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The Infamous Younger Brothers

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James Younger Gang

The James-Younger Gang - Left to right: Cole" Younger, Jesse Woodson James,

Bob Younger, and Frank James.

Image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!



I am a bonded highwayman
Cole Younger is my name
Through many a temptation
I've brought my friends to shame.
For the robbing of the Northfield bank 

They say I can't deny
And now I am a poor prisoner
In the Stillwater Jail I lie.


Excerpt from a ballad written by

 Cotton Davis Woodville, 1941





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The infamous Younger Brothers of Jackson County, Missouri, sons of a prosperous slave-owning farmer, would grow up to become some of the most well-known Civil War guerrillas and outlaws in history when they joined up with Frank and Jesse James to form the James-Younger Gang.

The four brothers -- Thomas Coleman, James Hardin, John Harrison, and Robert Ewing, were from a large family of 14 children born to Henry Washington and Busheba Fristoe Younger. Henry came to the Kansas City, Missouri area from Kentucky where he met Busheba Leighton Fristoe, the daughter of a prominent area farmer. The two soon married, settled on a farm, and began to have children. Henry was quickly successful in his farming endeavors and began to accumulate quite a bit of land, as well as expanding into business ventures, which included earning a contract as a "mail agent” with the federal government.

The many children of the prosperous Henry Younger were well-educated and lived a good life up until the time that major strife began to break out in the area during what would become known as the Kansas-Missouri Border War. Kansas, established as a "free-state,” was in constant conflict with its neighbor of Missouri, which was primarily populated with slave-owning families. Despite the fact that Henry owned a couple of slaves, he was a Union sympathizer, believing that the union should be preserved and that slavery should be abolished.


William Clark QuantrillHis beliefs; however, would not stop raids on his farm by Kansas guerillas, which were referred to as "Jayhawkers.” During these raids, his stock and wagons would be stolen and his property destroyed. These actions began to turn his sons against the Union and more specifically, against the Kansas guerillas. After watching the violence for years, Cole Younger went against his father's beliefs and sided with the Confederates, becoming a guerilla himself, under William Quantrill. When his father was killed by a detachment of Union militiamen in July, 1862, Cole's anger was fired even further against the Union and the Kansas Jayhawkers. On August 21, 1863, he participated in the notorious raid against Lawrence, Kansas where some 200 men and boys were killed and the town was ransacked and burned.


In 1864, Cole's brother, James, also joined up with Quantrill's band and Cole moved on to serve in the regular Confederate Army. He was soon made captain and led his men into Louisiana and later into California, where he remained until the close of the war. Cole returned to his home in 1865. In the meantime, James had been captured by Union troops in the same ambush that resulted in William Quantrill's death. He was then sent to Alton prison until the end of the war.


Cole and James returned to the family farm to find it in ruins and the once profitable business long gone. Though brothers John and Bob had done their best to maintain the farm, the ravages of war had taken their toll.


An embittered Cole continued to associate with his old war comrades and in the midst of the tumultuous Reconstruction in Missouri, some  former soldiers turned outlaws. Claiming to be taking revenge against Yankee capitalist banks and railroads, the James-Younger Gang made its first robbery on February 13, 1866, when the men stormed the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, Missouri taking over $60,000 in cash and bonds.



Continued Next Page


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The first bank to be robbed by the James-Younger Gang was

in Liberty, Missouri on February 13, 1866. Photo, February, 2004,

Kathy Weiser


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