Thursday, February 18, 2010

There's gotta be a story

We were merely intrigued by the old building that houses the Wallowa County Historical Society Museum in Joseph, Oregon, because it looked interesting. The museum wasn't open. (One problem with traveling in the off season.)

Undoubtedly, the museum would hold many stories in its collections, but little did we know the building's own story until a gentleman who had noticed our interest asked if we would like to hear its history.


We hadn't noticed that it had been a bank.

The story goes like this.

One day in 1887 or 1888, three armed men strode into the First Bank in Joseph, Oregon, and robbed it of $8,000. One of the robbers was shot and killed before they were able to make their escape.

The other two headed east toward the Snake River and Idaho.

A posse was formed and caught up with them about thirty miles out  near the town of Imnaha. A gun battle ensued, and another of the robbers was killed. The other was brought back to Joseph.

(Here's what Imnaha looks like today. You would miss it if you blinked. Well, maybe you wouldn't, because it is basically the end of the road. Other than the highway by which we arrived, the only roads out are gravel or dirt, and pretty iffy this time of year. I've actually traveled on one of them in the fall a number of years ago, but that's another story.

A quick shot back over my shoulder to get the post office, too--didn't want you to think that Imnaha was really small, did I?)

Okay, back to the bank robbery. the surviving robber, badly wounded, was taken back to Joseph, where he recovered from his wounds, was tried, and sentenced to eight years in state prison.

Upon being released, he returned to Joseph to establish himself, and became the manager of the bank he had robbed.
The hills near Imnaha.

We expect to return to visit Enterprise and Joseph in a different season, finish the hike we left half done, and get out to the edge of Hells Canyon, accessible by those dirt and gravel roads out of Imnaha. Hopefully the museum will be open in Joseph, as we want to see one exhibit our impromptu guide told us about. He said he was upstairs in the museum when he noticed some cards--not very large--maybe about the size of half a sheet of paper. On closer inspection he found that they were formal invitations: "You are cordially invited to the execution of..."

See, I told you, there's gotta be a story...

 An entry to This Way Thursday. See others here.


®ø$åðìɱåggìø63 ღ said...

Molto bella la foto : the hills near Imnaha !
Buona serata :-)

~Cheryl said...

This is a great story! It's wonderful that your impromptu guide showed up. Can't imagine such invitations..... nothing stranger than the truth!

Suldog said...

Huh. That's a damned interesting story. I wonder what put it into his head to become the bank's manager, and why the bank's people hired him? Must have been some truly interesting conversations between those people.

Paulie said...

Sounds very interesting story but how could a robber who was in prison be working at a bank later? Have fun exploring it in the future.

Greyscale Territory said...

Fascinating twists in this story verging on the bizarre! Love it to complement the photos of the museum and surrounds!

Heather said...

Here's another version of the story as reported in part in "About Wallowa County" edited by Ellie Belew: In 1896, a gang headed by Cy Fitzhugh escaped with some $2,000 in loot. Jim Brown was shot & killed during the holdup. Dave Tucker was wounded, captured and sent to prison. Dave Tucker returned to his home county after he paid his debt to society and was given a second chance by local sheep baron Pete Beaudoin. Tucker eventually became a prosperous rancher and respected citizen, as well as vice president of the bank he helped rob. When Dave Tucker was eighty, the Chieftain [newspaper] quoted him: "I don't feel I have ever fully atoned for what I did. I have tried hard, but it was a terrible thing. . .I have always felt I have owed society a lot. . .I have done my best to make up for my mistakes." The Chieftain's editorial response: "And the people who know Dave Tucker and the story of his corageous comeback know that he has done his best and that it has been more than enough."

katney said...

Thanks for filling us in Heather.

Lew said...

Interesting "rest of the story" from Heather! And that is one "cordial invitation" that I would decline. I'm looking forward to more pictures from your next trip to the area.