Internet surfer and welcome to a gem of a site dedicated to illuminating the
onyx-like parallels unearthed from an otherwise beclouded and boring American
and world historical perspective into its many hues and flavors, a spectrum
inclusive of most light that makes up the untold histories, fascinating stories
and journeys not quite attached or put together in this theatrical or holistic
manner as you will find!
We bring many years of personal and unique historical research, reading, collaboration, living, and writing experiences. One of us is a published historian, journalist, and genealogist, whose roots are in the Central Oregon Coast, the primary though not exclusive gathering or focal point of these stories. And her co-author is more centered, though not exclusively so on the personal-spiritual journey as a former Lutheran minister, and how this has come into play to reinvigorate her own philosophical historical understanding of faith and her questions of the world-church professional Christian training, vision and cultural paradigms, relying upon her common sense and also the expertise and critique of those historically disinherited, disenfranchised, and despised.
Neither of us is professionally enamored by historicism in the classical sense, or any particular intellectual chains, other than the challenge to loosen the usual grip of white western european, heterosexist and masculinist elitism! And yes, we believe in being politically correct, and are proud of it, that we still name the names! We are students and practitioners of folk and established history, and are expanding our understanding of story, wishing to share some of those exciting findings and perspectives. We plan to update this site regularly with the little known gems and connections to "the rest of the story" usually relegated to footnotes we have uncovered from the current draft of our mammoth, interconnected, well documented history saga, Sovereigns of Themselves: A Liberating History of Oregon and Its Coast. We would welcome and appreciate hearing from you, comments, questions, suggestions, corrections, or other resources, and we hope that you'll stick around long enough to get to know just a little bit more about what these two cyber-historians have to offer. After all, these days, contacts that begin in cyberspace are often the most real, vivid, and long-lasting, and maybe that will be true of us.
Because he made such a lasting impression on my life as a genealogist and historian, I often tell this anecdote about my first encounter (1966) with the infamous train robber and murderer, Ray Charles D'Autremont:
As a struggling student
of sociology on the beautiful University of Oregon campus, Eugene (1965-1970),
I was 21 and living a very "present-tense" existence.
I heard the first angry cries of "get out of Vietnam!" and had my first "close encounter" of the most shocking! kind with a hippy couple from San Francisco, while sweeping floors and emptying ashtrays at the Erb Memorial Union where Ray D'Autremont and I were both employed as part-time custodians.
On the federal government's "work-study" program, I swabbed floors and dusted offices in the Erb, 15 hours a week, mostly evenings and week-ends.
The Erb's food and maintenance departments were mainly staffed with students like myself, and elderly civil service workers—like D'Autremont.
Ray, who loved literature, foreign language, philosophy and art, seemed uncannily well versed in those subjects for a man who—for all practical purposes—appeared to have spent his entire life cleaning up after others. He would sit in the staff room during breaks, licking his ice-cream cone, smoking his cigarettes dangling at the end of an outrageously long filtered holder, endlessly discussing The Prophet and The Rubiat Of Omar Khyyam.
After work, the pleasant, round-bellied old fellow walked me home to Gerlinger Hall where I worked as a live-in hostess when I wasn’t busy washing windows at the Erb. This nightly ritual was established because our mutual boss, Norman Boyles, was concerned about the "dangerous characters" lurking about on campus at night, as there had recently been a rash of on-campus rapes. Boyles, bless his heart!, wanted me delivered home safely.
Ray would throw on his overcoat and hat, grab a flashlight, and accompany me across the street in the dark to Gerlinger Hall. I’d unlock the front door of that seemingly haunted old building, creeping with Ivy and age, while D'Autremont ceremoniously searched the bushes for rapists.
Once it had been established that "The coast is clear!," we'd say "good night" and go our separate ways.
One evening, I had the occasion to discuss the many "virtues" of the intelligent and charming D'Autremont with Norman Boyles, as I wanted to thank him for personally providing me with such a reliable chaperone.
"Ray's the most infamous man on campus," Boyles casually offered, as though it were common knowledge.
"What do you mean by infamous?," came my startled reply, my youth and ignorance popping out all over.
"You've never heard of the murders on the Gold Special?," Boyles exclaimed, somewhat surprised at my apparent lack of knowledge on that chapter of Oregon history.
"What on the what?," I quizzed Boyles, totally confused by the implications of his question.
"In October of '23, Ray and his two brothers, Roy and Hugh, held up a mail train in Tunnel 13 in the Siskiyou
Mountains. They shot down four men in cold blood!"
"Ray’s a M-M-MURDERER?" I couldn't help myself; I gasped!" But... it can’t be...!" The stammer in my voice must have been obvious to Boyles, who smiled and calmly watched my intense reaction to this most unexpected turn of events.
"Well, it's true! It took the biggest manhunt of the century to track those three down and put them behind bars. Ray's been in prison for nearly 40 years," Boyles said casually.
"Then...what’s he doing here?," I demanded to know, my heart in my throat. "That cold-blooded killer being discussed here is my bodyguard!"
"He’s on parole; Ray's paid his debt to society," Boyles assured me, his hand on my shoulder.
"Ray D'Autremont," I nervously pondered. "Infamous train robber." "Infamous”—I couldn’t say "it" about my
friend—"K-I-L-L-E-R." I thought seriously all about it.
In 1970, I graduated from the University of Oregon and moved to the Big Elk Valley snuggled deep in the Coast Range of Lincoln County. There, I settled into a seclusive lifestyle of fine art, scholarship, and writing.
In 1973, when the Oregon Journal ran its 50 year anniversary special on the D'Autremonts, I was excited to know at last all the details surrounding that period of Ray's life. Through Christmas cards, we kept in touch, and I decided to write a commemorative ballad about his "dark years" while the series was being run. I gave into that inspiration even though the national press was raking the Oregon Journal over the coals for giving VIP attention to a "common criminal."
Pouring over the 12-part series, "Murder on theGold Special," by Jack Perment, brought about my "historical
consciousness," I believe, because I experienced what is known as a "classic click" with D'Autremont—at a moment when his past intersected with my present foreshadowing my greatest opportunity.
As the result of this holographic experience, I have devoted a good portion of my time over the past three decades to the dictum, "Bring 'em back alive!" Putting persons, places and events in their proper perspective is what I have always intended to do. This is, after all, the primary function of an historian!
Siskiyou Pass October 11, 1923
Train robberies, long
a staple of western movies and pulp novels, were a very real danger to Railway
Post Office clerks. Thieves sought registered mail, which often held cash,
and money being transported in mail car safes. Typically considered a 19th
century crime, (28 mail trains were stopped by thieves between 1897-1899 alone),
train robberies continued into the first two decades of the 20th century.
A few miles to the west of the open, sunny summit of Siskiyou Pass, occurred a most notorious train holdup. At 12:40pm on October 11, 1923, the three D'Autremont brothers, Hugh, 19, years of age, and Roy and Ray, 23-year-old twins, swung onto the tender of the southbound Shasta Limited No. 13 just outside of the small station of Siskiyou and ordered the engineer to stop the train, which he did at the southern end of Tunnel 13. They believed that $40,000 was being held in the mail car. Under the leadership of Hugh the amateurs at crime shot and killed the engineer, the fireman, and a brakeman. When the mail clerk opened the mail car door in answer to the order to come out, they shot at him, but he managed to close the door in time. Unable to enter the car the bandits dynamited it, but the gases and flames from the explosion further thwarted them and they fled into the rough Siskiyou wilderness. Much of the mail was burned or charred, leaving nothing for the bandits. In their haste, they left some supplies and other articles behind them.
Hugh, Ray and Roy D'Autremont
The Last Oregon Train Robbery
The most important to detectives was a pair of overalls, in a pocket of which was the receipt for a registered letter signed by Hugh. Immediately the railroad’s telegraph wires sizzled with the news. The US Post Office Department threw out the largest net it had ever cast for fugitives. The manhunt for the trio utilized bloodhounds, airplanes and teams of armed postal inspectors. Law enforcement officers combed the Oregon mountains for weeks, but could not find the brothers, who had fled the area. The Southern Pacific and the American Railway joined the state of Oregon and the federal government in offering dead-or-alive rewards that totaled $15,900, or $5,300 for each culprit. Over two million bulletins and posters bearing pictures of the brothers appeared conspicuously in every railway station and post office in the country. Canada and Mexico also posted “wanted” notices. The search spread to all parts of the world and descriptions of the men were issued in seven languages. Many fake clues were followed before a barracks buddy in February 1927, landing in San Francisco after serving in the Philippines, noticed the resemblance between the picture of Hugh D'Autremont on a post office circular and a soldier know as James Price in the 31st Infantry in the Islands.
D'Autremonts Tried in Jacksonville
The authorities were notified and Hugh was captured on February 12 and was brought to Oregon, where he was indicted for murder. The trial opened on May 3 in Jacksonville, becoming the town’s most important event since the gold stampedes of the 1850s. The jury held an impromptu track meet, and witnesses played baseball. A mistrial resulted when one of the jurors died, and a second trial began on June 6 and ended on June 21, when Hugh was sentenced to life imprisonment.
(1) Downtown Gold Hill 1890s (2) M. Constance Guardino III (3) Jackson County Jail 1927
Sepia Reproductions Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
Meanwhile, the search for
the twins continued and on June 8 they were arrested in Steubenville, Ohio,
where they had been living and working as the Winston brothers. Ray had married
and had a small son. They had heard of Hugh's capture and after first denying
their identity, waived extradition and were returned to Oregon, where they
confessed to the crime. Hugh had admitted his guilt. A festive spirit prevailed
at the D'Autremont trial. The twins were also given life sentences.
Hugh D'Autremont received a parole in 1959 and died roughly two months later in San Francisco. Roy was given a frontal lobotomy while in prison and was paroled in March, 1983. He died three months later in a nursing home. Ray was paroled in 1961 and died on December 22, 1984 in Eugene after working for years as a custodian at the University of Oregon.
On November 8, 2003, Pat Dunford of Tucson, Arizona wrote: "Hi Connie, Small world. This is from a family history written by my mother in the 1980's. The "Von" mentioned is my father. Nellie/Nell is my grandmother, Nellie Palmer Dunford, who was born in Elk City. Ike is Oscar W. Dunford, my grandfather:
"Ike and Nell moved back
to Jacksonville about 1920 where they bought a dryland farm on Poor Man’s
Creek. Von used to drive a buggy down to Jacksonville to school. Ike continued
to be a butcher as no one could survive on small acre farming.
"In the mid-1920s Ike was hired as a deputy sheriff when Ralph Jennings became sheriff. They moved into Jacksonville which was still the county seat, where Ike had charge of the jail and Nellie cooked for the prisoners. In 1929 the county seat was moved to Medford, so they moved to Medford to a house on Apple Street. Later a new courthouse was built with the jail on the top floor with an apartment for the jailer.
"The most famous prisoners were the D’Autrement brothers who had blown up a train in the Siskayou tunnel. Nellie became quite fond of the youngest, Hugh, and thought he had been led astray.
"There is a picture of Ike with Hugh in the old courthouse in Jacksonville. I had always thought that this occurred in Jacksonville, and can find no clues on the internet this morning to say whether the jail was physically in Medford by 1929. The courthouse in Medford appears to have been dedicated in 1932. I'm not sure my mom had this completely right. Will have to do more research. She was right, however, about my grandmother's attitude towards Hugh. Interesting that your information puts him in the leadership role. Frankly, after more than twenty years working in the prison system here in Arizona, and knowing my grandmother's propensity towards seeing the good in everyone, I doubt Hugh was such a shining star." ---Pat Dunford
'Murder On The Gold Special'
By M. Constance Guardino III &
Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel
Oppressed and downtrodden,
Three restless young brothers
Sought out their misfortunes,
A blight shared with others.
Floundering for meaning—
A scheme flashed in focus—
Dismal and desperate,
A small candy factory
Hugh joined his brothers,
The brothers united,
They worked in the forest,
And found a good hideout
In black melancholia,
They oiled up their footwear;
"The Special’s on schedule!"
Hugh barked out the orders:
They charged to the mail car
Rumbled the tunnel;
Legend sifts men
They hoped to uncouple
With lantern, the brakeman
Outside the dark tunnel,
With furry the engineer
More gun shots resounded.
There was scarcely a clue
That time of temptation
Remember that innocent
As well as the widows,
Back in their cache,
Man hunting missions
There was scarcely a clue
|An old pair of denims
Proved helpful in time.
Deep down in a pocket
Freezing and frenzied,
With search planes surveying,
A gnawing starvation,
"A campground supply house!
Near tracks at Hilt City:
So fierce was the weather
Tormented and tortured,
In Hornbrook, decisions:
Each man went his own way,
Just sweet seventeen,
She knew him as "Elmer;"
After months of contentment,
In time, a new poster
After joining the Army,
Of Hugh who was captured
A flurry of stories
Who told the detectives:
By Sunrise next morning,
Grim Reaper's a-commin'
To his sobbing son, Jackie,
His loving wife, Hazel,
In Jacksonville City,
The District Attorney
Hugh's mistrial for murder
The twins signed confessions
With stripes on their shoulders
They gambled for fortune
M. Constance Guardino III
Reverend Marilyn A. Riedel
This Page Last Updated by Maracon on December 1, 2005
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