The Story Of Jesse James Robbing Otterville
With our area being a sort of small town rural type of place, you don't see major crimes very often. Sure, you see terrible things like vandalism and robbery, assault, sure. But major crimes are more rare. And particularly rare is a famous crime that garners nationwide news. I don't know what kind of rock I've been living under (it must be the biggest rock, you guys, huge), but I had never heard of this crime until last week. I did a little research and thought I'd tell you the story! Do let me know if you know of any more details, or if you've heard any urban legends about it.
In July of 1876, the Jesse James gang robbed the #4 train at Rocky Cut in Otterville. Looking back on it now, robbing trains was a brilliant way to be a criminal. I'm not endorsing it by any means, but it's smart. You get to choose where you meet the train, you can plan for an easier get away, and it's not like there are lawmen on every passenger train to stop you. By this time, the James gang had started to perfect the train robbery method. They wouldn't even bother robbing the passengers, they would just go straight for the train safe. In, out, done.
On this occasion there were eight people robbing the train: Jesse and Frank James, Cole and Bob Younger, Clell Miller, Charlie Pitts, Bill Chadwell, and Hobbs Kerry. They chose the spot and took over the guard at Rocky Cut. Then, they used his signal lantern to stop the train. It's almost genius. "Hey, would you mind, please stop the train. IMMA ROB YA!"
You can imagine the scene. It's a warm, dark night in early summer. You're there at the train guard post, minding your own beeswax, probably enjoying some hardtack/cowboy biscuits dipped in coffee, when eight sketchy dudes surround your post.
Nobody got hurt, luckily. And strangely enough, most of the gang got away with it. They divided up the loot a little way down the road (approximately $339,900 in today's money), and the James brothers headed for Minnesota. Hobbs Kerry DID get caught, though, and he named names. But by the time the police realized who they were looking for, they were long gone. Nobody was going to tell the police where they were going, since a lot of folks in the area believed the story that the James boys were playing Robin Hood by robbing the rich to give to the poor. There's not much evidence they DID that, though. In fact, most people think people just believed the James boys did that, when in fact... they just kept it.
And now, all that's left is a memorial. You can drive down Highway A by Otterville and see it for yourself. It's a simple, yet classic concrete monument that says:
SITE OF ROBBERS CUT
Near this point in July 1876, The James Gang Robbed Missouri Pacific Train No. 4 of more than twenty thousand dollars and other valuables. On Flat Creek one mile south they divided the loot. Erected by the Otterville Chamber of Commerce.
Well, now that I've emerged from my rock and learned a little something, tell me the stories you've heard about it. Maybe we can flesh it out a little more and make it a nice history lesson!
Crime doesn't pay, kids. Remember that.