photo credit SARASOTA TIMES NEWSPAPER.
In the Obituary for Harry L. Higel published in the Sarasota Times on January 13, 1921, the writer (who appears to be very close to Mr. Higel) strongly indicated that the murder of Harry Higel was planned, "Mr. Higel was struck down in a moment of insane frenzy or a deliberately planned and cruel murder, left bleeding and dying alone, only a short distance from those dearest to him, at his house." In 1921 the Harry Higel compound was and still is in the 3300 block of Higel Avenue on the very north end of Sarasota Key (Siesta Key). Back in the day old Beach Rd ran all along the shoreline on Sarasota Key (Siesta Key) from where the Siesta Key Public Beach is at 948 Beach Rd Siesta Key up to the north end of the Key. Harry Higel was not killed way down near the Siesta Key Public Beach at 948 Beach Rd Siesta Key which is a 1 hour and 10 min walk from his house, one way. Harry Higel who went out for a short walk was killed up near his house on old Beach Rd near the Higel compound in the 3300 block of Higel Avenue on the very north end of Sarasota Key (Siesta Key), where Rube Allyn lived. In 1913 Rube Allyn and his family were living in the old Sarasota Yacht Club building on the north end of Sarasota Key. Sarasota Yacht Club was organized in 1907 on the north end of Siesta Key. The first issue of Rube Allyn's weekly Sarasota Sun appeared on Saturday, February 6, 1913. Rose Wilson, editor and publisher of the established Sarasota Times, announced the advent of her competition on the bottom page of page 4 and opined that Allyn "is a good writer and has a newsy paper." Some time after Feb 1913, Rube Allyn his wife and two children moved to Siesta Key from Palmetto and made a home in the old Sarasota Yacht Club building on the north end of Siesta Key near Harry Higel's home. Rube Allyn had purchased his printing press from the White Springs Messenger and moved it into the building at the end of a dock off North Gulfstream Ave Sarasota and later he moved the newspaper operation right next to Harry Higel's Higelhurat Hotel on Sarasota Key in 1915. Rube Allyn and his wife left Sarasota and the Key after the Grand Jury failed to indict with a true bill in March 1921 in the murder of Harry Higel. On or about January 10th, 1924 Rube Allyn and his wife returned to Sarasota Key to sell their house on the north end of Sarasota Key near the Higel compund to H. E. Walton as reported by the Sarasota Times.
The 1921 Unsolved Brutal Murder of Harry Higel On Sarasota Key Fl, Was Harry Pistol Whipped with a Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber Revolver the Rusted Parts Found 98 years later in Nov 2019 on north Siesta Key? Harry Higel appears to have had multiple depressed skull fractures according to a report from Dr. Joseph Haldon on Jan 6, 1921. Did Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn kill Harry Lee Higel on north Siesta Key In Jan 1921? Is it a Break in the Harry Higel 98 Year Old Cold Case With Discovery of Possible Murder Weapon on north Siesta Key? NOTE: Apparently there are no records of any kind at the Sarasota County Sheriff Dept or the Manatee County Sheriff Dept which actually investigated the attack Thursday January 6th and subsequent death of Harry Higel on Friday January 7th, 1921 on Sarasota Key. The Sarasota County Sheriff Dept was not formed until July 1921, six months after Mr. Higel's murder.
"DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER": "I am not the person who found the old, rusted, and corroded parts of an antique gun (over 100 years old) on Siesta Key in November 2019 that was apparently buried near a salt water canal sometime in the 1920's. The rusted antique gun parts were passed on to me late in the day on Saturday Nov. 23rd, 2019 to figure out what it was. But I am the person who took the old, rusted, and corroded parts of the antique gun to the Sarasota County Sheriff Dept and turned them in on the morning of Tuesday Nov. 26th, 2019 and gave the Sheriff Dept all my information and details of the antique gun parts as soon as I found out what they were and possibly linked to the murder of Harry Higel in January 1921".
Seen above is what the rusted antique gun parts found on Siesta Key most likely looked like when new, this is a 1919 production Colt Police Positive revolver chambered in Colt's .32 Police cartridge. The Colt firearm was rugged and manufactured with a jointless solid frame, one piece construction that would cause significant damage during a "pistol whipping". Harry Higel appears to have had multiple depressed skull fractures according to a report from Dr. Joseph Haldon on Jan 6, 1921. The firearm seen above is a 1st issue model Colt .32 caliber revolver with a 5" inch barrel. The 1st issue Colt Police Positive revolver was introduced in 1907 and remained in production until 1922 with the FANCY hard rubber grips seen above. It was a successful model for Colt, as it proved to be very reliable, well-made, and accurate it featured a square-butt frame, and FANCY hard rubber grips with the Colt logo initially. Checkered American Walnut grips became standard in 1923 till 1945 and over 450,000 total units were sold from 1907 to 1945 to anyone and everyone.
Information and a map obtained Dec. 5th, 2019 from the Sarasota County Historical Resources on Porter Way indicates that back in 1925 (and prior) old Beach Rd ran parallel from the top of north Higel Ave, as you come across the north bridge on Sarasota Key, all the way around the perimeter of the Island down to past the village and then runs along the Siesta Public Beach and connects to Midnight Pass Rd. On the old map above on the left you can see Midnight Pass Rd as the straight line coming form the bottom right hand corner going north west crossing over Higel Ave, where the traffic light is now, and continuing to link up with old Beach Rd on north end of Sarasota Key.
Photo above is Bayshore Dr Sarasota Fl in 1910, roads on Sarasota Key (Siesta Key) would not have been any better from 1910 to 1921. Photo courtesy of the Sarasota County Historical Resources. Travel by car, usually a Ford Model T, was somewhat difficult during this time period in Sarasota and on Sarasota Key, to say the least.
Photo courtesy of the Sarasota County Historical Resources showing the Higelhurst Hotel aka Higel-Hurst Inn on old Beach Rd on north Sarasota Key near where Harry Higel's house was located at the north end of Higel Ave. Harry Higel would have made sure there was a road to his Hotel on the beach. The Hotel was located facing the Gulf of Mexicao overlooking Big Pass and with a view of Sarasota Bay to the right. The Higelhurst Hotel appears to have been on old Beach Rd just south of where N. Shell Rd is now on Siesta Key.
Photo #1 above on Left is a view from end of N. Shell Rd looking at Lido Key to the right, Gulf of Mexico to the left, Sarasota Bay would be to the far right. Photo #2 above on Right is a view from the end of N. Shell Rd looking south to where Higelhurst Hotel aka Higel-Hurst Inn would have stood before burning down on March 31st 1917. N. Shell Rd connected to old Beach Rd in 1921 on Sarasota Key.
Fishing was a big part of the HigelHurst Hotel's allure, it appears to have been built on the beach just south of N. Shell Rd on Sarasota Key. Just outside the front door of the Hotel was a well known fishing spot just a 1/4 mile off the beach in Big Pass. Harry Higel's house on Higel Ave is near to old Beach Rd. It is a 10 minute walk from Harry Higel's house at the north end of Higel Ave to the end of N. Shell Rd on the Gulf of Mexico and where old Beach Rd would have been along with Harry's prized HigelHurst Hotel, I walked it Friday Dec. 6th. Rumors have it Rube Allyn was responsible for burning down the Hotel in March of 1917. Harry Higel was found unconscious and severely beaten around the face and head on January 6th 1921 lying in the middle of old Beach Rd on north Sarasota Key.
Harry Higel had his hotel built on the Gulf side of north Sarasota Key overlooking Big Sarasota Pass, the hotel would have been on old Beach Rd, there would have been a road to the HigelHurst Hotel aka Higel-Hurst Inn especially from Harry Higel's house just to the north on the Key at the end of Higel Ave. Back in 1921 on Sarasota Key it appears that old Beach Rd also ran south somewhat parallel to Ocean Blvd around Sarasota Key Village.
I checked out some access roads to old Beach Rd, you can see where it cuts out at the corner of Avenida Messina and Beach Rd on the south end of Siesta Key Village where it says on the map above "Siesta Key Beach Access 2. Drive further north on Ocean Blvd and you can see an old unmarked street to the left that runs behind the new Siesta Towers Condominiums on Ocean Blvd, directly across the street from Givens St, that appears to be where old Beach Rd connected to Ocean Blvd north of the Siesta Key Village back in 1921. Segments of Beach Road vacated by Sarasota County has been closed to vehicular traffic since 1993. Coastal erosion has left much of the pavement covered in sand—impassable except on foot.
photo Image: Wm. Hartman Gallery
Harry Higel was known to always be a dapper dresser and dress for any occasion with his ever present bow tie, even fishing with the Bay Island Hotel gang on Sarasota Key, see photo above. Harry Higel was not a tall man, he is seen in the photo above and appears to be the shortest man out of the 13 fishermen, he is probably around 5' 6" tall. Apparently Harry Higel was murdered along the stretch of old Beach Rd somewhere near the north end of Sarasota Key, he was out walking Thursday night Jan 6th by himself. Harry Higel was not found until the next morning Friday Jan 7th, old Beach Rd on north Sarasota Key was a very sparsely populated area back in 1921.
The north bridge to Sarasota Key was completed in May 1917, it was first known as Higel Bridge. Harry Higel's Higelhurst Hotel aka Higel-Hurst Inn had burned down (suspiciously) just one month before the bridge was completed. Everybody now wanted to visit Sarasota Key by car. During the 1920's the car to have for the 'everyman' was the Ford Model T, it appears from old photos that the car was very popular in Sarasota Fl. Between 1908 and 1927 the Ford Motor Company made about 15 million cars with the Model T engine. In the 1920s, according to some estimates, every other car on the road was a Model T. Harry Higel and Rube Allyn, who both lived on north Sarasota Key, would have had a car most likely a Ford Model T to get back and forth to Sarasota by the north bridge starting in 1917.
Everybody had one. The Colt 'Pocket Positive' .32 Caliber revolver with FANCY hard rubber grips as seen in a 1914 catalog ad above on left from the Wm. Frankfurth Hardware Co in Milwaukee Wis. was manufactured from 1896 to 1907 which then morphed into the Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber revolver from 1907 to 1922 as seen in the catalog ad above on the right, it sold for $24.00.
photo credit of Colt revolver for home protection GUNS.COM ARCHIVES.
The Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber revolver was a favorite of the 1900's era for Home Protection (not just for Law Enforcement), and best yet, you could buy it by mail order and have it shipped to your front door, no questions asked. In the 1900's there were multiple catalog order houses in the US where you could purchase the Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber revolver with the FANCY grips from 1907 to 1922. Everybody had a Colt firearm in the 1900's, there was mass marketing of the Colt firearm company products via newspaper ads and sporting catalogs, WORLDWIDE. No one was monitoring these sales. The government had no part in regulation. No one conducted background checks on the buyers. Indeed, Sears Catalog states that it is “the headquarter for everything in guns,” that their prices are below all others, and that “we will send any revolver to any address.”
The Colt 'New Police' .32 Caliber revolver with FANCY hard rubber grips was heavily mass marketed to the general public from 1896. See ad above from the Abercrombie & Fitch 1906 New York City catalog above where that particular firearm was on sale for $12.70 net, you could order via mail and have the firearm sent to you, no questions asked. The Colt 'New Police' .32 Caliber revolver seen in the ad above was manufactured from 1896 to 1907 which then morphed into the Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber revolver with FANCY hard rubber grips which began manufacturing in 1907 till 1922.
The Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber revolver was manufactured from 1907 to 1922 and was featured in hunting and camping catalogs and newspaper ads from New York City to as far away a London England, see ad above. The Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber revolver featured an ejector for the bullets and a solid jointless steel frame. The Colt .32 Police Positive incorporated Colt’s “Positive Lock” safety which prevented the firing pin from hitting the primer unless the trigger was deliberately pulled. Colt's Positive Lock prevented an accidental discharge even if the lowered hammer was struck or the pistol was dropped, (or used to hit someone) allowing the revolver to be safely carried with all six chambers loaded, the gun was ahead of it's time. The Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber revolver was not just for use by Law Enforcement. The Colt Manufacturing Company used the fact that their firearms were the choice of Law Enforcement nationwide (NYPD) in the 1900's as a sales tool to sell their guns to the general public.
Bear in mind that between 1907 and what we tend to regard as the end of the “Old West” in the early 1920s there were already more than 150,000 Colt .32 caliber Police Positive revolvers with FANCY hard rubber grips in use and on the streets of the US. When its production ended, it was by far the most ubiquitous Colt revolver carried by lawmen—as well as those outside the law in the "Old West"—and private citizens alike (Rube Allyn). Everybody had a Colt firearm in the 1900's, there was mass marketing of the Colt firearm company products via newspaper ads, sporting & hardware catalogs and even the Sears 1916 catalog.
The only suspect arrested in the murder of Harry Higel was Rube Allyn who had traveled all around the US from the 1890's to 1910 and as far to the west as North Dakota in the "Old West". Rube Allyn was many things in his life in the run up to the murder of Harry Higel in January 1921, but one thing that was a constant in Rube Allyn's life was that he was a newspaper guy who wrote a lot about fishing and outdoor life, he would know about guns. In 1927 Congress reacted to the mob violence of 1920's Prohibition with the first federal gun restriction ever. The law banned the mail-order sale of handguns or any other concealable firearm. This act was the first federal legislation aimed at controlling guns. Also known as the Miller Act, it sought to prohibit the interstate shipment of handguns. It is doubtful that the Colt .32 caliber Police Positive revolver found buried on Siesta Key and tracked to the years 1907 to 1922 will have a serial number that could even be traced to anyone as handgun sales prior to 1927 were not registered by the US Federal Government, especially mail-order sales.
In Florida you can still open carry a handgun while fishing: Florida Statute 790.25 addresses lawful ownership, possession, and use of firearms and other weapons, and section 3(h) specifies: Anyone "engaged in fishing, camping, or lawful hunting or going to or returning from a fishing, camping, or lawful hunting expedition" can openly carry a firearm, I'm sure this law would have made Rube Allyn happy. Rube Allyn published a newspaper called the 'Florida Fisherman' in 1920's Sarasota Fl, he would have been well aware of the Colt revolver newspaper ads of the times. Rube Allyn would have been aware of the mass marketing of the Colt firearm company products via newspaper ads and sporting goods catalogs in the 1900's. Rube could/would have placed Colt firearm ads in one of his many different newspaper publishing efforts in Canada and in Sarasota Florida, Rube would have known how to get a gun in the 1920's.
1921 Unsolved Brutal Murder of Harry Higel On Sarasota Key Fl. Although he is now now largely forgotten, except as the name on the Higel Avenue street sign, Harry L. Higel was one of the most important people in Sarasota’s early growth and development. Was Harry Lee Higel pistol whipped with a revolver on Sarasota Key on Jan. 6, 1921. It was an unusually cold Thursday Jan. 6, 1921, the kind of day that made one’s extremities go numb. In previous years during the month of January record lows in the 20's and 30's were recorded on Sarasota Key. Harry Higel was severely beaten around the face and head. Mr Higel had a deep laceration over his right eye and a skull fracture, his face was so badly bludgeoned he was unidentifiable, a footprint found in the sand next to Higel's body appeared to match one of Rube Allyn's rubber soled canvas shoes. Harry Higel died Friday January 7th, 1921 from his injuries, over 98 years ago.
Sometime during the evening of Thursday January 6th, 1921, Harry Higel was severely beaten around the head and face, falling limp by the side of Beach Road, fatally beaten on Sarasota Key. Harry Higel had a gash on his head exposing a two-inch wide crack in his skull above the right eye, several broken facial bones and several wounds on the back of his head according to a report from Dr. Joseph Haldon. Harry appears from the description of the wounds to have had severe brain damage from the beating. Harry was found the next day Friday January 7th, 1921 laying in a pool of blood, but still alive. The Colt .32 caliber Police Positive revolver was introduced into the firearms market by the Colt's Manufacturing Company in 1907 as seen in this article and by 1921 over 150,000 were on the streets. The remains of a Colt .32 caliber Police Positive revolver was found buried 98 years later with a broken grip and fully loaded on north Siesta Key Fl in late November 2019. The information that I have compiled in this article is based on facts that have been corroborated and published in various news articles and books on the unsolved murder of Harry Higel. The end result of this article is strictly my opinion that Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn was the correct suspect in January 1921 for the murder of Harry Higel. Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn was a hot tempered Irishman whose parents were refugees to Ontario Canada due to the Great Potato Famine in Ireland from 1845 to 1852. Rube Allyn was born in 1866, he grew up in Mount Forest, Ontario Canada, Rube was born in Canada.
photo credit Sarasota Times
An article published in the Sarasota Times in early January 1921 went into some detail of the wounds Harry Higel suffered to his head and face during the fatal attack Thursday Jan 6th, 1921 on Sarasota Key. According to the article Harry Higel had an ugly cut over his right eye with the top of the skull being split open for about two inches and gaping apart. The wound on the left side of his head was equally dangerous, the skull crushed in BUT the skin not being broken. The wounds on the back of the head indicated the head had been beaten with a club or some instrument (possibly a steel hardened revolver?).
Harry Higel appears to have had multiple depressed skull fractures according to a report from Dr. Joseph Haldon on Jan 6, 1921. A depressed skull fracture is a type of fracture usually resulting from blunt force trauma, such as getting struck with a hammer, rock or getting kicked in the head. These types of fractures—which occur in 11% of severe head injuries—are comminuted fractures in which broken bones displace inward. Depressed skull fractures present a high risk of increased pressure on the brain, or a hemorrhage to the brain that crushes the delicate tissue. This all sounds to me like a fatal pistol whipping of Harry Higel. The extensive and multiple wounds to the head and face of the victim Harry Higel indicate great rage and some sort of personal vendetta from the attacker, overkill. The remains of a badly rusted Colt revolver traced to the 1920's era with a broken grip was found buried on north Siesta Key near Higel Ave in late November 2019. At the time of his barbarous death Harry Higel had just turned 54 years old, he was Director of the Bank of Sarasota and the Seaboard Airline Railway. He had been Postmaster, City Commissioner, and elected Mayor of Sarasota three times.
Harry Higel had a gash on his head exposing a crack in his skull above the right eye, several broken facial bones and several wounds on the top and back of his head. The butt of a gun like the Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber revolver could very well have caused the multiple wounds to the face and head of Harry Higel during a pistol whipping including a two-inch gash above the right eye,. The murder weapon was never found, was it an axe, a shovel, a club or a hard steel revolver? Rumors had it that the murder weapon that killed Harry Higel was buried somewhere near what is now the Siesta Key Village on Beach Rd. When you look at a revolver for identification, the best place to locate latent fingerprints is on the smooth surface of the barrel, the cylinder or the ammunition. Conversely, DNA-containing material is best found on uneven or rough surfaces where cells have rubbed off or collected in low spots. The best place to locate DNA evidence on a gun is in the ridges of the grip, hammer or trigger. When DNA is analyzed for criminal-case purposes, the result is termed a “DNA profile.” The DNA profile can then be compared to known DNA profiles, commonly called standards, obtained from victims and suspects associated with the case.
Photos above of Harry Higel and Rube Allyn when both men were in their 20's. Harry Higel was born in 1867 in Philadelphia PA, Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn was born in 1866 in Canada, he grew up in the small town of Mount Forest, Ontario Canada. Rube Allyn has a history with Philadelphia PA and New York City NY. Harry Higel and Rube Allyn were both born after the end of the US Civil War that wrapped up in 1865, sort of war babies. Harry Higel is of German heritage while Rube Allyn was an Irishman 'through and through' with all the baggage from heavy drinking. The portrait photo of Rube Allyn, on the right above, was taken in New York City sometime between 1889 to 1890 when Rube Allyn would have been in his 20's. Rube Allyn from all accounts was a tall man, apparently much taller than Harry Higel. Rube Allyn's real name is Rubert Royce Allen he grew up in Mount Forest, Wellington County Ontario Canada. Rube Allyn was his stage name. Rube Allyn aka Robert Royce Allen's parents were Irish refugees to Ontario Canada from the potato famine in Ireland, Rube was born in Canada.
By 1866 when Rube Allyn was born, the Irish were the second largest ethnic group (after the French), and comprised 24% of Canada's population, mostly due to the Potato Famine in Ireland. The 1931 national census counted 1,230,000 Canadians of Irish descent, half of whom lived in Ontario. During the Great Potato Famine, Ontario Canada received the most destitute Irish Catholics, who left Ireland in grave circumstances. Rube Allyn aka Robert Royce Allen started out as an apprentice type setter in Ontario Canada working in the office of the Mount Forest Representative, but got himself in trouble with the law and moved to Philadelphia where he enrolled in acting school, he graduated in 1888 and moved to New York City to attended drama school in 1889 when he was about 23 years old.
Photo above on left shows Rube Allyn in later life, photo appears to be from the 1940's. Rube Allyn appears to be a rather large man, well over 6 feet tall with long arms. Harry Higel was a much smaller man, at most he was 5' 6" tall. Rupert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn died in 1947 he was 80 or 81 years old. After Rube Allyn went to drama school in New York City in 1889 he eventually became a vaudeville actor and at one time lectured on the Chautauqua circuit all around the north east. In "The Story of Sarasota," Karl Grismer described Rube Allyn as " a cross between a genius and a bum...(with) the eloquence of an old-time Shakespearean actor...a man of mood...long hair...seldom if ever bathed...never wore socks...an excellent writer." In October 1911, the Sarasota Times ran a notice that Rube Allyn, humorist and impersonator, would be entertaining at the Sarasota school hall. Tickets were 25 cents, 15 cents for children.
When not on the stage, Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn plied his trade as a typesetter. Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn worked in the Mid West, all over the East Coast and over time eventually covered much of the United States on travels as far west as North Dakota in the 1890's and early 1900's. Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn would sometimes pause on his travels for a year or more in a town but never really settle down. Over the years, 1890 to 1910, Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn became increasingly eccentric and combative. He wore his hair long, and bore a resemblance to his fellow Irishman, Oscar Wilde, in appearance, mannerisms, and wit. He had frequent bad moods and a fierce Irish temper flared up when anyone disagreed with him. In 1911 he landed in Sarasota Fl and decided to stay. Rube Allyn started a newspaper in Sarasota called the 'SARASOTA SUN' in 1913 that eventuality failed in early 1916, just like others he had started in Canada. Rube was liberal and progressive but unstable and not dependable, most likely linked to his drinking. Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn left Sarasota in 1918 and found work in the Hog Island Philadelphia shipyard after the end of World War I, the shipbuilding continued until 1921. Rube was making $3.85 for a 10 hour day with Board and Lodging advanced against wages, he would have been in his 50's at this time. After the war and the eventual shipyard layoffs he returned to Sarasota Fl in late 1919. Rube began publishing the 'Florida Fisherman' in August 1920. During the travels of Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn all over the US, it is my opinion that at one time or another he obtained a firearm for protection, very possibly the remains of a Colt .32 caliber Police Positive revolver found buried 98 years later with a broken grip on Siesta Key.
Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn is an Irishman, he was born in 1866 in Canada, his parents, Alex and Ann Allen, born in Ireland were refugees from the Great Potato Famine who settled in Mount Forest, Ontario Canada where Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn grew up. Rube Allyn was an Irishman through and through including all the baggage associated with heavy drinking. Harry Higel, born December 31st 1867, was the polar opposite of Rube who is about the same exact age as Harry. Harry Higel was of German heritage. Harry Higel and his wife came from affluent families, they were land owners and very influential members of the Venice, Sarasota and Sarasota Key area, Rube Allyn was not. Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn and Harry Higel would butt heads on several issues beginning in 1911 when Rube shows up in Sarasota Fl. Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn was a hard drinking Irishman. Drinking in Ireland is not simply a convivial pastime, it is a ritualistic alternative to real life and Rube Allyn brought that lifestyle with him to Sarasota. In North America, alcoholism and chronic drunkenness took a frightful toll on the Irish immigrants and their off spring like Rube Allyn in terms of economic failure, pathological family relationships, intimate and public violence, and crime. Rube Allyn had to borrow money from Harry Higel to buy his house on the north end of Sarasota Key. Rube had been delinquent in paying back the loan before Harry Higel ends up dead in January 1921. Was Mr Higel going to foreclose on the house loan to Rube, did Rube's fiery Irish temper get the best of him, was Rube Allyn drunk Thursday night January 6th, 1921, did Rube kill Harry Higel in January 1921?
Many small parts of the Colt revolver have already turned to dust since the homeowners found the gun during some excavation work in their front yard. I came in contact and possession of the Colt gun late on Saturday November 23rd, 2019 and it wasn't till Monday evening November 25th, 2019, after a lot of research with the Colt Mfg company and every printed article concerning the murder of Harry Higel and deep background on Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn did I understand that the antique firearm could be linked to Mr. Higel's death. I took the old rusted Colt firearm remains, parts and pieces, to the Sarasota County Sheriff Dept 6010 Cattleridge Blvd the morning of Tuesday November 26th, 2019 and explained it's origin on Siesta Key and that I had the permission from the property owner to deliver the remains of the revolver to the Sheriff.
The rusted remains of a Colt .32 caliber revolver that had been buried on private property on Siesta Key for 90+ years was identified from it's distinctive brown hard rubber grips and the word COLT circled high up on one of the grips. Typical to the time period of the 1920's, the hard Colt rubber grips with the COLT logo were made from 1907 to 1922 and then changed in 1923 to Walnut wood stock grips. If the Colt gun found buried had wooden grips they would have been long gone and made identification of the revolver very difficult as any serial number or identification on the barrel was corroded. The live round was identified as a .32 caliber long, it was not operable. The gun appears to have been coated with cement and buried, the gun dates to at least the 1920's. The area where the gun was found on north Siesta Key is near salt water canals, it is surprising that anything at all remains of the Colt revolver.
Over 150,000 Colt Police Positive .32 caliber revolvers were manufactured and sold between 1907 and 1922 with the hard rubber grips which changed to Walnut wooden grips in 1923, 300,000 more were sold from 1923 to 1945. Anyone including Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn could have been the owner of the gun found buried on north Siesta Key in November 2019. But why would anyone bury a Colt revolver with 6 live rounds in the cylinder and a broken grip and do everything possible to make it disappear when the cost of the Colt revolver was equal to a full weeks wages of a working man and it was easy to repair? Was it covered in blood? Was it used to beat Harry Higel to death?
Photo above, left and right side of hard rubber grip of a rusted antique Colt Police Positive .32 caliber revolver found buried in a yard off of Higel Ave on north Siesta Key in late November 2019. The right side grip had what appears to be cement stuck to the back of the grip, it crumbled and fell off during examination. The right side of the hard rubber grip appears to have broken off a little over halfway up, apparently the part that broke off was not recovered. The two hard rubber grips seen above were not connected, they are standing and held up by the glass paper weight on the right. The left side of the grip is intact the right side is broken, as if the gun was used to hit something (or someone's head), the part that broke off of the hard rubber grip was not recovered, to my knowledge. Several people on Sarasota Key reported that they had seen Rube Allyn close to the crime scene in a nearby Palmetto thicket the night Harry Higel was beaten to death, Thursday January 6th 2019. What was Rube Allyn looking for in the Palmetto thicket? The formative Colt .32 Police Positives took off like rockets and rapidly became law enforcement favorites as well as civilian staples over 450,000 were sold to anyone and everyone. They were (and are) also widely seen in motion pictures-especially in 1920's Depression-era gangster movies and film noir.
The Colt Police Positive .32 caliber was not only a favorite with beat cops, but also happened to be the revolver of choice for mobsters like Al Capone who had a nickel plated one with Walnut grips, it sold at auction in June 2011 for $110,000. In 1920 during the height of Prohibition, Capone's multi-million dollar Chicago operation in bootlegging, prostitution and gambling dominated the organized crime scene. The Colt .32 Police Positive incorporated Colt’s “Positive Lock” safety which prevented the firing pin from hitting the primer unless the trigger was deliberately pulled. Colt's Positive Lock prevented an accidental discharge even if the lowered hammer was struck or the pistol was dropped, (or used to hit someone) allowing the revolver to be safely carried with all six chambers loaded, the gun was ahead of it's time. "That Colt .32—you go out and hammer nails with it all day, come back and it will cut dead center on target every time. It's got a really nice action to it and a hell of a whallop."
See newspaper ad from 1907 for the Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber Revolver, it was sold to the general public during that time period for about $25 to $35 dollars, anyone and everyone had one as sales reached 150,000 units from 1907 to 1922. From the 1870s until the middle of the 20th century, 1950, the terms "Colt" and "revolver" were synonymous in the police world. Colt revolvers were the most popular law enforcement sidearms in the world, and no Colt product personified the law enforcement handgun better than the Colt Official Police Positive Revolver.
In 1895 the NYPD placed an order for 4,500 Colt New Police revolvers, which evolved into the Colt Police Positive .32 Caliber Revolver in 1907. This six-shot, double-action revolver was chambered in .32 S&W Long, had checkered hard rubber grips with the Colt logo. The Colt New Police was manufactured from 1896-1907 by Colt’s Manufacturing Company in Hartford, CT and then the Colt Police Positive .32 caliber revolver, as seen in this article, was manufactured starting in 1907 to 1922 with the hard rubber grips. Colt used the fact that the NYPD used his gun in all of his advertising during that time period for the general public.
Who bludgeoned Harry Higel about the face and head on that cold Thursday evening, January 6th, 1921, and left him for dead on the side of Beach Road, in north Sarasota Key (now Siesta Key). To this day, no one knows! Harry Higel was born on December 31, 1867 in Philadelphia, to Frank and Adelaide Higel. In 1884, at age 17, he moved to Venice, Florida with his parents where he and his brothers helped his father start a canning business. He moved to Sarasota in 1890 and became an entrepreneur developer. He purchased the dock at the foot of Main Street that had been built by the (Scottish) Florida Mortgage and Investment Co. and had the first gasoline and kerosene tanks installed. Higel operated and docked his boat, the Nemo here, and later he bought and operated the steamer Vandalia. He also purchased a large amount of property on the north end of Sarasota Key, which he renamed Siesta Key. At the time of his barbarous death, he was 53 years old, Director of the Bank of Sarasota and the Seaboard Airline Railway. He had been Postmaster, City Commissioner, and elected Mayor of Sarasota three times.
Who committed this violent over the top beating murder of Harry Higel and why did he do it? The extent of damage done by the multiple blows to the face and head of Harry Higel indicates great rage and hatred by the perp. Hot tempered Irishman Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn had been in bitter disagreements with Harry Higel, and was known for fierce outbursts of his Irish temper. Dr. Halton rushed Harry Higel to the hospital in Bradenton (there was no hospital in Sarasota yet) where he died shortly after his arrival on January 7th, 1921. Manatee County was created in 1855 and Sarasota County was created much later in July 1921 as was the Sheriff Dept. Any investigation of the murder of Harry Higel would have had to been conducted by the Manatee County Sheriff, there was no Sarasota County or Sarasota County Sheriff in January 1921. Manatee County Chief Deputy Sheriff D.R. Brown was on the scene Friday January 7th 1921 with men and bloodhounds within minutes of being notified, and they found no clues. Several people reported that they had seen Rube Allyn in a nearby Palmetto thicket that night January 6th noting that Higel and Allyn had been quarreling heatedly ever since the 1916 election on north Sarasota Key.
The Sarasota Police Dept was formed in 1913 and would not have investigated the murder of Harry Higel as Sarasota Key in January 1921 was part of Manatee County and under control of the Manatee County Sheriff. The city of Sarasota Fl had a total population of 2,149 people in 1920, Sarasota Key was reported to have about 3 dozen year round residents, Rube Allyn was one of them. Despite the fact that Rube Allyn declared his innocence and said that he had just returned to downtown Sarasota shortly before the crime was discovered the morning of Friday January 7th, about 14 hours after Harry Higel was attacked on the evening of January 6th. A crowd gathered, which soon became a mob, and a rope with a noose was seen. The Manatee County Deputy Sheriff and a few men spirited Rube Allyn to the more secure jail in Bradenton, Manatee County. Judge Reeves called for a Grand Jury to hear the evidence, and the shoes were sent to Tampa for analysis.
photo credit Sarasota Times
Friends and Family of murdered Harry Higel provided a notable array of legal talent to assist the prosecution of Rube Allyn. The service of the Fred Thomas National Detective Agency and the Hon. Tom Palmer of Tampa to assist States Attorney McMullen in the prosecution of Rube Allyn. Dr Allen in Tampa the brother of Rube Allyn provided legal defense in the form of Hon. J.B. Singletary for Rube at his Grand Jury hearing.
After 61 days in jail, Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn appeared before the Manatee County Grand Jury (Sarasota was part of Manatee County in January 1921) and the report on the shoes was read. No indication of blood was found. Since no evidence to indict was found, Rube Allyn was freed apparently on March 9th, 1921, see Sarasota Times article above. See portrait photo above of Rube Allyn above taken at Pach Bros Photography 841 Broadway NY, NY. Pach Bros was at the 841 Broadway location from 1877 to 1890 when they went out of business, so Rube Allyn would have been in his 20's when he had his glamour photo, portrait photo taken. Rube appears to have been a news editor, type setter, vaudevillian, humorist, entertainer, shipyard worker and published a small bimonthly magazine called "The Florida Fisherman". He once attempted to float his publishing office across Sarasota Bay to elude creditors, by cutting it loose from the pier it sat on. It sank. In "The Story of Sarasota," Karl Grismer described Rube Allyn as " a cross between a genius and a bum...(with) the eloquence of an old-time Shakespearean actor...a man of bad Irish moods...long hair...seldom if ever bathed...never wore socks...an excellent writer." In October 1911, the Sarasota Times ran a notice that Rube Allyn, humorist and impersonator, would be entertaining at the Sarasota High School hall, Rube Allyn would have been 45 years old at this time.
Sarasota County Times Newspaper issue Thursday June 16, 1921. The Sarasota County Sheriff's office was established in July 1921 upon the creation of Sarasota County's break from the southern portion of Manatee County. This was 6 months after the murder of Harry Higel, some speculate the break from Manatee County was the result of the poor handling of Mr. Higel's death investigation. One of the first acts of the Sarasota County Commission, which was formed in June 1921, was a July 21, 1921, resolution offering a $1,000 reward for evidence leading to the capture of Harry Higel’s murderer — more than $12,000 today. But since that day there have not been any new leads in the murder mystery. Florida Governor Cary A. Hardee appointed Burna Dale "Heinie" Levi as the first Sheriff of Sarasota County in July 1921, he had no prior law enforcement background. On August 22, 1921, Sarasota City Marshal L.D. Hodges became the agency's first deputy. Sarasota City Marshal L. D. Hodges was elected Sheriff and took office in December 1922.
In the movie 'Goodfellas' Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) pistol-whips Karen's neighbor Bruce with a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson Model 36 revolver with a square butt, which he gives to Karen (Lorraine Bracco) to hide. The Smith & Wesson Model 36 revolver would appear to inflict serious injury to the victim with blows to the head and face, which would include broken nose, deep gashes in the face and head and possible fractured skull. Pistols and revolvers are not only used to discharge cartridges, but also for hits to the victims head. In such cases, the blows preferably affect the head. The impact is mostly exerted either by the grip of a pistol or the butt of a revolver. As in other kinds of pistol-whipping, the scalp wounds may be associated with fractures of the skull and even with brain contusions and as such could cause death. The Colt .32 Positive Special incorporated Colt’s “Positive Lock” safety which prevented the firing pin from hitting the primer unless the trigger was deliberately pulled. Colt's Positive Lock prevented an accidental discharge even if the lowered hammer was struck or the pistol was dropped, (or used to hit someone).
Harry Higel's Higelhurst Hotel aka Higel-Hurst Inn on the Gulf located on north Sarasota Key at Big Pass burnt to the ground on March 31st 1917. The Sarasota Times reported on September 17, 1914, "that plans have been drawn by a local architect and the Higelhurst Hotel aka Higel-Hurst Inn was assured. The hotel will have 20 bedrooms and a dining room large enough to accommodate 100 people." The estimated cost would be between $10,000 and $15,000. Work on the hotel began immediately. The contract for the foundation was awarded within a week. Plans were also drawn up for several guest bungalows to be built close to the hotel. Higel's plan included streets along which the bungalows would be built and sidewalks to the hotel from Higel Ave. His idea was to make Siesta Key a settlement where every comfort would be provided. Higel believed that this type of plan would be popular with tourists. Hotel Higelhurst opened its doors on March 9, 1915, with more than 200 people attending the grand opening reception. Since the bridge to the key was not finished, ferry boats provided transportation to the hotel. In Higel's promotional brochure, Siesta on the Gulf, he claimed that his hotel was on of the most modern in Manatee County. The daily rates were $2.50 and up. The hotel had hot and cold running water in every room, large baths, gas and electric lights and telephones. Also, it was less than 50 yards to the Gulf Pass. The Higelhurst proved to be very popular and was a success for Higel. For some reason Rube Allyn put up a ramshackle house/office near the Higelhurst Hotel aka Higel-Hurst Inn. In 1917, he was planning an expansion when the hotel caught fire on March 31st, Rube Allyn was nearby that night. Harry Higel's son, Gordon Higel, a retired postmaster, recalled that tears ran down his father's face as they watched the hotel burn to the ground from the mainland. Although he announced plans to rebuild, there was very little insurance on the building. Higel never rebuilt the hotel.
In 1920 and 1921 Harry Higel quarreled with Rube Allyn over an unpaid debt after he’d lent Rube Allyn money for a home on the north end of Sarasota Key. The HigelHurst Hotel overlooked Big Pass and suspiciously burned down in March 1917. Rube Allyn not only lived at the location near the Hotel, he also printed the Sarasota Sun inside a dockside office, a mention in the 1917 City Council minutes that Rube’s building was declared to be a menace and he was ordered to remove it. Harry Higel's loan to Rube Allyn was coming due just before Higel was murdered in January 1921. Rube Allyn was known for erratic behavior, bad moods, combative nature, and a fierce and short Irish temper. Often a donkey-drawn cart carrying Rube Allyn’s disabled son would pass through Higel’s property on Higel Avenue and the gate to a chicken coop was often left open further inciting Harry. In 1917, the Higelhurst Hotel mysteriously burned down one month before the bridge to Sarasota Key was completed in May 2917. Higel suffered a major financial loss. No one knew whom or what was responsible for the fire, but many folks believed it was Rube Allyn, mostly because of his close proximity to the property and his assertiveness toward Higel. During the 1916 local elections, Allyn is said to have criticized Harry Higel’s character in his newspaper.
Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn was born in 1886 or 1867 he grew up in Ontario Canada where his Irish immigrate parents settled, he also has early links Philadelphia in 1888 and to New York City in 1889 and Philadelphia again in 1919. World War I lasted from July 1914 to November 1918. Rube Allyn worked at the Hog Island Philadelphia PA shipyard building ships for the Navy from 1918 to late in 1919, the shipbuilding continued until 1921. Rube Allyn was making $3.85 for a 10 hour day with Board and Lodging advanced against wages, he would have been in his 50's at this time working at a very hard and dirty job for $3.85 a day.
While Rube Allyn was toiling away in the Hog Island shipyard for $3.85 a day from 1918 to late in 1919, Harry Higel was the king of Sarasota Key and very, very influential in the booming City of Sarasota. Rube Allyn returned to Sarasota Key in late 1919 and set up the Florida Fisherman magazine later in August 1920. Did Rube bring a gun back with him? The Colt Police Positive would have been used by the police department in Philadelphia in the 1920's. Did Rube Allyn 'pick up' a Colt Police Positive .32 caliber while he was working at the Hog Island Philadelphia shipyard. In 1917, as part of the World War I effort, the US government contracted American International Shipbuilding Corp. to build ships and a shipyard at Hog Island. At the time Hog Island was the largest shipyard in the world, with 50 slipways. The shipbuilding continued until 1921, after which the facility was rapidly demolished. Rube Allyn left Philadelphia for Sarasota Key in late 1919.
Why would someone/anyone bury a Colt Police Positive .32 caliber revolver with 6 live rounds in the cylinder and a broken grip that dates to the 1920's in a field, just south of where The Outdoor Academy is located now off of a street that runs west from Higel Ave on the North end of Sarasota Key. Was the antique Colt gun with the broken grip, loaded with 6 rounds the Harry Lee Higel murder weapon? A $1,000 reward was offered for the murderer of Harry Higel, but no one else was ever arrested.
According to Colt literature of the 1920s, the .32 caliber Police Positive Special was, "Adopted as standard by many large and hundreds of smaller city Police Departments due to its rugged, sturdy frame, accuracy and hard-hitting qualities. During the early 1900's the Colt Police Positive .32 caliber revolver was very popular among just about everyone who wanted a reliable firearm, Express Messengers, Paymasters, Watchmen, and Special officers. The Colt Police Positive .32 caliber revolver was also the choice for Home, Store, Motoring and Beach/Camping protection. Rube Allyn took his show on the road for over 20 years. Rube Allyn traveled all over the US, apparently traveling by train and car from at least the late 1890''s to 1906 and then again from about 1918 to 1920, it is not a reach by any means to think he 'picked up a gun' somewhere in his travels.
Harry Higel was a cigar smoker and most likely he made his nightly walks to enjoy a good Cuban cigar and not foul the air inside his house and keep his wife happy. Rube Allyn lived on the north end of Sarasota Key and knew Harry Higel's habits. I am confident that Rube Allyn confronted Harry Higel and beat him all over his face and head and into a bloody pulp and left him for dead on Beach Rd. End of story for Rube on the unpaid loan (mortgage) to Harry Higel for Rube's ramshackle house on the north end of Sarasota Key.
It is my opinion that Rupert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn ambushed Harry Higel while Harry was out for a walk near his house on the end of Higel Ave north Sarasota Key, a planed and calculated murder on Thursday January 6th, 1921. Rube Allyn did the dastardly deed, he murdered Harry Higel in my opinion, Rube had motive, opportunity and the physical ability to beat Harry Higel to death most likely with the loaded Colt revolver with the broken grip found 98 years later in November 2019 buried on the north end of Siesta Key.
Rube Allyn was a big man well over 6 feet tall, Harry Higel was a much smaller man most likely in the 5' 6'' tall range, which would explain all the damage to the top of Harry Higel's head, (crushed skull), from what appears to be a pistol whipping with blows raining down on Harry's head from the much taller man, Rube Allyn. It is my opinion that Rube Allyn buried the murder weapon, a Colt revolver with a broken grip, that was found 98 years later on north Siesta Key.
Rubert Royce Allen aka Rube Allyn was born in 1866 in Canada and died in 1947 in Florida, he was 80 or 81, he is buried in Manasota Memorial Park, Bradenton, Manatee County, Florida, USA. Rube Allyn started a newspaper in Sarasota called the 'SARASOTA SUN' in 1913 that eventuality failed in early 1916, just like others he had started in Canada. Rube was liberal and progressive but unstable and not dependable, most likely linked to his drinking
Harry Lee Higel was born December 31st, 1867 in Philadelphia and died January 7th, 1921 in Sarasota Fl he had just turned 53, he and several members of his family are buried in Rosemary Cemetery Sarasota on the Central Ave side. Harry Lee Higel and his family members are buried in Section C, Lot 14 which as you face the Cemetery standing on Central Ave is to your left. Lot 14 – The Higels: Gertrude E. Higel, Harry Lee Higel, H. Gordon Higel, Louise K. Higel and Marcia Rader Higel. The murder of Harry Higel remains cloaked in secrecy and always will be one of Southwest Florida’s greatest mysteries.
Bill Warner Private Investigator Sarasota 941-926-1926 - SEX, CRIME, CHEATERS & TERRORISM at http://www.billwarnerpi.com/