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2 Notorious Footpads

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"A picture of Helen Forslund, alias Bertie Miller, the footpad, in both male and female attire, is now on exhibition in the windows of the Missoula Mercantile company’s clothing department."

"She proposes to be a good girl hereafter."

Notes on a pair of notorious ‘Footpads’

In 1891 a pair of young miscreants caused quite a stir, not only in Montana, but all over the country. The term ‘footpads’ was used to describe them by the local press. It’s an old term, now out of use, which referred to thieves, of particularly pedestrian victims. The local Missoula newspapers had fun with it, as did a lot of other publications of the day.

October 9, 1891


Shoots and Seriously Wounds Policeman Grogan

He Carried Two Revolvers Instead of One, Which Gave Him the Advantage.

Helena, Oct. 9 – [Special to the Gazette.] – Helena has a veritable highwayman who does not scruple to add murder to his crime of robbery. Wednesday night Mr. Richardson, a conductor on the Montana Central was held up and robbed of a fine gold watch and several dollars in silver at the corner of Seventh avenue and Ewing street. The fellow came on the conductor unawares and covered him with two revolvers before he relieved him of his valuables. The conductor described the robber as a short, heavy set man, dressed in dark clothes. Last night Policeman John J. Grogan was patrolling his beat and when near the corner of Eighth avenue and Ewing street he noticed a man standing in the shadow and approached him. When near, he asked the man his business, and just then catching a glimpse of the butt of a revolver, made a grab for and secured it; but unfortunately for the policeman he had not calculated on the man having another pistol, which he had. He drew it quickly and fired point blank at the officer, the ball striking him in the breast. The man ran, followed by three shots from the officer’s pistol. Mr. Grogan, feeling himself growing weak, and knowing he was desperately wounded, started down town. He fell in the doorway at Miss Carpenter’s boarding house, where he was found and taken inside and medical aid summoned. It was found the ball had entered near the right nipple and lodged under the shoulder blade. The wound is serious, but not necessarily fatal. Mr. Grogan’s description of his assailant tallies with the description Conductor Richardson gives of the man who robbed him. They are supposed to be one and the same person. The town is being thoroughly searched today for the man.

The above article appeared in the Missoula Gazette, October 9, 1891.

October 10, 1891


Helena Has a Live One on Exhibition.

Her Pal a Notorious Desperado Who Has Operated in Missoula and Butte

Helena, Oct. 10. – [Special to the Gazette] – Two important arrests were made here yesterday. Henry Clark and Bertie Miller, notorious highwaymen who worked Missoula, Philipsburg, Anaconda and Helena are safely in jail and are good for long terms in the penitentiary. The hold up of Conductor Richardson followed so closely by the shooting of police officer Grogan caused Marshall Sims to use extraordinary efforts for the capture of the perpetrators of the deeds. Early yesterday morning the town was picketed by policemen and special officers. Officers Back and Gibson arrested a suspicious looking character about a mile from the city on the road to East Helena and search revealed the watch of Conductor Richardson. The young man, as he was supposed to be, was taken to the city jail and on further search being prosecuted it was discovered that the supposed boy was a woman. She broke down and confessed that she and her partner in crime, Henry Clark, were the persons wanted. She wrote a note to Clark to come and see her in jail and he was arrested at his lodging house. He was taken before officer Grogan and fully identified as the man who shot him. He was sullen however, and refused to talk. The girl told everything. She said that Clark induced her to leave her home in Oregon, where her parents have a fine ranch, about two years ago. They led a roving life, she dressing in boy’s clothes so they might rough it better. They went a great many places and finally drifted to Missoula. There the girl says she worked in a hotel as a waiter going by the name of Charlie Miller while her pal Clark worked in a machine shop. While in Missoula Clark persuaded her to turn highwayman. They held up one man there but secured but $27. From Missoula they went to Butte and did several jobs, she assisting him in two or three small robberies and was with him when he held up old Bob Fisher, the bar tender, and secured his watch and quite a sum of money. They also did several jobs in Philipsburg and Anaconda. The woman is crying half the time and confessing and the other half is bold and defiant. She says she does not want to put on woman’s clothes as it would make her lose her nerve. She has a list of all the robberies and has her share of the proceeds. The police are jubilant over the capture. It was good work.

The above article appeared in The Missoula Gazette, October 10, 1891

October 10, 1891

Romantic tale that which comes from Helena. A young woman masquerading in male attire is found to be the pal of a desperate highwayman who shot and perhaps fatally injured a policeman in the discharge of his duty. The woman herself confesses to having assisted her pal in robberies in Missoula and Philipsburg, Butte, Anaconda and Helena. No namby pamby sentimentalism should interfere to prevent this exceedingly vicious and disreputable female from suffering the penalty of her crimes.

The above article appeared in the Missoula Gazette, October 10, 1891.

October 12, 1891

The highwaylady – patented by the Independent – in jail at Helena is playing the virtuous racket with a vengeance. She claims that she became her pal’s victim at the point of a revolver, and that she has always tried to be good, etc. She no doubt will awaken maudlin sympathy. She is a thoroughly depraved creature who should be sent to the penitentiary for life. Clark, her pal, should be hanged.

The above article appeared in the Missoula Gazette, October 12, 1891.

October 12, 1891

The Watch Recovered

Gust Moser is Happy Over the Possession of his Stolen Chronometer.

Thanks to J. F. Weimescarry, the genial traveling man, Gust Moser, secretary of the M. M. Co. is again in possession of his handsome and valuable watch stolen from him last month. The ticker was recovered in Butte through information obtained from the highway lady now in jail in Helena, who notified Mr. Weimescarry as to its whereabouts. It was duly found in a Butte pawnshop where it had been soaked for $35 by the man Clark arrested with “Charlie,” now Bertie Miller, the pal of Clark, since discovered to be a woman. Gust is highly elated over his find.

The above article appeared in The Missoula Weekly Gazette, October 12, 1891

October 13, 1891


A Little Inside History Concerning the Purloined Ticker.

The boys about town appear to be having considerable sport at the expense of Gust Moser, mention of whose stolen watch was made in yesterday’s GAZETTE, and while the jokers imagine they have a josh coming, Gust says nothing but quietly draws a serrated blade through the lignum vitae. When pressed right hard, however, he will say, “Well, it’s all right about a woman holding me up. I didn’t stop to examine whether she was a woman or not. I looked down the muzzle of the gun and I gave up everything except my job. If any of you fellows had been there you’d be running yet.”

“Weimescarry, nevertheless, won’t have it that way; he says the handsome, short-haired Swedish nightingale held him up, for, while she does not admit it, she remarked to him that Gust was a nice young man and she wanted to see him recover his watch, saying at the time, “It’s a h’ll of a fine watch, and I don’t want to see him lose it. Tell him for me, though, not to go home so early in the morning hereafter.”

Cook also thinks he has been having lots of fun, and has been putting the boys up to tantalize Gust in every conceivable manner over the loss and recovery of his chronometer. However, the receipt of a letter which reached here from Helena this afternoon puts a different phase on the case, and Gust is having the laugh all to himself. While the missive is signed only with initials, it is supposed to have been written by the woman Bertie, then “Charlie” Miller, now incarcerated in Helena, and is as follows:

HELENA, behind the bars, Oct. 12, 1891, - My Dear Gus – I call you Gus because Mr. Weimescarry told me that was your name. Weimy, the sweet thing, called on me in my private apartment yesterday to ask about your watch. I could not let him in because I mislaid the key. I told him it was a very large key; he said he was in the hardware business and could make another one if necessary. He spoke through the checker board door. He was so nice to me. Is he married? I told him where your watch was, I am so sorry you were robbed. How did you happen to have so much money about you at that hour of the night? I did not know there was that much money in Missoula. You must have been playing Bac-ca-raw somewhere. And such a pretty watch; pity to soak it for $30. We made our headquarters on East Front street because we were told that so many rich men lived there. You are the only one we found who had a bean. We started to hold up Cook one night. He was coming across the bridge, not the straight bridge but the crooked one. Does he live over there? He came along whistling, and when he saw us he jumped down in one of the piers. Guess he had nothing on him, anyway. Is he a married man? Isn’t he handsome? We hung around a South Missoula cottage one night – where a lot of lawyers and real estate men live – you know There was nothing in ‘em, though; when we looked in the kitchen window and saw a ham rind and empty whisky flask on the table. That  settled it; we skipped.

The officers here treat me very well; they allow me to wear men’s or women’s clothes, just as I wish; they call me the highwaylady and say I’m a dandy. The ladies call on me and bring me flowers, mush and milk and blane mange; oh, the silly things; they’ll monkey around until they get me out of jail. My trial comes up tomorrow; I don’t know whether to appear in court in dress or in pants. Weimy says I look better in pants; I think my name will be pants before they get through with me. Well; good-bye; love to Cooky and all the boys.

Yours in haste and in jail, B.M.

The above article appeared in the Missoula Weekly Gazette, October 13, 1891

October 19, 1891

Local Mention

Jack Hume, manager of the Mascot Theatre, has just received news that the young man whom he refused to sell drinks to a few months ago because he was under age, was the now notorious Helen Forslund, the female foot-pad in jail at Helena. She was probably trying to blow in Gus Moser’s $50.

The above article appeared in the Missoula Gazette, October 15, 1891

The Highwaylady of Helena has had her picture taken in male and female attire. Either as a boy or a girl she looks the festive hash slinger.

The above article appeared in the Missoula Gazette, October 19, 1891.

October 23, 1891

Local Mention

A picture of Helen Forslund, alias Bertie Miller, the footpad, in both male and female attire, is now on exhibition in the windows of the Missoula Mercantile company’s clothing department. She is not the beauty described by the imaginative Helena reporters, but neither as the tough looking individual which her career might suggest.

November 2, 1891

Helena, Nov. 2. – Henry Clark, the bold hold, was found guilty of highway robbery Saturday, but the jury left the sentence to the judge, who can send him up for life if he so will. Helen Forslund, Clark’s accomplice is on trial today, but it is doubtful if a case can be made out against her. If acquitted, however, she will be arrested on other charges.

The above article appeared in the Missoula Gazette, November 2, 1891.

November 3, 1891

Helena, Nov. 3. – At 11 o’clock last night the jury in the case of Helen Forslund, charged with highway robbey, returned a verdict of not guilty. There is another charge against the girl, but it is not believed that it will be pressed. The girl was placed on the stand and told a long story about her association with Clark, how he ruined her, her life in Missoula, Butte and elsewhere. She says she was discharged from the Star lodging house in Missoula because Mother Gleim thought she was too intimate with her niece. The girl says her full name is Bertha Helena Forslund. She proposes to be a good girl hereafter.

The above article appeared in the Missoula Gazette, November 3, 1891.

November 4, 1891

Now that a gallant jury has acquitted the Helena highwaylady, her pal, Clark, should be allowed to escape. The poor little dear is in danger if she roams around the streets of sinful Helena without a protector.

The above article appeared in the Missoula Gazette, November 4, 1891.

November 4, 1891


How Four Girls Have Gained Notoriety

Four leading sensations of the hour are furnished by four young women. One took to the stage, found favor with royalty and then committed suicide. Another took to baseball, with disastrous results. A third took to the road as a bandit, and is now in jail . . .

(see p 21 Nov. 4, 1891).

November 11, 1891


Clark Sentenced to Forty Years Imprisonment, the Girl Free.

Helena, Nov. 7. – Helen Forslund is a free woman, the other cases for complicity in highway robbery having been nolled by the prosecuting attorney. Mrs. Andrew Colden, a sister of the girl, arrived here yesterday from Minneapolis, and Helen, when she met her sister, showed the first spark of womanhood she has shown since her arrest – she fainted. Clark was sentenced to the penitentiary for forty years by Judge Hunt. He displayed no emotion when sentenced. Some think the sentence is excessive, but when it is taken into consideration the bloodthirsty character of the man it should not be so considered. There is no doubt but the girl, Helen Forslund is a vicious and spiteful cat, and turning her loose upon the public without having clipped her claws is a travesty of justice. She already has had two offers to enter dime museums and she says she will accept one of them. This shows the girl is thoroughly depraved. She should have been sent to the penitentiary is what a great many think here.

The above article appeared in The Missoula Weekly Gazette, November 11, 1891.

November 11, 1891


When passing sentence upon Henry Clark, the Helena highwayman, Judge Hunt took occasion to compliment the bandit for shielding his accomplice, Helen Forslund, as well as he could when on the witness stand. The judge said:

“You are to be commended, though, for one single thing, Clark. When you came upon the witness stand and swore, upon the trial of Helen Forslund, that she was not with you at the time of the Richardson robbery, whether you spoke the truth or spoke falsely, the motive which prompted you to testify in her behalf must have sprung from a sense of loyalty to her and a wish to save her from a fate like yours. You had seduced that woman and brought her into the fearful condition that confronted her. On the other hand, she had, by her letter to you, led to your detection, and if you had harbored malice against her for leading to your apprehension, and if you had sworn upon the witness stand that she was with you that night, I doubt not that the jury would have believed your statement and would probably have convicted her of the crime of robbery.

“So that you may always remember that the last words of your civil life were uttered for the sake of making some reparation to her whom you had dragged into the disgrace that surrounds her. If those words were true, it was but a simple act of justice on your part, to be credited to you. However, under the circumstances, if you committed perjury in uttering them it was done with a motive which a charitable world will look kindly at, and for such perjury you should not be too harshly criticized.”

Clark’s motives in shielding Helen Forslund are commendable, and, as the judge says, if her committed perjury “it was done with a motive the world will look kindly at.” The world is better natured and kinder than courts, and it is a pleasure to have judges, too apt to look through judicial spectacles, speak kindly of impressible side of human nature. Here a query arises. Why should courts with lenient ideas at all times be controlled when construing law by the legal instead of humane spirit of the law? Granting that there is a humane side to criminal [sp] law which we do not admit. Laws are made for the protection of the people and punishments are provided for their infraction. Why should punishment be provided for an offense, which a charitable world looks kindly at, and even in the eyes of a judge is commendable? Does not such an admission show the weakness of human laws, some of which are directly opposed to divine law, and does not a judge recognize the justice of divine law, yet ruling against it, if called upon to do so, prove that he is a violator of law, subject to punishment, even though he has the power to and does punish? Judges are fallible, and for them to admit their fallibility is to endear them more to the people who have to submit to bad as well as good laws, and often to very bad interpretations of very bad law. In a multitude of counselors there is said to be safety. In a multitude of laws there is confusion. An universal criminal code is a possibility. A national code commission composed of learned judges of law, controlled by the divine spirit of love, actuated by a desire to best promote the interests of mankind by their actions, courageous enough to eliminate all laws providing punishment for offenses deserving no punishment in the eyes of the world, providing flexible laws to suit certain cases to be determined by the judge trying them, and ideal courts would exist, providing, of course, that broad gauged, fair minded and humane men presided over them.

Clark’s sentence in the eyes of those acquainted with the crimes he committed which led to his conviction is not excessive, and it is a surprise that a man so thoroughly debased should possess a chivalrous soul, the possession of which acknowledged should have mitigated the rigor of the sentence, especially as the judge himself makes the acknowledgement.

The law of Montana permits a judge to sentence a highway robber for the term of his natural life in the state prison, and it is a very good law as far as it goes, but it should be so altered as to admit of degrees of offense, the first degree made punishable by death. Had such a law been in force Clark would be hanged, a much more humane punishment than the one he has to undergo, taking into consideration the chivalrous soul he possesses, and if this be taken into consideration by the world, the judge certainly should have banished severity from his mind and sequestered the fellow for about ten years. Certainly no one would have dared to say anything about the lightness of the sentence, after the judge had given utterance to the noble sentiments he expressed, which sentiments show him to be more of a man than a judge and higher praise can not be bestowed.

But perjury is a statutory offense with a prescribed penalty attached. A crime committed in a good cause is something the world may “look kindly at,” but it is something unusual to see courts unbend judicial brows. If perjury is at times excusable, pardonable, even commendable, and if conviction follow in a perjury case of this kind, why should punishment follow? Why should law prescribe a punishment for an offense whih is really no offense? If a gentleman go upon the witness stand and swear to a lie, to save the honor of a woman, and he is arrested for false swearing, and it is proved that he swore falsely, what right has a judge to sentence that man to prison, though he be as lenient as he can for a crime, which in the eyes of the world, the court included, is really no crime at all? A vulgar lie worn to, for the sake of gain, say, provokes righteous as well as judicial wrath, but a lie to save a reputation is not recorded in the book of life.

What is true of perjury is true of numerous other offenses against the laws of our land, which proves their inefficiency. If punishment is not just it is malevolent persecution. It is not probable that an universal standard of justice will ever be established, but human learning and wisdom ought to be able to fix a measure more consonant than the scale in use by courts.

The above article appeared in the Missoula Gazette, November 11, 1891.

November 11, 1891

The Highwaylady Not Guilty

Helena, Nov. 3. – At 11 o’clock last night the jury in the case of Helen Forslund, charged with highway robbery, returned a verdict of not guilty. There is another charge against the girl, but it is not believed that it will be pressed. The girl was placed on the stand and told a long story about her association with Clark, how he ruined her, her life in Missoula, Butte and elsewhere. She says she was discharged from the Star lodging house in Missoula because Mother Gleim thought she was too intimate with her niece. The girl says her full name is Bertha Helena Forslund. She proposes to be a good girl hereafter.

The above article appeared in The Missoula Weekly Gazette, November 11, 1891.

Helena Independent, October 9, 1891



Helena Independent, October 10, 1891


Helena Independent, October 11, 1891


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Helena Independent, October 13, 1891


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Anaconda Standard 10/13/91 page 3



Last Updated on Saturday, 23 December 2017 13:51