The Day They Robbed the Bank at Kensett
The following is from a lengthy article about successful businessman Jim Wiseman which appeared following his death. This excerpt is in response to a request for information about the bank robbery at Kensett. The author was the first president of the White County Historical Society.
By ESTHER SMITH
White County Historical Society 1978 White County Heritage
Jim had a chance to go into the banking business so he quit the candy sales job and moved the family to Kensett… One Sunday morning when they arrived home from church they found their home had been entered and three young men waited for Mr. Wiseman to open the bank vault for them. He persuaded them to wait until the next morning since he could not open the time lock until morning.
All night long they sat huddled in one corner of the room facing the bank robbers’ gun barrels. Once or twice they allowed Ruthie to go into the kitchen and brew some coffee to help them keep awake. The next morning she cooked breakfast, making a new pot of coffee, biscuits, bacon and scrambled eggs. They took their masks off long enough to eat.
As soon as the time locking mechanism would allow entry they forced Jim to take them to the bank and unlock the vault for them. These young robbers took the small amount of money, some checks and notes, and left. This was in the beginning of the Depression and there was not much loose cash, even in those days.
The men were later apprehended on the Wisemans’ description and the checks and notes found with them proved their guilt.
The horror of that night and the thought of what might have happened to his family so shook the banker that he decided he would try to make a living in some safer manner…
Jim was unhappy in the bank since his family had been so endangered and he continually sought other employment. When the post office at Kensett was going to be vacated, he took the postal examination and headed the list. He was appointed the temporary postmaster and served for some time before his friend, Congressman Wilbur D. Mills, found a place for him with the Federal Housing Administration in Little Rock.
(Later, Jim Wiseman would ascend to great prominence in the retail lumber industry as well as civic and church activities.)