The sleepy little town of Humphrey, Arkansas was shaken by a loud explosion in the early morning hours of Tuesday, January 27, 1914. Humphrey had grown quickly after its incorporation in 1905 and soon had a thriving business district including a nice hotel, two banks and a number of mercantile stores.
The Merchants and Planters Bank of Humphrey had been created in 1905 with J.H. Stillwell as president. James Henry Stillwell was one of the original settlers of the town and a local merchant. As more residents moved into Humphrey, the bank expanded and became more valuable. Unfortunately, this also made the institution a likely target for criminals.
As the town slept, four men with criminal intent made their way into Humphrey between midnight and 1 a.m. Newspapers referred to the men as "yeggmen," which is defined as people who break open safes. To slow response from law enforcement, the professional robbers cut all the telephone wires leading into the city. They then used cotton bales and rolls of wire to barricade the front of the bank. Quickly, the bank safe door was blown away using nitroglycerin and that was the explosion that woke up everyone.
While one robber emptied the safe of cash, the other three waited out front with revolvers. Bank cashier E.B. Stokes, Dr. Bunn and T.J. Carr, who owned the hotel, were all stopped by these gun welding desperados and forced to watch as they left town with nearly $3,300. Although the law soon arrived, the robbers had made a clean get-a-way with all the cash of the bank. In fact, the bank could not be re-opened until more money was brought from Pine Bluff. This was the second robbery in the area, as the Bank of Dewitt had also had their safe blown only ten days before. No suspects were ever arrested, and the robbery remains a mystery.
Sadly, the future of the Merchants and Planters Bank of Humphrey was not good. After the Great Depression began in 1929, many banks were forced to close. On November 17, 1930, this bank, which belonged to the A.B. Banks group, was closed and its assets liquidated. #humphreyarkansas #arkansasbanks #arkansashistory #merchantsandplanterbankofhumphrey