Friday, October 8, 2010
Perhaps the most notorious case of breaking and entering into a private residence in Middleborough history occurred over a century ago in 1886, a frightening incident marked by both its brutality and its "humanity".
The men were “masked ... and wore paper caps” to disguise their identities. (A month following the incident, enamel cloth masks were discovered near Grove Street and were presumed to be the masks worn by the criminals).
The community was so galvanized by the attack upon two of its elderly residents that it offered a $500 reward for the conviction of the perpetrators, and employed private detectives to solve case.
Late in January, 1886, Baum returned to Middleborough in the company of Louis Price, described only as "an Italian," to implement his plan. The two men reached the Wood house unnoticed about 7 in the evening after having stolen a length of clothesline along the way. It was shortly after 9 when the two entered the house, oilcloth masks concealing their faces, with Baum leading the way. "We both had pistols in our hands when we entered the kitchen and I walked straight up towards Mr. Wood. He seemed thunderstruck with fear, and so was the dog, who never moved during the time we were in the house, but lay behind the stove as if dead."
Baum pushed Mr. Wood to his knees, at which point Price attempted to tie him. "When Mr. Wood saw our purpose was to bind him, he commenced to struggle violently and to call out 'What do you want? Do you mean to kill me?'
The house was searched for the considerable sums the Woods were rumored to have kept there, but in this task the burglars were sorely disappointed. Though $200 was discovered, much of it had to be left behind as easily identified "marked or peculiar pieces of money." Also discovered were "a number of bank books and other valuable papers and a notice from the cashier of the local bank, notifying Mr. Wood that the deposits to his credit exceeded ... the amount the rules of the bank permitted to stand to the same name." Not only had the Woods deposited their money in the Middleboro Savings Bank, but to such an extent that the bank was obliged to refuse any additional deposits. In this, the Woods may have been motivated by an earlier 1875 robbery at their house in which $10 was removed from an upstairs room.
The chatter among workmen upon the Middleborough pumping station in 1885 which had provided the rationale for Baum's plan had been untrue.