Bank robbery sprees once brought outlaws Willis and Joe Newton to Gallatin. In 1923, the Newtons left Chicago and was headed for Kansas City when they learned about a packing house payroll being aboard a small passenger train leaving St. Joseph. This became their third robbery. Their fourth was a bank in Gallatin, MO — where one gang member was killed.
The following account is from “The Newton Boys: Portrait of an Outlaw Gang” as told to Claude Stanush and David Middleton (State House Press, Austin, TX 1994).
“I don’t know whether we even know or not when we robbed the bank at Gallatin that Jesse James had been there, but it come out in the paper, you know, telling that it had been robbed and that the Jameses had robbed it before that. We sure weren’t trying to do some of the same things Jesse and Frank James did. We went in there at night and blowed it open. They rode in on horseback in the daytime and stuck it up. When we get into a daylight robbery, we’re getting out of our line. We figured the night was a lot safer. It wasn’t so quick and it was a lot more trouble, but it was the safest way.
“So, we went up there to Gallatin and drove a getaway from it. Went into the First National Bank, I did, and there set a little square safe back in the back, a little square Steel Pete. Then there was a new bank across the street on the other side. It had one of them round safes. So we went back to Kansas City and later we all went up there again. We still had Des Moines Billy with us, so I put him over behind that new bank. Doc and Joe covered the rest of the outside, and I went in and blowed the vault door clear out through the window.
“There’s a big hotel right up the street, and you could see people. It was one or two o’clock but you could still see people up there. The hotel was all lit up and everything. So they commenced to shooting. We had the wires cut, but they got guns and they was just shooting all around that bank everywhere. Directly, I put another shot or two in there. It was one of them little ones that just took about three shots. It was rotten Steel Pete, an old-timer, but they’ve got that rubber in there and the grease will just go back so far, so you had to shoot them a little at a time.
“Then here come the old night watchman down there and Doc hollered at him. We was loaded with birdshot, you know. If we had to shot a guy, we just used birdshot to make him leave. So Doc hollered at him, “Get back there! Get back there!” And just as I run out the door, Doc cut down on him and some of that birdshot. He turned around and started back the other way. I was right here, so when he turned I run in behind him and grabbed him. Just jabbed my pistol in his side, took his and brought him on back down and give him to Doc.
“There was an awful lot of shooting, an awful lot of shooting. It was coming from the hotel right straight across the square on the other side, shooting over towards the bank. I was on up there a block and a half, so it wasn’t anywhere close to me and it was too far for me to shoot a shotgun with #7 shot in it, so that left it all up to Doc. He was down there and he was doing a lot of shooting, too, over thataway.
“When I went back in there, we sacked up the money. I had a sack to put the stuff in. We left the hard and only put the soft dough in. So we got ready to go, and I said, “Come on,” and clucked to Des Moines Billy over there down the alley. “Cluck, cluck. Cluck, cluck.” And he don’t cluck back. We go over there, and there he lays deader than hell. One of them stray bullets had hit him right in the center of the side of the head.
“I didn’t know it then, but the night marshal had come out of some building up there and Doc had caught him. Doc kept him up there until they got through, and when they finally did, they come on down where I was at and said, “Let’s go.” We went down the alley to where our other guy was and we signaled. We had a little signal we’d give, sort of “cluck, cluck,” and you can hear it a pretty long ways on a still night. When we did that, nobody answered. Des Monies Billy, the guy that had give us the information on them two places, was supposed to be there. It was his own fault he came along. He wanted to come, and we let him come alone, but he didn’t know anything about this business.
“There was shooting coming from everywhere, and some stay bullet was bound to have hit him. Yeah. He was shot dead. Shot dead. I said, “We can’t leave him here.” Two of us drug him with us down the alley, and two went back up towards the bank so there ain’t nobody could come any further. We finally got him out to where we had left the car, and we dumped him in it and took off out of there.
“We went on down there to where we had to cross a ferry, down below Kansas City, and when we got in that river bottom country, we took him out and put him in the brush. Then we took the ferry and went on into the city and made a deal with an undertaker that we knowed well. He took a coffin for him and we went with him that night and he put the guy in the coffin and everything and was to bury him and we never asked where. We give him $500 and paid for the coffin.
“I’ve thought about that, but it didn’t bother me because we figured that was just an accident. It just happened. If he’d been up there where we were, this might have happened, but he was back down there where nobody would bother him. It had to be just a complete “freak” accident.”
— from “The Newton Boys: Portrait of an Outlaw Gang” as told
to Claude Stanush and David Middleton. State House Press, Austin, TX 1994