When the 1906 earthquake turned Santa Rosa topsy-turvy, there were at least two men who thought it was a perfect time to pull off a heist.
To be clear: these were real, plotted felonies, not petty crimes of opportunity. As noted here earlier, there was a mini-crime wave on the morning of the earthquake, as scoundrels took advantage of the confusion to walk off with other people’s stuff. Pity especially the poor family over on Third Street, who found out too late that the kindly strangers who helped them cart their belongings out of their house were actually robbers; their classified ad pleaded for the bad guys to return at least their table linen, “as there was but one napkin left us.”
The first to be unmasked was Hugh W. Dunn, alias “Dr. C. C. Crandall,” who had enough medical know-how to pass himself off as an M.D. He volunteered his services at the Santa Rosa Hospital after the quake, where he allegedly stole cash, a gold watch, and a nurse’s medical bag. Mister Doctor Dunn-Crandall was snagged in Oregon by our indefatigable Sheriff, Frank P. Grace a few weeks later and brought to Santa Rosa, where he was charged with felony embezzlement. Impersonating a physician was apparently completely legal in 1906, and with two years of actual hospital experience, Dunn might even have been more qualified than others who were treating the injured; the edition of the Santa Rosa Republican that appeared the day of the quake thanked all the “alopaths [sic], osteopaths, homeopaths, electics and others…who did valiant service” that day (I’m sure the editor meant “electrics,” but if I were broken and bruised from an earthquake, I’d certainly pick an “electic” physician over a quack with a pair of bare wires and a generator) .
More devious was J. E. Keeler, who worked for the Scott Grocery Company. Keeler had a trusted position with the business, and went to the grocer’s insurance company in San Francisco to settle up the company’s claim. He accepted 50¢ on the dollar – about $2,500 – and skipped town with the money. Keeler was traced to “somewhere about Kansas City” with his young son, but his wife was left behind in Santa Rosa. As Keeler was authorized to collect money due the company, it was unclear if he could be prosecuted, according to the Santa Rosa District Attorney.
Doctor Is Now Wanted
A warrant has been sworn out against Dr. C. C. Crandall charging him with felony embezzlement. The warrant is in the hands of the sheriff and a search is being made for the man who is alleged to have fled from the City of Roses.
About the first known of Dr. Crandall here was subsequent to the earthquake on April 18, when he volunteered to give his services to aid the injured and afflicted in this city.
The absent medico is accused of having stolen from the Santa Rosa Hospital one gold watch valued at $50, a surgical case of considerable value, and $45 in coin.– Santa Rosa Republican, May 23, 1906
“Dr. Crandall” Is Back
Sheriff Frank P. Grace arrived today from Portland, bringing Hugh W. Dunn, alias “Dr. C. C. Crandall” back to face a charge of felony embezzlement. Dunn had read medicine two years and a half and seen hospital service in the Philippines, which caused him to be valuable as an assistant at the hospital. He claims the nurse whose property he took, knew he intended leaving Santa Rosa for a few days.– Santa Rosa Republican, June 1, 1906
“Dr. Crandall” Held
Hugh W. Dunn, alias “Dr. C. C. Crandall,” was held to answer before the Superior Court this afternoon by Justice Atchinson, on a charge of felony embezzlement. The doctor is accused of having taken $45 in gold, a gold watch and surgical case from Miss Margaret Linsley, a prety nurse at the hospital and decamped. “Crandall” refused to take the witness chair in his own behalf.– Santa Rosa Republican, June 4, 1906
J. E. KEELER LEAVES FOR PARTS UNKNOWN
Takes Funds of Creditors and Wife Admits His Guilt
It was learned this afternoon that J. E. Keeler of the Scott Grocery Company has skipped with about $2500 belonging to the creditors of the firm. On receiving the information a representative of the Republican called on Mr. Eli Scott of the company at the warehouse of the Sonoma County Fruit and Produce Company, and learned the following facts concerning Keeler and his actions.
After the earthquake Keeler was authorized to collect what he could of the oustanding accounts of the firm, and since then he has been engaged in doing so. It is supposed that he was able to secure about $1000 of the money owing to the company on accounts. On August 23d he went to San Francisco without stating the object of his visit to the metropolis and there collected what he could of the insurance money coming to the company, settling the claims with the insurance companies for about fifty cents on the dollar. He then returned to this city and on the Sunday following, August 26th, left Santa Rosa.
For several days prior to taking his leave, however, he had been informing members of the company that he was expecting to receive word from his father who was seriously in Paris, Texas, to come at once. It was this impression that he gave when he started from here, but on the following day, August 27th, he cashed the check for the insurance at the D. O. Mills National Bank in Sacramento.
M. Flourand, who is also a member of the firm with Eli Scott and J. E. Keeler, took the matter of the actions of Keeler up and called upon Mrs. Keeler later, telling her that “the cat is out of the bag, and the creditors are aware that Keeler has left with the money.” It is stated that the lady then broke down and crying, told Mr. Flourand that she knew her husband had taken the money and that he had intended to leave with it. When threatened with attachment, and being urged to write to Keeler, she at once telegraphed him and also sent a letter to Kansas City. It is supposed that Keeler went from here to the East, and that he is somewhere about Kansas City at present.
The case is a very peculiar one, and was at once referred to the district attorney and Attorney Julliard, and it was learned after very careful study that there is very little hope of ever being able to bring Keeler back to Santa Rosa and even if he were brought here, there could be nothing done with him, as he was authorized to collect the money and that nothing was done by the creditors of the old firm in order to protect them in such a case as this.
It is known that the money that he had would only partly cover the claims of the creditors, and that if the insurance had been settled on a better basis than that to which he consented, there would have been sufficient to have cleared most of the indebtedness of the company, and have set them on their feet again. Or at least to have permitted them to start even. Mrs. Keeler is certainly to be sympathized with in being left to bear the brunt of the disgrace that her husband has brought upon her, but the plans of Keeler are very evident from the fact that he took with him his young son and gave his wife information as to his whereabouts.– Santa Rosa Republican, September 11, 1906