The Amherst Bank Robbery

Although Amherst is in Portage County, the robbers were caught in Wausau.

This article was sent to me by Joan Benner, a good friend and a fellow genealogy researcher in Adams, Juneau, Waushara and Wood County - and occasionally Bayfield and Ashland Counties.  To contact Joan, email [email protected].

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The Amherst Bank Robbery

The Plainfield Sun, Plainfield, Waushara Co. WI

March 17, 1899, Page 4

The International Bank of Amherst was entered by burglars sometime Thursday night, March 9th, and robbed of about $7,000. Entrance was made through the door by means of a skeleton key. Inside of the bank is a vault, and inside the vault stood the safe. The vault door was pried open. The safe was then attacked and was blown open by the use of nitro glycerin. The work was so skillfully done that the robbery was not discovered until the cashier entered the bank the next morning. The directors of the bank at once offered a reward of $500 for the arrest and conviction of the robbers and officers at once were set to work to capture them if possible. Saturday two suspicious looking characters were arrested by the officers at Wausau, who gave their names as John KELLEY and J. BURNS. The amount of money they had in their possession was $1,801.25. The Wausau Record gives the following account of their capture:

Sheriff Tom MALONE made a record for himself today. Assisted by Constable Theodore STELTZ, he captured two of the Amherst Bank robbers and recovered $1801.25 of the stolen money. A reward of $500 has been offered for the capture of the thieves, but of this Malone knew nothing until after the arrest.

Conductor GIDWILLE of the St. Paul line, wired Sheriff MALONE this morning that two suspicious characters were on his train and were bound for Wausau and that he was of the opinion that they were the Amherst bank robbers. The sheriff took Officer Max STREICH to the depot with him and waited for the arrival of the train. As it pulled in the conductor jumped off and stood by MALONE and STREICH to point out the suspects. The train stopped but no one alighted. It was then learned that the men had left the train at the Chicago & Northwestern crossing. MALONE and STREICH started out to make a search.

STREICH found two men who fitted the conductor's description in SEEFELDT's saloon on the flat, but while he was telephoning for the sheriff the men skipped out of the back door and escaped. They have not been located since.

Foiled in this attempt to take the two suspects, the sheriff determined to keep a close watch of the strange faces in town. Shortly after noon two strangers passed the jail. They were not of a class to pass unobserved and so the sheriff and Theodore STELTZ watched them. They entered NAFFZ drug store and made a small purchase. Then they returned down the street and went to the ADAMS House. There they ordered dinner.

MALONE and STELTZ entered the office and sat down patiently to wait for their men. They intended to surprise them as they emerged from the dining room and they certainly succeeded. As the two fellows came into the office contentedly chewing their toothpicks, MALONE and STELTZ shoved two revolvers in the faces of the suspects with the stern command, "Throw up your hands!" They obeyed instinctively it seemed, but their faces were studies for a few seconds. Surprise, anger and chagrin chased each other across their countenances while they settled down to a sphinx like immobility. The officers disarmed their prisoners, finding a big revolver on each. One of the guns was at full cock, ready for use.

At the jail office they were thoroughly searched and $1,801.25 in money found upon the two. They had gold, silver, nickels and pennies in every pocket and $1,300 in bills fastened inside their shirts. They also had several bottles of explosives, the contents of one identified as nitroglycerin. In their inside pockets were several bicycle spokes and each man had two pairs of gloves. They were locked up in the cage, and later gave their names as John KELLY and J. BURNS.

Sheriff MALONE deposited the money in the Marathon county bank and notified the sheriff of Portage county.

The men who escaped from the saloon immediately left the city and started towards Schofield. They were pursued, however, by the sheriff and a posse of citizens and finally overhauled and forced to surrender, but not until they had fired three shots at their pursuers. These men gave the names of C. W. WILSON and Charles McCAULEY. About $400 were found on their persons.

Sheriff LEAHY and District Attorney OWEN of Portage County went to Wausau and returned Saturday with the four suspects and they were arraigned before Judge MURAT. After all the men had pleaded "not guilty" the case was held open until Tuesday, and in default of $1000, they were marched off to jail. They were again arraigned before Judge MURAT on Tuesday, District Attorney OWEN, appearing for the State and J. H. BRENNAN for the prisoners. After several motions for the discharge of the prisoners, which were over-ruled, the examination was adjourned until Thursday.

The Stevens Point Journal says:

All of the men have frequently been seen in this city. As near as can be learned they first came here about four weeks prior to the robbery. On February 24th the man who now gives the name of WILSON registered at the Farmers' Hotel on Water Street, under the name of Frank HOEY. The one who says his name is John KELLEY took supper at the same place March 7th and 8th, registering as J. SMITH. J. BURNS was with him both evenings and registered as B. BURNS. March 8th was Wednesday, and the bank was robbed the following night. A favorite resort of the men while here was ZIMMER's saloon on Water Street. All four were in there frequently, but between their first appearance, about four weeks ago, and the robbery, they were all absent about a week, at least they did not show up at ZIMMER's. All of them, however, were in there a day or two before the robbery, and they had with them three packages, done up in paper. All of the men appeared to have plenty of money.

Detective John J. FLYNN, of Chicago, arrived in Stevens Point Wednesday, and recognized WILSON as a noted Chicago crook and safe blower. His right name is John HARRINGTON. McCAULEY he recognized as Edward RATIGAN, another noted crook.

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