Ethel and Harry McClellan lived in Detroit before the 1929 Stock Market crash and times were good. Harry worked for Chrysler as general superintendent of all the Chrysler plants and they owned an apartment building in Detroit. Ethel and Harry were my husband’s grandparents.
Harry & Ethel McClellan
New Castle, Indiana, about 1909
Ethel was a lady who was filled with fun, good spirit, and not afraid to speak her mind. On the afternoon of February 4th 1929, on her way to a church function, Ethel stopped at her bank to deposit rent checks. Upon leaving the bank and getting into her car (a 1927 Chrysler Imperial) she was accosted by two men at gunpoint who she described as well dressed, dark complected, spoke English and Italian, and were carrying a large package. They forced her to drive them to Chicago. While the men spoke roughly to Ethel, they did her no physical harm. Though, during the ride, the men made quick work of the freshly baked cookies she had made for her church meeting!
1927 Chrysler Imperial
Harry, worried that he’d not heard from Ethel by 9:30 that night, contacted the Detroit Police and notified them of her disappearance.
Headline from Detroit Newspaper, 1929
Arriving in Chicago late in the evening, the men had Ethel drop them off at the Grove Auto Company Garage where they were met by a tall, slim, and well-dressed man. The three men got into another car and drove away.
Ethel notified the Chicago Police and then called her husband Harry and told him that she had been kidnapped by “bandits”. Fortunately they had friends in town that she was able to stay overnight with. The next day Harry took the train to Chicago and they drove home together.
A portion of the article that appeared in a Detroit Newspaper on the Kidnapping
Upon safely arriving back in Detroit, Ethel and Harry recounted the harrowing story to stunned family and friends who were obviously so grateful she was ok! The question was, who on earth were these men? It obviously had nothing to do with Ethel and everything to do with safe transportation. Perhaps they’d never know exactly who or why.
The infamous Chicago St. Valentines Day Massacre took place ten days later on February 14th, 1929.
Some points of interest:
- Al Capone’s rival, Bugs Moran, was hijacking Capone’s liquor shipments from Detroit’s Purple Gang who were the liquor suppliers to Capone’s “Outfit”.
- Two members of the “Purples” were identified as renting a room in a rooming house across the street from the Massacre site 10 days prior to it happening.
- Two Thompson Sub-Machine guns were discovered in Michigan. Ballistics experts identified them as being used in the Massacre as well as the murder of New York mob boss Frankie Yale in 1928. Yale was killed by “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn who was reportedly one of the Massacre’s planners.
- Perhaps the large package that Ethel noticed contain the two Thompson Sub-Machine guns?
Were Ethel’s “Bandits” actual hit men or merely delivery boys? Whatever the case, it was a scary situation for Ethel!
Twenty-five years later, on a warm summer evening, it was a wonderful story for Ethel to tell her grandson. And on another warm summer evening, he’ll be able to tell the tale to HIS grandson.