LOOKING BACK

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Bank robbers wrecked get-away car on Spring Street with a crowd. 1922. Cross collection. BES 11-200-22

Photo courtesy of Eureka Springs Historical Museum

This past weekend was the 47th annual Eureka Springs Antique Automobile Festival, and along with it came the 1922 Bank Robbery Re-enactment after the antique car parade.

It may have been the ‘roaring twenties’ in most of the United States, but in Eureka Springs, it was a quiet autumn morning on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 1922. The tourist season had come to an end, and the First National Bank of Eureka Springs and the Bank of Eureka Springs were highly capitalized because of a successful season. Shortly after 11 a.m. on this fateful morning, Eureka Springs would be cast upon the front page of nearly every major newspaper in the United States.

Five young men from Oklahoma, Cy Wilson, brothers Charlie and John Price, John Cowan and Mark Hendricks, drove into town to find a bank worth robbing. They camped outside of town and plotted their scheme during the night. They chose the First National Bank of Eureka Springs at 40 Spring St. as their target. Once the robbery was underway, nearby businessmen, E.A. Jordan, Jess Littrell, Joe McKimmey, Ed McShane, Homer Brittain, Sam Harman and Bob Bowman responded to silent alarms from inside the bank. A shootout in the street left three of the robbers dead and two were wounded.

The sacks containing $60,000 in liberty bonds and $10,000 in cash the robbers had carried out of the bank were quickly recovered after the shooting stopped. No money was lost, and it was returned to the bank.

Despite national publicity resulting from the Great Bank Robbery, the First National Bank was not to have a history of long service to Eureka Springs. It was an early-Depression casualty, closing its doors for the last time in 1931. The Bank of Eureka Springs (now Cornerstone Bank) is the only bank operating during the Great Bank Robbery era that is still in service today.

- Stephanie Stodden

Museum Operations Manager

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