A series of explosions followed by a burglar alarm shattered the peace and quiet of Jamestown on a September Friday evening in 1911.
The explosions were described as “sounding like a duel between two automatic revolvers.”
Moments later, the burglar alarm sounded at the Farmers and Merchants State Bank. This sound was described by witnesses as a “gong rang lustily.”
This all happened at about 10 p.m. on a Friday. In September, it was dark by that time but many people would have still been up to respond to the noise.
The first folks peered through the bank windows and saw the vault was open strengthening the suspicion that the bank had indeed been robbed.
The Jamestown City Council, which for some reason was in session at 10 p.m. on a Friday night, also rushed to the scene.
Then people started investigating and figuring out what was going on.
“When Cashier Roy Wolfer reached the bank, he stated he had left the bank (vault) door open, which automatically set on the alarm,” wrote The Jamestown Alert.
The better bank vaults of the era had clocks integrated into the locking mechanism. The vaults could only be opened during certain time periods and, evidently, an alarm would sound if the vault was not closed by 10 p.m.
Still, I would think closing the vault should be high on the things-to-do list when it comes to closing a bank for the week.
Then there were the explosions.
It appears some “mischievous boys” had stolen some railroad torpedoes from the supplies of the Northern Pacific. Railroad torpedoes were explosive devices that could be fastened to the track and would detonate when the train ran over it.
The railroad used them as a way to warn train engineers if they were getting too close to a hazard like a broken rail. The torpedoes banged loud enough to be heard by the engineer over the sounds of the train.
And in this story, 14 of them placed along the track so they fired one after another as the evening train came into Jamestown were loud enough to gather several hundred people and the Jamestown City Council on the dark streets of Jamestown.