Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Perkins Gang-Part 2

The arrest of Remus Perkins in the spring of 1934 for robbing the Bank of Grandin in February did not stop the Perkins gang nor the rash of bank holdups that had been occurring in south-central Missouri since early in the year. On May 3, a single bandit went into the Bank of Raymondville, in Texas County. The robber took about $150, said to be all the ready cash in the bank at the time, and fled in a waiting automobile, a Ford V-8 two-door sedan. The getaway driver was described as tall.
Then, on May 10, the Bank of Mill Springs in the southwest corner of Wayne County was held up. In a tactic reminiscent of the Bunker bank robbery earlier in the year, the three men who pulled off the job forced the cashier to accompany them as they escaped in a Ford sedan, before ditching the hostage about a mile outside town. A time lock was on the safe; so the amount of money the crooks got was small.
On June 21, an automobile accident that proved fortuitous for law enforcement occurred near Columbia, Illinois. Not only did it help clear up the Raymondville and Mill Springs robberies, but it also struck a blow against the Perkins gang. Killed in the accident was John Biggs, who was identified as having participated in the robbery of a gas station in Staunton, Illinois, two nights earlier. Another passenger, Olin "Bish" Perkins received serious injuries in the accident. He was taken to St. Mary's Hospital in East St. Louis and guarded as a suspect in the Mill Springs robbery, because two sets of stolen Missouri license plates were found in the wrecked vehicle, one of which was used in the Mill Springs job. A third passenger, Claude Dickerson was only slightly injured in the wreck, and he was held for Missouri authorities as Olin Perkins's suspected partner on the Mill Springs robbery and also the Raymondville caper. Another suspected accomplice of Olin Perkins on the Missouri bank jobs, Eugene Goodman, was not in the wreck but was being sought.
Texas County officials beat the Wayne County sheriff to Illinois and brought Dickerson back to Texas County to answer for the Raymondville robbery, even though evidence against him was at least as strong, if not stronger, in the Mill Springs crime. Dickerson was lodged in jail at Houston.
Interviewed in the hospital while he was recuperating, Olin Perkins gave his home as Newburg, Missouri, even though he'd never actually lived there. He had relatives there and occasionally visited Newburg, but his family lived in the Dixon area until moving to Eminence, where Olin grew up and went to high school. One of his Newburg cousins, who had stayed with Olin's family a while and gone to school with him at Eminence, described him as a smart, happy-go-lucky type whom everybody liked. She was startled that he'd turned to a life of crime.
On the Fourth of July, Eugene Goodman, who'd grown up in the Eminence area with Olin Perkins, broke Claude Dickerson out of the Texas County jail by getting the drop on a deputy sheriff and forcing him to hand over the keys to Dickerson's cell. The pair then escaped in a vehicle that Goodman had driven to the scene. When news of the escape reached Illinois, the guard on Olin Perkins at St. Mary's Hospital was bolstered.
Meanwhile, Sherman Hodges was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for his part in the Grandin Bank robbery. Remus Perkins and Frank Walker got their cases continued and eventually moved to Oregon County on a change of venue.
The increased security at the hospital in St. Louis where Olin Perkins was recuperating apparently didn't last long. On August 14, Dickerson and Goodman walked in and "half carried, half dragged" their partner in crime from the building, apparently with little or no resistance from the law.
Around the early part of September, 1934, Dickerson, Goodman, and Bish Perkins sent a letter to Carter County authorities claiming credit for the Grandin Bank robbery back in February. Calling themselves the "Dillingers of the Ozarks, they said Remus Perkins, Frank Walker, and Sherman Hodges were innocent. Sherman Hodges, had, of course, already been convicted and sent to prison.
An even more staggering blow against the Perkins gang than the car wreck back in June occurred in late September during a botched tavern holdup in St. Jacob, Illinois. On the last day of September, five armed bandits entered the tavern but were met by shotgun fire from the owner, stationed in an adjoining room. The gang retreated, raining gunfire in every direction as they did so. One customer and one employee of the tavern were killed and another customer mortally wounded. The employee was deliberately murdered after being wounded in the initial burst of gunfire. Early the next morning, Eugene Goodman and Arnett "Wess" Perkins, younger brother of Bish Perkins, were found dumped in a vacant lot adjoining St. Mary's Hospital in East St. Louis. Arnett Perkins was dead, and Goodman died from his wounds shortly afterward.
The trial of Remus Perkins and Frank Walker for the Grandin bank job was scheduled for November at Alton but was postponed because Perkins was ill and was undergoing treatment in a St. Louis hospital. Interviewed while he was in St. Louis, he said he was innocent of all the crimes he'd been accused of. He blamed his troubles on the fact that he was a double cousin of Olin "Bish" Perkins and bore a close resemblance to Bish's sidekick, Eugene Goodman. Consequently, he said, he was always getting accused of their crimes.
While out on bond and still awaiting trial on the Grandin bank robbery, Walker was tried and convicted of an Arkansas bank job and sent to the Arkansas State Penitentiary. Remus Perkins was eventually tried at Alton in July of 1935 and acquitted of the Grandin heist. Apparently his lawyers succeeded in getting the jury to believe Remus's mistaken identity claim. Whether Remus was a ringleader of the Perkins gang or, indeed, a victim of guilt by association, is not known for sure, but this much is certain: the Perkins gang was already severely crippled.
The final blow came in September of 1935 when Bish Perkins was killed in a gunfight with East St. Louis police, who were responding to the report of a prowler.

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