This story is much longer than my usual posts, so I’m going to break it into three parts. Come back the next two days to find out what happened.
For all his escapes to come, Hugh Whitney started out his life of crime in such a reckless way his eventual capture would seem a certainty. He and an accomplice, perhaps his older brother Charlie or a man named Sesker, robbed a saloon in Monida, Montana on June 17, 1911. It would come out later that Whitney may have felt he was owed the money he stole. He had been drinking in the establishment the night before. He was blind drunk, and somehow lost what money he had, whether to a robber or in a card game is unclear.
On that Saturday morning Whitney and his friend went back to the pool hall, guns drawn, not bothering to cover their faces. They had a few free drinks, stole a little cash and whiskey, and sauntered down the street to the train station, where they casually bought tickets that would take them into Idaho.
The saloon keep telephoned Fremont County Deputy Sheriff Samuel Melton to report the robbery. Melton caught the train at Spencer. It didn’t take him long to find Hugh Whitney and the other man in the smoking room playing a game of cards with a couple of traveling men. Melton pulled his gun on the men and placed them under arrest. They laid their own guns on the table where the card game was taking place.
When Melton tried to cuff Whitney, the latter leapt for his gun, grabbed it, and fired twice into the deputy’s body. Melton was hit in the shoulder and chest. The train’s conductor, William Kidd, arrived on the scene at that time. He grabbed Whitney, but the robber shot him once in the chest. The conductor slumped over a seat.
Slipping quietly away at that point might have been the better course of action for Whitney and his partner. Instead, they made their way through the cars of the train blazing away randomly with guns in each hand. Whitney pulled the signal cord, then waited as the train slowed to a stop. He casually walked down the steps of the train, then turned and began firing into the cars as he backed away. This seemed meant to discourage pursuit. Just before he disappeared into the sagebrush, Whitney doffed his hat and waved it theatrically at the passengers.
Conductor Kidd died the next day in a Pocatello Hospital. Deputy Melton struggled near death for weeks but ultimately survived. Hugh Whitney got away.
We'll continue the story tomorrow.