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Bank Robbery

This is Roald Tweet in Rock Island.

No community in America has arrived until it's had its bank robbery. Preferably, it should be by Jesse James, Dillinger, or Bonnie and Clyde, but in a pinch, just about any robbers will do.

Brownfield, Illinois, down in Pope County, had its bank robbery on October 22nd, 1924. Two teenagers, Dood and Bidley, were loafing on the porch of the town store along Main Street when they saw a black Chrysler pull up in front of the bank across the street. Two men went into the bank, leaving a man and woman in the car. None of the four was familiar, so when the two men who had gone into the bank rushed out into the car and sped away, the teenagers ambled over to the bank to see what was up. The discovered the Mr. Crawford, the banker, locked in the vault, ran to get the locksmith, Weck Frye, to get him out, and sounded the general alarm. A thousand dollars was missing.

In minutes, most of the hundred residents of Brownfield were involved in an impromptu mystery play. Brownfield had no police force, but someone suggested Jim Featherstone, the ex-Pope County Deputy Sheriff known for his ability to track down bootleggers. Featherstone was now a Constable somewhere. "He'd make quick work of the robbers," people said.

The Brownsville bank robbery had all the excitement anyone could ask for. Small town citizens are especially keen observers of goings on around them, and soon one of the robbers was captured. He turned state’s evidence on the others, who were rounded up in the county jail in Golconda. The informer was accused by the others of not living up to their agreement of never being taken alive. "Then what are you doing here?" he replied.

It got better. Two of the robbers turned out to be local Pope County boys. The woman in the car turned out to be a man in disguise. And the other man in the car, machine gun in hand in case anything went wrong? It was none other than Constable Jim Featherstone, the fearless lawman.

Brownfield settled back. The bank was never again robbed. The people of Brownfield proved that if you do something right the first time, you don’t have to do it over again.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.