No one noticed a group of men who rode into Liberty, Missouri on February 13, 1866. But, a short while later, when they rode out, everyone noticed them, because they had just done what no one had ever done before.

It was FebrJesse & Frank Jamesuary of 1866.  The Civil War was over.  Supposedly, Jessie James was at his mother’s home in Kearney, Missouri recovering from a war wound, and his brother Frank was spending his time with Jessie reading books.

About ten miles away, on February 13, Valentine’s Day, a dozen men rode into Liberty, Missouri.  They wore long military coats.  It was a cold day, and the streets were deserted.  Three men dismounted and took casual positions on the street.  The others rode up to the Clay County Savings Association. Two went inside.

A clerk and cashier were inside.  One of the men in long coats walked up to the clerk and asked him to change a ten dollar bill.  The long coated man then pulled his pistol, and casually asked for all the money in the bank.

These men were doing something that had never been done before…holding up a bank during operating hours.  A gain sack was filled with gold and silver coins, paper money and securities totaling $60,000.

After the robbery, the men mounted their horses, and riding at full gallop, whooped, and shot their way out of town.  Unfortunately, a 19-year-old college student, George Wymore, was walking down the street.  One rider fired at him four times, and Wymore fell dead.  A later examination of Wymore discovered that any one of the four shots would have killed him.

In spite of their alibis, this first bank robbery was led by the two James boys from nearby Kearney.  Over the next few years they robbed at least twelve other banks, more than a handful of trains, almost a handful of stagecoaches, and even a county fair.

Filed under: Old West Myth & Fact

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