Bank at the Grafton Town House was the site of a daring robbery in 1870


Bank at the Grafton Town House was the site of a daring robbery in 1870
The First National Bank in the Grafton Town House lost every penny of the $185,000 that was in its safe when it was robbed on the night of October 25, 1870. (Photo/ Grafton Historical Society)

GRAFTON – The Grafton Town House building at One Grafton Common has been home to many businesses for almost two centuries.

This building in Grafton has many great stories. Have you ever stood in the location of a historical building and wondered about the things that have happened there?

In the 1800s, this location was known as “The Warren Block,” having been constructed by Captain Jonathan Warren in 1850. Warren ran a shoe manufacturing business in the basement while renting out the remaining spaces to various businesses. One of those businesses included The First National Bank, in the location that was formerly home to Quite Fetching Barkery.

On the night of October 25, 1870, The First National Bank and the people of Grafton would experience a robbery from right under their noses. Ruben Parris, Samuel Perris, Daniel Docherty, Charles Gleason and James Welch notoriously broke into this bank and men stole every penny from the bank’s safe, amounting to $185,000. None of the money would be retrieved, but the men involved in this crime were later found in nearby Worcester. They were arrested and tried in Superior Court before Judge Pitman on June 1, 1871.

The men were believed to be professionals, collaborating together as a team with everyone delegated to a specific duty, including a lookout. The lookout, who was outside of the bank, would inform the men working inside the bank of any trouble by placing a cord under the door. The men were for sure familiar with the area.

Can you guess what their getaway “vehicle” would have been in 1870? Yes, it was a team of horses the men stole from someone named Mr. Farwell of New England Village. The crime was believed to have been deliberate and well planned out. After word of the robbery got out, the town’s people gathered around the bank for most of the day in an attempt to make sense of the crime that had taken place.

The building currently houses businesses such as Townhouse Tavern, Apple Tree Arts, Beatz Dance Studio, Gilmore Builders, and coming soon, Uncommon Café. Quite Fetching Barkery ran a unique custom dog cake bakery and boutique at this location as well. The owners, Emily and Kevin Downey recently moved from the Grafton Town House location after four amazing years serving many grateful dogs in the area. Emily would describe this historical site and the people who ran it as a “community” and a “family.”

Though crime in Grafton was rare, you will from time to time encounter a story like this that is hard to believe. We should thank our local volunteers at our historical societies like the one in Grafton for filing and preserving the stories that could have otherwise been lost in time.

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