Burglary was the most frequently mentioned crime in the 1904 newspapers, and a surprising number of the news items say the offender was nabbed at the scene or barely got away in a daring escape. When the crooks aren't crawling in through windows they're leaping out through them to avoid capture, running across rooftops or dashing down the street. It sounds exhausting, and likely was. Why wasn't burglary an Olympic sport?

Below is the most interesting robbery reported that year -- or rather, attempted robbery. The thief comes away empty-handed in every case except for the holdup, and that may well have been a different man; a guy who fled every risk of discovery doesn't sound like someone with the nerve for armed robbery. (A week earlier, the police had alerted Santa Rosans to take precautions because of "bad characters who are at present in this vicinity...many there are who are flocking here under the guise of hop picking, but would rather pick pockets," warned the Republican, Aug. 30.) Also: notice below that the victim's name switches from "T.J" to "J.T." in the second story, and note the policeman's rush to the scene on his "wheel" (bicycle).

The final item is from the Republican and adds color. "Trilby" was slang for a bare foot, after the shoeless character of the same name in a wildly successful 1895 play. And yes, "burglarious" is a real word.

Intruder Breaks for the Door and Mr. Davis Gets a Pistol and Follows, Firing Two Shots as the Burglar Leaps Over the Fence -- Police in Pursuit

T. J. Davis, the local well-borer and contractor, who lives in McDonald's addition at the corner of Fourteenth and Monroe Streets, had an exciting experience about half past three o'clock this morning.

He was awakened by something moving about under his pillow, and although he at first thought it might be a mouse he instinctively grabbed into the darkness. He caught the outstretched arm of a burglar who was attempting to remove Mr. Davis' purse from beneath his head.

The intruder jerked away, and Mr. Davis in the darkness leaped from his bed. The burglar dashed out of the room, and after securing his revolver from a drawer in the bureau, Mr. Davis hurriedly followed. The burglar had run to the back door, and his pursuer not knowing this made for the front. As he reached the porch he saw the unwelcome visitor leaping over the side fence and blazed away. He fired two shots, but it is not thought that either took effect, as the burglar disappeared at fast speed down Monroe street, headed for College avenue.

The police station was immediately communicated with and Officer McIntosh jumped on his wheel and struck out for the scene of the affair. Up to the time of going to press he was scouring the neighborhood.

- Press Democrat, September 10, 1904

Dropped His Pistol as He Was Climb [sic] Over the Davis Fence - Even Had the Nerve to Try to Rob Officer Hankel

J. T. Davis has a fine new hammerless Smith & Wesson 38-calibre revolver as a memento of the early morning burglar to his bedside Saturday, particulars of which have already been published in these columns. The weapon was dropped as the visitor went over the fence dodging bullets from Mr. Davis' revolver, and was found by the latter when he inspected the scene Saturday.

The burglar wore rubber soled shoes and could be traced several blocks after daylight by the marks he left. Investigation showed that he gained an entrance to the Davis residence by removing a window screen which he laid against the fence in the yard. He then crawled through the window and took pains to provide a means for hasty escape in case of necessity.

The back door had been unlatched and left adjar and the screen door on the porch unfastened. A small piece of candle was lighted and left on the floor so as to mark the location of the exit.


Earlier in the evening the home of Police Officer Herman Hankel was visited by a prowler. Some one attempted to remove the screen from the window of Mrs. Hankel's bedrom but she heard the noise and rising to investigate, she saw a man's head outlined against the sky, but he dropped down and crawled along on his hands and knees on the porch, jumped a low fence and disappeared. Mrs. Hankle called her husband and in his haste to catch the offender he rushed out into the street in his night robe but to no avail, as the burglar had too good a start.

[Another man reported hearing a prowler, and there was an attempted break-in at the train station. The suspect is also believed to have held up a man on King St. two days earlier.]

The prowler is evidently a stranger here, for no sane man familiar with the city would be likely to attempt to enter Officer Hankle's residence. That officer has a reputation for prowess that long ago made him a terror to most evil doers.

- Press Democrat, September 11, 1904


Some commotion was caused on upper Fourth street Friday night by the appearance of a large man in his "nightie" and holding a revolver in his hand. Those who saw the apparition in white were filled with wonderment and believed the man to be a somnambulist. Later they learned that it was Officer Herman Leon Hankel, who was in pursuit of a burglar who had attempted to force an entrance into his residence. The officer had not waited to clothe his sylph-like form in usual habilaments [sic], his zeal to capture the intruder on his sleeping hours being such that he forgot momentarily his lack of wearing apparel. His bare Trilby's suffered most from contact with pebbles as he paraded around the premises in search of the man with burglarious intent. The man was evidently a stranger in town, or he would not have attempted to rob the residence of a policeman.

- Santa Rosa Republican, September 10, 1904


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