How Karnes County Only Train Robber Was Caught

How Karnes County's Only Train Robber Was Caught

San Antonio Express, Sunday, Aug 14, 1932


Notes on Karnes County History


James Monroe Choate 1822~1899


"Falls City, TX." The Handbook of Texas Online.


Back to Karnes County Index


Contributed by Reed Bender, a Martin descendant.



On the afternoon of June 25, 1893, the little town of Falls City, then called Brackenridge, had its excitement due to a fusillade of shots and shouts and the quickly spreading news of a train hold-up.

A young Mississippian visiting his sweetheart in Texas and carrying a "six-gun" had a colorful part in what happened, which he related to the writer.  George L. Butler, who later became a Texan, now resides in Beeville, and is the father of Amos Butler, business man of San Antonio.  His story substantially follows:

"On the afternoon of June 25, we left San Antonio on the 1:20 train for Kenedy, where I had relatives and just as the train pulled out of Falls city, I heard two shots.  I saw Ed Steele, the conductor, jump from the train and in a moment he and Mike Tearney, the engineer, were running along the train shouting that a robber had killed their fireman, Frank Martin and was escaping up the track.

"I joined them and the three of us ran back to the engine which, Tearney detached from the train.  We gave chase up the track, when the fleeing outlaw took to tall weeds, concealing himsef and opened fire on us as we passed.  One bullet passed through the cab between Ed Steele and myself.  Before we could stop, the engine was half way across the San Antonio River, but Tearney backed up quickly as possible and we caught sight of the outlaw running diagonally from the track toward the river.  As we ran in pursuit he opened fire on us, which we returned, and in a moment he took refuge behind a small tree.  I fired two shots at him knocking bark from the tree each time, and to our surprise he threw down his pistols and called to us to quit shooting.  We found later he had been shot in an attemped escape and that experience was so painful that he said he preferred a chance at capture and the noose, and possible escape, to being shot up by a posse

"We took bell cord and tied the prisoner, carried the body of the murdered fireman to the depot where Dr. J. P. Hanes, held an inquest and later delivered the outlaw into the hands of Sheriff J. J. Seale of Karnes City, over the protest of the enraged men.

"The prisoner told us that near Hobson, we would find his horse, saddle and Winchester and also two of his pals, unless the latter had heard the shooting and fled, in which event we would find a large X drawn in the sand, as that was their prearranged signal.  We found the horse, the sign in the sand, but not the other outlaws.

"The outlaw was comparatively young, above average intelligence and had a criminal record.  He gave his name as John May, but we discovered his real identity to be Joe B. Giles and that he was the wild son of a respectable Dallas family.  He had served a term at Huntsville for horse theft and his confederates were thought to be ex-convicts, both whom were arrested.  Giles stoically refused to turn State's evidence and the others could not be convicted.

"Giles was convicted at old Helena court house and was hanged at Karnes City, May 25, 1895.  He met his death without a murmur and a further confession.  Mike Tearney of South Alamo Street, San Antonio, and I are the only known members that participated in the capture of Giles, who is still alive."

A number of the older citizens of Karnes County recall the robbery and subsequent hanging described by Mr. Butler.  Charles Korzckwa and John Moczygemba of Falls City are among the more prominent of these, while John Kuhnel, a leading merchant of Karnes City tells the writer that he encountered three men the morning of the robbery riding good horses and heavily armed.  Their questions aroused his suspicions and that night he recognized the captured outlaw as their spokesman.

Thus passed the only train holdup recorded in the history of Karnes County.

Contributed by Reed Bender, a Martin descendant.


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