Many infamous criminals and gangsters passed through the Northwoods during the 1920s and 1930s. John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Al Capone are just a few, but there were lesser known ones as well. Historian Gary Entz has the story of one such outlaw.
In August 1933, a lawbreaker known locally as Long Bob Rogers was shot with a .30 caliber rifle on Highway 63 a few miles south of Rhinelander by a cordon of Oneida and Iron County law enforcement officials. His partner, John Stocchie of Hurley, survived and was placed under arrest and charged with extortion. So, who was Long Bob Rogers and what led him to that dramatic day?
At the time of his death, no one knew where Rogers had come from. He was simply a drifter who showed up in the Hurley area sometime during World War I. He was in his early forties when he died, which would put his birth sometime on or around 1890. When the police report of his death circulated, law enforcement officials in Kansas City responded saying that Rogers’ description matched that of a Bob Rogers who was wanted for murder in Kansas City. If the Bob Rogers of Hurley and the Bob Rogers of Kansas City were the same, then he was truly a rough character.
Rogers was born in Kentucky but grew up in the Kansas City area. His relatives described him as a fine person, but his friends described him as moody and brooding. Whatever the case, in 1911, when he was a young man, he shot and killed his former girlfriend with a revolver. After the murder Rogers fled. Kansas City police thought he went south and focused their efforts on Oklahoma, but never found a trace of him.
Sometime around 1917 or 1918, a petty criminal going by the name of Long Bob Rogers appeared in the Northwoods. Why he chose the name “Long Bob” is unknown. He also liked to be called “Rojas” but confided to his few friends that his real name was Robert Rogers. He ran a saloon in the small village of Pence for a bit but in 1924 was shut down by prohibition officers and fined one-hundred dollars. After that he seems to have spent most of his time in Hurley running bootleg liquor and working girls for the establishments on Silver Street.
Rogers’ violent tendencies toward women continued. He had a series of intense relationships in Hurley, one of which resulted in the death of a young woman, but he never faced any consequences.
Rogers had been shot in the shoulder in 1929 while rustling sheep in the U.P., but the final act in his criminal career came in 1933 when he teamed up with Stocchie to extort money from William Goodreau, owner of the Rex Hotel in Mercer. In August Goodreau received a letter threatening to kill him if he did not hand over $5,000 in cash to the duo. Follow up letters with instructions on where and when to leave the money, accompanied by threats not to go to the police, followed. Of course, Goodreau did go to the police, and they were concealed and waiting on Highway 63 when Rogers and Stocchie drove up to pick up their loot.
Rogers was buried without ceremony in Rhinelander’s Forest Home Cemetery.