Sunday, December 18, 2011

Black Sheep Sunday : Officers on Trail of Bank Robbers

Source: Evansville Journal, Evansville, Indiana, March 11, 1925, page 1


NEW HARMONY, March 11 - Charles Chamberlain, farmer living near Griffin, reported late today that he had been held up last night by four men in a grey Hudson coach at the Wabash river, six miles south of Griffin, and was commanded to tell them where they could obtain a boat to cross the river.  He claimed that the robbers gave him $80 and told him to keep quiet.

NEW HARMONY, March 11 - Scattering of guards along every road in southern Indiana with orders to "shoot to kill" marked Wednesday's developments in the state-wide search for four bank robbers who looted the New Harmony Bank and Trust company here Tuesday afternoon and escaped with $9,000 in cash and bonds in a grey Hudson coach, after locking customers and employees in the bank safe.

The trail of the bandits was picked up by authorities late Tuesday at Wadesville, through which the robbers passed on their way north from New Harmony.  The Hudson coach in which they escaped was later seen at Poseyville going toward Wilson switch late Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities temporarily lost the trail here, being uncertain whether the robbers went west into Illinois or continued along the Indiana road.

No further word of the movements of the bandit car was obtained until Wednesday morning when it was again seen with the four men at King's station, in Gibson county.  Police officers and deputy sheriffs were immediately rushed to the vicinity but no trace of the robbers could be found when they arrived.

Peace officers throughout the middle west have been wired descriptions of the men and the car with orders to "take no chances," placing them under arrest.

It is believed that the bandits are headed toward Chicago.  Officials in nearby counties are of the opinion that the coach is stolen and that it will be abandoned before the thieves are captured.

The robbery was perpetrated shortly before 4 o'clock Tuesday afternoon.  Four persons, Frank Steelman, secretary and treasurer; Mrs. Grace Schluz, assistant cashier; Rev. J.A. Sumwalt and John Watson, were in the bank when the robbers appeared.

According to Steelman, all four of the men, who were apparently all under 30 and unusually rough in appearance, entered the building at once.  When Steelman went to inquire what the first member, who entered his private office wanted, he was covered with two automatic pistols.  The second robber then covered the assistant cashier, the third Watson and the minister.  The fourth bandit stood guard at the doorway.

When Steelman failed to comply with their orders to open the safe door, one of them struck him with the butt of his gun, rendering him partially unconscious.  The rest then gathered all the available currency and bonds from various drawers.  When ordered to open the safe, the assistant cashier complied and all four of the occupants of the bank were imprisoned in it while the robbers made their escape in the auto, the motor of which had been left running.

Before making their escape, the robbers encountered Frank Steelman, son of the secretary, who was imprisoned at the point of a gun in a rear room in the bank.

He managed to escape shortly after the robbers had left and quickly released the prisoners in the bank.  Telephone and telegraph messages were sent to authorities throughout the vicinity.

William Wade, town marshal, was standing in front of the bank, along with Sheriff John Hollen, of Gibson county, less than 10 minutes before the robbery.  They had just left the vicinity when the bandits appeared.  Sheriff Hollen was visiting in the city at the time, and according to his statement, could not have been more than a block away when the robbery was effected.

A check of the bank's stock Wednesday showed that the bandits had escaped with $4,800 in cash, $300 in gold and $4,000 in negotiable bonds.  The loss was entirely covered by insurance, officials said Wednesday.

This article is another in a series of stories of Indiana bank robberies by a group of robbers, led by my paternal cousin, Harry PIERPONT (1902-1934).  Harry later became famous as a member of the "Terror Gang" with John Dillinger.  These earlier robberies terrorized Indiana during 1924-25.

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