Category Archives: Businesses

They Robbed The Bank! Twice! (Part 1 of 2)

The Bank of Bradley was robbed twice, first in 1938 and then again in 1990.  Despite being separated by the span of fifty-two years, both robberies shared a common feature:  The escaping robbers in both cases were fired upon by the ranking member of bank management present at the time. The first robbery occurred on Monday, June 6, 1938.  The following are excerpts from a contemporaneous newspaper article.  The name of the newspaper is not known.  Apparently, the article was updated with new developments as they became available.

– – – – –

“THREE BANDITS ROB BRADLEY, ARK., BANK AND FLEE WITH $685 Three men held up the Bank of Bradley, 50 miles north of Shreveport at 9:10 a.m. today, and fled in a fusillade of shots with $685.25.  The bandits overlooked approximately $2,000.

Jack Meek, assistant cashier, who was alone in the bank at the time, said the bandits headed south on the Shreveport highway in a maroon-colored Ford two-door sedan of 1938 model, with Louisiana license plates.

Sheriff Oce Griffin of Lewisville, Ark., who was in Bradley at the time, immediately telephoned a report of the robbery to the sheriff’s office at Benton, La., south of Bradley on the Shreveport highway and deputies were posted along the route the bandits had taken.

The fleeing bandits were reported to have headed south to Leila, just across the Louisiana line and just north of the village of Bolinger, and to have turned east toward Spring Hill or Cotton Valley.  A description of one of the bandits was furnished officers by Meek, who said he did not see the two confederates except for fleeting glances.

As the gunmen departed, Meek said he opened fire on their car with a .12 gauge sawed-off shotgun, but did not know whether he hit the car or its occupants.

. . .

Search for three gunmen who robbed the Bank of Bradley (Ark.) of $685.85 entered Caddo parish Tuesday afternoon after the Sheriff’s office at Benton reported finding the bandits’ abandoned automobile on the Shreveport road near Plain Dealing.

The abandoned car, a maroon-colored Ford sedan of 1938 model, had numerous gunshot holes in the rear of it, officers said, indicating a shotgun blast from the bank’s cashier had struck the car.

Officers immediately sounded a warning for lookouts in Caddo and Bossier parishes, saying the gunmen had transferred to a green Oldsmobile sedan and had probably turned from the Shreveport road at Swindle’s station to ferry across Red River for Belcher.

. . .

Louisiana state highway police headquarters here said today they believed Floyd Hamilton, escaped Texas convict, was one of the bandits who robbed the Bradley (Ark.) State Bank Tuesday morning of $685.25.”

– – – – –
The newspaper story itself is not consistent in specifying the amount of money taken, mentioning $685.25 twice and $685.85 once.  One of the more interesting facets of the article is that it mentions an initial suspicion that the robbers were headed to Spring Hill or Cotton Valley, and later mentions that they were headed to Belcher, in the opposite direction.

Floyd Hamilton was, indeed, one of the robbers.  He was assisted by Ted Walters and Jack Winn.  Both Hamilton and Walters were alumni of none other than the Bonnie (Parker) and Clyde (Barrow) Gang.  By 1938, though, Bonnie and Clyde had already met their demise.  Also a member of the Bonnie and Clyde Gang was Floyd Hamilton’s brother, Raymond Hamilton, who had met his own demise in the Texas electric chair three years earlier.

Floyd Hamilton and Ted Walters were both convicted in federal court in Fort Smith of robbing the Bank of Bradley, and both served time in Alcatraz.  Both attempted, unsuccessfully, to escape from there in 1943.  At some point, Floyd saw the error of his ways, was paroled, and was eventually pardoned by President John F. Kennedy. 

There is no shortage of material on the internet concerning Hamilton and Walters.  About 2 months later, on August 12, 1938, they robbed the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Nashville, Arkansas.  (texashideout.tripod.com/hamwalters.html)  The day after that, they were almost shot and captured in Sevier County, Arkansas.  (angelfire.com/journal/dqueen/hamilton/html)  Both these sites specifically mention the Bank of Bradley caper.

More Notes on Old Post Office-Bank Building

Shown below is an image of the Bank of Bradley portion, mostly, of this building, taken on an overcast winter’s day in 1975, three years before it was demolished:

120510 Bradley landmarks 75 B

And here is a photo taken much earlier in front of the Bank, showing the lettering on the windows:

009 A

The two young ladies in the photo are Thomasene Jester and Ruth Joy Jackson.  The photo is courtesy of Mrs. Marjorie Bishop.

Two items from the old Bank of Bradley are now in the Cochran museum:  the “Bank” sign above the front door and part of the door to the vault, which was mentioned in the article in the previous post on this site.

DSC00038 A

DSC00041 A

Incidentally, Jack Meek, who was assistant cashier at the time the Bank was robbed in 1938, gave a newspaper interview in 1990 which casts doubt on part of the “Big Store No More” article.  According to him, the robbers forced him into the vault, but he was able to release himself before firing on the robbers as they made their escape.

Demolition of Old Post Office/Bank Building, 1978

The following article, entitled “Big Store No More,” appeared in the Lafayette County Democrat of September 21, 1978, and is reprinted here by permission.  It contains a few minor inaccuracies, but is nevertheless an excellent narrative concerning the building it describes and early Bradley history.  It was written by John A. “Ardis” Manry, who was a resident of Plain Dealing, but had a keen interest in the history of this entire region.  In the later years of his life, his eyesight was quite poor, but it never stopped him from having a cheerful disposition, especially when he could talk about local history.  The photo below is quite grainy because is copied directly from the newspaper.

Big Store No More photo 

By John A. Manry

The tearing down of three old store buildings, brick by brick, is underway and if bricks could tell everything that had happened there since the beginning of this century, and if the land on which it stands could only tell something of its owners since it was bought from the Government before the Civil War, it might go like this:

The name of the buildings have been changed from time to time, depending [on] who owned them.

Records in the courthouse at Lewisville show that the land was bought from the Government by Alexander T. Evans.  Census records kept by the Lafayette County Historical Society show that he and his brother, James K. Evans, both born in Georgia, came here from Alabama with large families, built homes nearby, and both entered the Confederate Army.

Each married daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Elisha Waldrop and were active in the Methodist Church there.  It was in the winter of 1867 [when] they were instrumental in arousing the countryside by preaching that converts came pouring in.

It was a part of the “Great Awakening” prevalent over our country at that time, but descendants of these people living at Bradley still refer to the great awakening at nearby Walnut Hill as that “Christmas meeting.”

The records are not too exact why the Bradley land was sold or lost, but possibly it was lost because of educating so many of the Evans family to the ministry.  Some say eight of the boys became ministers, mostly Methodist, of course, but there was a sprinkling of Baptist, too.

By 1885 Cassius Leigh owned the land.  That year he deeded it to a H. G. Allis, who is believed to have been a land speculator anxious to make a profit.  He sold it to the Southwestern Improvement Association just before the Cotton Belt decided to extend their railroad from Lewisville to Shreveport in 1888.

COMING OF RAILROAD

The Southwestern Improvement Assoc. had played an important part in laying out the town of Galveston, where Lewisville is now, and other towns along the Cotton Belt by selling off lots, making a profit and moving on.

It was 10 years later that the Improvement Association sold this part of land to D. D. Hamiter, a son of John H. Hamiter and a grandson of John Hamiter who had moved to the northern part of Bossier Parish in the 1840’s from Houston County, Georgia.

A glance at the valuation of this land showed that it was tripled in value during the year 1900, indicating that some improvements had been made on the property then.  Sometime later another brick building was built alongside it.

FIRST TELEPHONE HERE

While D. D. Hamiter operated the store he was acting depot agent.  In time his brother Eugene became a partner, and they called their store the Hamiter Brothers Mercantile Company.

Mrs. Aletha Hamiter Barker, now a resident of the Homestead Manor Nursing Home in Stamps, in her “Scrapbook of Roane Township,” writes that “when the telephone system was first organized (1901, in Walnut Hill), there was only one phone in Bradley and it was in Hamiter Bros. store.  Anytime, day or night, a person wanted to call a doctor, or on account of a sudden death or accident, some member of the mercantile company had to get up and go open the store and stay until the necessary call was completed.  Usually, some of the clerks slept in the store for this purpose,” she said.

BRADLEY BECOMES A VILLAGE

By 1905 the residents of Bradley petitioned the County Court to become a village and the streets were laid off into 21 blocks, starting from present-day Highway 29, which was called Express Street, and all but one street running parallel with it were named after parts of a train.  They were Coach Street, Cab Avenue, Pilot Avenue, Pullman Street, and then Woodruff Street, perhaps named for the publisher of the Arkansas Gazette.  Cross streets were numbered from First to Seventh from the Methodist Church on the south, to the present-day Baptist church on the north.

This placed the brick store buildings on the corner of Pilot Avenue and Fourth Street, now known as Highway 160 West.

In 1911 J. B. Burton, Sr., bought the property from the Texarkana National Bank and Olin Longino [began] operating a store there known as Burton and Longino.  Burton’s heirs sold to B. G. Jester and the Jester heirs sold to Richard D. Smith of Bradley.  This year, the building was sold to Lane Pierce, president of the Bank of Bradley.

In the early days the stores all faced the railroad, but the coming of the automobiles cause them to face the highways and such happened to this old store building.

HOUSED POST OFFICE

In 1939 the U. S. Government leased the corner building for a post office.  It remained here until their present post office was built.

FIRST BANK BUILDING

The Bank of Bradley was organized in September of 1912, and the third brick building was built.  A big barbecue was given and this event attracted crowds of hungry visitors, the Democrat reported.

This building came into the news again when it was robbed  by three professional bank robbers escaping with $312, all the money they could find in the open trays on the bank’s counter.  The vault, they could not open.  It became such a bastion in time that Frank M. Cochran, Jr., bought the old vault door as a reminder of how it had withstood the robbers.

Eventually one of the robbers was sentenced to Alcatraz and is said to have offered to return his part of the loot, but it was never received.

It’s gone today.  It will be missed.  It was THE big store in its day and old-timers will never forget how majestically it reared its head through its 78 years of service.  Peace to its brick dust!

Edwards Company, circa 1940

Edwards Company was located on the southwest corner of Block 9, for the most part between where the Bradley City Hall is now located and Fourth Street/Highway 160.  At one time, Edwards Company was in the dry goods, grocery, and hardware businesses.  Below is an image of the Edwards Company building, taken about 1940.

gray-2-inch-049-a.jpg

The picture is obviously taken in the late afternoon.  The sign near the top of the building on the left side of the picture says “Westinghouse” and “Edwards Company.”  The sign hanging from the awning in front of the left entrance to the building says “Dry Goods,” and the sign to the middle entrance to the building says “Groceries.”  There is a vertical sign behind the car on the right side of the picture that says “Mansfield Tires.”  The hardware part of the business was located in the right side of the building.  The identity of the woman in the picture is not known, but she appears to be in something of a hurry.

Below is a photo taken from approximately the same place and angle on the afternoon of February 26, 2008.

img_0170-a.jpg

Edwards Company, of course, is no longer in business.  I don’t know the dates on which the Dry Goods and Grocery stores ceased business, but did find an old advertisement where the remaining stock of the hardware business was sold at public auction on January 23, 1964.

Walnut Hill Telephone Company: The Early Years

In this age where large telephone companies change their names at a dizzying rate, the name of the company that sends monthly bills to phone customers in Bradley has never changed:  the Walnut Hill Telephone Company.  How did a wide place in the road, like Walnut Hill is today, produce a company which has lasted for over a century?  With help from some of the public records in the Lafayette Circuit Clerk’s Office, we can reconstruct some of the details of the beginnings of the Walnut Hill Telephone Company.

The “Articles of Agreement and Incorporation of Walnut Hill Telephone Co.” are dated April 24, 1901, and can be found in Record Book E-3, at pages 354 to 358.  On that date, at 2:00 P.M., in the office of someone named “S. Hacker” at Walnut Hill, the incorporators of the company held their initial meeting. The incorporators were J. F. McKnight, S. Hacker, D. D. Hamiter, Eugene Hamiter, L. Herndon, Canfield Colbert, J. B. Maryman, Jr., G. M. Lee, R. R. Lee, T. H. Dismukes, and Frank Arline.

The corporation’s proposed business was “…to erect, construct, operate and maintain a local Telephone line and exchange, at and in the vicinity of Walnut Hill, and to erect, construct and maintain a Long Distance Telephone Line and Exchange from Walnut Hill, via Bradley, Frostville, Canfield, and Bolinger, to New Lewisville in Lafayette County, Arkansas.”

 J. F. McKnight was elected President, S. Hacker was elected Vice-President, and D. D. Hamiter was elected Secretary-Treasurer.  The other directors elected were L. Herndon, J. B. Maryman, Jr., G. M. Lee, and T. H. Dismukes.

The capital stock of the corporation was to be $2,500, of which $900 was actually initially paid in by the incorporators.  The value of each share was to be $25. The initial issuance of stock was as follows:  8 shares:  Frank Arline; 4 shares:  J. F. McKnight, S. Hacker, L. Herndon, and T. H. Dismukes; 2 shares:  D. D. Hamiter, Eugene Hamiter, Canfield Colbert, J. B. Maryman, Jr., G. M. Lee, and R. R. Lee.  Ironically, although Frank Arline owned the most shares, he was not elected either as an officer of the corporation or as one of its directors.

A little more than a year after the corporation was formed, on May 17, 1902, it amended its “Articles of Agreement.”  (Record Book H-3, at page 95)  The amount of the capital stock was increased from $2,500 to $5,000, enabling a fresh infusion of capital.  More importantly, however, for the long term future of the company, its purpose underwent a subtle change: “…to own, construct, purchase, operate, and maintain [a] local telephone system in the Town of Walnut Hill and New Lewisville, LaFayette County, Arkansas, and to connect the same by long distance wires, to operate a long distance system between said stations, and to extend and connect it [sic] lines from said points to any points or towns in said county as shall be determined by the directors of said company….”  In other words, instead of one local exchange at Walnut Hill with out-reaching long distance lines, there would henceforth be systems in both Walnut Hill and New Lewisville, which is known today simply as Lewisville.

On August 15, 1905, Walnut Hill Telephone Company filed an “Annual Statement” listing its condition as of July 1, 1905 (Record Book L-3, at page 435).  The Statement reflects $3,700 in “Capital Stock paid in,” “Accounts on hand” of $763.00, and “Cash on hand” of $251.44.  Stock was still valued at $25 per share, but it had undergone a significant growth and redistribution:  G. M. McKnight, 40 shares; J. F. McKnight, 38 shares; T. H. Dismukes, 34 shares; A. H. Hamiter, 22 shares; J. W. Warren, 7 shares; Josie McCormick, 5 shares; and Mrs. C. C. Hamiter, 2 shares. The Statement was signed by J. F. McKnight as President, and by G. M. McKnight as Secretary.

Another “Financial Statement” was filed on August 15, 1908, listing the company’s condition as of July 1, 1908.  (Record Book N-3, at page 585).  Total assets had risen to $7940.96, and the amount of capital stock actually paid in had risen to $4,550.00.  Debts were $3,154.00 and undivided profits of $236.96 were listed.  Stock distribution had changed, but not as drastically as in the previous statement.  G. M. McKnight owned 50 shares; J. F. McKnight and T. H. Dismukes each owned 42 shares; A. H. Hamiter owned 27 shares; J. W. Warren owned 8 shares; C. C. Hamiter owned 7 shares; and Josie McCormick owned 6 shares.

On July 25, 1908, the City of Bradley passed “An Ordinance to Grant Street Privileges for Telephone purposes to Walnut Hill Telephone Co.”  The company received the right for 50 years to “…erect and maintain on the streets, alleys and public way of Bradley, Arkansas, posts, fixtures and wires necessary and convenient for the purpose of supplying to the citizens of said town and public communication by telephone or other electrical device….”  This Ordinance is recorded in Record Book S-3, at page 201, and recites that it was “…passed by the Council, J. W. Barker, Mayor, J. M. Perry, Recorder.”  There is no mention of rates for telephone service in this ordinance.

A similar ordinance was passed by the Town of Lewisville about a month and a half later, on September 7, 1908, although its duration was only for 12 years.  It was recorded in Record Book S-3, at page 202, and was signed by W. J. Harrington, as Mayor, and L. D. Rogers, as Recorder.  The ordinance specified a maximum monthly rate for telephone service of $1.50 for residential customers and $2.50 for business customers. 

Walnut Hill Bank, 1907-1913 (Part 2 of 2)

A recent post (1/7/08) provided some details concerning the incorporation and financial operations of the Walnut Hill Bank.  It also left unaddressed two questions concerning that institution: 

(1) Where was the Walnut Hill Bank?  I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I found some clues in the deed records of the Lafayette County Circuit Clerk.  I can find only one parcel of land owned by the Walnut Hill Bank, and would speculate that was the location of the Bank.  It is a very small tract, only about one-fifth of an acre (50 ft. x 165 ft.).  When plotted on contemporary plats of the Walnut Hill area, that tract is located on the east side of the old Washington-to-Shreveport road, just north of where the road to the Walnut Hill Cemetery diverges off to the northwest.  That tract was deeded to the Walnut Hill Bank by J. B. Herndon and Lola Herndon, his wife, on June 6, 1908 (Deed Record O-3, page 273).  The consideration for the transfer of this small tract was $563.54, indicating that there was probably a building already located on the tract.  J. B. Herndon was one of the incorporators of the Walnut Hill Bank, its first president, and it was in his office that the initial meeting of the incorporators was held on December 11, 1907.

(2)  What became of the Walnut Hill Bank?  Again, public records provide some clues. 

In Deed Record W-3, at page 530, there is an interesting document, copied here verbatim:

“RESOLUTION TO DISSOLVE

At a meeting of stockholders owning a majority of the Capital Stock of Walnut Hill Bank, a corporation organized under the laws of Arkansas and having its place of business at Walnut Hill, Arkansas, held at Walnut Hill, Arkansas on March 27th 1913, the following resolution was adopted :-

‘Resolved, That, Whereas, the Walnut Hill Bank has disposed of its banking business, building and fixtures, and discharged all of its obligations in full, we hereby surrender its coporate charter and declare the said corporation dissolved.’

We, the aforesaid stockholders, hereto attach our signatures this 27th day of March, 1913.

J. F. McKnight, Pres.

J. B. Herndon

T. H. Dismukes

R. H. Duty”

The resolution recites that the Walnut Hill Bank “…has disposed of its banking business, building and fixtures….”  About five months earlier, on October 5, 1912, the Walnut Hill Bank had sold its small one-fifth acre tract of land for the sum of $500.00.  The buyer?  None other than the “Bank of Bradley, Arkansas.”  (Deed Record W-3, page 244)

I’ve heard on many occasions that the Walnut Hill Bank “became” the Bank of Bradley.  The actual documents by which this metamorphosis took place are no doubt private, if they even still exist. This 1912 deed is probably the best evidence available in public records of the eventual fate of the Walnut Hill Bank.

For some historical perspective, the time between the deed to the Bank of Bradley and the resolution of dissolution would have seen the presidential election of November, 1912, a landmark three-way race between incumbent President William Howard Taft, former President Theodore Roosevelt, and New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson.  Wilson was inaugurated as president on March 4, 1913, 23 days before the Walnut Hill Bank voted to dissolve. 

More notes on Block 9

I remember as a young boy being sent on frequent errands to the Post Office and the Bank.  They were in close proximity to each other on the southeast part of Block 9. 

The tax assessments do not contain any record of an assessment to the U. S. Post Office, or even a notation that the federal government is exempt from real property taxes. That made me curious.  The great majority of Bradley residents who are at least my age can no doubt remember that the Post Office was in the very southeast corner of Block 9 during the 1950s.  The deed records in the Lafayette County Circuit Clerk’s office furnish the explanation of that conundrum.

Deed Record Book Z-6, at page 290, contains a “Standard Form of Government Lease … (As Modified For Use By The Post Office Department),” which is dated July 8, 1939.  The Lessors, i.e., the land owners, are J. B. Burton and P. D. Burton and their spouses.  The initial term of the lease was for ten years.  The lease calls for “…a room 22’ x 48’….” situated “… on the northwest corner of Pilot and Fourth Streets…,” and provides for an annual rent of $230.00.  The terms of the lease are mostly standard provisions that would usually be found in any lease of commercial property, with one exception.  Paragraph 11 states, in part:  “No Member of or Delegate to Congress or Resident Commissioner shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease or to any benefit to arise therefrom.”  The term “Resident Commissioner” is not defined.   

 The Post Office remained there until it was moved to the present location, one block south of what is now Community State Bank, in 1961. 

– – – – –

The following images are examples of stationery used  by two of the businesses located in Block 9 in days long past.

First is an invoice from Holland Hardware to the Town of Bradley, dated 5/24/1924:

monday-january-12-2004-105-b.jpg

The printed part of the invoice says:

“In Account With

HOLLAND HARDWARE COMPANY

D. D. HAMITER, Manager

Hardware, Furniture, Stoves and Implements”

Holland Hardware was located on lots 9, 10, and 11 of Block 9.

– – – –  –

Next is an invoice from Reynolds-Crockett general merchandise to the Town of Bradley, dated January, 1924:

monday-january-12-2004-100-b.jpg

The printed part of the invoice says:

“In Account With

REYNOLDS-CROCKETT CO.

All Bills Are Due and Payable On The First

Of Each Month Following Date of Purchase

10 Per Cent Interest Charged After Maturity”

Reynolds-Crockett was located on lot 12 of Block 9, and later became O’Neal & Crockett.