Walter Sheridan (#8)

Walter Sheridan (Abt. 1833-1890), aka William A. Stoneford, Charles H. Ralston, Walter A. Stewart, William Holcomb, Doc Dash, Charles H. Keene, etc. — Horse thief, con man, bank sneak thief, counterfeiter, forger

From Byrnes’ text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-five years old in 1886. Born in New Orleans, La. Married. No trade. Height, 5 feet 7 inches. Weight, about 165 pounds. Light brown hair, dark eyes, Roman nose, square chin. Generally wears blonde whiskers. He is a good-looking man, and assumes a dignified appearance.

RECORD. Walter Sheridan is an accomplished thief, a daring forger, bank sneak, hotel thief, pennyweight-worker and counterfeiter. He is also one of the most notorious criminals in America. Among his aliases are Stewart, John Holcom, Chas. Ralston, Walter Stanton, Charles H. Keene, etc. When a boy, Sheridan drifted into crime and made his appearance in Western Missouri as a horse thief. He finally became an accomplished general thief and confidence man, but made a specialty of sneaking banks. In 1858 he was arrested with Joe Moran, a noted Western sneak thief and burglar, for robbing a bank in Chicago, Ill., and was sentenced to five years in the Alton, Ill., penitentiary, which time he served. He was afterwards concerned in the robbery of the First National Bank of Springfield, Ill., with Charley Hicks and Philly Phearson (5). Sheridan engaged the teller. Hicks staid outside, and Phearson crawled through a window and obtained $35,000 from the bank vault. Hicks was arrested and sentenced to eight years in Joliet prison. Philly Phearson escaped and went to Europe. Sheridan was arrested in Toledo, O., shortly afterwards with $22,000 in money on him. He was tried for this offense but acquitted.

He next appeared in a “sneak job” in Baltimore, Md., in June, 1870, where he and confederates secured $50,000 in securities from the Maryland Fire Insurance Company. After this he secured $37,000 in bonds from the Mechanics’ Bank of Scranton, Pa. He was also implicated and obtained his share of $20,000 stolen from the Savings and Loan Bank of Cleveland, O., in 1870. He was arrested in this case, but secured his release by the legal technicalities of the law. Sheridan’s most important work was in the hypothecation of $100,000 in forged bonds of the Buffalo, New York and Erie Railroad Company to the New York Indemnity and Warehouse Company, in 1873, for which he obtained $84,000 in good hard cash. It took months to effect this loan. He took desk room in a broker’s office on the lower part of Broadway, New York, representing himself as a returned Californian of ample means. He speculated in grain, became a member of the Produce Exchange, under the name of Charles Ralston, and secured advances on cargoes of grain. He gained the confidence of the President of the Indemnity and Warehouse.

Walter Sheridan is among the handful of the most infamous criminals profiled by Chief Byrnes.  He was often successful, and tried his hand at many different types of crimes. The accounts of Walter Sheridan’s origins are fairly consistent: he came from a respectable family in Kentucky; was sent to New Orleans for his education; went astray, and, in the late 1850s, was known as a horse thief in central Missouri. Unfortunately, none of this can be verified–not even his supposed full name: Walter Cartman Sheridan.


Several more complete accounts of Sheridan’s criminal career have been written, most recently by Jay Robert Nash in his Great Pictorial History of World Crime. However, the most succinct summary appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch of January 22, 1890, on the occasion of Sheridan’s death:


The identity of Sheridan’s wife and son Walter (who claimed his body from the coroners in Montreal) have defied solving. The body was said to have been taken back to Baltimore, but no burial records have been found.


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