Hotel Sneak Thief Captured

     During the Gilded Age and for several decades after, St. Louis had the distinction of being the largest city west of the Mississippi River.  Pickpockets and thieves rode the rails to ply their illicit trade in the bustling metropolis.  On September 21, 1901, hotel employees overpowered a sneak thief, who attempted to burglarize a room in the plush Southern Hotel.


Chief Desmond’s Sweating of Suspects from the St. Louis Republic

     Charles Forrest was not a run of the mill thief.  Forrest entered the Southern Hotel at 5 a.m. in a Prince Albert coat, pressed pants and silk hat.  He casually walked up to the third floor.  Forrest proceeded to check all the doors.  Forrest hit the jackpot at the room taken by Charles E. Wilson, a traveling salesman from New York.

     Charles Wilson was sleeping in his room but the bold Forrest entered anyway.  Wilson was a New York traveling salesman in St. Louis for a convention.  Forrest removed $16 in cash, a watch and gold pin from Wilson’s clothing hanging over a chair.

     Wilson started to stir so Forrest dropped to the floor by the bed.  Wilson almost went back to sleep but decided to stand up and check on the noise.  Wilson stepped down on Forrest’s leg, while Forrest was trying to hide under the bed.


Early St. Louis Police Badge from the Public Domain

     Forrest rose to his feet and wrestled with Wilson for a few minutes.  Forrest freed himself from Wilson’s grip and fled with Wilson in hot pursuit.

     Porter William Meehan and Bell Boy John Spangler pounced on Forrest.  Forrest tried to wrestle with Meehan and Spangler but their profession gave them better-than-average strength.  Meehan and Spangler flopped Forrest on his face and held him there until St. Louis Police Officer Flaherty arrived.

     St. Louis Chief of Detectives William Desmond interviewed Forrest, who confessed to the attempted burglary.  Forrest claimed to be from Omaha but Desmond believed he was from Chicago, where the tailors of his jacket were located.  Forrest’s jacket contained the name W.T. Carroll on the label.

     Forrest claimed the burglary was his first offense in St. Louis.  He did not claim it was his first criminal act though.  Forrest’s actions gave him away as a bold and practiced sneak thief.

     St. Louis would see many more men like Forrest come to St. Louis over the next few years in preparation for the World’s Fair.  Fortunately for St. Louis, Chief of Detectives William Desmond and his men were waiting.

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     If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy Shootout on Pine Street: The Illinois Central Train Robbery and Aftermath on Amazon.  It is available on Kindle or in paperback.

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