Chicago Tribune, November 28, 1934
Herman E. Hollis, special agent for the federal department of justice, was killed and his companion, Inspector Samuel P. Cowley, was fatally wounded yesterday in a machine gun battle with George (Baby Face) Nelson, who has been known since the death of John Dillinger as Public Enemy No. 1.
The battle took place on the Northwest highway in the north outskirts of Barrington after the two government men had overhauled a fleeing car containing Nelson, another man, and a woman. The scene is thirty-five miles northwest of the loop.
Both Leave Families.
Hollis, who was killed outright, was 28 years old. His widow and a son, 4 years old, who survive him, live at the Sherone Apartment hotel, 4423 Sheridan road.
Cowley, who was 35 years old, died at 2:20 this morning, ten hours after the shooting, in the Sherman hospital at Elgin. He, too, was married and had two small children. His home was at 20 East Delaware place.
Both Cowley and Hollis were accounted excellent investigators and for this reason had been assigned to the dangerous pursuit of Baby Face Nelson, former lieutenant of Dillinger.
They had been hot on the trail of Nelson since the slaying by federal agents of Dillinger and Charles (Pretty Boy) Floyd. Cowley was in at the death of Dillinger and is believed to have fired the shots that killed the desperado.
Police Mobilize for Hunt.
Last night the police of the metropolitan area were mobilized in the search for Nelson and his companions. Two alleged associates of the gangster were arrested. Orders were received from Washington to shoot Nelson on sight.
Because of a censorship put on all official information little could be learned of the events which preceded the battle.
Identification of Nelson as one of the gunmen was announced from Washington, however, by Assistant Attorney General William Stanley on information received from Melvin Purvis, Chi- cago chief of the investigation division of the justice department.
Nelson was also partly identified by one of the eight persons who saw the fight. Most of the witnesses were in three gasoline stations fronting on the Northwest highway west of Hough street in Barrington.
Sight Gangsters’ Auto.
From various sources it was indicated that Cowley and Hollis, riding in a high powered automobile, sighted Nelson, the second gunman, and a blonde woman driving toward Chicago on the highway northwest of Barrington. Apparently two agents in another car had passed the Nelson car ten minutes before without recognizing the occupants.
Shortly after 4 o clock Nelson’s car, a Ford V-8 sedan, was seen speeding east in the highway, closely pursued by Cowley and Hollis, with Hollis at the wheel of the federal automobile. The occupants of the cars were exchanging shots.
Apparently it was a shot by one of the federal men, disabling the gasoline pump of the gangsters’ car, which ended the chase and brought on the battle.
The action at this point was described by Mrs. Frances Kramer, operator of the Barrington service station, about 1,000 feet west of Hough street. Northwest highway at this point runs cast and west
Mrs. Kramer, her son Harold, 21 years old, and an unidentified motorist witnessed the shooting from the gasoline station. She told first of the approach of the chase from the west.
Story of Woman Witness.
Mrs. Kramer, relating her story to Chief of Police E. W. Baade of Barrington, said:
We could hear the roar of the motors and then shots as the government men fired at the gangsters’ car. Some one in the gang car fired back.
Just before they reached my station the federal car pulled abreast of the other. We heard the tires on the gang car screech as the driver swung sharply into a little side road about 200 feet past the station. (This road is the entrance to Barrington’s North Side park and is about 100 feet west of Hough street.)
The agents’ car swerved, too, and Hollis managed to pull up at the side of Northwest highway just beyond the side road.
A woman got out of the gang car which had slipped half into a ditch. She ran down the side road a few yards and then threw herself flat in the ditch. The two gunmen jumped out at the same time and faced the federal car with machine guns. They started fir- ing as the two agents got out.
Both Federal Men Downed.
Both sides used their automobiles as shields at first. Then one of the agents-Cowley, it was, I learned later—fell backwards into the ditch. The other—Hollis—darted behind a telephone pole. He dropped a few minutes later.
While bullets peppered the outside of her brick filling station and one pierced her son’s car. Mrs. Kramer telephoned Chief Baade.
Meanwhile developments of the gunfight were being watched by other witnesses.
Robert Hayford, 25 years old, 205 North Cook street, Barrington, who was at work in the town’s park, said that one of the gangsters (from a description apparently Nelson’s companion) was shot in one leg. With difficulty the man regained his feet just as the federal agents’ fire was halted, Hayford said.
Gang Takes Agents’ Car.
The other gunman—Nelson—walked over to Hollis, looked at him, and then signed to his companion indicating the agent was dead. Then the wounded gunner clambered behind the wheel of the government car.
Nelson called to the woman, who got up from the ditch and also entered the agents’ automobile. Nelson put in the two gang machine guns used in the fight. Then he got two more machine guns, four rifles, and a quantity of ammunition from his own car and put all that into the agents’ machine. He got in himself, abandoning his own automobile, and the car started back west, moving slowly, Hayford said.
Harry E. Cooper, whose filling station is almost opposite the park road, also watched the closing minutes of the gun fight. To the east of him is the third station, on the northwest corner of Hough street and the Northwest highway.
Federal Agents Cowley and Hollis encounter Nelson’s auto northwest of Barrington and chase it eastward on Northwest highway. In town of Barrington the government agents (1) overtake bandit car (2) exchanging shots as they speed along. The bandits’ car, with damaged feed pump, is forced off main highway (3) into entrance road of North Side Barring- ton park. Agents’ car comes to stop (4); battleground where Hollis is slain and Cowley wounded (5); bandits seize agents’ car and escape westward (6); when P. W. Sherman, driving eastward, hears shooting (7), he stops his car and runs across field. He is fired upon by agents as they pass. At right is map showing location of Barrington in relation to Chicago.
State Policeman Sees Fight.
Inside this third station were Alfred Trestik, the attendant, and William Gallagher, 25 years old, a state highway policeman, off duty. Trestik lay flat on the floor, but peered through an open door at the battle.
Gallagher, who was unarmed, asked Trestik for a gun. The attendant handed him a rifle. but the gangsters had headed west as Gallagher opened fire. He did not hit them.
Meanwhile the eighth witness to the shooting was hiding in the loam of a nearby field, where he took refuge after nearly becoming a victim. He is P. W. Sherman, 4526 North Spaulding avenue. Driving toward Cary, he aproached the federal and gang automobiles as they neared the end of the chase.
I heard a lot of cracking noises. It took me half a second to discover it was gunfire. I jammed on the brakes, backed my car right into a field, jumped out and ran like hell.
There was a burst of shots at me and I flopped down in the mud. I hardly know what happened. I got up and ran to get farther away and somebody shot at me again.
Sherman apparently was fired on by the federal agents, who mistook him for a member of Nelson’s gang when he ran into the field. Sherman said he had a good view of the occupants of Nelson’s car. The woman was a blonde, he said. Asked if he thought one of the men was “Baby Face” Nelson, Sherman said:
I’d have to see a picture of Nelson again to make sure, hut he certainly resembled the fellow I’ve seen in newspaper pictures. I haven’t seen any photos for some time.
My Partner First, Says Cowiley.
Policeman Gallagher was the first to reach the side of Inspector Cowley and Agent Hollis. Cowley whispered:
I’m a federal officer. Help me but take care of my partner first.
Gallagher pulled back their coats and saw the federal badges, He took a machine gun from Cowley’s hands and laid it beside the shotgun Hollis had been holding, then ran to get help.
Roy Wilmering, a Barrington undertaker, brought his ambulance and took Hollis to the emergency hospital in Barrington. There physicians tried in vain to revive him with a heart stimulant.
He had been shot in the left side, back, and base of the skull.
Edward Tubin, 31 years old, vice president of the Elgin Glass company, who was riding past, drove the wounded Cowley to the hospital in Elgin, 14 miles away.
En route Tubin tried to converse with the inspector. Cowley asked to have his wife notified. Tubin inquired if there was anything Cowley wanted to say or write, but the inspector said he was too weak.
Shot Through the Body.
At the hospital it was found that a machine gun bullet had passed through Cowley’s abdomen. Dr. Morgan L. Carpenter of Elgin operated, assisted by Dr. K. L. Fish of Barrington, who had accompanied Cowley to the hospital.
Cowley’s wife and one of their children, a 4 month old baby, arrived at the hospital and were given a room there for the night. Mrs. Cowley was at her husband’s side when he died. Melvin Purvis also hurried to see Cowley as soon as word of the gun fight was received.
Putvis revealed that be had been on the point of accompanying Cowley and the other agents in the search for Nelson during the afternoon. He said the agents were sent out on information that Nelson’s car had been seen northwest of Barrington. Another matter came up and he had to remain at his office, Purvis said.
“I am reasonably sure that Nelson and a confederate were the men in the fight, but I don’t know, and I have no details of the chase leading up to the shooting,” Purvis said. “Also, I do not know where the other agents were at the time.”
This last remark apparently referred to two agents who appeared at the Barrington hospital after Hollis, was taken there. They refused to give their names, but from telephone conversations they were identified ay John Medallie and another agent named La France.
When informed of the license number of the car Nelson used in the chase Medallie was quoted as saying “Good God, we must have passed that car ten minutes before the shooting.”
Back at the scene of the battle Sherif Lester Tiffany of Lake county found Nelson’s car shot through and through. One bullet had punctured the rear window, another was in the gasoline tank, a third in the radiator which had boiled over, and two had pierced the top of the car on the left aide.
Inside the car Sherif Tiffany found a machine gun and other articles, indicating the gang was either planning a long trip or was preparing to stock up one of its hideouts.
There were three suitcases containing men’s clothing, battered men’s hats, several boxes of goods, several tins of motor oil, two brief cases, one containing shells and machine gun drums, and six sets of license plates from as many states.
One of these was for Wisconsin, where Nelson was last reported early this month in a north woods hiding place.
Sherif Tiffany revealed that Cowley and a crew of picked agents had been in Lake counties Us well as throughout Wisconsin for the last two months, seeking Nelson.
Photo-diagram of Northwest highway in Barrington at entrance to park, the scene of shooting. The cars are posed in the positions occupied by the federal agents and “Baby Face” Nelson during the battle.
Chicago Police Join Hunt.
Last night s search for Nelson and his companions of the gun battle was joined by five squads from the Chicago detective bureau, who accompanied federal agents on a number of raids. The government men were reported to have identified the gunman with Nelson—the man said to have been wounded—as a gangster named “Leo.”
Seven of the places reported visited by the raiders were on the north side. Others were said to be in Berwyn and other western suburbs. At 11 o’clock two men were arrested and taken to the office of the department of justice for questioning. They are Chester Leader, garage owner at 2556 Division street, and Lester Van Huston, saloon-keeper at 152 South Crawford avenue. Both are associates of Nelson, police charged.
The deaths of Hollis and Cowley raise to three the number of federal agents believed to have been Nelson. He is alleged to have killed Agent W. Carter Baum last April 22 when the Dillinger gang broke out of a federal trap at the Little Bohemia inu on Spider lake, near Mercer, Wis.
Both College Graduates.
Both Cowley and Hollis were university graduates and lawyers.
Cowley, whose former home was Logan, Utah, was a graduate of the Utah State Agricultural college and the law school of George Washington university. He entered the service of the department of justice five years ago. Later he was assigned to the Chicago area for the Dillinger hunt, remaining here to track down other members of the gang.
Hollis was born In Des Moines, Ia. In 1927, after his graduation from Georgetown university, he married Miss Genevieve Glenn of Council Bluffs, Ia., and entered the government service. The couple celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary last Saturday.
In the department of justice Hollis first had charge of investigations in the Oklahoma district. Later assigned to head the Detroit bureau of investigation, he broke up the notorious Purple gang.
Active in Dirigible Quiz.
Several ago he went to Akron, 0., when the ill-fated dirigible Akron vas under construction and gathered evidence which convicted a workman or conspiracy with a foreign power to destroy the craft. Later he was shifted to Chicago.
Deputy Coroner John J. Butler of Cook county ordered Hollis’ body taken to undertaking rooms at 5811 Broadway where an inquest will be held this morning at 11 o’clock. The county line runs through the center of Barrington. The shooting occurred on the Lake county side, but the hospital where Hollis was finally pronounced dead is on the Cook county side.
Police examine Nelson’s body on a mortuary slab in Niles Center, Illinois. The dark-colored rag around his waist is actually the white bed sheet Helen tied around him, now soaked with his blood.
Excerpted from Chicago Tribune November 29, 1934
George (Baby Face) Nelson is dead. The unclad body of the 25 year-old gangster, who since the slaying of John Dillinger has been the nation’s No. 1 public enemy, was found yesterday at Niles and Long avenues in Niles Center. It lay wrapped only in a blanket, on a parkway before the entrance to St. Paul’s Lutheran cometary.
Nelson died of nine bullet wounds in the legs and body. The wounds were received Tuesday afternoon in a machine gun battle with Inspector Samuel P. Cowley and Special Agent Herman E. Hollis of the United States department of justice, sho for months had been on the trail of Nelson, a former lieutenant of Dillinger.
A plaque at the Barrington Park District in Barrington, Illinois commemorates the site of the Battle of Barrington.