Milton Versus the Yeggmen – 1923

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | October 18, 2020

Milton suffered nighttime burglaries by “yeggmen” or “yeggs,” i.e., safecrackers, in both 1894 and 1914.

During the night of Monday, July 16, 1923, yeggs broke into four establishments in neighboring Farmington, NH, and on the following night, Tuesday, July 17, 1923, they visited the Union village of neighboring Wakefield, NH.

All of which suggested that Milton should post an armed guard or guards to patrol the Main Street block between the post office and Milton’s B&M Railroad station, during the night of Wednesday, July 18, 1923. (See Milton Businesses in 1922). He or they had orders to shoot suspicious persons on sight. (What could possibly go wrong?)

CITIZENS ARM WITH SHOT GUNS AGAINST DARING YEGG BAND. Guards Patrol Postoffice and Station at Milton. Rochester, July 18. – Residents of nearby towns slept tonight with shot guns and rifles handy, while in places armed guards were stationed near postoffices following a series of breaks at Union, north of here, last night, when yeggs swept down on the town and broke into six places – the B.&M. railroad station, the postoffice, garage, a blacksmith shop, a barber shop and a marble shop. The night before four places at Farmington were entered and people in other localities, terrorized at the action of the gang, were arming themselves today, not knowing where the thieves would appear next.

Few of these smaller towns had their own banks. Valuables might be stored in the safes of their local post offices or B&M Railroad stations. Other places, such as the blacksmith and the marble shop were likely sources of heavy duty tools.

It was stated at Milton tonight that an armed guard was to patrol the section near the postoffice, with orders to shoot any person acting in a suspicious manner near the building. Postmasters and station agents in other places made hurried trips to Rochester and deposited their surplus cash in banks. When the B.&M. station at Union was opened this morning. Agent Howard A. Beacham discovered that the safe had been blown and $35 taken. From the manner in which the safe was “soaped” and nitro used, the police believe it to be the work of professionals. Entrance was gained by forcing a window.

Howard A. Beacham, a railroad station agent, aged forty-eight years (b. NH), headed a Wakefield (“Union Village), NH, household at the time of the Fourteenth (1920) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Hattie F. [(Haines)] Beacham, aged forty-eight years (b. NH). Howard A. Beacham owned their house free-and-clear.

To “soap” a safe was to form a soap repository in the crack or seam where the safe’s door closed into the body of the safe. About an ounce of liquid nitroglycerine would be poured into the soap repository and then set off with a blasting cap connected – hopefully with wires of some length – to a battery.

The postoffice diagonally across the street was next visited. The thieves went in through a cellar window, and, after ascending the stairs, forced the door leading to the office. Postmaster James Reed had taken the money, with the exception of some small change, home, so the yeggs did not get much for their trouble. The postage stamps were pulled out and left on the floor.

James A. Reed, a railroad telegrapher, aged thirty-two years (b. MA), headed a Wakefield (“Union Village”), NH, household at the time of the Fourteenth (1920) Federal Census. His household included his wife, May A. [(McCallum)] Reed, aged twenty-nine years (b. NH), and his children, Blanche L. Reed, aged eight years (b. NH), James A. Reed, aged seven years (b. NH), and Gladys M. Reed, aged three years (b. NH). James A. Reed rented their house.

At the garage of Howard Atherton, $275 in money and a diamond ring valued at $175 were taken from the cash drawer in the office. Reuben Trafton’s barber shop over the postoffice was visited but nothing of value taken. Tools with which it is believed the yeggs forced an entrance into the station were taken from the garage of Samuel Reynolds after they evidently did not find tools to their liking when they entered the marble shop of Myron Johnson.

Isaac H. [“Howard”] Atherton, a widowed garage proprietor, aged forty years (b. NH), headed a Wakefield (“Union Village”), NH, household at the time of the Fourteenth (1920) Federal Census. His household included his sister, Laura [(Atherton)] Emery, aged forty-five years (b. NH). Isaac H. Atherton rented their house.

Reuben Trafton, a barber, aged forty-four years (b. NH), headed a Wakefield (“Union Village”), NH, household at the time of the Fourteenth (1920) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Iva M. [(Ham)] Trafton, aged forty-one years (b. NH), and his children, Norman Trafton, aged seventeen years (b. NH), Esther Trafton, aged sixteen years (b. NH), Katheryn Trafton, aged twelve years (b. NH), Helen Trafton, aged six years (b. NH), and Parker Trafton, aged two years (b. NH), and his grandson, Donald M. Trafton, aged four years (b. NH). Reuben Trafton owned their house free-and-clear. (Reuben Buck Trafton was a namesake for Dr. Reuben Buck).

Samuel Runnells, a blacksmith, aged sixty-four years (b. NH), headed a Wakefield (“Union Village”), NH, household at the time of the Fourteenth (1920) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Mary R. [(Knox)] Runnells, aged fifty-six years (b. NH), his children, Elizabeth F. Runnells, aged sixteen years (b. NH), and Martha P. Runnells, aged thirteen years (b. NH), and his father, Alva Runnells, a widower, aged ninety-four years (b. ME). Samuel Runnells owned their house free-and-clear.

The only clue which Chief of Police Myron Johnson of Union had tonight was that on Saturday afternoon a large touring car with Massachusetts plates stood on Main street for hours. It was occupied by two men who did not leave the car, nor was any one seen to visit the car. It is believed they looked over the situation. It is considered significant that none of the stores were visited as families occupy the. second floor in each (Portsmouth Herald, July 19, 1923).

Myron L. Johnson, a marble works marble cutter, aged sixty-three years (b. ME), headed a Wakefield (“Union Village”), NH, household at the time of the Fourteenth (1920) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Winifred [(Gile)] Johnson, aged thirty-eight years (b. NH). Myron L. Johnson owned their house free-and-clear.

Naturally, the unidentified touring car with the two suspicious men – seen three days earlier – had Massachusetts plates.

As in the Milton safecracking thefts of 1894 and 1914, subsequent newspapers mentioned no capture of the yeggmen or recovery of the stolen property.

References:

O’Connor, Patricia, and Kellerman, Stewart. (2015, June 19). A Bad Yegg. Retrieved from www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2015/06/yegg.html

Valdes, Robert. (n.d.). How Safecracking Works. Retrieved from home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-safety/safecracking5.htm

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s