A bank robbery gone wrong in Ketchum, Oklahoma

A bank robbery gone wrong in Ketchum, Oklahoma


The lives of four men and their families were forever changed on a hot Thursday morning of August 9th, 1923 in Ketchum, Craig County, Oklahoma during a bank robbery that just didn't go as planned. Three of the men were bank robbers who just killed a man, who didn't get their money and were on the run. The fourth man, an innocent bank cashier, Frank Pitts, who lay dead on the bank floor in a pool of his own blood. The aftermath of this tragedy causes the Govenor of Oklahoma to lose the Senator's candidacy and another man to lose his life in the electric chair.

Stories about A bank robbery gone wrong in Ketchum, Oklahoma

Events of Thursday, August 9th, 1923

  • Ketchum, Craig Co., OK

On the morning of the robbery, two of the three robbers (assumed to be Richard Birkes and Allison "Dick" Ivey) both of Tulsa, hired a taxi cab which was driven by Russell Mayberry who was also accompanied by a young companion that day of Mayberry's in Vinita, Craig Co., OK to take them to Ketchum, OK. The robbers had came from Tulsa that morning hiding their car in Vinita. About 4 miles from Ketchum the men held up Mayberry and his companion, forcing them to leave their car and proceeded to tied the two men to trees and took the taxicab.

Before entering Ketchum, the third member of the party was picked up (assumed to be Raymond Thomas). These three men on the day of the crime drove to the First State Bank in Ketchum, Craig Co., OK in the stolen taxi cab, and by force of arms attempted to rob the bank. Richard Birkes and Allison "Dick" Ivey entered the bank, and Raymond Thomas remained outside in the automobile. Birkes and Ivey asked for the Ketchum brothers, and then with a loaded pistol pointed at the bank cashier, Mr. Frank Pitts, commanding him to "stick em' up". This the cashier either failed or refused to do, or else did not comply promptly with the demand. Birkes thereupon fired his pistol once through the opaque glass of the teller area, shooting Frank Pitts, the cashier in the heart instantly killing him. Two more shots were fired by Allison "Dick" Ivey at the bank's bookkeeper, Herbert Ray, but the bullets went wild and never found their mark. Failing to obtaining any of the banks cash, the two fled the bank into the waiting automobile driven by Raymond Thomas, the get away driver. The three sped desperately out of Ketchum to get away.

A posse of local citizens were soon organized and the search for the bandits began. Later in the day, Leaders of the posse of Ketchum first stopped Raymond Thomas on the road and asked him if he had seen anything of the three men in a car. He told them he had not and they left him. Later he got in the car with some officers and they began questioning him. He acted suspicious so they took him into the town of Ketchum where he was identified as one of the bandits. There was a struggle with angry citizens which were prevented in lynching him.

Sometime after the bank robbery, the taxi drive Mayberry and his companion later freed themselves and rushed to the Vinita police. The bank robbery had already been reported by this time.

After being identified, Raymond Thomas confessed his part and named his companions as Richard Birkes and Allison "Dick" Ivey both of Tulsa; identifing Richard Birkes as doing the killing. He also told the officers that Ivey and Birkes were hiding in a cluster of weeds near Brown's Ferry, three miles east of Ketchum when he had left them. Following the confession of Thomas, the possees' search for Ivey and Birkes doubled and officers said that if Birkes was found and identified it would be hard to prevent summary punishment being dealt to him by the citizens of Ketchum. Within the next three days, the two remaining bandits were rounded up.

The three men were taken to the Nowata County jail for safe-keeping after their capture near Vinita. Threats of lynching were freely made in Craig County when the search for the bandits was on. Once arrested the prisoners were immediately rushed to Nowata where a heavy guard was maintained around the county jail.

After the arrests, Tulsa police gave a statement ...that the three had been seen "campaigning together" shortly before the robbery and that all three of the men have long crime records and all had served time in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Newspaper accounts and prison records stated that Allison "Dick" Ivey had been previously pardoned by Gov. Walton and that Richard Birkes had escaped from Oklahoma City Camp # 2 on July 14, 1923, almost a month prior to the bank robbery.

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