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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

The Great Flatonia Train Robbery


by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery

In the year 1887, outlaws were still robbing stagecoaches in Missouri, and according to The Gonzales Inquirer; Texas was leading the nation in the number of train robberies - three had been committed since January of that year (1887).

Although some folks might have been under the impression that the days of the armed bandit had passed into history, that just wasn't the case in the Lone Star State.

While it's true that civilization had made a lot of progress in the southeast section of Texas, a train ride could still be a hazardous venture. The following article tells the story of a major train hold-up near Flatonia in June of 1887. The robbery seemed to be a large operation with up to 12 men involved.

This (un-edited) piece is printed just as it appeared in The Gonzales Inquirer - way back then.

The Gonzales Inquirer - June 25, 1887
[Headline: The Train Robbery]

On Friday night of last week between 12 and 1 o'clock a most daring train robbery was successfully perpetrated on the east bound passenger train about a mile and a half from Flatonia.

As the train started from Flatonia two men boarded the engine. The engineer started to kick them off, thinking they were tramps, but at the muzzle of two drawn pistols was quickly convinced of his mistake.

They made him put on extra steam until about a mile and a half east of Flatonia, when he was made to stop the train over a trestle and by a big fire that had been built beside the track. The other robbers who were waiting here boarded the train and went to work.

They beat the express messenger over the head and got, it is thought, about $600, the bulk of money having been secreted before they reached him. Then they went through the sleeper and other cars taking such money as was not hidden and beating passengers over the head with their pistols when they did not wake up fast enough and shell out their valuables.

During this performance the train was delayed about an hour, when they desisted, being told by the conductor that there was great danger of a collision with another train. From the passengers they got about $600 in money and $1000 worth of jewelry. The robbers numbered about 12 men.

After quitting the train they mounted their horses, which were tied near by, and rode off in different directions. The posses sent out after them returned without a clue.

Three arrests were made Monday, on the line of the Southern Pacific, and the parties taken to Flatonia for identification. One of them said that George Shoaf, a noted San Antonio gambler was one of the bandits who helped in the robbery, and he was arrested in San Antonio and jailed.

He [Shoaf] says he can prove by a number of witnesses that he was playing poker in that city the night of the robbery. It appears that all the men connected with the recent robbery have been spotted.

Wells Fargo & Co. have offered $1000 reward for the capture of each one of the robbers and his conviction. The governor was telegraphed to by the express company on the subject of a state reward. The governor replied that the state would give $500 for the capture and conviction of each one, and would also use its power to hunt the robbers down.

The Southern Pacific offers $250 and the United States government $200, which will make a total of $1950.

Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary January 4, 2022 Column

TX Fayette County 1907 Postal Map
Fayette County 1907 postal map showing railroads crossing Flatonia
From Texas state map #2090

Courtesy Texas General Land Office

More Texas Train Robberies

  • Rube Burrow, Notorious Train Robber by Clay Coppedge

  • Bud Newman Gang by Mike Cox
    A little more than a year after the Comstock shooting, newspapers readers learned that west-bound SP passenger train No. 20 had been robbed around midnight on Dec. 20, 1896 near Cow Creek less than a mile west of Comstock....

  • Bud Newman, part II by Mike Cox
    About 11 p.m. on June 9, 1898 at a point called Coleman Switch about four miles west of Santa Anna, Newman and three other masked men descended on a Santa Fe passenger train...

  • A Railroad Holdup by Bob Bowman
    Railroaders love to tell stories, and the one they relish the most is about the railroad president and the holdup man.

  • The Tall Texan : The Story of Ben Kilpatrick by Arthur Soule

  • The Last Full-sized Train Robbery in Texas by Brewster Hudspeth



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