Around lunch time on a nice May day, three men walked into Charles Spragne’s restaurant in Kitzmiller. Their faces were blackened with cork and they wore miner’s caps. They were unfamiliar to Charles and his wife, but they were used to seeing new miners in town from time to time.
Spragne’s wife spoke to one of the men, “thinking he was a local miner but did not notice that either of them were masked,” the Republican reported.
The men finished their lunches, paid their bills, and then walked across the street to the First National Bank of Kitzmiller around 11:45 a.m. As they entered, the men drew large revolvers.
One of the men stepped around Cashier Barclay V. Inskeep’s desk and pointed his pistol in Inskeep’s face. Sue R. Laughlin, Inskeep’s assistant, screamed.
A second man pointed his pistol at Laughlin and told her, “If you scream again. I will kill you.”
Laughlin stared at the pistol and then collapsed to floor in a faint.
With one man covering Inskeep, the other two men quickly gathered what money they could find. Then they cut the wires for the long-distance phone and ran out of the bank, weighed down by the money they were carrying. It was later tallied that the robbers took $9,975.25 with them or roughly $185,000 in today’s dollars. One of the men was carrying a bag of nickels, which weighed more than 20 pounds.
In their rush to make their escape, the robbers had not only overlooked $13,000 in paper money that was nearby, but they had also failed to cut the wires for the local telephone at the back of the building.
Inskeep ran out of the bank to the Hamill Coal and Coke Company General Store and reported the robbery. When he ran back outside, he saw the bank robbers starting across the bridge over the Potomac River to Blaine, W.Va. He saw Paul Junkins who was driving a coal company wagon across the bridge to Kitzmiller and called for Junkins to stop the men.
“Junkins climbed from the wagon and told them to stop when one of the men pulled a large revolver from his pocket and commanded him to get back on the wagon and drive on,” the Republican reported.
Junkins had no wish to be shot so he obeyed. When he got to Kitzmiller, he was met by a small posse. Junkins got a pistol from one of the men and then joined them in the hunt. Everyone who could carry gun soon joined in the hunt for the bank robbers, including one man who only had a pick handle.
Meanwhile, Inskeep went back to the back and climbed in his car to drive to Elk Garden, W.Va., hoping to head off the robbers.
The robbers continued on their getaway, walking down the Western Maryland Railway tracks about 200 years and then climbing the bank beside the tracks and heading into the woods. There, they hid among the rocks and fired on the posse as it approached. Junkins who was leading the posse at that point was hit three times—in the arm, the leg, and the forehead. Junkins jumped behind a tree until the robbers stopped firing and fled through the woods again.
The robbers also shot posse member William Schenk in the hand when he stepped from behind a building at the edge of the woods. During the gunfire exchange Constable Sharpless from Kitzmiller believed that he had shot one of the men in the chest. A member of the posse accidentally shot Sharpless when he was mistaken for one of the robbers.
A fourth man wearing a red sweater joined the three robbers and led them off through the woods where he had a car running. The men jumped in the car and traded their miner’s caps for automobile caps. They sped off up to the mountain toward Elk Garden.
By the time the car raced through Elk Garden, witnesses reported seeing only three men in the car. They simply thought the men were joy riding because news of the robbery hadn’t reached the town yet.
Inskeep later told the newspaper, “I do not believe the man who held me up was a professional. Of course I was excited, but believe me, he was trembling all over, too.”
He added that the bank and its depositors’ wouldn’t suffer any loss because the bank carried $15,000 in burglary insurance that would cover the loss.
Four months later, the robbers were finally brought to justice in Woodstock, Va. Paul Neff, Dave Neff, and “Boots” Fry were arrested for different robberies and a group from Kitzmiller, including Inskeep, drove to Woodstock to see if they recognized the men.
“One of the men from the mines identified the Neffs as miners who were at work there until the robbery and then disappeared,” The Republican reported.
Inskeep also identified the men as the bank robbers.