Col. Ball, Noted Figure in the Life of Holyoke, Part II

by Laurel | April 19th, 2013

09 October 1921

The Ball Robbery

About 11:45 the night of December 2, 1869, Col. Ball was awakened by a sound in his room and about the same time Mrs. Ball, too, was awakened, and asked sleepily, “Who is it?” A moment more and the bedclothes were thrown over the two and two men held them down and one of them pressed a pistol to Col. Ball’s head advising him to keep still or it would be the worse for him. He also called out to a third party who was working on the colonel’s safe to hurry. Col. Ball reached around behind the bed in the endeavor to get a sword cane that was there with a blade about six inches long, but was unsuccessful. After they had opened the safe and removed the six $1000 government bonds that belonged to the colonel and a $1000 bond that belonged to James F. Allyn they made their escape, warning Col. Ball that it would be dangerous to pursue them. Notwithstanding the fact as soon as he could get up Col. Ball without waiting to dress seized the sword cane and dashed down the walk in the snow toward the road in his negliges costume. He saw soon that it would be useless to pursue until he was clad and he dressed and notified James Murray and other neighbors and word was sent to  Deputy Sheriff Wellington.

Investigation showed that the three men had registered at the Massasoit Hotel in Springfield, the leader under the name of A. E. Stevens. Their original plan was to rob the bank which was located in the old Holyoke House; but they did not like to take the risk of blowing that up and instead, posing as tobacco buyers began to sound the storekeepers of the city as to who was raising tobacco and what their financial conditions might be.

Stevens who later was identified as Charles Williams, alias Wilson, and other aliases was a bright, well educated man and had been engaged in various confidence schemes. He was a smooth and convincing talker and easily learned about the richer men of the town. It so happened that tobacco had just begun to be cultivated by Col. Ball, James F. Allyn and a few others on Northampton Street. Under guise as a tobacco buyer Williams gained access to the Ball home and observed the layout. Tradition says that he was further aided by a sketch plan of the house that was drawn in the hallway of the building opposite what is now the Marble Hall block, and later a Holyoke man had to face the grand jury with the charges that failed to be proved in connection with it.

The robbery created a big sensation and the weekly paper followed it up for several weeks in quite metropolitan style, and finally Williams was caught in a New York den by Detective Keeley of the St. Nicholas Hotel. Col. Ball, Chief of Police W. G. Ham and a sheriff from Springfield slipped quietly out of Holyoke two weeks before the arrest, registered under false names in a New York hotel and kept up a continual search which was at last rewarded. Williams was wearing the most expensive clothes when arrested. It appears that the New York police were rather venal in those days and Williams was sneaked out of New York without formality and without the knowledge of the police of that city.

To be continued …

Col. Ball, Noted Figure in the Life of Holyoke, Part I

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

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