Thursday, May 18, 2017

First Hand Account of Sumner Bank Robery 1929

On June 17, 1929 the bank in Sumner was robbed.  An account of this was posted earlier on this blog, but now a first hand account has surfaced. 

Sumner Bank Robbery June 17, 1929 by Rex McVickar published in the  Sumner Press 2/22/1996

My information about the bank robbery is more firsthand.  From my notes, and from notes that son Dan made of father/son conversations of long ago, the date of this event is fixed at June 17, 1929.  

Shortly after 11:00 a.m., men later identified as Thomas Herndon and Hillary Litton came into the First National Bank where I was a cashier. Also working in the Bank that morning were Dale Gubelman, Malcolm Lathrop and O.D. Atkins.  These “customers” began waving guns, announced a robbery, demanded that we scoop up the money and deliver same to them.  When Litton turned again toward me, he noticed that my hands were below the counter (I was trying to reach a gun that was stored there).  Without warning, he fired his pistol from a distance of maybe six feet from my head.  

There was a brass railing just above the marble ledge which separated the cashiers and tellers from the customers.  The bullet struck one of the upright brass rods, causing lead splinters to fly past my face, inflicting powder burns and non-lethal injuries.  I was grateful for the brass rod.  Later the Bank gave me the rod as a memento of a memorable morning. 

With about $8,600 cash for their efforts, these gentlemen ran out the front door and jumped into a car where an accomplice, Harley Cochran, was seated.  I knew Cochran, we went to school together in Sumner.  He was 3-4 years older than I.  We later learned that while these gentlemen were in the Bank, Mr. Cochran fired as many as three times, once at Callie Jones, a clerk in Saxton’s Grocery (where City Library was later located).  Apparently Jones was watching the drama unfold.  The bullet narrowly missed him.  The three in their getaway car that they had stolen from Curly Stull, drove east out the old road across the bottom to the bridge.  Then they went north to where their Oldsmobile was parked.  They abandoned Stull’s vehicle.

Reconstruction of their flight indicated that they had crossed the Wabash by ferry at Palestine.  The operator knew Cochran and informed the authorities when knowledge of the robbery reached him.
All were tried, convicted and sentenced.  They each served several years.  Cochran was the last apprehended and first released.  While in prison, he developed a terminal illness, and was sent home to die.

As a footnote to this story, I would observe that I have kept the bullet and the brass rod that saved my life as mementos.  Also, I purchased Linton’s .32 Smith & Wesson revolver from Dr. Stoll for $40.  I am uncertain how he came into possession of such.