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Eaton Bank Robberies

In my last blog, I wrote about Eaton’s post office robberies and speculated that those events might have been the reason for Joel Hamilton’s ownership of a set of brass knuckles. That was not the only crime wave Eaton experienced in the early 20th century. In 1924 and 1925 both banks in town were robbed and in 1925 there were several thefts at businesses and homes.

On Friday March 28, 1924, thieves robbed the Eaton Farmers Bank of almost $4500. The “yeggs” cut the telephone and telegraph lines then entered the bank and blew the safe. The night telephone operator, located across the street above the Eaton State Bank, heard a total of three explosions but could not summon immediate help because of the cut communication lines. Eventually, by using a private line to the power company, the operator was able to contact Hartford City and from there the message was relayed to the Muncie police department.

Entry had been gained by prying open one of the front windows. A hole was blown into the brick wall of the vault, the combination lock hammered off, and nitroglycerin used to blow open the interior vault door providing access to the cash. The robbers escaped by car and it was thought that it might have been the same group that in November 1923 cut the telephone wires in a similar manner but were scared away before doing anything else.

Eaton State Bank

On Tuesday May 5, 1925, the Eaton State Bank was robbed by six or seven unmasked “yeggs” who blew the vault with seven nitroglycerin charges and made off with $2300 in cash and securities. This group also cut the telephone lines and shot out street lights. The explosions woke the town citizens and several nearby residents were threatened and fired upon when they went outside to look for the source of the blasts.

Authorities thought this crime had been pulled off in a “wild-west” style and some locals might have been involved based on the manner in which the bank was entered, the blowing of the safe that contained the money – a fact known only to a few people, and the conflicting stories of their escape route.

Eaton State Bank

Three days later on May 8, 1925, the Garrett Garage and Eaton Trucking Company were robbed. An attempt was made at the Standard Oil filling station to steal gasoline but the criminals were frightened away. On May 13, there were more thefts this time involving meat: one ham and three pounds of bacon from a smokehouse, 2 joints and a side of meat, and either 28 chickens or 35 Plymouth Rock hens.

An article in the Indianapolis News in July 1925 indicated that there had already been thirteen bank robberies in Indiana that year. As of June 24, the Eaton criminals remained at large and the town board began discussing the hiring of a night watchman which they had not done for two years.