The Hoosier Hoodlum

What would make a notorious gangster want to come to a small county pocketed in Northeast Indiana? A Tommy-wheeling gangster so famous that he was deemed “Public Enemy #1”. His crime sprees made him such a celebrity that an Indianapolis lottery betting on when he would be captured was so popular that it had to be shut down. While most robbers steered clear of the lawmen, Dillinger seemed to be fearless, facing the law with guns slinging.

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No one knows the exact answer as to what attracted Dillinger to Northeast Indiana but we do know that he did leave his mark in DeKalb County. On October 14, 1933 his gang made a raid at the Auburn City Hall. They held up two officers and made away with about one thousand dollars’ worth of weapons and ammunition as well as a machine gun.

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It’s even rumored that his gang robbed the Farmer’s State Bank in Hudson, Indiana which was the former restaurant called “Gangster’s Grill”. The restaurant was notorious for its Dillinger memorabilia, original teller window and vault display. Dillinger was incarcerated at the time the bank was robbed so his presence at the bank is folklore but the story is interesting nonetheless. Unfortunately the Gangster’s Grille restaurant closed its doors this summer but the original building is still standing.

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In 1934, John Dillinger was shot and killed in Chicago. When the police searched his apartment after his death, they found maps of DeKalb County showing the location of Auburn City Hall and all county banks. Dillinger is buried in his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana at the Crown Hill Cemetery.

In 2014, the FBI returned a stolen Thompson submachine gun that was taken during the 1933 raid to the Auburn Police Department. That same gun is now on display at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. His 1933 Essex Terraplane car was also on loan from the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington D.C. from June 2015 to December 2016 at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.

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We will never know what attracted John Dillinger to DeKalb County but he sure did leave behind an interesting story.

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To read more about Dillinger’s heyday in DeKalb County, check out the Genealogy Center’s resources such as John Martin Smith’s three-volume set history on DeKalb County from 1837-1987.

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This is a painting of the Biograph Theater where John Dillinger was shot by the FBI in Chicago in 1934. The theater is on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a Chicago Landmark.

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About Visit DeKalb County

Welcome to the official blog of the DeKalb County Visitors Bureau. Nestled in the North East Corner of Indiana are ten communities that all share a common bond. And that bond is DeKalb County. Our job at the DeKalb County Visitors Bureau is to showcase all of the experiences the county has to offer and one of the many ways we do that is by blogging. Each of our blogs tells a different story of DeKalb County and we hope that by sharing these stories and events it will encourage people from all over the world to visit the place we call home.
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