The first robbery of a bank at gun-point in Quincy happened at the Broadway Bank located at 1719 Broadway. Banks had been broken into after hours, but the last time that happened was forty-one years earlier in 1874. Broadway Bank President William H. Middendorf and Clerk, Leo Middendorf exchanged gunfire with an unidentified man as the bank was closing on a Saturday night at nine o’clock on July 6, 1915.
A man entered the bank, pulled a gun and Clerk Leo Middendorf ducked behind a desk and fired through the panel at the man, who returned fire before disarming the clerk and scooping up $450 in paper money. The robber left the bank and stole a bicycle parked in front of the Family Theater next door, escaping to the south on Sixteenth Street. Clerk Middendorf retrieved another gun from a different desk and followed the robber out the front door. He declined to shoot at the retreating man for fear of hitting a bystander.
The Daily Herald says, “Mrs. Peter Pinkelman, who was in the box office of the Family Theater thought the Fourth was being given a premature welcome. When Leo Middendorf appeared at the bank door with a big revolver in his hand, she instinctively stopped each ear with a finger to protect it from the rattle of the artillery. It was not for a few moments that she learned of the robbery and of the near-tragedy she had narrowly escaped witnessing.”
The bicycle was later found abandoned at 23rd and Vermont. Despite an all-night search, the robber got away. The bullet from the robber’s gun lodged in the floor, but the shot from the clerk’s revolver could not be accounted for. It was assumed that the robber was wounded.
All communities within a hundred mile radius were notified by phone, and word came on Sunday of a man arrested in Galesburg who answered the robber’s description. The Sheriff and the bankers took the midnight train to that city in hopes of identifying him, but the man proved an alibi for that Saturday night.
The Broadway Bank was built in 1909, in an up and coming edge of the city at 17th and Broadway, called Sunrise City. The$18,000 building housed the bank, a retail store named The Broadway Fair, and four apartments upstairs. The seventh bank in the city featured a basement, a fireproof vault and a “first-class burglar-proof safe.” Its construction was not without incident. A derrick used to set the cap stone on the east column, had to be braced by ropes in order to move the heavy stone. One rope ran across the street car tracks on Broadway. Unfortunately the motorman paid no attention and plowed into the rope which pulled the stone from its place, injuring one workman. A newspaper report made no mention of damage to the car.
By 1915, the Bank had reached a state of prosperity, declaring a seven per cent dividend for its seven owners. The area of East Broadway was hailed as a “City in a Nutshell” having its own department stores, bank, hotel, and trade centers of all kinds.
The robbery was on Saturday. Tuesday, three men were arrested at a shack near 6th and Chestnut called “Buzzard’s Roost.” A fourth man was sought. It was believed that these men also robbed a bank in Jerseyville. Sheriff Ed Chappert of Jersey County came to Quincy and positively identified two of the men and took them back on the evening train. They denied any guilt in the Quincy robbery.
In August two other bank robbers were arrested in Quincy. The men, Horton and McCarmish were traced to Quincy through a laundry mark on a coat left behind. They were found at their jobs at Weis Paper Mills and arrested. Neither had ever been in trouble before. After initially pleading not-guilty, they told a story of botched robbery. They took a train to Brookfield, Missouri and to size up a bank. They spent the night in La Clede, Missouri, and the next day used a gun to force a man driving an auto to take them to Brookfield. When they were within a mile of town they drove him into a wooded thicket where they were going to tie him up and take his car. The hostage pleaded that he would die undiscovered in those woods and would drive for them for $100. The two would-be robbers agreed and the three drove to within a block of the bank. The robbers got out. The car and driver disappeared, and a posse chased the two thieves for miles in the rain before they hopped a train and escaped.
The third time an arrest was made for the Broadway Bank robbery it was Earl Hull, a fireman at the Weis paper mill, whose father was Chief Engineer for the mill. Hull had recently married, but he confessed to loaning a gun to the Brookfield Robbery suspects which they lost in that caper. Hull had also been arrested once before for breaking into a number of hunting camps to steal guns and pistols. He was stopped at Hannibal with a boat full of stolen firearms. Since it was his first offense he was allowed parole.
Chief Koch went to Missouri to interview the other would-be robbers in an attempt to find the gun and tie it to Hull and the Broadway Bank Robbery. He returned empty handed.
The case came to trial in February of 1916. The robbery was recounted in detail, with Leo Middendorf saying he believed he had hit the robber because the bullet he shot was not recovered. Other witnesses contradicted each other, and tripped over their stories or couldn’t tell the same tale twice.
The final defense offering was the body of the defendant as evidence that he had not been struck by a bullet. Judge Akers stopped the young man from stripping in the witness box, but took the jury and attorneys into the Jury Room where Hull proved lacking in bullet wounds. He was acquitted.
“Accidents on East Broadway,” Quincy Daily Journal, October 22, 1909.
“Another Man Suspected of Bank Robbery,” Quincy Daily Journal, February 4, 1916.
“Assault Warrant Out Against Hull,” Quincy Daily Journal, August 30, 1915.
“At Revolver Point the Broadway Bank is Robbed of $450,” Quincy Daily Herald, July 6, 1915.
“Bank Hold-up Suspects Taken to Jerseyville,” Quincy Daily Journal, July 7, 1915.
“Barnes Story Blow to State,” Quincy Daily Whig, February 4, 1916.
“Broadway Bank is Prosperous,” Quincy Daily Herald, March 14, 1914.
“Can’t Show Hull Spent Much Money,” Quincy Daily Journal, February 5, 1916.
“City in a Nutshell,” Quincy Daily Herald, March 19, 1910.
“Contract Let for New Bank,” Quincy Daily Journal, September 8, 1909.
“Earl Hull Free of Grave Charge,” Quincy Daily Herald, February 7, 1916.
“Earl Hull Held for Robbery,” Quincy Daily Whig, August 28, 1915.
“Hull Trial Begins Today,” Quincy Daily Journal, February 02, 1916.
“Middendorf’s Bullet Didn’t Strike Hull,” Quincy Daily Journal, February 5, 1916.
“New Bank Opens Soon,” Quincy Daily Journal, November 30, 1909.
“Opening of the Broadway Bank,” Quincy Daily Journal, February 24, 1910.
“Robbers Taken to Brookfield to Stand Trial,” Quincy Daily Journal, August 26, 1915.
“Searching for Hull’s Revolver,” Quincy Daily Herald, August 31, 1915.
“Take Testimony in Hull Case,” Quincy Daily Whig, February 3, 1015.
“Three Suspects Held by Police,” Quincy Daily Whig, July 6, 1915.
“Will Try to Show Case is Police Frame-Up,” Quincy Daily Journal, February 3, 1916.
“Work Begun on Bank Building,” Quincy Daily Journal, July 22, 1909.
“Work on New Bank,” Quincy Daily Herald, July 23, 1909.