Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, January 19, 2018

Sensational Crime in Elk River: Bank Robbery of 1929

Although not the site of the 1929 bank robbery, the lobby
of the Bank of Elk River gives a sense of the security
and business atmosphere in the bank.
In the heyday of bank robberies and crime, the 1920s; in the time of Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, and a slew of other criminals; Elk River experienced what the Sherburne County Star News called “one of the most sensational crimes committed in Sherburne county.” 

In the morning of August 9, 1929, three bank robbers kidnapped Dr. George Page, his wife, Zella, and bank cashier, T. E. Olson.  While one bank robber held Mrs. Page hostage, the other two escorted Dr. Page and Mr. Olsen into the First National Bank of Elk River.  After entering the bank, Mr. Olsen announced the robbery.  Cashiers turned over $7200 to the robbers. 

After leaving the bank, the robbers retrieved their third member at the home of Dr. Page.  Surprisingly, the bandits did not confine their three hostages.  After the robbers left the Page house, Dr. Page noted the license plate and description of the getaway car.  The bank robbers fled to Birch Lake where they picked up a fourth accomplice, a woman by the name of Alice Hull.  The robbers then fled towards Princeton. 

The detour to Birch Lake gave police time to organize, identify the bank robbers and track them towards Zimmerman.  Mike Auspos and Earle Brown, both from the Minnesota Highway patrol, identified the bandits and engaged in a running gun battle with the bandits.  Brown managed to wound August Becker, the bandit driver, and forced the getaway car off the road where all four suspects were arrested.  Because of his wounds, Becker’s arm was later amputated.  

In their court hearings, all three of the men pled guilty to robbery and kidnapping.  They received life sentences in Stillwater Prison.  Alice Hull maintained her innocence in the episode.  She claimed to be an unwitting accomplice of the bank robbers; a young woman simply wanting to experience a “good time” with the three men.  

The outcome of her trial is not reported.  

Although a seemingly exciting episode on paper, the bank robbery in Elk River proved to be dangerous to innocent victims and the bank robbers themselves.  Those that suffered the most were the bank robbers.  And, the “good guys won” in the end.  Yet, the perceived excitement of a bank robbery and car chase quickly looses the romance factor when the dangers of the episode come to mind.

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