John Lowe, Nels Andreson and Fay Wise

In addition to finger prints, John Lowe's finger print card lists his age as 52, height 5 ft. 11 3/4 inches, weight 190, hair black, eyes black, occupation chauffeur, complexion chocolate.
John Lowe's Oregon State Penitentiary fingerprint card. Enlarge image
John Lowe was out for revenge. After he was unceremoniously relieved of his leadership position in the Pullman Porter’s Bootlegging Ring, he decided to recruit a gang of armed robbers to target other bootleggers, specifically those supplied by the ring. 

The District Attorney labeled him as a “dangerous character” and “smooth enough to cover up his felonies.” A judge characterized Lowe as a “persistent violator of liquor laws.” Although he had been arrested on multiple liquor charges dating back to 1917, Lowe had managed to avoid a stint in the big house. Now he was facing 20 years for armed robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Lowe plead not guilty. After all, he was a victim, forced to the ground and tied up during the armed robbery at his friend’s James “Birdlegs” Reed’s Chicken Dinner Resort late in the evening on December 12, 1926. The next day he appeared at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office to inform them that he knew who held up Birdleg’s. Not only could he identify them, but he would also locate the perpetrators for the police and turn them in. The police assured Lowe that assistance in helping apprehend the men would greatly be appreciated. Little did Lowe know, that the police had him under suspicion as being connected with the hold-up.

Both Fay B. Wise and Nels Andreson aka John Smith had extensive police records for assault, robbery, and larceny and had served time in the Oregon and Washington state penitentiaries.

According to a letter written to the parole board from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office, John Lowe became acquainted with Wise and Andreson through the “underworld channels of Portland.” Lowe also knew that they both had previous criminal records. Birdleg Reed’s, located on Base Line Road between Portland and Gresham, was operated by blind man James Reed and his wife. Reed was considered a high-roller in Portland’s bootlegging racket. Lowe frequented the place and knew Reed owned valuable diamonds and usually had a few hundred dollars in his possession. He decided to rob the roadhouse.

The plan was for Lowe to go there for dinner late on the night of December 12, 1926. He would leave the back door unlocked and signal to the duo when to rob the place. Wise and Andreson forced the occupants at gunpoint (including Lowe) to lie on the floor with their hands tied. They were threatened with a hot stove poker unless they revealed where the diamonds were hidden. After Wise and Andreson left, they proceeded down the road about a mile where Lowe came by in his car and picked them up and took them into Portland.

A few days later, a woman was held up in her home by the duo while Lowe waited in the car. They relieved her of diamonds and cash. 

The next day Lowe again appeared at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office to inform them that he just saw one of the men involved in the Birdlegs robbery and if the police would come with him he would point the culprit out. The police did so and arrested Andreson as he was walking down the street. In his possession were the diamonds, the money he had stolen the day before, and a gun that belong to Lowe.

Andreson realized that he must had been double-crossed because when he was arrested, he had been on his way to meet Lowe to give him the diamonds and return the gun. He asked the police if Lowe turned him in and if so, he would tell them about the recent hold-ups he was involved in.

The police informed Andreson that Lowe was “a very dangerous man and was known here as a king in the underworld.” If he could supply evidence that would connect Lowe with the hold-ups, the Multnomah County Sheriff would recommend leniency for Andreson and Wise and also recommend parole at the expiration of their sentence. Andreson testified for the prosecution and he and Wise were sentenced to four years in the Oregon State Penitentiary while Lowe was given a 20 year sentence.

About Inmates Nels Andreson and Fay Wise

Mug shot of Nels Andreson with prisoner number 9850
Nels Andreson's Oregon State Penitentiary mug shot.
View Andreson's fingerprint card
Name: Neil/Nels Andreson aka John Smith
Received: April 7, 1927
Discharged: December 7, 1929
Crime: Armed Robbery/Assault with a deadly weapon
County: Multnomah
Age: 47
Height: 5’7 1/2”
Weight: 145lbs
Build: Medium
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyes: Brown
Complexion: Medium
Born: Denmark
Occupation: Sailor
Mug shot of Fay Wise with prisoner number 9851
Fay Wise's Oregon State Penitentiary mug shot.
View Wise's fingerprint card
Name: Fay B. Wise
Received: April 7, 1927
Discharged: December 7, 1929
Crime: Armed Robbery/Assault with a deadly weapon
County: Multnomah
Age: 27
Height: 5’6 3/4”
Weight: 134lbs
Build: Medium Small
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyes: Brown
Complexion: Dark
Born: Iowa
Occupation: Machine Operator