Hermansville is a quiet little village tucked in the northwest outskirts of Menominee County. Villagers are proud of their heritage and showcase it at the notable IXL Historical Museum.
Life wasn’t much different for town folks in the 1930s when the Great Depression was unraveling than it was for the rest of America. Love and sharing pulled families through the harsh times.
The community had just celebrated Memorial Day in May 1932 and people lucky enough to have jobs had returned to the lumber mills, fox farms or retail outlets the following day when suddenly the village was turned upside down.
Four gun-toting and neatly-dressed bandits walked into the First National Bank and staged a daylight robbery, escaping with an estimated $5,000 in coins and currency. The robbery had the earmarks of an old-fashioned Western bank heist that you would see in a movie.
Bullets flew, people were bonked on the head, a gunfight erupted between robbers and lawmen, citizens joined in the man-hunt and stories changed before and after the crooks were captured. A couple of the criminals used aliases when first captured thinking they could baffle law enforcement. It turns out they gave false names because they were wanted for murder in other states during a wild crime wave.
Three of the thugs walked into the bank at 10:30 a.m. with revolvers drawn. The fourth watched from the getaway car parked nearby. One of the gunman fired a shot through a bank window to intimidate the three bank employees — Chris Gribble, cashier; George Curran, assistant cashier; and Naomi Allen, bookkeeper. The gangsters did not wear masks.
Gribble was forced into a vault and ordered to open the safe. He said he couldn’t do so because the safe was protected by a time lock until the bank closed. The robber didn’t believe him and threatened to do harm.
A second thief ordered Curran and Allen to lie on the floor while a third scooped up coins and currency from the counter draw-ers, placing the money in a sack.
The robbery was in place when a customer entered. The bandit serving as look-out from the car rushed to the bank and forced him into the vault with Gribble. After taking the loot, one gunman slugged Gribble on the head with his revolver.
The holdup lasted about five minutes. Employees, unable to get a description of the getaway vehicle, sounded the burglar alarm. The criminals fired their weapons through the window of the fleeing vehicle at citizens who picked up their arms at home upon hearing the alarm.
Investigating officers were able to obtain a description of the vehicle and the men from a gas station attendant. The men first cruised the village and filled up the gas tank before heading to the bank. The hoodlums sped away on U.S. 2.
Sheriff Edward J. Reindl, who went on to become the most famous lawman in Menominee County, was in the Hermansville area working on another case when he was notified of the robbery. He alerted area police agencies and the manhunt was set in motion.
Two bandits were captured within hours at a bridge in Niagara. They had $2,373 in cash with them. Each carried a .45 caliber revolver. They told Reindl the rest of the stolen loot was with the other two suspects. The criminals divided the money after ditching the getaway vehicle and separating in pairs.
Villagers cheered the sheriff and his deputies when they brought the two captured bandits to the bank to be identified by employees. They gave their names as John Dahl, 20, of Seattle, Wash.; and Frank Jacobinski, 18, formerly of Amasa, Mich. The latter told officers he had once worked in Hermansville. Dahl turned out to be an alias.
Police had difficulty locating the getaway car because the thieves weren’t familiar with the region. They did say the vehicle was stolen in Minneapolis.
Police were able to trace the crime route of the suspects which began in Minnesota, moved to Wisconsin and then Hermansville. When the stolen auto was finally located between Niagara and Pembine in Marinette County, deputies found license plates from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois.
A third bandit was nabbed in the Niagara area after a brief gunfight with officers. He was identified as Russell Dahl, 21, brother of John.
Reindl; his brother, John, a deputy; and a state trooper were working railroad tracks adjacent a wide swampland when they spotted two men walking on the tracks. The gunbattle broke out when officers surprised the two men. Dahl had emptied his two revolvers before Sheriff Reindl dropped him with a rifle butt to the head.
The suspect accompanying Dahl escaped in the swamp area. He was identified as John Jacobinski, 25, older brother of Frank who was caught earlier. Fifty lawmen were now involved in the manhunt that went on for days.
The sheriff initially theorized that John Jacobinski probably died in the swamp after being wounded in the arm during the shootout. The fourth burglar, however, was later captured.
The two Dahl brothers were later identified as Edward Kunasiewicz, 19, and Rudolph Kunasiewicz, 18. The brothers were suspects in two killings, one in Wisconsin and the other in Minnesota. All four suspects were allegedly involved in a series of robberies from Minnesota to Michigan.
The justice system moved more swiftly in the 1930s. The Kunasiewicz brothers and Frank Jacobinski were hustled before Menominee Justice of the Peace Joseph Bottkol for a preliminary hearing. The three were bound over to Menominee County Circuit Court. Judge Frank A. Bell of Negaunee presided.
On June 8, about a week after the daring robbery, Judge Bell sentenced each defendant to 15 to 30 years at the state branch prison in Marquette. The criminals showed no emotion at their sentencing.
The mother of the Kunasiewicz brothers, and a younger son, 15, appeared at the trial and sentence. She prayed for mercy during the hearing.
Minnesota and Wisconsin authorities continued their investigations of the four convicts. Murder, bank robberies, car thefts and other burglaries were in their line of questioning.
The Village of Hermansville was able to return to its daily routine as a peaceful and hardworking community.