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Back to the North Wood column: Mystery speculation greater than the truth

9:58 AM, Dec. 31, 2012  |  Comments
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On Jan. 1, 1901, most of the New Year's revelers from the night before were home, sleeping off the effects of ringing in the new year, none the wiser to what was happening right downtown.

It was Jan. 2 when the mystery first came to light, and by the end of the day, the whole town was talking about what happened and what it meant.

Not to take anything away from the police of that time, but one would have thought officers on foot patrol would have noticed something amiss. Perhaps keeping the folks who had been partying on the best path home took up all their time.

Many people heard what happened by word of mouth, but others relied upon the Marshfield Times to keep them abreast of what was transpiring in the bustling little city of Marshfield.

When the office staff of the First National Bank arrived at work on Wednesday, Jan. 2, they were surprised, not to say a bit alarmed, to find that an auger hole an inch in diameter had been bored through the front of the bank, just beneath the glass window.

Whomever the culprit was, he made no attempt to conceal what he had done, leaving shavings on the sill.

The best scenario anyone could come up with was that it was an ill-conceived, hair-brained attempt to rob the bank, by someone stupid enough or inebriated enough to think that entering the lobby of the bank would afford him access to the money safely stashed away in the vault.

Late in the day, the truth was revealed, and the story lost all its romantic mystique. It seems that the Wright Manufacturing Co. previously had been engaged to replace the old front of the bank building. and on New Year's Day with few people on the streets, a Wright employee John Penning was on site to take the measurements for the new work. In order to get the thickness of the lower part of the sash, it was necessary to bore through, and this was the cause of the auger hole.

In an attempt to make the tale even more humorous, the Times wrapped up the story by saying "(A)ll of which shows what a great mystery may come out of a small hole."

Personally, I wish the Times had waited at least a week before giving the explanation, just to see what the minds of the townsfolk and the police force might have come up with because of their wild speculations. It could have made for even more interesting reading.

Happy New Year 2013 to all my loyal News-Herald Media readers - and please stay away from the bank today. It really is closed!

Rhonda Whetstone is a columnist for News-Herald Media, Stevens Point Journal Media and Daily Tribune Media. Rhonda's Twitter ID is TribRendezvous if you wish to follow her musings there. You also can get previews of upcoming columns by clicking "Like" on Back to the North Wood on Facebook. If you have story ideas of a historical nature, email her at Rhonda.Whetstone@gmail.com.

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