Newton Gang Robs Two Banks in One Evening

On January 9, 1921, the Newton Gang drove into Hondo, Texas, a small city 30 miles west of San Antonio, to rob one of many two banks on the town. It was simply previous midnight and the temperature was close to freezing.

The Newtons knew the night watchman in Hondo, and as was his behavior, they discovered him huddled round a pot-bellied range within the depot. They minimize all the phone wires after which went again to examine on the night watchman. He had not budged from his spot by the range so Joe was positioned throughout the road as a lookout whereas the remaining went to the financial institution.

In his 1979 interview, Willis proudly informed his model of the story:

“Someday you simply get fortunate ‘trigger that they had left the vault door open. That they had left it unlocked so we did not want no nitro or nothing. We jimmied the window, walked over to the vault, tried the deal with and she or he opened! You’d be stunned what number of instances them banks would simply shut the door so it regarded locked in the course of the night.

“We had the vault cleaned out very quickly and went to see if the night watchman was nonetheless within the depot. Positive sufficient, he was studying {a magazine} and ingesting espresso by the range. Properly hell, we figured we had loads of time so we might go over to the opposite financial institution and provides it a attempt. I saved Joe and Doc watching the night marshal whereas Jess and I went right down to the opposite financial institution.

“We got inside that bank and cleaned it out. Damn, two banks in one night and the night marshal, he never come out of the depot!”

The native newspaper, the Hondo Anvil Herald, carried the story with a splash headline:

Yeggs Rob Hondo Banks

One of many Most Daring Robberies Ever Staged in Texas Occurred Right here Sunday Morning

The individuals of Hondo have been amazed and angered Sunday morning when it turned identified that each banks had been entered by yeggs, between midnight and daylight, and robbed of each cash and valuables. Entrance to the First Nationwide Financial institution was effected by forcing the entrance doorways; whereas the doorway to the State Financial institution was effected by prizing down the bars over the past window within the alley between Parker’s and the financial institution.

The newspaper went on to offer an elaborate description of the theft:

Owing to a lot of the cash in each banks being within the cash safes, with time locks set, the loss in money was not critical, the First Nationwide dropping a complete of $2,814 whereas within the matter of precise money loss the State Financial institution was slightly extra lucky, its loss being $1,879; each banks dropping a complete of $4,694 practically all of which was silver coin.

The funds of each banks have been lined by housebreaking insurance coverage, consequently neither will undergo loss. [Just like Willis had assured his brothers.]

Homeowners of personal containers, who had put their valuables within the vaults of the banks, are the heaviest losers, and their precise loss is not going to be positively identified for some time-probably a month-as the homeowners of the containers are the one ones who can clear up the loss, the officers of the banks not being suggested of the contents of the containers.

The protection deposit field homeowners had money, authorities bonds, Warfare Financial savings Stamps, jewellery, and different valuables of their containers so it was unattainable to find out the precise quantity taken within the theft. Estimates of as excessive as $30,000 have been by no means confirmed.

The article continued to explain the “secure specialists:’

… That the robbers have been specialists is borne out by the truth that they have been in a position to work the mix on the vault of the First Nationwide Financial institution. [Willis said it was left unlocked.] They have been additionally specialists in the usage of explosive, the vault doorways of the State Financial institution being blown open by one of the vital highly effective explosives known-TNT [ Willis swore in his interview that he never used dynamite-only nitroglycerine.]

The vaults have been totally ransacked and the flooring have been strewn with papers about two toes thick.

From the thoroughness with which the robbers made their seek for securities it’s evident that they spent two hours or extra within the vaults of the banks and the personal containers of the purchasers are in a tragic plight, most of them exhibiting that they have been beat open by some heavy instrument, most likely with a sledgehammer that had been stolen from the blacksmith store of Masks & Co.

… That the robbers have been no tyros (archaic phrase that means novices) within the enterprise of robbing is once more borne out by the truth that they took each precaution towards being apprehended by the possession of bijou, gold cash, and so forth, which could result in their id. The flooring of the vaults have been actually strewn with such articles as would possibly result in their detection. Notes and different articles of worth that would not be changed into cash have been solid apart and left behind.

It’s usually believed that the band was composed of from six to eight men, and that each banks have been robbed concurrently, a gang being assigned to every financial institution.

One other circumstance that signifies that the robbers weren’t new to the sport of financial institution robbing is borne out by the truth that each phone line on the town was minimize, apparently, earlier than the banks have been robbed. And this a part of their plans was carried out most successfully and by an knowledgeable phone man.

… Cables have been severed, apparently with saws, and single wires have been minimize with wire clippers. Solely three telephones related with the native change have been working Sunday morning.

The theft was found by the night watchman about 5 o’clock Sunday morning and instantly reported to Deputy Sheriff C.J. Bless.

… Harry Crouch, our native telegraph operator, was summonsed and messages have been despatched east and west in an effort to intercept the robbers, however so far as most of the people is suggested, nothing was discovered as to the course during which the robbers went.

Detectives from San Antonio and the encompassing space converged on the Hondo banks looking for clues to the duel-heist theft.

… One of the exceptional coincidences of this entire enterprise is that these robberies may have occurred proper within the coronary heart of the city and less than 200 toes aside, and never one amongst our individuals being any the wiser till daylight it was revealed what had transpired, and that too, it was since developed that the night watchman and the 2 different men have been within the ready room of the depot, no more than sixty yards from the entrance doorways of the First Nationwide Financial institution, whereas the theft was being completed. The robbers should have achieved their work very silently to keep away from detection. [It is hard to image a “silent” explosion of nitroglycerine.]

The phrase the newspaper used for the night burglars was “yeggs,” a preferred vernacular expression of the period. It’s fascinating to check the newspaper reporting to Willis’ account during which the vault of the First Nationwide Financial institution had been left unlocked and so they used nitroglycerine (quite than TNT) to blow the vault door on the State Financial institution. Much more fascinating was the very fact that there have been no observe up articles on the theft. There was not a single point out of the multi-bank housebreaking over the following months-although it contained giant ads from each banks. It was as if each banks had by no means been robbed.

The Galveston Every day Information on January 10 reported the theft describing a “clew” that proved to be a purple herring:

Robber Heel Could Result in Arrest

Phone Connections Minimize When Banks at Hondo Are Looted

San Antonio, Texas-January 10-A rubber heel, misplaced from a shoe, could result in the identification of the financial institution robbers who made a profitable haul of $20,000 from the First Nationwide Financial institution of Hondo and the Hondo State Financial institution early Sunday morning.

The financial institution robbers gained entrance to the 2 banks by prying the iron bars free from rear home windows of the buildings and manipulating the mixtures of the vault within the First Nationwide Financial institution, however blew off the door of the vault within the state financial institution.

The haul was constituted of the protection deposit containers in each banks, the robbers acquiring solely $1,500 in money from the First Nationwide and $29,350 of the state financial institution’s cash. The smaller vault safes in each establishments have been untouched.

The stability of the loot, it’s estimated by officers on the two banks, was secured from homeowners of security deposit containers within the banks. Hondo was not conscious of the go to of the financial institution robbers till nearly midday Sunday, when the open home windows on the rear of the 2 financial institution buildings have been found.

Heel misplaced in financial institution.

Sheriff J.S. Baden, throughout his investigation was given the misplaced rubber heel, which had been present in entrance of the vault of the First Nationwide Financial institution. Additional investigation disclosed a set of burglar instruments consisting of a pipe wrench, noticed, and chisel, which had been left by the robbers. These nonetheless will not be thought of as vital for they’re of a regular make, simply bought at any ironmongery shop.

Simply outdoors of the window by way of which the robbers entered the state financial institution, Sheriff Baden discovered the numerals 13,555 scratched on the brick work. This, financial institution officers consider, signifies the quantity the robbers secured from the deposit containers within the financial institution. [This curious piece of information appears to have been just another “red herring.”]

Sheriff Baden believes the robberies have been dedicated by a band of six men, who despatched an advance guard of two into Hondo final week.

… Hondo residents, who have been up at an early hour Sunday morning, reported to the Sheriff that they noticed a high-powered vehicle leaving the outskirts of city occupied by six men. These, the Sheriff believes, have been the Hondo robbers.

[Ironically] Sheriff Baden suffered a loss by the early morning go to of the robbers, as his security deposit field within the First Nationwide Financial institution was damaged open and $300 in stamps and $150 in bonds have been taken. A $100 Liberty bond, the property of his son O.J. Baden, of Donna, was left within the field.

In gentle of the inaccurate “clews’, the Newtons have been by no means tried for the Hondo financial institution robberies.

Willis Newton was born in 1889 and died in 1979, making him the longest residing Texas outlaw. He and the Newton Gang hit trains and banks within the early 1920s however their largest haul occurred in 1924 after they robbed a practice outdoors of Rondout, Illinois-getting away with $3,000,000. They nonetheless maintain the report for the most important practice theft in U.S. historical past.

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