Just a Vegetarian gone Bad - by John McCoy

    Russell Bigelow Albin was an honest, hard working, decent Christian man, and he raised his kids to be the same way.  After all, they were descended from good, hard working, thrifty Scottish stock that came to America in 1739.  The Albins had been clearing the land and taming America ever since.  They moved west at every opportunity, being among the first to settle new lands.  Hard work was no stranger to them.  Nor was honesty, or service to country.  One Albin had even been hand-picked to be in General George Washington's personal body guard at Valley Forge.  This was the stock that Russell Albin descended from, so it is no wonder that he raised his children to be the same way.  Russell's youngest son, "Johnny" Albin, was a prime example of this.  As a York County, Nebraska, newspaper owner and publisher, he showed intellectual honesty that has not been seen in today's journalists.

    Russell must have had to wonder, then, what happened to his daughter, Elizabeth "Lib" Albin?  He raised her the same as the rest, yet for some reason she had been attracted to that no-account Jim Griffin.  Jim was shiftless, mean tempered, and a drinker.  Besides, he couldn't or wouldn't hold a steady job.  He blamed it on his wooden leg.  Jim did, when he was sober and not running around with his hoodlum friends, try to raise enough vegetables in his garden to support his family by selling the excess.

    Jim and Lib had seven children.  The first born, a boy, lived only a few hours.  The rest, Rosa, Minnie, Emma, William, Francis, and Mabel, all grew up to be good healthy honest adults.  The good had to have been the influence of their mother, Lib, and their grandfather, Russell.  It sure wasn't from their dad, James Wilson Griffin.

    In February of 1885, Jim Griffin was approached by two of his cronies, Alvin Maguire and Charles Daly.  They had cooked up a scheme to make some easy money.  Maguire and Daly were acquaintances of A. L. Pound, a private detective and guard at the Nebraska State Treasury in Lincoln.  Pound had told Maguire and Daly that if they shared the loot with him, he would turn his back while they robbed the state treasury.

     Maguire and Daly approached Griffin about it.  He liked the idea, but was concerned about Pound.  You see, Justice of the Peace J. H. Brown had sent Pound out to arrest Griffin on at least one occasion, and Griffin did not like the way Pound treated him on the way to jail.  Griffin approached Justice Brown on the street one day and complained about his treatment by Pound.  Justice Brown told Griffin that with his record of being a trouble maker and no-account, even in Illinois before he moved to Nebraska, he deserved whatever treatment Pound gave him.  So, Jim Griffin was bitter and did not trust Pound.  Besides, Maguire and Daly had no horse or gun.  All Jim Griffin had was an old sway-back nag that could barely walk, and an old pistol that he kept as a souvenir even though it no longer worked.

    It didn't matter, Maguire and Daly assured Griffin.  They only needed the gun for show, and a getaway horse really wasn't needed, as Pound was not going to pursue them.  Jim Griffin was still skeptical, so Daly and Maguire suggested they talk it over at the local saloon.  Several drinks later, the plan started to make good sense to Jim.  At 2 o'clock P. M. on February 28, 1885, Jim Griffin, Alvin Maguire and Charles Daly walked into the State Capitol building and headed for the treasury office.  The capitol building was busy, as the legislature was in session, and many people were coming and going between the legislature and the governor's office.  Other citizens were there to pay taxes, buy land, etc.

    When Detective Pound saw the trio, he pretended not to see them and went into another office across the hall from the treasury office.

    The slightly inebriated trio marched into the treasury office, with Jim Griffin's wooden leg making an echoing "thump" on the tile floors.

    Inside the treasury office, Jim Griffin pointed his pistol at the head of treasury Deputy Detective Bartlett and demanded money.  Mr. Bartlett threw his hands up in the air, but asked "What does this mean, men?  Is this fooling or business?"

    "No talk," replied one of the trio.  "Hand out that money and be quick about it."  Mr. Bartlett hesitated no longer, passing the cash on the counter, between $300 and $400, saying, "Here it is, help yourselves."

    Besides Pound and Bartlett, there were another detective on guard duty that day.  Detective Thompson, who was hiding in a small room beside the treasury office.  When the money was handed over, Thompson signaled Pound, who was across the hallway waiting for Thompson's signal.  As the trio of would-be Jesse James' walked out of the treasury office, Detective Pound stepped out in the hallway and shouted, "Hands Up!"  However, the trio knew that Pound was going to let them get away, so they kept going.  Pound then discharged his shotgun into the back of James Griffin.  Alvin Maguire immediately put his hands up, and James Daly dove out an open window, and got away (he was later captured).  Maguire went to jail and Griffin went to the morgue.  Russell Albins' son-in-law was now a problem for Beelzebub, not for the Albins or for the citizens of Lincoln.

    The legislature was so impressed with the quick actions of Detective Pound, Detective Thompson, and Deputy Bartlett, that they voted a reward for them that very day.  A reward of $1500 ($500 to each man) was approved by the legislature then and there.

    At the trial of Maguire, it came out that Pound had been part of the operation from the beginning.  Pound had figured this would win him some fame, and maybe a promotion.  It would definitely make him a hero.  And it did, for a short while, until the trial.  Pound himself was later brought to trial and found guilty and was sentenced to the state penitentiary.  Pound apparently had at least one friend in a high place, though.  As the marshals arrived with Pound at the state pen, the governor himself stepped forward with a full pardon for A. J. Pound.  Meanwhile, a wife no longer had her husband, and six children no longer had their vegetable growing dad.  Was it Russell Bigelow Albin that said, "Imagine that, a vegetarian gone bad"?

    Note:  This story is true.  Information was taken from the Nebraska Daily State Journal, March 1, 1885, The Omaha Republican, March 1, 1885, and the Lincoln Daily State Journal, November 12, 1885, as well as the Lincoln Journal-Star, October 31, 1993.  Ed Russo, the reporter that covered the Statehouse in 1993 for the Lincoln Journal-Star, is actually the person that made the humorous reference to a "vegetarian gone bad."

-- John McCoy

© Oldtime Nebraska -- "Just a Vegetarian gone Bad", submitted by John McCoy, August 2000