On November 23, 1932, three desperadoes rode quietly into the all Black town of Boley, Oklahoma, with the intent to rob the Farmers and Merchants Bank. The group was led by George Birdwell, chief lieutenant to the infamous bank robber, Pretty Boy Floyd. On this day these men would encounter much more than they could possibly handle.
Birdwell and his partners, Charles "Pete Glass, and C. C. Patterson, entered the bank and herded assistant cashier H.C. McCormick into the vault and order him to stay out of the main bank area. The three men now approached the bank counter, where they confronted the bank's president, D.J. Turner. After staring down the men, Turner calmly reached over the counter and pressed the alarm to alert the townspeople.
Birdwell became enraged, and leveved his pistol at Turner. From inside the vault, H.C. McCormick grabbed a gun and fired at the would be thief, and his aim was deadly. Birdwell fell dead, but not before he could manage to pump four bullets into Turner. Turner died before he could reach the local hospital.
With their leader down, Birdwell's companions attempted to flee. As they ran outside the bank they found themselves surrounded by citizens of this all-black town. The people in Boley had heard the alarm and had gathered outside the bank with their squirrel rifles and bird guns aimed at the fleeing outlaws. When the gunfire ended, Charles Glass lay dead, killed by J.L. McCormick, the town's city marshal and the brother of the bank's assistant cashier, H.C. McCormick.
In desperation, the third bank robber, C.C. Patterson, attempted to use Wesley W. Riley, the bank's cashier as a shield. The residents of Boley were crack shots. Someone in the crowd shot Patterson - while only grazing Riley's coat. Riley was not wounded.
After the ill-fated robbery attempt, information surfaced about Pretty Boy Floyd's involvement in the holdup. Floyd had advised Birdwell and the other two men not to attempt the robbery. He told them that Boley was an all-black town and there wasn't very much money in the bank, and they were advised that everyone in the town had a gun, and they, the townspeople, were not afraid to use their weapons.
A short time after the abortive robbery, a Memphis newspaper received a letter signed "Charles Floyd." The letter stated, "The man who killed my pal Birdwell will never be alive to see Christmas." Pretty Boy Floyd never followed through on his threat. Floyd was gunned down in Ohio less than two years later.
(NOTE: Wesley W. Riley was my second cousin, the son of my grandfather's sister.)
References: Ed Montgomery. "Bank Made Headlines in 1932." The Daily Oklahoman, Thursday, March 9, 1962. (Submitted by Dorothy Stallworth Calhoun, also a second cousin of Wesley W. Riley.)
Telephone interview: Dr. Wilbert Wilson, Saturday, February 5, 1994. (During the interview Dr. Wilson stated that as a young man growing up near Boley, one day he was given $0.25 to purchase cigarettes for a man. He completed the errand quickly, and delivered the cigarettes to the waiting Pretty Boy Floyd.)
[AMERICA'S WESTERN FRONTIER]
[LEST WE FORGET]
Bennie J. McRae, Jr.