Three brothers stole this blasting machine and dynamite from the Oregon City Construction Company and used it to perpetrate the robbery of a mail train on October 11, 1923. The detonator is made of 5/8-inch thick wood joined with mortice and tenon and flathead screws. It has a plunger, a leather strap handle, and two butterfly connections. The metal advertising plate on top of the device provides instructions for use. The detonator includes an identification sticker on its side noting that it is from "E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company."; The company was founded by Eleuthere Irenee du Pont de Nemours, who arrived in the U.S. from France in 1800. The company started with an abandoned cotton mill near Wilmington, Delaware that DuPont turned into a gunpowder factory.
The brothers were twins Roy and Ray DeAutremont and their younger brother Hugh. Hoping to steal a rumored $40,000 in gold aboard the train the trio stopped and tried to rob Southern Pacific train #13 just outside a tunnel near Siskiyou, Oregon. The inexperienced trio used too much dynamite, destroying the safe and train car. The gold was just a rumor, and nothing was left to steal after the explosion. The blast killed mail clerk Elvyn Dougherty. The brothers also shot and killed the train's brakeman, engineer and fireman during the bungled attempt.
The reward posted for the three brothers was set at $15,900. They were eventually brought to justice after an extensive manhunt was rewarded in February 1927 with the arrest of Hugh DeAutremont who had joined the army. Hugh’s arrest revived media interest in the story and Ray and Roy were recognized and apprehended in Steubenville, Ohio, a few months later. All three were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Hugh died in 1958, Roy died in 1983, and Ray died in 1984.
By Nancy A. Pope