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Unusual stories about young thieves made news in June of 1911

Published June 04. 2011 09:05AM

A number of stories regarding children made for interesting reading during the early summer of 1911 but unfortunately, most of the news was not good.

In early June, residents were stunned to learn that a young girl was responsible for a string of robberies in the Wilkes-Barre area.

After an hour of questioning by police, 8-year-old Anna Garry confessed that she had burglarized six houses in the space of a week and hid the plunder under several porches, including at her own home. She told police she sneaked into the houses when the people were out or when she saw they were preoccupied in the front or back of the home.

The list of stolen items included seven silk dresses; a savings bank book with a "considerable amount of money in it;" two pocketbooks, one containing $3 and the other $1.50; two umbrellas; two white parasols; a red sweater; three pair of silk stockings; a gold-handled umbrella; and a shirtwaist.

There was a more light-hearted story involving a four-legged thief in Beverly, N.J. A farmer named Francis Riley discovered that a roll of 40 one-dollar bills, which he had placed on a table in his home, was missing. He was sure no one had entered the dwelling.

The only other living creature in the room was his dog Tige, a fox terrier. Tige was never considered a suspect until a few days later when Riley, while feeding his chickens, noticed the dog busily scratching the ground. After investigating, Riley found that the dog was trying to bury a baby's rattle. On further examination, he found the dog's cache also included other rattles, spools, blocks, bones, and finally, his roll of bills.

In Schuylkill County, two Shenandoah boys created some early-summer buzz when they were arrested and sent to jail for stealing pies. The case, which ended up in Schuylkill County court, involved Anthony Louder, 10, and Zigmund Zubovich, 12.

The lads claimed their innocence after being charged with stealing two pies from the Block Hotel in Shenandoah. The hotel's proprietor brought the accusation against the boys after seeing them playing in the neighborhood during the time of the alleged theft.

The boys were subpoenaed to appear in court for trial. Both boys, however, worked at the Maple Hill colliery and their parents were reportedly too poor to send them to Pottsville to answer the charges.

"As the information in the case did not show their age, a capias (an arrest order) was issued for the Shenandoah police to take them into custody, which is the due process of the law, but they were arrested and kept in the lockup at Shenandoah all night," the Tamaqua Courier reported.

The police chief then put the boys on a train and sent them by themselves to Pottsville. After reporting to the prison they were turned over to Deputy District Attorney Muehlhof who listened to their story. He found that the elder boy was the oldest of six children who worked in the mines every day to support the family.

After learning of their plight, Muehlhof took the boys downtown to buy them something to eat. He then sent them home.

"The case is one of the most deplorable that has ever come to the attention of the district attorney's office. When it became apparent that a grave mistake has been made, they were immediately sent home on their own recognizance," the Courier reported.

The rap sheets on two boys from Philadelphia who were incarcerated in the Carbon County jail a few months earlier were much more serious. Olen Drayton and Ben Chambers had pleaded guilty to the larceny of an automobile tag from a vehicle owned by M. A. Wertman of Palmerton. They were sentenced to pay a $25 fine and held in the local prison. In the meantime, Sheriff Begel learned that the two were fugitives, wanted by Philadelphia authorities for stealing an automobile.

"The lads dreaded to face this (Philadelphia) charge," a reporter stated.

While in Mauch Chunk jail, they somehow managed to obtain a saw, which they used to cut the bars of their cell. Once in the corridor, they sawed the bars of the window and then slid down a blanket to the ground. In the cellar of the jail they found a ladder which they used to escape over the wall.

A posse conducted a county-wide search but no trace of the fugitives was found.

One final sad story in June 1911 involved the death of 5-year-old Oscar Brode, who resided with his parents on Spruce Street in Tamaqua.

"In some unaccountable manner the child secured a handful of matches and decided they were good playthings," the Courier reported. "He went to the rear of the yard and struck the matches when the blaze set fire to his loose jacket. He was a mass of flames in an instant and ran screaming to the house."

The boy's terrified mother quickly smothered the flames but not before the child was left with severe burns on his head and body.

The boy was rushed to Panther Creek Valley Hospital where everything possible was done to relieve his suffering.

He died the following morning.

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