The two fugitives from justice, escapees after sentencing for robbery at the Clinton Courthouse, were Albert Fairfield and John Redman (aka Frank Sawyer) who had already been incarcerated two weeks.
They had committed a robbery a couple months before by holding up a Homer Shadduck of a $2,000 payroll for the Northwesterns’ shops. Perhaps they’d had a prior record because the judge had given them a stiff sentence for the seemingly small amount they’d stolen even though money was worth more then ... 25 years at the state penitentiary at Ft. Madison, Iowa, Anamosa. The judge had lectured them as they stood nonchalantly, casual, while being shackled. They had smiled and laughed a little which should have tipped off the deputies that something was up.
There was a brief firing of guns a few minutes later curbside courthouse, when a big, powerful Buick came up, two men jumping out grabbing at the prisoners to push them into the car. It was such a surprise the deputies did next to nothing but run back to the jail to broadcast the event and then run for their squad cars for a chase.
The Buick had sped off for the high wooden bridge over the Mississippi to Fulton—and then where? There were five men crowded inside. What relationship any had to the prisoners could not be guessed at but some comradeship or serious business existed for such a bold move in broad daylight. The “rescuers,” as the newspapers called them, risked capture and imprisonment, too.
In no time at all the get-away car pulled up short at Holy Corners near Chadwick where, certainly, they’d never expect such a place of confrontation that cold February in 1926.
Although there was heavy gunfire between the two cars of men, only two of the “rescuers” were shot, one mortally, the other having no chance of survival.
Although the “rescuers,” as the “Chadwick Clarion” persisted in labeling them, fired first, the Home Guard immediately fired back a sharp salvo echoing from the hills around.
Hit square in the chest was the first man who’d jumped from the Buick, Henry Markes, as it turned out. The second man horribly shot in the face, the bullets ripping away his jaw. He certainly was near death but when examined in Chadwick, he was pronounced to have an even chance for survival.
Joe Murray, who had been hired as a driver and the two escapees were unscathed as were the five Home Guardsmen. Twenty and more bullet holes riddled the Buick, however. It is shown here.
In the special edition of the “Clarion” its write-up largely gave credit to a Leon Brandt for getting out the word of the gangsters on the loose. Who Leon was, we don’t know nor do we know for certain who the deputies were mentioned in the article either.
Readers must have at the time. The editor didn’t make it clear for us these eighty-six years later. But we do learn of their devotion to duty and willingness to put their lives on the line to protect the residents of the northwest of Illinois.
The following paragraph (printed in part) describes the ‘cross-country drive taken by Deputy Sheriff George Howland in pursuit of the criminals. We can almost visualize the scene taking place down there in hilly Fairhaven Township. And realize how dangerous it was ...
“No one deserves more for sincere endeavor to catch up with the criminals than does Deputy Sheriff George Howland whose only regret was that his one car didn’t lead in the chase. But at Blind Charley where the trail to the east was picked up it was decided that Deputy Howland’s car should proceed north in a circle. However, the car was driven but a short distance when it was learned that the fugitives’ car was going eastward on the road to Howland’s south. Howland turned around being in close in pursuit of a Thomson car and Brandt’s during this chase.
“Howland drove like fury and took long chances going pell mell into ravines, over steep ditches and creek beds, his one purpose being to catch up to the lead car and to close in on the fugitives fleeing from justice.
“He gained ground all the way and had the chase lasted a few miles more, he no doubt would have been in the lead for he, too, had a powerful car which would go as fast as the bandits’ vehicle. The officer was particularly anxious to take an active part in the capture inasmuch as the fugitives had escaped from his custody.
“In addition to those taking part in the pursuit, many farmers and residents of the county where the chase took place aided by blocking the roads after the pursuing cars had passed so that in the vent the escapees car turned around it would find its progress halted on all roads.”
Crowds milled around in town but parted to make way for the Home Guard, the prisoner and the two bodies, applauding loudly all the time as they went into Henry Franks undertaking establishment, its wide surround porch roof a comforting feature of the converted former house now used for somber purposes.
As county coroner, Dr. J.B. Schreiter had been called, he arriving at about the same time as the parties of the “Incident at Holy Corners.” On finding the second man shot was still alive, he treated him and announced an inquest would be held the next day. A jury of six local men was called to rule on the circumstances. They would examine the data, facts of those involved and points of interest.
Harry Williams, the second man shot, enlightened them on many points, he working for Henry Marks, the first man who was killed. Marks was 28 years old, had a restaurant in Chicago and his home address given. Williams was a friend of Marks but did not know the escapees, Fairfield or Redman. Marks wore a diamond ring and an engraved gold watch (HM) and his clothing had similar laundry initials. The new 1926 Buick had been purchased of an auto dealer in St. Louis, Missouri. Williams also claimed that none of them knew anything about the country roads they so hastily passed over but Marks had skillfully maneuvered them with confidence throughout.
Local physician, Dr. A.K. Calkins who had served as lieutenant in the A.E.F. in World War I in Europe and a gun aficionado, reported that he had never seen the likes of the large revolvers used by the criminals. They must have had access to a new, modern armory!
Chadwick, being almost directly east of Savanna and situated on a paved highway would be the route taken back to Clinton, Iowa, following first the gravel/dirt county roads. Deputy Sheriff George Snell, presumably of Clinton County, met the entourage at Thomson to take charge of the two escapees and the driver, Joe Murray. The wounded Williams’ whereabouts wasn’t reported.
Albert Fairfield and John Redman were again in custody of the Iowa police. This time they weren’t so cocky. The games played those few hours before had not proven successful. Would they now heed the judges’ admonishment?
He had urged them to change their ways ... Told them that if seeking penitence while in jail that by reforming they would lead happy, contented lives as lawful citizens ... “Apparently his advice was not taken seriously judging by their action outside the courthouse a few minutes later.” How about this second run-in?
What became of Fairfield, Redman and Murray or Williams, we don’t know. Lengthy research might tell. We do believe that the “Incident by Holy Corners” did live on as a legend for several years, as well it should. By today, all these years later, however, the story has faded into the dim past so we should pay some tribute to all those volunteers plus the Home Guard who stood up to protect their neighbors and secure justice against lawlessness. Salute!
The only small tidbit to complete the story was that the body of Henry Marks was claimed by friends from Chicago who took his remains there for burial.