Joseph, Wallowa County, Oregon Bank Robbed in October 1898
Contributed by: Jim Reavis
o'clock on the afternoon of October 1, 1896 a gang of bank robbers
robbed the Bank of Joseph. The story as related in the "History
of Union and Wallowa 1902" was as follows:
A stranger who went by the name of Cyrus Fitzhugh, had been around Joseph for some time. Ostensibly he was prospecting among the mountains. Much of his time, however, was spent in and about the saloons and other loafing places of Joseph, and it developed later that he was the organizer and leader of the gang which eventually robbed the bank.
There were three men actively engaged in the robbery, Cyrus Fitzhugh and James Brown, strangers, and "James" Tucker, a local man. (This was Dave Tucker, father of the late Harley Tucker). Besides these there were two other local characters, John Martin and Ben Ownsby.
A heavy wool deal had just been consummated and it was supposed by the robbers that there were at least $8,000 in cash in the vaults of the bank. Actually they finally got only about $2,000.
Until after the cash was actually in their possession the robbers worked not only with dispatch, but without noise or demonstration of any sort. Occupants of adjacent buildings knew nothing was taking place only a few steps away.
The regular cashier, R. H. Miller, was away on vacation and F. D. McCully, the former cashier, was in charge. McCully was engaged in mercantile pursuits, and as it was not a busy season at the bank he spent his time at the store except when he was called to the bank by some customer. It was generally supposed that he was called to the bank as part of the pre-arranged plan by one of the less active participants in the robbery.
When McCully reached the bank Tucker signaled the leaders who were waiting and watching on a hill south of town, by walking leisurely back and forth across the street, just south of the bank building. In a short time Fitzhugh and Brown entered the town, hitched their horses conveniently and proceeded to the bank. Tucker took a position at the door to keep out possible intruders. Fitzhugh and Brown lifted hands, took possession of the cash and prepared to depart.
In the meantime citizens across the street discovered Tucker, with his revolver, at the bank entrance, and immediately arrived at the conclusion that something out of the ordinary was going on inside. Fred Wagner appeared on the street with a Winchester just as Brown rushed out of the bank carrying a small sack in which the cash had been placed. Wagner opened fire on the robbers, which was returned by Fitzhugh, Brown and Tucker braving Wagner's fire, returned to his partner's prostrate form and seizing the bag of money rushed to his horse, which he mounted and rode south out of town.
The gathering crowd of citizens then turned their attention to Tucker, who had become dazed on account of a slight wound (he lost one finger in the shooting), probably inflicted by Wagner's gun. Instead of endeavoring to reach his horse, Tucker ran down an alley, hotly pursued by citizens, who had hastily armed themselves with various implements of _____. The fleeing Brown was killed; Fitzhugh escaped with the $2,000 booty and was never heard of afterward. Tucker was sent to the penitentiary for seven years. Later Ownsby and Martin were arrested on suspicion as participants. Ownsby pleaded guilty and followed Tucker under a seven-year sentence. Martin was tried and acquitted.
Dave Tucker later returned to Wallowa county, worked as a sheep herder, acquired a band of his own, bought a ranch, added steadily to his holdings, became a school board and ditch company director.