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Keystone Memories: The Shooting of Sheriff Heiser and Frank Allen
Keith County, NEGenWeb
Barbed Wire

A very special Thank You to Mrs. Lorna Wendt, who's hard work, dedication, and generosity made this transcription possible.

[Written and Compiled by Mrs. Lorna Wendt, Keystone Nebraska]
[Transcription by Susan Anderson]

[Permission to reprint granted to Susan Anderson, NeGenWeb Project-Keith County, and USGenWeb Project by Mrs. Lorna Wendt. The material contained herein may not be reprinted elsewhere without the express written consent of the author, except in the case of personal use only, in which this statement must appear on all pages.]

[Transcriptionist's Note: In retyping these pages, I have made every effort to duplicate the original publication. This includes spelling, punctuation and capitalization.]

The Shooting of Sheriff Heiser and Frank Allen

In the later part of April [1923], Allen was a "two-bit" bootlegger and plied his trade through the sandhills on a moderate scale. It is my belief he delivered "booze" from the stills, which were wide spread through the hills, to the wholesalers. When another bootlegger started to cut into his territory near Scottsbluff trouble began, resulting in an investigation by the law, and unfortunately for Allen he had to shoot an Officer of the law as well as another man and this put him on the "wanted list."

Allen drove an old Model T Ford that had no top but had a box on the back presumably for transporting his "goods," and in this escaped to Alliance, Nebr. From there he went to Hyannis and on to Arthur, working his way to a former partner's place where he hoped to hide out. Between Hyannis and Arthur he ran out of gas. He stopped another car and at gun-point demanded gasoline. He then went on to Arthur and on to his friend's in McPherson County who lived in the old Valley Rang Post Office. This was formerly the Hurd homestead and was a two room sod house, owned at that time by guy and John Pitts, also living in the house was a Mr. And Mrs. Miller. It was John Pitts who had at one time been a partner of Allen's.

The man who had been held up for gasoline was on his way to the Bank of Keystone and when he arrived there he told of his encounter with Allen. The bank then notified Sheriff Heiser of Keith County and a posse was formed to run down the desperado. The posse from Ogallala consisted of Sheriff Heiser, Deputy Brayman, Charles Gaston, Kenneth Gaston and Perry Thies.

Meanwhile a second posse was formed in Keystone. This was made up of Ed Norland, Burt Callendar, Knute Nielsen, and Ernest Barnt who started to the hills. They pulled into the Hawkins place in the early hours of the morning and as it was raining they took shelter in a shed, a small shop in which the Hawkins made brooms. Alva Hawkins, asleep upstairs in the house was wakened and saw from his window the men enter the shed. There had been some minor stealing in the hills so Alva dressed and went to see just what was going on. He recognized the men.

Mr. Callender, a member of the posse said "I suppose you are wondering why we are here, - well we have heard that Frank Allen is in the country and a posse is out to look for him." Alva asked them into the house to dry off and to get warm. They were traveling in a Model T with side curtains but were wet never-the-less.

Mrs. Hawkins, Alva's mother, got up and prepared coffee, oatmeal, bacon and eggs for their breakfast. Just as they were sitting down the posse from Ogallala arrived. They had gone around by Arthur as they wished to question Will Ehlers at Bucktail Lake as the road went through their place. Mr. Ehlers told them Allen had passed through his place earlier as he recognized his car. The Ogallala posse was asked to share the breakfast which they were happy to do, and as Alva hung up their coats, he noticed their pockets were heavy with pistols and revolvers.

After breakfast they asked the way to the place where Allen was supposed to be and Alva offered to show them the way but they told him he had better stay out of it and after receiving directions they left.

The posse surrounded a place they thought was the one they were looking for, naturally scaring the womenfolk, and after discovering their mistake then went on to the Valley Rang place.

Sheriff Heiser and deputy Brayman asked the Millers if Allen was there and were told he wasn't. Kenneth Gaston had looked into the bedroom meanwhile and seen that it was divided by a curtain to make two rooms. One bed had the covers turned back like someone has just got up. A dog lay on the bed and growled when Gaston entered so he didn't molest him but left the room.

These men returned to the rest of the posse and were going to leave but after some discussion it was decided because Mr. Pitt was a known bootlegger they might as well search for liquor as they were already there. Mr. Miller told them he would rather they wait until Pitt returned and as the posse began their search Miller ran to the barn but was brought back.

Heiser entered the house first with brayman close behind. They went to the bedrooms to search, Gaston stayed in the kitchen or main room. The men looked behind the curtains and under the beds. As Brayman started to pull the covers from against the wall on the bed in which the dog had been Allen came up shooting. He had been laying against the wall with the covers pulled over him hiding. His first shot misfired, saving the deputy's life. Heiser had been looking under the bed and as he straightened up Allen's next two shots went through the upper part of his body from side to side. Brayman was shooting and one bullet split the bill of a cap Allen was wearing, another went through the side of his neck and one shot was in the upper chest. Sheriff Heiser, though shot, was also firing his gun and as he staggered to the outside door, continued to shoot automatically, as his bullets went wild. He dropped dead in the door.

Frank Allen was shooting a 38 caliber on a 44 frame. A high powered rifle was also found under the mattress of his bed.

Heiser and his deputy were using 32 Smith and Wesson guns. It was thought most of the shells of the three guns were fired as some lead was removed from the walls.

Heiser was taken to Ogallala where he was "layed out" by Dr. Van Diver. Allen was taken to North Platte, where he died that night.

The shooting of Sheriff Heiser happened May 1, 1923.

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