Figures and Scenes in Modale, Harrison, Iowa Bank Robbery

December 16, 1926

Pages designed and maintained by Judy Wallis White

    These pages are from my personal collection of newspaper stories of Modale, Iowa

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Modale Woman Sought In the Robbery Probe

Mrs. Jessie Coddington believed
to be missing "Mrs. Mae Harding"

     Mrs. Jessie Coddington, wife of Homer Coddington, Modale, Iowa drayman is being sought as the missing "Mrs. Mae Harding," in the bank robbery case.  Pictures of her have been identified as those of the "Mrs. Harding" who disappeared the day the Harding brothers were arrested in Omaha, and who is thought to have the $500 of the money not yet found.   The "Mrs. Harding" is known to have checked a trunk for Kansas city, Missouri the day she disappeared, after suddenly securing enough money to pay six weeks back room rent, rent Dave Harding had assured the landlord would be paid, and Kansas City police have been asked to look for the woman.
     Suspicion attaches to "Mrs. Harding" because it was to her address that the Harding brothers talked by telephone from Missouri Valley the night before the robbery, and it was across the alley from that address where arrested.   Too, she suddenly secured money within two hours after the Harding brothers reached Omaha.  The landlord identified a woman with a baby, who had lived under the name "Mrs. Harding" at a rooming house at 1710 Cass street, across the alley form the place where the men were arrested.  she moved Wednesday after paying room rent six weeks in arrears, shortly before noon, according to the landlord.

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Upper left: Taft Jackson, meter reader for City of Modale Upper right: Main Street, bank is first building on left. Bottom left: Robert Sassaman, Cashier of bank.  Lower right:   Broy (left) and Dave Harding, the accused.

     Mrs. Dave Harding was found Wednesday, ill at her home in Blair, with four children.  Mrs. Broy Harding of Blair with her baby in arms, was found Wednesday afternoon visiting at the home of Frank Harding, brother of Dave and Broy on the Iowa side of the river.
     Mrs. Broy Harding said she had been at home during the day, and while, unknown to her, her husband and Dave drove past the place in their flight from Modale to the Missouri River.  The home is a short distance from where the robbers drove down a bank, cut two wire fences and drove across open fields to the rivers edge, where they set fire to the car.  "I saw armed men in automobiles passing the house," said Mrs. Harding, "but I little suspected, one of the men they pursed was my husband."  She said she was unaware of the plan to rob the bank.
     Dave Harding in a written statement to Inspector Danbaum and Detective Sergeant Gurnett, described in detail the robbery and flight, corroborating in a general way the confession of Broy.  Gurnett, who took down the statement has known Dave Harding 20 years, the two formerly played baseball on the same team.

Woman Furnished Clew

     Credit for the capture of the brothers was due largely to Mrs. Louise Hitchings, at whose restaurant in Missouri Valley, Iowa they stopped Tuesday night while Dave Harding telephoned an Omaha number, and purchased some red pepper.  Mrs. Hitchings remembered the address he mentioned 1710 Cass street.   Wednesday afternoon she recalled the incident, and the Omaha police were notified.
     Credit was also due to Detective Buford's alertness, Inspector Danbaum said today.  While other detectives were searching in the neighborhood of 1710 Cass street, Buford, who was at the wheel of their car, saw two men alight form a Yellow taxicab and go into 1713 California Street.  He heard Dave Harding tell the driver, "Keep the change--there's plenty more where that came form."  Notifying the other officers, Buford stood guard at the back door while the others entered front he front.
     When taken before Inspector Danbaum this morning Dave Harding was silent for a time, then said, "I have decided I might as well tell all about it, my brother is right--he and I staged the robbery."  My wife was sick, perhaps dying and I needed money for her and the children.  When Broy proposed robbery, I listened.  We both knew the lay of the land around Modale, and had been in the bank."

Planned Several Days

     The planning took three or four days, Dave said.  Tuesday night the brothers stole a Ford automobile.   They drove first to Missouri Valley, stopping at the restaurant to telephone and get some red pepper "to destroy the scent if bloodhounds were used."  That night they stopped in an abandoned, tumbledown farm shack, and Wednesday morning drove to Modale.
     "Broy went into the bank first, and I followed, " said Dave.  "One man wouldn't hold up his hands and Broy shot him.   I took a shot at another man who started running.  "I don't know how many shots were fired.  I went outside and did some more shooting, and men in the town were shooting.  Broy cane out with money, which I tossed into the car.  Then I drove directly to the river.  We passed the shack where we slept the night before, but didn't stop.
     "At the river Broy shot a hole in the gasoline tank, and set fire to the car.  We thought to delay police, who would have difficulty in getting the numbers and tracing the car.  Then we crossed the river on the ice, landing about three miles south of Blair.  On the highway we hailed an automobile carrying a man, woman and child, they were given a ride to Twentieth street in Omaha, about the center of town.  Then we went to the home a brother-in-law at 2405 St. Mary's avenue.  In the afternoon we called a taxicab and went to 1713 California street, where we were arrested."

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Dave Harding

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Broy Harding

Younger Breaks Down

     Immediately after being brought to the police station, the younger Harding broke down and tears appeared in his eyes.   "I want to tell about the whole dammed thing," he said.   "I"m sick and tired of the rotten business."
     Then assuming a worried, yet defiant attitude, Broy began his story, "Dave and I had no job and were broke, " he said.  "Dave has four kids, and I got one.  It was either get money or starve.  I thought of robbery.  I lived in the Modale neighborhood, and knew of the savings bank there.   "It was my plan.  Dave at first didn't want to go in on it, and later said he would.  so we went and looked the place over to make complete plans."   "We came into Omaha last night and stole a car at Sixteenth and Nicholas streets.  Then we drove to Missouri Valley, Iowa where we tried to by some shells.   We couldn't get any there.  "Then we ate lunch.  We put in a long distance telephone call to Omaha but couldn't get my party, so we drove to the house near the Blair railroad bridge on the Iowa side and stayed there all night."
     Detectives checking the Yellow Cab, called learned that the cab was chartered at 2408 St. Mary's street.  This is the home of Charles Lake, 80, father-in-law of Dave.  Lake said the tow men came to his home before noon, ate lunch, and then went away, only to return again about 3 o'clock and then leave.

.     Lake was taken to the police station and was accompanied there by Mrs. Mamie Christenson, 2219 McKinley street, and Mrs. Martha Bashnick, 2408 St. Mary's avenue, relatives of Harding.  Confronted by the relatives, Broy then admitted that he and his brother had obtained a ride to Omaha from a motorist, going directly to the Lake home.  Lake said the two women were not held.  Lake told police that the two men came to his home and immediately began to burn articles of clothing.   Broy said that clothing was worn by himself and his brother in the robbery.   He denied that he had stopped at a deserted farm house near Modale, leaving his false mustaches and empty revolver shells there, but admitted that he wore the mustache.   The mustaches were found later by two Modale garagemen who trailed the alleged bandit car. 
     Dave admitted to police that he had served time three years ago for bootlegging.  Broy had never been arrested, he said.
     Detectives going to the Lake home in the evening to search the house found three empty and five loaded.32 caliber revolver shells.  Broy said he and his brother had thrown their revolvers into the river when they crossed over the thin ice.

Blames Misfortune

     The younger brother blamed "hard luck" for the holdup germ which led him into the robbery.   "I didn't have any work,"  he said.  "My wife and I had a quarter between us.  There was the baby to take care ofId been used to working most of my life, but couldn seem to get a job.  While I was visiting my brother, Frank over Iowa, I thought of the Modale bank to stick up.  I knew the country around there.  Dave and I disguised ourselves so I don't believe anyone would recognize us."
     The brothers said they earned a little money last summer fishing in Carter Lake, where Dave had a contract to seine out "scavenger" fish.
     The men were taken here while posses were searching the Blair river bottoms following report of their escape from Iowa, across the ice-closed Missouri river, a short distance below the Blair bridge.

Woman Gives Clew

     At 3 p.m. Wednesday Mrs. Hitchings, the Missouri Valley restaurant keeper, was discussing the robbery with Bruce Morehouse, garage man, who had driven one of the posse cars.  They were discussing the appearance of the robbers, when Mrs. Hitchings suddenly remarked:  "those men were in here last night and phoned up a party in Omaha."  Morehouse immediately got in touch with Abe Daniels, town constable and acting marshall, who called the Omaha police station giving the address Mrs. Hitching overheard.
     John Henrichs, proprietor of the rooming house at 1710 Cass street, said Wednesday evening that a woman giving her name as "Mrs. Harding," who had a small baby, had been a roomer at her house, but had left Wednesday noon, after paying her bill, ostensibly for South Dakota, where she said her parents lived.  "She was six weeks behind in her rent, but had promised me she would be able to pay it Tuesday or Wednesday,"  said Henrichs.  "Dave Harding also told me last Saturday that the rent would be paid." 
     Although the woman known as Mrs. Harding had been unable to pay her room rent up to Wednesday, she paid

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These three men were in the Modale bank at the time it was being robbed, but escaped uninjured.  The man in the middle is Art Schulmeister, assistant cashier.   Man on the left is C. O. Blair,  and Hi Sigler on right.

Henrigh with three 10 and three 5 dollar bills sometime after noon Wednesday, Henrich stated.  Henrich banked the money.   He did not see either Dave Harding or his brother Wednesday although the older Harding was a frequent visitor at the room, he said.
     The woman known as Mrs. Harding at the Cass street address was known as Mae at 1713 California street where the Hardings were arrested.  She frequently visited there according to roomers and spent an hour there Wednesday morning.
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Modale Savings Bank

Very little has changed in appearance of the
bank today.

Arrive Here in Taxicab

     A squad of officers composed of Harry Buford, Tom Farmer, Tom Ryan, William Davis and Sheriff Percy Lainson of Council Bluffs had gone to 1710 Cass street, the address of the telephone number.  They found no one, and were searching adjacent rooming houses when Buford, waiting at the wheel of the emergency car, suspected two men whom he saw alight form a taxicab and go into a house at 1713 California street, across the alley.
     When the squad returned, they surrounded and searched the house and the Harding brothers were found.  Dave in the house and Broy as he was fleeing from the back door.  The pair had no weapons when arrested.  Broy said they had crossed on the ice below Blair, and walked to the city limits of Omaha, but later said they were given a ride by a motorist.
     The money was in their pockets, and lettered on the bed springs beneath the mattress when the officers entered the room.  Part of it was in the original wrappings of the Modale bank.
     Neither had an overcoat and were both thoroughly chilled when taken.
     Capture of the two men came less than seven hours after the holdup in which the cashier, Robert Sassaman, was shot and wounded when he tried to seize a gun and resist the robbers, and Taft Jackson, a meter reader, was shot as he alighted from a coupe, across the street from the bank, while the holdup was in progress. Neither wound is believed serious.

Chauffeur Old Friend

     The taxicab used by the tow men was driven by Tom Smith.  It was by coincidence that Smith, a former Blair schoolmate of Broy, was sent by his company to make the call.  It was through Smith that the detectives learned that the two brothers had been at the Lake home. 
     Arch Schulmeister, assistant cashier, when first told of the capture and identity of the two men, said that he was shocked.  "But Dave is a hard customer, and I was not greatly surprised.  Dave lived seven miles south of here," he said.  He tried to borrow money from the bank five years age, but I haven't seen much of him in the past two years.

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Ed Drake, who lay on the roof of his hardware store near the Modale Savings bank and poured shots down at Dave and Broy Harding as they left the bank after robbing it.  One of his shots crashed out the windshield.  Twenty years ago Drake headed the posse which surrounded a gang of robbers who were leaving Missouri Valley and forced them to attempt to swim the Missouri River trying to escape, an attempt which cost all the bandits their lives

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Harding Brothers Probably will be sent to Penitentiary For Life

Harrison County Prosecutor will Demand the Limit

Attorney Havens Points out robbery Charge was "Aggravated"

    Logan, Iowa December 17, 1926  The Harding brothers of Blair Nebraska who confessed to robbing the Modale Savings bank and wounding two men, will be sent to the penitentiary for a life term it they plead guilty or are found guilty of the charge, county Attorney Hoy Havens of Harrison county intends to place against them and the full penalty of the statute is exacted.  The charge will be entering a bank with intent to rob.  this carries a sentence of life imprisonment.
     Havens pointed out Friday that the men had confessed to acts which constituted this crime and to additional acts which aggravated the charge--had shot two men and robbed the bank.  There were no mitigating circumstances, he said.
     The men still are in Omaha, and Havens said he did not know when they would be brought to Logan.  "I understand the police there are trying to connect them with the Hooper, Nebraska attempted robbery.  But even if they do, the men will have to come here for we have a more serious charges against them."   Mr. Havens has not yet talked to the haring brothers, and said he will make no effort to do so until the men are returned to Logan.  Neither had Sheriff Millman visited them.  The officers pointed out that the men have confessed, and the rest of the procedure is more or less prescribed.  If they still were protesting their innocence then the officials would quiz them, they said.
     It was cited here today that the bank robbers do not fare well when tackling Harrison county banks.  The Pisgah bank was robbed three years ago next week, but three Council Bluffs men now are in the penitentiary for it.  Then the Little Sioux bank was robbed and Pat Carroll is in the penitentiary for that.

*You may notice some miss-spelled words, I choose not to make changes from the original.

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