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Night Watchman John Luckie Elsberry | Southern Pacific Railroad Police Department, Railroad Police Southern Pacific Railroad Police Department, Railroad Police

Night Watchman

John Luckie Elsberry

Southern Pacific Railroad Police Department, Railroad Police

End of Watch: Friday, August 16, 1895

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 41

Tour: Not available

Badge # Not available

Cause: Gunfire

Location: Texas

Weapon: Rifle

Offender: Acquitted

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During the night two masked men entered the general store in Valentine in Jeff Davis County. Asleep inside the store were U.S. Customs Inspector E.E. Townsend, a store employee and a railroad brakeman. The armed men took $325 from the safe. Unbeknownst to the robbers, a witness saw the men wearing pulled up bandanas and carrying rifles as they entered the store. The witness ran to the railroad section house and summoned J.L. Elsberry, the railroad company’s experienced night watchman and a former senior Captain of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s watchmen in El Paso. Elsberry told the witness to go to the saloon and get more help. The posse led by Deputy Sheriff Poole surrounded the store. Elsberry went to the back door and knocked. The store employee hinted that they were being robbed so Elsberry fired a one round to warn the robbers and alert the men around the store. The two robbers fled out the back door directly at Elsberry and started firing as they ran. The posse of eight citizens also opened fire. The men heard a cry of pain and Elsberry call out, “Oh my God! I’m shot!” Upon investigation Elsberry was found shot through the body by the robber’s 40-82 Winchester rifle. He died within minutes at the scene. The two robbers escaped into the night.

Two brothers, Tom and S.L. Holland, were arrested and indicted. Tom produced an alibi, but S.L. Holland was convicted of the robbery and sentenced to 15 years in prison; however, he was acquitted of the murder of Elsberry. He appealed the robbery conviction and was later acquitted. The crime remains legally unsolved.

Elsberry was survived by his wife and three children. His place of burial remains unknown.

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Officer Elsberry,
On today, the 121st anniversary of your death I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice as a Law Enforcement Officer.


United States Border Patrol
August 16, 2016


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