The James-Younger Gang – Terror in the Heartland

 

Quantrill's Raiders

Quantrill’s Raiders

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.

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. Afterwards, 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 Gallatan, 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.

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