The Queen Desperado

The Blue Ball Inn, c. 1870s      Born near Voganville in 1862, Salome Buck was one of five daughters born to George and Mary Hess Buck. She married Abraham Whitman in New Holland on August 2, 1883. In August of 1884, she became the first woman in Pennsylvania to be jailed for stealing horses. According to local newspapers, Salome was out late one night with the son of Abe Buzzard who dared her to steal a team of horses in front of a house they happened to be passing. No Welsh Mountains crime story is complete without a mention of Abe Buzzard, but it’s unlikely his 13 year old son was involved. It’s more likely it was Abe’s youngest brother, Joe, who was 24 at the time and, surprisingly, not in jail.

Never one to turn down a dare, Salome stole the team of horses from the home of Caskey Showalter and drove them with some abandon to her grandfather’s home near Briartown, parked them, and turned in for the night. During her ride, she came upon Dr. George DeHaven, whom she apparently raced for a bit before they both arrived at the Blue Ball Inn. Dr. DeHaven helped her water her horses, but found it odd that a young woman should be out so late at night. When Caskey Showalter showed up in Blue Ball the next day wondering where his horses were, Dr. DeHaven mentioned the young girl he encountered out riding late the previous night. It wasn’t long before Salome was tracked down with the team – still asleep at her grandfather’s house. The New Holland Clarion newspaper dubbed her The Queen Desperado.

On August 19, 1884, Salome was sentenced to twenty months in prison. When asked where her husband was, she said she didn’t know. Prison bars didn’t stop her from causing trouble. In autumn of 1885, she was caught cavorting with a male prisoner who had tunneled into her cell and was sent to solitary confinement as a result. She was released from prison on March 1, 1886, but Salome remained feisty as ever.

In June of 1886, mere months after returning home from jail, Salome was caught stealing several yards of fabric from Adam Weitzel in New Holland. She fought all the way to Squire Pleam’s office for her hearing and, once there, the New Holland Clarion reported that “she was very profane, and when one of the witnesses was giving his testimony she let drop an oath a foot and a half in diameter and hauling off gave the witness a terrible right-hander on the back.” Salome, despite her unruly behavior, managed to avoid jail this time. Salome eventually settled down and on April 30, 1896 she married Harry Filson. The couple moved to Lititz where she died in 1921.

Lancaster County Prison, c. 1870s

Salome Buck’s horse thieving crime was wildly and widely publicized. She made national news – from Richmond, Virginia to St. Paul, Minnesota – though her story was quite exaggerated. She even made it into the National Police Gazette – the tabloid paper of the time, thoroughly proving that well-behaved women seldom make history.

From PhotoBlog