The Custom-house Robbers.
--The term of imprisonment in the Penitentiary of Wm. J. Sommerville
, one of the so- called ‘"Custom-House robbers,"’ will expire in a few days.-- Some four years since, one Robert Pullen
, noted as a ‘"cracksman,"’ obtained the co- operation of Sommerville
, (who was, previous to that time, a scene painter in one of the New Orleans theatres,) and the two men came to this place for the purpose of making a raise.
This they proposed to do by availing them selves of Pullen
's knowledge of the opening process, in the line of iron safes, and such like receptacles of money and valuables.-- The two men having previously reconnoitered in the vicinity of the Custom-House building
, then on 15th street, chose a dark and rainy night, and, easily effecting an entrance therein, as easily introduced some powder into the lock of the strong box, which was duty soon rent in twain by the explosion which followed.
The parties took $20,000 in gold, which they buried in and about the stone arch which crosses Shockoe Creek
, on Broad street, near the Central Depot
The very slight suspicion entertained against them here was not worked out to any definite result by our police.-- Pullen
, who had repaired to Washington
, however, from a previous knowledge of his character, was there arrested on suspicion by two detectives, called Allen
and Baes, who seeing a good thing might be made if they could establish the fact, liberally plied Pullen
with promises of immunity, &c., which so operated on the astute burglar that he incontinently owned up. The arrest of Sommerville followed.
After the discovery at Washington
, and the prisoner there arrested having told where the money was, its restoration was an easy matter.
The fact of having been taken in and done for by the beaks,
, so affected him that at the first opportunity he confessed himself guilty, and desired to be sent immediately to prison.-- He was accommodated by Judge Meredith
to the extent of 8 years. Shortly after his entry into prison he succumbed to the influence of grief and mortification, and seceded from an active participation in any more safe-blowings.
On the arraignment of Sommerville
, he plead not guilty, and his counsel making good, use before the jury of the double dealing and duplicity of the Washington
detectives, he got off with a sentence of 3 ½ years penal servitude.
Some interest was created at the time in his behalf by the appearance of a handsome young woman, who claimed to be his wife. -- This may also have had its effect on the jury.
As said in the beginning of this item, his term will expire in a few days.
At the time of its happening, the ‘"Custom House robbery"’ was a nine days wonder.