I’ll be writing multiple stories about Dad Clay, so I won’t attempt to describe him in detail. Suffice to say, for this story, that he owned the first automobile garage in the state. He started his Idaho Falls garage in 1909. By 1914, he was selling cars there and had published Idaho’s first road log to help travelers get around the state. His first brush with kidnapping came in 1915.
That’s when the kidnapper of E.A. Empey was apprehended. The Idaho Statesman, on July 28, 1915 described it like this: “A party was at once organized at the Sheriff’s office, consisting of deputies and reporters, who in a big car driven by J.C. Clay, an old resident of the community, thoroughly familiar with every road and trail in the entire country and a fast driver, were soon on the way to meet the bandit and his captors.” Clay played a small role in that incident, which you can read all about through the link above. His role was decidedly larger during the next kidnapping the following year.
According to an oral history told to his family, the kidnapping came about because he ran a taxi service next to his garage. A couple of tough looking young men came by looking for a ride into the country. An employee was set to take them, but Clay didn’t think it was safe for the boy to head out with those customers, so he decided to take them himself.
One of the men hopped into the seat beside the driver and the other got in back. They had driven about 20 miles when the man in the back seat slipped a piece of pipe out from under his coat where he had been hiding it and wacked Dad Clay over the head, knocking him out. The pair frisked Clay, finding a derringer in his side pocket and his wallet. They tied his hands and feet together and threw the unconscious man in the back.
After a few minutes and miles of travel, Clay came to. He could hear the toughs in front of the car laughing about hijacking his taxi. He came to understand that it was their plan to dump him in a ditch somewhere after killing him. Since this didn’t mesh well with his own plans for the future, Dad Clay worked his hands and feet free from the ropes while his kidnappers weren’t paying any attention. In the process, he discovered that the pipe he’d been beaned with was down there on the floor with him.
Clay rose up and returned the favor, clubbing each man hard on the head with the pipe. He tied both of them up, doing a better job of it than they had, and piled them in the back seat. He had found his derringer and couple of pistols the men had been carrying. His passengers secured, he turned around and headed back to town.
Dad Clay delivered the carjackers to the sheriff’s office, where he found out they’d escaped from a nearby correctional facility.
There is a newspaper account of the story which differs a bit. In that version one of the kidnappers escaped for a short time before being apprehended by authorities, but the essential account of Clay’s bonk on the head and turning the tables on the men to bring them to justice seems essentially true.