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 the three bank robbers were dead.
The lightning-like promptness with which they 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 occassion required.
It was learned later that a short time before the Meeker Bank robbery, the famous Butch Cassidy gang had just staged the successful robbery of the Montpelier, ID, bank, and on their return bragged about how easy it had been to rob that bank. 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. It was not too long after this that the "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 (George Law), stepped up to the window, poked his gun through, fired a shot close to the head of David Smith, an assistant cashier, 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 Co, who with Mr. Booth and other clerks looked up to find they were covered by a revolver in the hands of a robber named Jim Shirley, who had come in the back door. Finding the bank office door locked, Shirley ordered Moulton to open the door.
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. The two fired shots in the bank building attracted the attention of many of the local men, including Town Marshal Ben Nichols, and in a matter of minutes the main street was guarded by a dozen unerring marksmen, awaiting the appearance of the robbers.
The robbers started out the side door, with their prisoners as shields in front of them. They had no sooner reached the street when Shirley spotted 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 Untertaked Niblock and buried in the Highland cemetary in Meeker.
Link Taggert made a fast ride to get Doc French back to Meeker to treat the wounded, all of which recovered nicely.