Monday, May 7, 2012

Virginia City Bank Robbery

Well-known Madison County pioneer A. J. Bennett was the cashier in Henry Elling’s bank in 1879 when a pair of desperadoes sauntered in one quiet afternoon.

From Cartoons and Caricatures of Men in Montana (1907) by E.A. Thomson
via Butte-Silver Bow Public Library's Flickr photostream
Bennett was behind the counter, and asked what he could do for them. One reached into his vest and the other reached for his hip, and both drew revolvers, which they aimed at Bennett’s head. One man produced a buckskin thong and tightly bound Bennett’s hands behind him while the other pressed his revolver into Bennett’s neck. Bennett had just unlocked the fireproof safe—bad timing—when the pair came in. One continued to press his gun into Bennett’s neck while the other rummaged through the open safe. They gathered up about forty-five hundred dollars and told Bennett not to sound the alarm. They headed out to the street, and Bennett followed, crying “Murder! Robbers!” A third man was waiting with the horses. The three made off on the road to Yellowstone Park. In their haste, they dropped one of the revolvers. It was a cut-down Colt with the trigger removed. The robber who held the gun on Bennett had been holding the hammer back with his thumb; the slightest movement could have caused the gun to fire. It was a professional job. The robbers had stationed fresh horses every thirty miles all the way to Yellowstone Park. Yet they overlooked twenty-thousand dollars in gold dust and seventy-five thousand dollars in currency. Authorities eventually apprehended the third man who held the horses. He claimed the other two gave him five hundred dollars and told him to get lost. He did ten years at Deer Lodge. Years later, speculation still held that the two who got away were Frank and Jesse James. The Elling Bank still stands on Wallace Street.

The Elling Bank today. Image via Virginia City Chamber of Commerce
From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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