Bandits are part of area history

Part I

“Bandits Get $4,500 in Raid This Morning,” read one of the headlines of the Marshall News Messenger newspaper on Jan. 3, 1933. “Three gunmen, who spread roofing nails on the highway to prevent pursuit, escaped amid a fusillade of bullets after they held up and robbed the new Farmers and Merchants Bank in Russell today.

It was not known whether any of the band were wounded. Violet Peterson, assistant cashier, was in the bank alone when two of the trio sauntered into it. One walked over to the cashier’s window, presented a $1 bill, and asked for change. As Miss Peterson handed him the change, she was confronted by a pistol. ‘Get down on that floor quick and don’t make a sound,’ one of the gunmen ordered. Another robber stood guard while the other started to ransack the till in the cash cage and the vault. While the holdup was in progress E.C. Jones of Russell walked in. He was forced to lie alongside Miss Peterson. As [the robbers] ran from the bank and got into the car driven by a third man, Jones arose. Meanwhile, Oscar Burchard, realizing that a bank robbery was taking place as he stood in his establishment across the street, hurried to the bank with a rifle. Burchard handed the rifle to Jones, who ran into the street and fired a volley of shots at the fleeing car. A mail carrier who saw the car 3 miles north and 2 miles west of Russell, said he had heard a machine, apparently the car occupied by the bandits, had been punctured by several bullets. An effort was made to pursue the band, but as the pursuers reached the outskirts of the village, they were thwarted as the tires of their car were punctured by roofing nails scattered by the raiders.”

During the Depression of the 1930s it is believed that, with few exceptions, every bank in Lyon County was robbed at least once. Our county history books (including town histories) say little about these robberies, maybe because they were most likely committed by locals rather than by marauding groups of bandits. Times were difficult, and sometimes people felt there was no other recourse than to rob for the money and goods that were needed by their families. There were times that even clothes hung out on the line to dry were stolen.

In addition to the robberies of banks, the Marshall Grocery Company store was robbed during the 1930s of approximately $30,000 worth of supplies. One astonishing robbery took place at Olson and Lowe, the men’s clothing store in Marshall, where every suit of clothing was stolen in an overnight robbery.

(Continued next week)