The Janesville Daily Gazette carried a story on Tuesday August 24, 1915 that was titled “Oshkosh Dentists Burglars’ Victims”. The article discussed how Dr. George A. Gehbe had been robbed of $270 worth of gold and gold crowns, Dr. George A. Stratton had five dollars worth of scrap gold taken and a Dr. Rollin Harrison had $4.40 worth of stamps stolen from his dental office. The writer went on to say that other attempts on Dr. George E. Finney and six other dentists were “unavailing” but did not say how they came about this knowledge.
The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern ran a story on Monday August 23, 1915 about the same events but said only that at least two dental offices had been broken into on Main Street on Saturday or Sunday night. The gold, scrap metal and completed work stolen from Dr. Gehbe’s office, at 125 Main St. was listed at being valued between $200 – $300. Forty cents worth of stamps and $4.00 in gold was said to have been taken from Dr. Rollin Harrison’s office on Saturday night. This news story said that several dental offices in the F.R.A. Building had been broken into on Saturday night but the thieves were unsuccessful at getting inside the safes or other places where the gold was stored. The police had no idea who the burglars were at the time but they had been hitting dental offices in the area and other cities as well. In July of 1920 the same type of robbery occurred at a dental office in Hartford, Wisconsin.
There was a bowling team in Oskkosh made up of dentists, that included the Dr. Finney mentioned in the Janesville news story about the burglaries. They dentists bowled every Saturday night. A banquet that following the bowling tournament was paid for by the losing team of dentists which happened to be the dentist bowling team from Appleton in April of 1915. They bowled on Saturday nights and the dental office burglaries were reported as happening on a Saturday or Sunday night in August of 1915. Having the whereabouts of dentists in town published in the newspaper probably made it much easier for the thieves to enter the dental offices. This would be akin to posting that your family will be out of town on vacation for a while on Facebook or other social media today. They were very easy targets for a burglary.
In October of 1915 elections were held for the Oshkosh Dental Society. The newspaper specifically said it was a men’s meeting. Dentist George A. Gehbe was elected Vice-President of the Society and Dr. C.C. Finney was elected to the Board of Censorship for three years, which means he was in charge of the programs for the meetings. The Oshkosh Dental Society usually met the first Wednesday of every month back in 1915 and this was also published in the newspaper. Even though the burglar probably read the paper and knew the whereabouts of many of the dentists in town this did not change their behavior. They still listed meeting times in the local paper.
On Saturday January 2, 1915 the Oshkosh Northwestern published the names of all corporations and individuals that owed income and property tax and the exact amount they owed in the newspaper. The list was quite long and G.A. Stratton was on the list and owed what appeared to be $8.22. Although it was said that he reported $5.00 worth of scrap gold in the Janesville paper, Stratton was not mentioned as having anything missing in the Oshkosh newspaper. Prospective burglars could figure out how much Stratton was worth by how much taxes he owed because they were published in the local paper.
Dentist George Albert Gehbe registered for the draft and his card says he was born on June 22, 1877 in the U.S. He had blue eyes, black hair and was of medium height and medium build. These draft cards were filled out between 1917-18 and at that time Gehbe lived at 22 Winnebago in Oshkosh. In the publication called Dental Summary, Vol 24, Jan 1904, had a personal note in it about Dr. G.A. Gehbe of Oshkosh marrying Miss Rose Learie. Their marriage license gives the wedding date as Feb 9, 1904 in Winnebago Co, WI. George was the son of Frank and Anna (Kinny) Gebhe and was born in Maple Grove, WI. His wife Rose appears on the 1905 and 1910 censuses of Oshkosh, WI. A daughter named Genevieve Gehbe, age 4, was on the 1910 census with them. Gehbe’s daughter, Genevieve Ann Gehbe, was living with him in his apartment when he died in Oshkosh in 1930, according to the very detailed account of his death in the Oshkosh newspaper. He and his wife Rose had separated from him years earlier. Dr George Gehbe died of a heart attack and had been in ill health for a while before his death. The story of his death also stated that George Gehbe had been a fight promoter and had held a well-known match at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds and that he was active in Republican politics. George’s brother, dentist Frank Gehbe, of Manitowoc was very interested in politics as well and was paid at least $400 for his work going through Manitowoc and “interesting voters in the candidate” on the Stephenson campaign as stated in a Congressional Digest from 1911-1912.
The Dental Cosmos, Volume 54, noted that Dr. Rollin Harrison, of Wisconsin, had graduated from the State University of Iowa, College of Dentistry on June 12, 1912. Harrison had only been out of dental school for three years when his office was robbed in 1915 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.. The Iowa Alumnus, Vol. 9, wrote that when he graduated in 1912 he had been from Augusta, Wisconsin. In the 1920 Iowa Dental Bulletin dentist Rollin Harrison was said to be practicing in Zearing, Iowa.. A draft registration card filled out from 1917-18 states that a Rollin Harrison was born on July 11, 1877 and was living in Zearing, Story Co., Iowa. The card says he was white and born in the U.S. The military draft card also stated that he had brown hair, brown eyes and was of medium build and was medium height. Harrison must have moved to Iowa fairly soon after his dental office was robbed. In 1880, two year old Rollin Harrison was listed in the household of James and Matilda Harrison in Woodland, Sauk Co., Wisconsin. His tombstone in Zearinng, Iowa has his name etched in stone as being J. Rollin Harrison b. 1877 d. 1958. His first wife, Frances Rice Harrison, died in 1917 and he had three children with her. There was a second wife named Anna Barnard and Harrison had a child named Aix Harrison (b. 1925) with the second wife.
Oshkosh dentist George Allen Stratton was born on June 1, 1882, according to his 1917-18 draft card. When the card was filled out he was living at 232 Cherry Ave in Oshkosh and his dental office was located at 126 Main Street in Oshkosh. He was of medium build and medium height, had brown hair and blue eyes. In 1926 Stratton was President of the Wisconsin Dental Association and the Manitowoc local newspaper covered a story about him showing up there for a meeting with dentists in November, 1926. He died on December 26, 1987 in Florida and is buried at Lakeview Memorial Park in Oshkosh. He had two marriages and he lived to be 105 years old.
There does not appear to be any follow up story where the dental burglars were caught. The person or person doing the dental office thievery seem to have gotten away with taking the gold and other items from dental offices for a number of years in various areas in Wisconsin.