Commentary by Robert Bowling
After the Fishers National Bank was burglarized in 1920, it was almost 10 years to the day that it happened again. This time the robbers came through the front door. It was shortly before noon Feb. 24 when two men entered the bank.
While one stood guard at the door, the other drew a revolver. The two bank tellers, Ms. Fern Mollenkopf and Ms. Gloria Wood, were ordered into the vault. The suspects fled with $2,000 in cash and $10,000 in bonds. A third suspect was waiting around the corner in the getaway vehicle. Local residents pursued the fleeing green Chevrolet sedan but lost it when it turned onto Allison Road.
Within a month, all three suspects, James Ryan, Cecil Nichols of Indianapolis and Wilbur Ferguson of Edinburg were arrested. They all pleaded guilty. Because bank robbery was a state crime, they were given the max sentence of 10 years at the Indiana State Prison.
Ferguson was paroled in 1935 for tuberculosis and Ryan was paroled in August 1936. Ryan committed another bank robbery in 1937. Because it was now a federal crime, he was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison in Atlanta. Seven days after Ryan’s parole, Nichols, who had previously been denied parole, escaped and fled to Texas. In 1944, Nichols was eventually located in Adams County, Iowa, married with children. He was given clemency for the remainder of his sentence.
The robbery severely crippled the bank. Although the bank had insurance, it did not cover the full amount of the loss. The bank cashier, A.P Butz, was held liable for some of the unrecovered bonds. The robbery, coupled with the Great Depression, caused the Fishers National Bank to close its doors a month later after serving the Fishers community for 17 years.