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Jackson County, Illinois

Jonesboro Gazette 1927

Friday, 21 Oct 1927-Submitted by Darrel Dexter

GRAND TOWER BANK ROBBED

Robbers Captured Within 24 Hours

50 Miles from Scene

Three men held up the First National Bank of Grand Tower shortly after one o’clock last Friday afternoon. Twenty-four hours later they were captured near Ullin, less than 50 miles from Grand Tower, and a few hours later were indicted, plead guilty and sentenced to the penitentiary for one year to life.

The three men who stated the hold up were Rooney and Sherman Smiddy, brothers, 27 and 29 years old and natives of the county. The third man was Joe Drumsta, who with the Smiddy brothers, had been living at points in Jackson and Williamson counties.

The men visited the Grand Tower bank a little after one o’clock, Friday and after forcing the president Ralph Huthmacher and two or three others persons in the bank to lie on the floor grabbed $1,600 in bills and silver and hurried to a Ford coupe waiting in the street, one of the men at the wheel. The car was headed south towards Wolf Lake. A few miles north of the place they met up with a farmer and at the point of a gun traded their coupe for his Ford touring car. Passing though Wolf Lake they took the road to Jonesboro, but at the Morgan schoolhouse four miles west of town turned to the right and went towards Ware and then took the bottom road towards Reynoldsville. Near Reynoldsville they turned north and east till they struck the Mill Creek road. Here Sheriff George W. Lyerly, Ford Stone and Emery Newton were hot on their trail and close enough to exchange shots with them, but the robbers being armed with a high powered rifle forced the sheriff, who was armed with as shotgun and revolvers to maintain a respectful distance. The robbers had new trouble and near Mill Creek ditched their car purposely and took to the hills and woods west of the railroad. Night was then approached and Sheriff Lyerly was satisfied that the fugitive could be captured or routed out the next morning and made his plans according. The sheriff had been joined by all the forces and also by the sheriff of Jackson County and Alexander County and their men. Every road and path was picketed and patrolled during the night and a daylight the woods were entered and the pursuit resumed. The trail of the robbers was easily found and followed to near Ullin on the M & O Railroad and thence on the hard road near Ullin. Somewhere on the route they had possessed themselves of a sedan and here the sheriff of Alexander County came on to them and as they had exchanged cars with a man driving peacefully along with the family. The sheriff opened fire at once with his high power rifle and the men abandoned their car so recently acquired and took to the woods again. They were closely followed and soon called out they would surrender. One of them had been wounded in the leg.

The men were taken back in triumph to where they had left the car. It was only 24 hours after they had pulled off their sensational exploit and they were weary and hungry. The sheriffs of Union, Jackson, Alexander, and Pulaski counties were present, also their deputies and posses and about 500 volunteers armed with shotguns and pistols. The robbers had clung to the stolen money through it all. It was counted and then the sheriff of Jackson County took charge of the prisoners and conveyed them to Murphysboro. Then they were formally indicted, plead guilty, and received their sentence, which they entered upon at Chester Monday.

The quick capture of the bandits was due to the rapidity with which the news was sent out. Sheriff Lyerly and his deputies were soon scouting west of Jonesboro. Deputy Sheriff William Grammer and his men narrowly missed intercepting the robbers on the river road and Sheriff Lyerly struck their trail on the Reynoldsville road and hung on it until their capture. The Smiddy brothers were familiar with the roads and rough country in this county over which they fled, being born and raised there.

The report sent out from Grand Tower, which is on the Mississippi River in Jackson County, was the robbery had been committed by two men and a woman who escaped in a Ford coupe. Their prompt exchange of this car for the use of different style raised a good deal of confusion for a while and possible prevented their earlier apprehension. At Wolf Lake they passed through unmolested while armed men stood prepared to detain any Ford coupe occupied by two men and woman that came to sight.

The courage and persistence with which Sheriff Lyerly and his men hang on in the trail of the robbers during their flight is highly commended. They frequently took a shot at their pursuers who hung on over the rough hills and through the woods until the robbers were fairly forced into the open and into the hands of other officers waiting for them. It was grueling and dangerous work.

Friday, 28 Oct 1927

THE JOCULAR BANK ROBBERS

The Carbondale Herald gives the following account of the demeanor of the Grand Tower bank robbers while on their way to the penitentiary. Incidentally, about $900 of the funds they stole has not yet been recovered. It is supposed to be cached somewhere.

The boys, all in the early twenties, gave every evidence of being "hard boiled" criminals while enroute to the penitentiary, says the Herald. They were in a hilarious mood and joked with one another while reviewing the "boneheads" they pulled while trying to evade capture.

Sherman Smiddy, like the others, rued mistakes they had made in the course of their flight and capture. The bandits frankly told where they had made the mistake while officers taking them to prison listened in.

"I had de hunch that would a got us through," Smiddy said. "We had a swell chance to turn the trick down there in the lunips (country) when the geek from Union County (meaning Sheriff Lyerly of Jonesboro) step up behind us."

"You see, I wanted to scout under the viaduct and scrap it out with the law. We coulda taken his car away from him and beat it and get away."

Smiddy’s plan to wait under the bridge and shoot Sheriff Lyerly was not popular with the other Smiddy or Drumsta. The bandits fleeing in an old Ford they had taken away from a fisherman south of Grand Tower realized their need of a better car. Smiddy coveted the one Sheriff Lyerly used.

The viaduct or bridge Smiddy fancied for his purpose was the one not a great way from Mill Creek. Sheriff Lyerly recognized the bandits farther north near Reynoldsville, and gave chase in the southward.

Roodie "Red" Smiddy proposed just south of Grand Tower when the trio was taking the fisherman’s battered car, that he be allowed to continue southward in the car and that the others take to the woods where they were. Red’s idea was to travel a few miles in the car and then take to the woods himself. Officers say Red’s plans might have worked.

Joe Drumsta went on the plan of all for one and one for all and was instrumental in keeping the three together.

As sheriffs took the trio to the pen Monday, the bandits told how they remained awake Friday night in a hiding place in the woods into which they had been chased and kidded one another on the chance of getting caught. Drumsta wanted to know why the Smiddys didn’t doll up and step out and buy some hooch for company. Red Smiddy remarked that a thick steak wouldn’t go bad and wanted Drumsta to hurry down to the nearest butcher shop and get three.

Drumstra’s 15 automatic sported two notches to the right side of the stock. A revolver taken from the gang bore the initials, "C. L. A." These weapons and a shotgun and a rifle have been added to the collection of firearms at Sheriff Flanigan’s office.

Sheriff Flanigan speaking of the removal of the trio to the Chester pen, declared Tuesday that he believed the men would rather have gone to the pen than to church. "I considered them the toughest birds we have hold of here in years."

The bandits made the ride from Murphysboro a succession of laughs. Maybe the jokes were on the surface, but they were jokes at that in which one bandit joyously kidded the other on this and that subject, and particularly on the mistake they made after getting a pocket full of money" at the Grand Tower bank.

All efforts to learn where the trio had hidden $900 or more in cash failed. Drumsta is said to have remarked once that he wanted to be sue of his ice cream sodas when he comes back from Chester, and that his sweetie wanted a new hat.

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