Cully Fire

Weston Leader,April 30, 1909


Heavy Loss Caused at Weston by Trio of Desperate Yeggs

 Sim J. Culley’s store at Weston was burglarized and set on fire early Sunday morning.  Heavy loss was entailed to Mr. Culley and to H. A. Brandt, owner of the two-story frame building which the store occupied.  Because of the high rate, the building was not insured.  It represents an investment of $3500, and was so badly wrecked that its repair may not be considered. expedient.  Mr. Culley carried a small amount of insurance on his damaged stock.

The fire was discovered about five o’clock, and the department was on the scene a dw minutes after the alarm.  Strong streams were soon playing on the blaze from three nozzles, and a smaller private hose was also utilized to advantage.  At one time it looked as though the entire range of wooden buildings was doomed, but by very effective work the department confined the fire to the Brandt corner, and had it under control within an hour.  The fighters are highly praised, not only by Messrs. Culley and Brandt, who asked that their thanks be publicly expressed, but by other property owners whose interests were endangered.  Allan Garnett moved out his harness stock with the assistance of many workers, but a corrugated iron wall saved his building.  He feels greatly pleased at the department’s work  A number of the fighters went on the roof and cut holes with axes on order to attack the flames to better advantage.  Normal students were active in this dangerous tack.  When the store could be entered, it was found that the safe had been blown open and rifled of $5, all it contained.  A tin box containing valuable papers was also missing but was afterward found int eh lower part of town, much to Mr. Culley’s relief.

The sheriff was notified and took the trail of the robbers , accompanied by Deputy Wilson.  The had stolen a handcar from the O. R. & N. tool house and were last seen crossing the Dry creek trestle about four in the morning.  The handcar was recovered near Freewater, and with the aid of O. R. & N. trainmen, three suspects were arrested by the officers at Wallula.  The wore hats, shoes, and gloves supposed to have been stolen from the store, and nitro-glycerin and burglars’ tools were also found in their possession Their names are given as J. A. Murray, C. M. Clarke and Michael Burke, all three are rated as crooks.  One of them is a young fellow of 20.  They demanded extradition papers which were secured, and they are now in the Umatilla county jail, where they stubbornly refuse to talk.  The capture is regarded as an important one, and creditable to the activity of the sheriff’s office, which under Till Taylor’s administration has become a terror to criminals.

There are two theories with regard to the origin of the fire – one that the yeggs were angered at their light haul and fired the building to emphasize their chagrin, because the proceeds resulting from Saturday’s closing out sale had been banked by Mr. Culley.  The other theory is the fire was accidental, and resulted from the explosion, unknown to the thieves.  Indications are that it undoubtedly originated near the safe, and it is pointed out, granting that the three men now held are guilty, that they would have separated and made a stronger effort to avert suspicion had they been aware of the serious consequences of their crime.

One life was lost: it was not a human life, but that of a noted female mouser name “Rusty”, long a familiar and popular attaché of the store, whose dead body was found on the floor.  “Rusty’s” feline ghost will no doubt haunt her murderers.

Mr. Culley, who has been conducting a quit-business sale, has moved his damaged stock to the Saling corner, opposite the bank, where the remainder of his goods will be disposed of.

The Right Men
The other day, Sheriff Taylor phoned to Sim J. Culley that one of the articles found on his prisoners was a camper’s purse, which contained a folding knife, fork and spoon.  Mr Culley missed this purse, which he carried while hunting, from the desk of his office.  Its discovery fixes the guilt of the prisoners beyond all question.

Contributed by Bob Gilliland