Civil War relics stolen from Old Court House

Published 12:06 pm Thursday, July 22, 2010

About $2,000 worth of Civil War relics, including a cap and ball pistol, Union officer’s belt buckle and Confederate money were reported stolen from the gift shop of the Old Court House Museum on Cherry Street Wednesday.

Museum Director Bubba Bolm told police a man in his late 30s or early 40s who had visited the museum on Monday and Tuesday may have been involved as a distraction while someone else took the items from the museum’s small gift shop.

“It was just odd because this guy was in here two days in a row, just hanging around and asking a lot of questions — almost like he was trying to distract us,” said Bolm, who described the man as tall, thin and with a black pony tail. “We didn’t notice anyone coming in with him, but someone could have come in 30 minutes earlier and paid admission and we wouldn’t have noticed.”

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Police were looking for the man as a possible suspect, but Lt. Bobby Stewart stressed there is thus far no evidence linking the man to the theft. Bolm said the man claimed to be from Maryland. He has not returned to the museum since Tuesday, Bolm said.

Stewart also said no evidence in the theft suggests it is related to the June 29 theft of about $220 at the nearby Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum on Washington Street. In that crime, a woman told a lone employee at the register a toilet was overflowing, distracting the clerk while an accomplice pocketed the cash.

“That was two black females and this is a white male, so I don’t believe these are related. Shoplifters often have one person distract a store clerk while another person takes the items,” Stewart said. “I feel like this is someone who is a collector.”

No arrests have been made in either case.

Bolm said the relics were discovered missing during an inventory of items Wednesday morning after some Confederate coins and bills were discovered missing.

“One problem, too, is some of these items were consignment items and we’ll have to pay for them immediately,” Bolm said.

Stewart said the two museums were likely targeted because of their small staffs and lack of video surveillance.