In February of 1900, the downtown area of Elkton experienced a crime spree that greatly annoyed the merchants and citizens of the town. A thief or thieves had been breaking into stores and homes and stealing small amounts of items.
The office of the Cecil County News, located in the Tucker Building (currently the location of North Street Hotel) on North Street, was one of the frequent victims of this crime spree. William D. Bratton, the owner, editor, and publisher of the newspaper, had lost several items, including postage stamps, books, and shoes. On Sunday, February 4, the thief visited the Cecil County News office again, as well as the Odd Fellows Reading Room and the office of the Prudential Life Insurance Company. A number of small articles were stolen from each office and desks had been pried, but not opened. At this point, Mr. Bratton had apparently had enough. He and his foreman, Allan D. Johnson, made a plan to catch the thief.
Since the thief had been unsuccessful, the men planned to stay in the newspaper office on Monday night. Bratton and Johnson heard a noise around 5 am on Tuesday, but the person escaped quickly.
Tuesday night Bratton and Johnson repeated their stake-out plan, and just before 6 am they heard a noise. They ran to the press room and caught the thief just as he was crawling in the window of the press room. The man tried to escape but could not get away from Bratton and Johnson. The police were summoned and the thief was taken to jail.
The thief was identified as Samuel Anderson, a young, “notorious” man of Elkton, according to the Cecil Whig. Anderson claimed he had climbed into the window to get warm. The Cecil Whig’s February 10 edition reported that “a search was made by the officers, with the result that a number of articles, including some of Mr. Bratton’s property, were found in the possession of persons to whom Anderson had sold them. These items were found in the possession of James Bayard, who was arrested and charged with receiving stolen goods.
A week later, the Cecil County News reported that Samuel Anderson was “sentenced by Magistrate Groves to two years in the House of Correction on a plea of guilty of carrying concealed deadly weapons, the prosecution agreeing to this owing to the offender’s youth. James Bayard, from whom much of the stolen property was recovered, was arrested Friday and is now in jail on a charge of receiving stolen goods, his statements to the State’s Attorney being very damaging.”
The Historical Society of Cecil County is open every Monday and Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm. We are also open on the first Saturday of each month from 10 am to 2 pm. Research fees are $5 for non-members and free for members.
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