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Cape Central High Photos

Ken Steinhoff, Cape Girardeau Central High School Class of 1965, was a photographer for The Tiger and The Girardot, and was on the staff of The Capaha Arrow and The Sagamore at Southeast Missouri State University. He worked as a photographer / reporter (among other things) at The Jackson Pioneer and The Southeast Missourian.

Come here to see photos and read stories (mostly true) about coming of age in Southeast Missouri in the 1960s.

Please comment on the articles when you see I have left out a bit of history, forgotten a name or when your memory of a circumstance conflicts with mine. (My mother says her stories have improved now that more and more of the folks who could contradict her have died off.) Your information helps to make this a wonderful archive and may end up in book form.


Missouri’s Last Train Robbery

David Holley Wittenberg 10 11 2009 4344 500x332 Missouris Last Train RobberyI’m not exactly sure what draws me back to Wittenberg on almost every trip to Cape. There’s not much to see. There are only two buildings and three people left in the town. David Holley is one of them. I knocked on his door to get permission to go into what was called the Wittenberg Bomb Shelter when I photographed it in 1966. I’ll have more photos and stories about the German community in the future.

The last train robbery


While he was catching me up on what he knew about Wittenberg, he told me that what some folks call the last train robbery in the state – if not the whole country – took place just up the tracks from his house. Watch the video to hear his version of the story in his own words.

Last of the Jesse James Gang

Wittenberg 1966 33 392x600 Missouris Last Train RobberyHistory’s a slippery thing. David has the general story straight, but some other accounts have the names and some minor details a little different. (He admits that he takes things he hears with a grain of salt.)

Here’s one that talks about the history of Seventy-Six, Mo., and the robbery.

In October, 1922 the St. Louis – San Francisco train was robbed two miles north of Wittenberg. Over $100,000 was taken before the robbers were shot at the little bridge in Wittenberg. One of the Robbers turned out to be Jack Kennedy, also known as “Quail Hunter” Kennedy, the last of the Jesse James gang.

Wittenberg Post Office 11 12 2010 9994 199x300 Missouris Last Train RobberyJack Kennedy had become a member of the James gang at 17. Although frequently incarcerated over the years, he was never convicted of murder and always managed to win parole. He went weeks before the train robbery roaming the Frohna area, where he lived in the woods and plied a trade of knife and scissor sharpening. He knew that each fall money was sent from St. Louis banks to Memphis, Tennessee.

After determining the best location for a bank robbery would be between Seventy-Six and Wittenberg, he and his two accomplices board the train and put their plan into action. While on gunman held the passengers captive, another searched the mail bags and located the packages earmarked for a certain bank in Memphis. The train was then disconnected from the locomotive and a baggage car while Kennedy, with a young dark-haired accomplice, got on the locomotive and took off into the night.

Bad choice of accomplice

About 100 yards south of the Wittenberg bridge, the robbers, each carrying a mail bag, left the train after opening the engine throttle and sending the locomotive and baggage car onward. Unfortunately, Jack Kennedy made a judgment error in choosing his third accomplice. This accomplice, chosen by Jack Kennedy because he had a car – essential to the getaway plan, was to wait for Jack Kennedy and his on-board accomplice to complete the robbery. What Jack Kennedy didn’t know was the accomplice he had so carefully selected was a Federal Marshall.

On that October night, the conductor, engineer, and the firemen on the train were aware of the planned robbery. Expecting Kennedy to release the locomotive, they made sure the fire was burned down when the robbery occurred. Quickly running out of steam, the locomotive stopped just seven miles down the track. The bank robbers, thinking they had successfully gotten away with the robbery, were surprised after leaping from the train to hear voices shouting “Halt!” Jack Kennedy didn’t halt. Instead, he pulled his six-shooter out, and he and his young accomplice were shot dead. Their bodies were taken to Mr. P.J. Lueder’s studio, where they were propped up and photographed while onlookers gazed at the gory sight.

The young accomplice turned out to be Robert Ford, an Oklahoman who had idolized Jesse James and, in an effort to imitate him, couldn’t resist joining with Jack Kennedy when a chance meeting put them together.

Another version of the robbery

Wittenberg 1966 282 500x332 Missouris Last Train RobberyWhile visiting the Altenburg Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum, I picked up a copy of the Perry County Historical Society’s book, Wittenberg, Perry County, Missouri.

It had an account of the robbery that said the young accomplice was Lawrence Logsdon of Memphis. When his parents came to claim his body, which had already been buried, they said he had never been away from home until three weeks prior to the shooting. He had a clean record before meeting up with Quail Hunter Kennedy.

34 comments to Missouri’s Last Train Robbery

  • Margi Whitright

    I don’t remember ever hearing of the train robbery but I was always fascinated with the town of Seventy-Six. Daddy told us about it and took us there once. We thought of it as a ghost town.

  • So did you take some pics in the old beer cellar? I was there a couple of years ago and took a few — tough lighting situation, though.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/agathman/3069664084/

    • Allen,

      Yep. I shot the cellars in the 60s and again last year. I used two strobes to light in the insides and have a couple of shots I like.

      I’ll be running them, along with other photos from Altenburg and Wittenberg in the not-to-distant future.

      BTW, I noticed that you had the gentleman in the top photo identified as David Haller in your flickr account. I played back a tape I made of him last night and he clearly (I hope) spelled it as Holley.

      I, too, have a hard time keeping my burgs and bergs straight when I’m writing about Altenburg and Wittenberg. Thank goodness for customized spell checkers.

  • Lucille (King) Hill

    Ken,
    I was excited to see the article on Wittenberg, Mo. because that is where I was born. I recall some of the building as well as the house that was owned by Nick Lungwich (?) He owned and ran the ferry boat. I will be interested in see other pictures you have on Wittenberg.

  • Rich Neal

    Only two buildings and three people remaining, eh? I remember in the 1960s getting some jars of quite-tasty apple butter that was made there. That autumn festival was fairly well known, as I recall, a “destination event” for those who cared about such things. How long it continued after that I don’t know, but I still think about it every time I hear the name Wittenburg

  • Ralph Littge

    Interesting. I live in Altenburg. Would like to know more about bygone the local historical events. Thanks.

  • Alice Rau (Marconi)

    Good to see the photos of Wittenberg. My grandfather and great grandfather Arther and Joe Mueller had the
    General Store in Wittenberg.

  • carmon collier

    I`ve worked on the railroad since 1975, been to wittenberg 100`s of times,also seventy-six.Very good article.

  • Monica Caldwell

    Ken,
    You should talk to Ted Wilson, he lives on PCR 460 down by the river. He is in his 80’s and knows a great deal about the area. You should also read the book titled “My Farm on the Mississippi” by Henreich Hauser (not sure about the spelling) it’s a great history of the general area there. Loved reading about this train robbery. We love seeing these old pictures. My husband’s family had land down there when he was a kid and now we rent a little four acre place with the most awesome view of Tower Rock possible. We are building a little cabin there and plan to put pictures of Wittenberg on the walls there. We have a few of the town from way back when.

    • I make it to Tower Rock every time I come back, particularly in the fall. My mother loves the persimmons that grow at the overlook next to the tracks.

      (I was disappointed to see one of them had been cut down when I was there the last time.)

      I’m hoping to hook up with some of the former residents of Wittenberg to photograph them. I may come knocking on your door when I pass through there in April.

  • There is a book (Pictorial review)about early Wittenberg authored by Mary Dillon, Indianapolis, IN, E-mail contact

  • Mary Dillon

    I am the author of the book, “Wittenberg In Touch With the Past”, and am pleased to find anything related to this historical town. My father, Orville Mueller, was born there. His father and grandfather owned a store which sat against the bluff and the quarry south of town near the silica pits. There was also a Mueller addition north of town which was named Frogtown because of an undertaking of two enterprising individuals who wanted to go into the business of raising frogs. There is nothing left of Seventy Six and I’m afraid Wittenberg is next in line for distinction. Hopefully we can keep this history alive by continuing to publish articles like this.

    • Mary,

      Is your book a large, very well done hardback with lots of photos? If so, I had a chance to look at it when I stopped in at the museum in Altenburg. I’d have bought one, but the gift shop was out of copies.

      I had brought along my laptop with my Perry County photos on it to see if I could get some help identifying them.

      As I was leafing through the book, I commented that some of the aerial photos must have been taken at about the same time as mine because the shadows were similar.

      Then, I said, pulling out my computer, “In fact, the photographer must have been sitting on my lap. The shot of that church has exactly the same cars parked around it as in my photo.”

      Someone else was credited with the pictures. I meant to follow up with the author to see how they were obtained, but didn’t get around to it.

      If this is the same book, perhaps we should talk.

  • Jerry Newberry

    My grandparents lived in Wittenberg when I was a child and I remember the town as it was in the 1940’s when the Frisco was still running passenger trains. I can still remember when the rock quarry south of town was working and there was a hugh old brick warehouse just to the north of Grandpa Hoehne’s house. My cousins and I would go to Nicks Place and drink soda and shoot pool when there was nothing else to do. I also remember there was a ferry boat that took cars across the river.
    Ah yes, those were the days.

  • Mary Dillon

    Ken,
    The book is green and was sold at the Museum, however now I am the only source. I still have some Wittenberg books left (published in 2006). This book has about 500 photos.I have just finished writing a book mainly about Altenburg, but it also includes Frohna, Seelitz, Wittenberg, Uniontown and Old Appleton. This book (published 2011) contains over 1600 photographs. I would be pleased to talk to you. My email is: mary2075@sbcglobal.net

  • Duane Telle Sr

    My father grew up here, born in 1925. He has shared alot of these stories. His name is Clinton Telle.
    He now lives in Altenburg but is going into a nursing home. There has always been something intriguing about
    this town.

  • My grandmother grew up in Wittenberg. Her name was Mary Ann Tripp. She married my grandfather from Grand Tower, William Thomas ‘Tom’ Yow. They moved to Cape and that’s where they raised my father, Raymond W Yow, born in 1914. My great grandfather Louis Calvin ‘Cal’ Yow worked in the silica mine. I visited Grand Tower several years ago collecting genealogical info on my family. There are some Yows buried in the Walker Cemetery at Grand Tower. My great grandfather Cal Yow went blind at a young age, not because of the silica but because a doctor put the wrong drops in his eyes when they became irritated. Consequently, the family was extremely poor. He made what living he could chopping wood over by Grand Tower.There was no such thing as Social Security or welfare back then.

  • Mary Dillon

    I’m glad that you’re still working on recording and publishing history and photos of the area. If you publish anything, please let me know.

  • Mary Dillon

    Responding to Irene Walther- I have a picture of your father, Fred, standing on the porch of the Mueller store in Wittenberg. If you would like a copy, let me know.

  • Jake Thorn

    Does anyone know of a Missouri Train Robbery in 1910? I have an ancestor, Charles Taylor, that reportedly was “Shot” off of a telegreph or telephone pole. during a train robbery in 1910. Charles Taylor was from Jefferson Co, MO. The story came from Chas son & who said his father died in 1910. The other story in the family was that Charles “worked” for the railroad & was killed during a robbery. If anyone can help out on this bit of Railroad history. That would be great.

  • I am currently working on a novel that incorporates some of Whitenberg into it. Of course, it is fiction, but I am very into keeping with the facts of a place that I write about. I can’t thank you enough for this article and all the comments. Made my research much easier!

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