Stratton House Inn :: Beautiful Belmont, Part 53 -- Robbers and Detectives.
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by John Salisbury Cochran.

See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 52 -- Remembering Fort Pillow.

The James and Younger Brothers

Seated in front of my office in Sedalia, Missouri, one evening, I observed a group of 20 horsemen ride up and stop to take supper at the hotel close by. They were all well-armed with Winchester repeating rifles and appeared tired. The first holdup and robbery in history of a railroad train had happened just a few days before in the state of Iowa. This group of men, commanded by an ex-colonel and captain of the recent war, had followed the trail of the robbers from Iowa. The robbers were the celebrated James and Younger brothers. The James boys, as they were familiarly called, consisted of two brothers, Frank and Jesse. Their father was dead and their mother's second husband was a minister by the name of Samuels. She was a high-tempered woman, ready to resent any imagined injury. She lived in Ray County, Missouri, a short distance north of the Missouri River, about 40 miles northwest of Sedalia. Mr. Samuels, finding his home uncongenial, left and was never heard of again.

The Youngers were sons of Judge Younger, who formerly lived near Sedalia. The brothers were named Cole, John, James, and Bob. Judge Younger and his wife were dead; but the Younger boys lived on their farm, which they kept in the name of Mrs. Snuffer, near Monigaw Springs, a watering place some 40 miles south of Sedalia. This group of armed men had traced the Iowa train robbers to Sedalia and were following them on to the home of the Youngers. When near Monigaw Springs they halted and went into camp. The colonel and captain rode into the little town. As they were returning and while passing through a narrow point in the road, skirted on each side by thick underbrush, and when within a few hundred yards of their command, they were confronted by six rifles pointed in their faces and ordered to make no outcry on penalty of death.

The two men were disarmed, placed on their horses and taken some distance from their waiting comrades. The captain was sent back to the camp with a message that if he and his companions would immediately return to Iowa, promise not to return again, and as an earnest of their good faith be at a certain point near the Missouri and Iowa line on a certain day, the colonel, who until that time they proposed to hold as hostage, should be returned to them safe and sound. If they refused to comply, the colonel was to be killed. Under the circumstances, and knowing the Youngers would certainly keep their word, it was the only thing to be done to save the life of the colonel. The armed force retraced their steps and the robbers kept their promise.

The Pinkerton Detectives

Not long after that incident my heart was deeply touched by the suffering and bereavement of a noble lady, the wife of an ex-colonel in the Union army, now one of Pinkerton's detectives of Chicago, who had been sent down to capture the James boys. She had come to claim the dead body of her husband to take it back to Chicago. I have now forgotten his name. About all we know of his story is that the detective had gone to Lexington, south of the Missouri River, had left some money and valuables with the banker there, quietly explaining to the bank president and no one else, his mission. Some few miles east of Lexington the road leading to Sedalia is joined by one crossing the river from the north -- a road that passes the James, or Mrs. Samuels farm. A ferry carries travelers and vehicles on this road across the river.

The ferryman tells the story of a man dressed in laborer's clothes, who crossed northbound. The workman had asked him for work, but he sent the man instead to the Samuels farm. Early on the following morning, Jesse and Frank James and another companion, supposed to be Clel Miller, all well-armed and mounted, crossed the ferry going south toward the Sedalia and Lexington Road, having a fourth person, the man who had inquired for work the day before, securely bound on a horse. The body of this man was later found at the junction of these two roads hanging from a tree, shot full of holes, with the following writing pinned on the dead man's clothes: "This is a Pinkerton detective sent from Chicago to capture the James boys." To this writing the names of Jesse and Frank James were signed.

The next effort was to capture the Youngers, which was undertaken by a St. Louis and a Chicago detective. The detectives went to St. Clair County and persuaded Bud Daniels, then deputy sheriff, to accompany them to the Mrs. Snuffer, or Younger, farm. Daniels was a great shot and notedly brave and fearless. They rode up to the Snuffer house and, calling her to the door, asked the woman for a drink of water. As she was accommodating them, one of the men casually asked if the Younger boys lived somewhere in that neighborhood. She replied they lived there -- on the farm -- and that James and John were then in the house eating breakfast. They thanked her and rode off. On going in, James asked her who the riders were. She said she did not know them, but detailed what had happened. James said, "John, those fellows are after us. Let us go and capture them." They mounted their horses and followed, overtaking the lawmen only a short distance from the house, where they had halted to hold a consultation.

Unfortunately, Daniels and the detectives were armed only with revolvers. The Youngers had breech-loading rifles, and as soon as they came in sight of the others they drew their rifles on them and ordered them to surrender. Out of revolver range, the Youngers had the officers at their mercy. Daniels advised a surrender, as with the unerring aim of the Youngers it meant death to all three to resist. They surrendered, delivering up their arms. Here a fatal mistake was made by the Chicago detective. He had concealed in his pocket a small pistol and when John Younger's attention was distracted, the detective shot him through the heart. He then shot James through the hip. After John was shot, he whirled in his saddle and shot the Chicago detective; fatally wounded, the detective dropped from his horse. In the meantime James Younger, although badly wounded, turned and shot Bud Daniels dead.

When the firing began the St. Louis detective rode off as rapidly as his horse would carry him. James rode after him, but in his wounded condition had to give up the pursuit. While James was gone, the Chicago detective crawled into the brush. As James came back James called to a black man plowing in a field nearby to come and take care of John, as he was dead, remarking as he left, "I've got to get out of here as I presume there are more of them around here after us." The wife of the wounded Chicago detective came to him and with what medical skill she could obtain, tried for three weeks to nurse him into life at a neighboring farmhouse close to the scene of the tragedy. Her efforts were fruitless and she ultimately passed through Sedalia with his dead body.

Pinkerton next attempted to capture the James boys with a squad of some 30 well-armed horsemen sent by way of the North Missouri Railroad. The men and horses were taken by passenger coach and boxcars to a point on the railroad line opposite the Samuels residence. They approached the house at night and tried to burn it by means of large balls of cotton fastened on wire and saturated with coal oil. They set fire to these balls and inserted the wires under the weather boarding. They threw hand grenades into the house. Exploding, the grenades killed a black servant girl and so badly wounded Mrs. Samuels that she lost an arm. The attempt to burn the house was a failure, and the Pinkerton force was attacked from the rear by the James boys and a number of the detectives were badly wounded. They retreated, carrying their wounded with them, and left the Missouri as secretly as they had come. Afterward, Mrs. Samuels abandoned the farm, moving to Kansas City.

Jesse James Relents

At one time, Mrs. Samuels had had a poor, honest, hard-working man as a tenant on her farm, who had come from the state of Illinois with a wife and family of five children. He was a Christian, had worked hard, had large crops then growing on the farm, and was highly respected in the neighborhood. Mrs. Samuels quarreled with this man as to her share of something that had been divided. In her passion she made some statements, which her tenant told her were incorrect and was proceeding to explain when she interrupted him by saying: "You have called me a liar. I will go and tell Jesse and he will kill you." Her tenant protested he had not done so, but she left in great wrath.

Later, as the tenant was talking to a neighbor in front of the tenant's door, Jesse James on horseback, dashed through the corn by the house, and covering the tenant with a revolver, said to him: "Did you not know better than to call my mother a liar?" The tenant protested it was a mistake and he had no such intention. "I am going to kill you," said Jesse, "and now give you just time to say goodbye to your family" The tenant asked for time to pray also, which was granted. After kissing and embracing his wife and children, he knelt down in the front yard to pray. In an audible and pathetic voice, he called upon God to witness that he had not done that of which he was charged. He invoked the aid of God in taking care of and providing for his needy, loving family there among strangers when he was gone, and to so direct their steps so that they should ultimately meet and form a reunited family in heaven. A more heartrending scene was possibly never witnessed than this man on his knees pouring out his soul to God in what he supposed to be his last prayer on earth, with his wife and five children beside him in that farmyard, hands clasped and eyes raised to heaven, all in mighty prayer.

As the father finished, his beautiful sixteen-year-old daughter clasped him around the neck, and shielding his body with her own, begged the bandit to spare her father's life. Something about the girl touched Jesse James; it was an unusual event, as Jesse was known to be unforgiving and cruel in his inclination to kill. He agreed to spare the man's life on condition that in three hours the tenant and his family leave the homestead. The farmer, with what few personal effects he could gather up and haul away, complied with the conditions, leaving all else, including his hard-earned crops, and was never seen again. Jesse James was a most bloodthirsty man and seldom spared his victim. Frank was more humane and more than once interfered to save life.

General Bacon Montgomery

A short while after the incidents above, the two James and three remaining Younger boys, Cole, James and Bob, and three other companions, Clel Miller, Charlie Pitts, and Hobbs Kerry, held up a train and robbed the express car of a very large amount of money. The robbery occurred at a watering station on the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, some 15 miles east of Sedalia, near Otterville. A small stream, well timbered, crosses the railroad at this point, running south to the Osage River. Beginning in Kansas, the Osage runs easterly almost parallel with the Missouri, some 60 miles south of it, and about 30 miles south of Sedalia, until it turns abruptly east of Jefferson City and flows into the Missouri. After the robbery, the bandits headed down this little timbered stream to the Osage.

News of the robbery was immediately telegraphed to Sedalia, and within a few hours General Bacon Montgomery, with eight other fearless and most daring characters who had followed him in fighting the famous Quantrell band of outlaws during the war -- to which the James and Younger boys belonged -- was on their trail down this ravine. If there was any person these bandits feared, it was Bacon Montgomery. When the Civil War began, Montgomery was the editor of a Democratic newspaper at Georgetown, then the county seat of Pettis County, Missouri. Although he had at one time during the Missouri "border wars" taken a company into Kansas from Pettis County to vote the Democratic ticket, yet he stood by the Union when secession was proclaimed. Quantrell attempted to capture him, but failed, although he destroyed Montgomery's printing press. During the attack, Montgomery's mother was killed; Montgomery, infuriated, raised a regiment of the most daring men in his neighborhood, and sent word to Quantrell he would follow him until he killed him, if that should be to the end of the earth.

At one time he attacked Quantrell's command, quartered at the house of a Confederate sympathizer a few miles south of Sedalia. They were about evenly matched in numbers and the fight was desperate and bloody, both being cavalry. The combatants obtained possession of the house, the family having taken refuge in the cellar. Montgomery's forces burned the house and finally routed Quantrell's command, though Quantrell himself escaped.

When pursuing the train robbers to the Osage, Montgomery refused to take with him more men than the number of bandits. He said if he could not whip them fairly he would not fight at all.

I accompanied Major James Woods, Captain L.L. Bridges, and 20 other horsemen, by train on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad to the Osage and guarded the roads and fords crossing that river in front of the outlaws to prevent their passage south. Finding they were intercepted, they doubled back on their trail. They had gone off the road onto a little hill in the woods to divide their booty. Montgomery passed them without seeing them, but they were afraid to launch a surprise attack, as Montgomery's men were armed with repeating rifles and the gang only had revolvers with them at the time. We later found much cheap jewelry, express orders and receipts, and many other valueless articles where they divided their spoils.

After an eight-day chase and sleeping in the woods, we succeeded in capturing one of the gang in Hobbs Kerry, and he was sent to prison for many years. The other outlaws made their way to Minnesota, where they undertook the famed Northfield bank robbery, in which two of them, Clel Miller and Charlie Pitts, were killed, the three Youngers captured, although the two James brothers escaped. Cole and Jim Younger were sentenced to life imprisonment, but were pardoned and liberated some years later; Bob Younger died in the Minnesota penitentiary.

See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 54 -- Return to Ohio.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.


This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
CO-AUTHOR: Schultheiss, Tom. (Asst. Editor)

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved
ENTRY NUMBER: EBK30011871

 

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