Flashback Friday Archive 2021-22: Flashback Friday: Week of December 31

2021-12-31 TWIR Image-Secor and Holt

December 30, 1871 – 150 YEARS AGO
Rockland County Journal

      Young lady, as you receive your gentlemen friends on New Year’s Day, think before you offer them the glass of wine; perhaps you may lay the foundation for a life of ruin and cast the bright hopes of a happy fireside.
      The best way to make a house look cheerful and pleasant through the cold winter, is to cultivate plenty of greenhouse plants and flowers.

December 30, 1921 – 100 YEARS AGO
Rockland News

       You will dip up soup with an outward motion, rather than draw it toward you.
       You will drink liquids from the side, not from the end of the spoon.
       You will remember when entertaining that a finger bowl is a necessary adjunct of a fruit course.
       You will dip first one hand then the other in the finger bowl and never immerse both hands at the same time.

       “The telephone operator has more opportunities to spread kindness than any other business girl,” writes H. L. B. of Schenectady. “Many times a subscriber comes to the telephone tired out after a hard day’s work, or in time of illness, sorrow and disappointment. The operator’s courtesy, patience and kindness may help him to win the day, and certainly may cause him to be kinder to the next person with whom he comes in contact.” —Telephone Review

December 29, 1971 – 50 YEARS AGO
Rockland Independent/Leader

PEARL RIVER STUNNED BY AWFUL TRAGEDY OF BANK HOLDUP — James B. Moore and Siegfried Butz Killed — Evidently Fought Intruder Who Got Away but Secured Nothing from Bank
[Image: Mrs. Louise Secor and Mrs. Anne Holt, Pearl River, 1971. Photo by Mitchell Leon.]
       Christmas Day fell on a Sunday in 1921. The Butz family was together in its home on Franklin Avenue in Pearl River: 11-year-old Louise, 21-year-old Anna, recently married to Archie Holt, 19-year-old Siegfried, a bookkeeper at the First National Bank, and their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Butz.
       They still shiver at the thought of a young life, wasted by a robber who knew the young Butz only slightly and had not intended on killing anyone, only on robbing the bank.
       Mrs. Secor was at home with her mother, who happened to pick up the party line telephone. She heard a conversation between people about the robbery at the bank. It was in this way she found that her only son had been killed.
       The mother then called her older daughter, Mrs. Holt, who had been married several months earlier and was expecting her first child.
       The two sisters told the Independent Leader how their father, Walter Butz, found out. Hearing the shots in the bank, a large crowd had gathered outside, among them the dead boy’s father. Only after a few minutes did anyone enter the bank, fearing more shots. “When Dad finally went inside, he found Siegfried slumped on the floor dead. It was a horrible shock, as you can imagine. He rushed home to tell us all, but we already knew,” they said.
       It was lunch hour on that day in 1921 in Pearl River. People bustled along the main street of the town, on their way home for lunch, exchanging greetings and comment about the snowfall of the previous night.
       Together they passed a quiet day and after a family dinner, they went to bed.
       None of the members of the family would have imagined that four days later the family would have dinner, minus brother Siegfried.
       December 29 Siegfried was killed trying to prevent robbery in the bank.
       Today is the 50th anniversary of the event, which could have come straight from the movie “Bonnie and Clyde”—a crime that was described by the founder of the William J. Burns International Detective Agency as “one of the most baffling of my greatest cases.”
       Mrs. Louise Secor and Mrs. Anna Holt still live in Pearl River. They gathered with their families this Christmas, as they have done in the past, but their thoughts lay with their dead brother, killed 50 years ago today.
       James B. Moore, 35, and Siegfried, 19, were employed by the First National Bank, which is now the Empire National Bank. They had stayed behind to clear up some accounts and were alone in the building which stood at the corner of William St. and East Central Avenue.
       Shortly after the noon hour a man entered the bank and approached the cage where the two were occupied. The man was described in an article in the Pearl River Searchlight, the forerunner of the Independent Leader, as “a strange man, apparently a Russian Jew, about thirty years old, of good appearance who has been seen about Pearl River.”
       This man was known as Fernekes, but he had rented safe deposit box in the bank under the name of C. F. Richards. On this day, Richards, asked Butz, who had gotten to know the man fairly well, to get him his safe deposit box, claiming, “I’d like to get into my safe deposit box to get some important papers.”
       After complying with the request, Butz turned his back to Richards and rejoined Moore at the cage. A few instants later, the man they had known as mild-mannered and kind ordered the two to “stick ’em up.”
       They found Richards pointing a German Luger at them and ordering the pair to hand over the money they had been counting. Moore’s first instinct was to reach for a revolver, concealed in the top drawer of his desk, and Butz grabbed a chair and advanced towards Richards. Moore got in one shot, even though he had been wounded by Richards’ first shot. Butz fell dead. Richards fired again at Moore, who slumped dead beside his co-worker, and ran from the bank without any of the money he had come for.
       The fact that Richards was not found immediately afterwards did not deter the sisters from pursuing matter. The Burns’ detective agency was contacted; however, the operative never managed to produce results.
       The sisters’ research revealed that Richards was one one of the aliases used by a man who was also wanted in connection with a bank robbery in the Chicago area. They managed to trace him to the Joliet Penitentiary, where he was a prisoner, but he was never brought to Rockland to stand trial. All the sisters’ efforts were ended when they discovered that he had committed suicide while waiting trial on the previous charge.
       There are very few area residents who have been able to trace the entire history of this incident, but for Mrs. Secor and Mrs. Holt, it is as if it happened today.

This Week in Rockland (#FBF Flashback Friday) is prepared by Clare Sheridan on behalf of the Historical Society of Rockland County. To learn about the HSRC’s mission, upcoming events or programs, visit or call (845) 634-9629.


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