Reginald Joseph "Rex" Frolkey
Born 21 Apr 1889, Garfield, Nebraska
Died 30 Sep 1929, rural LeMars, Iowa
Buried Kearney, Nebraska
His Obituary Link



Yester Year Stories, Backed with Today's Research


LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel
Tuesday, October 1, 1929

Rex Frolkey Shoots Self Through Head While Fleeing From Vigilantes
Accused of Robbing Sioux Center Bank Earlier in Day

Frolkey died from his injuries at five minutes to six last evening.
Rev. Frolkey, former minister, radio operator and student of Western Union
college, shot himself through the head on his farm near Ruble late Monday
afternoon while fleeing from officers seeking to arrest him for robbing the
State Bank of Sioux Center earlier in the afternoon. When Frolkey reached
the farm, the officers were not far behind and he went to the barn followed
by the tenant on the farm. He handed the man a roll of money saying he was
going to shoot himself and pulled a revolver and shot himself above the right
eye. The vigilantes from Sioux County were near enough to hear the shot.
Frolkey was identified by a former college mate at Sioux Center and also by
his license receipt on the instrument board of his car which some of the
people on the street read while he was in the bank.

Frolkey was brought to the Sacred Heart Hospital in LeMars about 5 o’clock
last evening. Little hopes are held out for his recovery.
The State Bank at Sioux Center was robbed shortly after noon yesterday and a
little less than a thousand dollars taken. Officers and vigilantes were
notified and given a description of the robber, who was said to be tall and
have driven a new Graham-Paige car.

A number of Sioux Center residents arrived later in LeMars and stated they
were hot on the trail of a car answering the description.

They stated they had seen the Graham-Paige car on the streets of the town
and were attracted to its appearance by the fact that Illinois license
numbers were placed over the Iowa numbers. Some in the crowd declared they
noted the name Rex Frolkey with the Iowa license in the inside of the car.

A man by the name of Siebels, from Sioux Center, went with Marshal F. J.
Smith to the Frolkey residence.

The officer questioned Frolkey, who asked the officer if he had a warrant.
The officer asked the Sioux Center man if he was willing to swear out an
information. The man was unwilling, saying he could not be positive of

On the return of Marshal F. J. Smith from the Frolkey house the officer met
Sheriff Hugo Synhorst, of Sioux County, who wanted Frolkey.

Frolkey, as soon as the Marshal and Sioux Center man had left, made tracks
for the west.

According to Ruben Sieperda, a resident and merchant of Sioux Center,
Frolkey was followed after his get-away. Upon reaching LeMars, Mr. Sieperda
and pursuers went to the home of a relative of Frolkey. Nothing had been
seen of him there nor at the home of his wife. In a short time, however,
Frolkey was seen driving up in the business district. Mr. Sieperda directed
his son to enlist the aid of police officers, while he remained on the scene
to watch Frolkey. The officer upon arriving refused to hold the suspect for
lack of authority and Frolkey made his escape. Mr. Sieperda followed
immediately and as his party approached the John Erickson farm, Frolkey had
driven into the yard and dashed to the barn, pulling a roll of bills from
his pocket and thrusting them to an attendant. He exclaimed, “Here, take
this money, the police are after me.” With that he threatened suicide and
his wife phoned local authorities.

The pursuers heard the shot as they entered the farm yard. Upon county the
roll of bills, it was discovered that he had approximately $423 on him just
before he fired the 25 automatic.

A delegation of officers and others from Sioux County, called last evening
upon Mayor Henry Grimjes and informed him that if Marshall Smith did not
tender his resignation at once they would start ouster proceedings to remove
him from office.

The automobile in which Frolkey made his escape after the robbery and in which he fled to his death tryst when pursued by the Sieperdas.  The younger Sieperda is shown at the left and his father at the right. The picture was taken in front of The Journal building.


LeMars Globe-Post
October 3, 1929

Rex Frolkey Dies By Own Hand When Net Closes Down On Him

After a hectic career of 45 years, which ran the gamut of nearly every human
emotion to end at last in tragedy and despair, Rex Frolkey, former college
athlete, owner of radio station KWUC, real estate dealer, and lastly bank
bandit, died by his own hand on a farm three miles west, and a mile and a
half north of Brunsville. He shot himself through the head with a .25
caliber automatic as Reuben and Anthony Sieperda of Sioux Center, members of
a posse, were closing in on him.

Before shooting himself, he handed about $400 to H. Dickman, employed by
Eric Martinsen, tenant on the farm.

The body was shipped last night to Kearney, Nebraska.

Soon after his death, which occurred about 45 minutes after he shot himself,
officials of the Orange City bank, which was robbed several weeks ago,
viewed the body and identified the body as that of the bandit who robbed
that bank.

Officers pointed out, however, that it is the usual thing for everybody to
identify a bandit who has been killed, as the perpetrator of every other job
of banditry in the vicinity.

Yesterday a bank was robbed at Nebraska, but Frolkey had a perfect alibi, as
he was lying stark and cold in Beely’s morgue at the time.

Photographs of the body were taken at the request of state agents, who will
interview the officers of the banks in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota that
were robbed recently, to see if any of them could recognize the man.

The robbery at Sioux Center was perpetrated after noon, by Frolkey alone;
with only a small mask as disguise. He forced Gerrit Vermeer, assistant
cashier, a customer and his two small sons into a vault and helped himself
to the loose cash and jumped out of the window, started his car and drove

The men locked in the vault were unable to get out until T. D. Sieman,
another employee of the bank, returned from lunch and released them.

Suspicion was at once directed at the LeMars man by Cy Danstratt and Henry
DeGroot, who had noticed his Graham-Paige coupe parked near the bank, with
an Illinois license plate over the Woodbury County license plate. They
looked inside the car and saw Frolkey’s name and Sioux City address.

With this slender clue to work on, the Sieperdas trailed Frolkey to Sioux
City, all over the western half of Plymouth County, and finally to LeMars,
where they notified the police.

Marshall Frank Smith went to the Frolkey home and he wasn’t home. A few
minutes later he was. But he put up such a good front that the Sioux County
men weren’t quite sure that they wanted him arrested. They watched him,
however, and a few minutes later when he made his dash for liberty they were
sure, and followed him, as recounted elsewhere in today’s paper.


On an occasion like the present it is only natural that human passions are
swayed, and people who knew Rex Frolkey and thought he was a pretty good
fellow are now liberal in their condemnation and intimating that they knew
right along that he would come to something like this.

As a matter of fact, no one could foresee his tragic end, because only a few
years ago Rex, then an impetuous college student, had a promising future
ahead of him. He was a familiar figure in LeMars, with his ragged sweater
and frayed trousers, for he was working his way through college at whatever
labor he could get, preparing for a career in the ministry.

He had a likeable personality, and a certain youthful niavety. It was this
youthful character which caused so many people to be surprised when they
learned he was 45 years old at the time of his death. When he practiced
with the football team he was already 35, but most persons thought he was not
much over 20.

His enthusiasm and perpetual optimism won for him the love of a well known
and respected LeMars girl, who had been interested in the college, and after
they were married they adopted his two children by a former marriage, his
first wife having died.

But he was unaccustomed to money.
Naturally free and open-handed, this trait had done him no harm as long as
he had nothing to give away. And as long as he remained in LeMars, it did
not do much harm, for the people here did not take advantage of his
inexperience. He invested some of his wife’s money in a radio station, but
there was a fair chance for returns from this investment.

However, this brought him into contact with many outside influences from
which he had been shielded previously, and he started on the road which led
to the grave.

The college authorities did not approve of his course nor to the character
of the programs broadcast, so he established a studio at Sioux City. This
necessitated expensive long distance tolls to LeMars.

He allowed others to run his business in Sioux City, which further impaired
the quality of the KWUC programs.

When the wavelength reallocation came, he could not get the support from the
college and his home town and lost his broadcast license. Gone was an
investment of $10,000 to $20,000.
It was a bewildered, hurt Rex Frolkey who took stock of the situation. His
former friends had not approved of his actions and many of them told him so.
His new “friends” flattered him and urged him to further excesses.

They bled him like leeches. They sucked his youth, his life, his ambitions
like vampires. Gone were his hopes of going to Yale and a career.

Nothing remained by the hectic “pleasures” which had brought on his ruin.

There seems to be no record that he drank, but those who claim to know say
that he fell into the infinitely worse clutches of drugs. Given to him, of
course, free of charge, until he formed the habit. Then paid for with sweat
and blood and honor.

He was desperately unhappy and brooded on suicide.

He lacked the courage to face the wife he had wronged and who was loyally
bringing up his children.

She had not seen him for six weeks, when the police called at her home. A
pang of apprehension shot through her. She had heard the story of the Sioux
Center robbery over the radio.
Shortly after the police left he came home, dusty, haggard, a two days
growth of beard on his face.

Tired, defeated, there was no other place for him to go.

A moment later the police came again. Despite his twitching nerves, he was
able to tell a plausible story and delay his arrest a little. Then he broke
down and confessed to his wife, the only friend he had left.

“I’m going out to the farm and kill myself,” he cried, rushing out to the

Reuben Sieperda and his son Anthony, who had been watching the house, saw
him go and followed.

Dr. G. A. Mauer was called to attend to Mrs. Frolkey, who had gone into a
nervous collapse. As soon as he heard the news, he called the Sheriff’s

Sheriff Maxwell was at Akron serving subpoenas, but Deputy T. C. Parker had
previously disposed the vigilantes to watch for the robber and was holding
himself in readiness. In a few minutes, he was speeding on the trail.
Frolkey sped to his wife’s farm tenanted by Eric Martensen. H. Dickman, his
hired man, was there.

Frolkey handed him a wad of money, told him to send it to an address in
Sioux City and dashed into the barn.

He shot himself in the right temple with a .25 caliber automatic.

The Sieperdas were next on the place and Deputy Sheriff Parker arrived
shortly afterward and made arrangements to have Luken’s ambulance bring the
fatally injured man to the hospital. He was unconscious and never spoke

While he was grasping out his life at the Sacred Heart Hospital, the Sioux
County vigilantes were counting the money on the steps in front of the
hospital. There was some quarreling and bickering. It seems that somebody
was trying to count $5 bills for $2 bills, so that the count varied from
$360 to $460.

A group of Sioux County vigilantes, Woodbury County officers and state
agents stormed the hospital. They wanted to third-degree the bandit and
force him to reveal his accomplices.
“He is dead,” a frightened nurse informed them.

Frank Smith, Chief of Police, had uncautiously got himself surrounded by
about twenty men in the hospital corridor when this announcement was made.
Instantly, he was in the center of a snarling pack.

“There! You see now, you lousy copper, what you did!”

“He calls himself a policeman. Wonder what the bandit gave him to let him
get away?”

“Say, Constable, what do they pay you anyway? $10 a month? Well if they do,
they’re overpaying you.”

One of the hospital Sisters came down the stairs, “Gentlemen! Gentlemen!”
she expostulated. “Remember the hospital is full of sick people. Please
don’t make so much noise.”

That quieted them a little. Growling, they surged out the double doors and
boiled over into the driveway.

“Now you get back to your little office, you small-town dick!” they advised
Chief Smith, “while you’re all in one piece.”

He got. Later in the office he was surrounded again while the state agents,
etc., demanded that Mayor Henry Grimjes discharge him immediately.

Grimjes jaw hardened. “Supposing he was at fault,” he barked, “think I’ll
discharge him without a hearing? Since when has martial law been declared
here? Bring your charges and we’ll hear what you have to say.”

Later they repeated their demands over the telephone, but Grimjes stuck to
his guns.

“You heard what I said,” he told them. “There’s a definite legal procedure
for this case and if you want to go through with it, its all right with me.
But you’re nothing but a mob now, and would just as soon hang a man as look
at him. You can’t override the municipal government that way.”

Not liking it, they had to lump it.

In the mean time the poor, tortured remains of Rex Frolkey, who had so
quickly gone down the toboggan, were prepared for shipment to Kearney,
Nebraska, to lie bedside the body of his first wife. He had paid with his
life, as far as absolute evidence goes to show, for about $400, and for this
paltry sum was hunted to his death.

Those of a philosophical or speculative turn of mind may wonder at the human
scale of ethical values. A bank robber, matching his gun and life against
all of society, against machine guns, against radio, fleets of automobiles,
airplanes and sawed-off shotguns, boldly and openly, without any deception
or betrayal of confidence, takes what he can by force and takes his chances
doing it. And even after he had paid the supreme price, his bloody, broken
body is treated with ferocity, a primitive savagery hard to equal except in
war or among Chicago’s gunmen. His remains are kicked around, figuratively
speaking, like a dog’s without doing anybody any good.

On the other hand, a soft, trusted, highly respected banker may loot his
institution, betray his depositors, steal everything in sight, getting away
with sums ten or twenty times as much as the average robber, involve hundred
of people in financial straits, and escape with a five or ten year sentence
and the comfortable knowledge that he will be paroled in a year or two.

The moral is: If You Must Be Crooked, Cheat Your Friends and the Newspapers
Won’t Dare Print the Truth About You.

Rex Frolkey minister, radio operator and football player, who took his own
life to beat the law, was not a minister at the time of the robbery of the
Sioux Center bank.

Frolkey was licensed to preach in 1915 and would have been ordained two
years later. However, Frolkey waited until 1925 before he was ordained. In
May, 1928, after hearing of the life he commenced to lead, his license was
revoked by the church.

This information is found in the conference of the Evangelical church.

Left to Right-Photos published in the Globe Post

Rex Frolkey, Dead Bandit - Ruben Sieperda,Captor - Anton Sieperda, Captor - Frank Smith, Chief of Police

Below additional text from a news article posted: LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, Oct. 4, 1929 **the article relayed the story in similar fashion as the news articles above, except for the following that shed some light on the reason that the Vigilantes were so upset at the outcome.

LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, Oct. 4, 1929, ~reads in part below

"Frolkey left his home early Monday morning with the ostensible object of driving to one of the farms owned by his wife in the west part of the county. Before night fell he was dead by his own hand and men were arguing about the reward placed on a felon's head."

"Sioux county vigilantes took up the chase and some citizens joined them. They followed a trail which brought them to LeMars. Reuben Sieperda and his son, Anton Sieperda, of Sioux Center, on arriving in LeMars got in touch with City Marshal Smith and went to the Frolkey home. They talked with Mrs. Frolkey and found that Frolkey was not there and the officer returned up town. A few minutes later the younger Sieperda overtook the officer and informed him that Frolkey was at the house. The elder Sieperda had remained there. The officer returned to the house and opened a conversation with Frolkey, who vigorously denied any connection with the robbery. The Marshal, it is stated, declined to arrest Frolkey unless Sieperda was willing to swear out a warrant or prefer charges. Frolkey went into the house and shortly after came out again and got into the car and drove away. He was followed by the Sieperdas."

"State Agent Ray Scott, who was in LeMars Tuesday after the Sioux Center robbery, is engaged in an investigation of the affair. Two men, Eddie Raynor, Beech Hotel, and Don Hoover, 1410 Leech street, Sioux City, arrested by state agents as suspects in the Turin Bank robbery case, have been released from jail. Mike Kelley, a close companion of Rex Frolkey, was arrested Tuesday evening and is being held for investigation. Scott went to Orange City Wednesday to see if he could settle one way or the other whether Frolkey had anything to do with the bank robbery there. Kelley is being held for questioning, although the officer said it was for the sake of finding out more of Frolkey's activities than of any suspicion against Kelley. The agent said that he was inclined to believe that the Sioux Center robbery was Frolkey's first job and that he was not involved in any other bank robbery. He gave as his reasons that investigation showed that Frolkey was desperate for money, that he owed numerous bills and even owed Kelley $100, which was the reason Kelley was living out the money in Frolkey's apartment. If Frolkey had participated in any of the recent bank robberies, he would have had money, Scott said."


"Scott also thought that the job was pulled too crudely and would not have been done apparently alone if Frolkey had been connected with other bandits in other jobs. The agent said that he believed that after staging the robbery, Frolkey first had gone to the Erick Martinson farm, where he later shot himself, and hid the gun in the barn before going to his wife's home in LeMars. He said that it was fortunate Frolkey did so, because in his state of mind if he had had a gun while at his wife's home he not only might have killed himself, but first slain Mrs. Frolkey."


"A blacksmith and feed merchant of Sioux Center may share in any reward given as a result of the Sioux Center State Bank robbery case Monday in which Rex Frolkey cheated the law by suicide. Henry DeGroot and C. Langstraat first noticed Frolkey's automobile parked near the bank and examined the registration card in the car, connecting Frolkey with the bank robbery."