Back in Time: Bandits rob Lake Elmo Bank

The exterior of Lake Elmo Bank. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)

BY BRENT PETERSON
GAZETTE COLUMNIST

Lake Elmo, a bustling community between Stillwater and St. Paul, has a wonderful history. People were living in the area before Minnesota was even a territory, the location became an attractive place for recreation in the clear waters of the lake, and soon a flourishing community developed.

In 1911, the State Bank of Lake Elmo was organized – bringing banking to the area. It was successful and continues to this day. It’s location in Lake Elmo was seen as in the “country” in the early part of the 20th century and a fair location for robbers to try to rob the bank.

On Aug. 7, 1919 at about 11:30 a.m., a Hudson super-six touring car drove into Lake Elmo with four unidentified men inside. The car drove up and down the main street of the community, the car had Iowa license plates. Soon the car stopped in front of the bank with one man staying in the car, another standing outside and two that entered the bank.

Inside the bank was Frieda Siegfried, the assistant cashier at the time, and R.A. Wilkinson, a director of the bank arrived just a few minutes before the bandits. The Cashier, Ray G. Kern, had gone to St. Paul a half hour earlier, leaving Miss Siegfried in charge.

The two men that entered the bank came up to the teller window and asked for change of a $10 bill. As Miss Siegfried turned to the cash rack to get the change, the men drew revolvers and when she turned around, she was facing the guns.

One of the men escorted her to the director’s office where they were held while the other robbed the bank. According to the Stillwater Messenger it took “an in creditably short time that the bandits had finished their work and prepared to escape.”

“Do not come out of the bank until 10 minutes after we are gone,” said the bandits to Miss Siegfried, as they were running out of the building and into the waiting car. Siegfried did not wait she immediately went out in the street, sounding the alarm as the bandits sped out of town.

Want to keep reading? Grab the July 21, 2017, edition of The Gazette, at newsstands through July 27. Subscribe to The Gazette to read Peterson’s column in its entirety each week. Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. Contact him at [email protected]