Editor’s note: This is another poem by JYG member Frank Younger
A gang straight from hell had a Miller named Clell,
Two Jameses, three Youngers and Pitts,
And a Chadwell called Bill. Men who rob and who kill.
Men of violence and cunning and wits.
They came up from Missouri, rode in with a flurry
Of shootin’ and cussin’ and dust
To raid Northfield Bank, to take gold from the Yank -
To take money held tightly in trust.
The brave folks from the town, they would not be put down
But took umbrage to all the to-do
And grabbed shotgun and rifle – to them ’twas no trifle,
This deadly untamed ballyhoo.
With duster and gun outlaws fought on the run,
Some from horseback and some from the ground.
But the strong fusillade from the Northfield brigade
Had the gang in near-total surround.
Behind the closed door of the bank, on the floor,
Trembled Wilcox in fear for his life
While Heywood refused, although badly abused
With the blade of a razor-sharp knife
To open the vault and thus bear the fault
Of betraying the trust he held dear.
To the robbers’ chagrin he refused to give in;
A man steadfast and true without fear.
‘Lonzo Bunker, he saw, with the luck of the draw,
He could chance an escape to the back
Through the door to the alley from which he could rally
Some help to put down the bushwhack.
Bunker’s flight was espied by a bandit sharp-eyed
And a shot was discharged at the man.
The ball sang throught the air and the aim it was fair -
Bunker’s shoulder was hit as he ran.
Outside on Division the gang found derision -
Both Miller and Chadwell lay dead;
Weapons fired and recoiled, the whole street was embroiled
In a death duel with powder and lead.
Nic’laus Gustafson failed comprehension when hailed
By a bandit to get off the street.
He was shot through the brain, three days later lay slain,
‘Cause his English was less than complete.
All Northfield was mad, for the gang this was bad
So Cole stuck his head in the door.
He bellered with noise, “Get out of there, boys!”
There was no hope to even the score.
Gang members inside held their grain-sack gapped wide
But found paltry loot to put in.
They’d better skeddadle – get back in the saddle -
Vamoose from this horrible din.
But before they ran out to flee in the rout,
Frank James did a dastardly deed.
He shot Heywood point-blank and the faithful man sank
To sprawl and to die and to bleed.
It was high time they left since the gang was bereft
Of the two in the road lying prone.
So they galloped away, each one cursing this day
They took bullets through flesh and through bone.
A posse was formed of Northfielders that stormed
Out of their ravaged-up town -
They charged off in pursuit and were ready to shoot
Any found in a pale duster-gown.
Now the bandits were slick and employed every trick
To evade the great host that gave chase.
But their wounds, they were sore and infected with gore,
And the injuries slackened their pace.
The weather turned bad, that’s the luck that they had,
With the mud and the cold and the rain.
They stumbled, they ran to elude the van,
So wretched, so bothered with pain.
And then t’was decided it best be divided
So Jesse and Frank saddled west.
Cole, Charlie, Bob, Jim, their fates looking grim,
Slogged on foot to their ultimate test.
It was thought the four could, in Elysian Wood,
Escape from the pursuing mob.
They waded a river all soaked and a-shiver,
And then onward mucked through the bog.
The keen Sorbel youth spied this grimed and uncouth
Quartet of bandits forlorn,
Bewildered, perplexed, all harried and vexed,
Lost in the fields and the corn.
To Madelia he bolted – Colonel Vought he consulted
And told what he saw from the farm.
Vought mounted up men to chase into the fen
After sounding the general alarm.
The fugitives few gathered round Hanska Slough,
Wounds bound in a bloodied-up shirt,
Cold, wet and exhausted but still unaccosted,
Miserable, hungry and hurt.
Then I tell you, by heaven, the Magnificent Seven
Cornered the gang in a bramble.
A gunfight broke out with a yell and a shout
In the James-Younger Gang’s final gamble!
Charlie Pitts lost his life in the ensuing strife,
Jim was shot in the mouth and pitched over.
Cole was riddled with lead but he wouldn’t go dead
As they fought from the bush and the clover.
And then Bob finally yelled, with his three comrades felled,
“That’s enough! We hereby surrender!”
Their fighting was done, there was no place to run -
The posse the winning contender.
Bob staggered in view, the Magnificent Few
Seeing his handkerchief raised,
Arrested their fire – but behind in the briar
Rang a shot from a posse-man crazed.
Bob was struck in the chest through a lung he possessed
And flopped to the ground all astonished.
Yelled the sheriff, enraged since the threat was assuaged,
“I’ll kill next who shoots!” he admonished.
But this cowardly act, it could never detract
From the ultimate victory seized
Over rampage and death – the gang’s final breath
Had been drawn, and justice appeased.
Since they had been bested the three were arrested
And informed a contrite guilty plea
Would force a decision to send them to prison
And spare them the dour hangman’s tree.
They were sentenced to life for all of their strife,
Cuffed in chains and unable to roam,
Then put behind bars with their wounds and their scars
Calling Stillwater Prison their home.
Thus endeth my tale with the ultimate fail
Of the James-Younger Gang’s final stand.
Though pluck undiminished they finally were finished,
Put down by Madelia’s brave band.
I’ve told you a story of pain and of glory,
A town that put up a fight,
And a band of brigands that began with eight hands
And the triumph of justice and right.
So take this to heart: Before you depart
On the pathway to ill-gotten gains,
Let there be no surprise that once met with demise
Remorse will be all that remains.