The Story of Cole Younger – 20 Laurels Unsought

 street sceneAlthough every book purporting to narrate the lives of the Younger brothers has told of the Liberty robbery, and implied that we had a part in it, the Youngers were not suspected at that time, nor for a long time afterward. It was claimed by people of Liberty that they positively recognized among the robbers Oll Shepherd, “Red” Monkers and “Bud” Pence, who had seen service with Quantrell. Jim White and J. F. Edmunson were arrested in St. Joseph, but were promptly released, their preliminary examination failing to connect them with the raid in any way.

In October of that year a bank at Lexington, Mo., was robbed of $2,000, but so far as I know it was never connected with the Younger brothers in any way until 1880, when J. W. Buel published his “Border Bandits.”

March 2, 1867, the bank at Savannah, Mo., was raided, but the five who did this were identified, and there were no Younger boys in the party. This raid was accompanied by bloodshed, Judge McLain, the banker, being shot, though not fatally.

May 23 of that year the bank at Richmond, Mo., was raided, Mayor Shaw was killed, and the robbers raided the jail, where were confined a number of prisoners whose arrest, it was claimed, was due to their sympathy with secession. Jailer Griffin and his 15-year-old son were killed there. Warrants were issued for a number of the old guerrillas, including Allen Parmer, afterward the husband of Susie James, although he was working in Kansas City at the time, and proved an absolute alibi. No warrant was issued for the Youngers, but subsequent historians (?) have, inferentially at least, accused us of taking part, but as I said before, there is no truth in the accusation.

The bank at Russellville, Ky., was raided March 20, 1868, and among the raiders was a man who gave his name as Colburn, who the detectives have endeavored to make it appear was Cole Younger. Having served in Kentucky with Quantrell, Jim Younger and Frank James were well known through that state, and it being known that the previous bank robberies in Missouri were charged to ex-guerrillas, similar conclusions were at once drawn by the Louisville sleuths who were put on the case. Jim and John were at home at Lee’s Summit.

June 3, 1871, Obocock Bros.’ bank at Corydon, Iowa, was robbed of $40,000 by seven men in broad daylight. The romancers have connected Jim and me with that, when as a matter of fact I was in Louisiana, Jim and Bob were at Dallas, and John was in California.

April 29, 1872, the day that the bank at Columbia, Ky., was raided and the cashier, R. A. C. Martin, killed I was at Neosho Falls, Kansas, with a drove of cattle.

September 26 of the same year the cash-box of the Kansas City fair was stolen. A full statement as to my whereabouts during the day is given in a letter appended hereto, which also shows that it would have been impossible for me to be present at the wrecking of the Rock Island train in Adair county, Iowa, July 21, 1873; the hold-up of the Malvern stage near the Gaines place Jan. 15, 1874; the Ste. Genevieve bank robbery May 27, 1873, or the Iron Mountain train robbery at Gad’s Hill, Mo., Jan. 31, 1874. It was charged that Arthur McCoy or A. C. McCoy and myself had been participants in the Gad’s Hill affair and the two stage robberies.

Nov. 15, 1874, I wrote a letter to my brother-in-law, Lycargus A. Jones, which was published in part in the Pleasant Hill Review Nov. 26, the editor having in the meantime inquired into the statements of facts and satisfied himself of their truth. The parts of this letter now relevant are as follows:

Cass County, Nov. 15, 1874.

Dear Curg:

You may use this letter in your own way. I will give you this outline and sketch of my whereabouts and actions at the time of certain robberies with which I am charged. At the time of the Gallatin bank robbery I was gathering cattle in Ellis county, Texas; cattle that I bought from Pleas Taylor and Rector. This can be proved by both of them; also by Sheriff Barkley and fifty other respectable men of that county. I brought the cattle to Kansas that fall and remained in St. Clair county until February. I then went to Arkansas and returned to St. Clair county about the first of May. I went to Kansas, where our cattle were, in Woodson county, at Col. Ridge’s. During the summer I was either in St. Clair, Jackson or Kansas, but as there was no robbery committed that summer it makes no difference where I was.

The gate at the fair grounds was robbed that fall. I was in Jackson county at the time. I left R. P. Rose’s that morning, went down the Independence road, stopped at Dr. Noland’s, and got some pills. Brother John was with me. I went through Independence and from there to Ace Webb’s. There I took dinner and then went to Dr. L. W. Twyman’s. Stayed there until after supper, then went to Silas Hudspeth’s and stayed all night. This was the day the gate was robbed at Kansas City. Next day John and I went to Kansas City. We crossed the river at Blue Mills and went up on the other side. Our business there was to see E. P. West. He was not at home, but the family will remember that we were there. We crossed on the bridge, stayed in the city all night and the next morning we rode up through the city. I met several of my friends. Among them was Bob Hudspeth. We then returned to the Six-Mile country by the way of Independence. At Big Blue we met Jas. Chiles and had a long talk with him. I saw several friends that were standing at or near the gate, and they all said that they didn’t know any of the party that did the robbing. Neither John nor myself was accused of the crime until several days after. My name would never have been used in connection with the affair had not Jesse W. James, for some cause best known to himself, published in the Kansas City Times a letter stating that John, he and myself were accused of the robbery. Where he got his authority I don’t know, but one thing I do know, he had none from me. We were not on good terms at the time, nor have we been for several years. From that time on mine and John’s names have been connected with the James brothers. John hadn’t seen either of them for eighteen months before his death. And as for A. C. McCoy, John never saw him in his life. I knew A. C. McCoy during the war, but have never seen him since, notwithstanding the Appleton City paper says he has been with us in that county for two years. Now if any respectable man in that county will say he ever saw A. C. McCoy with me or John I will say no more; or if any reliable man will say that he ever saw any one with us who suited the description of A. C. McCoy then I will be silent and never more plead innocence.

Poor John, he has been hunted down and shot like a wild beast, and never was a boy more innocent. But there is a day coming when the secrets of all hearts will be laid open before that All-seeing Eye, and every act of our lives will be scrutinized; then will his skirts be white as the driven snow, while those of his accusers will be doubly dark.

I will come now to the Ste. Genevieve robbery. At that time I was in St. Clair county, Mo. I do not remember the date, but Mr. Murphy, one of our neighbors, was sick about that time, and I sat up with him regularly, where I met with some of his neighbors every day. Dr. L. Lewis was his physician.

As to the Iowa train robbery, I have forgotten the day, I was also in St. Clair county, Mo., at that time, and had the pleasure of attending preaching the evening previous to the robbery at Monegaw Springs. There were fifty or a hundred persons there who will testify in any court that John and I were there. I will give you the names of some of them: Simeon C. Bruce, John S. Wilson, James Van Allen, Rev. Mr. Smith and lady. Helvin Fickle and wife of Greenton Valley were attending the springs at that time, and either of them will testify to the above, for John and I sat in front of Mr. Smith while he was preaching and was in his company for a few moments, together with his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Fickle, after service. They live at Greenton Valley, Lafayette county, Mo., and their evidence would be taken in the court of heaven. As there was no other robbery committed until January, I will come to that time. About the last of December, 1873, I arrived in Carroll parish, Louisiana. I stayed there until the 8th of February, 1874. Brother and I stayed at Wm. Dickerson’s, near Floyd. During the time the Shreveport stage and the Hot Springs stage were robbed; also the Gad’s Hill robbery.


On reading since my release the pretended history of my life I find that I was wrong in stating that there was no robbery during the summer of 1872, the bank at Columbia, Ky., having been raided April 29 of that year. I had not heard of that when I wrote the letter of 1874, and to correct any misapprehension that might be created by omitting it I will say that at that time I was at Neosho, Kansas, with a drove of cattle, which I sold to Maj. Ray.

It was immediately following the Rock Island robbery at Adair, Iowa, that there first appeared a deliberate enlistment of some local papers in Missouri to connect us with this robbery. New York and Chicago as well as St. Paul and Minneapolis papers did not connect the Youngers with the crime, and three days after the robbery these papers had it that the robbers had been followed into Nodaway county, Missouri, while we were at Monegaw Springs all that time. Besides those mentioned in my 1874 letter, Marshall P. Wright’s affidavit that he showed Jim and me at Monegaw Springs the morning paper containing the account of the robbery the next morning after it took place, was presented to Gov. Clough of Minnesota in 1898.

It is 250 miles or more and no cross lines of railroad existed to facilitate our passage, so it would be impossible for any one to have made the trip. The shortest rail lines are roundabout, via St. Joseph and Kansas City, so it will be apparent that I could not have been at the Rock Island wreck.

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