Bad Patriot; Jesse James Robbed Ocobock Brothers’ Bank the Day Before July 4th

It was July 3, 1871. In what one could only describe as an act of national disrespect, the daylong before proud Americans would normally wave the stars and stripes while watching fireworks, the James-Younger Gang robbed a bank. James didn’t care. He was Confederate national. This wasn’t his country.

While historians sometimes try to rewrite the story of James as a Wild West Robin Hood, a better epithet would drop the Robin part. He was a hood, Wild West or not.

Jesse James was a dishonorable soldier who discovered a lust for being a bad boy in the wake of the Civil War. When that opportunity faded, he found another outlet for his naughtiness, attacking unexpecting banks and trains.

The robbery in Corydon wasn’t the biggest or most fantastic take of the James-Younger gang, but it was indicative of James’s brazen disregard for the law.

It was also the beginning of the end for his life.

Jesse James

Artist’s rendering of Jesse as an outlaw. | wvtf.org

Life for young Jesse started on September 5, 1847, in Claymore County, Missouri. His own father died when he was three. James’ mother remarried but there’s not much else to report about his early life other than he grew up for the most part in the Little Dixie part of Missouri. It was The South, through and through, even though Missouri was a border state.

Needless to say, by the time he was an adult, it didn’t take James long to become a bad dude. He started as a legit Confederate soldier, but as the South lost ground in the war, James joined up with other disgruntled Confederates as a guerrilla soldier. They called themselves, “Bushwhackers.”

Years before anyone knew who he was, he was the wrong side of the Centerville, Missouri Massacre with the Bushwhackers. At that time, he was not the man in charge, just another thug in the gang of heathens. Their mission was to move north through Union held area, undermining their operations in an attempt to turn Missouri towards the Confederate side.

On September 27, 1864, James and his Bushwhacking-cohorts captured 24 unarmed Union soldiers in Missouri. They stripped and executed 23 of them, saving one as ransom. That man would escape and tell the tale of the Bushwhackers.

James’s time with that group’s guerrillas may not have been the only contributor to his life as a bad seed, but it didn’t help any. Although they fought as a rogue part of the Confederates, they were dirty fighters, scalpers, and robbers. James took the best of those experiences with him.

James-Younger Gang

James-Younger Core Members | gettyimages.com

Centered in Missouri, the gang was (big surprise) former Confederate Bushwhackers. When the war ended, they transitioned from fighting for the Confederacy to fighting for themselves.

Their first robbery was in 1866, the Clay County Savings Association, where they stole $60,000 in cash and bonds. It was until 1868 when authorities first started to name the members of the gang they would later label as the James-Younger Gang.

Over the years, the members of the James-Younger Gang changed so much, they were hardly one gang; more like a loose-knit group of bad guys who hung out at the same watering holes. Gang names sell papers, though, and make police careers when they can report them “captured.”

James and his brother rode with them as unknown members during those first years. This was the 1860s. It wasn’t until the Corydon Robbery that authorities identified James as one of the gang.

In 1879, Jesse James organized the last group of cohorts that would ride as the James-Younger Gang. They spent about a decade robbing trains and such, riding until 1882. It ended when a man named Robert Ford shot James in the back, killing him.

James was easy enough to identify, and not just because of the wanted posters. He was that idiot who rode down the street in Iowa, bragging about his exploits to a crowd gathered outside the church back in 1871.

Corydon, Iowa Robbery

The Ocobock Bank | timetoast.com

The Ocobock Bank was the first bank opened in Corydon, Iowa, by the Ocobock Brothers. That was in 1870. They were big city folk, from Chicago, and didn’t own homes in Corydon.

The day of the heist, a man named Henry Clay Dean was in Corydon raising money for the railroad. The meeting, where Dean commanded a crowd of locals with his awesome oration, was at the Methodist Church, just off the main street.

While the townsfolk sat in that meeting, Jesse James, his brother Frank, Cole Younger, and Clell Miller tied their horses outside the bank. As was often the case, Mr. Ocobock was not in town at that time. In fact, at the bank, there was but one cashier in the place.

According to the cashier, all four men drew their guns on him, then one handed him a sack to fill. With the money in hand, they tied up the cashier, gagged him, and left.

As they rode away, the meeting let out of the church. Jesse shouted at the crowd that they’d just robbed the bank. Everyone laughed thinking it was a joke.

By the time they found the cashier tied up, the James-Younger boys were long gone with around $6,000-$10,000.

The good news was that nobody died in the Corydon Heist. The bank hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to track down the robbers, and they were now officially on the run. Jesse would get eleven more years of running and gunning until it caught up to him. Fitting it was a bullet to the back. That’s the only place to shoot a man whose running.

Sources: angelfire.com, prairietrailsmuseum.org