Vigilante Justice: Iowa Group Killed Two, Stopped Bank Robbery
The year was 1921, and being only 75 years old, Iowa was still in the process of establishing itself in the sense that it's known today.
Two men thought they had a cash cow of a robbery in Long Grove, but they found themselves in a predicament when they were enlightened to a group of citizens who weren't going to let them get away with it.
Rural areas needed banks due to the amount of money farmers and the like would need a proper place to store, and for the town of Long Grove, that was Stockman's Saving Bank.
While cities like Davenport had police forces to combat crime, rural areas were faced with longer response times from their respective Sheriff's departments. This spurred the Iowa Bankers Association to build a program they referred to as the 'Vigilance Committee' to combat what was considered a growing epidemic of bank robberies in smaller areas with no police force.
The idea was to establish a team of citizens in their own communities to take up arms in the event of a bank robbery, and if it were successfully stopped, the team would be rewarded $1000 (almost $15,000 today).
Harry H. Hamilton and Roy Purple
Harry H. Hamilton moved to Davenport and found work as a Davenport Police switchboard operator before quitting to work as an editor for the Rock Island News newspaper, which was owned by none other than John Looney. He served time in prison in Ft. Madison due to the result of some charges of larceny but was released after 10 months.
Shortly after his release from prison, he decided he needed to make a lot of money as fast as possible, so he partnered up with Roy Purple.
Purple had always been known to associate himself with criminals, even being arrested as a suspect in a large robbery case that resulted in hundreds of dollars of merchandise being lost. The Davenport Police weren't able to tie him to the crime, and he was let go. His luck would soon run out.
It was the morning of December 15th, 1921 that Hamilton and Purple set out to rob the Stockman's Savings Bank. The two had decided on purchasing a Hudson Touring Car to use in the robbery, because of its speed and a new vehicle that couldn't be tied to them.
A Hudson similar to the one driven by Hamilton and Purple, used in a re-enactment event.
The two drove their way up to Long Grove, which took much longer, being Highway 61 wasn't even a thought yet. As the two drove, they planned to hit the bank before noon so it wasn't as busy. They took turns sipping from a bottle of beer to calm their nerves.
As they sped up the road to the bank, they noticed people were outside, but it didn't matter, because they'd already covered their faces with handkerchiefs.
Loudly skidding to a stop, the two jumped out of the Hudson and ran up to the front door of Stockman's Savings Bank and pulled hard on the doors, guns already drawn, but it didn't open.
The doors were locked because the owner, R.K. Brownlie, and his bookkeeper, Jean Marti, were out of the building for their lunch break.
People in the town began to stare, and the two knew they needed to get out of the area before any more attention was brought to them.
Purple and Hamilton jumped back in the Hudson and sped off, throwing the beer bottle out of the window as they drove.
Al Klindt was the owner of the blacksmith shop across the street from the bank, as well as the leader of the Long Grove Vigilance Committee. He, as well as most others in the town, witnessed the botched attempt at entering the bank by Purple and Hamilton.
Klindt waited for Brownlie and Martin to return from their lunch and immediately filled them in on the situation with the assumption that the robbers would make their return. He alerted the rest of the committee that there was an attempt at a robbery, and the group prepared themselves for an inevitable return of the robbers.
A Second Attempt
Meanwhile, Purple and Hamilton were driving around the countryside to waste time. After about an hour, the two headed back for town.
Once again, the two sped into town, stopping just past the bank. This time, they parked the car facing south in order to make a quick getaway to Davenport.
The two leaped from the car again and ran into the bank. Brownlie was slapped and shoved into the vault, while Martin was held at gunpoint and backed into the vault.
Purple and Hamilton scooped $5000 into a bag and made their way for the door.
Hamilton was steps behind Purple, who went out the door first. Hamilton saw Purple freeze on the front steps of the bank, and immediately start shooting before running out of view.
It was then that the windows of the bank blew out seemingly at once, and Hamilton knew a gunfight was underway.
One of the bullet holes, which residents say has gotten bigger because of kids running their fingers in the hole over the years.
Carrying the money, Hamilton ran out of the bank and had to jump over the bullet-riddled body of Roy Purple on his way to the car.
He shot as he ran to the Hudson, which they'd left running. If he'd make it, he'd just have to throw it in drive and hit the gas.
Badly injured, Hamilton shifted the car and hit the gas, but nothing happened. While the not-so-dynamic duo was in the bank, one of the vigilantes, Archie Henne, took the key out of the ignition.
Hamilton fired his gun until he ran out of ammunition, and it was then that the vigilantes opened the door, bound him up, and carried him into the pool hall next to the bank. They threw him on a pool table until the sheriff, who'd already been phoned, arrived.
Purple succumbed to his injuries before the authorities arrived. He was shot eight times, one of them fatally in the heart. His body was sent to his hometown in Indiana to be buried.
Hamilton was brought to Mercy Hospital in Davenport, where he died a few days later, and was buried in an unmarked grave on the east side of the Oakdale Cemetery in Davenport.
The IBA awarded the vigilance committee their $1000 reward for stopping the robbery. Among them, were common men who, in a split second, became heroes.
The group was led by Al Klindt, and members included E.H. Anshutz, C.F. Jacobsen, R. C. Peterson, James Nagle, E.A. Moore, Jr., Chris Madden, Dick Nagle, Dick Tobin, Peter Willer, and Archie Henne.
Stockman's Savings Bank has been transformed over the years, becoming a grocery store, and even serving as Long Grove's post office for a short time.
Today, it's owned by Long Grove's Joe Zrostlik, who has collected as much memorabilia as he can relating to the infamous robbery. He intends to turn the building into sort of a museum to memorialize the day the town of 155 people made a name for themselves as a place not to mess with.
Check out these newspaper clippings from the week of and weeks following the robbery, which were provided to us by Karen at the Davenport Public Library.