Robbery pt2


A Tale of Two Robberies - The Conclusion

 D M Testa

As the days ticked closer to Christmas, a couple of surprising things happened.  Thomas Henry, the Drovers National cashier slowly began to recover from his gunshot wound. In contrast to Henry’s upward turn, Charles Makley started feeling fatigued and feverish. At first he blamed it on too much rich food, late nights and booze. But when he became so stiff that it was painful to move, “Mack” decided this was serious.

On Christmas eve, he checked himself into the Josephine Hospital at 1630 Grand Avenue. Opened in 1895, this was operating as a private hospital when Charles Makley was admitted for rheumatism. “Rheumatism” was an umbrella term used by clinicians which covered a variety of diseases. At the time, doctors didn’t differentiate between osteoarthritis, which happens when joint tissue is worn down from overuse and a host of other autoimmune diseases that cause loss of mobility, pain, and erosion of the joints.

If suffering from “rheumatism” wasn’t enough, Charles Makley had other things to be down about over the holidays. Many miles and many crimes separated him from his wife and children to the west and his dying mother to the east. The woman who claimed to be his second wife had vanished as well.    

While “Mack” was checking himself into the Josephine Hospital, a discovery was made in a field east of Kansas City. Three of the bags which had contained money stolen from Drovers National bank were recovered. A receipt for $100,000.00 was inside one of the sacks along with a small slip of paper. Notated in pencil was “$96,500.00 divided by 5 equals $19, 300.00.

Elated by the clue, the Kansas City police decided this meant five bandits were involved, although they still weren’t quite sure what had happened to the other $500.00.

Meanwhile bank detectives were working with more substantial information.  


Laying the Finger

Jim Caverty had a brother-in-law who was a former lieutenant of the Kansas City police department. Although he claimed not to have participated in the robbery, he was on good terms with Caverty . He had also met the other men who were part of the gang.

Piqued when he found out that Jim Caverty’s brother Rolfe, who was bartending at the soft drink parlor where the heist had been planned, received $500.00, for “knowing all about it”, the disgruntled brother-in-law decided to “lay the finger.”

He contacted a Drovers National bank official, spilling what he knew about names and destinations. Quickly a mug shot of Caverty was dug up at police headquarters and witnesses identified him as the driver of the Marmon.

Detailed descriptions of Caverty, Wilson, and Martin were given, but the brother-in-law was a little fuzzy about Makley and Gibbons, knowing them only as “Mack” and “Gibson” possibly from St. Louis.

Detectives immediately started around the clock watches on Caverty’s apartment and the 706 West Eleventh Street apartment where George Wilson had been living. Although she was still in the city, Minerva, Caverty’s wife managed to give the slip to the law.  But her steamer trunk wasn’t so lucky.

Still under the impression that Caverty headed to New York City, the police focused their manpower in that direction. But one of the operatives for the Burns Detective Agency discovered that a trunk had recently been removed from Caverty’s apartment building down to the train station. Working on a hunch, the detective found this particular trunk had been shipped to New Orleans.

Immediately he notified the New Orleans office about his suspicions. Although the trunk had already been picked up at the train station, detectives working off of descriptions began checking out the fancier hotels in New Orleans. 

At the St. Charles, they hit pay dirt. The group had stayed apart until Minerva Caverty arrived just a day or two before Christmas. Then the two couples engaged in an orgy of spending, indulging in silk shirts, flashy ties, jewelry and a new car.

Caverty spent so much on one shopping spree that he had to borrow money from a taxi cab driver until Wilson arrived. The excessive spending at the race track and local cabarets was noticed by even the most jaded of the hotel staff.

On Christmas day, the Burns detectives struck, arresting Jim Caverty, George Wilson, Ruth Caverty Adcock and Minerva Caverty. Keeping the arrest a secret, the foursome was quietly hauled back to Kansas City.

Although $10,000.00 in various denominations had been found in a handbag, it was going to be difficult to trace back to the robbery since the only serial numbers recorded were for two dollar bills. To the detectives’ chagrin, no two dollar bills were discovered among any of the belongings. 

Long before they departed New Orleans, the holiday spirit left George Wilson. Jim Caverty had already thrown him under the bus by claiming he had no idea that Wilson was a bank robber. As the miles went by, Wilson grew determined to get even. 

As soon as he set foot on the train station in Kansas City, George Wilson blurted out that “someone has laid the finger on me” and angrily declared now he would lay his “own finger” on the rest of the gang.

Details, names, and descriptions of events poured out as Wilson bitterly thought he was paying back the hapless gang member who had “ratted” him out.

That night James Martin and his girlfriend, Margaret Yard, were arrested in Denver as they were about to board a train headed for San Francisco. Acting quickly, detectives removed a trunk belonging to Martin from a different train that was also westward bound.

Contained inside was a coat with about $8,000.00 sewn into the sleeves including plenty of the marked two dollar bills.

Although Martin remained quiet, his young girlfriend sang like the proverbial canary. Even more information was garnered. Police soon learned Wesley Gibbons was from St. Louis and that his friend’s “Mack’s” name was McGray.   

Meanwhile back in Kansas City, based on Wilson’s “finger laying”, Fred McClure had been picked up and brought in for questioning.

At about the same time that McClure was being detained, a telegram was sent to St. Louis police requesting them to look for a Wesley Gibbons and his good friend, “W. Charles McGray”.


Show Me the Money

Although Chief Hoagland of the St. Louis police department had been contacted when Caverty’s brother-in-law tipped off the Kansas City detectives about two men going by the names of “Mack” and “Gibson”, those aliases didn’t ring a bell. However the name, Wesley Gibbons did.

Several of St. Louis’s finest immediately paid a visit to Gibbons’ mother who lived on the 5300 block of Ridge Avenue. They learned that her son and his good friend were staying at the Melbourne Hotel but when the detectives arrived at the hotel, they were too late.

Although both men were using aliases, the staff remembered “a Mr. McGrath” and noted that he had checked out about a week earlier when becoming ill. Gibbons left a few days later. Some of the staff thought “McGrath” might have gone to a hospital so detectives began the tedious task of canvassing all the different hospitals in St. Louis.     

After several days of searching, Detective Sergeant Heggerman located a gentleman by the name of “McGray” who had admitted himself into the Josephine Hospital, which was operating as a private nursing hospital at the time.   

At the hospital, the police found “McGray” comfortably ensconced in a private room. When questioned he readily admitted his identity and that of Wesley Gibbons, describing in great detail how the two of them engaged in whiskey running for the past few months.

According to “McGray”, the duo had hauled large quantities of whiskey on passenger trains from Chicago to Kansas City. He thought that he and Gibbons may have been in Kansas City at the time of the robbery and was certain they had been there one time since. But as for being a part of the gang, “McGray” teasingly told a reporter, “If they find any dough on me, I’ll split it (sic) with them.”

The staff at Josephine Hospital told police that Mr. “McGray” had a frequent visitor so several detectives were stationed outside to keep watch. Later that afternoon, Gibbons stepped out of a taxi at the corner of Grand Boulevard and LaFayette Avenue. He was promptly arrested and taken to the Central District police station.

Gibbons heatedly denied any involvement in the Drovers National robbery, claiming to be William Granger, a stockman from California. When his fingerprints were compared to a second set taken several years back after an arrest in St. Louis, Gibbons finally admitted who he really was but assured police that he hadn’t been in Kansas City for more than a year.

Chief Hoagland shot that down by showing Gibbons the labels inside his relatively new clothing. They were from a Kansas City clothier.

Wesley Gibbons was immediately bundled off to Kansas City but “W. Charles McGray” presented a problem. The doctors at Josephine Hospital insisted that he suffered from inflammatory rheumatism and must remain confined to his bed while “McGray” insisted that if he had participated in the robbery, he should have some money on his person. The police had located only about $40.00 which had been on Gibbons.

Their solution was to move their suspect to the City Hospital located between Carroll Street and Lafayette Avenue. This hospital was a complex of buildings that had been added on to over the years. A far cry from the comfort of Josephine Hospital, City Hospital was a poorly funded public institution that serviced many of the lower income inhabitants of St. Louis. It also wasn’t “W. Charles McGray’s” idea of a good time since he was now being kept under a constant guard. 

Although the St. Louis detectives continued to question him, “McGray” professed ignorance about the Drovers National robbery. Instead he kept talking about his whiskey running. It was a smart move since few in Kansas City cared about bootlegging and even fewer would bother to prosecute “McGray” for it.

Meanwhile back in Kansas City, about a dozen witnesses to the robbery were brought in to identify the men being held as suspects. Police finally began to have a coherent picture of the roles each had played during the robbery.

George Wilson and James Martin were picked out of the multiple line-ups as two of the three who had held up the bank messengers. Wilson was immediately identified as being the one doing the shooting.

Fred McClure was named as the lookout outside the Livestock Exchange. Witnesses described how he had been the first to jump inside the getaway car driven by Jim Caverty.

Police assumed that Wesley Gibbons was the third robber because he most closely matched the descriptions given by witnesses but they hadn’t placed him in a line-up yet.
The fly in their ointment appeared to be “W. Charles McGray”.


End of the Ambulance Run

Caverty’s brother-in-law, George Wilson and Margaret Yard, the young woman captured along with James Martin, all claimed during their individual confessions that “Mack” participated in the Drover’s National robbery. The problem was only one of the three, George Wilson, was actually at the robbery and he had abruptly stopped talking. The other two could only provide hearsay evidence.

Not one witness described a man that fit “Mack’s” appearance.  Kansas City police quickly decided that “McGray” must have been a second lookout on the outside of the building but ran into problems with this scenario. No witness remembered seeing a sixth man leave in the Marmon.

On January 8th, Wesley Gibbons and James Martin were arraigned in court for the charge of first degree robbery. Both pled not guilty. Their bonds were fixed at $25,000.00 each. Since neither could afford to pay the bond, Gibbons and Martin were immediately sent back to jail.  

Their failure to make bail brought another major problem to light. Only $18,000.00 of the stolen money had been recovered to date. Where had the rest gone? Police now explained to reporters that possibly up to nine people were involved. And they promptly arrested four more suspects.

However these final arrests reeked of desperation since two of the four included the seventy-one year old father and middle age sister of the man who owned the infamous soft drink parlor.

Undeterred, the police also traveled to St. Louis on January 10th to officially claim “W. Charles McGray”; however their decision to bring “McGray” back to Kansas City had unexpected results.

Public sentiment began to turn against the police. Not only were they arresting senior citizens but now they were dragging a poor man suffering from rheumatism from his sick bed. People questioned if the police knew what they were doing.

It also didn’t help matters that any time “W. Charles McGray” came into contact with a reporter he gave a pithy quote or two which happened to find its way into the newspaper

When “McGray” arrived in Kansas City, he was whisked to his third hospital in as many weeks. One of the few hospitals in the state to offer free health care to the poor at the time, General Hospital served as the inspiration for several of Ernest Hemingway’s pieces while he worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star four years earlier. 

And as he passed through the main entrance of General Hospital on the corner of 24th and Cherry, “Mack” may have appreciated the irony of the quote carved upon its fašade, “The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.” (William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice). He had been arraigned in absentia on charges of robbery and assault with intent to kill with his bond placed at $125,000.00.

Although he was now being kept in a ward with barred windows, the amenities improved somewhat. A state of the art ventilation system kept the air cool in the summer and warmed it up during the winter months. In diet kitchens attached to the various wards, nurses could make up delicacies such as eggnog, toast and boiled eggs for the patients. Ten “sunning” parlors were available for those convalescents to bask in the daylight.   

While “Mack” was getting settled in at General Hospital, things began looking up for his friend, Wesley Gibbons. Nine different witnesses from the robbery failed to pick out Gibbons from any of the line-ups.

Although the witnesses couldn’t identify Gibbons, authorities went ahead with grand jury proceedings. George Wilson, James Martin, James Caverty, Fred McClure and Wesley Gibbons all were indicted on February 1st.

Caverty and McClure sought plea bargains since the prosecution was focusing its attention on who they considered the most dangerous of the group, James Martin and George Wilson. It had recently been discovered that Wilson’s real name was George Williams. And George Williams left a long trail of warrants from multiple states. 

Armed with testimony from multiple witnesses including some of his former gang members, the prosecution tried George Wilson/Williams for six charges including assault with the intent to kill.

Since Wilson/Williams offered no defense, it took the jury less than thirteen minutes to find him guilty. He was sentenced to serve a total of seventy five years at the State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. 

James Martin on the other hand, hired the best legal defense that he could find. By February 27th, his attorneys had filed a petition with the Missouri Supreme court against the judge and prosecuting attorney to stop the proceedings.

The court turned down the petition and Martin’s trial resumed.

Next the defense brought in four alibi witnesses including Martin’s mother to testify that James Martin was in Chicago the day of the Drovers National robbery. The prosecution didn’t buy their stories. Three out of the four were arrested for perjury immediately after the defense rested.

Several days later, Martin’s mother, Mrs. Charlotte Carpenter, was charged with perjury at the Jackson county jail while trying to make bail for the other three. As a result, the foursome didn’t return for Martin’s second trial the following week.

At this trial, none of the defense’s legal wrangling did much good because James Martin was found guilty on two counts of robbery. He was sentenced to a total of thirty years at the State Penitentiary.


Even Outlaws Get the Blues

Things weren’t looking too bright for Wesley “Gibby” Gibbons on Monday, March 12th when his trial began. He was being charged with five different indictments. A different judge was presiding over this trial but proved to be as tough as his predecessor had been.

Judge O.A. Lucas immediately overruled the defense’s motions to quash four of the indictments. “Gibby” would be tried for holding up William Eldridge, one of the Drovers National Bank’s messengers.

The defense again introduced “alibi” witnesses who testified that Wesley Gibbons had been at the A.A. Fowler Dairy near Kansas City when the robbery took place. This time however, the jury believed the defense’s story.

On March 22nd, Wesley Gibbons was acquitted.

The prosecuting attorney described the verdict as an outrage and angrily demanded a grand jury probe to investigate the circumstances surrounding the trial.

Although he was found not guilty, Gibbons was immediately charged with a different robbery and had his bond increased. He was shuffled back to jail. 

Meanwhile “W. Charles McGray” continued his ever lengthening recuperation at Kansas City’s General Hospital. Still reeling from the Gibbons debacle, the prosecution elected to conveniently ignore him. Instead they began work on trying Jim Caverty and his sister Ruth Adcock.

On June 12th, doctors decided that “McGray” had sufficiently recovered enough to be transported to the State prison hospital at Jefferson City, Missouri.

Yet again the power of the press worked in “Mack’s” favor. Sadly he related to eager reporters that he suffered from “tuberculosis of the hip”. Newspapers snapped up this wild diagnosis. 

J. Francis O’Sullivan, a twenty-eight year old Kansas City attorney who specialized in criminal cases, represented both “Mack” and “Gibby”. He took advantage of the situation, filing a writ of habeas corpus with the state supreme court. The court agreed that the bail ordered by the Kansas City judges was “excessive” and reduced it significantly. 

“W.Charles McGray” and Wesley Gibbons quickly made bail and were released. 

Although there was never an official reckoning, Charles Makley still paid a steep price for his participation in the Drovers National bank robbery.

In February, while Makley was being detained at General Hospital, his birth mother, Helen, had died of complications caused by tuberculosis in Dayton, Ohio. Only a daughter was there to bury her.   

One would think after such a close call, “W.Charles McGray” would avoid the state of Missouri at all costs but …

“Bert Sparks (Harry Smith’s alias), Coen States and Charles McGray (Charles Makley’s alias)) of Tina were business visitors here Saturday.”  Monday, August 29, 1927, The Chillicothe Daily Tribune, Chillicothe, Missouri

A little less than two months later…

“Investigation of Bank Robbery Started Today”

Tuesday, October 25, 1927, The Chillicothe Daily Tribune, Chillicothe, Missouri


It seems that some things never change.



Money Bags Taken By KC Bandits Are Found, December 27, 1922, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO.

Know All Bank Bandits, December 27, 1922, Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO.

Two Suspects in $97,000 Bank Job Are Held, December 28, 1922, The Chillicothe Constitution, Chillicothe, MO

Jim, The Gang’s Hero?, December 28, 1922, Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

Two Men Held In K.C. Bank Robbery Agree to Return, December 28, 1922, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO.

Caverty On Way Back Here, December 28, 1922, Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

Bank Bandit Suspects Are Enroute to K.C., December 28, 1922, Joplin News Herald,Joplin, MO

Caverty, Bandit Driver, December 30, 1922, Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

Hold-Up Men are Identified, December 30 1922, Moberly Monitor-Index, Moberly, MO 

New Bank Gang Captured? December 31, 1922, Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO.

Two Arrested After Finding Bank Notes, December 31, 1922, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO.

Woman Tells Story of Bank Robbery, January 1, 1923, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX

Prisoner Implicated in Kansas City Robbery, January 2, 1923, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, MO

2 Men Suspected of Part in $97,000 Robbery Arrested, January 3, 1923, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, MO

Alleged Robbers Held, January 3, 1923, Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

Two Arrested Here in $96,000 bank Robbery, January 3, 1923, St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, St. Louis, MO

Bank Robbery Suspects Held, January 3, 1923, The Ogden Standard-Examiner, Ogden, KS 

Suspects Deny Part in Big K.C. Robbery, January 3, 1923, Joplin News Herald, Joplin, MO

Alleged Bandits to K.C., January 5, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO.

Think 9 Took Part in Bank Robbery, January 5, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO.

McGray To Be Returned Here, January 8, 1923, Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

Alleged Bandits to Jail, January 9, 1923, The Kansas City Times, Kansas City, MO

Another Suspect Held, January 10, 1923, Moberly Monitor-Index, Moberly, MO

Witnesses Fail to Identify Suspect, January 11, 1923, Moberly Weekly Monitor, Moberly, MO

Man Denies Part in K.C. Holdups, January 14, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Plead Not Guilty, February 2, 1923, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX

Five Are Indicted in Drovers Bank Robbery, February 2, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin MO

Bank Robber Gets 25-Year Sentence, February 21, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

50 Year Term Added, February 22, 1923, Morning Oregonian, Portland, OR

Alleged Bank Bandit Would Stop His Trial, February 27, 1923, Joplin News Herald, Joplin, MO

Arrest 3 for Perjury in Drovers Bank Case, March 3, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Mother of Man Sentenced in K.C. Robbery Arrested, March 6, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Two More Arrested in $97,000 Bank Holdup, March 8, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Convicted Bank Robber is Given 25-Year Term, March 10, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Big Criminal Docket Up, March 12, 1923, The Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

Jury Selection Started in Case, March 13, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Jury Acquits Gibbons, March 22, 1923, The Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO

Grand Jury Probe of Trial is Asked, March 23, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

15 to State “Pen”, April 5, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Accessories After the Fact Are Arrested, May 10, 1923, The Hutchinson News, Hutchinson, KS

2 Alleged Robbers Seek Their Release, July 12, 1923, Joplin News Herald, Joplin, MO

Jefferson City News, July 13, 1923, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lazia Denies He Got Night Club Profits, February 13, 1934, Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Ernest Hemingway’s Kansas City,

General Hospital, Janice Lee, 1999, Missouri Valley Special Collections

Women in Health Sciences, 2004-2009, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, Bernard Becker Medical Library


Photos and Illustrations:

  • Josephine Hospital Photo, 2004-2009, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, Bernard Becker Medical Library
  • Main Waiting Room From Grand Lobby, Union Station, Kansas City, MO, Max Bernstein, Kansas City, MO, Authors Collection
  • Two Men Held As Drovers Bank Bandits, December 30, 1922, The Kansas City Star, Kansas City, MO
  • City Hospital, St. Louis, MO, V.O. Hammon Publishing Company, Chicago, IL. Author’s Collection
  • Hospital Hill, Kansas City, MO, Hall Brothers, Kansas City, MO, Author’s Collection
  • James Martin aka Arthur Farrell, 1911, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise, ID
  • Missouri State Penitentiary, 1930, Author’s Collection



Coming Attractions

On March 17, 2011, another chapter in the life of Charles Makley will appear. Entitled Diaper Money, it covers his life from 1912 through 1922. A big part of this story will include his wife, Izora Gilman Makley and their four children, Omer, Eugene, Helen, and Fred.

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