Here is a photo of my husband John’s Great-Grandpa, Lewis Conley who was born on this day in 1860 in Waterloo, Randolph, Illinois. Below is an interesting story from his life.
Transcribed from Denver Post, September 23, 1904, Page 9, upper left column:
HIS LIFE SAVED BY BIG HAT
Felt Pads in Lewis Conley’s Headgear Stopped Bullet.
HE RAN FROM ROBBER’S WEAPON
Hold-up on Vacant Lot on Twenty-third and Humboldt streets–Narrow Escape from Death With Only Slight Scalp Wound.
Lewis Conley, a photographer, of 2250[?] Franklin Street, owes his life to wearing a hat that was too large for his head. On the way home from the Democratic Club Wednesday night Conley was held up while crossing a vacant lot at Twenty-third avenue and Humboldt street. The sombre appearance of the highwayman’s gun made Conley run, and as he sprinted he dodged from side to side, hoping to miss the bullets.
The first one went wild, but the second struck his hat on the right side, just over the ear. Beneath the sweatband, Conley had placed two thicknesses of felt pads to make his headgear fit more snugly. Those pads probably saved his life. The bullet ripped the hat open and was deflected by the felt padding, assisted by Conley fortunate selection of direction in which he was dodging at that instant.
The force of the bullet tore the skin from the scalp for a distance of two inches and raised a big lump. Otherwise, Conley’s experience was made up of a bad scare.
“It was 10:30 o’clock,” said Conley, and I was making a short cut to my rear door, when a negro and white man who had been following me for several blocks came through the alley, intercepting me as I crossed the lot.
“One asked me to direct him to some house, and while I was endeavoring to do so, the negro stuck a pistol in my face.
” ‘Now we’ve got you. Stick up your hands and be quick,’ he shouted.
“That gun looked awfully cheerless to me, and at first I thought to argue with them the lack of good taste displayed. I told them I didn’t see any use of them holding me up as I didn’t have much money. Suddenly the notion came to me to make a run for it.
“I broke and kept dodging my head from left to right, thinking to confuse the fellow’s aim. When the bullet struck I did not know how badly I had been hurt. On reaching home I applied peroxide, cleansing the wound thoroughly. Then I realized for the first time the narrow escape I had.”
Mr. Conley has put his lucky hat away to keep as a souvenier. Several neighbors say they noticed the two men following Conley for several blocks, but the victim did not have any suspicions until he saw the pistol. He thinks it was a plain hold-up attempt, as he knows of no enemies in the world who might have tried to take his life.