Chick Ambrass writes:
Just east of Lewistown, PA on Route 322 there is an area called the "narrows", a five to six mile stretch where the mountainsides on both sides of the Juniata river are extremely steep. The highway is on the northern side of the river, and the railroad tracks are on the southern side.
In 1909 there was a train traveling to Pittsburgh and beyond with a shipment of coins from the Philadelphia mint. In the middle of the "narrows" the train was stopped by a single man who had dynamite on the tracks. He robbed the train of several sacks of coins and disappeared up the mountainside. After an inventory was taken, it was realized that the only thing that was missing were several sacks of one cent coins!
I located the following online account of the Great Cent Robbery:
A daring train robbery made the news in 1909, with headlines proclaiming that ''Pennsylvania's Jesse James'' had held up a Pennsylvania Railroad express.
As the train reached the Lewistown Narrows, about nine miles east of Lewistown Junction, Engineer Samuel Donnelly of Harrisburg was surprised by a series of sharp explosions beneath the engine. The engine had passed over three sticks of dynamite, which blew off the cowcatcher and headlight.
After he slammed on the brakes, a masked man armed with two revolvers leaped up the steps into the cab.
The train was carrying three large safes containing an undisclosed amount of currency and five bags holding about $6,000 in gold and silver bars, and money was stacked in a corner.
The robber threatened the crew and fired several shots at the conductor, Isaac Poffenberger, wounding his hand. The robber then ordered the crew to carry several large bags of coins into the woods, had them re-board the train and fired several shots as the train pulled away.
When investigators arrived at the scene, they found the bags still in the woods. The robber had passed up the gold and silver bars and snatched bags containing newly minted pennies.
Police suspected James Lawler, who had been arrested in a 1903 post office robbery in Centre County, of being the masked bandit. Lawler had been in the area for three days talking to railroad employees.
Lawler was never found.
Apparently the investigators overlooked some bags. Chick continues:
in 1954, a couple of men were hunting on the mountain, and the one guy stepped, slipped and fell....on pennies....lots, and lots of pennies....they recovered over 3,500 1909 cents that had been laying there in the dirt for 45 years. They were all badly corroded, but were sold by local dealers as the find from the infamous railroad heist. Shades of D. B. Cooper!
So, I wonder how many of these were V.D.B.s? Any 1909 Indian cents? Too bad about the corrosion, but at least the coins have an interesting story to tell. Thanks to Chick for sharing this with us. -Editor
To read the complete article, see: Pennsylvania's Jesse James (http://www.pennlive.com/news/patriotnews/stories/150murders.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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