Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for the Younger Brothers

ounger Brothers The Younger brothers were an important portion of the James-Younger Gang of the mid-west during the 1800's.  They came from a family with fourteen children, though only four of the brothers - Cole, Jim, Bob and John - were involved in the gang.  Their father, Henry Younger, was a good man, a prosperous land owner and, despite having slaves, a Union supporter who felt slavery should be abolished (I know...I'm confused, too).

Though Henry was a Union supporter, the Union guerilla group, the Jayhawkers, only saw that he was a slave owner, and during the Kansas-Missouri Border War, they regularly raided his farm, stealing from him, doing damage and, ultimately, killing him in July 1862.

One of his sons, Cole (below), had already joined the enemy, Quantrill's Raiders, the Confederate guerilla group, but his anger grew exponentially when his father was murdered.  He was part of the massive raid on Lawrence, Kansas where 200 males were killed (see my "Q" post on Quantrill's Raiders).

Jim joined Quantrill's Raiders the year after his father was killed, and Cole joined the actual Confederate Army.  In 1865, after much success for Cole and a prison term for Jim, stemming from the raid that saw Quantrill shot dead, the two returned home, only to find their farm ravaged.  It was then that the boys turned to robberies to bring in money and support their family.

Cole and Frank James had fought together under Quantrill, with Jesse eventually joining under Bloody Bill Anderson at the age of 16.  They weren't the only ex-soldiers who decided to fight back against banks and institutions, but they would become the most famous, first under Archie Clement, and then as the James-Younger Gang when Clement was killed.

On February 13, 1866, a large group of armed men stormed the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, Missouri, committing the first peace time, armed, day-time robbery in America, and netting $60,000.  A man on the street was shot and killed during this robbery.  Their first peace time victim.

By the time the gang split up, they were said to have robbed eleven more banks, seven trains and four stagecoaches.  Their body count was eleven, at the least.  The James brothers had also participated in breaking fellow guerillas out of a prison, leaving their guard dead.  Over the years, their gang had included the four Younger brothers, both James brothers, Archie Clement, Clell Miller, Charlie Pitts, Ace Nelson and many more.

Their last robbery as the James-Younger Gang occurred on September 7, 1876, in Northfield, Minnesota.  They attempted to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, half of the men inside, half out.  When a clerk refused to open the vault, he was shot.  This gunshot alerted the citizens of the town that something was wrong, and the armed citizenry opened fire on the outlaws posted outside the bank.  Clell Miller and Bill Chadwell were killed outright during the shooting, as well as a recent immigrant who got caught in the crossfire.  Cole and Bob Younger were both injured by gunfire, and they fled along with the other survivors.  The James brothers split off from the group, going their own way to evade the posse now on their heels.  The Youngers surrendered after a shootout that left Charlie Pitts dead.  They were charged and imprisoned, with a sentence of 25 years, on November 20, 1876.

Bob Younger died in prison of tuberculosis (age 36), but Jim and Cole were pardoned in 1901.  Jim killed himself in 1902 (age 54) when his parole terms wouldn't allow him to marry his sweetheart, and Cole died in 1916 (age 72), having been in a Wild West show with Frank James after his pardon.  Before his death, he also toured, letting people know why a life of crime wasn't worth it, and he published an autobiography: The Story of Cole Younger.  

Most have heard of the James Brothers, but had you heard of the Younger brothers? Had you heard of the Kansas-Missouri Border War?

May you find your Muse.

*Letter Y courtesy of Stenly,
**Young Cole Younger, By Chrisjackson at en.wikipedia [Public domain or Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
***Taken in the aftermath of the raid on the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota on September 7, 1876. Lot of 15 glass plate negatives of various sizes. Includes 10 collodion negatives taken in 1876 and five dry plate negatives, likely produced for Huntington's 1895 publication Robber and Hero. The Story of the Raid on the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota by the James-Younger Band of Robbers in 1876; By I.E. Sumner, of Northfield (cowanauctions) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

At least Cole told people a life of crime wasn't worth it. He could certainly back up that claim.

Randy said...

Wasn't Cole Younger sent to the Yuma territorial prison? I get the feeling that he was one tough hombre.

mshatch said...

I had heard of the Younger brothers thanks to my interest in the period for a book I wrote. That's sad that Jim couldn't marry his sweetheart. I wonder what the conditions were that prevented it and why?

Mina Burrows said...

Can you imagine living a life like that? And no, I hadn't heard of the Younger brothers or Kansas-Missouri Border war. Very cool. Thx for sharing.

Also wanted to say thank you for hosting the A-Z challenge. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

The Cole/James gang was another bad part of the Civil War that doesn't get a lot of attention.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Alex, I figure he redeemed himself some.

Randy, I believe he was sent to Stillwater Prison. But he was definitely one tough hombre!

Mshatch, all I know is that it was blamed on his parole conditions, which said he couldn't start a family. Seems counter-intuitive to the process prison is intended for.

Mina, it's definitely been my pleasure!

Susan, that's true. There's so much that isn't known about the Civil War, other than the main, frequently taught parts.

Anonymous said...

I was the younger brother! And thanks for the trip through time. Just about every guy loves this kind of stuff.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Stephen, gals, too! Well, this gal, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I've actually heard of the Younger brothers. There was a mention of them on a history show my hubby was watching. Interesting post.

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow - there are so many violent, sad stories from these times! Glad I live in the now, not the then!

Rebecca said...

wow i learned something new again today but then again i always do when i stop by thank you

Annalisa Crawford said...

Another great story, and another set of people I'd never heard of!

Andrew Leon said...

Heard of... I'm pretty sure we studied the border war in high school, but I don't remember much about it.

Anonymous said...

Great write-up of fascinating history. The great Northfield Minnesota Raid was some wild business!


Chuck said...

Heard plenty about the James-Younger gang. But I never knew about them being in the Confederate army. Another great story Shannon.

Anonymous said...

Ohh just learned something new... thanks for sharing.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Susanne, I'm not at all surprised. They were quite infamous!

Jemi, they do seem pretty common back then. Sad.

Becca, that's wonderful to hear!

Annalisa, thank you!

Andrew, I don't think we did. I think I would remember since I was so hooked on the Wild West. Then again, I wasn't so into the Civil War, so I guess it depends where it fit in then.

Ladysknight, it was, wasn't it!?

Chuck, that part I didn't know about before, either. I just knew about their post-war exploits.

Tania, thank you!