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Prominent Crime Solver


Pictured Left: Franklin Pierce Hogan

Back in the days when stagecoach robberies dominated the crime scene in Douglas County, at least one Sheriff earned a reputation as a crime solver. Franklin Pierce Hogan, who served as Sheriff in the county from 1878 to 1882, made a name for himself in the county and throughout the state.

Hogan was bom in Ireland and came to the United States with his family in the mid 1800s, where he was raised in Geneva, Wisc. In 1873, the adventurous young man took his $3,000 life savings and headed West, settling in Roseburg, the seat of Douglas County. The town was located in an area of gold-rich mountains and small protected valleys and was a major trading center on the Oregon/California stage road. The old road is now Interstate 5.

Douglas County Sheriff Elijah Livingston appointed Hogan a Deputy Sheriff in 1874 and his very first case gave him immediate local prominence as a lawman. The case was the nighttime burglary of the huge safe in the Marks Friedlander Store which also served as Roseburg's unofficial bank. When he arrived on the scene, Hogan went about his business gathering bits of information. He discovered several pieces of torn newspaper that had been pasted to a glass door to help muffle the sounds and later was able to match it up with a torn piece of newsprint at a Chinese laundry. Hogan then went about questioning members of the Chinese community and narrowed his suspects to two men, who ended up confessing they they had taken the gold dust from the safe.

Another case that drew attention to the future Sheriff was his investigation that led to the capture of a Wells Fargo stage coach robber from Yreka, Calif. Aside from the man's description, the only other clue Hogan had was the unique print made by the roadagent's right boot. The sole of the boot had been repaired with three large tacks that made an interesting impression.

Hogan quietly began checking out all strangers who matched the physical description by following them to check the markings left by the soles of their boots. After a week of patient observation, the Deputy stumbled across a man fitting the description of the holdup man in Al Tibbett's saloon. The man had his foot propped up on a rail and Hogan discreetly moved in to check the soles on the man's right shoe to discover that it had three tacks in the exact position described in the Wells Fargo wanted poster.

The man was arrested and taken back to Yreka, where he was tried and convicted for the stage robbery.

After he was elected Sheriff in 1878, Hogan continued to amaze lawmakers with his uncanny ability to track down criminals. Stage robber Thomas Paul was identified by a peculiar limp and was arrested south of Roseburg near Myrtle Creek after a county-wide chase. Others tracked down by Hogan included Charles Hall, a disgruntled employee who shot a state Senator at the state capital in Salem and was captured in Douglas County; and Arizona badman and Douglas County horsethief Ewing Hunt, who was captured after a fierce hand-to-hand straggle on the banks of the Willamette River some 75 miles to the north in Lane County.

Even after his term as Douglas County Sheriff expired in 1882 and he opened a store in Roseburg, Hogan's services were still sought. He helped track down a holdup man in Riddle at the request of the Wells Fargo office in Portland. The man had robbed the stage in Glendale, a city some 60 miles south of Roseburg. The holdup happened a mile south of Henry Smith's Wolf Creek Tavern, which is now a historic site. Hogan traced the man to a farm in Riddle, where he was arrested with the help of a farmer. The man, who identified himself as Jim Todd, was tied and his pockets searched. Hogan found $1,750 in gold coins, the same amount that was taken in the stage robbery less $60 Todd had paid for a horse and saddle in Riddle.

Deadly Withdrawal

Some of his friends and fellow farmers knew old Abe Givens as a honest, hard-working man. But that honesty may have been the death of him.

Givens was brutally murdered in late May of 1921 by an unknown assailant who had shot and battered the elderIy Douglas County farmer with a hatchet. The killer finished the job by igniting a bonfire over Givens' lifeless body. Sheriff Sam Starmer's investigation turned up a number of leads and possible suspects.

A nearby neighbor got into a heated argument with Givens because the elderly farmer's livestock had trampled the neighbor's truck garden.

Then there was the waitress in Roseburg who had taken a shine to old Abe -- along with all the money he had stashed away in the bank.

And there was the convicted bank robber -- the one who held up a bank in Grants Pass a few years earlier- and a former boyfriend of the waitress. Maybe she clued him in to Givens' secret treasure.

Starmer and his men investigated these and a half-dozen other tips to no avail. Each of the suspects had solid alibis for where they were and what they were doing the day Abe Givens was killed.

About all Douglas County authorities had to go on was what Givens' friends, neighbors and local bankers told them about the old man -- that he was a thrifty, dollar-sense smart man who religiously saved his money and usually withdrew only enough money from his bank savings account to meet his current expenses.

But during the course of the investigation, Starmer learned that Abe Givens withdrew $300 from his savings account the day before he was murdered. The Sheriff figured the longtime Roseburg farmer either used his money for a lady friend or made a desperate withdrawal to pay off a debt to some person pressuring him for money.

When both theories fizzled, Starmer turned to his friend, Douglas County Prosecutor George Neuner, in search of a new angle. And Neuner provided it: What if someone in the bank saw Givens withdraw a large sum of money and plotted to steal it from the old man?

Starmer went back to the bank and began asking employees if they noticed anyone suspiciously lurking about the bank the day Givens made his withdrawal. A teller recalled seeing a young man leave the bank right after Givens walked out the door.

The Sheriff checked local firearms dealers and discovered a person fitting the description of the young man in the bank had recently purchased ammunition for a .30.30 rifle -- the same type weapon used on Givens. The young man told the storekeeper he was going hunting in the hills.

A few days after Givens' death, the same young man was seen in various Roseburg-area establishments, flashing a large roll of currency. He told one proprietor he had purchased a train ticket for Eugene.

Starmer and a Deputy Sheriff drove to Eugene, and with the help of Lane County authorities, were able to track down the young man at a Eugene pool hall. When first confronted, the man denied any knowledge of Givens or of the old man's murder.

But the suspect, who identified himself as Floyd Romaine, finally confessed to the killing. He told Starmer he decided to go to a bank and wait until he saw someone withdraw a large amount of cash. Abe Givens turned out to be his unsuspecting prey.

The young man said he stopped Givens outside the bank and pretended to know him. He asked Givens if he was a "Mr. Brown" from Klamath Falls. Givens, honest man that he was, told the stranger his real name.

The man said he learned Givens had a farm in the Peel district outside Roseburg, then went to a local hardware store to buy ammunition for his rifle. He went out to the Givens place two days later, ordered Givens to turn over his money and then shot him in the head when Givens threatened to turn him over to the law.

Before leaving, the young man told Starmer he took an ax from Givens' wood shed and beat the victim to make sure he was dead. He then started a bonfire over Givens' body to destroy any telltale evidence or prints which might tie him to the murder.

Romaine was indicted for first-degree murder. A jury found him guilty as charged in June 1921, and he was sentenced to life in prison in the state penitentiary in Salem.

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