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Northfield, Minnesota, Bank Robbery by James-Younger Gang, September 7, 1876, photo

Northfield, Minnesota, Bank Robbery by James-Younger Gang, September 7, 1876, photo

The First National Bank building in Northfield, Minnesota, site of a failed bank robbery by the James-Younger Gang on September 7, 1876. The gang of eight (possibly nine) consisted of Jesse James, Frank James, Cole Younger, Jim Younger, Bob Younger, Clell Miller, Bill Chadwell and Charlie Pitts. Alert citizens discovered the robbery in progress and opened fire on the gang resulting in the death of Clell Miller and Bill Chadwell. Inside the bank, Joseph Heywood, who was acting as cashier, was killed after refusing to open the bank vault which was actually unlocked at the time. During the gunfire on the street, Nicholas Gustavson, a recent immigrant, was shot and died several days later.

The two James brothers, the three Younger brothers (all three of which sustained gunshot wounds during the battle) and Charlie Pitts escaped from the scene with the six men riding on five horses. A massive manhunt began in search of the escaped robbers. At some point, the James brothers separated from the rest and escaped back to Missouri. On September 21, two weeks after the robbery, the Younger Brothers and Charlie Pitts were discovered and surrounded. Choosing to at first fight it out rather than surrender, the gang members came under heavy fire resulting in Charlie Pitts being killed and the Youngers again receiving gunshot wounds. The Youngers finally surrendered, pleaded guilty to escape the death penalty, and were given life sentences in the Minnesota State Prison. Bob Younger died in prison of tuberculosis in 1889. Cole and Jim Younger served twenty-five year terms and were paroled in 1901. Just one year later, Jim Younger committed suicide in 1902. Cole Younger later received a pardon and formed a traveling Wild West Show in partnership with Frank James. While the Younger's were serving time in prison, Jesse James was assassinated on April 3, 1882. Frank James died at the age of 72 of natural causes on February 8, 1915. Cole Younger died one year later on March 21, 1916, also at the age of 72.

During his capture, trial and imprisonment, Cole Younger consistently denied that Jesse and Frank James were involved in the Northfield Bank Robbery. In 1903, two years after being released from prison, Cole Younger wrote a small book titled, The Story of Cole Younger, By Himself. In this book, Cole sought to correct what he saw as numerous false stories about his life and his involvement in various robberies. He again stated that the James brothers were not involved in the robbery.

Each year since 1948, the city of Northfield, Minnesota has celebrated, The Defeat of Jesse James Days. The celebration is not of the outlaw gang but rather a celebration of the heroic actions of the local citizens in fighting back against the gang who came to rob their bank. The celebration includes a reenactment of the robbery. The site of the attempted robbery, The First National Bank, has been restored to its appearance in 1876. The bank is a portion of the Scriver Building which also houses the Northfield Historical Society.

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