The James-Younger Gang – Terror in the Heartland

James Younger Gang

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

During the Civil War, both the James and Younger brothers had followed William Quantrill’s lead in a band of ruthless bushwhackers, getting a taste for violence in the bitter conflict that wracked the divided state of Missouri.

Robbing banks, trains, and stagecoaches for ten years, the gang’s postwar crimes began in 1866 but wasn’t called the James-Younger Gang until 1868 when authorities determined that Cole Younger, Jesse, and Frank James were involved in the crime spree. The gang soon became the most famous in America’s history and included numerous outlaw members that fluctuated from one crime to the next.

Many of the members of the gang met during the Civil War, most riding with Quantrill’s Raiders. Missouri was a divided state, with most residents supporting the southern cause, but the state actually declaring for the Union. The gang of bushwhackers were involved in a number of conflicts, most in Missouri, but also in surrounding states. Before, during and after the Civil War, both the James and Younger brothers were outspoken partisans for the south. When the war was over, these men who had largely fought in guerrilla bands were embittered and continued to associate with their old war comrades. In the midst of the tumultuous Reconstruction in Missouri, the former soldiers turned outlaws.

The first bank to be robbed by the James-Younger Gang was in Liberty, Missouri on February 13, 1866. By Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

The first bank to be robbed by the James-Younger Gang was in Liberty, Missouri on February 13, 1866. By Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Their first robbery occurred on February 13, 1866, when the gang stormed the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, Missouri taking over $60,000 in cash and bonds. It was the first daylight, peacetime, armed bank robbery in U.S. history and when the outlaws were making their escape, gunfire erupted and an innocent 17-year-old boy, by the name of George Wymore, was killed.

Missouri authorities suspected that a known Confederate guerilla leader named Archie Clement was the leader of the group and soon a price was put on his head. Fearless, however, Clement next led the gang in robbing the Alexander Mitchell and Company Bank in Lexington, Missouri on October 30, 1866, making off about $2,000. Afterward, Clement began to lead the gang in intimidating Missouri residents in order to sway their votes against the Republican Party in an upcoming election. When the Missouri State Militia got involved and he was killed on December 13, 1866.

Despite the loss of their leader, the outlaws remained together and continued their crime spree for the next decade, allegedly involved in the following robberies:

Date Robbery City Amount
February 13, 1866 Clay County Savings Association Liberty, Missouri $62,000.00
October 30, 1866 Alexander Mitchell and Co. Bank Lexington, Missouri $2,000.00
March 2, 1867* Judge John McClain Banking House* Savannah, Missouri Unknown*
May 22, 1867 Hughes and Wasson Bank Richmond, Missouri $4,000.00
March 20, 1868 Nimrod Long Banking Co. Russellville, Kentucky $14,000.00
December 7, 1869 Davies County Savings Bank Gallatin, Missouri $700.00
June 3, 1871 Ocobock Brothers’ Bank Corydon, Iowa $6,000.00
April 29, 1872 Bank of Columbia Columbia, Kentucky $600.00
September 26, 1872 Kansas City Exposition Ticket Office Kansas City, Missouri $10,000.00
May 27, 1873 St. Genevieve Savings Bank St. Genevieve, Missouri $4,100.00
July 21, 1873 Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Adair, Iowa $6,000.00
January 15, 1874 Stagecoach Hot Springs, Arkansas $3,000.00
January 31, 1874 Iron Mountain Railroad Gad’s Hill, Missouri $12,000.00
April 7, 1874 Stagecoach Austin-San Antonio, Texas $3,000.00
August 30, 1874 * Two Stagecoaches* Waverly-Lexington, Missouri Unknown *
December 7, 1874  * Tishomingo Savings Bank* Corinth, Mississippi $10,000.00 *
December 8, 1874 Kansas Pacific Railroad Muncie, Kansas $55,000.00
September 5, 1875 Huntington Bank Huntington, West Virginia $10,000.00
July 7, 1876 Missouri Pacific Railroad Otterville, Missouri $15,000.00
September 7, 1876 First National Bank Northfield, Minnesota $0

*  Some historians question whether this robbery was really made by the James-Younger Gang

Northfield, Minnesota Bank

Northfield, Minnesota Bank

The attempted robbery in Northfield, Minnesota would spell the death of the James-Younger Gang, though a later gang would be formed simply called the James Gang. After taking the train to Minneapolis in early September 1876, the group split up, with one party going to Mankato and the other to Red Wing, on either side of Northfield, Minnesota. After scouting the area, they attempted to rob the Northfield bank on September 7, 1876. Jesse and Frank James, along with Bob Younger, went inside the bank and while Cole and Jim Younger, Bill ChadwellClell Miller, and Charlie Pitts stood guard outside.

Inside the bank, the three outlaws demanded that the vault be opened and the money surrendered. However, Joseph Lee Heywood, the bank clerk on duty, refused to do so and was shot and killed. Hearing shots, Northfield citizens realized that a robbery was in progress and, taking up arms, began to shoot at those outside, killing Miller and Chadwell and hitting Cole Younger in the thigh. In the meantime, Jesse, Frank and Bob Younger fled from the bank, and Bob was shot in the right elbow. Returning the fire, the gang killed Nicholas Gustavson, a Swedish man who was caught in the crossfire.

The surviving gang members then took off and were quickly pursued by posses. Near Mankato, the gang split up with the Younger brothers and Charlie Pitts going one way and the James brothers, another. After covering some 400 miles in the search for the outlaws, the posse caught up with the Youngers near Madelia, Minnesota on September 21, 1876, and after a gunfight erupted, Charlie Pitts was killed and the Younger brothers further wounded. Finally, they surrendered.

Tried in Faribault, Minnesota, they were found guilty of murder and sentenced to 25 years in the state prison at Stillwater. Bob Younger died in prison in 1889; Jim was pardoned in 1901 but committed suicide the following year; and Cole, who was also pardoned in 1901, lived until 1916.

In the meantime, the James brothers had escaped and made their way back to Missouri. They then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where they lived peacefully for the next three years. However, the restless Jesse began a new gang in 1879 and renewed his criminal career leading the James Gang. Until his death in 1882, the outlaws again robbed banks, trains, and stagecoaches.

Throughout the successful years of the James-Younger Gang, the main members were:

Frank James as a Young Man

Frank James as a Young Man

Alexander Franklin James (1843-1915) –  Frank surrendered in October 1882 and was tried twice but was acquitted both times. He died of a heart attack on February 18, 1915.

Jesse Woodson James (1847-1882) – Jesse was murdered by James Gang member Robert Ford on April 3, 1882.

McClelland “Clell” Miller (1850-1876) – He was killed during the Northfield, Minnesota bank robbery on September 7, 1876.

Jim Younger

Jim Younger death photo

James “Jim” Younger (1848-1902) – After serving 25 years in prison for the Northfield, Minnesota attempted robbery, he was released in 1901 and killed himself on October 19, 1902.

John Harrison Younger(1851-1874) – Killed in a shoot-out with Pinkerton Agents near Roscoe, Missouri on March 17, 1874.

Thomas Coleman “Cole” Younger (1844-1916) – After serving 25 years in prison for the Northfield, Minnesota attempted robbery, he was released and died on March 21, 1916.

Robert “Bob” Ewing Younger (1853-1889) – After the failed robbery attempt in Northfield, Minnesota he was sent to prison and died there of tuberculosis on September 16, 1889.

Other Members:

James “Jim” Anderson – Brother to William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, Jim was thought to have been killed by fellow James-Younger Gang member, George Shepherd in Austin, Texas.

Bill Chadwell

Bill Chadwell death photo

Bill Chadwell, aka: William Stiles, Jack Ladd, J. Ward (1840s-1876) – Killed in the attempted bank robbery at Northfield, Minnesota on September 7, 1876.

Archibald J. “Little Archie” Clement (1846-1866) – A federal guerilla under William “Bloody Bill” Anderson in the Civil War, he later was the first leader of the James-Younger Gang. He was killed by Missouri State Militia on December 13, 1866.

Jacob Franklin Gregg (1844-1906) –  He was with the gang in their first robbery of the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, Missouri. Later, he moved to Texas, where he died in 1906.

John Jarrette (1836-1868? or 1906?) – After participating in five bank robberies, he is thought to have died in a house fire in 1868. More recently however strong proof surfaced that he actually died in Greenwood,  British Columbia, Canada, where the Greenwood Heritage Society recently unveiled a new grave marker for the elusive outlaw.

Hobbs Kerry –  Participated only in the Otterville, Missouri train robbery and spent two years in prison.

Arthur C. McCoy (1825-1880?) – After participating in several robberies and killing a Pinkerton agent, he moved his family to Texas where he was thought to have died in 1880.

Redmond “Red” Munkirs (or Munkers) (1845-1867) –  He was with the gang in their first robbery of the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, Missouri. Shot and killed by the Missouri State Militia on May 18, 1867.

Allen H. Parmer (1848-1927) – Rode with William Quantrill during the Civil War and afterward was allegedly present during the robbery of the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, Missouri on February 13, 1866. Later married Susan Lavinia James, sister of Frank and Jesse James and moved to Texas, where he died on October 25, 1927.

Alexander Doniphan “Donnie” Pence (1847-1896) Rode with William Quantrill during the Civil War and allegedly participated in the Liberty, Missouri Bank Robbery in 1866. He later became a respected sheriff in Nelson County, Kentucky and died of typhoid fever in 1896.

Bud Pence

Bud Pence

Thomas Edward “Bud” Pence (1842-1880) – Rode with William Quantrill during the Civil War and allegedly participated in the Liberty, Missouri Bank Robbery in 1866. He died in 1880.

Charles “Charlie” Pitts – He was killed after the failed robbery of the Northfield, Minnesota bank on September 7, 1876.

George Washington Shepherd (1842-1917) – He served three years in prison for the Bank of Columbia robbery in Kentucky in 1872.

Oliver Shepherd (1842-1868) – He was killed by a posse in Jackson County, Missouri on April 4, 1868.

Charles Fletcher Taylor (1842?-1912) – Rode with William Quantrill during the Civil War and allegedly participated in the Liberty, Missouri Bank Robbery in 1866. He was later elected to the State Legislature and died in 1912.

Victims of the James-Younger Gang:

Jesse James Home Kearney, MO -1877

Jesse James Home Kearney, MO -1877

Dan Askew (18??-1875) – A neighbor east of the James Farm near Kearney, Missouri, Askew was found dead April 12, 1875. Askew was believed to have harbored Pinkerton Spy Jack Ladd, and in the killing was thought to have been in revenge for the Pinkerton bombing of the James Farm in January 1875. Afterward, everyone in Clay County who did not think of the James boys as heroes grew too frightened to speak out against them.

Alonzo E. Bunker (18??-1876) – The Assistant Cashier at the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota, he was shot in the shoulder during the attempted robbery on September 7, 1876. However, Bunker would recover.

Edwin B. Daniels (18??-1874) – St. Clair County, Missouri Deputy Sheriff killed by Jim Younger near Roscoe, Missouri on March 17, 1874.

Dennis Foley – On July 21, 1873, the James-Younger Gang made their first train robbery at Adair, Iowa. The gang hid along a bank after disconnecting two rails of the track and pulling out the spikes. Anticipating that the engineer would stop, the plan failed when Engineer John Rafferty instead slammed on the air brakes and the train derailed, killing Rafferty when the engine crushed him. Fireman Dennis Foley was also seriously injured. Though things didn’t go as the gang planned, they went on to rob the train and its passengers of some $6,000.

Richmond Missouri

Richmond Missouri

B.G. Griffin (18??-1867) – On the afternoon of May 22, 1867, the James-Younger Gang appeared in Richmond, Missouri to rob the Hughes and Wasson Bank. During the robbery, three men were killed, including B.G. Griffin, when he came to the aid of his dying son, Frank S. Griffin.

Frank S. Griffin (18??-1867) – On the afternoon of May 22, 1867, the James-Younger Gang appeared in Richmond, Missouri to rob the Hughes and Wasson Bank. During the robbery, three men were killed, including Frank Griffin who was shot in the head. Upon seeing this his father, B.G. Griffin raced to the aid of his dying son and also received a shot in the head.

Nicholas Gustavson (18??-1876) – A Swedish immigrant who is thought not have been able to understand the warnings coming from Northfield, Minnesota citizens, was shot down in the hail of gunfire during the attempted robbery of the First National Bank on  September 7, 1876.

Joseph Lee Heywood (1837-1876) – Acting Cashier at the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota, Heywood refused to open the safe for the members of the James-Younger Gang on September 7, 1876. Though the men threatened to slit his throat, he continued to refuse and was shot by Frank James.

Jack Ladd – A Pinkerton Agent, Jack Ladd was posing as a farmworker for Dan Askew, who was a neighbor of the James Farm  Ladd and Askew were both killed on April 12, 1875, in revenge for the Pinkerton bombing of the James Farm in January 1875.

Captain Louis J. Lull, aka: W.J. Allen (18??-1874) – A Pinkerton Agent from ChicagoIllinoisLull was killed by John Younger near Roscoe, Missouri on March 17, 1874.

Nimrod Long – When the James-Younger Gang robbed his bank in Russellville, Kentucky, on March 20, 1868, a bullet was fired at his head. Fortunately for the banker, the shot grazed him and though he fell to the floor, he easily survived the scalp wound.

R.A.C Martin (18??-1872) – Martin was the Cashier at the Bank of Columbia, Kentucky when the James-Younger Gang robbed it on April 29, 1872. Unfortunately, Martin made the mistake of going for a pistol and for his attempt at bravery, he was shot and killed.

Judge James Garnet – President of the Bank of Columbia, Kentucky when the James-Younger Gang robbed it on April 29, 1872. Garnet was shot in the hand during the robbery, which years later caused it to be amputated.

Judge John McClain – Shot in the arm on March 2, 1867, during the attempted robbery of his bank in Savannah, Missouri. McClain recovered.

Adair Iowa Train Derailment

Adair Iowa Train Derailment during a robbery in 1873.

John Rafferty (18??-1873) – On July 21, 1873, the James-Younger Gang made their first train robbery at Adair, Iowa. The gang hid along a bank after disconnecting two rails of the track and pulling out the spikes. Anticipating that the engineer would stop, the plan failed when Engineer John Rafferty instead slammed on the air brakes and the train derailed, killing Rafferty when the engine crushed him. Though things didn’t go as the gang planned, they went on to rob the train and its passengers of some $6,000.

John B. Shaw (18??-1867) – On the afternoon of May 22, 1867, the James-Younger Gang appeared in Richmond, Missouri to rob the Hughes and Wasson Bank. During the robbery, three men were killed, including Mayor John B. Shaw, who was shot in the chest.

John W. Sheets (18??-1869) – When the James-Younger Gang robbed the Davies County Savings Bank in Gallatin, Missouri on December 7, 1869, the shot Sheets in the head. Allegedly, the gang thought that he was Major S. P. Cox who killed William “Bloody Bill” Anderson.

Unknown Girl – When the gang robbed the Kansas City Exposition on September 26, 1872, there was a dispute with the ticket seller and a stray bullet hit a young girl in the leg. She recovered.

John W. Whicher (18??-1874) – A Pinkerton Detective who had been sent to investigate the James Brothers in Jackson County, Missouri. Unfortunately, upon his arrival, he let one too many people know about his plans and was soon found shot to death alongside a rural road on March 11, 1874.

Custom Wanted Poster

Personalized Wanted Poster, at Legends’ General Store.

George Wymore (1849?-1866) – After making their first robbery on February 13, 1866, in Liberty, Missouri, shots were fired upon making their escape. unfortunately, a stray bullet hit innocent 17-year-old Wymore who was standing in front of the Green Hotel. Later, the family would say that they received a letter of apology from Jesse James.

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February 2020.

Also See:

The James Gang

Jesse James – Folklore Hero or Cold-Blooded Killer?

Jesse James Timeline

Modern Bad Men – A 1907 Account

1 thought on “The James-Younger Gang – Terror in the Heartland”

  1. I found a picture of my great grandfather and on the back it day Frank James Young and in apprentices it has (er) behind it.

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