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History Blog: Robbery of the Alameda County Treasury

A robber hit the Alameda County Courthouse in 1855.

In 1855, the seat of Alameda County was Alvarado. The single official county location was the upstairs of a store that was used for all County business including Courts, the Clerk and the Treasurer. The County Treasury was located in a safe on the second floor.

On Feb. 14, Treasurer Marston opened the safe and discovered that all of the County funds were missing, including two purses of coins that Sheriff Broder had deposited in the safe. Upon closer inspection, one of the coin purses was found on top of the safe. The total amount in the safe was $12,555.31.

Sheriff Broder and Dr. Travis headed immediately to San Francisco, thinking that an earlier visitor to the Courthouse might be the robber. There they met Alameda County Judge A. M. Crane, informed him of the robbery and got him to assist in looking for the suspect. After watching all of ship departures, no trace was found of the man.

Upon their return to Alvarado, they started searching around the Courthouse before it got dark. In his written account from Feb. 16, Judge Crane details the search:

From all the circumstances, which had come to my knowledge, I strongly suspected that the money was yet concealed somewhere about Alvarado, and arriving here this evening after examining localities, etc., I ordered a search around and under the building used for a Court House. On the back of this building and some six feet under I saw an old boot, which upon drawing out with my cane, I found to contain a purse of $1,578, mostly in $20 pieces. Upon a search in and under the other side of the building, a small bag, made of doubled cotton cloth, was drawn out by a rake, in which were three purses, containing in all, $2,840. So that up to this time $4,410.00 of the money that has been recovered. All this was found within three-fourths of an hour after my arrival. Night coming on the search has suspended until morning, and in the meantime a Sheriff’s posse of a dozen men are on patrol to see that no one leaves. The amount still missing, including the $200 of the Sheriff is $7,545.31. Whether any portion of this will be found, tomorrow will determine.”

The next day a through search was made but no additional funds were found. There was no final resolution to the robbery and no arrests were made.

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John Esmeyer September 06, 2012 at 12:44 AM
I like reading about history, especially where I live. Um, I wonder if it is still out there buried somewhere close to where the courthouse was located. Time to tune up the metal detector.
Fred Eiger September 08, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Hell, I thought this was about the current Board of Supervisors.

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