Friday, November 19, 2010

I Remember...My famous relatives - the James Gang

...stories told to me by my Oklahoma relatives one day when I shared with them that one of my classmates bragged they were related to someone famous. My Mom told me that we were related to famous people, too. She mentioned President Truman, one of the six soldier honor guards for President Lincoln (see below), and some others. However, the coolest famous relative (as a young boy) were Cole, John, Jim and Bob Younger. They were better known as the Younger brothers and even more well-known as the "Gang" in "The James Gang". The best part of the story is my grandmother telling me about watching from the top of the stairs as her mother (my great grandmother) chased (with a broom) Cole, Jesse and the gang out of their house. Her words were, "You're kin, so I won't say that you were here or where you're going, but I can't have you in my house".

Cole and Jim Younger came home from the Civil War (yes, I had relatives on both sides of the Civil War, both famous in a small footnote in history) to find their father murdered, farm burned, mother and family disbursed and family fortune gone. Looking for revenge and punishment through relieving "Yankee" banks of their cash, he decided to become the "Robin Hood" to post-war Missouri and Oklahoma. Cole actually started the gang that eventually made Jesse James famous. On March 19, 1868 Cole and his brother led a raid on a bank in Russellville, KY and brought along the James brothers, Jesse and Frank James.

Although they all had soldier backgrounds, all these men were basically farmers. Jesse and Frank James and Cole, Bob, John and Jim Younger kept up the bank and train robbing career. Jesse Jamesbecame the public face of the gang, appealing to the public in letters to the press (even press releases left behind at robberies), claiming to be the victim of vindictive Radical Republicans. Jesse became the gang's leader and the James and Younger brothers became a legend.

John Younger, as a youth, with his brother Bob, took his dying mother back to Missouri where he was repeatedly stabbed and hung four times by union soldiers and yet still survived. He and Bob then joined the James gang for revenge.

John was shot in the neck by a Pinkerton detective and died March 17, 1894.

Cole, Jim and Bob were captured after an ill-fated bank robbery and sentenced to prison in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Bob died of TB in prison on September 16, 1889.

Cole and Jim were paroled on July 10, 1901.

Jim committed suicide October 19, 1902 over an unrequited love.

Cole Younger and Frank James outlived them all and once again Cole was the leader as he lectured and toured the south with Frank in a Wild West show,
The Cole Younger and Frank James Wild West Company in 1903.

Frank James died February 18, 1915. A year later, Cole Younger died March 21, 1916, in his home town of
Lee's Summit, Missouri, and is buried in the Lee's Summit Historical Cemetery

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