The good people of the county, more especially of Kewanee, were, in the latter part of August, 1882, startled by the news that the First National Bank of Kewanee had been robbed in broad daylight. Two armed men had entered the bank, just after the close of business hours, and, by violence overcoming the only two employees in the room at the time, had carried off the money, first throwing these two persons —the assistant cashier, Mr. J. J. Pratt, and a lady clerk, Miss Charity Palmer—into the vault, in an insensible condition, and had got away, and had been gone some time before these employees could release themselves and give the terrible news to the public.
The two men who entered the bank and robbed it were named Welch and Kenedy. Welch had been a commercial traveler in this part of Illinois, and he was recognized by Miss Palmer and Pratt when in the bank. He was run to the ground in the East, and Kenedy was caught in the distant West by Pinkerton detectives. These arrests occurred some two weeks after the robbery. The cunning detective soon wormed a confession out of Welch, and the whole story was soon known, and then the whole community was more amazed than ever, because Pratt, the assistant cashier, was implicated. He was arrested, and then he, too, confessed at once and told all about it
. Pratt was a young man, reared in the town, was a great favorite in the community, a model churchman and Sunday-school teacher, and every one Was highly indignant when he was arrested—at his father's in the night. No one would or did be lieve in his guilt, except the detectives, until he confessed and told where he had buried his share of the swag, under the sidewalk in front of his home.
A man named Scott, a dentist who had lived in Prince- ton, and was then in St. Louis, was arrested; he was not convicted of the robbery, but was sent to the penitentiary for a forgery that he and Pratt had concocted and carried through some time before the robbery. On the preliminary examination Pratt and Welch told the whole story, reserving nothing.
It seems that Miss Palmer was the only honest one in the lot, and she had been seized by Kenedy and choked and beaten to insensibility, but had fought like a tiger until overcome. The robber had seized her, and put his hand over her mouth to prevent her screams, and she bit his fingers to the bone. On the final trial of Pratt, Welch and Kennedy, they all confessed, and the Judge sent them to the penitentiary for the term of six years each. The bank recovered the most of the money, and there are many men now in Kewanee who feel real sorrow for Pratt,—we hope solely for the sake of his respected parents and sisters ; for certainly by his own confession, both in the robbery and the forgery, it was a public misfortune he could not have been sent to the penitentiary for the term of his natural life.
History of Henry County
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