Saturday, May 26, 2007

James Gang

I have found bits of history of Lake Minnetonka that include references to the infamous Jesse James/Younger Gang. They are simple recollections of locals (the first of which I have included has an incorrect date, or false memory).
Historically the James/Younger Gang came to Minnesota and spent some time casing out banks for robbery. It is no surprise that they would spend time in the early 1870s checking out the growing Lake Minnetonka and Wayzata area. This was a prosperous area, with the population growing faster than law enforcement.

From "Tales On A Lake"
“On August 27, 1887 a young Martha Baier strolled down to
Minnehaha Creek to visit and have breakfast with a group of young men
cleaning up for the day's ride. They had been visiting her
father on their farm, and then the group was planning to
continue south to the town of Northfield.”

From Wayzata Historical Society:
“The Younger brothers stayed at the Maurer Hotel before they
gained notoriety as Jesse James gang members who ‘pulled off’ the great Northfield bank robbery.”

The Northfield Robbery was the most famous bank robbery
of the times.September 9, 1876. It was a failure for the infamous James Gang. The money was left behind, along with two dead robbers and two dead townsmen. All the robbers were injured in the “Battle of Northfield”.
What has always interested me is how any of the James Gang escaped the barrage from the quickly assembled force that confronted the robbers.
The answer seems to be this: The townsmen were local citizens and farmers who were armed with shotguns. They were armed with shotguns loaded with birdshot and other light loads intended for varmint and game birds, not for larger game. Many of the gang received injuries at close range, but did not die, but were seriously wounded.

The Youngers were later captured and spent 15 years in Stillwater Prison, the James Brothers escaped to Tennessee where they lived as farmers for a while...

Side bar: In 1969 their namesake "The James Gang" released the hit song "Walk Away".



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