Cowgirl Hotlist

Our Newsletter to your inbox every week!

Wild Women Of The West: Kate Warne And The Pinkerton Detective Agency – Part 1

"When Kate Warne arrived at Allan’s office the following day and he announced he would give her a job she became the nation’s first female detective..."

April 04, 2018

Photo from the television show The Pinkertons.

The depot of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad in Philadelphia was strangely bustling with an assortment of customers on the evening of February 22, 1861. Business men dressed in tailcoats, high waisted trousers, and elaborate cravats milled about with laborers adorned in faded work pants, straw hats, and long dusters. Ladies wearing long, flouncy, bell-shaped dresses with small hats topped with ribbon streamers of blue, gold, and red mingled with women in plain brown skirts, white mutton sleeve blouses and shawls.  Some of the women traveled in pairs conversing in low voices as they walked from one side of the track to the other. Most everyone carried carpet bags or leather valises with them.

The depot was the hub of activity; parent and child, railroad employees, and young men in military uniforms made their way with tickets in hand and destinations in mind. Among the travelers were those who were content to remain in one place either on a bench reading a paper or filling the wait time knitting. Some frequently checked their watches and others drummed their fingers on the wooden armrests of their seats.  There was an air of general anticipation. It was chilly and damp and restless ticket holders studied the sky for rain. In the far distance thunder could be heard rumbling.

At 10:50 in the evening an engine and a few passenger cars pulled to a stop at the depot and a conductor disembarked.  The man was pristinely attired and neatly groomed. He removed a stopwatch from his pocket and cast a glance up and down the tracks before reading the time.  The conductor made eye contact with a businessman standing near the ticket booth who nodded ever so slightly. The businessman adjusted the hat on his head and walked to the far end of the depot where a freight loader was pushing a cart full of luggage toward the train.  The freightman eyed the businessman as he passed by and the businessman turned and headed in the opposite direction. Something was about to happen and the three individuals communicating in a minimal way were involved.

Three well-built men in gray and black suits alighted from one the cars as the freightman approached.  One of the men exchanged pleasantries with the baggage handler as he lifted the suitcases onto the train and the two other men took in the scene before them.  Somewhere out of the shadows of their poorly lit platform a somber dressed, slender woman emerged. At first glance she appeared to be alone. She stood quietly waiting for the freightman to load the last piece of luggage.  When he had completed the job and was returning to the ticket office she walked briskly toward the train.

The woman’s hand and wrist were hooked in the arm of a tall man, dark and lanky, wrapped in a heavy traveling shawl.  He wore a broad-brimmed, felt hat low on his head and was careful to look down as he hurried along. When he and his escort reached the car the woman presented her tickets to the conductor who arrived at the scene at the same time.  “My invalid brother and I are attending a family party,” she volunteered. After examining the tickets for a moment the conductor stepped aside to allow the pair to board. Protectively and tenderly, the woman took her brother’s arm and helped him to the stairs leading up the train.  With an air of reluctance the lean, angular man climbed aboard.

The porter at the top of the steps kindly greeted the siblings and escorted them down a long, narrow passageway to their sears.  The man and woman followed along obediently.

The conductor signaled the engineer and called out “All’s well.”  The three men in gray and black suits stepped off the train and spanned out in different directions, with two men heading toward the engine and one to the back of the passenger car.  They surveyed the area around the vehicle carefully and when it seemed no one suspicious was loitering about the men jumped back on the train; as the train built up steam and pulled away from the station the keen-eyed protectors continued to be on guard.

The porter deposited sister and brother in front of a double door that led to a sleeper car.  The accommodations were modest – an upper and lower berth on either side of the narrow walkway.  The shades on the windows next to the berths were down so no one could see in or out. Allan Pinkerton, a hefty Scotsman with a beard and no mustache considered the man and woman standing in the entrance of the car.  After a brief, tense moment the tall man shed the shawl around his shoulder, removed his hat, and extended hand to Allan to shake. Allan smiled slightly and took the man’s hand. “Mr. Lincoln,” he proudly responded. President elect Abraham Lincoln responded with a grin.  The politician turned to the woman next to him and handed her his shawl. “I am sensible, ma’am,” he said sincerely, “of having put you to some inconvenience – not to speak of placing you in danger.”

“Kate…Mrs. Warne,” Allan announced is one of the Pinkerton Agency’s most competent detectives.

“I believe it has not hither to been one of the prerequisites of the presidency to acquire in full bloom so charming and accomplished a female relation,” Mr. Lincoln added.

Kate looked up into the kindly face of the President elect and smiled graciously.  The train whistle sounded and Mr. Lincoln crowded himself and his worn traveling bag into one of the berths.  Kate took a seat on a bench between the President elect and the door of the car. Her chief article of baggage was a loaded pistol.

Chicago in the summer of 1856 was booming.  Since its’ incorporation in 1837, it had grown from a moderately populated plains town to a major lake port and industrial center.  Shipping and railroad lines were established there and hotels, churches, and theatres mushroomed around the prosperous enterprises. The streets were continually crowded with people coming and going from the numerous houses being built.  The sound of sawing, hammering, and shouts of workmen were commonplace. With the growth in citizenry came a growth in crime. The need to restrain the increase in robberies and murders was great. Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish born barrel maker turned law enforcement agent, established the first business to battle against such illegal activity.

Allan Pinkerton and attorney Edward A. Rucker formed the Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1850, opening an office in the heart of Chicago.  In letters to potential clients they announced that the agency would attend to the “investigation and drepredation [sic] of frauds and criminal offenses; the detection of offenders, procuring arrests and convictions, apprehension, or return of fugitives from justice, or bail; recovering lost or stolen property, obtaining information, etc.”

In addition to Edward Rucker, Allan had a staff of a half dozen capable men dedicated to ridding the communities of outlaws that terrorized.  He was diligent about keeping reports on the cases the company handled. Reviewing the material helped him to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the work the agency was doing, how to improve on their success, and what new techniques needed to be employed to assure an arrest.

One early afternoon in 1856, Allan was reading over a file from one of the agencies most newsworthy cases.  It was the capture of Jules Imbert, a famous French forger. Pinkerton agent, George H. Bangs, a tall, fine looking man of commanding presence and a close student of human nature, was the lead detective on the investigation.  Imbert had obtained four drafts (a check drawn by a bank on its own funds in another bank) amounting to $15,000 from August Belmont and Company, a popular banking firm, and by forgeries he secured over $30,000 from unsuspecting New York bankers, after which he fled the country.  He was traced by George to Canada and captured.

With no effort at subterfuge, George accused Imbert directly of forging checks and by sheer pluck managed to get the criminal to confess to his crime.  Once Imbert confessed, the Pinkerton agent and his prisoner started for home via the train. George fastened the forger’s right wrist to his own with his handcuffs.   After traveling a hundred miles, Imbert drifted off to sleep. George, who was exhausted, followed suit. When he awoke he found to his irritation that the Frenchman had picked the lock of the handcuffs and escaped.

The last stop the train made before entering the United States was s station called Fonda.  George felt sure the prisoners had left the car at this point. George had the train stopped and retraced the distance on foot.  It was late at night and he went to the main hotel in town and asked for a bed, intending to begin his search in the morning. The hotel clerk said the only bed he could have was one which was already occupied by a recent arrival.  Glad to sleep anywhere, George accepted the offer.

When he turned down the coverlet of the bed he saw to his astonishment and delight that his companion was his recent prisoner.  He quickly subdued Imbert and the following morning the pair boarded a train and returned safely to New York. Imbert was tried, convicted, and sent to state prison where he died eight years later.

George had been lucky in the recapture of the forger, but Allan didn’t like to depend on good fortune in apprehending suspects.  He was pondering how much the company had progressed since starting the agency when his secretary announced that a young woman was waiting to see him.  Allan rose to his feet as the slender, brown-eyed woman entered his office. Kate Warne politely introduced herself. She was bold and unintimidated. Allan described her in his memoirs as a lady “graceful in movement and self-possessed.”  “Her features, although not what could be called handsome,” he also wrote, “were decidedly of an intellectual cast. Her face was honest which would cause one in distress instinctively to select her as a confidant.”

Kate had come to the Pinkerton Detective Agency in search of a job.  She was a widow with no children and had definite ideas about what she wanted to do for work.  Allan assumed she was searching for a job as a secretary. He was surprised to learn Kate was not looking for clerical work, but actually answering an advertisement for detectives he had placed in one of the Chicago newspapers.  “It was not the custom to employ women detectives,” Allan later wrote. “Indeed, I’d never heard of a female detective.” He did not immediately dismiss the notion and Kate wouldn’t have let him if he tried because she was determined.  She explained quite persuasively how she could be of service. “Women could be most useful in worming out secrets in many places which would be impossible for a male detective,” Allan remembered her saying. “A woman would be able to befriend the wives and girlfriends of suspected criminals and gain their confidence.  Men become braggarts when they are around women who encourage them to boast. Women have an eye for detail and are excellent observers.

Kate had thought the idea out thoroughly and Allan could see the rationale behind granting her request, but he asked her for twenty-four hours to consider having a woman on his payroll.

Allan was a keen businessman.  His vision for the agency was for the public to see that being a detective was a profession and not merely an occupation.  Allan was creating a unique service that would command a great respect for the trade. Men in his employ were referred to as operatives and not detectives.  Detectives, particularly in the Chicago area were seen as abusive police officers who looked for evidence to solve a crime. Corrupt law enforcement officers weren’t opposed to behind the rules to get their man.  Operatives were to behave in a more dignified manner, to be beyond reproach, and possess refined skills. An operative could be an expert in handwriting analysis, disguises, or tracking. The Pinkertons would come to specialize in not only getting their man or woman, but also notifying the criminals’ giveaway characteristics or distinguishing marks with a novelist’s eye.

Allan expected his operatives to be well-groomed and polite.  He maintained detailed records of not only the subject or situation his staff was charged with investigating and the clients who hired them, but he expected no less than the meticulous note taken by those working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency.  Allan believed procedures and priorities combined would define the industry and alleviate the trade to one of great respectability. He wasn’t opposed to defying convention to improve the agency. He wanted the company to have a reputation for using innovative methods to achieve its goals.  That was one of the motivating factors that led to his agreeing to hire a woman.

When Kate Warne arrived at Allan’s office the following day and he announced he would give her a job she became the nation’s first female detective.  As was the standard, Allan started a file on the ambitious lady operative that included a variety of pertinent information about her life before becoming an agent.

According to the March 21, 1868, edition of the Philadelphia Press, Kate Warne was born in 1830 in the town of Erin Chemung County, New York.  Her parents, Israel and Elizabeth Hulbert, struggled financially and Kate had few opportunities of education. She married at a young age and was widowed by early 1856.  She then moved to Illinois with her parents and her brother Allan. Kate realized the importance of finding employment if she was to support herself and provide some for her family.  Her first job in the city was as a house cleaner, but it was unsatisfying to her. Kate wanted to prove herself at a position that challenged her mind. The McArthur Enquirer from March 19, 1868, referred to her as a “marked woman among her sex, with a large, active brain, great mental power, an excellent judge of character, strong active vitality.”  The Pinkerton Detective Agency was precisely the employment her “active brain” required.

The detective agency Kate so fearlessly approached for a job was contracted by several prominent railroad lines to guard the rolling stock transported across the Midwestern frontier.  The company provided police protection for the Illinois Central, Michigan Central, Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana, Chicago and Galena Union, Chicago and Rock Island, Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroads.  The Pinkerton Detective Agency received retainers of various amounts to secure the passenger’s and property aboard the train. He agreed in writing to have on hand a “sufficient number of reliable, active and experienced assistants, to enable the agency to respond to the call of any; or either of the said companies without delay, and in case the business of either of them shall be of an unusually urgent character, and needing either more assistants or those having different qualifications than those then in their employ, they shall procure as soon as practical as many as may be needed.”  Allan classified the hiring of Kate as “procuring the assistants of those having different qualities.”

Kate Warne joined a staff of nine operatives including Allan Pinkerton.  Among those men employed by the agency was Timothy Webster, a former New York City police officer; Pryce Lewis, a former book salesman; John Scully, a quick-witted British gentleman who was prone to drinking too much; John H. White, regarded by Allan as a shrewd hand; John Fox, a former watchmaker from New England, Adam Roche, a German known as the Flying Dutchman, whose only vice was tobacco; R. Rivers, a tenacious, athletic man who would jog twelve miles rather than lose sight of a suspect’s carriage; and a thirty-five year old gentlemen named De Forest.  He was tall, remarkably good-looking, with long black hair. He was known as a perfect “lady killer.” George Bangs, Allan Pinkerton’s keen and resourceful right hand man was also a member of the staff.

In addition to the normal duties and responsibilities the Pinkerton Detective Agency had with the railroad lines the company also worked with attorneys, law enforcement departments, and government representatives.  Cases were subject to careful scrutiny before Allan would take them on. All of his operatives received a copy of a document he referred to as “general principles.” It outlined the prerequisites for accepting a case.  The agency would not represent a defendant in a criminal case except with the knowledge and consent of the prosecutor; they would not shadow jurors or investigate public officials in the performance of their duties or trade-union officers or members in their lawful union activities; they would not accept employment from one political party against another; they wouldn’t report union meetings unless the meetings were open to the public without restrictions; they will not work for vice crusaders; they will not accept contingent fees, gratuities, or rewards.  The agency would never investigate the morals of a woman unless in connection with another crime, nor would it handle cases of divorce or a scandalous matter.

Allan Pinkerton and his brother Robert, who helped establish offices in Chicago, but in New York, Baltimore, and Wisconsin as well.  The September 6, 1856, edition of the Janesville Daily Gazette, explained that securing offices in various locations not only enlarged the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s field of operation, but it gave the company an extensive acquaintance with the geography of the country.  “It also gave them an intimate connection with the police of other areas which enabled them to operate with unparalleled success in any part of the country,” the Daily Gazette boasted.

“A concern like theirs is of incalculable benefit to the commercial community and to the authorities of the numerous small towns, whose means do not enable them to maintain a regular police force,” the article continued.  “A timely application to Pinkerton and Company would enable them to get rid of the thieves and swindlers of various degree, who often make the smaller towns the field of their operations.

“Pinkerton and Company work quietly but efficiently, their detectives are shrewd, well drilled and intelligent, and capable of adapting themselves to the circumstances of those upon whom they wish to operate.

“A certain place is infested with thieves, or has been the scene of depredation.  A stranger appears in the neighborhood. He may appear to be a businessman, a speculator a sporting man, a rowdy, a loafer, a thief – it matters not which.  In short time after his appearance, the officers who could previously obtain no clue to the depredators, now easily find them out, and when they are secured or cleared out the stranger disappears also.  He was detective.”

Kate Warne was assigned to a case within two days of being made an operative.  Some historians argue that Kate’s early ambition to become an actress played a part in her success as a detective.  She was able to play a variety of roles while investigating criminal suspects. Perhaps she expressed her love of actin to Pinkerton during her initial interview and assured him she was capable of hiding her true identity while working a case.  In depth records about that meeting were destroyed in a fire in 1871. What is known is that Pinkerton saw something in Kate he believed would make a find investigator. Decades after his first encounter with Kate, Pinkerton wrote in his memoirs that “she succeeded far beyond my utmost expectations.”

Kate’s involvement in the investigation of an employee of the Adams Express Company, a freight and cargo transportation line, that ran throughout the southeast was documented by Pinkerton in a case he called The Expressman and the Detective.

The Adams Express Company was founded in 1854 and began personal delivery of securities, documents, and parcels between the financial centers of Boston and New York.  The company expanded rapidly, first through the south and southeast, and in time, expanding westward.

In 1855 Allan Pinkerton received a letter from Edward S. Sanford, Vice President of the Adams Express Company, explaining that $10,000 had been stolen from a locked money pouch somewhere between their Montgomery, Alabama, headquarters and a branch office in Augusta, Georgia.  Sanford wanted the agency to find the thief. Pinkerton’s initial assessment of the robbery was that someone from the inside had absconded with the money. He shared his thought with Sanford in a letter of reply and had not heard again from the businessman for more than a year.  In the summer of 1856, Pinkerton received an urgent message from Sanford requesting that the famous detective please hurry to meet him in Alabama. Pinkerton did as he asked.

A frantic Sanford met Pinkerton and George Bangs at the train depot in Montgomery and told him another $40,000 had been stolen.  Sanford informed the pair that he’d had someone closely watching the activities at Adams Express Company office there and didn’t believe it was an “inside job.”  Nathan Maroney, manager of the Montgomery office had placed the money in a sealed pouch before sending it on to the New York office. By the time the pouch had reached its destination the money was gone.  The October 6, 1883, edition of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reported that “a square hole, a clean cut made by a razor, was in the side of the bag, concealed from the public view by the outer pocket of the pouch.”

At first, Sanford and his immediate staff considered the funds had been taken by a messenger.  Each of a dozen messengers employed at the company were investigated, but all of them seemed to be trustworthy and never appeared to have done anything wrong.  Although Nathan Maroney had an impeccable reputation and was well liked in the community, both Pinkerton and George Bangs believed he was the most likely suspect.

Nathan was from Texas originally and fought in the Mexican War alongside a company of Texas Rangers.  Since moving to Montgomery in 1851 he had worked for a competing stageline known as Hampton and Company.  He had also worked as a treasurer for a circus. The circus disbanded after going bankrupt. It was alleged but never proven that Nathan had embezzled money from the circus.  A job as a conductor on a railroad led to a position at Adams Express Company. The management at Adams Express Company decided to watch Nathan for a time to see if he might lead them to the money they suspected he stole.

In the fall of 1858, Nathan took a leave of absence from Adams Express Company and traveled to cities in the east and the northwest.  Unaware that he was being followed, detectives observed that he spent a great deal of money on “high living”. He purchased expensive clothes for himself and his wife, stayed in the finest hotels, and invested in race horses.  His actions prompted an arrest. Nathan was charged with stealing $40,000.

The population of Montgomery was outraged.  The ex-Adams Express Company was so revered the townspeople admonished the company’s management for having him taken into custody.  Pinkerton later wrote of the incident that the public claimed it was “another instance of the persecution of a poor man by a powerful cooperation to cover the carelessness of those high in authority and thus turn the blame on some innocent person.”  Prominent townspeople believed so much in Nathan’s innocence they signed his bail bond.

The case against Nathan was indeed weak.  Without the assistance of the Pinkerton Detective Agency not only would the suspect go free, but none of the stolen money would be recovered.  Physical evidence linking Nathan to the crime was imperative.

Pinkerton initially assigned six of his most capable operatives to get to the bottom of the case.  Among those operatives were George Bangs, John White, Adam Roche, John Fox, and Kate Warne. White’s job was to establish himself in the community and learn all he could about Nathan Maroney.  Roche was supposed to shadow Nathan’s wife. John Fox was to set up a watch shop near Nathan’s parent’s home in Pennsylvania in case the accused visited and possibly tried to hide the money on the property.  Kate Warne, who took on the identity as the wife of a wealthy forger, was to befriend Nathan’s wife. A background investigation on Mrs. Maroney revealed she was from a respectable family and that prior to marrying Nathan she was a widow with one child.  As a young woman she had run away from home and fell in with fast crowds in New Orleans, Charleston, South Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia. She met Nathan in Mobile, Alabama and the two were married shortly thereafter.

Working in concert the operatives assigned to the case uncovered Nathan’s fondness for gambling, primarily on horses.  Pinkerton believed the compulsive habit had left the suspect in dire straits financially and that he’d stolen the money from Adams Express Company to cover his debts or future gambling sprees.  “It is impossible for the human mind to retain a secret,” Pinkerton wrote of the investigation years later. The plan was to supply Nathan and his wife with confidants whom they would entrust their secrets.

At Pinkerton’s suggestion a decision was made by the attorneys for the Adams Express Company to have Nathan rearrested on a charge of conspiracy.  A so-called forger was arrested along with Nathan. The forger however was not really a forger, but operative John White. Pretending to be a courier, White was placed in a cell with Nathan.  George Bangs posed as John White’s attorney.

Nathan’s wife was not in town when he was placed in custody a second time and subsequently moved to New York.  She was in Pennsylvania visiting family. While she was there she made the acquaintance of a handsome young man named Mr. DeForest who seemed quite taken with her.  He was complimentary of her looks and manner of dress. Mrs. Maroney was flattered and accepted invitations to dine with the stranger. She was unaware he was a Pinkerton operative.  Prior to her return to Montgomery anonymous letters were sent to Nathan about his wife and the company she was keeping. He shared his dismay over the situation with John White. John listened sympathetically to his cellmate’s concerns about his marriage.  When Mrs. Maroney came to visit her husband in jail he asked her about the rumor. She admitted to keeping company with the flattering suitor but assured her husband they were nothing more than friends.

Consumed with worry and frustrated that he was in jail and unable to intercede, Nathan prevailed upon George Bangs to help him.  He believe the attorney role Bangs was playing and had overheard him bragging to John White that the mind of the courts could always be changed provided an offender had enough money to do so.  George promised to represent Nathan but assured him the price for taking care of the situation would be an expensive undertaking. Nathan sent for his wife and instructed her to retrieve the money he stole to pay for the lawyer.

Mrs. Maroney left the jail perplexed.  She wasn’t sure if she should surrender the money or keep it for herself.  She needed to discuss the matter with someone. Mrs. Maroney recalled a woman she had spent time with in Pennsylvania during her stay.  She had met her at the Merchant’s Hotel and the two had become fast friends. The woman was kind, thoughtful, and generous. It was as if the women had known each other for several years and were free to talk about anything without fear of reproach.  The woman Mrs. Maroney felt she could consult called herself Madam Imbert. She portrayed herself as a polished, well-spoken lady of high class society. In actuality she was Kate Warne.

Pinkerton recalled in his case files the chain of events leading to the two women’s not so chance encounter.  “Madam Imbert, along with another woman named Miss Johnson, drove out to Jenkintown [Pennsylvania] and passed a couple of days at the tavern,” Pinkerton noted.  “They found that the rooms at the adjoining hotel, though plain, were very neatly kept and that the table was abundantly supplied with good, substantial food. Madam Imbert expressed herself well satisfied with the town, the purity of the air, and its beautiful drives and walks; and as her system had become rather debilitated by a long residence in the south.  She thought she would spend the summer there recuperating from her failing health. She made an arrangement with the landlord to spend the summer at his house, drove into Philadelphia and reported to me. She had her baggage sent out, and the following day returned with Miss Johnson and they took up their adobe in the tavern. It was here they made the acquaintance of Mrs. Maroney.”

Mr. DeForest was visiting with Mrs. Maroney when Madam Imbert saw the woman for the first time.   Madam Imbert was pleased to see how well Mr. DeForest had charmed his way into Mrs. Maroney’s good graces and realized that Mrs. Maroney struggled to keep her feeling for the handsome operative in check.  Madam Imbert stealthily followed Mr. DeForest, Mrs. Maroney, and her daughter, Flora as they strolled around the grounds of the hotel. Flora ran ahead of the couple and when she turned to run back to her mother the little girl tripped on a path near where Madam Imbert was standing.  Madam Imbert helped the child to her feet and brushed the dirt and gravel from her knees and hands. Mrs. Maroney hurried to Flora and scooped her into her arms. She introduced herself to Madam Imbert and expressed her sincere thangs for being kind to her daughter.

The following day Mrs. Maroney and Madam Imbert had lunch together, a brisk walk and talked.  Madam Imbert confided in her new friend that she had been traveling through the south in hopes that a change from her usual routine would bring her out of the melancholy mood she was suffering.  Mrs. Maroney felt sorry for Madam Imbert and determined to find out the reason for her being so sad. Mrs. Maroney noticed that Madam Imbert received many letters and that each time they were delivered to the hotel the woman broke into tears.  The two quickly became good friends and Madam Imbert eventually shared the reason for her unhappiness was that she missed her husband.

“Mrs. Maroney,” Madam Imbert said, sobbing, “I fear you find me poor company, indeed.”  Pinkerton reported in the tale of the Expressman and the Detective that Kate played the part of a lady in distress perfectly.  “You have a kind husband, a sweet child, everything that makes life enjoyable. While I am separated from my dear husband, far away, with no one to love me!  No one to care for me! I have bitter trouble, rendered all the harder to bear by the fact that I have to brood over it alone. I have not one friend in this wife world to whom I can fly for consolation.  No! Not one! My life is unspeakably lonely. You will forgive me for not being more gay. I cannot help it! I strive to be, but it is impossible. I often fear that my melancholy has a chilling effect on those around me, and that you think me cold and heartless!”

“Madam Imbert, my dear Madam,” Mrs. Maroney is noted to have said.  “Don’t you say that you are thought to be cold and heartless! Everyone feels that you are suffering some great sorrow, and all are drawn towards you.  As for me I have always tried to secure the sympathy of my lady friends, but I have only half succeeded. You are the first one in whom I have ever felt that I could confide, the first whom I wished to be my friend.  If you are in trouble and feel the need of a friend, why not rely on me? Make me your confidant.”

Kate would later tell Pinkerton that she was pleased that Mrs. Maroney was moved by her act.

“My story is a sad one,” Madam Imbert sobbed.  “I already value our friendship too highly to risk losing it.  If you were to know my history I fear you would turn from me in disgust.”

Madam Imbert’s tears flowed freely and she leaned on Mrs. Maroney for support.  Mrs. Maroney turned into one of the side pates and they took a seat on a bench. After much persuasion, Kate knew it was time for Madam Imbert to disclose her secret.  She told Mrs. Maroney that her husband was a forger convicted for his crimes and sentenced to ten years in prison. She wept aloud while explaining that she had been barred from seeing him by the courts.  Mrs. Maroney was understanding and tried her best to comfort her distressed friend.

Madam Imbert thanked Mrs. Maroney for her kindness and Mrs. Maroney shared that she too had a husband who was persecuted and “in the throws of severe trouble.”  Unaware of what had transpired, Mr. DeForest arrived on the tender scene to escort Mrs. Maroney on their daily constitutional. He asked the women if they were all right and inquired about what was the matter, but neither offered an explanation.  Before the party separated Madam Imbert assured Mrs. Maroney they would see one another soon. She was right; less than twenty-four hours after their last meeting Mrs. Maroney visited Madam Imbert at her hotel room. Mrs. Maroney informed her that she was going south for a visit but would return shortly.  She did not mention anything about going back to Montgomery, but Madam Imbert felt certain that was where she was headed.

Pinkerton operatives in Montgomery spotted Mrs. Maroney when she came to town and follower her and her daughter to the Exchange Hotel where they registered to stay.  She called on friends of her husband’s but none were as cordial to her as they were before. The townspeople who once believed Nathan was a fine, upstanding citizen had changed their minds about him and his wife.  Pinkerton agents never let Mrs. Maroney out of their sight. They hoped she would lead them to the stolen money. Instead, Mrs. Maroney made her way back to Pennsylvania and to Madam Imbert at the Merchant’s Hotel.

According to Pinkerton’s detailed account of the case, Mrs. Maroney finally broke down and confessed to Madam Imbert that her husband was a prisoner being held in New York at the instigation of the Adams Express Company who charged him with having robbed them of some $50,000.  Mrs. Maroney told Madam Imbert that the only friend she had was the abundance of money her husband left her. Madam Imbert tried to coax the conversation along. She believed the longer Mrs. Maroney talked the more likely she would be to reveal the location of the abundance of funds she mentioned.  Mrs. Maroney could not be persuaded to continue the conversation. She wanted to write a letter to her husband explaining where she was and what had transpired.

When Mrs. Maroney left to write the letter Madam Imbert snuck out of the hotel to inform the other Pinkerton operative in town to intercept Mrs. Maroney’s correspondence.  The letter was quite telling. Mrs. Maroney assured her husband that she had retrieved the money from the hiding place and stored it somewhere else safe.

The two women continued to meet and talk.  Mrs. Maroney grew to trust Madam Imbert more and more.  Mrs. Maroney eventually asked Madam Imbert to travel to New York with her to meet her husband in prison.  Madam Imbert was more than happy to oblige. Nathan Maroney was as impressed with Madam Imbert as his wife and after their visit with him Nathan told Mrs. Maroney that Madam Imbert was a trustworthy individual and that she should feel free to solicit help from her.

Not long after their visit with Nathan, Mrs. Maroney confessed all to Madam Imbert.  “My husband took the $40,000 from the Express Company, and also $10,000 previously.” Pinkerton relayed in the case file based on word from Kate as Madam Imbert.  “Now all is out!” Mrs. Maroney continued. “When he was thrown into prison in New York he sent me for the money which he had concealed in Montgomery, and I brought it here and have hidden it in a cellar.  Nathan wants me to turn it over to a friend and his attorney. But if I do that I’ll never see it again. In fact, I’m sure I never shall.

“You’re mistaken,” Madam Imbert assured her.  “Have confidence.”

“Confidence?”  she is noted to have said, “It would be best to run away myself!”

Madam Imbert managed to talk Mrs. Maroney out of the idea of running away and implored her to surrender the funds to the people her husband instructed.  Finally, Mrs. Maroney escorted Madam Imbert to a home with a cellar where the money was buried.

Madame Imbert helped dig the treasure out of the ground.  It was eighteen inches under the level of the cellar floor, wrapped in a piece of oil skin.  The money was then turned over to the Pinkerton operative acting as a courier for Nathan’s lawyer, George Bangs.  The stolen money was transferred back to the Adams Express Company. With the exception of $485.00, all the funds were accounted for.

Nathan Maroney was returned to Montgomery to stand trial for the theft of the Adams Express Company funds.  Just prior to the money being retrieved, Nathan confessed the robbery to his cellmate. The cellmate, who was also a Pinkerton operative, testified against the former express agent.  In June 1860, Nathan was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in the Alabama penitentiary. No charges were filed against Mrs. Maroney who decided to move to Chicago with her daughter.

Madam Imbert returned to Chicago as well.  She and Mrs. Maroney drifted apart and eventually Madam Imbert faded away.  Kate Warne had proved herself to be a valuable asset to the Pinkerton Detective Agency and would continue her good work for years to come.

Cowgirl Hotlist

Our Newsletter to your inbox every week!