They only wanted some change.
The streets of Cisco, Texas, must have been a slushy mix of snow and mud on February 15, 1888, when a member of the Bill Whitley outlaw gang (sometimes called the Brack Cornett gang) walked into the Bank of Cisco just before closing and approached the cashier, C.C. Leveaux, innocently asking for some change. According to an article published the following day in the New York Times, before the cashier had a chance to respond, three other men walked into the bank, and “one of them thrust the muzzle of a pistol in Leveaux’s face and told him that was the kind of change he wanted.”
When the Bill Whitley gang robbed the bank at Cisco, the band of roughly 12 men already had a string of robberies behind them. Robbery for the greedy gang had become as natural as pulling on their dusty leather boots. In June of 1887, the gang had robbed a train near Flatonia, escaping with $1,200 in cash and $1,000 in watches and jewelry, most of which they took from the passengers. One newspaper account reported this heist as being much larger—about $14,000 in money, in addition to the valuables. The same newspaper reported that the gang robbed a train about a month later near the same location (closer to Flatonia), this time making away with $35,000.
Back to the Cisco holdup, while three of the robbers held the cashier, the treasurer and another man at bay, a third looted the safe and money drawer of $9,000 (some accounts have it lower or much higher) in gold and silver coins and bank notes, plus a gold watch and other valuables. The bandits then forced the three hostages out the back door, over a tall fence and into an alley, while the robbers climbed the opposite fence and hopped into a getaway wagon, which, it must be assumed, took them to where their horses were tied a short distance away.
According to the February 16, 1888, New York Times article:
The robbers, when about 200 yards from the bank, drew their pistols, fired several shots, held up their bags of money, and shook them at the people. In five minutes Marshal J. T. Thomas and several citizens were on the trail. The robbers went in a northwesterly direction.
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This would put their initial route of escape toward the area of present-day Lake Cisco, which is located on Sandy Creek about 5 miles north of Cisco, where one author has speculated that the money was divvied up and hidden; however, we will see in the next installment of this series that this account doesn’t quite match the reported facts, which are admittedly scant, according to the contemporary newspaper account of the robbery.