Sunday, May 15, 2011

Black Sheep Sunday: Make Away With Loot From S. Kokomo Bank

Source: Kokomo Dispatch, Kokomo, Indiana, March 28, 1925, pp. 1-2.


Apparently the unmasked bandits who held up and robbed the South Kokomo Bank of $ 4,828.40 in money and $ 4,3000 in Liberty bonds about 1:45 o'clock yesterday afternoon, had made good their escape and had thrown the officers completely off their trail last night, for early in the afternoon the blue Moon touring car which they used to leave the city, was found in a quagmire about a mile south of Melfalfa [sic] park.  The car was concealed behind a clump of trees and a high embankment.

J.E. Fernung, a farmer, saw the bandits change from the conspicuous blue car to two Ford cars, a coupe and a sedan.  Going on towards Kokomo, he met Sheriff Joseph Lindley and a deputy, and the car was found by Bert Clark.  It was in good running condition, and had apparently been deliberately concealed at a point previously determined upon.  From the tracks in the road, the two Fords had departed south.

"Blue Car and Five Men"

Although many reports of a "blue car and five men" continued to come from all parts of the country last night, no account of the two Ford cars had been received.

In addition to the money and negotiable securities, A.E. Gorton, cashier of the bank, said last night that probably $ 2,000 in unnegotiable securities, such as registered bonds, had been stolen.

"Chic" Nelson, Charles Houser and Joseph Sanders, three young men, saw the hold-up as they stood in the window of a drug store across the street from the bank.  They said they did not give the alarm because of the presence of a fourth man, a stranger, who stood in the store and watched their actions closely.  When the robbery was over, he suddenly disappeared in the crowd.

The bandits went about their task with the utmost coolness, and at end of ten or fifteen minutes, had succeeded in cleaning out the bank of all valuables in sight, and in walking to their car, parked half a block east, with the booty in a sack thrown over one of the bandit's arms.

Two Blasts From Horn

According to various accounts pieced together, the blue car drove up in front of the Markland cafe, a few hundred feet east of the bank.  One man alighted, and as he did so, two quick blasts were sounded from the horn.  Where the other men came from, no witness seemed to have noticed, but a man eating in the Markland cafe said that but one man alighted from the blue car.  One man remained at the wheel.

Mr. Gorton, the bank cashier, was in front of the grill when a stranger, well-dressed, entered and asked Miss Winifred Dimitt, assistant cashier, to change a $10 bill.  A second man came in, and leaned at another window, apparently waiting.  A third man came in, with three $10 bills in his hand.  He suddenly wheeled upon Gorton.

"Come on, get back there", he exclaimed roughly, displaying a large gun.  

Gorton, Miss Dimitt and Miss Frances Gorton, the only persons in the bank at the time, were forced into the back room.  One of the bandits seized a shot gun, standing in a corner, broke it, and put the shells in his pocket.  The telephone began ringing, and one of the bandits struck it from the desk, severing the connections.

While one of the bandits guarded the persons in the back room, the other two gathered up all the money in sight.  One of them called Gorton to the saef [sic] door, and forced him to open the inner vault.

With a gun pressed tightly to the back of his head, Gorton found it difficult to concentrate upon the combination.  He purposely failed two times in opening the safe.

Threatens To Shoot

The bandit was cursing and threatening to blow him up if he did not open the vault.

"Blow out his brains," counselled one of the bandits who was engaged in watching the front of the store, "and hurry up.  They are getting wise across the street."

At that moment Gorton succeeded in opening the vault.  He said afterwards that he had actually forgotten the combination.  He asked the bandit, at one time, to work the combination and he would tell the numbers.

It was while the bandits were at work that Vernon Shaw entered with $18 in his pocket.  He was greeted at the door by a bandit, who slapped his face roughly.  Brandishing a revolver, the bandit ordered him to "get back there with the rest of 'em."  Shaw lost his $18.

The entry of Shaw was observed by Charles Houser, clerk in the drug store across the street.  Houser was telephoning at the time, and had a clear view of the slap administered to Shaw and the brandishing of the gun.

"They are holding up the bank," exclaimed Houser to his chum on the other end of the line, and dropped the telephone receiver.

Describes Stranger

The stranger in the store, described as wearing a blue serge suit and a wool shirt with the collar turned up about his throat, followed the three men in the store, as they went to the rear and as they returned, until they feared that he was an outpost of the bandit crew.  The stranger did not speak, and when the bandits had gone and the crowd had gathered he suddenly disappeared.  Houser said that he thought the stranger returned a few minutes later, but said he had changed clothes if it was the same person.

Apparently no others had observed the hold up. In a few minutes one of the bandits emerged, with the sack of booty flung over his arm, and covered with an overcoat.  He walked composedly to the car, the others got in, and the car lurched forward.  It was then that the alarm was turned in to police from the drug store.  About the same time, Gorton escaped from the basement, where he and his assistants had been locked, and turned on the burglar alarm.

Police followed the trail of the blue car on Union street, and picked up the trail later through Highland park.  The trail was lost there again.

Saw Men Here Thursday

Miss Gladys Wilson, waitress of the Markland cafe, said that the same men where in Kokomo last Sunday evening and that they attempted to rent rooms.  Three of them were back in the city Thursday, and ate dinner at the restaurant, she said.  She had opportunity to observe them as they climbed into the car with the loot, but it was not until they had gone that she realized what had happened.

There were reports that a Ford car had been in the vicinity of the bank just previous to the robbery, and that the occupants were women.  No actual connection between any of these cars or the occupants and the robbery, has been discovered.

Mr. Gorton said that the leader of the gang was tall and of dark complexion.  He wore a brown gaberdine [sic] coat and a cap.  One of the others was short and rather stout, with sandy complexion.  He wore a blue sergfie suit, and carried the money away.

Houser said that the man who held the post at the door of the bank was short and rather slight of build.  Houser declared that he had seen him about Kokomo many times before, but was not acquainted with him.  All appeared to be about twenty-four years of age except the leader, who probably was about thirty-two years old.

Throughout the ordeal of the robbery, Miss Gorton and Miss Dimitt preserved extreme coolness, especially Miss Gorton, according to her father.  It was she who advised her father not to attempt to push any buttons or to run any other risk.  She kept up a continual line of chatter to the bandit who stood guard in the back room, also, until that bandit seemed somewhat confused.

Car Stolen at Fort Wayne

The Moon car, it was learned, was stolen Thursday night at Fort Wayne, and belongs to John W. Auguish of that city.  It bore the license plates of the Chrysler phaeton of Harriett M. Woodsmall of Indianapolis, which was stolen in Indianapolis March 11, and found six miles east on the Punkinvine pike Thursday evening with the rear riddled with bullets.  Farmers said that about twenty shots were fired in that vicinity early Thursday morning.

The Moon car was pulled to the B.A.B. garage last evening.  It was so concealed that probably it would not have been found for many days had not Mr. Fernung observed the change begin made.

Detectives from Indianapolis arrived in Kokomo last night and took up the case.  The loss of the South Kokomo Bank is fully covered by insurance, it was said last night by Mr. Gorton.  The bank was established in 1918 and has since shown a good growth.  Its statement at the close of business December 31, 1924, showed resources of $221,508.97.  The deposits were $190,149.60.  Officers of the institution are Charles Jinkerson, president; Kent H. Blacklidge, vice-president; Mr. Gorton, cashier; Miss Dimitt, assistant cashier, and the directors are Mr. Jinkerson, Victor E. Valle, Fred L. Trees, Mr. Blacklidge, D.C. Davies, Dr. S. Roscoe Chancellor, W.J. Critchlow, Ed S. Moore and Mr. Gorton.

This was the robbery that sent cousin Harry PIERPONT (1902-1934) to State Prison.  This newspaper article was found in the verticle files at the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library. I'm enjoying tracking his mis-deeds through the lens of the local newspaper accounts.  From what I can tell, the location of the bank now appears to hold a Napa auto parts store.

Black Sheep Sunday – create a post with the main focus being an ancestor with a “shaded past.” Bring out your ne’er-do-wells, your cads, your black widows, your horse thieves and tell their stories. And don’t forget to check out the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists (IBSSG). This is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.


Marian Burk Wood said...

Now THIS is quite a black-sheep story. The amount of money involved was really a lot of loot for the time! Thanks for sharing.

Travis LeMaster said...

Harry and his band hit quite a few banks before this prison stint, then a couple of big heists with Dillinger et al.