The Chariton Leader, Chariton, Iowa
Saturday, April 7, l877


From the Osceola Sentinal.

From Sheriff Ballou, who returned from Leon Monday, we get the following particulars concerning the attempted robbery of the County Treasurer's safe at Decatur County.

About 4 o'clock A.M. last Sunday morning the people of Leon were startled by a loud explosion. After daylight it was discovered that the new Court House was almost a wreck. The vault was utterly ruined, the whole west end of the court house was blown out, the floor ripped up, and a portion of the roof torn away. The damage is estimated at $6,000 to the building. The safe which contained $l0,000 remained unopened and unhurt.

Suspicion rested upon W.W. VAN SCHAAICK, a hardware merchant of Leon, who on Sunday left town, in a private conveyance for Osceola, in company with a strange woman named MERTIE LEE, from Ottumwa. A telegram was sent to Sheriff Ballou to arrest this couple which he did and returned them to Leon on Sunday. The woman squealed on VAN and a young man, H.REED. MERTIE occupied a room over VAN's store and directly opposite and she witnessed the movements of VAN and REED, the robbers. REED remained in her room while VAN placed the powder in the vault and set fire to it. These men threatened MERTIE's life if she ever told on them and also demanded in case they were arrested she should swear that both VAN and REED were in her room all of Saturday night. The girl though confessedly following a disreputable business, seems to be truthful, and not disposed to screen these two bad men who it seems brought her from Ottumwa to play an important though not voluntary part in the robbery. It is said that a sack containing a set of burglar tools were found in VAN's possession. The opinion is that VAN and REED are the right men. It would seem that the explosion of powder occurred sooner than was arranged for on the programme.

A few days before this there had been $40,000 in the safe. The two men are in irons, the woman is only detained as a witness.

VAN SCHAAICK has resided in Leon some years, does a respectable business as a hardware dealer, is supposed to be financially "well fixed" and has a very intelligent, good wife and bright little son.

It was one time reported that ROBERT HOGUE, formerly of this place was implicated in the robbery, but Sheriff Ballou at Leon, ascertained this to be a mere rumor without a foundation.

Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
November 25, 2003

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