Twenty Five Thousand Dollars Ransom For A Child
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THERE was great excitement in the city of Omaha, one winter night when it was learned that the son of a rich man had been kidnapped. A young son of Cudahy was sent from his father's house after supper on an errand. He failed to return; and the most diligent search did not serve to reveal his whereabouts. It seems that he was in front of General Corwin's house, just across the street from his own home, on his way back from a near-by residence, when two men, coming up to him, said : " We are sheriffs from Sarpy County, and arrest you as Eddie McGee, who escaped from the reform school." The little fellow protested, insisting that they had gotten the wrong boy, but they told him he would have to be identified. They lifted him into a buggy, and as they drove along, a trolley-car passed them. The lad said: " I know that conductor, he will tell you I am not the boy you are looking for." They tied a bandage over his eyes, and drove the horse quite rapidly. Reaching a house about five miles away, they placed young Cudahy in a room, and chained him to the floor. He remained there all night and the next day; his hands and feet were chained. From the conversation he learned that the gang consisted of six men; that they had been trying hard for four months to kidnap one of the Cudahy girls, but, failing in their attempt, they captured the boy. The agony of the Cudahy family can be imagined. There came through the mail, the following letter:
" OMAHA, NEB., December 19, 1900.
" MR. CUDAHY : We have kidnapped your child and demand $25,000 (twenty-five thousand dollars) for his safe return. If you give us the money the child will be returned as safe as when you last saw him, but if you refuse we will put acid in his eyes and blind him, then we will immediately kidnap another millionaire's child that we have spotted and demand $100,000; and we will get it, for he will see the condition of your child, and realize the fact that we mean business, and will not be monkeyed with or captured. Get the money all in gold five, ten and twenty dollar pieces ; put it in a white wheat sack ; get in your buggy alone on the night of December 19 at 7 o'clock P. M. and drive south from your house to Centre street, turn west in Centre and drive back to Ruser's Park and follow the paved road toward Fremont.
" When you come to a lantern that is lighted by the side of the road, place the money by the lantern and immediately turn your horse around and return home.
" You will know our lantern, for it will have two ribbons, black and white, tied on the handle. You must place a red lantern on your buggy where it can be plainly seen, so we will know you a mile away. This letter and every part of it must be returned with the money, and any attempt at capture will be the saddest thing you ever done. If you remember, some twenty years ago, `Charley' Ross was kidnapped in New York City and $2o,000 ransom asked. Old man Ross was willing to give up the money, but Byrnes, the great detective, with others, persuaded the old man not to give up the money, assuring him that the thieves would be captured. Ross died of a broken heart, sorry that he al-lowed the detectives to dictate to him.
" This letter must not be seen by any one but you. If the police or some stranger knew its contents they might attempt to capture us, although against your wish, or some one might use a lantern and represent us, thus the wrong party securing the money, and this would be as fatal to you as if you refused to give up the money. So you see the danger if you let this letter be seen."
Impelled by the strain under which the family was laboring, the father decided to give up the money and get back his son. He hated to seem to put a premium upon such a foul crime, but he was afraid the men would make good their threat, and he surrendered to their demands. He took twenty-five thou-sand dollars in gold, in a white wheat sack, and drove in a light buggy to the place the captors had indicated. He put the sack down by the stick which had the white light, then, without seeing or speaking to a single person, he returned to his home. Close by the place where Mr. Cudahy left the gold, the river approaches the road. It is supposed the men saw the red light of the father's buggy from a boat on the river ; it is likely that they came up the bank, secured the ransom and left no footprints to tell any tales. When they had secured the money, they sent the boy in a cab back to the neighborhood of his father's house, which he reached at about one o'clock in the morning.
Some people criticize Mr. Cudahy for not flatly refusing to pay the ransom ; for not daring the villains do their worst ; and for not using the in-formation which they were bold enough to furnish him, for their detection and punishment. But it is likely that the average father would have surrendered money quickly enough to save his boy's eyes.
The whole nation was stirred upon the subject of the kidnapped boy, and yet there are thousands and tens of thousands of boys and young men who are kidnapped every night, and little or no attention is paid to the foul robbery. The saloons, gambling-dens and brothels are abducting them from the home and hearts of loved ones, and chaining them, hands and feet, putting out the eyes of their conscience, bringing misery to their families, and wretchedness and ruin to themselves. It is high time that Christians were aroused to the necessity of rescuing the youths from the kidnappers that infest every community.