Asher Bank Robberies IN PROGRESS
In the roughly 30 years Asher had banks, they were robbed four times.  Most of the articles were widely reported in several papers.  In this short article I will attempt to summarize those articles as well as provide a unique insight into one of the robberies by the son of one of the victims.

Please keep in mind that sometimes the articles contradicted each other so I’ve done my best to be accurate and noted any discrepancies (every robbery has at least two different dates reported).  The articles I used are available to read in the Newspaper Archive.

The pictures featured are available on Flickr.  If you have any information to add or notice a possible error, please feel free to contact me.
 

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13 Dec 1906   First State Bank of Asher

At 2:00 AM, five armed men calling themselves the “Ben Cravens gang”  entered the First State Bank* building and left with $4,000 cash.  Drops of blood, believed to belong to an injured robber, were followed from the bank to the Rock Island depot.  The men were believed to had made their escape on a handcar, heading north on Rock Island railroad.  One hostage, Roy Leham, was found in a box car several hours later.  Two men, Dave McCullough of Wichita and A.W. Franks of Higginsville, MO were arrested the following Saturday, the 15th, at the Frisco hotel in Oklahoma City. 

 

(*Note:  Ada News articles list the bank robbed as the First National Bank and the date and time as 12 Dec 1906 at 1 AM or 3 AM.  While it’s possible that there were two separate robberies on back-to-back nights, I believe this was simply a miscommunication of facts as details of the robberies seem cross over in all the articles.   I have merged the details of all the articles of the Dec 12/13 robberies.)

 

(Article continues below...)

 

Asher Main Street - Asher State Bank can be seen in the upper right-hand corner.

 

02 Sept 1927   Canadian Valley Bank

Three men entered the Canadian Valley Bank at 2 PM, locking the bank cashier, Matt W. Hampton, two clerks and a customer in the vault.  From a telephone in the vault, Hampton alerted citizens who rushed to the bank.  One person, druggist Bailey Browder, was shot and later died of his injuries. The trio was held custody by the county authorities by September 10th.  

 

The identification of the robbers is of much discrepancy.  Nine people were identified in various articles in connection with the robbery.  Since only four men were reported involved in the robbery (three in the bank and one outside) it is unknown why so many people where implicated.   Possible reasons--but only speculation--are that some helped plan or carry out the robbery but were not the actual robbers.  It is also probable that some of the men were only considered suspects and were eventually cleared or that the other names were aliases.  The four I consider the most likely to be the actual robbers are Robert Marvin “Red” Foster (alias Johnson), W. J. Whitey, Loney Morris and Tom Guest.

 

Foster/Johnson was sent to McAlester Penitentiary on charges relating to the shooting and death of Browder.  Whitey and Morris were brought up on charges of robbery with a firearm.  Guest was charged with the robbery and murder and was later put to death by electrocution. 

 

Various other articles mention other men including C.S. Gordon, C.C. Darkes and Bert Sharp in connection with the robbery.  Marion Fuller, the former Earlsboro chief of police, was also brought up on charges relating to the robbery.  Those charges were reported to have been dismissed--however a few months later he was again being held without bond (along with yet another person, H. F. “Red” Borders) in connection with the robbery in addition to an Earlsboro shooting.  In all, five men were reportedly brought up on charges relating to the robbery.  In addition to Whitey, Morris and Guest, I would conjecture that Fuller and Borders were the other two charged. 

 

(Note: The date of the robbery was also reported at September 3rd in some articles.)

 

02 October 1928        Canadian Valley Bank

In October 1928 the Canadian Valley Bank was robbed by three well dressed men.  The amount of the take was $3386. Alvin Baker  and a female cashier were taken hostage. The female escaped by jumping off the running board of the car and Mr. Baker was later released near Konawa. The men arrested and charged with this robbery were L. L. Tomlin, W. J. Edwards, and Lloyd Edwards.

 

(Note:  The above is an excerpt of a letter written by Carl Cochrane, Jr.  The complete letter is reprinted below.  He recalls the date of the robbery as the 3rd.  Matt Hampton, bank cashier, recalls the date of the robbery as the 2nd when being later interviewed.)

 

02 January 1929         Canadian Valley Bank

Two bandits robbed the Canadian Valley Bank of a little over $2,500 late in the afternoon.  Carl Cochrane had worked at the bank for only three months when the robbery occurred.  Below is a recollection about that day written by his son, Carl Cochrane Jr., and is reprinted with permission.

 

(Note:  In the letter reprinted below, the date of the robbery is recalled to be the 3rd.)

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In the fall of 1928, Daddy started working at the Canadian Valley Bank in Asher, Oklahoma. At that time Asher was a small "oil boom" town in central Oklahoma.

 

Prior to Daddy starting working there the bank was robbed, on October 3, 1928, by three well dressed men. The amount of the take was $3386. Alvin Baker (this was the second time that he had been taken hostage) and a female cashier were taken hostage. The female escaped by jumping off the running board of the car and Mr. Baker was later released near Konawa. The men arrested and charged with this robbery were L. L. Tomlin, W. J. Edwards, and Lloyd Edwards.

 

(Article continues below...)

July 1925 Canadian Valley Bank Check (Courtesy Carl Cochrane Jr.)

 

I have heard two variations of why there was an opening at the bank. Both stories mention the October 3 robbery and the people that were taken hostage. One story says that the boy's girlfriend told him "You quit the bank or I quit you." The other story says the boy sent word "No way will I come back to work at the bank." Either way, there was an opening and Daddy was hired.

 

Daddy had been there about three months when on January 3, 1929 the robbers returned. (They had said that they would be back.) (Matt Hampton was looking out the window and saw the men coming. He said, slowly, "Carl, I think that we are going to be robbed again." By the time he got it said, the men were already in the bank.) The amount of the take was about $2200. The robbers took Daddy and Matt Hampton hostages and locked the other people (in the bank) in the vault. (One of the men locked in the vault was J. A. Huff, a Bums detective that was there investigating the October robbery.)

 

Daddy and Mr. Hampton were driven around the back roads of Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. During the day Daddy tried to look at one of the robbers. The other one jammed a pistol in his ribs and told him to look straight ahead. His ribs were sore for a couple of weeks.

 

The car they were in broke down and the robbers took the car of a farm youth, Arthur Beeman, who happened by their way. He was released shortly after dark. Also at one time the robbers made Daddy and Mr. Hampton put on their coats. This way Daddy would be mistaken for the robbers if any of the law officers would see them. (The robbers were from Maud, Oklahoma from what I have been able to find out.)

About sundown the robbers stopped to count and divide the money. They tied Daddy and Matt to trees while they did this. While counting the money they discussed weather or not to kill both men. They decided not to kill them and shortly afterward the robbers let Daddy and Matt Hampton go. A very eventful afternoon was over!

 

Plez Clark, one of the robbers, pleaded guilty (after first denying the charge) and was sentenced to 15 years in the state penitentiary in mid April 1929. Another man, William Campbell, was arrested in Rankin, Texas after trying to flee. Besides being charged with robbing the bank twice, he was charged with two robberies of the Hudson-Houston Lumber Co. at Pearson, OK.

 

T. E. Richardson was also charged with the bank robbery. William Campbell was convicted of the robberies and sentenced to 20 years in the state penitentiary in late May 1929. Later Daddy and Mr. Hampton gave testimony at a trial which ended with the robbers being imprisoned in the state penitentiary.

 

At the time of these robberies the bank building was on the northeast comer of one of the downtown blocks. The road (going out of town) at the side of the bank sloped downward fairly steeply. Robbers would park their car facing downhill on this road and set the hand brake. When they left the bank all they was needed to start the car was to release the hand brake, put the car in gear, let it start rolling, and let the clutch out. The car started and they were away. Remember, this was before the days of self-starters and to start a car one had to use a crank to start it.

 

Within six months (mid 1929) the bank moved block east and across the street. (It was now in the middle of the block.) Many anti-robbery devices were incorporated in this building. There were no more robberies. Location is everything! 

 

(Article continues below...)

Canadian Valley Bank Stock Certificate (Courtesy Carl Cochrane Jr.)

 

In January 1932 Daddy borrowed $500 to buy 5 shares of stock in the bank. He was still paying for the stock when the bank closed on November 14, 1932, eleven days after I was born. Since he had borrowed money and the note had been place in another bank, he still had to pay off the loan. He said "This is like paying off a loan on a dead horse."

 

In the 1970's the old bank building was being used as a woodworking shop. A nephew of the operator found out that there were some boxes from the bank in the attic on top of the vault. In these boxes were bundles of canceled checks dated prior to 1929. It appears that these boxes were moved when the bank moved in 1929 and had been there since that time.

 

Carl Cochrane, Jr.

22 October, 2005

 

From what I understood the robbers in the 3 January robbery were some of the same ones that were in the 3 October robbery. The names are not the same but that is what I think I was told.

 

At the trial after the sentencing one of the robbers turned toward Daddy, pointed his finger at him and said, "I'll get you when I get out." Daddy never did hear anything more about or from him though.

 

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