Verona Yeggs and Taxi Hijackers
When Jack Aldrich pulled up to the short, dark-complexioned man in Valley City one night in 1927, it was just another fare for his taxi line. The man wanted to go to a farm just outside of town, and Jack complied. Before he had even reached the farm, however, the man decided to change destinations. The man pulled a gun on Jack and instructed him to drive a short distance to a certain spot and honk his horn four times. Jack was forced to do this several times before two men finally emerged from the weeds and climbed into the taxi. Jack was blindfolded and gagged, and held hostage in his own taxi.
The taxi hijacking was just a precursor to what would happen the next day. Today in 1927, the three men, after abandoning Jack in some weeds outside Verona, pulled up to the Farmers and Merchants State Bank there at 10 a.m. The bank had already suffered one robbery in February of that year, which ended in the murder of its cashier. The new cashier, L.I. Walden, feared a similar fate as the three men entered the bank brandishing revolvers. Walden, along with his assistant and a customer were forced to lie down behind the cage. One man kept guard over them, while the others secured the bank and began rifling around for money.
The robbers emptied the cash registers and safe, but they must have expected more. “Where’s the dough?” asked the leader in broken English. Walden replied “We haven’t got any.” The man swore, “Don’t get smart.” Walden later reported he thought the man had asked, “Where’s the dog?” and believed the men, who were all smaller in stature and dark-complexioned, to be either Mexican or Italian.
The robbers locked the hostages in the bank vault and fled the scene. They drove west, abandoning the taxi on the bank of the James River, and climbed in another vehicle where two men were waiting. Meanwhile, Walden had pried the plate from the safe and was working to pick the lock. An area farmer saw the shades pulled, and tried the front door to find it locked. He entered the back just as the robbers were driving away and heard the trapped men pounding. Walden sent him to alert the sheriff while he continued working at the safe. Shortly after, Walden opened the lock and lead a posse after the robbers before the sheriff arrived. The men, however, had escaped with their loot of $2,918.71.
Five days later, August Schumack was captured from his home in Minneapolis and taken into custody in Aberdeen, South Dakota. His car had been traced to Minneapolis and he was suspected to have robbed another bank in South Dakota. Officials were unable to get him to confess to that crime, but Schumack did admit to the Verona robbery. Schumack tried to downplay his involvement by saying he was the driver of the waiting car at the James River, but Walden identified Schumack as the leader who had asked for the “dog”–or dough. Walden also identified August’s brother, William, from a picture as one of the other culprits. August, however, refused to identify any of the other men. Authorities found only three new twenty dollar bills on August that were traceable to the Verona bank, but none of the other money was recovered. On November 21, August was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months of hard labor at the State Penitentiary.
By Tessa Sandstrom
“Daylight Bandit Trio Get $2,871 From Verona Bank,” LaMoure Chronicle. Sept. 8, 1927: 1.
“Verona Bandit Suspect is Held,” LaMoure Chronicle. Sept. 15, 1927: 1.
“L’Moure Ready to Press Charge Against Verona Bandit Suspect,” LaMoure County Chronicle. Sept. 22, 1927: 1.
“Aug. Schumack Convicted of Verona Holdup,” LaMoure County Chronicle. Nov. 24, 1927: 1.