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this site was last updated on Friday, 25 July 2014



By Rod Stanley, Museum Assistant


This event took place in Adel, March 6, 1895, and was one of the most violent events in Dallas County history.  The robbery of the Adel State Bank left one man dead and six others wounded.

The Adel State Bank was organized by Samuel Leach and a Dr. Caldwell in 1882.  This bank was one of the leading financial institutions of the county with deposits amounting to nearly 1/3 of a million dollars. It was on the West side of the square where the Cameo Rose store was located.

Orlando Wilkins, also known as "Rowdy", and Charles Crawford were from Patterson, Iowa.  Wilkins had just been released from prison in Minnesota and needed funds.  They had planned to rob the bank in Indianola but Crawford had gotten cold feet and refused to take part.  Crawford had gotten his nerve back and agreed to rob the Adel Bank.

The men spent the night at a farmhouse south of Adel.  On the morning of March 6, 1895, Orlando Wilkins and Charles Crawford drove a team and buggy into Adel and tied the horses at 9th and Court Street.  They entered the bank around 9:00am.  Wilkins was carrying a Spencer repeating shotgun which held multiple shells and had a pump action.  S.M. Leach, the cashier, was working at the counter sorting money for the day's business.  He didn't look up but asked the men if he could help them.  Wilkins stuck the gun in his face and said, "shell out".  Leach tried to take the money back to the vault and Wilkins shot him 2 times in the shoulder and neck areas.  A customer in the bank, C.D. Bailey, tried to stop Wilkins but he was shot as well.  The robbers grabbed a bag and put silver money in it.  They got about $267.00.

The shooting had aroused attention both inside and outside the bank.  The office above the bank was occupied by a lawyer name George Clarke.  Hearing the shots, Clark came down the stairs.  Wilkins was waiting at the bottom of the stairs and stuck his shotgun into Clarke's chest and pulled the trigger.  The gun clicked but did not fire and Clarke hurried back up the stairs lucky he hadn't been killed.  It is interesting to note here that George Clarke later became the Governor of the State of Iowa.  He was also the grandfather of Nile Kinnick.  How history would have been changed if that gun had not misfired.

The sheriff, J.D. Payne, had heard the shots and was on his way.  There were also other armed men who had heard the shots as well and exchanged gun fire with the outlaws.  There were four other men; Robert Barr, J.L. Simcoke, J.M. Byers, and Cecil Decker, that were wounded although none as seriously as Leach and Bailey who were thought to be dying from their wounds.

Wilkins and Crawford made it to their team and took off at breakneck speed heading west on Court Street.  They went west as far as they could go then south to the road leading west out of Adel.  A posse was formed and 3 men, Tom Reynolds, Don Snyder, and Charles Worford followed the robbers out of town and kept them in sight.

Wilkins and Crawford went west to where the Triangle Inn would have been and turned south on the road which today is P-58.  They continued south and then east on what today is 330th street.  It was in this area that a well placed shot by Charle Kissick wounded one of the horses pulling their buggy.  Wilkins and Crawford fled on foot and separated at a place called O'Neal's Crossing.  It wasn't long before Crawford was caught.

Wilkins took refuge in the O'Neal barn.  He refused to come out and gunfire was exchanged.  The posse forced Crawford to take a can of kerosene and douse a straw stack next to the barn.  He then lit the straw and barn on fire.  With the barn ablaze, Wilkins tried to make a run for it but was shot down by a well-known farmer named Pritchard.  The posse then lost control of their emotions and riddled the body of Wilkins with bullets.

Charles Crawford and the body of Wilkins were taken back to Adel.  The bag of silver coins was found in a ditch along the side of the road where the outlaws had tossed it during their attempt to escape.

Before being taken to the undertaker, Wilkins body was displayed sitting in a chair in front of the bank so the public could view the dead outlaw.  This was a custom that was used to show that crime indeed did not pay.  Wilkins was buried at Oakdale Cemetery in Adel.

Crawford was taken to the county jail.  On the night of March 6 a very large crowd with rifles, pistols, and clubs gathered in the streets of Adel.  They wanted to lynch Crawford for his role in the bank robbery.  Lynching was not uncommon in Iowa.  Justice at the end of a rope was sometimes sought by unhappy townsfolk.  Fortunately for Crawford, Sheriff Payne had anticipated trouble and had extra guards posted at the jail.  The Sheriff still had to do some pretty serious talking with the mob.  Cooler heads prevailed and the mob went home.  It helped when they were told that Leach and Bailey were going to survive the wounds suffered in the bank robbery.

Crawford was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison.  He served his time and actually came back to Adel and worked there.  The townspeople who were wounded all recovered.  The shotgun used in the robbery is on display at the Adel Museum although the wooden part of the gun was destroyed in the fire at the barn.  Also in the Adel Museum is the front of a teller's cage that came from the Adel State Bank.  If you want to see these artifacts as well as many others from Adel's history give Jan Price, at the Adel Museum, a call (515) 993-1032.

Source: "Raccoon River Greenbelt Newsletter", Spring Equinox Edition 2011; permission for reproduction and use on the Dallas IAGenWeb site granted by the Dallas County Conservation Board.
Provided by Clarence Milburn and transcribed by Conni McDaniel Hall; April 2011.

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