A BANK ROBBERY GONE AWRYDa-Vincis-Bank-300x225

Laurie Baker, Curator
Eagle Historical Museum
February 7, 2008

PART ONE:

The sleepy little village of Eagle experienced a brief moment in the limelight in the 1920’s when a bold daylight bank robbery was carried out on August 11, 1924.  Had the crooks not been so inept and the bank clerk not so farsighted, what was ultimately near farce could have easily turned into real tragedy.

On the night before:oliver-derby-jones

  • The robber, Oliver “Derby” Jones
  • His girlfriend Dora Douglass
  • And another ex-con by the name of Chet Langer
  • Hired a Boise Central Livery Company Cadillac taxicab at around 10:00 pm.
  • The driver, Hank Endsley, later told the police –
    • They forced him to drive them to a deserted shack near Eagle where they locked him in a closet.

The next morning:

  • They supposedly forced him to drive them into town WHERE, HE SAID, HE WAS HELD AT GUNPOINT BY Dora WHILE Jones and Langer entered the Bank of Eagle shortly after it opened.
  • Jones covered cashier E.K. Fikkan and his daughter, Margaret
  • Langer collected the cash at hand
  • The Fikkans were then locked in the vault (still visible in the bar of DaVinci’s restaurant) and the bandits fled with $2,700 in cash
    • Fortunately the cashier had had the foresight to keep a screwdriver and pliers in the airtight vault and was able to open the door from the inside.

It was at this point, that an apparently successful holdup turned into a Keystone Cops set pieceKeystone_Cops-300x207

  • The nervous bandits were in such a panic to get to their “getaway” car that they ended up colliding with the bank’s screen door and knocked it off its hinges.
  • Add to this the fact that they had hired a Cadillac taxi to rob a bank and one has to question their equally unhinged planning.
  • Even more unbelievable was the getaway planned by Langer.
    • After the gang split up, he took the interurban streetcar to Caldwell and then back to Boise.
    • There is no denying that the annals of crime are full of stories about inept crook, but Langer must be the only bank robber ever to attempt to flee by streetcar!

In the 1920’s, a Cadillac taxi cruising up and down the streets of the tiny burg of Eagle was bound to attract attention.

  • Both Endsley and his Cadillac were known to the locals190-Cadiliac-2-300x225
  • Several witnesses were sure that the person they saw crouching in the back seat was a woman.
  • Many people saw Jones and Langer enter the bank and a call was made to the Ada County Sheriff’s office while the bandits were still inside.
  • The alert citizenry could do little to avert the fiasco that followed, however.
    • Eagle had no police protection of its own and could not count on a timely response.
    • Even though an unidentified man who passed the Sheriff’s car on State Street said that it was “tearing at terrific speed,” the lawmen were not in time to catch the bandits.

PART TWO:IMG_3425-225x300

When last seen, Chet Langer was fleeing the scene of the great Eagle bank robbery via streetcar and his accomplices:

  • Oliver “Derby” Jones
  • And Dora Douglass

were speeding out of town in a Cadillac taxi cab.

Though the Ada County sheriff deputies did not reach the scene in time to apprehend the bandits on site, the hapless gang left behind enough clues and witnesses that they were not that difficult to track.

According to an Idaho Daily Statesman August 12, 1924 account, all four had been apprehended by the end of the day.

Hank Endsley, the driver, was the first to be questioned:

  • From the beginning his story was full of contradictions.
  • His description of the three “men” he had hauled around for hours was unbelievably vague and his failure to identify one of his passengers as a woman made him suspect from the beginning, especially since several other witnesses were sure that they had seen a woman in the touring car.

While Chet Langer was riding the streetcar back to Boise, Dora and Jones took the loot to the Orrin Summers ranch near Star, where she and her two children had been staying.

  • The Summers family –
    • Watched her two children while she worked as a waitress
    • And apparently had no idea as to what she had been up to.

Once she and her partner had hidden their ill-gotten gains, they left again for Boise, but carelessly left a bag of coins from the robbery where it might easily be found.

Chet Langer, once apprehended:

  • Readily admitted his part in the holdup, also implicating the others.

Dora and Jones were then arrested in a rooming house in Boise:

  • To justify holding them, a charge of lewd and lascivious cohabitation was filed and Jones was jailed.
  • Dora was released on bail because  –
    • She had children
    • And there was no hard evidence against her.
  • Then, with the connivance of Jones’s attorney and a sympathetic judge, Dora was smuggled back into the jail where she and Jones were married.
  • This assured that the cohabitation charge would  –
    • Be dropped
    • And, at the same time, guaranteed that Dora could not be forced to testify against her husband in the bank robber case.

Approximately two months later:

  • Langer and Jones managed to escape from the Ada County jail,
  • Led the authorities on a merry chase all the way into December of 1924.
  • Finally were apprehended again
    • They brought the affair to an end by pleading guilty to the charges against them.old-idaho-state-penitentiary-in-boise-300x209

Given his long list of previous convictions and because he appeared to be the “mastermind” behind the bank robber, Jones was given a sentence of ten to twenty years in the Idaho State Penitentiary.  With no parole in sight, he persuaded Dora to divorce him so that she might move on with her life.

After serving seven years of his term:

  • Jones was released but could not seem to change his ways
    • Later landing himself in the Nevada State Penitentiary.
  • When he was finally released from that institution
    • He was middle-aged
    • And at long last ready to try a new line of “work.”
    • The time for reflection that a prison term encourages had apparently finally convinced him that he really had no talent for crime and that it was time to move on.