Some poor banks just keep getting robbed

This photo of the Hughes and Wasson bank robbery was taken on July 3,1971. Sheriff J.R. Stockton is the man on the ground. (Contributed photo)

By Linda Emley

By now everyone knows that at half past three on May 23, 1867 the Hughes & Wasson Bank was robbed in Richmond. And I think it’s safe to say that we all know that this Saturday, Sept 22, the bank is going to be robbed again – not once but twice, at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

But I bet there are some people that have never heard about the bank robbery in Richmond at half past three on Saturday, July 3, 1971.

In 1971, the citizens of Ray County celebrated the 150th birthday of our county and threw a big party. We called it the Ray County Sesquicentennial and it was a party I’ll never forget.

I was a 14-year-old who was more interested in boys than history, but I like to think that this celebration sparked my interest and started me down a path to my love of all things related to Ray County’s past. I started working on my family history when I was 15, and 40 years later I’m still reading old newspapers to see what kind of story I can find.

So now the big question is, who robbed our bank in 1971? Well it might be considered an inside job because The Richmond News said it was a local group called, “The Rayville Saddle Club.” The Friday, July 9, newspaper had a group of pictures about the event and one of the captions said, “The James Gang in a nonchalant ride down West Main Street … to the robbery.”

There is a picture of the Herald-Conservator building with a “Hughes & Wasson Bank” sign nailed to the front of the building. The caption on this picture said, “On Time. It would seem the bank clerk (Donald Bates) who was sweeping the streets when the robbers arrived at the Hughes and Wasson Bank in the re-enactment of the James robbery is checking his watch as the four burglars enter the bank. Maybe it was closing time.”

There are two more pictures that show our 1971 Ray County Sheriff getting in on the action. The caption on these pictures said, “One down: Sheriff J.R. Stockton falls, injured by the gunmen’s bullet.” The other one said, “Give Assistance: After the burglars leave, two of the good citizens come out of hiding to assist the sheriff.”

The only person that I’ve found that was part of this bank robbery is Rick Wrisinger. He was a teenager and played the part of a street vendor. He tells a great story about how he took a dive after one of the bandits took a shot at him.

If you want to see these pictures, you can come visit the Ray County Museum or you can stop by our booth on Sept. 22 during Outlaw Days. Hal Middleton will be manning our booth on Main Street in front of the courthouse. I’ll be dividing my time between our booth and my “If Postcards Could Talk” display at the Friends Gallery next to the Farris Theater.

If you would like a picture of your own to remember Outlaw Days, you can dress up in old-fashioned costumes at the Friends Gallery and have your picture taken for $5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pictures are a great way to look back on special days in our lives and remember when history was being made.

Since I don’t have all the details about the 1971 bank robbery, I’ll keep looking and add it to a future story I’m working on about the 1971 Ray County Sesquicentennial.

Just like the 1980 cliffhanger from the TV show “Dallas,” we will have to wait and see “Who shot J.R.” At this point, I’m not sure who shot our Sheriff J.R. Stockton at half past three on Saturday, July 3, 1971.

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