By Rhonda Chalfant Contributing Columnist
August 12, 2014
On December 30, 1910, the Weekly Sedalia Democrat-Sentinel reported an attempted break-in at a Sedalia business. Constables and police officers arrested two young men for the crime, but soon learned more about the two than they had originally suspected.
The article does not give their exact ages, but says that both were “under age.” Laws at the time allowed newspapers to print the names of juvenile offenders, and the Democrat-Sentinel identified the two by both their names and the names and occupations of their fathers
At 12.50 a.m. on December 30, Deputy Constable Shoemaker discovered Blaine Walker, the son of I. B. Walker, a traveling salesman for the Armour Packing Company, and Theodore “Tate” Bunger, son of the late Fred Bunger, a saloon keeper, trying to break a window in the front door of W. A. Bard’s Drug Store at 108 West Main Street. He arrested them and led them off to the Pettis County Jail.
The young men refused even to give their names to Constable Shoemaker. As they were walking to the jail, the prisoners fell behind the constable. When they reached the Windsor Bar at the corner of Second Street and Lamine Avenue, the two ran through the back yard of the saloon, jumped a fence, and took off down the alley. Shoemaker followed. He fired a warning shot into the air but the two did not stop.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many downtown buildings featured apartments on the second story. Sometimes these were occupied by the business owner and sometimes were rented to families or individuals, both respectable and otherwise.
Fortunately for Constable Shoemaker, a man living on West Main had been awakened by the noise or the attempted break in and the arrest. He identified the young men. Constables Shoemaker and Brown went to Walker’s home at 309 East Second Street at 4:00 a.m. and found the two young men asleep. They arrested them and took them to the jail, where they placed the young men in a holding cell known as “big four.”
Later that morning, the constables, accompanied by Sedalia Police Officers Bower, Erwin, and Bryant, returned to the home with a search warrant. There they discovered dry goods, perfume, and articles from a drug store.
The officers separated the young men and “thoroughly sweated” them. Bunker revealed that on December 30, the two had broken a window at F. Taylor Cain’s General Store at 114 West Main Street and stolen $2.50 in nickels and pennies. Before trying to break into Bard’s Drug store, they had tried unsuccessfully to break into Dan Wilcox’s Drug Store nearby.
Bunker confessed not only to the attempted break-in for which they had been arrested, but also to a burglary a week earlier at the Arlington Pharmacy and the C. A. Guenther Dry Goods Store. The stolen goods taken in the search of Walker’s home were from this robbery. Bunker admitted that he had committed these alone.
The two appeared in Justice Rickman’s court for arraignment. They were charged with three charges of burglary and larceny and one charge of burglary. Bail was set at $500 each.
Police continued to investigate and began to suspect the two in another robbery, the taking of two pouches of mail from the Missouri Pacific Railroad depot.
The Democrat-Sentinel praised the officers for their work in arresting the young men. The next day, the newspaper printed a letter from I. B. Walker, Blaine’s father, who wished to clarify information printed in the account of the arrest.
Walker pointed out that the stolen items were found in Bunger’s locked suitcase which was found in the room he was renting in the Walker house. The Bunger family and the Walker family had once been neighbors, and Mrs. Walker had agreed to rent a room temporarily to Bunger because she felt sorry for him. Walker further noted that he and his wife believed the Bunger family to be “honorable and respectable.”