1847 - 1882
Woodson James, an outlaw, whose exploits,
both real and legendary, in bank and train robberies won him
worldwide notoriety. James was born in Clay County, Missouri.
At the age of 15, during the War for Southern Independence (1861-1865),
James joined a band of pro-Confederate raiders led by the
rebel William Clarke Quantrill. During this time, James earned
a reputation for reckless daring. After the war, he organized
his own gang of robbers which included his older brother
Frank, and Cole, James, and Robert Younger. One of their most
famous bank robbery attempts occurred in 1876 at the First
National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. When the bank clerk
refused to open the safe, the gang brutally murdered him and
then tried to escape. In the shoot-out that followed, all the
gang members except Jesse and Frank were killed or captured.
In 1882, while living at home with his family in Saint Joseph, Missouri, under the name of Thomas Howard, James was shot from behind by Robert Ford, a member of his own gang. Ford had been seeking the $10,000 reward offered by Governor Thomas Theodore Crittenden of Missouri for the capture of the James brothers, dead or alive. Soon after his brother's death, Frank James surrendered. The American public treated him as a hero and he was acquitted twice; he died in 1915 at his Missouri farm.