Sunday, July 24, 2011

Black Sheep Sunday: Laketon Robbers Traced To Warsaw

Elwood Call-Leader, April 1, 1925, page 4

Fort Wayne, Ind., March 31 - Efforts of police departments and sheriff's officers to find trace of the bandits who robbed the Laketon State bank, Laketon, Ind., this morning, in the northwestern section of the state, were unavailing, according to fragmentary reports received here tonight.  One report indicated that the bandits who fled in two autos had been traced to Warsaw, Ind., but communications from that city did not substantiate the rumor.

According to word received here from Laketon, the bandits secured slightly over $1,000, which they secured from the cash drawer of the bank.  Cashier E.L. Bright, who was held at bay while the money was taken, is quoted as having said that over $8,000 in liberty bonds and nearly that much in currency was overlooked by the bandits in their haste to escape.

This article provides some follow-up to the suspected robbery by Harry PIERPONT (1902-1934) of the Laketon State Bank in Laketon, Indiana.

Further transcripts from the Wabash Plain Dealer were provided by Ron Woodward, Wabash County Historian from the April 1, 1925 edition:



Exact loss placed at $1,969.31 by Cashier E.L. Bright following check of accounts.  Sheriff Summerland goes to Marion on possible clue.  Willy-Knight coupe was stolen at Ft. Wayne. 

Cashier tells story of robbery.

Sheriff Summerland went to Marion this morning in response to a call from the sheriff of Grant county, who thought he might have a possible clue to the bandits who robbed the Laketon bank yesterday.  Deputy Sheriff Smallwood was inclined to think, however, that the Marion clue was not as good as another that came this morning from the northern part of the state.

An officer from Lagrange county telephoned here this morning that three men in a Willys-Knight car stopped at a small town in his county and had dinner at a boarding house.  When they paid the woman who served the meal they asked here for a ten dollar bill in exchange for silver.

If it was the bandits who robbed the Laketon bank, it is wholly possible the officers thought, that they wished to get rid of some of their silver as they had taken from the bank $20 in half dollars and $150 in quarters.

License Stolen at Ft. Wayne

Officials in the northern part of the state are on the lookout for the robbers, some cities, including South Bend, having men out on motorcycles to apprehend them if possible.

There is no clue other than the description E.L. Bright, cashier, of the Laketon bank, was able to give of the men, and the fact that they were driving a Willys Knight car.  It has been ascertained that the license number on the Willys Knight car, which is known to the officials, had been stolen from a Buick car in Fort Wayne last week, so that this offers no tangible clue.

The license had been issued to Lagrange county and belonged to a salesman who worked out of Fort Wayne, but whose home is in Lagrange.  His numbers were stolen last week.

Farmer Gets Number

The procuring of the license number of the Willys Knight was a very thoughtful piece of work on the part of a farmer named Bohnstedt, who lived north of Laketon near where the bandits left the Willys Knight and where they returned in the Ford coupe after they had stolen the money.

The two men who did the actual robbing left a third man in the car until they should return.  Mr. Bohnstedt noticed the Willys Knight coupe standing in the road-which was a by-road-about 6:30 in the morning and it remained there for about three hours.

The car attracted the attention of Bohnstedt because the man in it seemed so nervous.  He would get out and look around the car, doing that frequently.  Later Mr. Bohnstedt talked to him and the man said he was stalled because of a bad battery.

The farmer then became suspicious and took his number, writing it on the side of his wagon so he would not forget it.  And it was from the wagon bed that officials procured the number.

Bandits Get $1,969.31

The bandits procured $1969.31 from the bank, according to the check-up made yesterday afternoon by the cashier.  From the safe they got $1200 in currency, $495 in gold, $20 in halves, $150 in quarters, $2.50 in pennies, making a total of $1867.50.

On the counter they got $28.39.  They also got $73.42 which were the receipts from the Moyer farm sale, which Mr. Bright had clerked.

In the cash drawer near the safe was about $1000.  Mr. Bright said, but this the bandits overlooked.

Fully insured

The total loss is covered by insurance, Mr. Bright said yesterday.

“None of the depositors will lose anything as we have complete insurance coverage,” said Mr. Bright.  “I figured that right away as soon as I realized what was being done and then I knew too that there was no use to resist.

“Mrs. Ogden happened to be in the bank Tuesday morning, though generally she does not come until noon.  We were sitting in the ? room which is right in line with the front door and we could easily see the front part of the bank.  I had a business letter that I wanted Mrs. Ogden to know of and I was reading it to her when a man came in the front door.  I went to the front counter and gave him $5 in change as he had asked.

Story of Robbery

“He looked to be a man of 21 or so.  He was shabbily dressed and had a court-plaster across his nose.  I asked him if he had been in an accident and we started chatting.  After a while I happened to glance out the front door and saw a strange man looking in and watching me closely.  In a second he opened the door, held his gun drawn and then the man at the counter got his gun and said:  “You had better put ‘em up.”

“I realized at once what was happening and called Mrs. Ogden to put up her hands.  One of the men went back and brought her in behind the counter and then they asked me where the money was.  I told them in the safe in front, but they doubted me.  Finally I convinced them and they took the money, all the time keeping us both covered.  One man seemed frightfully nervous.  The right hand which was holding his gun shook a great deal as he worked with his left.

“It really made me sick to see them scoop up all that money and put it in their sacks, but resistance was useless.  When they finished they asked for my gun.  I convinced them I didn’t have any and then they put us in a back room and told us to stay there five minutes.  I was out as soon as I heard their car start which was about thirty seconds.  I think and then I got on the telephone and called every town anyways near.

“Just then a man came in at the front door of the bank-a customer-and I asked him to go out and spread the word.”

Good Business Institution

The Laketon bank is a small frame building and is located on a corner.  It does a good business, it is said, due to the good farming country around Laketon.

S.D. Henry is president of the bank; George Frederick, vice president; F.L. Bright cashier; Violet Ogden, assistant cashier/  Directors include Mr. Henry and Mr. Frederick, Lyman Metzger, William Frev A.M. Robinson, John Tryon and H.W. Rager.

The bank was the scene of more or less excitement all day yesterday, though in the late afternoon there was nothing more than quiet, curious conversation among those who dropped into the bank to hear the story of the robbery and to wonder whether “any one lost anything.”

State Bankers Interested

Mr. Bright kept the bank open all day, though did no business.  After the word of the robbery spread, he did little but answer the long distance telephone calls.  The State Bankers’ association, who are making special efforts to capture bandits, were notified and two of their members came last night to consult with Mr. Bright regarding the affair.

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.

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