The Stroud Bank Robber, Henry Starr

Contributed by Kathleen Nichols - kathleen6632@sbcglobal.net - 9 JAN 1997

I have excerpted some of the article about my husband's father, Ernest Hatton Nichols, from the "Stroud Messenger" 2 April 1915 ..... Ernest Nichols witnessed these bank holdups as a child. He used to speak of them often, so I went to the Stroud Library and looked it up. I have the full article in our book, "Our Family Tree - Nichols" .... Ernest is dead now, died in 1992, but we did have the Okla. Historical Soc. Mr. Joe Todd, historian, do a history video in 1988 .... am so glad we did that!!! It is stored at the Historical Soc. archives.

The year of 1915 began in Stroud in a normal way. It was election year and thought was being given to new town officials. Things were normal until one Saturday in late March, and part of that day was as usual. Even the town marshal would not accept the slight warning that had been given that there might be trouble. There was little knowledge that visitors who had planned a daylight robbery of two banks were headed into Stroud.

No satisfactory reason is known as to why Stroud banks should have been selected for this double robbery. Perhaps it was the need to do something different from the robbery of one bank. A double robbery would make people take notice. Perhaps the failure of the Daltons in a double robbery try at Coffeyville, Kansas, was the motivation.

According to the "Stroud Messenger", April 2, 1915, there were eight men in the gang who had robbed the two banks. The leader was Henry Starr. The gang had come to within two miles east of Stroud during the week and camped there. The marshal had been informed of their presence and their activities, but he thought it was just another hunting party. Saturday morning March 27, 1915, they rode into Stroud and tied their horses to the stockyard fence. Even then they aroused no suspicion for they were well dressed, no guns were visible, and they wore no masks.

Leaving one guard with the horses, three men went to one bank and four to the other. The four men, led by Lewis Estes, went into the First National Bank (now First State Bank) then located on the southwest corner of the intersection of 4th St. and 3rd Ave. The three men went east one block and across the street into the Stroud National Bank, which was then located on the NW corner of the intersection of 3rd St. and 3rd Ave.

Starr and the men with him at the Stroud National Bank found the door to the big safe on time lock, and it was some little while before Starr was convinced that it could not be opened, and that $1600 was all he would get unless he wanted to carry a lot of dimes and quarters.

It was also at this bank that a young girl wandered in and Starr gave her a handful of pennies. She climbed into a chair and was quiet while the money was being gathered up for the robbers. Starr's concern for this girl has appeared in every version of the robbery and shows an interesting side of his personality. The child was Lorene Hughes, daughter of businessman George Hughes.

Starr decided it was time to regroup, so the three robbers with three hostages started toward the other bank, exiting the bank by a side door and heading west down the alley.

At the other bank, The First National, the four robbers had gathered nearly $4000 in gold and silver, took it and their seven prisoners, joined Starr as he came by the door of the bank, and all started south toward the stockyards and the horses.

Meanwhile, the town had become aware of what was happening and like a TV special, lots of bullets began to fly, but the credit for wounding Starr and Estes goes to Paul Curry who had acquired a gun, a short-barreled rifle that was used by a butcher for killing hogs. Starr was wounded so severely he could not move; all the others rode away. Estes was so wounded that he could not continue the run for safety of the rough-timbered country east of Stroud. He was captured two miles east of town by those who were pursuing the robbers in a Ford touring car.

On Feb. 18, 1921, Starr and three companions attempted to rob the bank in Harrison, Arkansas. He was wounded in that attempt and did not recover from his wounds. His burial was at Dewey, Oklahoma. Henry Starr's grave is marked by a blank headstone, Dewey cemetery, two miles north of Dewey, on U. S. 75.

Starr was attended in Stroud, in 1915 by Dr. J. J. Evans. A photographer carried his bulky photography equipment up the stairs and a picture postcard was soon circulated. Starr lived to go into the motion picture industry, he returned to Stroud for a film, " A Debtor to the Law", depicting the double bank robbery with Henry Starr as the star.

***

Quote from interviewing Ernest Hatton Nichols:

In the Stockyard in Stroud on that "infamous day" of the robbery, Ernest Nichols age 10, and his uncle Thomas Hamer Godfrey were taking two loads of hogs to town, (Stroud). Ernest recalled, "Frank Wigam bought the hogs, and told my uncle Hamer to put them at the depot, as he had a packing house at Bristow, Oklahoma. We got in to Stroud about 8:30 am and began to back up to unload the hogs, but there were horses in the stock yard, where our hogs were supposed to go. A man came up to Uncle Hamer and told him, he could not put the hogs in the pen right now. He had a couple of guns on his hips, and told Uncle Hamer that the hogs would be okay, "We'll get out of your pen soon," he had a couple of six shooters too and we weren't going to argue with him. The man told my uncle Hamer," Henry Starr is robbing both the banks this morning." They saw Henry Starr walking toward the horses in the pen where they were waiting, he walked behind the bunch of men, and Henry Starr fell behind while walking. A man named Curry, had a grocery store and meat market, and he had an old .22 single shot gun, called it a hog rifle, there in the store, his son, Paul (aged 20) got the gun and got behind a wooden barrel and shot Henry Starr in the hip, .... Starr fell to the ground. The other men went on and got the horses and left. They captured Starr. Henry Starr had sent both banks a post card the day before, telling them he was going to rob their banks. He'd rob the banks and feed the poor people. Starr said it was okay that the rest of the gang left, they agreed it would be every man for himself."
Ernest Nichols b. 15 Nov 1905 d. 29 May 1992


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