Sam Bass was born in 1851 near Mitchell, Indiana. Moving to Texas in 1870, he worked as a mill hand, cowboy, and deputy sheriff until becoming an outlaw in 1875. Bass became known as the "good badman" because he gave some of what he stole from the rich to the poor. In the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, he formed a stagecoach-robbing gang. In 1877, his gang stole $65,000 from a Union Pacific train in Big Springs, Nebraska. Running from the law, Bass ended up in Denton County, Texas where he formed a new gang and robbed several trains. One of his gang-members became an informant for the Texas Rangers. During an attempted bank robbery, Bass was ambushed and shot to death.
Born in New York City in 1859, Billys other names included William H. Bonney, Henry McCarty, and Kid Antrim. When his mother remarried in 1873 after his fathers death, the family moved to Silver City, New Mexico. Billy spent much of his childhood in the frontier saloons. At age 12 he reportedly committed his first murder. Billys reputation grew as he participated in robberies, murders, and cattle thefts; he claimed to have killed 21 men in his life.
In 1880, Sheriff Pat Garrett of Lincoln County captured Billy. He was sentenced to hang but on April 28, 1881, killed two deputies and broke out of jail. Soon after, Billy the Kid was shot and killed by Sheriff Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Jesse Woodson James was born in 1847 in Clay County, Missouri. At 15, he joined some pro-Confederate raiders led by rebel William Clarke Quantrill and earned a reputation for reckless daring. After the Civil War, he formed his own robber gang consisting of big brother Frank, and Cole, James, and Robert Younger. They gained fame through train and bank robberies. In 1876, they tried to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota.
A little after 2 p.m., September 7, 1876. The James gang: Jesse and Frank James, Charlie Pitts, Bill Chadwell, Clell Miller, and Cole, Bob, and Jim Younger, is planning to rob First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. Charlie, Bob, and Jesse casually loiter around the general store across the street. Minutes later, Cole and Clell saunter down the street on their horses. Cole hitches up next to the other three and Clell stops in the middle of the street, pretending to tighten his saddle. Jesse, Bob, and Charlie enter the bank.
In the bank, cashier Joseph Heywood, bookkeeper F.J. Wilcox, and teller A.E. Bunker prepare to serve the new customers. The customers pull out revolvers and order Heywood to open the vault.
I cant, theres a time lock on it, Heywood refuses. Even after intimidation by grazing his face with bullets, he wont even try. It later turns out it was unlocked; someone forgot to spin the dial after closing it.
Outside, college student Henry Wheeler, son of the owner of a drug store across the street, and J.A. Allen, owner of a hardware store, notice the excessively casual strangers around the bank. Allen starts to go in the bank but Clell grabs him and tells him to keep quiet, sticking a gun in his stomach. Allen breaks away and runs toward the drug store yelling, Theyre robbing the bank; get your guns!
Frank, Bill, and Jim came out of the bank and joined Clell in screeching and shooting in an attempt to intimidate the town. It didnt work.
Inside the bank, Bob and Jesse get so involved searching for a cashiers till that Bunker, the teller, escapes.
Wheeler, is in the upstairs room of a nearby hotel, shooting. Allen is in his hardware store loading guns and passing them out to everyone who walks by. Soon the whole town is a war zone. Inside the bank, Jesse shoots Heywood, the cashier, in the head before heading out into the ruckus. In the shoot-out, Bill is shot in the heart, Cole in the shoulder, and Clell is shot dead. Nicholas Gustavson, a Swedish immigrant who doesnt know English, mistakenly walks into the middle of the shooting and killed.
In the movies of the shoot-out, dozens of men usually died. In fact, the only people the bandits killed were the cashier and the immigrant--both unarmed. The townspeople on the other hand, manage to kill two armed and mounted professional outlaws and wound four others.
The gang members who are still alive flee. After traveling four days they are only 15 miles away from Northfield. Jesse and Frank say injured Bob is slowing them down. They go off on their own while Cole, Jim, and Charlie refuse to abandon him. Jesse and Frank escape. Charlie is killed by a posse. All three Younger Brothers are wounded severely but survive to pay long prison sentences.
By 1882, Governor Thomas Theodore Crittenden of Missouri was offering a $10,000 reward for the James brothers, dead or alive. While living with his family in Saint Joseph, Missouri under the alias Thomas Howard, James was shot in the back by Robert Ford, a member of his own gang. Soon after, Frank surrendered. He was received by the American public as a hero and acquitted twice.
Guns, Outlaws and Heroes