Prelude to the Medicine Lodge robbery

This column continues a series on the 19th Century William Robinson Gang. M arshall Henry Brown and his deputy, William Robinson alias Ben Wheeler, had won the respect and trust of the Caldwell, Kansas, people.

So, when Brown and Wheeler asked permission from the mayor to be gone from the city for a few days. to capture a murderer in Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma) for a reward of $1,200, it was granted.

They loaded up with ammunition on Sunday May 27, 1884, and were joined by two cowboys below the state line.

The four men headed west.

One of those cowboys turned out to be Billy Smith, well known in the region.

He was the newly-promoted range boss of the T5 Ranch (Texas Land and Cattle Co.)

The other man was John West, known by his alias, John Wesley, who worked for the Treadwell and Clark ranch southwest of Caldwell.

Some believed he was a nephew of the Texas outlaw John Wesley Hardin. Both Smith and Wesley had ties to Vernon Texas.

Medicine Lodge, Kansas was a town of 1,000 people about 70 miles west of Caldwell.

It was sacred ground for several Plains Indian tribes.

The town was beside a river known for healthful waters and the site became Medicine Lodge.

In the 1860’s great gatherings of Indians and whites met to sign treaties between the United States government and tribes of Cheyenne, Arapaho, Apache and Comanche Indians.

Early on a Wednesday morning Brown, and Wheeler had breakfast with a settler, Ben Harbaugh, in his dugout on Brush Creek just outside Medicine Lodge.

Some time later they were joined by the two cowboys and rode to the town of Medicine Lodge in a driving rain.

As they entered town about 9 a.m. Edward Payne, bank president, owner of the local newspaper, director of the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association and the Comanche Cattle Pool opened the Medicine Valley Bank.

George Geppert arrived at the bank at 9:15 a.m. and began his cashier duties.

He was a family man and a partner in a hardware and lumber firm there also.

The bank’s clerk, Frank Chapin entered the bank picked up some papers then headed to the post office.

To be continued next week.

Research: William Sherod Robinson Alias Ben Wheeler © by: Len Gratteri, Rod Cook & James Williams Published by Nortex Press 2010.

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