ATTEMPTED BANK ROBBERY, 1884, Barber County, Kansas Barber County, Kansas.  

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Hazelton Express, May 8, 1884.


Geo. Geppert, Cashier, Shot Down in Cold Blood,
and E. W. Payne, President, Dangerously Wounded.


MEDICINE LODGE, Thursday, May 1st, 1884.

Our little city was yesterday thrown into a state of intense excitement and horror by the perpetration of a murder and attempted robbery, which for cold bloodedness and boldness of design was never exceeded by the most famous exploits of the James gang.

The hour was a little after nine, a heavy rain was falling and comparatively few people were upon the streets, when four men rode in from the west and hitched their horses back of the bank coal shed. The bank was just opened up; Mr. Geppert, the cashier, had taken his place and began work on settling the monthly accounts. E. W. Payne, president, was sitting at his desk writing, when as nearly as we can learn three of the robbers entered. According to a preconcerted plan we presume, one advanced to the cashier window, one to the president's window, while one seemed to have gone around into the back room to the iron lattice door. Almost immediately after the men were seen to enter the bank.


in rapid succession. Rev. Friedley who happened to be just across the street, immediately gave alarm, and marshal Denn, who was standing near the livery stable, across the street from the bank, opened fire on the robber outside, who returned the fire, fortunately without effect. The robbers now saw that their game was up and broke for their horses, mounted and rode out of town, going south. It was but a few minutes until a score or more men were in hot pursuit.

To those who remained, on going into the bank a horrified sight was presented. George Geppert, the esteemed cashier, lay at the door of the vault,


and dead. A hole in his chest, showing where the ball had entered and probably severed the carotid artery, told the tale. Mr. Payne, president, lay near him GROANING WITH PAIN.

An examination showed that a pistol ball had entered back of the right shoulder blade and ranging across, had probably grazed his spine, and lodged somewhere under the left shoulder blade. Mr. Payne's wound is a very serious one, but the doctors express strong hopes of his recovery. THE PURSUIT.

Going back to the pursuing party we get the story of the exciting chase from a participant. The pursuing party first came to sight of the robbers beyond the crossing of the Medicine south of town. The party seeing that they were about to be taken turned and opened fire. Several volleys were exchanged. While the fight was going on Charley Taliaferro and we believe one or two others, rode around the robbers and headed them off on the south. Seeing that they were cut off in this direction, they left the road and started almost west toward the breaks of the gypsum hills but were so hotly pursued that they took refuge in a canyon some three or four miles south west of town. The boys in pursuit surrounded the canyon to prevent the possibility of escape, and George Friedley and Charley Taliaferro came in for reinforcements. In a short time every gun and horse which could be brought into service was on the road to the canyon. Before the reinforcements arrived on the ground, however, the robbers had surrendered. The surprise of the captors can be better imagined than expressed when on taking charge of the outfit, they found that they were all well known. The leaders of the gang were


and Red Wheeler, Assistant Marshal of the same city; the other two were well known cowboys, William Smith, who has been employed on the T-5 range and another cowboy who is known by the name of Wesley, but has several aliases.

Of these men, Brown is the only one who has acquired any notoriety. His history on the frontier began with his connection with "Billie the Kid" in New Mexico. It is said that he was a companion of the noted desperado in some of his most exciting adventures. Of late years, however, he seemed to have sobered down some three years since he was elected assistant city marshal of Caldwell and for the past two years has occupied the position of marshall of our neighboring city. In appearance Brown does not show the criminal particularity. He is a man of about medium height; strong wiry build; wears no beard except a mustache, and his face indicates firmness and lack of physical fear. During the time he has held his office he has killed several men but was generally considered entirely justifiable.

Ben Wheeler, the man who fired the shot which killed George Geppert, is a large and powerfully built man, sandy complexion, and with rather an open countenance. So far as we know he has never been noted as a desperado. He has occupied the position of assistant marshall of Caldwell for the past two years and has been considered, we believe, a good officer. His action yesterday, however, showed him to be perhaps the most cold blooded murderer in the gang.

Wesley, is rather under medium size and has an evil, reckless expression of countenance and is just such a boy as would aspire to be a desperado.

Smith is also an undersized man with dark complexion and rather a hardened expression of countenance.

When the party were brought in the they were surrounded by a crowd of exasperated citizens and cries of


sounded on every side, and for a while it looked as if they would be torn from the hands of the officers and lynched on the spot. A somewhat calmer feeling came over the crowd, not that the feeling was way less intense at the desire to do the job up in a more business like style was greater.

All afternoon little knots of quiet determined men could be seen and all over town was that peculiar hush which bodes the coming storm. Little was said but the impression was prevalent that before many hours the bodies of four murderers would swing in the soft night air.

So ended the most exciting and the most sorrowful day in the history of Medicine Lodge. No bank robbery ever chronicled in the annuals of time was ever bolder in its design or accompanied by more cold blooded murder in ______ompted execution. That the desperadoes failed in accomplishing their full purpose was not the fault of their own but was due to the courage and promptness of a number of our citizens and others, a promptness and courage in fact which has rarely been equaled on any similar occasion anywhere.


About nine o'clock the stillness of the night was broken by three shots fired in rapid succession and at the signal a crowd of armed men advanced on the jail and demanded the prisoners. This was refused but notwithstanding their spirited resistance, the sheriff and posse were overpowered and the doors of the jail opened, when the prisoners who were in the inner cell, unshackled, made a sudden


In an instant the moonlight was so mingled with bullets that it was a highly unsatisfactory locality for a promenade, and the fact that no one except the prisoner, were serious injured is a matter of wonder. Brown, ran a few rods from the jail and fell riddled with a charge of buckshot, besides having a few stray winchester balls in various parts of his body.

Wheeler, Smith and Wesley, were taken by the crowd to an elm tree in the bottom east of town and told if there was anything they wished to say, to say it now for their time of life was short. Wheeler at the first showed great weakness and begged piteously for mercy. Wesley was also shaken, but managed to answer in reply to inquiry that he was born in Paris, Texas, in 1853 and requested that word of his fate be sent to friends in Vernon, Texas. Smith displayed great nerve and gave directions coolly, to sell his horse and saddle and some few other trinkets and send the money to his mother, in Vernon, Texas.

After the remarks the ready ropes were fastened on the necks of the robbers, the end tossed over a limb and in a moment their bodies swung in the wind. So ends the chapter. No law is to be deplored under almost any circumstances, but in this case the general sentiment of the community will ______ the summary of execution of justice by the taking of those murderers lives.


Of the deceased, who was shot down in such cold blood yesterday, we have not space to sneak in fitting eulogy. He had been a resident of our town for some four years past and was widely known and universally respected by all his acquaintances. A man of excellent business capacity, he had already accumulated a handsome competence. In the prime of life and vigor of his manhood, with a most comfortable home and pleasant family; the future seemed to have in store for him abundant years filled with golden fruitage of happiness. The respect of his fellow citizens was shown by the fact that the business houses of the town, we believe without an exception, were draped in mourning. His death has aroused the deepest and most general sympathy. We have lost a most excellent man, a kind husband and father and one of our most enterprising citizens. - Cresset.

FRIDAY, May 2d, 1884.

Mr. E. W. Payne was born in Missouri in 1847. His early life was spent upon the farm, and from early boyhood he was reared to rugged toil. Without any particular advantage, in the way of schools, he still managed to obtain a fair business education, and what he lacked in the knowledge of books he made up by natural clearness of intellect, and almost unlimited energy. That he enjoyed a good share of the confidence of his fellow citizens, was shown by his election of the legislature of Missouri in 1879.

In 1880 Mr. Payne associated himself with Messrs. Hunter, Evans & Co., of St. Louis, for the purpose of ranging cattle, in Comanche Co. in his ranging operations Mr. Payne has been remarkably successful, and with the exception of one year, has held the important position of director of the Comanche County Pool since its formation. Something over two years ago he engaged in the banking business, being elected president of the Medicine Valley Bank, the continued success of which institution has been largely due to his energy and business ability. He has also for more than a years past occupied the position of director in the Cherokee Strip Livestock association.

In 1866 Mr. Payne was married to Miss Susan A. Payne, of Missouri, by whom he has nine children - Edward B., Mary A., Estella _ ., Charles T., John M., Eliza H., Laura, Le_a T., and William W.

His death occurred on Thursday, at 11 o'clock a.m. In the 3_th year of his life. (from The Barber County Index.).

Also see:

11 May 1944
Two Killed In Medicine Lodge Bank Robbery (in 1884)
Barber County Index, May 11, 1944.

Biography of E.W. "Wylie" Payne, -- History of the State of Kansas: Counties, Towns and Villages, A.T. Andreas, Chicago, 1883.

Memoirs of Phoebe (Rogers) Gibson:
The Early Days of Barber County, Kansas

Barber County Index, May 16, 1929. (Includes an account of the capture of the robbers.)

Bank Robbery - Medicine Lodge, Kansas - 1884   This is an excellent illustrated account of the attempted robbery.

Orlando Vernon Lytle, one of the members of the posse which captured the robbers.

Marshal Henry Brown's Winchester Rifle (In the collection of Kansas Museum of History)

Henry Brown: A Kansas Portrait

Henry Newton Brown: A Brief Biography

Henry Newton Brown: Memorial in Caldwell, Kansas

Letter from Mary Emma (Strayer) Hughes to her mother, Harriett Ales (Howard) Strayer about the Medicine Lodge Bank Robbery, 4 May 1884

Sketches From the Life History of Jacob Achenbach   Includes his eyewitness account of the attempted Medicine Lodge Bank robbery and subsequent lynching of the miscreants.

Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!

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