Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Meeker, Colorado Bank Robbery

Citizens outgun bandits

I've been battling a stubborn case of bronchitis for a couple of weeks. My writing and everything else has slowed to a crawl. Hopefully the antibiotics will kick in and I'll be up and at 'em again shortly. This is a news article from the 1890s in which three robbers attempted to rob a bank in Meeker, Colorado and were gunned down by citizens. Note the difference in reporting in those days.

Waterloo Daily Courier
October 16, 1896
Colorado Citizens Decline to Tolerate the Thug. Rather Slow Getting in Action, But Do Good Work When They Open Fire—The Sudden Death at Meeker of Three Would-Be Bank Robbers Who Were Daring to the Point of Recklessness—Only Mistake of the Citizens Was in Calling for Surrender.

Denver, Oct. 16.—According to the later [advances] from Meeker, Colo., which is ninety miles from the nearest telegraph office, the three men who were killed there after robbing the bank have not been identified. The one who lived two hours after being shot gave names which are believed to be fictitious.

It is believed that one of the robbers is Thomas McCarthy, who aided in robbing banks at Telluride and Delta. Those killed and wounded in the battle between the citizens and the robbers follow: The dead are: Charles Jones, leader of the bandits, aged 45, shot through the lungs and chest; William Smith, robber, aged 21, riddled through the lungs and chest, shot through the heart and a number of other wounds, any of which would have been mortal; George Harris, robber, aged 35, shot through the lungs and chest. The wounded are: W. H. Clark, game warden, bullet in the right breast, not fatal; Victor Dikeman, shot through the arm; C. A. Booth, scalp wound; W. P. Herrick, finger shot off.

Thugs Were Reckless to Foolishness.

The robbery was one of the most daring ever perpetrated in the west, occurring as it did in broad daylight and at a time when there were twenty or more people in plain sight. George Rooney, clerk of the Meeker hotel, had stepped into the bank, which is located in the general mercantile store of J. W. Hugus, to make a deposit, and stood talking to Assistant Cashier David Smith. As he turned to leave he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder, and glancing up was looking into the muzzle of a revolver. The man with the revolver commanded "Hands up!" At the same instant two shots rang out, and two bullets whizzed by the head of the assistant cashier—David Smith—who threw up his hands. In the meantime the two other robbers had covered the crowd in the store, compelling them to assemble in the centre of the room, and guarding both doorways.

Then Cashier Moulton was called, and one of the men said to him: "Open the safe and be quick about it." At the point of his gun he was conducted to the safe, which he opened, and the contents of the drawer, $700, were emptied into a sack the robbers had brought with them. Not a word was spoken, the robbers going about their business with a deliberation that was astounding under the circumstances.

After getting the money in the till they quietly gathered in all of the firearms in the place, helped themselves to the Cartridges, and then the leader addressed the crowd, bank officials, employes (sic) of the store, and customers who happened to be in the place, saying their horses were standing hitched outside the rear door, which opens on a side street, and that for their own sake they would request all to go outside with them. The crowd filed through the doorway, followed by the robbers.

Something Was Going on Outside.

The robbers were not aware that the place was surrounded until all were out. The crowd that they had driven from the store broke and ran for cover. The citizens of the town had been warned by the two shots fired in the store, and arming themselves to the teeth surrounded the bank and quietly awaited the appearance of the robbers.

Deputy Game Warden W. H. Clark noticed that the three horses were fastened at the rear door and surmising that the robbers would leave by that route, took up his station a short distance from the back door, and centered more men at this place than any other, not neglecting, however, to keep the front door just as well watched. When the robbers saw that they were cornered Charles Jones raised a rifle he had taken from the store and fired at Clark. The bandits were commanded to hold up their hands, but answered with a fusillade of shots in a dozen different directions.

Tardy, but They Got 'Em.

Jones and Smith fell to the ground, literally riddled with bullets. They had been killed in the act of firing. Harris, mortally wounded, and still staggering, continued the battle until he fell. The dead men were removed to an undertaking establishment, where an inquest was held, rendering a verdict of justifiable homicide. The money was all recovered.

A description of the robbers follows: Jones, would weigh 160; black hair, slightly bald in front, right leg about one and a half inches shorter than left; about 5 feet 8 inches in height. Harris had a fine physique, weight 180, light hair, sandy beard and mustache. Smith, smooth face, height 5 feet 7 inches.

McCarthys Are a Bad Gang.

It is believed here that the robbers were members of the McCarthy gang that committed several daring train and bank robberies in Montana, Oregon, Washington and Colorado. It is also supposed that the man who robbed David H. Moffat, president of the First National bank of this city, of $21,000 in 1889, was a member of this gang. The McCarthys formerly lived in an out-of-the-way place in Oregon, where they were regarded as wealthy ranchmen. In an attempt to rob the bank at Delta, Colo., about a year ago, John McCarthy and his son were killed, but Tom McCarthy escaped.


Unknown said...

Lived in Meeker for a few years in the '70s. Robbers are buried in the cemetery on the hill above the town. A local legend. Great article, enjoyed hearing the story again.

Marcel "Maverick Mak" Kuemmet said...

I am currently living in Meeker. I do https://rockymountainwrangler.blogspot.com/
My question is did Deputy Game Warden W. H. Clark get hit when fired at?
Was he OK?
Thanks for a very cool blog!!!