The Story of Mrs. W. R. Buchan
506 Simpson has an interesting story.
The Mrs. W R Buchan story
December 28, 1924
Clever detective work sends three badly wanted criminals to jail and provides a $500.00 reward for smart thinking.
In 1924, Mrs. J. W. Buchan of 506 Simpson Aver thought she was renting two rooms to a reputable couple but instead she was renting to three of the most wanted criminals in the US and Canada. All three were well known to law Enforcement as murders, bank robbers and prison escapees.
The three wanted men were Hart Austin, Jack Dillon and Henry Laughter. Both the Governor of Arkansas and The Canadian Government was offering $500.00 for the group dead or alive. In addition they were being sought in Texas, Utah, Arkansas and Oklahoma for looting banks and bumping off tellers. While they were in Canada two of them robbed the Royal Bank of Canada located at Mount Forest, Ontario, of $37,000 dollars in Canadian Victory Bonds and $5000.00 in cash. Every law Enforcement officer in two countries was looking for them.
Memphis was well known among criminals as a place you could go underground and hide. Everything was fine for them until they met a very smart, keen-eyed little red headed lady in the supposedly safe city of Memphis.
This event started out simple enough as a man and his wife renting two rooms at the south Memphis bungalow of Mr. and Mrs. J. W Buchan. The couple, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Dillon, was well dressed and articulate and they paid the rent well in advance and there was no reason to believe that they were anything but what they appeared to be. As the weeks rolled on various well-dressed men came by at all hours of the night and she started to get suspicious. One of the well dressed men, Hart Austin, had expensive diamond rings.
One night, Mrs. Buchan overheard the two of them talking about some past crimes. Her inquisitive mind started wondering what this was all about. Her husband was an avid radio enthusiast and had all kinds of radio parts, head phones and other things with the help of a neighbor who was an electrician, she crafted into a listening device where she could be in her attic and listen to them talk about past bank jobs and future jobs they wanted to pull. She even had wire tapped their phone. One morning Mrs. Dillon said they were going for a ride in Mr. Austin’s car and would be back late. This gave Mrs. Buchan time to go in and clean the two rooms. While she was cleaning she just happened to find an automatic pistol, several boxes of cartridges, breaking and entering tools, some of the stolen Canadian Victory bonds and various rolls of money tucked in a pillow case. She also found a torn up letter but was able to piece it together and read where there was a $500.00 reward out for one of them.
The next night she overheard them talking about robbing the South Side Bank located at McLemore and Rayburn (Third) Street. This bank was in the heart of the IC Rail Road Community and it was where her husband had an account and where many of her neighbors banked.
The next morning she took the trolley downtown to the Memphis Police Station and met with Chief of Detectives W. T. Griffin. He showed her several books and she identified the pair of criminals. He sent several detectives down to still watch the house and to take whatever steps necessary to apprehend them. The detectives were to be in place at 4Pm but at 2PM she saw Mr. Dillon enter the home and she knew she had to act. She grabbed her husband’s repeating shotgun and told Mr. Dillon to sit down and raise his hands and don’t budge.
Dillon saw her finger on the trigger and he didn’t move, he later told the media, that in his experience that he didn’t want to even try and move because he knew that red headed women usually meant business.
The Officers didn’t arrive until 2 hours later. Dillon kept his arms up the entire time and they arrested him and were able to capture Mr. Hart Austin at the railroad station as he was trying to skip town. Mrs. Dillon was picked up later. The Governor of Arkansas working with the Canadian Government sent the money to Chief of Detectives Griffin. 5 crisp new$100 dollar bills were given to Mrs. Buchan. She said they would be used to pay off the mortgage on their home.