One of the boldest attempts at robbery in the history of Shawnee was nipped on June 3, 1916, when an unknown man was surprised and put to flight while trying to empty the money drawer of the safe in the rear of the Crescent Drug Store in the Elks’ Building. He had opened the drawer, which exposed a roll of bills containing about $70, when the porter entered the rear door of the store. He then quickly fled down the alley in the rear of the building.

BOLD ATTEMPT AT ROBBERY FRUSTRATED BY POLICE

One of the boldest attempts at robbery in the history of Shawnee was nipped on June 3, 1916, when an unknown man was surprised and put to flight while trying to empty the money drawer of the safe in the rear of the Crescent Drug Store in the Elks’ Building. He had opened the drawer, which exposed a roll of bills containing about $70, when the porter entered the rear door of the store. He then quickly fled down the alley in the rear of the building.

The attempted robbery occurred about 10:30 A.M. Deputy George Caruth was in his office on the second floor of the city hall and observed Mark “Bunk” Anderson and another man on the sidewalk on 9th Street by the drug store. They walked back and forth for a while, then separated. Anderson went inside and signaled the other man on the outside. The latter then entered the rear door of the store where the safe sit in the prescription room. It was separated from the front of the store by a partition.

Oscar Machenheimer was in the store alone at the time and was engaged in making a malted milk drink for Anderson. While the other was working at the safe, and after he had pulled the money drawer out, the porter returned from an errand and entered the back door, surprising him at work. He proceeded to the front and asked Machenheimer if he had a new man working there and said that a strange man was getting into the safe.

In the meantime, Caruth went down the stairs just in time to see his man run down the alley across Main Street. Anderson left by the front door. They met on south Broadway and conversed for a moment, then started up toward Main Street. They were met at the Public Drug Company by Caruth, who placed them under arrest and started for the station with them.

As they passed the alley by Carson & Becker’s, the robber broke away and dashed down the alley. Caruth started in pursuit and fired one shot at the fleeing man, but was afraid to fire more, for fear of injuring bystanders. Willard Barnett and others took up the chase and pursued the man to the vicinity of the Western Ice & Cold Storage Company, where he disappeared in the brush along the creek. When last seen, he was riding up Union Avenue in the rear of a grocery delivery car. When the pursuit started, Anderson stood where Caruth had left him and waited for him.

Anderson disclaimed all knowledge of the attempted robbery or acquaintance with the other man. He said that he walked into the store as any other customer would and ordered an egg malted milk, which he had been drinking because of his health being poor. He insisted that he had no connection with the attempt upon the safe.

WHITE SLAVERY CHARGE MADE

H.Y. Pendergast, a Shawnee man, was either the most deplorable criminal, or he was unfortunate in being at the Katy passenger station on June 6, 1916, while wearing a yellowish hat, with ventilating gauze in it. Whatever was the case, he had to answer to a white slavery charge. The complaining witness was Gladys Aden, a 17-year-old girl from Tishomingo. The following story was interesting and typical of the white slavery practice.

The Aden girl, who was described as not looking more than 14, was the daughter of a widow. She recently was receiving letters from Shawnee, Davenport, and Cushing, from a man known to her as “Bob Hall.” He told her of glowing amounts of money she could make in the rooming houses in Cushing. He represented himself as a proprietor of one of those rooming houses. He said he had previously met her in a restaurant in Tishomingo.

Finally, there came a letter from Davenport, enclosing a money order with instructions that she should come to Shawnee. If Hall was not on the train to meet her, the letter said a friend would be there. She would recognize the man by a yellow hat with gauze inside of it.

Aden took the matter up with her mother and she notified the Johnston County attorney. He enlisted the aid of deputies and arranged for the girl to carry out her part of the scheme. They would accompany her to Shawnee and watch for the developments in the event.

The party arrived at the Katy station at 6:20 P.M. on June 8. The girl acted as though alone and sat down in the waiting room. She told a hack that she was running away from home and a man was to meet her there. Soon, Pendergast appeared. He matched the description given to the girl in the letter. She then approached him.

Pendergast told her that he would get her a room as soon as it got a little darker. The county attorney and deputies remained in the near vicinity. Pendergast and Aden then left the station together. They walked in the direction of the Graf’s Packing House, trailed by the officers at a safe distance. They then returned and went up Philadelphia Street to the Traveler’s Room. Here they were refused admission.

Leaving there, they went to the Santa Fe Rooming House. Pendergast advised her to get a room until morning, when in the presence of the proprietor she could find her friends. He also handed her a silver dollar, saying she could pay him back the next day.

Just at this juncture, the deputies entered and put the man under arrest. The girl was sent to the Willard Hotel. The deputies were then accompanied by Shawnee Chief of Police Charlie Hawk to make further investigations. The girl insisted that Pendergast made improper proposals to her while they were together. He disclaimed it all and insisted that he was not the man that was supposed to meet her at the station.

He claimed their meeting at the station was by mere chance. He insisted that the girl approached him. His claim was that he just simply wanted to help her out by finding a room for her. However, from what the officers observed during the event, a warrant was issued for him. He was then transported by the officers back to Tishomingo.

SANDS DEAD OVER DISPUTE

The verdict of the coroner’s jury was returned on the afternoon of July 7, 1916. The jury found that John Sands came to his death at the hands of Fred Grosshelm, unintentionally, while the latter was defending himself and his family.

Sands attacked Grosshelm following a quarrel over a crop of potatoes. Sands was choked to death by the former, in the presence of the Grosshelm family at their home a mile west of the Rock Island shops. Deputy Sheriff Sam O. Martin arrived at the place shortly after 8 A.M. the next morning, in response to a call. Sands was lying dead on the floor with an open knife tightly grasped in his hand. Grosshelm’s numerous wounds were being attended to by a doctor. The dead body was brought to the Moore-Gaskill Morgue, where an inquest was held by Justice of the Peace D.P. Sparks that afternoon.

The family said the two had raised a crop of potatoes together and had trouble over the potatoes three weeks earlier. At that time, Sands hit Grosshelm over the head with an apron bar. The day before his death, Sands bought the crop, giving a check in payment for it. The next day he went to the patch to dig the potatoes, but soon returned to the house and asked Grosshelm if he had cashed his check yet. He replied that he had.

“Well,” said Sands, “the potatoes are no good and I want my money back.”

An altercation followed, and Sands started up the stairs to a room he had been occupying, saying he would “get his gun and kill the whole family.” Grosshelm grabbed him and pulled him from the stairs. Sands drew a knife, and Mrs. Grosshelm grasped Sands’ arm. Grosshelm then secured a hold on Sands’ throat with his hand, and they fell to the floor. Grosshelm kept his hold until Sands was dead. An autopsy performed on the body showed that Sands’ trachea had been crushed. Grosshelm was cut in a dozen places, but none of his wounds were serious.

Both men were well-known in Shawnee. Sands was a member of the Woodmen of the World in good standing. He formerly held a special commission under County Sheriff E.A. “Dink” Pierce. Grosshelm formerly operated a coal oil and gasoline wagon in Shawnee.

(Note: These stories and hundred more appear in Volume One of the history of Shawnee, now available for purchase at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society, or by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728. Look for Volume Two on the 1930s and 1940s as soon as sales from Volume One enables us to go to press.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.