Crimes of the past brought to life; Author to discuss Minnesota gangster history Tuesday

Published 10:49 am Friday, April 10, 2015

Chad Lewis wrote “The Minnesota Road Guide to Gangster Hot Spots,” which he will discuss at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Austin Public Library. -- Photo provided

Chad Lewis wrote “The Minnesota Road Guide to Gangster Hot Spots,” which he will discuss at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Austin Public Library. — Photo provided

“Stick ‘em up!” an unmasked bandit said to a mail-truck driver in 1931 Austin with a gun pushed into his ribs. Unfortunately for the four bandits, they grabbed bags filled with mail and missed the bank bag containing several thousand dollars.

Author Chad Lewis is coming to Austin to share similar stories and to talk about the A-list celebrities of Great Depression era: gangsters.

Lewis, who wrote “The Minnesota Road Guide to Gangster Hot Spots,” will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Austin Public Library. He’ll talk about his book and tell stories of the gangsters that were in Austin and Minnesota over the years.

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“The program is a visual roadmap of the gangsters in Minnesota,” Lewis said. “When they robbed our banks, kidnapped our citizens and mowed down anyone that got in their way.”

Lewis came up with the idea for his book while he visiting a town in Wisconsin and found that John Dillinger had a shootout there in the 1930s, yet with all Lewis’ research he had never known that. It got him thinking, where else did gangsters make memories that nobody knows about?

“Many times people had no idea of the history of these places,” Lewis said about towns across Wisconsin and Minnesota.

He said back in the days of gangsters, people would buy papers just to remember what happened when they passed through town. The gangsters back then were the celebrities people wanted to keep track of, Lewis said.

Adult Services Librarian Courtney Wyant is excited for Lewis to talk about his book and hopes people enjoy the topic.

“We thought he would be an interesting author to come to Austin,” she said. “And also we have all of his books in our nonfiction section and they circulate quite often.”

She hopes people will be able to learn something about their own state and town that they may not have known or gotten the chance to learn before.

“Because he touches on a lot of history that hasn’t been covered in maybe a book that people haven’t read before,” Wyant said. “So there’s a lot of different research in there.”

Lewis didn’t only write about people who shot others and robbed banks; he also wrote about the everyday gangsters — people with speakeasies and that sold moonshine during prohibition.

“It’s not just the big main gang that went through Minnesota, but also the every day person that may have had a still or had booze in their establishment or gambling machines,” he said. “Everybody seemed to have a little bit of a foot in the water of crime.”

The main part of the book focuses on well-known criminals, but Lewis said everywhere he goes to discuss the book, he learns more and more stories about people’s relatives or friends who broke the law back in the day. Lewis hopes the book helps readers find another place to visit and see for themselves what took place.

“It’s going to show you these places around Minnesota, what happened, how you can get there, what to expect when you’re there,” Lewis said. “I want people to not only hear about these places and read about them, but to visit them because that’s half the adventure right there.”

Lewis hopes people will learn more about Minnesota history and the history of their own backyard, and also to find the sense of mystery in their state.

“I think that programs like this showcase there’s a lot of uniqueness in your own backyard,” Lewis said. “Make an adventure and hit the backroads.”

Lewis’ 7 p.m. Tuesday speech at the library is free and open to the public.

Four Bandits—Article from “The Evening Tribune,” Albert Lea, Aug. 22, 1931

Four bandits rob Austin mail truck

Fail to find mail bag with funds for bank

Bandits Get Two Pouches Containing Little of Value in Daring Noon Day Holdup — Speed West on Highway No. 9

Austin, Aug. 22 — (AP) — Four unmasked bandits at the point of guns robbed a mail truck this noon and got a transfer mail pouch and mail bag but overlooked an Austin mail pouch contenting several thousand dollars.

Cyril Maloney, driver of the truck, was leaving the Milwaukee depot when a car driving slowly ahead of him almost brought him to a stop.

Bandits Jump on Truck

Flourishing pistols four bandits from another car jumped onto the running board of the truck. “Stick ‘em up,” said one. “Now don’t you move or look up.”

Revolvers were pushed into Maloney’s ribs

One bandit got a pouch and the bag from the truck. He overlooked the Austin bag containing a currency shipment to a bank, apparently the one they were after. The bag and pouch were to be taken to the Great Western depot for transfer to Omaha.

Bandit Car Heads West

Driving in a large sedan with an Iowa license No. 17-722, the bandits sped west there after. The car was last seen 15 miles west of Austin on Highway No. 9.

Postmaster Anderson said he believed the mail pouch they got contained little of value and the mail bag had only miscellaneous mail.

Bank officials here said the pouch the bandits missed contained several thousand dollars.

Sheriff Syck is heading a posse in an attempt to pick up the trail of the bandit machine.

A checkup revealed that the license plates had been stolen from a car belonging to a Mason City doctor.

Sheriff Helmer Myre and deputies and Chief of Police Jensen and members of the local police force watched highways leading into the city from the east but failed to see any car answering the description of the one caring the Austin bandits.

Officers were still posted this afternoon to be on watch for the bandit car.