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The Dillinger Gang Heads from Mason City, Iowa to St. Paul, Minnesota

Updated on March 16, 2013
Period cars during Dillinger's time
Period cars during Dillinger's time | Source

Baby Face Throws Tacks

Eventually, Chief Patton’s car drew closer, but they didn’t wish to be fired upon, so they stayed back, until Baby Face Nelson finally began firing, anyway. Then Nelson put tacks on the cement roadway, as they were now on Highway 18. Many of them bounced under the Buick, which Dillinger mentioned to him. Baby Face was soon ordered into the car so they could continue.

Pull the Cord for the Next Stop

People were getting hungry, so one of the hostages, Bill Schmidt, still had a bag of sandwiches, which had had been taking to a customer. Then he became a hostage. One of the women in the car said that she was feeling ill, so Dillinger allowed her to get out. Baby Face told her to call the police to tell them to stop following. He put more tacks on the road while he had the chance. When they got going again, another woman was let off, as she was afraid that she was going to be killed when they were caught. They finally made it to a sand pit where another getaway car was parked, shortly after crossing Highway 65. The other hostages were let out.

Finally Dillinger and Hamilton Get to a Doctor

Then the gang split up into two cars, and headed for St. Paul. They got there close to midnight, and Tommy Green promised to get a doctor for the shoulder wounds that both Dillinger and Hamilton had.

He met with Pat Reilly at the Green Lantern Café, whose wife had two sisters that were married to gang members. Reilly took them to his family doctor, who was petrified when he saw a machine gun sticking out of van Meter’s coat. He did say that the wounds weren’t dangerous, but told them that if they wanted further treatment, to go to his office at 11 the next morning.

Lincoln Court Apartments
Lincoln Court Apartments | Source

The Upwardly Mobile Move to St. Paul

Six days after the Mason City job, Dillinger and Billie Frechette moved from Minneapolis to St. Paul, in an exclusive part of town, to the Lincoln Court Apartments. Naturally, they lived in apartment 303 under an assumed name, and had many visitors, always keeping the shades drawn. The landlady became suspicious, as they only left the building by the back stairs and wouldn’t allow repairs to the bathroom sink. The gang laid low, but not a day passed that there wasn’t a Dillinger story on the front page of the local paper.

Herbert Youngblood article on his death
Herbert Youngblood article on his death | Source

Youngblood Gets the Worst of It in the Shootout

On March 16, 1934, Youngblood was trapped by three deputies in a shootout in Port Huron, Michigan. Youngblood was dying from six bullet wounds, but killed and wounded three of them. He told law enforcement that Dillinger went to Canada. On the same day in Indiana, Matt Leach got Ernest Blunk and brought him to Indianapolis for questioning on the Crown Point escape.

Makley, Clark, and Pierpont Don't Do Well in Court

On March 17, Makley’s trial in Lima didn’t go well for him, as he was also found guilty, but Shouse had no part in that finding. Now Clark’s trial was going to take place. There were constant scares that Dillinger was coming to break out his gang, as Prosecutor Botkin claimed that bonds had been cashed by Dillinger from the latest robbery.

Shouse decided to testify against Clark, and on March 24, while the jury was still out, Makley and Pierpont were sentenced. Judge Everett sentenced both to the electric chair on July 13. Clark avoided death, due to leniency of the court.

J. Edgar Hoover Posing with Special Agents Original caption: Photograph, taken July 17, 1939, during the annual conference of Special Agents in Charge and Officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI. Lef
J. Edgar Hoover Posing with Special Agents Original caption: Photograph, taken July 17, 1939, during the annual conference of Special Agents in Charge and Officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI. Lef | Source

Dillinger's Apartment is Raided in St. Paul

The papers claimed that Dillinger robbed a railroad freight terminal in Detroit, but he was still recovering from shoulder surgery in St. Paul. He was seen in cities all over the country though, due to mass hysteria. He was eating well and patronizing the local movie house, as well as experimenting with a small machine gun that could be hidden under a suit jacket. Five had been sent from San Antonio from a friend of Tommy Carroll’s.

On March 30, the apartment manager reported her suspicions to police, and a couple of FBI agents, Coulter and Nalls, watched the apartments for a few hours. Shortly after 10 the next morning, a local, Detective Henry Cummings, joined the two. Coulter and Cummings went right to apartment 303. Billie Frechette wouldn’t let them in, but she warned Dillinger. Van Meter came up the stairs at the perfect time, and drew them downstairs. When Coulter reached the first floor, van Meter had a drawn pistol, but Coulter darted through the front door. Van Meter followed, fired, and Dillinger fired through his own door with the new machine pistol. Coulter’s shots were so accurate, he drove van Meter right back into Dillinger’s apartment, where he then ran out the back door and into the alleyway.

Dillinger grabbed a standard machine gun, kicked the door open, and riddled the hall with bullets, some going through a neighboring apartment. Cummings, who was hiding on the front stairs, shot back as Dillinger and Billie fled down the stairs. A student saw them run out the rear of the apartment and through the alley. Dillinger covered their tracks with the machine gun, leaving a red trail in the snow. Billie backed a Hudson from a garage, and after Johnnie got in, she careened off another garage, and went up the alley.

Gun that wounded Dillinger in St. Paul
Gun that wounded Dillinger in St. Paul | Source

Eddie Green's Place is Found Next

A half hour later, Billie showed up at Eddie Green’s apartment. Johnnie had been shot in the leg and was waiting in the Hudson. Due to pressure and investigations for police corruption in St. Paul, J. Edgar Hoover sent H.H. Clegg to the area. Within a day, the Green apartment was located and watched all night. On April 3, it was searched by the FBI, who found notebooks listing getaway routes, assorted ammo, a machine gun stock, and a dynamite fuse.

A black lady had been sent to the apartment to clean it and remove some property they had left at the apartment. Three agents went with the woman and her sister to their place. The agents hid inside where they later ambushed Eddie Green, who had no gun. He had been shot through the head.

Hargrave Secret Service Building
Hargrave Secret Service Building | Source

What? More Corruption?

The grand jury that investigated the Dillinger escape from Crown Point indicted fingerprint expert Ernest Blunk and Sam Cahoon, the not always sober jailer. They were charged with aiding and abetting Dillinger. They also strongly censured Governor McNutt on down the chain of command for failure to transfer Dillinger to the Indiana State Prison as a parole violator pending trial. The only people that got any praise was the trusty trying to inform agents of the court and police that Dillinger escaped, and Prosecutor Robert Estill for his prosecutorial work.

The Hargrave Secret Service had its own work going through Governor McNutt. Piquett had bribed an Indiana judge at the World’s Fair to smuggle a real gun in the prison for Dillinger. McNutt and Attorney General Lutz kept the judge’s name secret, due to the fact that Dillinger might till be trusting him. He died before Dillinger did.

Dillinger Farm in Mooresville
Dillinger Farm in Mooresville | Source

Dillinger Returns to Mooresville

On April 5, Dillinger and Billy Frechette showed up at his father’s farm in Mooresville. His father warned him that two FBI agents were still likely in the area. Dillinger had parked the car along a road parallel to he farm and walked through the woods to get there. He, another Dillinger, and Billie walked back to the car after dark the next day to head to Leipsic, Ohio, to give Pierpont’s parents more money for attorney fees. Nobody was there.

On the return trip to Mooresville, Johnnie’s family fell asleep at the wheel, smashing into another car. The Hudson careened into a ditch, then went into the woods, almost another 100 yards. Both Dillingers apologized to the people in the other car, and the relative walked back to Mooresville for another car. John Dillinger took his machine gun from the Hudson and hid in a haystack.

When Matt Leach heard about the Hudson, he told reporters that Dillinger had luck. The car missed a number of trees, but nobody else could have been so fortuitous.

The next day, Dillinger was en route to the home of his sister, Audrey. He saw his boyhood friend, Fred Brewer Whiteside on the way. Dillinger stopped for a moment, giving him $20 for some new shoes. Billie purchased a new car at a local Ford dealer, while Dillinger was at the office of the local Indiana newspaper, reading about himself and buying extra copies for his father. At this point, everyone knew that Dillinger was in town, except the FBI men.

Cars full of friends and relatives drove to the Dillinger farm on Sunday for a party in honor of Johnnie. Even Jack Cejnar from INS was interviewing Mr. Dillinger that afternoon.

Dillinger Hides out with Mary Kinder and Homer van Meter

Johnnie drove to Mary Kinder’s home that dusk, and coincidentally, Mr. and Mrs. Pierpont also arrived. Johnnie gave Mary another $1,000 for Jessie Levy for legal fees. Mr. Pierpont didn’t understand why she needed more money, since the case was lost, and Dillinger pointed out that she might be able to get a new trial. A short time later, police showed up at Mary’s door, looking for Dillinger. Dillinger and Billie were on their way to Chicago via back roads. The FBI knew that they were there within hours of their arrival, and Billie was arrested the following evening at a local tavern. When Dillinger found out about the arrest, he immediately hired Piquett to defend her.

Dillinger hid out with van Meter in Fort Wayne. They had to get more bulletproof vests in order to commit another job. Van Meter knew right where to get them, too—in the Warsaw, Indiana Police Department.

weapon used in PD Warsaw robbert
weapon used in PD Warsaw robbert | Source

Warsaw Police Lose Their Bulletproof Vests

In the early morning on April 13, Officer Judd Pittenger had two men walked up to him while he was outsider the Candy Kitchen. Dillinger put a machine gun in his side, and told him to walk to the police station. Pittenger twisted and grabbed the barrel of the gun, and van Meter rammed a gun into his side, so he released the machine gun. They entered the main office of the police station, and van Meter was trying to pry open a door, Pittenger ran off to a phone to tell his department that Dillinger was in the area and got their three vests.

The next morning, lawmen were all over the area like flies on honey, blocking roads and searching empty homes. Along with this came a lot of false leads that had to be checked. Agent Melvin Purvis was confident that Dillinger would be soon apprehended. On April 17, the FBI heard that Dillinger was going to see a doctor about his leg wound in Louisville. The news went to the press and that afternoon, it was headlined. Dillinger failed to make the appointment.

Melvin Purvis
Melvin Purvis | Source

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

That afternoon, John Hamilton and his current girlfriend, Patricia Charrington, drove into Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. Dillinger was following them in his own car. Billie Frechette was still in St. Paul awaiting trial on charges of harboring Dillinger.

Hamilton was from this area, and stopped at Anna Steve’s home, his sister. Sheriff J. Willard Welsh heard about this the next day, and informed Agent Purvis. Purvis sent five agents to the airport, where they chartered a plane, and left at 4 p.m. They got there the next day, due to high winds, and were picked up by Sheriff Welsh, but Dillinger was already gone. Plans were being made in a restaurant in Chicago where the gang could relax for a few days.

It's Time for a Breather

The boys and I need to lie low for a while, and I need a vacation in order to get my thoughts together. Crime is hard work, especially when you have to deal with the lunkheads that I do. Maybe you can come with us for a while and relax, too.

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, beingwell. There is so much information out there from relatives, newspapers, etc. It was a fun piece to do, and I have others planned in the near future. I am taking a bit of a breather, as between Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde, it got pretty intense.

    • beingwell profile image

      beingwell 4 years ago from Bangkok

      I saw a movie about John Dillinger and his gang. It's amazing how you uncovered most of these events. Good one!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      The pictures are harder than the details, Alicia. There aren't that many of them around. I tried to get a picture of the Scotland Yard Squad from Chicago, but they wanted me to pay research fees.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for another edition in this interesting series, Deb. I appreciate the hard work that you do in discovering all the historical details.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      It's a crazy life, isn't it, Martin? I couldn't never live like that.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Billy. Yes, they sure got out of things that shouldn't have worked out like that. But the plot thickens...

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow... does this get involved. Once again, thank you for all the research.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The name isn't Dillinger..it's Houdini! Great work, Deb, and wonderful research as always.