Robbery of the Ocobock Bank

The following is an excerpt of a letter written by E.A. Rea, Corydon, dated August 15, 1929. It is a first person account of the James Gang bank robbery on June 3, 1871.

The year 1871 was a very important one to Wayne County. The Southwestern Railway Construction Co. built the railroad that afterward became the Rock Island, through the county, and the towns of Seymour, Kniffin, Grainville (afterward changed to Harvard) and Allerton were established.

The Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad was built to Centerville, in the fall of 1870 or spring of 1871. General F.M. Drake of Centerville was president of it and had asked the people of Wayne County to raise one hundred thousand dollars to assist in building the road through Wayne County. They made surveys through the county, going through Promise City, Corydon, Lewisburg and on to Leon.

The first bank in Wayne County had been opened in Corydon in the fall of 1870 by the Ocobock Brothers in a one-story frame building located on the corner where Fred West?s feed store now stands. A.W. Ocobock and Frank Boies of Chicago operated it.

Henry Clay Dean, who lived just over the Missouri line south of the town of Dean, which was named for him, came to Corydon in the summer of 1871 to make a railroad speech in order to help complete the money raising campaign. Mr. Dean had a good reputation as an orator, and also as a man that hated soap and water and was generally spoken of in the newspapers of that day as the ?great unwashed.? The railroad meeting was held in the old frame Methodist Church that stood back about thirty feet from the street on the lot where the present church stands. The building was full and crowds standing at each window and in the yard to hear the speech. Nearly all the business houses were closed and the merchants had gone to the meeting.

Mr. Ocobock, the banker, did not have any property in the town and had refused to subscribe or take any part in the attempt to raise the money for the railroad. He did not go to the railroad meeting, but while the meeting was going on the James Bothers, Clell Miller and one of the Younger brothers rode into town, hitched their horses at the north side of the square, went over to the bank and secured a contribution of between $6,000.00 and $10,000, which did not go to help the railroad cause. It might have been better for Mr. Ocobock to have gone to the railroad meeting. I was clerking in a grocery and meat market, owned by Brant & Dillion on the sought side of the square. They left me to keep store while they went to the meeting. There wasn?t anyone on the square. I was sitting out in front of the store and saw these men get off their horses and go to the bank. They soon came back, got on their horses and rode west past the church and I was told they called out to the crowd, ?We robbed the bank, catch us if you can.? The eloquence of Henry Clay Dean could not keep his audience after this, and the public square was soon full of people and I learned the bank had been robbed. There was great excitement. A company of men was soon organized and they started in pursuit, but did not succeed in capturing them.