Tuesday, April 9, 2013


4/4/1933 - Proving that no business in the Midwest is safe from their depredations, the Barker-Karpis Gang leaves its St. Paul lair and travels south to the town of Fairbury, Nebraska ... they have business to conduct at the First National Bank.


The gang is a loose confederation of outlaws that varies from job to job and for the Fairbury raid the band consists of eight robbers using two cars ... Eddie Green, a freelance "jug marker" known for his abilities to scout potential scores, Alvin Karpis, a former child marble champion now known for his cool under duress, Fred and Dock Barker, the murderous children of Missouri hillbilly, Kate "Ma" Barker, Frank "Jelly" Nash, a master thief who will be the catalyst of the Kansas City Massacre that is but a few months away, Jesse Doyle, a burglar friend of Fred Barker and Karpis during their days together inside the Kansas State Penitentiary at Lansing, Volney Davis, an Oklahoma badman buddy of Dock's, and con man Earl Christman.

                                                        Fred Barker
                        Dock Barker                                   Alvin Karpis
                                                Frank "Jelly" Nash

Election day Tuesday, Fairbury wakes up wondering how the vote will go on whether to allow the Bonham Theater to open on Sundays ... it is a town with no idea it is about to be visited by some of the most murderous individuals in the annals of thievery.  Shortly after 9:00 in the morning, a dark Chevy sedan driven by Fred Barker, and a dirty Buick under the control of Jesse Doyle, pull up in front of the First National Bank and the gang immediately sets about plundering the establishment.

                                                The Bonham

Employees and patrons forced to go face down on the floor or be shot, teller F. P. Conrad is so shocked to have a machine gun thrust in his face that he starts his day off with an upset stomach, compliments of swallowing his chewing tobacco.  Searching for the president of the bank to open the vault, the outlaws settle for the duo of Cashier R. S. Wifley and Teller Frank Nelson to provide access to the bank's major assets and it takes the gang only a few minutes to reward themselves for their morning's work with $25,700 in cash and $125,7000 in securities and bonds.  Time to leave, the exiting will not be as easy as the entering was for the thieves.   


Unknown to the gang, on the very day and time they have chosen to rob the bank, across the square in the courthouse, the town's sheriff and deputy sheriff are meeting with a machine gun salesman, discussing upgrading the police department's firepower.  Alerted by a downtown businessman that the bank is being robbed, the trio grab up "samples" and engage the outlaws in a shootout.  In the lead that flies, the bandits blow out a side-street window of the bank to provide easier access to their cars, weapon pitchman Glen Johnson is wounded, Deputy Sheriff W. S. Davidson is hit in the ankle, and human shield hostage bank employee Keith Sextron is struck five times but survives.  Using hostages on the running boards of their escape cars, the Barker-Karpis makes a rapid departure from the city, but does not leave Fairbury unscathed ... in the melee in front of the bank, gunman Earl Christman takes a bullet to the stomach, a wound demanding immediate medical attention.


Fifteen miles out of town the gang switches cars, leaving the vehicles used to raid Fairbury behind, and a group consisting of Doyle, Davis, and Dock Barker take Christman to the nearest safe haven where he might be able to get the doctoring he needs ... the Kansas City, Missouri, home of lawman turned outlaw, Verne Miller.  But there will be no recover for the wounded badman and days after arriving at Miller's place, Christman dies and the gang buries him in an unmarked grave outside of town.  Caring complete once Christman passes, Doyle, Davis, and Barker then head north to the gang's headquarters in St. Paul ... there they get their cuts of the money from the bank job, and along with their other criminal confederates, begin planning an even bigger job, the kidnapping of brewery magnate, William Hamm, Jr.


As for the election, in the tumult of the robbery, most citizens forget to vote and lacking the necessary clout required for change, Fairbury's theater remains closed on Sundays.

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