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The Wild West Comes to the Philadelphia and West Chester Trolley

“When I hesitated for a moment," said Patterson, in telling the story, "the man brought his gun closer to my breast and I naturally decided the best thing to do was to obey him.”

I had found and put aside this old Philadelphia Inqurier article to do something with, and now have decided the easiest thing to "do" with it is republish it.  And then found "the rest of the story" as well.  Here is a slice of life from 1905:

BANDIT ON CAR ROBS CONDUCTOR AT PISTOL POINT

While Passengers Sit in Trolley, Near Newtown Square, Carman Is Held Up

THIEF'S RESERVE GUN COMES IN HANDILY

Victim, Not Knowing Robber’s Purpose at First, Accidentally Knocks Weapon From His Grasp

Special to The Inquirer

LLANERCH, Pa,  Jan. 1 [1905].  A holdup with a dash of wild Western color to it occurred last night on the Philadelphia and West Chester trolley line, halfway between Newtown Square and West Chester, when a man, armed with two big revolvers took Conductor Robert E. Patterson off his car, relieved him of all the silvers and coppers he had, then forced him to get back and ring the bell to go ahead.  All this happened while four passengers remained seated in the car, all but one ignorant of what was going on.

Chester county officers believe they will be able to run down the highwayman, who is described as tall and slender, with light hair and a small light moustache.  He wore a dark slouch hat and a long tan mackintosh.  He is not believed to be a professional, although there is evidence to show that the man had planned the robbery carefully.

Two leather revolver holders, covered with mud, were found in the little wait-room at Street road, where the hold-up took place, and also a dinner pail of coal oil and pieces of rag.  The highwayman, the police think, had his revolvers hidden somewhere in the woods which line this part of West Chester Turnpike on either side.  When he went for them last night he took the coal oil along to clean the weapons.  The dinner pail was a brand new one, and the police are trying to find the store where it was bought.

The Conductor’s Story

The story of the hold-up, as told by Conductor Peterson [sic], and corroborated by Horace Bishop, who lives near West Chester, is as follows:

About half-past ten o'clock last night the car on which Conductor Patterson and Motorman Alfred Walton of Llanerch were the crew was several blocks off from Street road [today better known as Rt. 926 ed.] coming toward Newtown Square, when the crew of a car going toward West Chester, Able Herring and Walter Rebe, informed Patterson that there was a suspicious looking man at the switch on the other side of Street road.

Motorman Walton was notified to watch for the person referred to, but when he received a signal from a man standing on the platform at the Street road waiting room he stopped the car, thinking it was an ordinary passenger.

 Was "Well Heeled"

The moment the car stopped, this man, who was evidently the one the other crew saw at the switch further down, jumped on the rear platform, revolver in hand.  Conductor Patterson did not see the weapon, and in throwing up his arm to ring the bell and give the signal to start he struck the man's hand and knocked the pistol to the floor.  Patterson was about to apologize for the accident when be realized the situation.

Quick as a flash the highwayman whipped out another and still larger pistol and pointing it at the conductor’s breast said: "Don't ring that bell, but get off the car.”

“When I hesitated for a moment," said Patterson, in telling the story, "the man brought his gun closer to my breast and I naturally decided the best thing to do was to obey him.”

"Hurry up now, shell out,” said the stranger, who had picked up his other weapon and shoved it into his pocket.  The conductor drew out the change he had in both side pockets of his coat, $8.15 in all, and handed it over.  Then he threw open his coat and satisfied the robber that he had no wallet.  He did have a number of one and five-dollar bills in his trousers pocket, but he was not going to give up that until he had to.

 “Now Get Back and Go”

“Now get back on your car and pull the bell” said the highwayman, and he drew the second revolver as be spoke and held it ready for the motorman or any of the passengers who might prove troublesome.  He was not hindered, however, and when the car pulled away he vanished in the dark.  

In the smoking compartment, which was next to the rear platform, Horace Bishop, who is employed in the car barn at Llanerch, was seated when the stranger jumped on the car.  He was dazed for a moment when he saw the revolver flash, and then he got up and walked through the car to the front platform.

I didn't have any gun," said Bishop, in telling about the affair, "so I thought I'd see if the motorman had one.”

Motorman Walton says that by the time Bishop reached the front platform and started to tell him about the hold-up, he got his signal to go ahead and the robbery was over.

Seated in the front part of the car at the time of, the robbery was a man and two women, but none of the three knew anything about the hold-up until after it was over and the car was in motion again.

At the substation at Ridley Creek, Conductor Patterson telephoned to the Llanerch trolley station and two of the men from the car barn, Robert Knox and George Henson, armed with revolvers, took the next car to the scene of the holdup.  They hunted about for some time, but could find no trace of the highwayman, except the revolver covers and the oil can and rags he had left behind.

[Editor’s note:  The next day, January 2, 1905,  the Inquirer reported that Ralph Crole was arrested when found in Joshua Garrett’s woods near Malvern.  He admitted to the crime, and said that he had recently been released from prison for a year, convicted of shooting at a farmer.  “He declared he could get no work and turned to robbery that he might buy food.  It is said that the man’s mind is affected.”   

 A search of census records shows no Ralph Crole in the area, but a Ralph Crowl from Chester County was married with a child in the 1920 and 1930 census.  Hopefully that was our Ralph, who straightened up and flew right, after his brush with the law and hard times.]

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