St. Louis Iron Mountain
& Southern Railway
 Jackson, Missouri

Special Events Photo Album
and Legend of
Jesse James Gang

"The James Gang"

Jesse James: The Show-Me State's
Most Famous Train Robber
The Legend of Jesse James is known the world over. He is probably the most famous and celebrated Missourian after Harry S. Truman. Little in the way of fact exists about James and what you are about to read is merely an attempt to tell his story.

Jesse James was born on September 5, 1847 in Kearney, MO. During the Civil War, the teenager James joined a band of pro-Southern guerrillas under the notorious William Quantrill. As one of Quantrill's irregulars, James learned the art of being an outlaw. As one of Central's Raiders, James attacked Union supply trains and depots. Many individual atrocities were committed by this notorious band of guerrilla fighters in Missouri. Quantrill justified his actions by saying that they were fighting on the side of the Confederacy. The Confederacy benefited from the actions of Quantrill, but they never recognized him as a member of the Confederacy.

Following the war between the states, the young Jesse James, disillusioned by the outcome of the war, turned to a life of crime. With his great leadership capabilities he put together a gang of what were to become some of the most notorious, yet celebrated names of the American West. Some of the most famous were Frank James and a cousin of Jesse, Cole Younger. This new gang began a massive crime spree that would frustrate law enforcement officials in the Midwest and would fire the imaginations of people everywhere. The James Gang began their crime spree with a series of bank robberies starting with the 1866 robbery of the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, MO, northeast of Kansas City. The gang made off with $62,000 which was to be their largest single heist. The gang robbed banks and killed many who stood in their way for the next eight years. The James Gang was not a bunch of cold-blooded killers and would give money to those they met along the trail who were less fortunate than they were.

In 1873, the James Gang tired of robbing banks and decided to try their hand at robbing trains. On July 21, 1873, the James Gang robbed the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad at Adair, Iowa. The gang had learned that $75,000 dollars in gold was to be transported on the train. According to the Adair News of Adair, Iowa the gang broke into a handcar house and stole track tools. They then removed the track bars and spikes from a length of rail. They tied ropes to the rail, and when the train was past the point of being able to stop, they pulled the rail out. The engineer was killed and the fireman was badly injured. The Gang was disappointed when they found that the gold shipment was not onboard. In frustration they entered the train and robbed all of the passengers, getting away with a mere $6000. Train crews and passengers alike were now fearful that they could become the next victims of the now infamous train robbing James Gang.

On January 31, 1874 one of the most famous train robberies in history occurred at Gads Hill, MO on the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad main line north of Piedmont, Missouri. The train was the St. Louis and Texas Express which left the Iron Mountain's Plum Street Depot about 9:30 AM. The James Gang wanted to hold up the train for two reasons. First, the gang had been informed that Allan Pinkerton the famous detective was going to be onboard. Pinkerton had been hired to find and apprehend or kill James. The James Gang wanted to eliminate the Pinkerton threat by killing him. The other reason that they wanted to rob the train was to steal from the rich passengers that would be onboard. The masked gang arrived at Gads Hill Station at 3:30 in the afternoon and rounded up waiting passengers and the station manager who they herded into a store room. They left one guard to take watch over the captives while the others stuck a signal flag out and then threw a switch south of the station the wrong way to keep the train from passing. When the train rolled into Gads Hill at 5:30 PM, the engineer saw the flag and stopped the train. One robber jumped on the deck of the locomotive and pointed a gun at the engineer and fireman. As the Conductor, C. A. Alford got off the train, James came up to him and pointed his pistol at the man's heart.

"Give me your money and your wallet!" James ordered. The order was quickly followed with the conductor handing over his wallet and his gold pocket watch. The gang placed an armed gunman on each platform and robbed each coach. According to one of the passengers, James H. Morley, chief engineer of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad, the bandits robbed the passengers clean and made off with $10,000. Allan Pinkerton was not onboard, so the train robbery was not a complete success.

As Jesse James got off the train, he tossed the conductor his gold watch, saying "You'll need this." A posse was organized in Piedmont to go after the gang, but by the time it was organized, the James Gang was over sixty miles away.

The James Gang continued their crime spree after they robbed the Iron Mountain, robbing trains, stage coaches, and banks until 1881. James retired from crime and moved to St. Joseph, Missouri under an assumed name. There were many rumors in the town that he was the infamous Jesse James. On April 3, 1882, James was shot in his home by Robert Ford, who wanted to collect the reward on his head. This is the generally accepted end of Jesse James. However, a one hundred year old man was found in the late 1940's living in Oklahoma who, claimed that he was Jesse James and that his death had been a farce.  In 1997 Jesse's grave was re-opened and it was verified that the remains of the person buried there were those of Jesse James.

Photos from a re-enactment of a train robbery by the James Gang
St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway
"The James Gang"

"Approaching a Bridge, Full Steam Ahead"

"Muddy Day for a Robbery"
"Blocking the Train at Gordonville"

"It's Been a very Long Day"

Photos ©Copyright -St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern Railway

Home linkLinks page