For years, Floridians have been fascinated by the exploits of the Ashley Gang, a group of infamous outlaws led by John Ashley in the 1910s and 1920s. The Elliott Museum on Hutchinson Island will shine a light on this fascination in “Notorious Ashley Gang—The Making of a Legend,” a permanent exhibit featuring various artifacts and photos that chronicle their lives of crime. The exhibition debuted with an opening reception on Thursday, January 20, with guided tours by local historian Steve Carr. Admission is free to members and $5 to the public.
Patriarch Joe Ashley and his wife, Lugenia, lived in Fruita between Stuart and Hobe Sound. They raised five boys and four girls on their family homestead and were well respected in the community. However, during Prohibition, the family expanded its business enterprises to make and sell moonshine to make ends meet. The Ashley boys also engaged in the dangerous endeavor of rum running from The Bahamas. This put them on the wrong side of the law with Palm Beach County Sheriff Bob Baker (then an included territory that later became Martin County).
John Ashley began to rob banks and trains with other family members and outsiders, becoming known as the Ashley Gang. The gang engaged in one of its first crimes in 1915 with a bank heist in Stuart and ended up robbing the Bank of Stuart twice. Although there are only three known bank robberies orchestrated by the gang, every unsolved crime in South Florida was attributed to them.
The Elliott Museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the website or call the Elliott Museum at 772-225-1961.