Bank Robbers, Plague, and the Big Cyclone Andrew County Mo.


Copyright 1991 Compton's Learning Company

JAMES, Jesse (1847-82). Celebrated in song, story, and movies, the legend of outlaw Jesse James has become a permanent part of the lore of the 19th-century American West. For 16 years, from 1866 to 1882, the James gangs were the scourge of banks and stagecoaches and trains carrying gold.

Jesse Woodson James was born near present-day Kearney, Mo., on Sept. 5, 1847. His brother Frank was 4 years old at the time. Their father abandoned the family when Jesse was 2 in order to seek gold in California. When the Civil War started in 1861, the James family, along with many other Missourians, was on the side of the Confederacy. At 15 Jesse joined Frank as a member of a gang of raiders led by William C. Quantrill. These guerrilla fighters raided communities in Kansas and Missouri, killed pro-Northern citizens, and robbed mail coaches. After the war the raiders disbanded.

Jesse turned to crime as a way of life and in 1867 (the year the Bennetts moved to Missouri from Canada) became the leader of a gang that specialized first in bank robberies, then in holding up trains. The membership of the gang varied over the years. Its earliest members were the Younger brothers, Cole, James, and Robert; Andy McGuire; Wood and Clarence Hite; George and Oliver Shepherd; Tom Little; and Frank James. All of these men were former raiders under Quantrill.

Their first bank robbery was at Liberty, Mo., on Feb. 14, 1866. Several more banks were robbed during the next seven years, usually many months apart in order to let the public outcry die down. On July 21, 1873, the gang robbed its first train at Adair, Iowa. Robbing trains and stagecoaches of their gold greatly enhanced the reputation of the James gang among Westerners. Whereas bank robberies affected the savings of ordinary people, stealing gold promoted a Robin Hood image that is, stealing from the rich to give to the poor, though how much giving the gang did is uncertain.

In September 1876 the gang was nearly destroyed in an attempt to rob a bank at Northfield, Minn. Only the James brothers escaped death or capture. All three Younger brothers were wounded, captured, and imprisoned. Frank and Jesse were not heard of again until 1879 when, with the gang reconstituted, they robbed a train in Glendale, Mo. Note: According to a book written later by Cole Younger, he denied being a part of Jessee’s gang, though by inference, and the fact he was captured following the Northfield bank robbery he was at least present at one of Jessee Jame’s crimes!)

The often senseless killings and other violence that went along with the robberies finally prompted Governor Thomas T. Crittenden of Missouri to offer a reward of $10,000 for the capture of the James brothers, dead or alive. Robert Ford, a member of the gang, paid a secret visit to the governor and ascertained that the reward would be his if he killed Jesse. On T. Crittenden of Missouri to offer a reward of $10,000 for the capture of the James brothers, dead or alive. Robert Ford, a member of the gang, paid a secret visit to the governor and ascertained that the reward would be his if he killed Jesse. On April 3, 1882, when Jesse had his back turned, Ford shot him. With Jesse dead, Frank

James turned himself in to the authorities. He was tried for his crimes but was acquitted, probably owing to public sentiment. He lived out his life on a Missouri farm, where he died in 1915.

Although not as well known as Jesse James, the Younger brothers were Midwestern outlaws of the post-Civil War era who often worked with the James brothers (see James, Jesse). There were four Youngers: Thomas Coleman ("Cole," 1844-1916); John (1846-74); James (1850-1902); and Robert (1853-89).

The brothers grew up in Lee's Summit, Missouri. During the Civil War Cole joined a band of guerrillas and thugs led by William C. Quantrill. This gang raided pro-Union towns in Kansas and Missouri during the war. While with Quantrill, Cole met Frank James. After the war he joined the James brothers and other outlaws in robbing banks and trains in Missouri and surrounding states.

By 1872 all four Youngers were in the gang. John was killed in a shoot-out with Pinkerton detective agents in 1874. The other brothers reached the ends of their careers in September 1876, when they joined the James brothers and others to rob a bank in Northfield, Minn. Pursued by local citizens, the Youngers were captured. They were convicted of robbery and murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Robert died in prison of tuberculosis. Cole and Jim were pardoned in 1901. Jim killed himself in 1902. Cole wrote his autobiography and played in Wild West shows for a few years before retiring to his home town. He died in Jackson County, Missouri on March 21, 1916.


Great events make fascinating history, but commonplace occurrences quite often have a greater influence on society. The total number of persons killed in World War I was a little more than 8.5 million. The war provided material for countless books. The influenza epidemic of 1918-19, coming on the heels of the war, killed more than 20 million persons worldwide, yet, apart from medical professionals and historians, few remember the epidemic.



The following account of the great cyclone which passed through Andrew County in June, 1881, is largely from the published account in the SAVANNAH REPORTER: A little before 5 O'clock Sunday evening, June 12, a dark, ragged, strange and foreboding looking cloud was noticed west of Bennett Lane, in the northern part of the county, which dipped toward the earth in a point at the center, and traveled westward. The point reached the ground just before crossing the road, and the wind scattered boards, rails, and agriculture implements in all directions.

The cloud, with a loud rushing noise, reached the earth, which seemed to cause an explosion, and caused the raising of a dense black smoke, rushed over fields and forests, stripping the largest trees of their branches, and tearing up smaller ones by the roots, and carrying them long distances.

The first house encountered in its path was that of Nathaniel Kellogg, six miles north of Savannah, the roof and upper story were completely demolished, a fine orchard ruined and fences swept away, the family escaped uninjured.

A Mr. Roberts, seeing the storm coming his way, sought shelter for his family. On returning, nothing was left of his home, the well bucket had been blown away, and the well, in which some 20 feet of water had previously stood was perfectly dry.

The course of the cyclone was a little south of northwest, and from the beginning until reaching the eastern boundary of Andrew County, it seemed to increase steadily in power, breadth, and fury. Six people died and many were wounded. The tornado, from Flag Springs to the point where it left the county, swept a path 80 yards wide, clearing every living thing before it, leaving the ground perfectly bare. It was the greatest storm of the kind ever experience in Northwest Missouri.

A cyclone, a few years latter, struck the county on Empire Prairie, passing into Gentry County.



Andrew County was first visited by grasshoppers-Rocky Mountain Locusts-on 8 August, 1874. They were flying in an easterly direction. They continued to pass over in clouds for several days, but enough landed to cause great uneasiness among the farmers and gardeners, who took every precaution to guard their crops against the ravages of the terrible pests. The insects did little damage that year. The grasshoppers remained long enough to deposit their eggs, which were in countless millions, and then emigrated to other fields.

The next year, around the 20th of April, the young hoppers began to appear, absolutely covering every square or fraction thereof of the earth's surface, destroying verdure of all kinds, rendering wheat, pastures, and all other fields as barren as the traveled highways.

The pests seemed to move in one direction, eastward, and exercised the utmost system in the work of destruction. Countless myriads swarmed through the air, in clouds dense enough to intercept the sun's rays for several minutes at a time. Before this relentless army of destroyers all kinds of vegetation rapidly perished, and it is said that the insects became so numerous on the railroads as to cause the locomotive wheels to slip on the iron tracks, creating great delays in the trains.

At first the farmers tried to protect their crops by destroying the insects, but, finding that a thousand made their appearance for every one killed, all such efforts were soon abandoned.

No county was ever worse afflicted with a plaque than Andrew County with the locusts, which lasted until the 20th of June, 1875. With the departure of the pests farmers replanted their corn, some as late as the 4th of July. Large quantities of vegetables were planted. Millet and Hungarian seed were sown, and, the season proving exceptionally favorable, immense quantities of all these crops were raised. Corn planted that year in July produced from 50 to 100 bushels per acre, and all kinds of vegetables were so plentiful that they brought little or no price in the markets.

In the fall, people from Kansas and Nebraska were suffering from famine, caused by grasshoppers, Andrew County "grasshoppered" as it had been, was able to respond to the call, and do its share in feeding the hungry and clothing the poor.

Bank Robbers


One of the most daring attempts at open robbery ever known in Northwest Missouri was made in 1867 by the notorious Melvin Bond, a well known out law and desperado, who, with six comrades as reckless and desperate as himself, made a raid on the savings bank in Savannah.

The robbery was admirably planned, the time chosen about 2 O'clock P.M., when the people of the city would least expect such an occurrence. The out laws rode boldly through the streets to the front door of the bank where, hastily dismounting, Bond, with several of his comrades, entered the building, and presenting a revolver, demanded of the cashier his money or his life.

The cashier, Judge McLain, who was standing behind the counter engaged in preparing an express package, seized a revolver and shot Bond in the arm, shattering the bone. Simultaneously Bond fired, hitting McLain in the left shoulder, severing the main artery, making a severe and dangerous wound. On of the robbers rushed around the counter to take the money, but he was met by the Judge, who, with his revolver cocked, advanced on him, causing him to retreat to the door. By this time the commotion at the bank aroused the citizens, who gathered around the building. The outlaws, thinking discretion the better part of valor, mounted their horses and rode out of town no richer than when they had entered it.

That fall, Bond killed the deputy sheriff of Nemaha County, Kansas, for which he was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed. Shortly before Bonds execution, Judge McLain went to Kansas to identify Bond. McLain was the last one to bid the doomed man good-bye on the scaffold.

The Platte Purchase


Andrew County, where the Bennetts originally settled, is one of the six counties that were carved out of a section known as the "Platte Purchase."

The act of Congress, March 6, 1820, admitted Missouri as a state into the Federal Union, defined its boundaries as the State, the western line of which is described as: "Commencing at a point on parallel of latitude thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north, where the parallel is intersected by a meridian line passing through the mouth of the Kansas River, which empties into the Missouri River, then north along the meridian line of the intersection of the parallel of latitude which passes through the rapids of the Des Moines River, making the line correspond with the Indian boundary line."

This boundary line failed to take in an extensive district of country between it and the Missouri River, and the mouth of the Kansas River, and the parallel which passes through the Des Moines Rapids, the topography of which could not have been known when Missouri was admitted. This triangular district of country was at that time the home of the Sac and Fox Indians, of Missouri, where reservations had been previously granted by solemn treaty. By moving the Indians and possessing this territory, a vast area of the richest, best timbered and watered land in the state would be opened for settlers One of the principal advantages urged in favor of acquisition was that the State would then have a natural boundary--the Missouri River-between whites and Indians.

A treaty was negotiated with the Sac and Fox Indians and was ratified by Congress in 1835.

The area quickly grew until the State Legislature created Andrew County in 1841. Andrew County was named in honor of Andrew Jackson Davis, a distinguished lawyer in St. Louis.


Part of the following was taken from Shifra Steins "Daytrips", Westport Publishers, 1987; and part from literature distributed by the Pony Express Historical Association, Inc.

The town of St. Joseph was founded in 1826 by Joseph Robidoux as a trading post in the Blacksnake Hills along the Missouri River. Later it became the starting point for settlers heading west over the Oregon Trail.

In 1843 the trading post community was named St. Joseph, in honor of Robidoux's Patron Saint. Five years later gold was discovered in California and in 1849 over 20,000 Forty-Niners migrated through St. Joseph buying food and supplies to sustain them on their journey.

Steamboats made St. Joseph an important river town, but with the coming of the railroads in 1859 St. Joseph became the farthest point west to be reached by rail. The Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad was the first in the nation to extend as far west as St. Joseph on February 14, 1859.

Trains eventually eclipsed steamboats as the mode of transportation, but still a fast mail service was needed to the West Coast. Thousands of people turned out to watch the first run of the Pony Express on April 3, 1860. But the effort was too expensive and abandoned, leaving the mail to the rail.

The Victorian years made fortunes for many that would last several generations. Many of the luxurious dwellings still stand and are on the National Register of Historic Places.

One of these dwellings is the Patee House on 12th and Penn Streets. Opened in 1858 by John Patee, this was a luxurious hotel built at a cost of $180,000 a substantial sum in that era. It contained 140 guest rooms. Later it served as headquarters for the Pony express.

The Patee House served as a hotel on three separate occasions. It was a girl's college twice, and a shirt factory for 80 years. It has been a museum for Western history since 1965.

During the Civil War the U.S. provost marshal's office was in Patee House. Seward, President Lincoln's, once spoke to a hostile crowd from the hotel balcony.

By 1865, Confederate leanings left builder John Patee short of cash and he decided to dispose of his $180,000 hotel by lottery. He had to buy the last 100 tickets to get them sold, and on April 28, 1865, when the winning ticket was drawn, Mr. Patee won the hotelhimself.

Patee House was called World's Hotel when Jessie James was killed on the hill a block away at 1318 Lafayette street, on April 3, 1882. His widow was interviewed by the sheriff here the morning. The top floor contained Dr. Samuel Richmond's Epileptic Sanitorium.

"The forces of transportation and communication created in and around Patee House between 1859 and 1867 actually Won the West" states noted author Robert West Howard