Huntertown Historical Society

Interesting Articles


Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette

Sunday, April 18, 1971

Article by Forrest McComb

 

IT DIDN’T PAY TO ROB BANK AT HUNTERTOWN

Cashier Tucker Shot at Thieves

 

Where Bullets went – Picture

Horace Tucker, in shirtsleeves, points out to a friend where the bullets ripped through the glass enclosure at the Huntertown Bank.  Tucker had fired at two men robbing the bank in 1927 and when the bandits returned fire, the bullets went through the front window and this glass at the teller’s cage.

 

Much of today’s efforts of the news media is taken up with reporting crime of one kind and another taking place around the country.  Murder is committed, stores broken into, businesses ransacked, cars stolen, people mugged, taxi drivers held up, banks robbed, drugs in schools and what have you.  It makes us wonder what has become of law-and-order?

 

Honest folks don’t like to see a breakdown of law-and-order, and neither did our forefathers.  But when it happened to them, and horse stealing became more than the official law could cope with, the pioneer simply took back the power he’d given and handled the situation with vigor and dispatch.

 

A horse was a most valuable possession, and when one was stolen, a posse quickly formed, hunted down the thief and hanged him to the nearest tree without benefit of either judge or jury.  This was brutal justice and a little rough on the criminal, but it did stop horse stealing!

Just a short time ago,  less than 50 years, any person who’d attempt to rob a bank had to be considered a real desperado.  In 1927, that was the type of bandits that held up the Hunter-town Bank twice in about two months time. 

 

Horace Tucker was the cashier.  The trouble trying to rob Horace was, Horace shot back!  He was a tall, slim, muscular man, with eyes set wide apart and curly brown hair, and Horace had grit to spare.  He didn’t believe in giving up the bank’s money without a struggle.

 

Tucker’s first visitor came on Oct. 5, and Horace was forced into the vault at gunpoint.  Horace had a gun hidden in the vault, and when he opened fire on the bandit, succeeded in routing him out of the building.  The lone bandit ran to his car parked close by and Horace got in one shot.  The car jerked, the desperado slumped down and Horace thought he’d hit him, but the car roared away out of town and turned West.

 

Authorities were notified immediately at Fort Wayne, but the trail became lost.  One week later, a lone bandit tried to hold up the bank at Amboy, Ind., and was captured.  The description fit the Huntertown robber, and Horace made the trip to Peru for identification.  It was the same man and proved to be Frank Bagley, a notorious Indianapolis criminal who wasn’t a bit happy to see Horace.  Bagley failed to get any money from his last two jobs, but got a life sentence from a judge when convicted of bank robbery. 

 

The Allen County Bankers Association gave Horace a brand new revolver in recognition of his defense of the bank.  It was the one he used the next time robbers came to town.

 

The bank, which later went out of business, was located in the building that is now the U.S. post office, and Horace was alone as usual on Dec. 28.  Two strangers came in and one asked Horace to change a $5 bill.  When he started to count it out, they both whipped out guns and demanded the bank’s money.  They then compelled him to open the vault, lie on the floor, and while one bandit stood guard over Horace, the other looted the vault.  Actually, only a small amount of bills were taken, but they got considerable silver at the cashier cage.  Much of it was in dollars and half dollars, bulky and heavy.  The robbers had no sack so they divided the bills and silver stuffing it in their pockets, all except a tall package he had in his possession.  They’d acquired considerable money, so they thought, but Horace had put one over on them.  Thinking ahead to the day when he might be robbed again, he’d fixed up a decoy package to look like money and placed it in the vault.  The bandits took this bait, and were ready to leave after forcing Horace into the vault. 

 

Horace grabbed his hidden gun and intended to try to foil these robbers.  The vault door clicked when he opened it, and one of the bandits whirled and shot at Horace.  It was at close quarters and the bullet cut through his left coat sleeve, grazing the forearm.  Horace jumped back into the vault, but when the men were leaving he came out firing.  The bandits returned his fire from the street.  Bullets went through the front window and the teller’s cage, and two flattened themselves against the steel vault door. 

 

People at their homes were startled by the gun battle in the little town.  Before anyone could think of a way to help Horace, they saw the bandits jump in their car and speed out of town.  They turned east at the edge of town and then north.  They had actually obtained $1,312.59 from the bank, but in their hurry lost some silver in the street.

 

A good description was gotten of their car, and the law had better luck tracking this pair.  They seemed to be heading for Michigan or Ohio.  A few miles south of Pioneer, near the Michigan line, a tire blew out on the bandit’s car.  They stopped the next car that came along, robbed the owner of it, leaving him standing in the road.  A tire on this car soon went flat and they abandoned it two miles east of Pioneer, taking to the fields, swamps and woods.  Ohio and Michigan sheriffs, alerted ahead, were bearing the brunt of the chase, but they were joined by scores of farmers and residents.  The entire community was in an uproar.

 

The chase proved to be long and hard, and turned back west.  The taller bandit outran the shorter and they became separated, but the short man was cornered and taken at 5 o’clock on the John Hermeishmer farm by Sheriff E. H. Kerr of that county.  Clark was tired and hungry and seemed glad to give up.  He had $809 in money, but had thrown away some silver during the chase.

 

The two were brought back to Fort Wayne and tried in circuit court before Judge Sol. Wood.  Samuel D. Jackson was prosecutor.  The men had many charges against them, and swift justice was handed out.  Clark received a sentence of 20 years at Michigan City.  It was a fine demonstration of legal law-and-order, swiftly upheld, and quick and sure!

 

Horace Tucker had worked in banks at Chicago and Ashtubula, Ohio, before coming to Huntertown.  He couldn’t stand being easy prey to robbers;  he had to fight back!  Thinking it over, he decided he’d prefer a quieter life and retired to his little farm north of town on the Shoaff Raod, where he lived out the balance of his life.

 

His wife, Fluella, still lives there, and three sons, Conrad (Cooney); Carson (Dyke), and Howard and a daughter, Mrs. Einer Jensen, are located at Huntertown or vicinity.  Another daughter, Mrs. Dorothy Sanders is at Richmond, Indiana. 

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HUNTERTOWN CEMETERY                                           Thursday, March 18, 1937

 

Many of the pioneer residents of Perry Township, Allen County, are buried in the Perry Township Cemetery at Huntertown which is more than a century old.  Included among those interred in the pioneer burial grounds are MARY JANE WOOD BEARDSLEY, the first white child born in the township, and WILLIAM T. HUNTER, for whom Huntertown was named.

 

SIDNEY M. DUNTEN, of Fort Wayne, Rural Route 1, Secretary of the Cemetery Association, prepared the following history of the cemetery:

 

In 1833, THOMAS and HORACE F. DUNTEN selected the site.  Being compelled by the death of an infant daughter of AMOS WOOD, they cast about for a suitable location where the soil was sandy and had good drainage.  They chose a three-acre plot in the northwest quarter of Section 16.  After this first burial it was used by the pioneers as a permanent burial ground.  However, it was not until August 7, 1853, that the land was purchased from JACOB BAIR, of Holmes County, Ohio, for $50.  This deed was made to SAMUEL RHOADS, JOSEPH HILLEGASS, THERON M. ANDREWS, BENJAMIN PARKER, and ELBRIDGE G. WHEELOCK.  The original deed now is held by SIDNEY DUNTEN.

 

In this yard, cut in stone, one can find the names of the first pioneers of the vicinity including BENJAMIN PARKER; NATHANIEL FITCH the first blacksmith; EPHRAIM DUNTEN who opened the first store;  ALBERT WOOD, MARY JANE WOOD BEARDSLEY, the first white child born in the township; RALPH ANDREWS, the first unofficial meteorologist of Allen County;  DR. ELDBRIDGE G. WHEELOCK, the first community physician;  WILLIAM T. HUNTER, after whom Huntertown was named;  JAMES VANDOLAH, who built the first successful grist mill;  GEORGE SIMON and many more. 

 

It was not until 1854 that an association was formed on February 13 of that year pursuant to call, a meeting was held at the home of E. H. DUNTEN and officers were elected as follows:  President, E. H. DUNTEN;  secretary, H. L. BENNETT;  treasurer, T. M. ANDREWS;  trustees, BENJAMIN PARKER, SAMUEL RHODES and NATHANIEL FITCH.

 

The next annual meeting was not called until April 7, 1860, when the following officers were elected:  President, JACOB HILLEGASS;  secretary, JOSEPH HUNTER;  treasurer, E. G. WHEELOCK;  trustees, MATHIAS SAYLOR, JACOB KELL, AND WILLIAM HUNTER.

 

On May 26, 1860, the board decided that the grounds should be laid off into lots with a stake at each corner.  Previously to June 14, 1861, a contract was entered into with JOHN (JONNY) TUCKER for grubbing and clearing the grounds for $8.  He did his work so well they allowed him $8.25.  Also an agreement was made with WILLIAM McARTHUR for surveying and platting, for $6, which was ordered paid.

 

In March 1864, DANFORD PARKER was ordered to procure suitable stone to mark the section corners.  These stones are still in place.  In June 1882, the association purchased from MATHIAS SAYLOR, surviving member of the Cedar Creek Presbyterian Church, one-half acre of ground directly across the road for $1.  The land had been used for church purposes.  The church was destroyed by fire and by May 15, 1883,a sufficient sum had been subscribed to warrant building a new church.  In January 1884, the church was ready for occupancy.  MRS. SARAH E. FITCH donated the organ and church bell. 

 

This church was also destroyed by fire, but a more substantial structure of brick was erected in its place.  In September, 1887, an iron fence was erected which is still in good repair.  In December, 1900, steps were taken to erect a new brick church.  By June 3, 1911, the building committee reported completion and was discharged from duty.  This church fell into disuse and in the Summer of 1936 it was dismantled.

 

In February 1914, a need was felt that more ground should be purchased.  By 1916 a tract containing 20 acres was procured providing burial space for the future. 

 

The current officers and board of Perry Township Cemetery are:  MORRIS BRACHT, president;  LELA RINEHOLD, treasurer;  HELEN WARNER, secretary; and members GLEN SHANK, PHILLIP DICKES, MARY HATCH and HOWARD HOSLER. 

 

This last paragraph was not with my original article so not sure if those were 1937 officers or not.  Perhaps those of you out there can tell us.  

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INTERURBAN

 

From the “Northwest Allen Co. News”, Wed. April 3, 1985 as written by Julia Scher

 

At the turn of the century, before widespread use of cars, travel between Huntertown, Avilla, Garrett and Fort Wayne was not very convenient until those towns were joined by the interurban in 1904. 

 

The interurban was the means of traveling to work and shopping in the big city and visiting friends and relatives in outlying areas.  With the advent of cars, the interurban was discontinued in 1939.

 

Huntertown’s interurban station at the corner of Lima Road and Trinity Drive stood empty for a long time and was finally condemned recently by the county building commission.  As the bricks of the building fall down, we decided to find someone to remember the interurban’s place in the town’s history in order to preserve those memories.

 

“I saw the first and last car go,” said Rheua (Gump) Lackey, who currently lives in Swan.  Her stepfather, William Babcock, was hired as the supervisor to oversee laying the interurban track connecting the small towns with Fort Wayne.   The family moved to Huntertown during the building of the interurban.

 

“Avilla got lights in 1904 when the interurban went through,” Lackey said.  Lackey worked at General Electric in Fort Wayne during the depression and made 42 cents an hour but she only worked a day and a half each week.  She rode the interurban to and from work each day.  “The interurban went down Wells Street to Superior then east to Calhoun and south to the D&N Drugstore on Main Street and then west on Main to the interurban station,”  Lackey said.  “I rode in the car when it was so crowded people sat on the arms of the chairs.  I rode the train to GE and to shopping and movies.”

 

The interurban was similar to a street car.  It was a single car with a motorman up front to drive and a conductor in back to help passengers off and on.  The train cost 30 to 40 cents one way to Fort Wayne.

 

After working at GE, Lackey owned and operated the Sandwich Shop in Huntertown with her husband George, who died in 1953.  The restaurant was located in the building immediately south of the interurban station.  “I sold interurban tickets and after that left, bus tickets.”

 

Lackey said the schoolhouse on the south end of town, currently at the site of the fire station, had two rooms.  “If you wanted to go to high school you had to go into Fort Wayne.”

 

Lackey remembers when the bank, now the Post Office, was robbed.  Horace Tucker was the teller and he exchanged gunshots with the robber.  There are still gunshot holes in the Post Office from that confrontation.  The bank was built at the site of Lymon’s lumber yard. 

 

At the site of the current Town Hall, Lackey said, there used to be a house.  She has a picture from a newspaper showing that house burning down.  “In the picture, the house is burning down and the people are out front with a stove they saved from the fire.”

 

Tom Hoot gave the News an old postcard of the interurban station dated 1913 which showed a sign which read, “Pony Express,” on the station.  Lackey said she doesn’t remember that particularly, but she does remember the interurban carried freight.  The train would back up to the back of the building and the freight would be unloaded. 

 

Lackey remembers when a man named Balliet was killed on the interurban.  “He was a conductor.  The train was south of Huntertown, near Byron Health Center, when he stuck his head out the window and it hit a pole.  He was killed.”

 

She said four people were killed in a worse accident involving the interurban, south of Garrett.  “A man named Bill Shuster married Edna Andrews.  Those two and some other people were in a car and they accidentally drove in front of the interurban.  Four people were killed.”

 

Mary Tilden was the first manager of the interurban station and she sold tickets.  Next was Juanetta Schwartz from Garrett.  Then Glenda Dunton operated the station for a while.

 

The time of the interurban has come and gone and so has the evidence of its existence, except the few who still remember the past.