Mary K. Hamner
Piney Woods Journal Correspondent
This is a story passed down and cemented in by the grave. Daddy always took particular care of the ‘robber’s grave’ back when the family, once a year, scraped off residue, and then mounded up the family graves at Old Castor Cemetery.
The guy got shot, after he had robbed the Commissary at Chandler’s Camp. His companion in crime abandoned him. His family never came to claim his body. He was buried in a crude lumber coffin built by some who would have shot him too if he had robbed them.
Recently, I began wondering how much of the story about the robber was truth. A couple days spent at the Bienville Parish Library with microfilm copies of the Bienville Democrat yielded pay dirt. And here it is, the news story straight from the pages of the Democrat, (May 22, 1924).
Bandit Killed in Duel at Castor
Robbery of the Grace Logging Company’s commissary at Castor became so frequent recently that Manager W. H. Washburn and L. O. Tait decided to guard the place to prevent further robberies, stationing themselves inside the building last Friday night.
About 3 o’clock Saturday morning two bandits forced an entrance through the front door and upon finding the place guarded began firing and a battle followed. A showcase behind which Tait and Washburn stood was shattered but they escaped unhurt.
Following the fusillade, the bandits ran out of the store but one of them, struck twice in the chest, fell dead some 300 feet from the building.
Sheriff Currie was notified and with a party of deputies rushed to the scene and searched the countryside for the second bandit without results.
Efforts to learn the whereabouts of the slain bandit’s people failed and he was buried at (Old) Castor this week without his identity having been established.
After the L & A. Railroad had been built South from Sibley, Louisiana in the late 1800s, an extension from earlier lines, Bienville Lumber Company had established their mill at Alberta, La. Gravel Lumber Company moved into the area in the next two decades and later became Grace Logging Company, directed by R. F. Chandler, president. The Gravel Company was located between Lucky and Castor and they built their own train track, known as the Old Railroad Logging Tram.
” The robbers would ride the train out from Castor, hide in the woods until after dark, and then break into the building,” one story goes. ” They had broken into the store more than once and it must have been the same guys. They took stuff like overalls, some shirts, and food, but still it was stealing and it had to be stopped.”
“One of the men laying wait in the store shot up into the ceiling meaning to just scare the robbers, but the other one aimed to draw blood! They didn’t find the dead guy’s body until the next day. Somebody said it was laid up over a fence.”
“Nobody claimed the guy’s body so the community got together, built a wooden box to put him in and dug the grave toward the back of Old Castor Cemetery so as not to offend the other folks having families there. Some of the ladies from the church came out and put together a service of sorts. Mrs. Tugwell prayed a stirring prayer and they filled in the grave and laid the unnamed robber to his rest. Somebody asked Mrs. Tugwell why she came to the funeral and why she prayed for a thief caught in the act.”
Mrs. Tugwell replied, “Even though none of his family is here to claim him, he is still some Mother’s son.”
Mysteries intrigue us and we can only conjecture as to the identity of the robber and wonder why his body was not claimed. The legend lives on and the mystery is kept alive.
Each year, at Memorial Day, a vase of fresh flowers appears on the robber’s grave.
Note: A simple wooden stake marked The Robber’s Grave prior to 2004. Recently it was marked with a gravestone as a Local Legend.