I promised you I would have another Oregon Outlaw story for you. This is one romances are made of.
Bank robbery at Joseph, OR
Thursday, October 1, 1896 five men, two local businessmen, two drifters and one local young man with deep roots in the valley, attempted to rob The First Bank of Joseph. A large wool deal had been transacted in the Wallowa valley that week and it was known the bank had at least $8000.
The two local business men walked into the bank saw there were minimal customers and walked out, crossed the street, and walked back to the bank, signaling the other three. They rode down off the hill to the bank. The two drifters entered the bank and the local boy stayed outside to keep people from entering.
This is the part that kind of fits in the category of most thieves aren’t too bright- They left the local boy wearing a bandanna over his face and holding a gun on the front stoop of the bank to keep people away… Red flag!
Inside- the two business men acted like victims, one robber kept the people under control and the other worked with the teller getting the money.
Outside- people noticed the masked man at the door of the bank and started spreading the word. Now in most movies they run for a sheriff or someone who is a hired gun. When word spread, the town’s men went for their guns.
By the time the robbers finally exited the bank, there were people stationed in buildings all around the bank. The robber with the money was killed instantly. His partner rolled him over and grabbed the money bag. The local young man, who stood at the door, was shot several times and caught. The drifter who ended up with the money, jumped on his horse and headed to the spot beyond Wallowa lake where they had fresh horses waiting and got away. The wounded local robber and the local businessmen ended up in the state penitentiary but the man who got away with the money- was never caught.
Though the one robber made away with the money, it shows the unity and spirit of the people of that town to converge on the bank without having to have a town hall meeting and take care of a problem as soon as it presented itself.
And the local robber, who had long family ties in the community, came back to the valley when he got out of jail and worked his way up to be a large cattleman in the area and a respected, leading citizen who gave out loans and gifts on a regular basis and twenty-seven years after his release from prison, he was elected vice-president of The First Bank of Joseph.
This robbery is re-enacted in Joseph every summer during the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo.