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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Portraits of the Past: The last outlaws

  • The Northfield, Minn., bank robbery went bad and the Younger brothers ended up spending a little more time in Minnesota than they had intended.
    In fact, they were given free room and board for about 25 years.
    Out of the four brothers, only Cole Younger managed to live to a ripe old age. After serving his prison time up yonder, Cole was paroled, but was not allowed to leave the state.
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  • The Northfield, Minn., bank robbery went bad and the Younger brothers ended up spending a little more time in Minnesota than they had intended.
    In fact, they were given free room and board for about 25 years.
    Out of the four brothers, only Cole Younger managed to live to a ripe old age. After serving his prison time up yonder, Cole was paroled, but was not allowed to leave the state.
    Apparently, however, the powers that be soon had second thoughts, and he received a full pardon and was asked to “please” leave the state and never return to Minnesota again.
    Cole made his way back to our neck of the woods, where he became a model citizen and was very popular.
    He returned to his home turf of Lee’s Summit, Mo., where he maintained a room for a time in the old Commercial Hotel on S.W. Main Street, just across the railroad tracks from the old depot downtown.
    Eventually, he ended up in a two-story frame house on Market Street, between Second and Third streets in Lee’s Summit, where he resided at the time of his death.
    Another notorious outlaw, Jesse James, bit the bullet while standing on a chair straightening a picture hanging on the living room wall of his home in St. Joe.
    One of his own men, Bob Ford, plugged him in the back, supposedly to collect the reward money, but I don’t believe he ever lived to see any of it.
    The death of Jesse James ended about a 15-year career by the James gang of robbing trains and banks across the Midwest. His brother, Frank James, then surrendered to the governor of Missouri and was locked up to await his trial for his many years of dastardly deeds.
    However, he was acquitted and never received any further jail time. Like Cole Younger, Frank went on to live out his old age and was also a model citizen. Frank and Cole were both celebrities for the remainder of their lives.
    Sometimes it’s hard to separate facts from fiction when it comes to stories about the old outlaws of the West.
    There have been so many books and movies written through the years about their lives that the facts get a little fuzzy sometimes. However, "The Book Man” Harold Dellinger, of Kansas City, has spent much of his life researching the outlaws and trying to actually separate the facts from the fiction.
    Dellinger recently told me a story about the escapades of Frank and Cole in their old age.
    He explained that they attempted to capitalize a bit on their popularity and decided to launch a “Wild West Show,” similar to the one Buffalo Bill had.
    Page 2 of 2 - The only problem was, that according to the terms of Cole Younger’s pardon from Minnesota, he was not allowed to profit from his bank robbing days.
    So, Frank ran the show and was the star hombre — Cole played his part from the audience.
    According to Dellinger, there was an ironic story about the old outlaws Wild West show when it was playing to a crowd in Illinois.
    After the show, Frank and Cole got drunk in a local dive. When it came time to leave the bar, they preceded down the back alley and were mugged and robbed by some young twit. I say twit, because surely no one in their right mind would mug the two most “notorious” outlaws of the West.
     
    Information from “The Book Man” Harold Dellinger was used in this column.
     
    Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school group. He can be reached at teddy.stillwell@yahoo.com or (816) 252-9909.
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