belonging to the girl Hannah, who had saved it from the change given her by her father from time to time.   An old leather belt, which Mr. Goudy had used to carry his money around his person, was also found, but not very carefully examined, or the robbers would have added a hundred dollar bill, which was concealed within it, to their other booty.  Fortunately, they overlooked this "nest egg," and it was spared to the family.

Maddened at their failure to find more money -- the $9,000 Mr. Goudy was reported to have in the house -- they heaped all sorts of curses upon the family and left them to reflect in sadness upon the ways of the wicked and the ungodly.

Capt. Thomas Goudy, the married son, lived near by the cabin of his father.  He had been captain of a militia company in Ohio, and his uniform, etc., were hanging up against the wall, on seeing which they remarked, "he's been a military officer and must be a rich man."  His money was demanded, but the demand was not rewarded with success.  After rummaging the house pretty thoroughly, and finding nothing for their trouble but some provision, they left Captain Goudy's and went to the house of William F. Gilbert, not far distant, who was a prominent man in the neighborhood, and who was believed to keep considerable money by him.  At this particular time, three men were stopping over night with Mr. Gilbert -- the Dubuque and Iowa City mail carrier and two other men.  Gilbert's house, like old man Goudy's, only had one room and two beds.  Mrs. Gilbert and the children occupied one bed; the two strangers occupied the other, and Gilbert and the mail carrier were sleeping on a bed made down on the floor before the fire.  The entrance of the robbers was so sudden and noiseless, that before the occupants of the cabin knew what was going on, they were covered with guns and clubs, and Gilbert's money demanded.  In attempting to rally to the defense of the house, Gilbert and the mail carrier were both knocked down, and the cheek bone on one side of the mail carrier's face mashed completely in by a blow from a club wielded by one of the thieves.  The house was completely searched, and in the drawer of a secretary -- which was opened and closed by a secret spring, supposed to be known to no one but the older members of the family -- a fifty-dollar bill and some thirty or forty dollars in change was found and taken.  Only three of the gang were engaged in this robbery, and Mr. Gilbert's little son, whole the work of plunder was going on, rose up in his bed and recognized a neighbor, one Goodrich, who lived but half a mile distant as one of the robbers.  This neighbor had hitherto been unsuspected, but he opened the private drawer in the secretary as quickly as Mr. Gilbert could have done, showing very conclusively that he had some knowledge of the premises.  He had no doubt often seen the secretary and its private drawer opened, and had watched every movement of its opening and every part of its construction.  The amount of change taken from Mr. Gilbert was not definitely known, but it was estimated at from $30.00 to $40.00.  Estimating it at $30.00, and adding that amount to the amount taken from Mr. Goudy, and the robbers had $240 as a reward for one night's work.

Arrests, Floggings and Confessions.

News of these outrages spread like wild-fire.  The whole country was aroused.   Capt. Thomas Goudy and some others started in pursuit of a man named Wallace, who was believed to be implicated.  Old man Goudy went to J. W. Tallman, at Antwerp, and Col. Prior Scott, at Pioneer Grove, for advice and counsel.  It was agreed that nothing ought to be done of an aggressive nature until Wallace should be found, arrested and brought back.  Col. Scott went among the people and inaugurated measures for the organization of a mutual protective association.  The settlers hunted up their old rifles, shot guns, and every other kind of weapon they could find.  The organization was perfected and the vigilantes were ready to commence the work.  Wallace was captured at Illinois City, ten miles above Muscatine, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, by a citizen named Coleman, and turned over to Capt. Thomas Goudy and his party.  Coleman was not above suspicion.  He was suspected of belonging to the outlaws, but an estrangement had come between him and Wallace, and hence Wallace's easy capture.  A warrant was taken out for the arrest of Switzer, and when Wallace was returned, Switzer was arrested and a preliminary examination held before a Justice of the Peace (John G. Cole, probably), of the precinct where the robbery was committed.   Both of them were held to bail, and their cases came on for trial at Tipton at the October term (1841) of the District Court.

Switzer was a powerfully built man, and his size and strength was feared by a majority of men, and trouble was feared when his arrest should be undertaken.  The warrant for his arrest was placed in the hands of James W. Tallman, as Constable.  At that time Tallman lived at Antwerp, where he called two or three of his neighbors to his assistance, and late in the night started for Holderman's mill to complete his posse.   They arrived at Holderman's mill at 12 o'clock at night, and seeing alight within, opened the door without ceremony and surprised William Fraseur, who was there "sitting up" with Charlotte Baker, his present wife.  Fraseur's joys of courtship were interrupted for the time being, and he and Christian Holderman, William McNaughten and J. McCartney were summoned as additions to the posse, when the party moved forward to the point of attack.  The posse reached Switzer's about 2 o'clock in the morning, and hitching their horses a short distance from his cabin, they approached and surrounded the house and demanded admission and the surrender of Switzer.  The latter refused to open the door until morning, claiming that he did not know but what they had come to rob him and those who were there with him.  He cursed Tallman, and declared in language most profane that he could not and would not be taken.   "If you had come like men," said he, after Tallman had told him for what he was being arrested, "in daylight, I would have given myself up without hesitation, as I have no fear of the consequences."  When daylight came, the door was opened, and Switzer was taken in custody.  There were three or four strapping fellows in the house when the posse entered, and the appearance indicated that it was more of an arsenal than an honest settler's cabin.  Guns, pistols and ugly knives were scattered all around.  As soon as Switzer surrendered, the posse started back, and reached Holderman's for breakfast.  After breakfast, a part of the posse crossed the river for another suspected party, already referred to, but who, upon preliminary examination, proved an alibi.  As already stated, Switzer and Wallace were held to bail, and subsequently tried in the District Court at Tipton.

About the time Switzer and Wallace were arrested, James Stoutenberg, alias James Case, was arrested at Conlogue's, by other parties, as accessory to the Goudy robbery, and as an accomplice and member of the gang.  He was taken to the woods near Conlogue's, and examined in the court of Judge Lynch, and in the effort to extort a confession from him, was finally stripped to his waist, tied to a tree and severely flogged.  After that event he was never again seen in the country, and it is believed by some that the same parties carried him to Cedar River, tied him to a stone raft and left him to his fate.

Conlogue was also arrested as accessory to the Goudy robbery, but at the preliminary examination he established an alibi.  Being satisfied that he was guilty of helping to plan the robbery, the indignant settlers took him to the brush, where he was tried by rules not recognized by courts of law.  He was found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged.  A motion was made to change the sentence to whipping.  The motion prevailed and was carried into effect, and it was ordered that each of the citizens should give him five lashes on the bare back, until the panel was exhausted.  If that failed to extort a confession as to the particulars of the robbery, and the extent and names of the gang, then the "application was to be repeated, until he was whipped to death."   Conlogue soon fell on his hands and knees, almost completely exhausted.  Blows continued to fall upon his quivering, bleeding back.  At last he imploringly raised his hand, and in agonized whispers, begged for mercy, and promised to reveal all that he knew of the operations of the freebooters.  The execution of the sentence was suspended, and the bleeding, suffering wretch kept his promise.  He admitted his complicity in the Goudy robbery, and that he had received $25.00 as his share of the plunder.  He told them that he had the particulars of the night's work from Wallace, who was the leader on that occasion, and that Switzer was another one of the five men who perpetrated the robbery.  The sentence was then fully remitted.  An embrocation of salt was used upon his lacerated flesh, which was followed by an application of slippery elm bark, and he was allowed to depart for his home.

At the time of this occurrence, Conlogue was under indictment, in Johnson County, for assaulting, with intent to rob, a man named Brown.  For this offense he was subsequently tried, found guilty and sentenced to the penitentiary.

Goodrich, Gilbert's neighbor, who was recognized by the little son of the latter while he was ransacking Gilbert's house and secretary, was tried in the same court, and on the same day that Conlogue received such a terrible castigation, and was sentenced to a similar punishment.  The sentence was carried into execution by a man named Murdoch, of Iowa City.  Goodrich was terribly cut and gashed, but the flagellation failed to elicit from him anything that would criminate himself.  He removed from the county soon afterward, and has never been seen or heard of since.

The revelations made by Conlogue clearly implicated McBroom, previously mentioned as the general attorney of the gang, and he was also arrested and tried by the "court in the brush," and sentenced to be whipped.  He was taken into Big Creek bottom, near Scott's mill, stripped to the waist, tied to a small burr oak tree and whipped within an inch of his life.  Like Goodrich, he soon after left the country.

Some years ago, William Stretch, one of the early settlers in the neighborhood where the above occurrences transpired, made a trip down the Mississippi River as far as New Orleans, and met and recognized McBroom at some of the Southern cities -- Nashville, Memphis or New Orleans -- our informant does not remember which.  The recognition was mutual, and McBroom begged that Stretch would say nothing there of his life, associations and disgrace in the Cedar River country.  He assured Stretch that he was a different man there to what he had been here.  He still keenly felt the disgrace that had been brought upon him by his complicity with the Cedar County freebooters.  Upon inquiry, Stretch learned that McBroom was leading an honest life, and had accumulated a fortune estimated at $40,000.

The Switzer Trial.

This trial came on at the October term (1841) of the Cedar County District Court -- to which it was brought, by change of venue, from Linn County, where he had been indicted for burglary, in May, 1840 -- Judge Joseph Williams presiding.  George McCoy was Sheriff, and William M. Knott was Deputy Sheriff.  The following named citizens composed the jury:

Christopher Cline, William Morgan, Abraham Kiser, Elias Epperson, Porter McKinstry, Philip Wilkinson, James S. Lewis, John Lewis, William H. Bolten, William Denny, Samuel Gilliland and Peter Diltz.

The trial was an exciting one.  The feeling against Switzer and his associates in crime and villainy was intense, and it is a subject of surprise that he was not taken from the custody of the law officers and hanged to a limb of the first convenient tree.   Besides the employment of as able counsel as could be secured in the country, Switzer and his friends imported from Illinois a bully known by the name of Christ. Burns (Note:  Burns was killed at a shooting match in Upper Missouri, about 1845, by being shot by a neighbor with whom he had a quarrel.)  -- a man of 240 pounds, very muscular and without a pound of surplus flesh.  He was all sinew and strength, and as active as a cat.  Of this character, more anon.

When the trial commenced, Switzer showed an uneasy, restless disposition entirely foreign to a man who knew he was innocent, and gave unmistakable signs of fearing the verdict.  As the trial of the case progressed, Switzer was clearly and unmistakably identified as one of the Goudy robbers by Mrs. McElheny and other members of the family, who were in the house the night the robbery was committed.  Switzer tried to prove an alibi, but the evidence of identification was such that the efforts of himself and counsel in that direction signally failed.  When the trial was concluded and the case given to the jury and the jury had retired, Switzer tried a new argument -- one that his counsel had not introduced.  He approached Deputy Sheriff Knott, and said, "Knott, you and I have always been on friendly terms.  If the jury find me guilty, when you are returning with them to the court room, let the end of your handkerchief hang out of the side pocket of your coat."  Knott replied, "Switzer, you got into this scrape without my help, and you must get out of it the same way."  The jury was out two days and two nights, but failed to agree, there being eleven for conviction and one for acquittal.  During the trial, one of the jurymen went out home and stayed over night with one of Switzer's most intimate friends.   Burns and several others, known friends of Switzer, stayed at the same place, and it would not be strange if the trial was talked about by them and the verdict predicted.

Each day, during the trial, a large gray horse was brought and hitched immediately in front of the building used as a court house for that term of court.  About three o'clock in the afternoon of the second day they were out, the jury were returned to the court house to report their inability to agree upon a verdict.  Switzer saw and recognized the signal.  He was standing close to the gray horse, and as soon as he saw the signal, he unhitched the animal, mounted his back with the nimbleness of a squirrel and darted away like the wind.  Knowing the proposition Switzer had made to Knott, there was reason to think that either Switzer or some of his friends had corrupted one of the jurymen, and that the handkerchief signal had been agreed upon in case of the finding of a verdict of "guilty," and that, in the excitement of the hour, the juryman had, in mistake, given the signal.  After the jury reported to the court their inability to agree, and were discharged, Switzer's friends started out to find and convey to him the result, but did not succeed in their mission until the next day, when they found him concealed in the woods along Sugar Creek.

A warrant was issued for Switzer's re-arrest and placed in the hands of Sheriff McCoy, but from some cause that officer did not undertake to serve it, and Switzer, taking advantage of the delay, made arrangements to leave the country, and soon afterward emigrated to the West.  In 1852, when William Knott went to California, he met Switzer at Carson River, in Nevada Territory, and had a long talk with him.  Among others, Switzer spoke of one of the jurymen, and requested Knott to convey to him his kindest regards and remembrances.  "Tell him," said Switzer, "that, as he stuck to me when I was in a d----d tight place, I'll stick to him and remember him as my best friend as long as I live."  Mr. Knott says his morals had not improved any, whatever his practices may have been.

In 1874, Judge Shane and his wife visited California, and, upon inquiring at Vallejo, learned of Switzer's whereabouts, and that he had accumulated a fortune estimated at $40,000; also, that he was accounted a very dissolute reckless and dishonest man, and that he was almost universally feared and despised.  His children were "chips of the old block," and were following in the footsteps of their father.  One of the sons had but recently killed a man at an agricultural fair at Vallejo, Sonora County, for which offense he was under arrest and awaiting trial.

Soon after Switzer was arrested for the Goudy robbery, a civil suit was also commenced against him for the recovery of the money, and a judgment obtained against him.   Judge Shane consulted an attorney there in regard to Switzer's career here and the indictment and judgment that were unsatisfied.  Arrangements were made to send a transcript of the proceedings to California with a view to recovering the judgment (then amounting to $3,000 at least).  When Judge Shane returned here and came to examine the records, he found them non est, and no further action was taken.   Switzer died at his home near Vallejo some time during the year 1877.

 

 
 

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