Not many individuals know the small print of one in every of Alberta’s most dramatic crime tales — the nice prepare theft of the Crowsnest Move, which occurred 100 years in the past, this weekend.
On Aug. 2, 1920, three males boarded a prepare in Lethbridge, rode quietly after which robbed the passengers and conductor simply previous Coleman within the rugged Crowsnest Move.
It didn’t finish nicely.
The boys acquired away that day; one escaped to the U.S., and the opposite two had been ultimately killed in a shootout with police on the Bellevue Cafe.
- WATCH | Go to the positioning of the prepare theft within the video above.
Crowsnest Museum and Archives has deliberate a week-long series of events to mark the anniversary.
“It is actually I believe a narrative that must be extra extensively instructed, and we’re utilizing this 100th anniversary to attempt to shed some mild on it,” Chris Matthews, the museum’s govt director, instructed The Homestretch.
“That is simply one of many many distinctive tales of our space down right here and simply one other chapter within the fairly dynamic historical past ebook of the previous, beginning with the Frank slide of 1903 and going right through,” Matthews stated.
“There’s just a few nice tales, nice historical past popping out of this space and this is among the ones that is not as well-known.”
This story began when the three Russian males — George Arkoff, Alex Auloff and Tom Bassoff — determined to drag off the daring theft.
“The hearsay was that they thought one of many native rum runners, Emilio Picariello, was on the prepare with a big sum of cash — in all probability in poor health gotten cash — however he was not on the prepare,” Matthews stated. “All they acquired all they acquired away with was about $400 in money and a few valuables.”
A type of valuables was the conductor’s pocket watch.
That watch is now on show within the museum, the one artifact immediately linked to the entire affair, from prepare theft via to shoot-out on the Bellevue Cafe, to the seize of the ultimate, elusive thief years later.
However on that day, the robbers would don’t know of the position that watch would play.
Within the second, they had been targeted on escaping with their loot.
Ian Mackenzie, volunteer with the Crowsnest Heritage Initiative, stated that is nonetheless the one recognized armed prepare theft in Alberta’s historical past.
He stated the prepare got here to a cease in a location the robbers did not count on, and that is the place they determined to flee.
Arkoff, Auloff and Bassoff jumped off and the passengers watched the lads disappear into the woods.
“You may think about that the passengers of the prepare had been fairly excited,” Mackenzie stated.
“The prepare continued on to the subsequent cease, which is Crowsnest, and at that time the workers alerted the CPR police and likewise the opposite regulation enforcement brokers of what had occurred.”
A manhunt ensued.
“It was at that time, probably as a result of there wasn’t as a lot loot on the prepare, that Alex Auloff, he left to the group and headed down towards the US and form of escaped,” Matthews stated.
“However, oddly sufficient, George Arkoff and Tom Bassoff, they stayed within the space. They had been even noticed in a number of the city websites incessantly because the manhunt was being carried out by a number of authorities — CPR Police, RCMP and the Alberta Provincial Police (APP).”
5 days later, on Aug. 7, the 2 confirmed up on the Bellevue Cafe. That is the place the extra well-known occasion occurred — the shootout that left one of many robbers and two law enforcement officials useless.
“I pass over most of the grim particulars of this shootout,” Matthews stated. “However the end result was one of many bandits, Arkoff, APP Constable Bailey and RCMP Corporal Usher had been killed. And Tom Bassoff acquired away. And he was nonetheless a fugitive.”
The Bellevue cafe remains to be standing, although not open to the general public.
“You may come into the previous city, the group of Bellevue, drive down Essential Road and it is proper there so that you can see,” Matthews stated. “That, and the pocket watch, are just about the one artifacts that actually you possibly can expertise with this story.”
Within the days following the prepare theft and the shootout, the manhunt was nicely documented in regional papers together with Lethbridge, Calgary and the native papers within the Crowsnest Move.
The story acquired extra consideration three years later.
“The Alberta Provincial Police really tracked down Alex Auloff, who had fled to the states, and arrested him on a tip that the pocket watch that that they had stolen confirmed up in a pawnshop in Portland, Ore.,” Matthews stated.
“They usually really traced Alex Auloff all the way in which to Butte, Mont., the place they arrested him and introduced him again to Alberta. And he was tried and sentenced to seven years in jail for his half within the prepare theft.”
The museum has pulled collectively a spread of on-line occasions to mark the anniversary, together with a digital bus tour of the crime scenes and every day “100 years in the past” updates.
“We even have the newsreels recreated for every day of this manhunt and the saga surrounding the prepare theft and shootout, and people are on every day,” Matthews stated. “We will probably be dwell streaming a memorial service for the fallen law enforcement officials that had been concerned on this saga, and that will probably be really on the day of the lethal shootout, which will probably be Aug. 7.”
There may even be a Mystery Towns Tour known as the Blairmore heritage digital hunt, an artwork gallery show and a rustic market.
Matthews encourages anybody who cannot make a visit out to the realm to see the cafe, or go to the restored RCMP constructing that now homes the museum, to take part just about at house.
For full particulars and the entire schedule of occasions, go to www.cnpheritagefest.ca
With recordsdata from The Homestretch.