The Lost Treasure of the Newton Boys and America’s Biggest Train Robbery
The Newton Boys are famously known for carrying out America’s biggest train robbery on June 12th, 1924. Not only did they make history by stealing more than three million dollars on this one train heist, but this sealed the Newton Boys to become remembered as the most successful bank and train robbers in U.S. history.
In the aftermath of this large train heist, however, some of the stolen loot, around 100,000 dollars of it, became lost. It is believed to have been buried somewhere Northwest of San Antonio, Texas, and remains there yet to this day. Will it ever be found?
In the Spring of 1920, Willis Newton (1889-1979), asked his brother Joe, the youngest of the Newton family, to help him with a ‘job’. Joe, who was working with horses at that time, assumed Willis wanted help with breaking some horses. Surprisingly though, when Joe met up with Willis in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he realized Willis wanted help. not with horses, but with robbing banks.
Carefully planned out by Willis, Joe was unable to say ‘no’ to helping him with a bank robbery. And so with the aid of Brent Glassock, Willis and Joe began their spree of notorious robberies. Doc and Jess Newton, two more brothers joined up with this team soon after. And over the course of the next few years (1920 to 1924), the Newton Gang, headed by Willis Newton, robbed over eighty banks and six trains.
Willis considered himself a businessman. His goal, he said, like that of a Lawyer or a Doctor, was to make money. And his way of making money was robbing banks. It is believed the hard life of growing up in the changing times of Texas caused Willis to take this casual stance. To him the government and other officials were being thieves themselves, and he was basically just playing their game. The Newtons didn’t see themselves as ruthless outlaws. They were proud to say they never killed anyone, always tried to plan robberies for this least likely to happen, and were just attending to business.
The sincere desire in not wanting anyone to get hurt during their robberies was one of the reasons Willis planned the legendary train robbery in 1924. Willis had learned from a corrupt postal inspector (William Feahy) that lots of money was being transferred by mail trucks onto a train in Chicago. Willis, and the others, immediately began watching the trucks going to and from the train.
At first, the gang was going to rob one of the mail trucks, but they decided against it because too many people would be put at risk. They were robbers, not murderers. And so Willis began plotting to hold up the train after it had been loaded and on its way to Milwaukee in a remote area. This is what they did.
After months of planning, studying timing of arrivals and departures of trucks, lawmen, and trains, the gang felt prepared for the night of June 12th. Knowing the amount of money involved, the gang felt they could retire after this heist. Willis believed it a sure thing, and in the book, The Newton Boys: Portrait of an Outlaw Gang, he is quoted as saying, “I always wanted to do a million-dollar job.” It was his dream.
Glassock, Doc, and Joe drove two stolen Cadillacs, to use as getaway cars, to the place Willis determined would be the ‘spot’ the train would be stopped. Willis and Jess jumped on the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul mail train as it left from Chicago that night. All was going to plan until the engineer overran the intended stop near Rondout, Illinois.
Confusion happened between gang members because of this, and Doc Newton was accidentally shot by Glassock (He thought he was an armed guard). The gang quickly finished loading the bags of money, helped Doc into a car, and left. But because Doc was in need of medical care, the Newtons weren’t all able to scatter as originally organized. They had to save Doc, and so because of involving more people and taking additional time, the location of Doc was soon discovered by police. The police were able to then begin arresting all those involved and recover the stolen train money.
Jess, however, was able to flee with some cash and it is this stolen piece of the loot that remains lost.
Jess claims he headed back towards San Antonio, Texas. After getting drunk one night, he said he decided to hide most of the loot he had, only keeping a few thousand. He says he went up into some hills and buried the money. He dug a hole and put a rock over it.
Because Jess was drunk, he said he couldn’t remember where he hid it, and so to this day, it is believed the treasure remains there.
The Newton boys cooperated with police in regards to the heist, and because of this they received light sentences for their involvement in America’s biggest train robbery. Jess and Joe were out within a year since they didn’t have any prior criminal records. Willis and Brent Glassock were in jail for just over four years. Doc stayed in for six.
After their jail time, the Newton Boys lived their lives out a bit more (but not totally) peacefully. There is a wonderful movie, called The Newton Boys, based on their story. It offers an interesting look into the times and their life. I really enjoyed it.
And of course, the question of which rock on which hill did Jess bury the stolen money under offers a continued mystery to ponder! And I always enjoy that.
Best of luck with whatever you seek!