Last revised: September 03, 2016

BANK Robbery

(1906) - The Great Underwood Bank Robbery Story

Destroyed by Dynamite      They left their tools behind

On September 22, 1906 a group of still unknown men rode casually into the new town of Underwood perpetrating a crime so daring that not since the days when the James gangs made their desperate raid on Northfield, Minnesota has there been such a thrilling bank robbery.

In the middle of a cool September night, four men rode quietly into town on horseback. The tiny village of Underwood was asleep. Suddenly everything in the town began to shake after a terrific roar of thunder. "The sound was enough to wake the dead," said one old timer. And as people rushed into the streets at two in the morning it became apparent what had caused the commotion.

Glass was all over Main Street. The First State Bank, as well as its competitor Security State Bank were a wreck. Dynamite explosions had blown out the front of the little bank buildings, everything was in shambles.

Neither bank had a vault and the cash was kept in supposedly burglar proof safes. And while both banks were insured and cash was sent up from Bismarck the next day to cover losses, the sudden withdrawal of $12,000.00 promised a gloomy business day for Underwood's bankers.

A shout from the small crowd that gathered drew everyone's attention to the doorway of the First State Bank to watch four men outlined in the silhouette of a moon lit night. Before anyone could say another word the four were running in the direction of the depot, then north on foot. At the end of their sprint, six more outlaws waited in the shadows, their business finished in Underwood.

Once the shock wore off and everyone realized what had happened, some of the men saddled up horses and rode off in pursuit. And as the posse rode out after the bandits, the thieves watched from the edge of town, planning more for Underwood. A few hours later, residents heard more explosions, and found the thieves' horses in front of the banks. Through the wreckage, several men came out as a thin cloud of smoke came through what was left of the door to First State Bank.

None of the townsmen were armed, and there was little chance for the residents of this tiny prairie town to do much against the raiders. One of the bandits began waving a gun and warned everyone to "be quiet and return to your beds if you don't want to get hurt!"  His voice was deep and threatening, but nobody moved. The friends of the bandits followed him out of the bank intimidating the crowd. Everyone hesitated, then more explosions shook the street. More strangers came walking out of Security State Bank and everyone immediately realized it too was being looted again.. There were several strangers in front of that building; others going in and out each time fastening bags of money to their saddles.

One old timer counted ten horses and it was suggested that some slip away for weapons. However, at the point of a gun the robbers compelled them to stay where they could be watched.  It was difficult for citizens to act concertedly. The bandits clearly had a double advantage: surprise and artillery.

Finishing their work at the banks, the bunch, still in complete control, began sacking stores. Up and down the street you hear the glass shatter on shop doors as they crumbled against the force of several crooks. They groped through the dark stores pocketing what caught their fancy and breaking into cash registers.

Then as quickly as it all began, the gang began to gather after the leader, still waving his gun as he gave a whistle signal. They mounted their horses and rode out of town in different directions, some shouting "thanks", further tormenting the townspeople who stood helpless in the streets.

One person described what happened next "They were barely out of town when men started running for their horses. I saddled two horses while dad and my uncle rallied others. Small bands of posses headed out in the direction taken by the outlaws. And at daylight more townspeople were ready for the chase."

The morning train brought blood hounds from the state capitol and the telegraph wires hummed with the news of the daring robbery. But accurate descriptions were impossible as the thieves had worn masks and disguised themselves. Although the Underwood citizens scoured the entire countryside they found no trace of the desperados or their $12,000.00 booth.

(NOTE: Although Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford 24 years earlier, the James, Cole, Younger gangs were still thought to be involved with this robbery. Jesse's brother Frank James died of a heart attack in 1915 at age 63, but other former gang members could have played a part of this historical event.)


Second only to community churches, banks have always played very important roles in North Dakota towns, North Dakota business, farms, and personal lives of all residents.

Early Bank Photos

(1913) - Security State Bank

Clarence Berg, George Swanson

First Security Bank (est. 1903)

First Security Bank - Krist Kjelstrup, George Swanson

 Krist Kjelstrup and George Swanson

First Security Bank (est. 1903)


Bank Building in the 50's  |  New Bank Building

 (2010) - Bank is now: North Country Bank

Underwood Bankers

M.K. Kjelstrup

Krist Kjelstrup  |  M.K. Kjelstrup

Cliff Thompson
(need photo)

Q.O. Sayler Dave Kjelstrup Duane Schuh

 Cliff Thompson |  Q.O. Sayler  |  Dave Kjelstrup  |  Duane Schuh

Bev Walcker, Connie Scheer, Jill Eng, Linda Stengel, Ruth Hendrick

(1978) - Bank Vp's: Dave Kjelstrup, Quentin O. Sayler, Duane Schuh


Ron Fandrick
2224 Ground Squirrel Dr.
New Port Richey, FL 34655-4029

Last revised: September 03, 2016

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