Wingate, TX

Bank robbers never win in Wingate

Nail in the Foot

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Main Street in Wingate, TXKerry Balbirona

Who says small towns are boring?

Wingate, Texas, began in the 1890s and grew to a peak population of 250 by the 1940s. Today just a few residents call the area home, with many of the buildings on Main Street abandoned, barring the large cotton gin, which appears to still be in operation.

A post on TexasEscapes highlights an old article from the San Angelo Standard Times. The article delved into the colorful history of this small town which experienced nine known attempted bank robberies between 1929 and 1968. The total haul for all attempts was $3 in postage stamps, a pistol and less than $100 in cash.

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Main Street in Wingate, TXKerry Balbirona

One of the more entertaining attempts occurred on December 22, 1932. Archie Horton and Hershell McMinn (aka "PeeWee") were two young men who had stolen a Ford coach in the nearby town of Graham. Feeling emboldened by their apparent 'success' at not being caught, they decided to come to Wingate and rob the bank.

Archie and PeeWee drove up and down the street, checking out the bank and planning their course of action. In a small town like Wingate, the locals will notice - and they did. A group of men at the barbershop next door felt something was up and kept a keen eye on the two outsiders.

The two troublemakers parked next to the bank in the alley and entered the bank. Bank employee Leila Harter looked down the barrel of a gun as she was locked in the vault as the robbers took what they could and prepared to leave.

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Main Street in Wingate, TXKerry Balbirona

The men at the barbershop sent young Billy Kirkland to see what was going on at the bank. He immediately came back to report the robbery. Grabbing their guns, the men ran out of the barbershop.

Startled at this unplanned intervention, PeeWee jumped in the car and drove away, leaving Archie behind. Archie and the men exchanged fire, and Archie was mortally wounded.

PeeWee managed to make it two blocks before crashing into a ditch where he took another car from a passing motorist. Once again, PeeWee lost control of the vehicle and crashed into another ditch, celebrating his escape a bit too early. Seeing no other cars, PeeWee ran into the nearby cotton fields, where the men of Wingate had a clear shot and stopped their target.

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Main Street in Wingate, TXKerry Balbirona

PeeWee rode in an ambulance next to the corpse of friend Archie to the hospital in Ballenger. It was reported PeeWee died the next day of 'acute lead poisoning.'

The men at the barbershop may have missed their shave that day, but their pockets were a bit richer. The Texas State Banker's Association awarded the men a $10,000 reward for capturing the bank robbers. The reward money was distributed among those involved.

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