[The Brazil Times nameplate] Overcast ~ 47°F  
High: 64°F ~ Low: 43°F
Thursday, May 5, 2016

Former resident part of Dillinger's 'Terror Gang'

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Harry Pierpont
"Public Enemies," a feature film dramatizing the life and times of John Dillinger and his infamous gang of robbers, officially hit theaters just after midnight.

As the movie invaded the big screen, a piece of Clay County history followed.

One-time Brazil resident Harry Pierpont, who was a friend and mentor to Dillinger, was a member of the "Terror Gang," that robbed several banks in Indiana, including Central National Bank in Greencastle of more than $74,000, Oct. 23, 1933.

The Brazil Daily Times reported Oct. 23, 1933, that the bank had been held up at approximately 3 p.m., by "robbers who drove a black touring car with an Ohio license. Brazil police were notified to keep on the watch for such a car. The amount of the bank loss was not learned."

The next day, The Daily Times reported bank employees and customers identified Dillinger, Harry Copeland, Pierpont and Walter Deitrich as being involved in the heist.

According to the report, the robbers carried sub-machine guns with them, which were believed to have been stolen in raids at the Peru and Auburn police stations.

The article stated "victims were herded into a rear room by two of the robbers while their confederates crammed the loot into cloth bags they carried.

"In addition to the bank's cash and securities, the bandits took $300 from Hugh Hammond, an oil company distributing agent and a $330 postal deposit being made by Elmer Sellers, post office clerk, as he stood at a teller's window.

"Harry Wells, cashier, was forced to open the vault.

"The bandits sped away in a large sedan they had left parked in front of the bank. Posses that pursued them were easily outdistanced."

Just a day later, The Daily Times reported Pierpont had been identified as the leader of the gang that robbed the bank in Greencastle.

According to the article, Pierpont was a former gravel pit worker in Brazil. He, along with eight others, had escaped from Indiana State Prison Sept. 26.

The then-Greencastle Banner had reported, "Identification of Pierpont was made by two different men who worked with him several years ago on the traction line."

At the time, it was believed Pierpont and the others were hiding out in "rough country north of Lena," north of Carbon.

Pierpont was born in Muncie, Ind., Oct. 13, 1902, the son of J. Gilbert and Lena Orcutt Pierpont.

According to "John Dillinger -- The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal," written by Dary Matera, Pierpont moved with his family to Indianapolis when he was 15.

After spending time in prison in Jeffersonville for battery with attempt to murder, Pierpont came to Brazil to work at his father's sand and gravel business. But the simple life didn't work for Pierpont, who was soon back to his old ways, putting together a gang that started robbing banks. He was arrested in 1925, in Detroit, and brought back to Indiana. He was found guilty and sent back to prison, where he met Dillinger.

Dillinger was let out of prison in 1933 and then started a string of robberies to finance a prison break. Late in 1933, Pierpont, along with several others, escaped from prison with Dillinger's help.

But after more robberies ensued, law enforcement eventually caught up with Pierpont, Dillinger and the others, and in early 1934, gang members were caught in Tucson, Ariz.

Dillinger was extradited to Indiana, while Pierpont, Charles Makley and Russell Clark were extradited to Ohio to stand trial for the murder of a sheriff.

In March 1934, Pierpont, Makley and Clark were convicted of the murder. Pierpont and Makley both received the death penalty as Clark was given a life sentence.

Dillinger was gunned down by FBI agents July 22, 1934, as Pierpont and Makley sat on death row in Ohio.

However, the two attempted an escape, carving pistols out of cakes of soap. The two got out of their cells Sept. 22, 1934, and made it to the main door of the death house before guards opened fire.

Makley died in the melee, but Pierpont survived.

However, less than one month later, Pierpont's fate was sealed as he was executed in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of 32.

Pierpont's last meal included chicken and it was stated in The Brazil Daily Times he had "embraced the church" in his final hours.

One day earlier, Pierpont's parents and Mary Kinder, who told prison officials she was Pierpont's wife, visited him. Reports stated he wept as they left.

In the movie, which stars Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent sent to chase down the gang, also stars David Wenham as Pierpont. Wenham also made appearances in "300," and "Australia."

Check it out

"Public Enemies," starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, is showing at Honey Creek West 8, Terre Haute, at the following times today: 12:10 p.m., 12:40 p.m., 3:20 p.m., 3:50 p.m., 6:40 p.m., 7:10 p.m., 10:10 p.m., and 10:40 p.m.

Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on thebraziltimes.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

Wow, what a thing to be proud of in our

community. We still have many crime problems,

but why make it sound like it was great to have

a fugitive live in our community? No wonder that

kinds think that it is cool to rob and kill and

hurt people, because we idolize the fugitives years later!

-- Posted by busymomandstudent on Wed, Jul 1, 2009, at 10:17 AM

And let's not forget our other famious dignitary Jimmy Hoffa. Plus the late great Michael Jackson was from Gary. We know everyone has to be from somewhere, and Indiana to me is as good a place as any. Good or bad it takes all kinds to make a world, even in Indiana.

-- Posted by Keeping An Open Mind on Wed, Jul 1, 2009, at 11:16 AM

with all the fame about our town no wonder our taxes and water bills are going up...LoL. Fame comes with a price. Good or Bad fame.

-- Posted by Sand mann on Wed, Jul 1, 2009, at 11:56 AM

Where did the article say it was "great to have a fugitive live in our community"??

Just bury your head in the sand and pretend it didn't happen.

-- Posted by I. M. Lee Thall, Esq. on Wed, Jul 1, 2009, at 12:38 PM

"the two attempted an escape, carving pistols out of cakes of soap"


-- Posted by sassypants on Wed, Jul 1, 2009, at 1:07 PM

why post is if all your going to do is whine about a crime movie years ago jeeez people go get a life !!!!!!!

-- Posted by brazil citizen on Fri, Jul 3, 2009, at 8:14 PM

I interviewed Gordon Sayres, and Edith Browning (both have since passed on) who were working at the Central National Bank in Greencastle when Pierpont, Makley, Dillinger etc. robbed the bank on Oct. 23, 1933. Edith Browning didn't see too much, but Sayres said Pierpont walked up to the fourth teller window and pulled out a sawed-off and announced the robbery. Sayres told me, "Pierpont had the meanest eyes he had ever seen." He said the men looked like they were wearing bulletproof vest undernearth their trench coats. Tony Stewart, author of Dillinger, The Hidden Truth. Email: Dillinger72234@aol.com

-- Posted by Dillinger72234 on Sat, Jul 4, 2009, at 12:45 PM

Does anyone really think about what they are posting before they start typing? This is not about a movie that was made long ago. This movie just hit the theaters. Second, what does all this have to do with taxes being raised and higher water bills? You can blame that on our economy and the grovernment. I have to agree with "keeping an open mind" it's true that it takes all kinds to make a world, good and bad. I can say I'm not proud of some of the things that happen around here and nearly daily wish I could escape this community but I also find this part of history interesting and can't wait to see the movie.

-- Posted by hoosiertwins on Sat, Jul 4, 2009, at 8:53 PM

Dillinger, very interesting post, thanks.

brazil citizen, do try and keep up here.

-- Posted by I. M. Lee Thall, Esq. on Mon, Jul 6, 2009, at 7:59 PM

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: