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Northfield Raid & the James-Younger Gang: Overview

Best Bets

Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape, by Mark Lee Gardner. 
MNHS call number: HV6446.J3 G37 2013

Northfield Bank Robbery of 1876 Selected Manuscript Collections.
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

Minnesota State Prison. Case Files Younger Brothers

MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid (Incudes digital version of Younger case files)

The Story of Cole Younger, by Himself.
MNHS call number: Reading Room HV6446.Y7 A2 2000, also 
available for purchase

A Chronology of Selected Newspaper Accounts Relating to the Attempted Bank Robbery at Northfield, Minnesota, September 1876, index cards compiled by Terry Nordenstrom.
MNHS call number: Microfilm 576 


On September 7, 1876, the James-Younger gang robbed the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. Cole, Bob, and Jim Younger and Frank and Jesse James we among the members of this gang that robbed trains and banks following the Civil War. 

At the First National Bank, they demanded the money from the vault and Joseph Lee Heywood, the bank clerk on duty, was killed when he refused to open the safe. When the townspeople were alerted they attacked the robbers, defending their town and their savings. In the melee that followed, Nicholas Gustavson, a Swedish town resident, was killed, as were gang members Clell Miller and William Stiles.

The pursuit of the gang went on for weeks and covered 400 miles. The Youngers were eventually captured at Madelia, Minnesota, in another gun battle, in which gang member Charlie Pitts was killed. The three Younger brothers were tried in Faribault, found guilty of murder, and sentenced to life in the state prison at Stillwater. 

The Northfield Raid, as the robbery attempt has come to be known, has been the subject of countless novels and movies. It has inspired endless speculation and multiple theories of the sequence of events and who actually participated.

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Guide Author

Revised by Katie Jean Davey
Reference Librarian

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