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Wild Women Of The West: R.C. Potter

COWGIRL LIFE

Wild Women Of The West: R.C. Potter A female detective takes on an unsolved murder case.

RC Potter Wild Women Wednesday Cowgirl Magazine

In the spring of 1858, a friendly, two-horse match race attracted the attention of many residents in the town of Atkinson, Mississippi.  Mrs. Franklin Robbins and Mrs. R. C. Potter, both guests at one of the community’s finest hotels, had decided to see which one of their mounts was the fastest.  They had begun their afternoon ride in the company of several others enjoying the balmy air, blooming flowers, and waving foliage of the sunny, southern landscape.  Exploring a path that led to a bubbling stream, Mrs. Robbins and Mrs. Potter had lagged far behind the party and decided to narrow the gap when talk about who could make that happen first arose.  

For a few moments, both the horses the women were riding ran at an uneven but steady pace; then suddenly Mrs. Robbins’ horse bolted ahead.  Her ride didn’t stop until they reached the business district of town.  Mrs. Robbins slowed the flyer to a trot before she glanced back to check on her competitor.  Mrs. Potter was nowhere to be seen.  Mrs. Robbins backtracked a bit; her eyes scanned the road she’d traveled.  Her horse reared and threatened to continue the run, but she restrained the animal and pulled tightly on the reins.  “Mrs. Potter!” she called out frantically, “Mrs. Potter?”  Mrs. Robbins’ urgent cries drew the attention of the people with whom the pair had started the ride.   They had congregated in front of the hotel when they heard Mrs. Robbins call for help.  Not only did the fellow riders hurry to the scene, but men and women at various stores or saloons rushed to Mrs. Robbins’ aide.  

Through broken tears she explained what had transpired and asked volunteers to accompany her in her search for Mrs. Potter.  Many quickly agreed and wasted no time in following Mrs. Robbins.  She spurred her horse back along the roadway they had just traveled.  

The riders spread out in hopes of finding a trail leading to where Mrs. Potter’s mount might have carried her.  One rider spotted a woman’s scarf caught in a low hanging branch of an oak tree and made his find public.  Tracks near the tree led searchers to believe Mrs. Potter’s horse might have been spooked and out of control.  After several tense moments trekking back and forth over field and stream, Mrs. Potter was located.  She had been thrown from her ride and was lying motionless in a meadow adjacent to the home of the county clerk, Alexander Drysdale. Mrs. Robbins rode to Alexander’s house and informed him of what had happened.  In less than five minutes, he had improvised a stretcher out of a wicker settee and a mattress and had summoned four of his hired hands to help retrieve the injured Mrs. Potter.  She was groaning in pain.  She told those attending to her that her head hurt.  In a few moments, the hired hands had lifted her off the ground and gently placed her in the settee.  While being carried to Drysdale’s home, Mrs. Potter complained that her ribs were sore and her back was aching.  Mr. Drysdale sent Mrs. Robbins and the other riders on their way and requested that Mrs. Robbins return with a physician.  He promised that he and his wife would keep Mrs. Potter comfortable while waiting for the doctor to arrive.

Mrs. Potter was grateful for the Drysdales’ consideration and thanked them over and over again.  The hired hands were instructed to put her in one of the guest bedrooms and see to her every need.  

When the physician arrived, he examined her but could not determine the extent of her injuries.  He recommended that she remain in bed and not be moved.  He thought she would not have to be confined to bed rest for more than two weeks.  Mrs. Potter asked if she could be moved to the hotel, as she did not want to trespass on the Drysdales’ hospitality.  Mrs. Drysdale, however, refused to hear of such a thing as the removal of a sick person from her house and said that she would enjoy Mrs. Potter’s company.  Mrs. Potter agreed to stay with the Drysdales until she could move about without assistance.  

No one suspected that Mrs. Potter was an operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency.  They had no idea her real name was Kate Warne and that she had been tasked with infiltrating the Drysdales’ home to locate a murderer.  As Mrs. Potter, Kate had pretended her horse had been frightened and out of control and eventually threw her, that she’d been deposited purely by chance near the Drysdales’ house and that the injuries sustained in the fall were substantial enough to render her too fragile to move.  

Mrs. Potter had arrived in Atkinson, Mississippi, with her father, Mr. C. B. Rockwell, less than two weeks prior to the riding mishap.  The fine- looking, white-haired gentleman had remained in town long enough to see that the woman portraying his daughter was nicely settled at the hotel.  Once he was satisfied that she was comfortable and didn’t need him, he left.  Mr. Rockwell told the proprietors of the hotel that he had to return to their home in Jacksonville, Florida as his business required his immediate assistance.

Mrs. Potter, described by guests as a “distinguished looking brunette,” claimed to be a widow with no children.  According to Pinkerton, “she was tall and graceful, and her entertaining conversation made her a general favorite among the ladies at the hotel.”  She was not an invalid, but she told people the family physician had recommended she escape the rainy, foggy weather of Florida and take in the dry air of northern Mississippi for a few months.  Mrs. Potter made friends easily and was a much sought after companion by her fellow guests.  Her true motive for her congenial disposition was to acquire information about the townspeople who came and went and to ascertain which individuals behaved suspiciously and why.

Allan Pinkerton began his notes on the case that involved Kate Warne with news of a letter he received from Thomas McGregor, cashier of the City Bank of Atkinson.  Thomas had been asked by bank officials to write Pinkerton for help in solving a brutal killing.

A teller by the name of George Gordon had been slain, and $130,000 was stolen.  Pinkerton hurried from Chicago to Mississippi to investigate.  He traveled to Atkinson using an assumed name and claimed to be a cotton speculator; only Thomas McGregor and two other, key representatives of the bank knew his true identity.  In order to familiarize himself with the town and some of the people who lived there, Pinkerton roamed about Atkinson for a few hours before stopping by the bank.  Thomas met Pinkerton when he arrived at the business and then introduced him to the bank president, Peter Gordon and the vice-president, a Mr. Bannatine.  

All three men described the victim as an industrious man with an obliging disposition and courteous manners.  He had a spotless character and forfeited any leisure time in favor of work.  George had been with the bank for five years.  Pinkerton asked if he had any questionable friends or if he was involved romantically with any “fast” women and was told that George kept mainly to himself and was “unencumbered by female companionship.”  He had a habit of remaining in the bank after office hours to maintain the books.  Not only was he a teller but he also acted as bookkeeper.  His working late to accommodate regular customers who came in with a deposit wasn’t unusual.  

Two customers in particular had a habit of coming late to the bank when George was on duty.  One was a jeweler, Mr. Flanders.  Thomas informed Pinkerton that Mr. Flanders liked to put the most valuable pieces in the bank at the close of his work day.  The second customer was the county clerk Alexander Drysdale.  He used to stop by to make deposits in cases when parties had paid money to him after banking hours.  Alexander and George were friends and would sit and visit sometimes until nine or ten in the evening.  

As Pinkerton’s questions continued, he learned that George always had a set of vault keys with him.  Thomas told Pinkerton he had warned George against carrying the keys home with him.  During harvest season, a large amount of money was kept at the bank, and bank executives worried that someone might try to take the keys from him.  George assured the men he would be careful.  A week after their discussion, George was found murdered.  

Mr. Peter Gordon described the scene of the crime to Pinkerton in great detail.  George’s body was found in the morning when Mr. Gordon arrived at work at ten in the morning.  He knew immediately something was wrong because the doors were still locked.  Mr. Gordon’s clerk arrived on the scene just as he was entering through an unlocked, side door.  As the two men were preparing to open for business, they found George’s body on the floor between his desk and the vault door.  The direction in which the blood sprayed indicated that he had been standing at his desk when he was struck from behind.

George had received three blows to the back of his head with a hammer.  The hammer was lying near his body covered with blood and hair.  According to Pinkerton’s notes, the first blow was dealt just in back of the left ear while George was standing at his desk; he had staggered backwards two or three steps before falling, and the second and third blows had been struck as he lay on the floor.  

“The scene was most ghastly,” Mr. Gordon conveyed to Pinkerton.  “George’s body lay in a pool of blood, while the desks, chairs, table, and wall were splattered with large drops which had spirited out as the blows were struck.  I shall never forget that terrible morning, and sometimes I awake with a horrible chocking sensation and think that I have just renewed the sickening experience of that day.

“Well, I immediately suspected that the murder had been committed to enable the murderer to rob the bank.  I knew that George had no enemies who would seek his life, and there could be no other object in killing him inside the bank.”

Mr. Gordon told Pinkerton that the outer door of the vault was standing open and before he looked to see what was stolen he checked to make sure George was indeed dead.  “His body was cold,” he explained.  “I sent my clerk to get the sheriff and the coroner.  After he ran out the building another teller and I inspected the vault.  I found the keys in the lock of the inner door, and on opening the latter we saw that everything inside was in great confusion.

“Without making any examination, I closed and locked both doors, and sealed the keyholes with tape and sealing wax.  I determined to leave everything just as it was until the inquest should be held.  The sheriff and coroner soon arrived and a coroner’s jury was impaneled immediately, as, by that time, the news had spread all over town, and the bank was surrounded by nearly all the best men in the place.  In summoning the jury, the coroner put down for foreman the name of Mr. Drysdale, George’s most intimate friend, but it was found that he was not in the crowd outside, and when they sent for him he begged so hard to be excused that he was let off.”

Mr. Gordon fought back tears as he continued.  Pinkerton was sensitive of his feelings but needed to know more about where the body was found and what else was around George’s remains.  Mr. Gordon remembered that a bill from the Planter’s Bank of Georgia in the denomination of $100 was clutched tightly in George’s hand.  George had fallen on his hand when he was hit, and the murderer must have missed it.  Mr. Gordon turned the bank note stained with blood over to Pinkerton.  

Pinkerton learned from Mr. McGregor the clues left behind that might be of significance.  Something had been burned in the fireplace.   Clothes were suspected because several buttons were found among the ashes.  A charred, twisted piece of paper was also found.  Pinkerton inspected the paper which proved to be a fragment of a note for $927.78.  The signature and part of the date could be read as well.  The signature was that of Alexander Drysdale.

There was no question in Pinkerton’s mine that County Clerk Drysdale was George Gordon’s murderer, but the only evidence he had against him was circumstantial.  Bank executives wanted the culprit apprehended but just as importantly wanted the stolen $130,000 recovered.  Pinkerton devised a plan to remedy both problems.  

At first the bank executives were reluctant to go along with Pinkerton’s scheme but eventually acquiesced.  To implement his plan, Pinkerton not only called on Kate Warne but Timothy Webster and a third operative named Green.  Playing the part of a businessman from Baltimore named John Andrews, Timothy arrived at Atkinson a week prior to Kate and led those who met him to think he was rich and interested in expanding his holdings in Mississippi.  He registered as a guest at the same hotel with Kate and was regarded by the other patrons at the establishment as a man of great importance and influence.  

Posing as Mrs. R. C. Potter, Kate made fast friends with her fellow lodgers.  It was through one of those lodgers that she met Alexander Drysdale’s wife.  Mrs. Drysdale was kind, but seemed sad to Mrs. Potter.  She asked her friends if Mrs. Drysdale was feeling well and was told that the woman was preoccupied with worry over her husband.  It seemed that Mr. Drysdale had become withdrawn and deeply troubled in a short period of time.  Some speculated that he was having financial difficulties, and others believed his problems stemmed from an overwhelming sense of grief.  George Gordon’s death had so affected him he couldn’t even attend his funeral.  

It wasn’t until Alexander made the acquaintance of John Andrews that his peculiarities lessened.  When Alexander learned that John was interested in investing in land in the area, he invited him to visit his plantation.  Alexander hoped to persuade John to purchase the property next to his.  He was of the opinion that if John bought the struggling estate the two could combine their efforts to improve the land and increase the value of the individual parcels.  

The two men enjoyed a pleasant ride to the plantation.  Timothy Webster reported to Pinkerton that Alexander was “a man of fine education, and fascinating manners, who had, for reasons not made known to his loved ones, was disappointed, sour, and morose.”  By the time the pair had reached Alexander’s home, they had become well acquainted and agreed to go hunting the following day.

The scenery around the Drysdales’ sprawling house was bold and picturesque.  The road they traveled passed through heavy mosses of timber at times and crossed many ravines and rocky gorges, as it followed the general direction of the winding stream.  After a pleasant night’s sleep, John and Alexander set off on a hunting trip.  Game was plentiful, and the two were so preoccupied with the success of their venture they lost track of time.  It was dusk when they started back to the Drysdale plantation, and the mists of night began to form and spread over the landscape.  John rode ahead of Alexander.  Both were too tired to talk about the day’s activities.  Suddenly Alexander stopped his horse and let out a gasp.  John rode back to find out what was wrong.  All the color was gone from Alexander’s face.  He was trembling violently and could barely speak.  When he finally found his voice all he could say was “look there.”   

Pinkerton’s report of what transpired that night noted that John found Alexander extremely frightened and nervous.  “His lips were ashy,” Pinkerton wrote that John told him, “and he had a convulsive grasp on the reins of the horse.”  He was pointing at something in the near distance.  “It was a figure of a young man walking through the timbers, turning his eyes neither to the left or the right,” Pinkerton recorded.  “He [the young man] was apparently twenty-five or twenty-six years of age.  He wore a business suit of light gray clothes, but he had no hat on his head and his curly hair was tossed lightly by the breeze.  And when he passed through a clearing and the light from a rising full moon shone on him it seemed he was more ghost than man.  As he moved farther along the back of his head was more directly exposed and presented a ghastly site.  The thick brown locks were matted together in a mass of gore, and large drops of blood slowly trickled down upon his coat; the whole back of his skull seemed to be crushed in, while the deadly pallor of his face gave him the appearance of a corpse.”

Alexander called out to the apparition but the figure continued on its course.  John asked him who he was speaking to, and Alexander pointed toward the timber.  When John informed Alexander that there was no one there, he became frantic.  John tried to convince him that the moonlight must have been playing tricks on him.  Alexander was convinced he’d seen a ghost.  He made John promise not to mention the incident to his wife.  

Mrs. Drysdale could see her husband was upset when the pair returned to the plantation.  Alexander explained that he wasn’t feeling well and needed to go to bed.  He stayed alone in his room for days.  His wife offered to call for a doctor, but he refused to see anyone.  

After several days, Alexander emerged from hiding and agreed to spend time again with John.  He had taken up drinking and looked haggard but would not confide in his wife or John the source of his distress.  It wasn’t until Mrs. Potter was thrown from her horse and the Drysdales came to her rescue that Alexander was distracted enough to focus on something other than his own problems.  

Mrs. Potter’s room at the Drysdales’ home was next to her hosts’.  One morning she overheard an interesting conversation which she included in her report to Pinkerton.  The couple had awakened at seven in the morning, and Alexander opened the curtains.  Shortly after that he let out a sharp cry and fell into a chair.  Mrs. Drysdale was at his side in a moment to find out what had happened.  He reluctantly admitted to not feeling well.  His wife shared with him she wasn’t surprised because he’d been plagued with a terrible nose-bleed overnight.  Blood had been found on the sheets and pillows and on the floor leading out the bedroom door, downstairs, out the front door, and all the way out the front gate.

Before Mrs. Drysdale left the bedroom to tend to her household chores, she encouraged Alexander to go back to bed and get more rest.  Mrs. Potter heard him pacing and muttering loudly to himself.  “This is horrible,” she heard him say.  “What does this mean?  My God!  What could have done it?”  

John managed to coax Alexander from his room, and the two took a stroll around the grounds.  When John pointed out the blood on the grass and on the gate, Alexander claimed the blood must have been from an injured, hired hand.  

Several days passed before Alexander had another ghostly sighting.  This time he and John were joined by two other residents as they rode through the Atkinson countryside around the Drysdale plantation.  The ghostly object Alexander referred to as the image of the murdered George Gordon appeared near the same spot as before.  Although one of the men agreed he might have witnessed something moving, neither John nor the other riders could claim to have seen an apparition.  Alexander nearly collapsed and had to be supported on either side by his friends in order to make it back to his home.  He was then confined to his room too sick to receive visitors.

Pinkerton was made aware of Alexander’s condition and advised his operatives to continue their work.  He was determined to drive George’s killer to confess all.  

Less than a week after Alexander saw the ghost a second time, Mrs. Potter decided to help the land baron’s anxiety along.  About one o’clock in the morning she arose, quietly dressed, and stealthily left the house.  She walked to a nearby creek and began dropping blood from a bottle along the path to the house.  She splattered drops up the front walk, in the hall, and finally slipped into Alexander’s room and sprinkled drops on his pillow.

When Alexander saw the blood the following morning, he was panic stricken.  Neighbors and hired hands that discovered the bloodstains leading to the house were horrified.  Some believed the blood was from a would-be-thief whose plans were thwarted when he cut himself somehow, and others believed the blood belonged to an animal that was hurt and trying to find help; still others thought a ghost was somehow responsible.  

A few nights later Mrs. Potter caught Alexander sneaking out the house and following the trail of blood to the creek.  She watched as he waded into the creek and leaned over with his hands in the water as if he were feeling for something.  Satisfied that whatever he was hoping to find was there he walked out of the creek and returned home.

Alexander’s health was much improved the following morning, and within a few days he was able to go back to work.  Mrs. Potter and the operative portraying the ghost monitored Alexander’s nighttime activities which included regular visits to the creek.  The detectives were perplexed but didn’t waver in their duties.  The situation was getting desperate.  Mrs. Potter could only feign injury so long.  Eventually she would be compelled to leave the Drysdales’ home to return to the hotel.

One late afternoon she agreed to go for a short walk with Mrs. Drysdale, Alexander, and John.  She pretended not to be able to keep up with everyone because her legs were stiff.  Mrs. Drysdale stayed behind with her, and the men kept a brisk pace in the direction of the creek.  Alexander hesitated at first; it was twilight, and he was getting nervous.  John continued undeterred.  He was watching a hawk passing overhead when Alexander gasped and dropped to his knees.  Crossing the path on the opposite side of the creek was the terrible specter he had seen twice before.  It moved out of sight quickly.  Alexander fainted.  John called for help, and Mrs. Drysdale hurried to her husband.  Mrs. Potter hobbled to the scene as the hired hands rushed in from the fields to assist.  Alexander was carried to his house and deposited into his bed.  

When Alexander recovered, he was white as a sheet and shaking.  John was by his side, and he reached out and grabbed his arm.  “John,” he began, “did you see that horrible ghost?”  John shook his head.  “No, indeed; I saw no ghost,” he told him.  Alexander questioned his wife and Mrs. Potter, and both responded negatively.  The terrified man could not accept their answers.  John poured him a glass of brandy, and Alexander drank it down, trying to make sense of what happened.  Mrs. Drysdale burst into tears and pleaded with her husband to let them take him to a reliable physician.  Alexander would not agree and demanded to be left alone.  

The Pinkerton operative named Green who was playing the ghost of the slain George Gordon kept a careful eye on the house that evening.  Mrs. Potter and John brought him food and instructed him to wait in the woods until the following morning.  In the middle of the night, Green observed the door of the Drysdales’ home open and Alexander step out.  Wearing only his dressing robes, he wandered about like someone walking in his sleep.  He didn’t stay outside long; after roaming around a bit, he returned inside.

The next evening Alexander behaved in much the same way, but this time he traveled to the creek.  Green watched him closely as he bent down and searched in the water for something.  Once it seemed he’d found it, he marked the area by placing a stone on the bank of the creek.  Alexander then hurried back to the house.  Green wasted no time in getting to the spot where Alexander had been standing in the water.  

During Alexander’s absence, Mrs. Potter had snuck into his room and sprinkled drops of blood on his pillow and on the floor around the bed.  She managed to get out of his room just as he entered the home.  She observed him go back to his room and shut the door behind him.  Mrs. Potter peered through the keyhole to see what he did next.  She watched as he tried to wash the bloodstains off the floor.  

Alexander was in poor health, both physically and emotionally.  He wouldn’t get out of bed and refused to eat.  He sent for John and asked him to retrieve paperwork from his office in Atkinson and bring it to him.  John agreed.  Using the key Alexander gave him, he gained access to his private office.  Before leaving with the documents, John scattered drops of blood about the room.  He raced back to the Drysdales’ plantation with the documents.  When Alexander inquired if he’d had any problems, John informed him about the blood on the chairs, desk, and paperwork.  As he spoke he held out the documents dotted with crimson stains.  The shock proved too much for Alexander, and he fainted.  It was some time before he came to.  

While Alexander lay struggling with all he had experienced, John conspired with bank executives to sprinkle blood in the bank on the floor and desk where George used to work.  The plan was set in motion.  Bank employees who discovered the blood were shaken by the sight.  When news of the discovery reached Alexander, his nerves became even more raw.  John told Pinkerton that Alexander was like a man suffering from hydrophobia.  “His thoughts could turn in only one direction,” the operative explained, “and that was toward remorse and fear.”  John conveyed to the operatives he was working with that things were approaching a crisis level.

A doctor was called to the Drysdales’ home and after examining the patient, he prescribed a healthy dosage of morphine to make Alexander sleep.  The doctor was fairly certain that once the disturbed man fell asleep he would stay asleep for several hours.  John seized the opportunity to gather his crew and the bank executives to explore the creek area on which Alexander had been so fixated.  Green stayed behind dressed as the murder victim, ready to scare Alexander should he wake up unexpectedly and decide to venture to the water again.  

At midnight under a fair, moonlit sky, John and the three bank executives converged at the creek bed.  They had no sooner started toward the marked spot in the water when Green came running at them.  Alexander was up and out of his bed and heading their way.  Green passed before Alexander as George a couple of times, but he didn’t act like he saw George at all.

John and the others hid in the brush and waited for Alexander to come near.  John studied the man’s actions and determined that Alexander was sleepwalking.  His anxiety and nervous dread was so great that he couldn’t rest in quiet and was driven to visit the spot where he hid the blood-stained treasure he stole.

Alexander waded into the creek and began splashing in the water frantically.  Unable to locate the object he was compelled to collect, he shuffled back to his home.  Once he was out of sight.  John took up the search.  Using a pickax and shovel he dug into the creek bed until he struck a hollow piece of wood.  The bank executives flanked him on either side and assisted in removing the log.  Once the log was out of the way they unearthed a large, heavy metal box.  Inside were the gold coins that had been taken.  The bundles of cash were not in the box.  John assured the bank executives that he would have the remainder of the money returned to them in twenty-four hours.

Alexander was grateful that John came to visit him the following day.  The frazzled man was not willing to let him out of his sight for a moment.  John’s presence was a welcomed distraction to Alexander.  The time the two spent talking about hunting, fishing, or horseback riding was a moment Alexander wasn’t thinking about the crime he had committed.  It wasn’t until late in the evening when Alexander had drifted asleep during a conversation that John had a chance to break away.  He crept outside and walked to a grove of trees beyond the garden to rendezvous with Green and Mrs. Potter.  Green had witnessed Alexander wandering around the grove one evening and suspected the money might have been buried there.  

Armed with lanterns, the three examined the ground in search of loose sod.  They did find a swatch of fresh earth that seemed suspicious, and John dug beneath it.  At the depth of two feet, they came upon a large candle-box which they carefully extracted from the ground with a shovel.  The spot was immediately covered over again with dirt and patted down in order to get rid of any evidence that someone had been there.  John took the box to the bank in Atkinson, Green returned to his post watching the house, and Mrs. Potter made her way to Alexander’s room splattering blood along the path as she went.

At daylight the bank executives opened the box and discovered the stolen cash.  John watched as the money was carried to the vault and locked inside.  By the time John returned to the Drysdale plantation, Alexander was sick with fear and convulsing.  The bloodstains on the floor and his bed had driven him close to madness.  John reported to Pinkerton that Alexander’s terror was “greater than he had ever shown before.”  

Pinkerton and his operatives were convinced of Alexander’s guilt, but still had no legal evidence which was sufficient enough to convict him in case he should maintain his innocence.  Pinkerton’s concerns were not limited to the circumstantial evidence.  “I had assumed a terrible responsibility in taking such extreme measures with him,” he noted in the case file, “for there was danger that he might go insane without confessing his guilt.  In that case my position would have been really dangerous.  I should have been accused of giving the orders to drive him crazy with no proper justification for my actions, and the result might have been most disastrous to me.  The fact that I, an unknown man from the North, had helped drive a high-toned Southern gentleman insane would have been sufficient to hang me by the summary process of lynch law.”  

Pinkerton met again with his operatives, and they further outlined the problems of a case without a full confession.  A lawyer could argue that it could not be proven that Alexander buried the money on his property.  Nor could it be proven that he was driven to the area where the money was located out of guilt over his actions.  Mrs. Potter reminded Pinkerton that Alexander was a sleepwalker and suggested that perhaps he was sleepwalking the night George was murdered.  She suggested that Alexander could have simply followed the murderer to the spot where the gold was hidden.

Pinkerton learned the Drysdales had decided to sell their property in Atkinson and move to New Orleans.  The troubled couple was in agreement that starting over in a new location might improve Alexander’s health.  Mrs. Drysdale made plans for her husband to go to his office to close their accounts.  When Pinkerton discovered the Drysdales’ intentions, he drew up the necessary affidavit to have Alexander arrested.  John accompanied an unsuspecting Alexander to his office.  They no sooner arrived when the sheriff entered the business and presented the warrant to Alexander.  He was taken aback and demanded to know why he was being arrested.  When the officer told him it was for the murder of George Gordon, Alexander let out a scream and fainted.  John assisted in reviving the accused, and law enforcement asked the two men to go to the bank with them.  

It was twilight when the sheriff, Alexander, and John journeyed down the street to the bank.  Pinkerton met them at the door, introduced himself, and reinforced that Alexander was to be taken into custody for murder.  “Have you any denial to make?”  Pinkerton asked.  Before he could respond, operative Green passed behind George Gordon’s desk and stood in the spot where the man was killed.  As on previous occasions, Alexander turned white as a sheet and collapsed.  Restoratives were applied, and he soon recovered.  No one but Alexander claimed to see the ghost, and it made him frantic.  He denied the charges made against him and called them “false in every particular way.”  Pinkerton placed a box on top of one of the desks then asked the crazed man if he also denied he buried gold in the creek.  Pinkerton opened the box and removed a few sacks of gold.  Alexander said nothing.  He merely hung his head and drew in a long breath.  “Will you also deny that you buried the paper money in a grave near your home on the plantation?”  Pinkerton expounded on the evidence telling the accused about the partially burned notes and buttons found in the fire.  Alexander sat stone-faced either not knowing how to respond or too afraid to respond.  

According to the file Pinkerton maintained on the case, his next move was a desperate one.  “If you’re not satisfied with the evidence that we can prove you are guilty,” Pinkerton told Alexander, “I will call upon the murdered man himself to testify against you.”  As Pinkerton spoke, Green slowly reappeared behind the desk.  Alexander covered his face with his hands and dropped to his knees.  “Oh!  My God!  I am guilty!!  I am guilty!!  He cried out.  Once Alexander began confessing he couldn’t stop.  He told every detail of the crime except for why.  He had no answer to that question.  “I’ve not known a moment’s peace since then,” he cried.  “My mind has been occupied with that money constantly and even in my sleep I would dream about it.”  

The more Alexander talked, the more the motive for the murder became clear.  He was going broke and couldn’t pay his debts.  One of the debtors was pressuring him and he was becoming more desperate.  He had removed the $300 he had left in his account and applied for a loan from the bank for the rest.  While George Gordon had been counting out the cash to give to Alexander, he struck him with a hammer, stole the money from the vault, and buried it.  

Alexander seemed resigned to the fact that he was going to jail and asked the sheriff for a moment alone to write a note to his wife.  The sheriff agreed.  Alexander requested that John be allowed to go with him into one of the bank executives’ offices while he penned the letter.  That request was also approved.  Alexander wanted John to take the letter to his wife.

The two men stepped into the office, and John helped Alexander to a desk.  Alexander grabbed his hand and held it tightly.  “Tell my wife I feel better for having confessed,” he implored the operative.  John nodded and handed him a piece of paper.  As he turned away to close the door behind them, Alexander removed a pistol from his jacket pocket and shot himself in the head.

Mrs. Potter was at Mrs. Drysdale’s side when she was informed of her husband’s arrest and subsequent death.

 

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