Wild Bunch – The Trials and Travels of Annie Rogers

0
24

Wearing expensive clothes and carrying more than $500 in cash, Annie Rogers walked into the Fourth National Bank of Nashville, Tennessee, on the afternoon of October 14, 1901. She was traveling with a generous companion, and lately, her luck had been good. But all that was about to change, and her companion and her money were about to land her in serious trouble.

She approached Teller Spencer McHenry, handed him a stack of small bills, and asked him for larger denominations. McHenry had been alerted to be on the lookout for unsigned bills stolen during a July 3, 1901, train robbery. Rogers’ Bank of Montana notes fit the description. McHenry reported his suspicions to Cashier J. T. Howell, who immediately phoned the police. Howell and bank president Samuel J. Keith then took Annie into an office and told her the bills were forged.

The phone call produced quick results. Within minutes, Nashville Detectives Jack Dwyer and Austin Dickens arrived at the bank and began questioning Annie. She denied signing the bills and insisted that she did not know they were stolen. She told the detectives that a little blonde man named Charley had given the to her in Shreveport, Louisiana. She claimed that she met Charley in Omaha, Nebraska, and had traveled with him for about two weeks. They had recently separated in Shreveport, and Charley had gone to New Orleans.

Although Annie was about to be arrested, her first concern was the money. She insisted that the $500 belonged to her. She said she had worked for it, but she gave no details about the nature of her work.

Dwyer and Dickens escorted Annie to police headquarters, where an officer whom the newspapers identified only as “Lieutenant Marshall” continued the questioning. She refused to give any information about herself, except that her name was Annie Rogers. She stuck to her story about blonde Charley and continued to deny knowing anything about the bills being forged or stolen. After several hours of questioning, a warrant was sworn out before Justice Hiram Vaughn charging Annie Rogers with attempting to pass forged National Bank notes.

On October 16, the Nashville American reported that the Nashville police had made “one of the most important captures in recent years in the arrest of Annie Rogers. . .who is thought to be directly connected with the gang of train robbers who, on July 3, 1901, . . . .held up and robbed a Great Northern train near Wagner, Montana.”

The American described Annie as “somewhat good looking, not beautiful but not ugly.” She was slender, with a heavy head of dark brown hair, a dark complexion, and high cheek bones. He most noticeable features were two gold teeth on the left side and her piercing black eyes. According to the newspaper, “Her eyes fairly danced as she spoke.”

That same day, the Nashville Banner sent a reporter to interview the prisoner. When Detective Dwyer took him to her cell, Annie cheerfully greeted them. She addressed the detective as “Happy Jack” and told the reported that Dwyer was one of her favorites. She smiled, laughed, and flirted with her visitors throughout the interview. He only complaint was that she had not been able to brush her hair properly.

When she appeared before Justice Vaughn for her preliminary hearing the following day, Annie was neither laughing nor smiling. Wearing a well fitted black suit and a large black hat with three great ostrich feathers, she entered the crowded courtroom with Detective Dwyer. The Banner reported that, “a deep frown gather her brow and her piercing black eyes danced defiantly in answer to the stares of the onlookers.”

Justice Vaughn asked her if she had heard the warrant read.

“I heard one read yesterday. I don’t know whether it is the same one or not,” she answered.

He told her that it was the same warrant and asked if she wished to plead guilty or not guilty.

“Guilty of what?” she angrily replied. “Of taking those bills to the bank” I took them bills to the bank. Yes, I did that.”

After Justice Vaughn explained the charges again, Annie entered a plea of not guilty. Vaughn then set her bail at $10,000, and asked her if she wanted to make a statement.

“Nothing, but that I came by those bills honestly, and I don’t see why I should be treated this way. I had used some of the bills before, and I thought they were all right.”

The preliminary hearing had a sobering effect on Annie. Getting out of jail suddenly became more important than money. At that point, the only person she wanted to protect was Annie Rogers. By the next day she was ready to tell a different story.

In her second statement, she said her real name was Delia Moore, she was twenty-six years old, and she was born in Tarrant County, Texas. She left home for the first time in 1893, and she had worked in houses of prostitution at Mena, Arkansas, and at Fort Worth and San Antonio, Texas.

In 1896, Rogers married a farmer named Lewis Walker. After three years of marriage, she left Walker and went to Fannie Porter’s sporting house at San Antonio. She explained that she left Walker because, “he was just a poor farmer, and the life he led was altogether too tame for her.”

According to her statement, she left the Porter house in late 1900 with a man named Bob Nevils. She accompanied Nevils, a man named Will Casey, and another of Fannie Porter’s girls named Lillie Davis, to Denver, Colorado, then to Idaho and Montana. The foursome stopped for a week or two in several large cities. She told the detectives that she did not ask Nevils or Casey about their occupation. She said, “they were just good fellows.” After several weeks, they returned to Fort Worth where Nevils gave her five twenty-dollar gold pieces before they separated.

Instead of immediately returning to Fannie Porter’s Annie went to her mother’s home. Over the next few months, she made frequent trips between her mother’s and the Porter house before leaving Texas and going to Mena, Arkansas. She remained there until September 1901, when she received a message from the Porter woman. Bob Nevils had returned to San Antonio and wanted Annie to take another trip. On September 14, she answered with the carefully worded telegram, “Will wait till parties come.” A few days later, Nevils joined her in Arkansas.

Their first stop was Shreveport, Louisiana. They stayed there several days, perhaps as long as a week, playing cards and visiting saloons to pass the time. Nevils had plenty of money and gave Annie several ten-dollar bills before they left Shreveport.

Next, they visited jackson, Mississippi. She said they stayed near the state capitol and spent a few days “doing nothing but having a good time.”

From Jackson, they traveled by day coach to Memphis, Tennessee, arriving there about the end of September. The good times continued in Memphis. She estimated that they spent about $400 visiting saloons, drinking, and having fun. Annie also did some shopping, buying several expensive new dresses and hats. Nevils always had a good supply of money and whiskey in his pocket, and Annie got her share of both. By the time they left Memphis on October 10, she had about $400, most of it in Bank of Montana bills.

The next day the fun loving couple arrived in Nashville and checked into the Linck’s Hotel. Soon after they arrived, Nevils gave her more money, increasing her bankroll to more than $500. Annie said she spent most of her time in their hotel room. But Nevils preferred barrooms to hotel rooms and continued to stay out late at night.

By then, Annie was beginning to have misgivings about her companion. As her bankroll grew so did her distrust. She enjoyed traveling around the country, but her first concern was keeping the $500. She feared that Nevils would take her money and leave her stranded in a strange city. To make the money easier to conceal, she decided to get it changed into larger bills. So on the afternoon of October 14, she told Nevils that she was going shopping. Instead, she went to the Fourth National Bank, where the police took her money and her freedom.

When Annie finished her statement, the police rushed to the Linck’ Hotel. They learned that Nevils had been registered under the name of R. J. Whalen, but Annie’s false statement had given him time to escape. The day she was arrested, he had waited at the hotel until eleven o’clock before checking out and going to the railway station. Further investigation showed that he had taken a train to Birmingham, Alabama. The police were able to trace him as far as Mobile, Alabama, before they lost his trail.

By April 1902, Annie Rogers gladly would have returned to Lewis Walker’s farm just to get out of jail. Farm life was exciting compared to doing time. So on April 21, 1902, she appeared before Judge W. M. Hart to ask that her bail be reduced to $1,000. If Judge Hart granted her request, Fannie Porter had agreed to put up the money.

Annie entered the courtroom dressed in her black suit and hat. Wearing a black glove on one hand and carrying a white handkerchief in the other, she took a seat beside her attorney, Richard West.

Express Messenger C. H. Smith was Attorney General Robert Vaughn’s first witness. The prosecution had brought Smith from Montana to describe the train robbery and to help link Annie Rogers to one of the robbers. He told the court how three men had robbed his express car of $40,000 in unsigned bank notes on July 3, 1901, near Wagner, Montana. General Vaughn then showed Smith a narrow photograph. The first day of testimony ended with the express messenger identifying the man in the photograph as one of the train robbers.

The next morning, Annie sat in the courtroom smiling and laughing as she carried on a lively conversation with a deputy sheriff. Her smile disappeared after Pinkerton Detective Lowell Spence began his testimony. General Vaughn showed him the photograph of the man whom Smith had identified as the train robber. Detective Spence identified the man in the photograph as Harvey Logan, a member of the notorious Wild Bunch. At the time Logan, aka “Kid Curry,” was in the Knoxville, Tennessee, jail. He had been arrested in December 1901 and was being held on a charge of felonious assault against police officers. When he was arrested, Logan had more than $9,000 of the stolen Bank of Montana bills in his possession.

In the photograph, a hand could be seen resting on Logan’s left shoulder. General Vaughn then produced the other half of the photograph, which showed the person to whom the hand belonged. The courtroom buzzed with excitement when that person was identified as the defendant, Annie Rogers.

Although shaken by the sudden turn of events, Annie then took the stand. She admitted that the man in the photograph was Bob Nevils, but she vigorously denied that she knew Nevils was Harvey Logan. She said Nevils never told her where he got the money. She claimed that she did not learn about the train robbery until she was arrested. After she testified, Judge Hart set her bail at $2,500, far more than Fannie Porter was prepared to put up in cash. A sobbing Annie Rogers, unable to meet the court’s demand, was taken back to her cell.

Annie waited almost two months for her next day in court. On June 14, her trial started with Richard West again squaring off against General Vaughn before Judge Hart. For several days, the prosecution paraded a long line of bank employees, hotel employees, and detectives before the court. Each one described the events that either preceded or followed the defendant’s arrest.

The most important new prosecution witness was Corrine Lewis, the attractive and charming proprietress of a Memphis resort. She identified the photo of Harvey Logan and said he was at her establishment in late September 1901. According to Miss Lewis, he had plenty of money, often flashing a large roll of bills. When she asked him if he were not afraid to carry so much money, he replied that, “he was not when he had his guns.” In a show of bravado, he then opened his coat to show her two large revolvers.

She also identified Annie Rogers as Logan’s companion. She said the the defendant was dressed rather plainly when they first visited her resort, but when they returned the next day, she was wearing expensive new clothes. She thought that the couple spent about $200 at her house. She said, “Both seemed to drink a great deal but never got drunk.”

A nervous and pale Annie Rogers followed Miss Lewis to the witness stand. Again she repeated her story of meeting and traveling with Harvey Logan, whom she knew only as Bob Nevils. She said that she did not know that the money was stolen and denied ever writing on the bills. She admitted that she “bled Nevils and got all the money she could.” She took from him frequently, she said, and had worked him for about $500 by the time they reached Nashville.

When Annie left the stand, Richard West read a deposition given by Harvey Logan at the Knoxville jail. Logan admitted that he was with the defendant at the Link’s Hotel on the day she was arrested. He said she left the hotel about the middle of the afternoon. When she did not return, “he thought that she had quit him.” He said he gave her the money, and it was signed before she received it.

The opposing attorneys painted conflicting pictures of Annie in their closing arguments. General Vaughn described her as a greedy opportunist who gave false statements to the police and helped Harvey Logan avoid arrest. Defense Attorney West argued that she was an unsophisticated country girl who had been taken and used by a clever criminal.

It took the jury less than two hours to reach a decision. The large crowd that packed the courtroom cheered when jury foreman A. J. Howington read the verdict: not guilty. A beaming Annie Rogers expressed her pleasure with the verdict by shaking hands with each member of the jury, her attorney, and Judge Hart. Many of the spectators crowded around her, shaking her hand and voicing their approval of the verdict. She told a newspaper reporter that she had not decided whether she would stay in Nashville, but she was pleased that the court had given her a “fair deal.”

Before she left the courtroom, however, Annie asked for a better deal. Now that she was free, she wanted her money. Through her attorney, she asked the court to return the $500 in Montana bills. She claimed that she had obtained the money honestly and that it was redeemable by the government. Months later, the court ruled that Annie Rogers did not become the owner as an “innocent holder” and was not entitled to the money.

Little is known about Annie after her acquittal. She soon left Nashville and returned to Texas. She continued to follow Logan’s case in the newspapers and wrote him letters. Although he broke jail on June 27, 1903, there is no evidence that Annie ever saw him again. Most likely, by that time, she had changed her name again and disappeared into the shadowy red-light district of Fort Worth or San Antonio.

Comments

comments

SHARE