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MEEKER I Every year, a dedicated bunch of Meeker locals return to the scene of the crime: the 1896 attempted armed robbery of Meeker’s bank. While none of the actors were alive back then, many of them can trace their family history back to the original participants.
Dressed in period costumes and armed with “blanks,” a dedicated bunch of Meeker locals presents the annual show for Range Call spectators. This year’s program will be held on Saturday, July 2 at 2 p.m. at the scene of the crime, the corner of Sixth and Main across from the clock tower.
According to community history, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 1896, turned out to be a very bad day for Charles Jones, Billy Smith and George Harris.
The three men entered the Hugus building around three o’clock in the afternoon. After corralling everyone inside at gunpoint, the leader of the men fired two shots at assistant cashier David Smith. They emptied the cash drawer and helped themselves to additional rifles and ammunition from the store’s shelves.
The gunshots alerted Meeker residents outside, who spread the alarm down the street. In less than three minutes, every possible avenue of escape was blocked by local marksmen.
The robbers ushered their hostages, Joe Rooney, Mr. Moulton, Smith, Mr. Booth, W.P. Herrick, Victor Dikeman and one or two customers, out the side door of the building. When one of the men broke from the group and made a run for freedom, a hail of gunfire ensued between the criminals and the local citizens gathered to stop the robbery. All three would-be thieves were shot and killed in the fray. Meeker citizens W.H. Clark, Dikeman, Booth and Herrick were injured. All were expected to recover.
Jones, Smith and Harris were buried in the Meeker cemetery the following day.
“Thus was justice meted out to three bold bandits who struck the wrong town in which to ply their villainous calling.”
For your viewing pleasure during the reenactment, the Rio Blanco Historical Society provides root beer floats on the courthouse lawn, beginning at 2 p.m. Proceeds from the sale of the root beer floats benefits the historical society’s efforts to preserve and maintain the area’s rich history.