LeMars Sentinel,
Tues, Sept. 30, 1919
Will Maxwell, son of Sheriff Hugh and Mrs. Maxwell, returned on Friday from service in France. Will also was in service on the Border before going across the seas.

William A. Maxwell
Obituary Link

IowaOldPress link to newspaper coverage from Nov 1919


LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel
LeMars, Plymouth County
Tuesday, December 21, 1920
Vol 1 No 102 Published Tuesdays and Fridays
Everett Brady, the man brought here on Wednesday, by state officers, charged
with aiding prisoners to escape from the county jail, was arraigned before
Justice W. S. Freeman, on Friday. Brady waived a preliminary hearing and
was bound over to await the action of the grand jury at the January term of
the Plymouth County district court. His bond was fixed at $5,000, and in
default he was taken to the county jail. Brady has confessed to his part in
smuggling guns to the Westfield bank robbers in the county jail here, who on
November 14, 1919, through the help he had given them, escaped from the
prison after murdering Will Maxwell and wounding Sheriff Maxwell. The
gangster told his story to the authorities, beginning with the idea
conceived in the I. W. W. hall in Sioux City, and resulting in his arrest
last week near Des Moines. Brady had been under suspicion for some months
and detectives had been on his trail.


Explanation in the newspaper about what happened:

LeMars Sentinel
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 1919

Gunman Shot Sheriff Hugh Maxwell and His Son
Club the Sheriff’s Wife
Lock Family In Cell and Make Their Escape.

Sheriff Hugh Maxwell and his son, William, were shot, the latter fatally,
Mrs. Maxwell was clubbed over the head, and their daughters, Fern and Clara,
were locked in the jail when five desperadoes attacked the Sheriff and his
family and made their escape from the county jail on Friday evening about
half past six o’clock.

William Maxwell died from his injuries at 7 o’clock on Sunday morning.

The first intimation of the tragedy was given when George Remer, who resides
on Fulton street, passing through the court house yard heard outcries. On
asking what was the matter, the Sheriff told him they were locked in and
told him where he could find a key to the jail door. On the door being
opened the girls ran over to the residence of W. S. Freeman across the
street where their sister, Anna, was taking a music lesson, saying that
Willie had been killed and her father shot. Mr. Freeman, with the girls,
ran over to the jail. Mr. Freeman telephoned Marshal Tucker and then got in
communication with the Sioux City police and Deputy Sheriff Sickler, who was
at his home in the north part of town, was also notified. A general alarm
followed and crowds gathered at the county jail and down town at the city
building and parties of searchers were hastily organized, proved with guns
and rifles and commenced a search for the fleeing bandits.

Sheriff Maxwell and his son, Will, had been out in the country during the
day, serving subpoenas on witnesses to appear at this term of court,
returning at night as they entered the house they threw their heavy
sheepskin coats and their other coats down in the living room and placed
their revolvers on a table and put a rifle they with them in a corner of the
room and prepared to help Mrs. Maxwell serve supper to the prisoners.

In the jail were six prisoners, William Convey and Wilbur Siglin, indicted
at the last term of the court for murderous assault on Sheriff Maxwell and
his daughter, Miss Fern Maxwell, on the night of June 21, and Lee
Barrington, Harry Smith, M. Cullon and Jas. O’Keefe, who were caught by
Sioux City police on the morning of October 22, and hour after they had
raided the bank of Westfield. The six men were awaiting trial at the
present term of court which opened yesterday.

On the fatal evening the Sheriff, his wife and his son went into the jail
which communicates with the Sheriff’s dwelling house by a narrow passage.
None of them were armed and all were carrying trays of food. The men were in
the corridor of the jail. Convey and Smith were walking backwards and
forwards, but as the men often did this when the officers were serving
meals, the Sheriff did not pay any attention. As Sheriff Maxwell was
handing some coffee to O’Keefe, he thought the man was acting in a nervous
manner and at the same time glancing in the other direction, the officer
noticed Convey make a move towards him. He told him to get back and at that
instant Smith attempted to jump behind the officer. Maxwell turned and
Smith opened fire. The bullet struck Maxwell in the side and he fell to his
knees. Smith then turned and shot Will Maxwell, who by that time was at the
end of the eating table, the bullet striking him in the back. As Will was
falling, Convey, who was facing him, fired at him, the bullet striking him
in the left eye. The ball taking an upward course. Will fell into his
Mother’s arms, and as she sank to the floor with his head in her lap, Convey
struck her a blow on the side of her head with a chair. Convey and Smith
rushed into the house, grabbed Clara and Fern Maxwell, the Sheriff’s
daughters, and locked them in the jail with their victims and with
Barrington, Cullon and O’Keefe made their escape. Wilbur Siglin, the sixth
prisoner in the mail made no attempt to escape and cowered in a cell while
the shooting was going on. He stated that he was afraid of the other men and
that they had no use for him.

Siglin, who was awaiting trial with William Convey, one of the escaped
prisoners for having attempted to kill Sheriff Maxwell, was unfriendly with
the other occupants of the jail. Instead of trying to escape, Siglin aided
in caring for the injured persons.

The rest of the gang in there wouldn’t have anything to do with him, said
Siglin. They never talked to me except to call me names. They seemed to be
sore at me because I talked in Sioux City. [several more lines of this
paragraph too dark to read unfortunately]

“When the shooting started [copy again too dark, but appears to be
eye-witness account of Wilbur Siglin] ….. ran into my cell [another dark
line of copy] ….shooting was over. I did not come out of my cell until I
heard them threatening to shoot Mrs. Maxwell. I begged them not to. Now
that it is all over, I can’t understand why they didn’t shoot me.”

“Siglin aided us wonderfully,” said Sheriff Maxwell. “When George Remer, a
neighbor came to our rescue and opened the door, Siglin carried my son
William, who unconscious into the house. He then called a physician and
while we were waiting for the doctor, he bathed William’s wounds and washed
the blood from Mrs. Maxwell’s head. He worked in the house for more than an
hour and after other persons had came to the house to help, he voluntarily
returned to his cell. All he had to do to escape was walk out the door.”

“If it had not been for Siglin, the gang probably would have shot my wife,”
said Sheriff Maxwell. “Siglin had been hiding until the time when they
threatened to shoot Mrs. Maxwell. He knew that they didn’t like him and he
knew that was taking a big chance of being shot. Nevertheless, he walked
between Mrs. Maxwell and the gunmen and pleaded with them not to shoot her.
I think it was his effort that saved Mrs. Maxwell from being shot.”

Sheriff Maxwell stated that he did not think a dozen minutes had elapsed
before he managed to attract attention, but it seemed an eternity to him.
Although wounded, he managed to get to his feet and went to the windows on
each side of the jail to see if possible in which direction the gunmen had

“I was shot in the body, William was wounded in the head and body, and Mrs.
Maxwell was suffering with a cut on the head. All of us were bleeding
profusely and we were helpless. We thought William was dying, as he was
unconscious. It was fully ten minutes before we were liberated. George
Remer, a neighbor, was passing through the court yard and I called him to
come and let us out. He seemed to pay no attention to me at first, but when
I told him who I was, he ran into the house and came to the cell room. I
told him where he could find a key to the door and he got it and let us

Dr. Reeves and Dr. Lamb were called to attend the injured men. From the
first it was evident that there was little hope for the younger Maxwell. He
lapsed into unconsciousness on Saturday afternoon and died at 7 o’clock on
Sunday morning.

One bullet entered William Maxwell’s back and stole it’s way through his
liver, penetrated his lung and lodged just beneath the skin below his breast
bone. His legs were paralyzed, indicating that the bullet struck his spinal
cord. The wound over the eye caused but slight damage. The bullet took an
upward course and went out through the top of his forehead. Sheriff
Maxwell’s condition is not considered dangerous. The bullet entered his left
side took a downward course and lodged in his back.

The robbers left without their coats and two of them without hats. They
took a sheepskin coat belonging to Will Maxwell. They also took a rifle and
two revolvers which were lying on the table in the sitting room.

Fern Maxwell, the eldest daughter of the Sheriff, did not know that the jail
break was in progress until the men ran into the house. “I was playing the
piano and didn’t even hear the shooting. The first I knew of the affair was
when Smith and Convey came running into the house. I walked out into the
parlor and they grabbed hold of me, each one gripping an arm. They started
to take me toward the cell room and I asked them what they were going to do
with me. They told me to shut my mouth or they would blow my head off, so I
kept quiet. They grabbed Clara, my 11-year-old sister, who was lying on a
lounge in the back hall, and brought her along. They put us both in the cell
room and then locked the door.

The process by which the bandits procured their guns and ammunition while
incarcerated in jail is unknown. Authorities are of the opinion that the
weapons were smuggled into the jail by Convey’s wife, who has been a visitor
to the jail on several occasions. The last time she visited the jail was a
week ago Sunday. The woman has been arrested and is confined in jail in
Sioux City. She is being held for investigation. Mrs. Convey refused to
talk about her husband’s escape.

The theory first advanced was that the prisoners had made their escape from
town either in a stolen car or one provided for them by outside pals. Towns
within a radius of a hundred miles were notified as quickly as possible of
the jail break.

Approaches to towns in Plymouth county were guarded by armed volunteers. A
detachment of police from Sioux City headed by Commissioner J. B. Mann were
in LeMars an hour after they were notified of the crime. They said they had
put guards on all the roads leading into Sioux City. Automobile parties
scoured the surrounding country, while armed men made a search through the
outskirts of town, the railroad yards, and the stock yards. A report on
Friday night that the bandits were corralled on a hill near the McDonald
ranch below Merrill caused tremendous excitement and thirty cars loaded with
men and rifles speeded it off in every direction. Night and day, the city
building has been crowded with people anxiously awaiting developments and
with men anxious to volunteer their services in helping to catch the
murderers. The wildest kinds of rumors fly continuously and are eagerly
grasped and discussed.

The discovery of the two coats and a rifle on Saturday afternoon upset the
automobile escape theory. They coats were found northeast of town. A
searching party found tracks which indicated the men had gone east after
leaving the jail and left the road near St. Joseph’s church and taken to the
fields. The rifle taken from the Sheriff’s house was found in the yard at
the Nemmers residence on the corner of Franklin and Sixth streets. One of
the coats was found in a corn field near the road leading to Dalton’s
swimming pool and the other coat was found near the Illinois stock yards.

On Sunday morning blood hounds brought here from Waterloo were put on the
trail where the coats were found. The dogs followed a course through
pastures and cornfields and crossed both the Illinois Central and Omaha
tracks. They went readily as far as the Wood school house on the way to
Seney, where they seemed to be at fault and followed several leads a short
ways and then faltered. The theory is that the bandits scattered.

In the afternoon dogs were taken out again to a point between Struble and
Craig after a report was received in town that two bareheaded men had been
sighted in a corn field. This quest proved futile and the dogs were brought
back to town and taken east in the evening.