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Matamoras Minute: Bank robbery

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Following the information on the Stover building we will move uptown to the building which houses our museum and society headquarters to explore its history.

After Robert Cunningham moved his mortuary from its original site to the building located next door on the west, he immediately sold the former property to the First National Bank of New Matamoras. This bank’s location was only one block away from its original site on the corner of Main and Front Streets. It had been established in 1901 and was ready to expand. The bank remodeled the interior and opened their new home to the public in 1912.

The bank saw a competitor appear on the scene in 1911 when the Peoples Savings Bank began operation and strange as it may seem the First National rented their former building, which they still owned, to the new upstart. Eventually the Peoples Savings bought the property from the First National.

All went well for the First National until October 12, 1924. Then during the lunch hour that day a scoundrel walked in. Head cashier John W. Berentz and two clerks, Harriet Parker McMahan and Mattie Grohs, had left the building. On deck was the assistant cashier, William Berentz.

The Marietta Register of October 13 in its front page story wrote, “In true mid-west style, with all the thrills of the modern moving picture, a lone bandit walked in…at 11:30 and overpowering the assistant cashier, got away with $4,000 in currency.”

The story goes that the thief was from Quarry, Ohio. He carried two revolvers, a 38 automatic and a Smith and Wesson 6-shooter. Berentz sat working on his books during the lull in business which normally occurs during the noon hour.

The strange voice caught his ear as he was demanded to stand and hold up his hands. Doing so he looked straight into the muzzles of the two guns. The bandit forced him to lie down on the floor while he gathered all the cash in sight. He then ordered Berentz to stand and enter the vault. It contained a safe but Berentz insisted he did not know the combination. At this point the vault door was closed with the assistant cashier standing inside.

Just like the good old-fashioned cliff-hanging serial films of the old movie houses, our story will continue next week. Buy your ticket for the next showing at the box office window as you leave the theater.

John Miller is president of the Matamoras Area Historical Society. Membership dues are $15 per year single/couple. Life membership is $150. Contact the society at P.O. Box 1846, New Matamoras, Ohio 45767. Much of this column is built on the work of Matamoras’ historian, the late Diana McMahan.

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