Highwaymen of the Railroad

James-Younger Gang

The James-Younger Gang – Left to right: Cole” Younger,
Jesse Woodson James, Bob Younger, and Frank James.

They took him to within about five miles of Independence, Missouri, and there murdered him by shooting him in the back. Captain Lull, who went in search of the Younger brothers in St. Clair County, Missouri, shot and killed John Younger, and wounded his brother, Jim Younger, but was himself shot by the latter and died from his wounds. Jim Younger is at present in the Minnesota Penitentiary. But, it is said, he never recovered from the wounds received at Captain Lull’s hand. It now became a war of extermination on the part of the express companies and our officers against the remnant of this gang. The three Younger Brothers, consisting of Coleman, Jim, and Robert, were arrested and convicted for the murder of bank cashier Haywood at North Northfield, Minnesota and were sentenced to life imprisonment. Shortly after this Jesse James was shot and killed by Robert Ford, the youngest member of his gang.

Robert and Charles Ford were arrested and pleaded guilty to the killing of Jesse James and were sentenced to be hanged but were immediately pardoned by Governor Crittenden, and they were paid the reward of 5,000 which had been offered for the arrest of  Jesse James, dead or alive. This was according to an arrangement the Ford brothers had made with the Governor. After this, Frank James surrendered and as far as I am advised has been living an honest life since.

Union Pacific engine

The next gang that made its appearance was one headed by Sam Bass, the Collins brothers, and others. They “held up” and robbed the Pacific Express on the Union Pacific Railroad and got about $60,000 in gold. Two of this gang stopped the train, compelled the crew to alight together, while they went through the safes, taking everything in sight, money, watches, and jewelry. Their career, however, was brief. Joel Collins was shot and killed; one confederate named Berry was shot and killed near Moscow, Missouri, arid all the money recovered. Sam Bass succeeded in making his escape and went to Denton County, Texas, where he had a great many friends, being situated therein very much the same way as the James brothers in Missouri, nobody was willing to give any information concerning him.

In Texas, he organized another gang of train robbers. These men perpetrated a number of train robberies in Texas, but the United States government took hold of the matter in conjunction with the detectives and arranged a plan for luring the gang to Round Rock, Texas, for the purpose of robbing a bank.

The bank was carefully covered by armed men secreted wherever men could be put without attracting attention. When the gang appeared near the bank the fight was opened prematurely by a local officer, who attempted to arrest one of the number for carrying firearms, not knowing of the plans which had been made. The fight thus commenced, the concealed officers ran into the street and opened fire on the gang with their Winchesters, killing most of them and taking the others prisoners. One thing will be noticed about train robbers, they generally go in families, that is, there are usually two or three members of one family in the same gang.

Rube Burrow

Rube Burrow

The next series of train robberies were perpetrated by Jim and Rube Burrow, of Alabama. These men, in company with several others, “held up” a number of trains, but never succeeded in getting much money.  All three of the men were after-wards arrested by our men acting for the Southern Express Company, tried and convicted in Texas. Rube and Jim Burrow were surprised by the local officers in Savannah, California; Jim was arrested, but Rube was not taken so easily. He shot down two men in Savannah, one of whom died afterward, but he succeeded in getting away. Jim was turned over to our men, who took him to Arkansas for his part in robbing the Southern Express Company. He was sentenced to Arkansas State Prison, where he died. Rube Burrow, in company with two others, “held up” a train at Duck Hill, Mississippi, on the Illinois Central Railroad. Both he and his companions succeeded in making their escape to the mountains of Alabama. He held up another train in Florida to which was attached a Southern Express car. The Southern Express and their detectives followed him persistently and finally caused his arrest by the local officers.

Then came the daring express robbery on the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, which was perpetrated a few miles outside of St. Louis by Fred Wittrock, of Leavenworth, Kansas. Wittrock had planned the robbery for some time and had taken a number of people into his confidence, but they weakened when they saw the risk they had to take. He then went alone to commit the robbery. Wittrock presented an order to the messenger purporting to be from the route agent of the Adams Express Company for that division, asking the messenger to “break him in.” When out a little way on the road, he plugged the bell cord, threw the messenger on the floor, bound and gagged him and then rifled the safe of its contents and succeeded in getting away about 50,000.

Under the name of Jim Cummings, he subsequently wrote several letters to the St. Louis papers stating that the robber would never be discovered. He was, however, arrested in Chicago by Mr. Robert A. Pinkerton and two of our detectives and the balance of the gang were all captured. Wittrock was extradited to Missouri and sentenced to seven years imprisonment in the penitentiary. He gave up all the money he had not spent. Everybody connected with this robbery had been located almost immediately after it was committed with the exception of Wittrock, who was caught about forty days after the robbery. When arrested he was heavily armed and would have made a desperate resistance had he not been taken by surprise.

Daltons Dead

Daltons Dead

About this time the Dalton brothers made their appearance in Kansas and the Indian Territory. These men, five in number, “held up” numerous trains throughout the country. Their base of operations extended from Missouri to the Pacific Coast. Several of them were taken into custody but afterward succeeded in making their escape from jail. The whole gang was shot down with the exception of one brother who is now in Kansas, and who is supposed to be the leader of a new gang operating under the old name “The Daltons.”

The next robbery of any note was that of the Adams Express on the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, near Pacific, Missouri, by Albert Denton Slye, Marion Hedgepeth, Dink Wilson and a man named Tom Francis. They obtained about 15,000 by this robbery.

The case was worked by our agency in conjunction with the St. Louis, San Francisco, and Los Angeles police forces. Robert A. Pinkerton, Detective Whittiker, and an officer in Los Angeles arrested Slye in Los Angeles, California.

On his person was found the watch taken from the express messenger and a ring that was known to have been in the express safe. Slye pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twenty years. Later on, I received information that Hedgepeth was receiving mail under an alias at San Francisco, California. This information was communicated to the San Francisco police, who arrested Hedgepeth a few days later as he was calling for his mail at the post-office. Shortly after this Jim Francis and a man named Myers, members of this gang, attempted to “hold up” a train near Ft. Scott, Kansas, but were overpowered and killed. Hedgepeth fought his case bitterly in the courts but was finally convicted and sentenced to twenty-five years in the Missouri State Prison. Dink Wilson, the other member of this gang, escaped, went into the mountains near Utah and was in hiding for a long time. Last July while a detective at Syracuse, New York, was trying to arrest two men who were suspected of being connected with a number of burglaries which had occurred in the neighborhood of Syracuse, the men turned and fired at short range, killing him almost instantly. One of the murderers was taken, but the other escaped. The picture of the man arrested was sent throughout the country and was finally identified as that of Dink Wilson. We subsequently located the second man at Buffalo, where he was arrested by the local officers. These two men are bound to be convicted, and will, in all probability, be electrocuted. This will dispose of this whole gang of train robbers.