Meeker Bank Robbery: October 13, 1896
One of the most dramatic and colorful events ever to occur in Northwestern Colorado was the attempted robbery of the Bank of Meeker. For a few hectic moments bullets flew thick and fast in this pioneer town, and when the fusillade was over, several Meekerites were nursing wounds and three bank robbers were dead.
The lightning-like promptness with which the robbers were disposed of was a tribute to the pioneer residents of Meeker and notice to the world that frontier men were without fear-- and shot fast and straight-- when the occasion required.
A short time before the Meeker Bank robbery the famous Butch Cassidy gang had staged the successful robbery of the Montpelier, Idaho bank, and had bragged on their return about how easy it had been. Cassidy's story of his exploit aroused the imaginations of some of the junior members of the gang and they decided to organize their own outfit. Soon, this "junior gang" picked the Bank of Meeker.
It was close to three in the afternoon when two of the gang entered the Hugas building by the Main St. entrance. A robber named George Law stepped up to the window, fired a shot close to the head of assistant cashier David Smith and ordered him to raise his hands. Mr. Smith was just a little slow in obeying the order and another bullet whizzed past his head. These two shots aroused the attention of Mr. Moulton, the local manager of Hugas and Company. He and several clerks looked up to find that they were covered by a revolver in the hands of robber Jim Shirley, who had come in the back door. Finding the bank office door locked, Shirley ordered Moulton to open it.
Law produced a sugar sack into which he emptied the cash drawer, while robber number three, "The Kid" Pierce, kept watch on the others in the bank lobby. Meanwhile, the two shots fired in the bank building had attracted the attention of many of the local men, including Town Marshal Ben Nichols. In a matter of minutes the main street was guarded by a dozen unerring marksmen, awaiting the appearance of the robbers.
The desperados started out the side door, with their prisoners as shields in front of them. They had no sooner reached the street when Shirley spotted townsman W.H. Clark and fired at him, striking him in the right breast. The robbers then marched their hostages to where their horses were tied. Shirley and Law untied the horses while "The Kid" held his rifle over the hostages and the armed men. By now, Moulton said later, they were getting tired of holding their hands in the air when somebody "broke and ran." "The Kid" opened fire injuring three of the hostages.
The scattering of the hostages was the signal for Meeker's citizens to get in their work, and in less time than it takes to tell it, Shirley and "The Kid" were on the ground. Law, seeing his pals drop, ran in the direction of the river, but had not yet reached the corner before two bullets dropped him to the ground. He lingered nearly an hour before giving up the ghost.
The Coroner's Jury was brief and the three bodies were turned over to Undertaker Niblock and buried in the Highland Cemetery in Meeker. Link Taggert made a fast ride to get Doc French back to Meeker to treat the wounded, all of whom recovered nicely.