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Northfield took on Jesse James gang

Published: 6/26/2013
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

We headed north from Iowa to Minnesota recently to visit with visiting clinician Randy Rieman and see the sights. [Rieman Clinic Review coming soon.]

Northfield, Minnesota was on our list.

That's where townsfolk took on the James-Younger gang as it attempted to rob the First National Bank one September morning in 1876. The Younger brothers, Jesse and Frank James, and the rest of the eight-member gang of gunslingers, thought they'd just ride down Division Street and score.

They were wrong.

Local citizens fired back. A Swedish immigrant who hadn't yet learned English, was one of two citizens to fall. Two robbers were killed along with a horse.
When the James brothers got away, the largest manhunt in U.S. history commenced (according to Northfield history).

It's no wonder the town celebrates the seven-minute moment:
Aside from the courage and heroics of Regular Joe's (Joseph Lee Heywood died when he refused to open the bank vault), the safeguarding of funds meant that newly-founded Carleton and St. Olaf's Colleges would stay solvent. Many have suggested they'd have shuttered if the James-Younger gang had succeeded.

Nowadays, the town is about 30,000 strong and annually celebrates the Defeat of Jesse James Days each September. We checked out the old First National Bank which has been converted to a museum and gift shop. It still has a hitching post out front, ostensibly where the Missouri gangsters tied their horses and entered the bank.

A group of dedicated horsemen and women reenact the scene several times during the DJJD weekend. Check out the video, with informative narrative.

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