Spring Grove Train & the Mysterious Train Robber
In 1900, the new Spring Grove train station ignited a growth spurt in town. Suddenly, many new homes were being built, along with a hotel, new saloon & more. The station received food and general supplies for the stores, coal, lumber and animal feed. Milk, cattle and hogs were shipped to Chicago.
“Fast mail” cars retrieved the out-going village mail bag by a mechanical arm and a bag of in-coming mail was kicked onto the station platform. But mail cars also held safes with money and valuables, enticing train robbers. A brash train robbery in Maple Park in Kane County had a connection to the Village of Spring Grove.
One day in October 1899, three masked men stopped that train and gained access to the mail car. In Jesse James fashion, they blew up the safe with dynamite! The safe was reported to have held about $10,000, much of which got blown up with the safe. Later, pieces of the safe were found 200 yards away along with jewelry and other valuables.
A lot of commotion ensued with people running all over the place when suddenly the engine of the train, which had been cut loose, started moving rapidly away with the robbers inside. Suspects were later rounded up and questioned but no one was held.
Two weeks later it was reported that the day after the robbery, detectives had found a new clue. An empty lunch basket which was lined with a newspaper was found discarded near where the robbery took place. The newspaper was The McHenry County Plaindealer and on the paper was a sticker with the name of the subscriber.
The subscriber was tracked down as a farmer living near Spring Grove. It was noted that the farmer did not have a good reputation and had been in trouble before. They learned that two days before the robbery the farmer disappeared and returned the next day, but left again that night.
A team of horses and a two-seated surrey were stolen from a dairy farmer in Spring Grove that night and police found them in a shed in Des Plaines. The horses were driven hard and nearly dead. A horse and buggy ride from Spring Grove to Des Plaines was a twelve-hour trip! It was thought that the robbers were "making for Chicago".
Almost a year later, on September 27, 1900 the Marengo Beacon reported the men who committed the crime were located. It was theorized that they got $25,000 - $100,000 that day, and "after secreting the swag, committed lesser robberies for the sake of being caught and put safely out of the reach of the express company." They would spend two or three years in the penitentiary. The officers of the North-Western said they would be waiting for them when they were released.
Unfortunately, the name of the suspects were never revealed and... for now...are lost to history.