Friday, September 28, 2012


9/26/1933 - Outside the prison walls the escapees break into two groups.  One group, composed of Dietrich, Burns, Fox, and Oklahoma Jack Clark find Sheriff Charles Neel of Harrison County in the parking lot, just finished with dropping off a new prisoner, and force the lawman into his car and then head down the Dunes Highway towards Chicago (but not before Dietrich thumbs his nose at the prison).  The other group, Pierpont, Makley, Hamilton, Russell Clark, Shouse, and Jenkins, run across the street to a Standard Oil gas station where after a failed first attempt (the station manager, Joseph J. Pawelski, takes off running instead of giving up his car keys and the outlaws irate shots miss the man), they grab a car driven by Herbert Van Valkenberg of Oswego.  Forcing Van Valkenberg, his wife, and their eighty-nine-year-old friend Mrs. Minnie Schultz from the vehicle they then take off.  The Pierpont group is not on the road long though, turning down a dirt road only eighteen miles away from the prison, they take a farmer, Sally "Sal" Warner, and his family hostage and stay in the man's house waiting for dark.


Meanwhile the Dietrich party loses control of their car and runs it into a ditch, a situation that causes them to look for another vehicle ... one they find at the farm of Carl Spanier.  Off again, the Spanier car soon blows a tire and the men, all still in their blue convict uniforms, are forced to spend the night, still holding the sheriff hostage, in thick underbrush, waiting for light and for the rain to stop.  Lost, Wednesday and Thursday they walk through the back country and eventually the group begins to fracture.  Clark, not agreeing with the others to tie up the sheriff in conditions that could cause the man's death, and suffering from stomach ulcers irritated by dining on raw vegetables since the break, walks and rides a bus into Gary, Indiana with the captive lawman.  There he releases Sheriff Neel who of course lets authorities know of his freedom, and alerted that an outlaw is in the area, Clark is soon tracked to the the town of Hammond and arrested ... he has been free for all of three days and is not happy about being sent back to Michigan City.  The rest of the group will eventually be back behind bars too ... Walter Dietrich joins the Jack Klutas Gang and is arrested on January, 6, 1934 while he is shaving, Joseph Burns is captured in Chicago on December 18, 1934, and Joseph Fox is once more placed in custody on June 4, 1935.


With one exception, the Pierpont group will become the first John Dillinger Gang (called so by law enforcement and the media, though it is Pierpont that has planned the Michigan City escape and leads the men when they move on to bank robbing).  Leaving the farm they have been hiding at, the Pierpont group uses back roads and makes their way to Indianapolis and the home of Pierpont's new girlfriend, Mary Kinder, who is in on the escape plot so her brother could have a place in the breakout (which he would have, but having contracted tuberculosis, he is confined in the prison hospital when the break takes place).  Ahead of their planned exit day, Kinder has not yet procured a hiding place for the gang, and with no room in the house already occupied by Mary, her sister, her mother, and her stepfather, Kinder takes the men to the home of Ralph Saffell, a man she has been dating while waiting for Pierpont to arrive ... he is not amused.  At Saffell's, the gang cleans up, eats, and puts on new clothes before taking their host's car and moving their site of operations to the hideaway that Mary has procured (along with bandit Harry Copeland) that is now ready in Hamilton, Ohio.


Changing cars, police pick up the trail of the gang and almost catch them, but fail when former race car driver Shouse pulls a skidding U-turn that allows the gang to escape at high speed ... save one, Jim Jenkins.  Off balance from the turn, Jenkins falls out of the rear of the car when a door flies open.  On foot, he will then try and make his way back to the gang's hideout ... he first cons a twenty-four-year-old Good Samaritan named Victor Lyle in giving him a ride with a story about a fight and being hunted by an angry mob, but as the ride continues and reality sets in, forces the young man to continue the journey with threats from the outlaw's drawn pistol.  The ride comes to an end when the pair stop because they are almost out of gas ... coasting into a gas station at 3 in the morning, Jenkins leaves the car to wake the owner of the establishment, and driving on fumes, Lyle uses the outlaw's absence to flee and advise authorities that one of the escapees is in the area.  The locals react immediately and both police and vigilantes begin combing the region for Jenkins ... a search that ends that evening near McDonald's Grocery Store in Georgetown.  Trying to convince locals that his car has broken down and he needs a ride to an auto parts store, when his story is not believed Jenkins pulls his pistol again, shooting grocer McDonald in the shoulder, but this time he is dealing with armed men, one of which, farmer Ben Kanter, puts a round of .20 gauge shot in the bandits head, blowing off a major portion of the bandit's skull.  There will be no reunion with his cellmate, Dillinger

Meanwhile, the rest of the men ready themselves for the crime spree that will be front page news for the rest of the year and into 1934, first by increasing their operating funds by taking $15,000 out of the First National Bank of St. Mary, Ohio on October 2nd, and then by venturing into Lima, Ohio to thank a friend for the weapons that got them out of Michigan City, freeing John Dillinger from the jailhouse he is being held in on robbery charges.

                                                     Awaiting Rescue

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