History: Greenwood, Wis., Greenwood State Bank

Contact: mailto:janet@wiclarkcountyhistory.org


Surnames: Miller, Bowen, Thomson, Johnston, Hartson, Shanks, Gibson, Sperbeck, Stair, Woodkey, Van Camp, Brown, Pfunder, Richards, Doyle, Yale, Pinkerton, Upham, Kountz, Cummings


----Source: Marshfield News (Marshfield, Wis.) Thursday 6 November 1902, Pg. 1




Greenwood State Bank

Greenwood, Clark Co., Wisconsin



The above ad appeared in the Greenwood Gleaner, 19 Oct 1900.


Marshfield News Thursday 6 November 1902 Page 1



$7,600 in Currency and Gold Taken--Three Burglars not Frightened by Arrival of Armed Citizens--Many Shots Exchanged

Greenwood was the scene of the boldest bank robbery ever perpetrated in the state, early Tuesday morning. The safe door was blown off and $7,699 in gold and currency taken. Three men were implicated in the robbery. They were caught in the act and although the bank was surrounded by armed citizens, the robbers made their escape, exchanging shots until they disappeared in the darkness

The robbers were first discovered by Fred Woodkey and James Van Camp, two blacksmiths of Greenwood, who were driving home from Loyal. They heard an explosion in the bank and suspecting what was in progress, hurriedly put up their team and returned to confirm their suspicions by looking through the plate glass window from the opposite side of the street. Seeing nothing they approached closer and when in the center of the street a man who had been lying on his stomach arose at their feet and covering them with a brace of revolvers commanded in a determined voice to “hike” without making a noise or he would fill them full of holes. They did as they were told but lost no time in awakening a number of men in the neighborhood whom they knew possessed firearms.

The night was of inky blackness and the outlines of the bank building which stands in an isolated position by itself could not be seen from across the street. The burglars took precaution to turn out the several kerosene street lamps and there was not a light to be seen anywhere, not even in the bank where the men were at work. It was found later that the only light used by the robbers was a candle inside a tin pail. The citizens fired several shoots in the direction of the bank believing that this would frighten them off. At each discharge the bandit on guard in the front of the building answered by firing at the point where the flash was seen. He used a shot gun and once or twice the shot rained uncomfortably close to his adversaries. It was also noted that each time the robber discharged his weapon he changed his position, but it was too dark to see anything but the flashes.

Dentist Brown, who has rooms over the bank, heard the noise below and started out to investigate. He found that the door leading to the street had been fastened with a chain to a post on the edge of the walk so that it could not be opened from within. He went back and opened a front window. He was shot at twice by the man on guard and from that time on kept to his room.

Cashier Sperbeck arrived on the scene before the third explosion and realizing that the citizens who had gathered were unable to cope with the bandits, dispatched a messenger to ring the fire bell. Even this which brought out hundreds of people did not frighten them and they continued with their work until completed to their satisfaction. Every dollar of currency and gold on hand was taken. The silver on account of its weight was left untouched.

Those who were shooting at the bank from several directions did not see the robbers leave, but a man who was hurrying up town in response to the fire alarm met three men crossing a vacant space near the bank in the opposite direction. Soon after a vehicle was heard to rapidly cross the Black river bridge going in a westerly direction. The tracks that they had two horses attached to a rubber tired rig. They were followed several miles and then all traces were lost. Yesterday two suspects were arrested at Withee and three others Chippewa Falls. Nothing was on their persons, however, to connect them with the robbery.

It was very evident that the raid was carefully planned. Last Saturday a powerful electric battery was received at the Greenwood express office and called for by a man unknown to the agent. This was probably used in exploding the nitro-glycerin. The same person made a visit to the dental office over the bank to have his teeth examined and incidentally, it is presumed, to get the lay of the building and its occupants, He also bought a large knife one of the hardware stores. It is believed that this man made all preparations for the robbery and his pals drove in on the night the deed was committed. Merchant (P)Funder, whose place of business is directly across the street from the bank, worked on hid books until one o’clock. It was soon after he closed up that the bank was entered.

The third and final explosion which wrecked the safe was so great as to be heard in all parts of the city and the shock was felt by all those who were gathered in the neighborhood. A piece of the safe door one foot in diameter and weighing more than fifty pounds was thrown through two board partitions and the plate glass window, to the opposite side of the street.

The bank carried $10,000 burglar insurance with the United States Fidelity & Guarantee Co. of Baltimore, which insures the re-payment of the amount stolen as well as a new safe for the one wrecked. The insurance company employs the Pinkerton agency to ferret out the men who burglarize banks carrying insurance with them.

Yesterday morning several detectives with two bloodhounds from Chicago started on the bandit’s trail and although 24 hours behind them hope to accomplish their arrest.

It is believed that the robbers owned the outfit used as no rubber tired rig has been reported stolen or hired in the country for a radius of many miles. Messages have been sent to hundreds of villages and towns throughout central, and northern Wisconsin and it will be remarkable if the men leave the country without being detected.

Conductor Richman, of the Greenwood train, whose home is a block and a half distant from the bank, heard an explosion and while dressing to go out to see what it meant, heard another. He reached the scene of the robbery before the men had left and not being armed watched the fusillade from a distance.

Without waiting to ascertain their loss the bank officials locked their doors and joined in the pursuit. At sunrise a posse of fifty men were engaged in the chase and no efforts were spared to effect a capture.

Upon examination of the bank it was found that an entrance had been affected through a window and when inside the men threw open both doors. It required three charges of explosives to wreck the safe, On the floor were found a bottle of nitro-glycerin, sledge hammer and other tools.

The cashier states that the bank will resume business as soon as the wrecked safe can be replaced,

The state bank of Greenwood was organized about ten years ago and is capitalized for $25,000. The present officers are: J. C. Miller, president; B. F. Thompson, vice-president; R. Sperbeck, cashier, and J. B. Stair, assistant teller.


Marshfield News Thursday 4 December 1902 P. 1


The three men charged with robbing the Greenwood bank were taken through here last Thursday by Sheriff Campbell. They were placed in the lockup until the time for taking the afternoon train for Neillsville and ate with hearty relish the Thanksgiving dinner taken to them by Marshal Gerwing from a restaurant. The alleged robbers had all the appearances of hardened criminals who would not hesitate at any crime, and gave their names as Frank Richards, Thomas Doyle and Thomas Yale.

About ten days ago the Pinkerton detectives raided a resort in Chicago where bank robbers and others of that ilk congregate to compare notes and plan burglaries. They gathered in seven men, three of whom answered the descriptions of the bandits who robbed the bank safe at Greenwood of $7,600 a few weeks ago. Sheriff Campbell went to Chicago, saw the men, came back to Madison for requisition papers, then went to Springfield to get warrants from the Illinois governor and returned to Chicago. In the meantime the prisoners had applied for a writ of habeas corpus, employing lawyers, and were making their fight for liberty. Sheriff Campbell returned to Neillsville in a few days with photographs of the trio which were sent to Greenwood and recognized as those of the men seen there just before the bank was looted.

On Thursday of last week Sheriff Campbell went to Chicago again accompanied by Merchant Pfunder of Greenwood, who went as a witness to identify the robbers. While here Conductor Ridgman and Engineer Upham of the Greenwood train called at the lockup and also identified the prisoners as men who were seen in Greenwood a day or two before the robbery.

Richards, Yale and Doyle were arraigned before Court Commissioner Kountz at Neillsville last Friday. Their examination was postponed until tomorrow.

Marshfield News    Thursday 1 January 1903    P. 1




The three men arrested in Chicago and turned over to the Clark county authorities to answer to the charge of cracking the safe of the Greenwood bank on the night of November 3rd, and getting away with about $7,000, have been bound over to the circuit court.  They were ably defended by attorneys and the examination which took place at Neillsville, lasted about two days.  The evidence produced was deemed sufficient for Court Commissioner Kountz to hold the men for trial, under bonds of $5,000 each.  This they were unable to furnish and they were remanded to jail.  The three prisoners, who gave their names as Yale, Doyle and Richards, were identified by Mrs. Cummings of Bright, who sold them the bread the day before the robbery.  She also identified the bread found in the bank as being the same she sold.



Duane Horn, Ken Wood & Janet Schwarze.



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