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Robbery at Brownville

In 1869 the U.S. Express Company at Brownville was robbed when its local agent, Jacob K. Baer, reported that he was "sandbagged, shot and robbed" of the company money. However, the robber was not immediately apprehended, and suspicion soon settled upon agent Baer. He had paid off all his debts after the robbery and then left town. Marion Marsh Brown reported in her history of Brownville (Nebraska History, Spring 1974): "There was no problem in determining who the inside job man was. J. K. Baer, local agent, . . . . had written a letter to the editors of the [Brownville] Democrat:

"Gentlemen:-I suppose before you read this you will have heard the rumor that I have absconded with a large amount of money, which you can believe is true, and no mistake. The amount is about $12,000. Suppose you will get a job of printing circulars, giving a full description of me, when the superintendent (Mr. Quick) comes down. . . . Wonder how much reward they will offer for my arrest? Expect it will be pretty large, though. There is one thing, however, that you can give me credit for, . . . : I don't leave Brownville owing different parties any money, not even the printer, as I have paid all my just debts. Well, I expect when you hear from me next it will be to the effect that I am in the hands of an officer, as I know there are ninety-nine chances that I will be caught to one that I will escape; but I prefer to take the one chance for $12,000. There is only one thing that I feel sorry for, and that is my wife, but I don't think she will trouble herself much about me (at least I would advise her not to). Won't this make a splendid local for you? J. K. Baer."

A reward of $2,000 was offered, but it was many months before Baer finally turned up. He was sentenced to twelve months in the penitentiary, but only three months elapsed until he was pardoned by Governor David Butler. His wife, who had divorced Baer, then remarried him. J. H. Dundas, in his 1902 history of Nemaha County, reported Baer to be still living and an occasional visitor to Brownville.

(November 1998)



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