The two kidnapped women were fortunate, indeed. In the front seat were two armed men and the stolen Packard was speeding toward the Dresden/Wiscasset line at 90 mph. Ahead of them were two police officers from Bath, who opened fire at the car. The women dove onto the floor and remained unharmed. Later, the robbers turned onto an old mill road in Wiscasset and set Mrs. Harriet Johnson and Mrs. Francis T. Berry free. They even gave them $5 to get back home to Gardiner, where they had been forced into the car at gunpoint.

Zac McDorr is the founder of the Bath Maine History Center on Facebook.You can reach him at [email protected]

The car continued on. Nearing the Carlton Bridge, it sideswiped a car from New Jersey. Then it blasted past the toll booth on the Woolwich side, with the waiting police officer inside diving for his life. Another officer at the Bath end drew his gun, but was afraid to fire and possibly hit a bystander. The car peeled onto Washington Street on two tires and headed north.

According to “The People’s History of Bath, 1936-1990,” the year was 1938, and the men were Alfred Labonte, 19, and Andrew Gallagher, 31. The pair had stolen the car in Bangor and headed for Bath. It was found abandoned at the foot of Drummond Street, and a manhunt began. Many police came to Bath to join in, armed with military rifles from the armory. The order was given to shoot anybody who refused to halt. It’s amazing nobody was killed. The north end of Bath was full of old abandoned shipyards, which were scoured, along with the woods. No sign of the criminals could be found. An abandoned Sewell Mansion was found to have a broken window and it was searched unsuccessfully. To add to the fun, a couple of kids in an old Ford were driving around town with a bad muffler and calls of gunfire flooded the police station.

Bath’s finest never did manage to find the two men. It must have been an embarrassment when the truth of their whereabouts was discovered. After abandoning the car, it seems, Labonte and Gallagher simply walked back down Washington Street to a coffee shop downtown and ordered egg sandwiches. Then they hailed a taxi to Brunswick and made their way out of state. Eventually, they came back to Bangor, where they were recognized and arrested.

It took a while for this to be discovered. Three weeks after the police chase, another incident happened that seemed connected. Ralph Legard, of Legard’s Taxi, picked up two men who wanted a ride to Brunswick. As he reached the intersection of North and Lincoln Streets, one of the men pulled a gun and put it to his head. They forced him to get into the passenger seat and give them directions to Freeport. Somewhere around the Brunswick/Freeport line, they ordered Legard out of the car and told him to remove his coat and pants, promising to leave them on the side of the road up ahead. Legard did remove his pants, losing $5 in silver coins, but he managed to sneakily drop his wallet in the process and kick it to the side of the road. He begged to keep the jacket because it was cold and the robbers kindly left him with it. He would never see his pants again.

While some believed the taxi thieves to be the same men who stole the earlier Packard, they turned out to be Clyde Shuman, 19, of Cleveland, Ohio, and Prescott A Crellman, 20, of New Hampshire. They were captured in Keene, New Hampshire, some time later. They were still driving the stolen taxi, which was somewhat worse for wear. Legard traveled to New Hampshire and brought it home with an extra 700 miles on the odometer.

Bath was certainly a dangerous place to live back in the gangster era.

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