A major crime wave was occurring across the nation in 1930 and North Dakota was not immune.
Daylight armed robbery of banks and other financial institutions was occurring on all too regular a basis.
In July, the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Lehr was robbed of $8,000 and the employees and a hobo who was in the bank begging for money were locked in the bank vault.
Witnesses said there were five robbers with four in the bank and a wheelman outside with the car.
That wasn’t the only bank robbery in the region. The Jamestown Sun reported similar heists on at least a weekly basis through the summer across North Dakota or Minnesota. Descriptions and the amount of loot varied but officials became alarmed.
In early August officials announced a state plan to deputize, train and arm civilians in an effort to strike back at the gangster element plaguing banks. The plan included arming local residents with high power rifles and Thompson Machine Guns, better known as “Tommy Guns.”
The Aug. 22, 1930, edition of The Jamestown Sun announced “Plan to Thwart Bandits” in a bold headline at the top of the page. The article under the headline went on to say a committee of 50 law enforcement officers and businessmen in Jamestown met to form a committee to “devise plansl of fighting as well as training those who are to handle the firearms, if it becomes necessary.”
Training responsibilities were delegated to Capt. Al Feickert, commander of the Jamestown National Guard unit, along with a representative of the Northern Pacific and a salesman for Remington Arms.
If the local committee met again, it was not reported in The Sun, and I don’t think the state of North Dakota followed through with its plan to arm local residents with Tommy Guns.
By September, a new weapon had been introduced in the war against bank robbery in North Dakota.
While the idea of arming citizens got the most attention, the state of North Dakota instituted a silent alarm system as part of its anti-bandit campaign.
This became painfully obvious to a man who tried to rob the H.J. Shaw Co. in Bordulac. The alarm did sound at other locations in the community and by the time the thief exited the building, four armed citizens were waiting for him.
In a brief gunfight, the bandit received a bullet wound to the elbow and surrendered. No local citizens were injured although they were fired on.
I don’t know how much first aid the folks in Bordulac provided but later that morning, the would-be thief was transported to Jamestown where he signed a confession that afternoon.
By 5:30 p.m. on the day of the crime, the crook was in front of Judge R.G. McFarland in the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse. On the same day as the crime, he was sentenced to five years in the North Dakota penitentiary.
I guess you could say that justice, and the armed citizens of Bordulac, were swift in 1930.