One Man's Love Affair with a Failed 1876 Bank Robbery

PRX Remix (Public Radio Exchange's curated stream of awesome radio stories) just picked up my story about re-enacting Jesse James' Northfield Bank Robbery. It was one of the most fun stories I've worked on. I mean, who doesn't want a chance to go back to the base camp to interview guys in 1876 period costume who bring a bank robbery to life?

Trip DeMann in full costume

It's a powerful story to tell. The infamous James-Younger gang ventured north to Minnesota only once in their careers. Some $15,000 lay waiting in the bank's vault: the entire savings of much of the town and Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges. Yet the gang barely escaped with their lives--and only $26 to show for it--thanks to the quick response of the townspeople and the heroism of the acting cashier, Joseph Lee Heywood. Despite being threatened and beaten, he refused to open the vault.

Which was unlocked, by the way.

That stand cost him his life. Frank James executed him on the way out. In the end, two townspeople and two out of eight gang members died. Only Frank and Jesse James would remain alive and uncaptured afterwards, and they would never rob a bank again.

 

The bank raid shows up in my novel-in-progress, which is set in the action-packed summer of 1876. Get excited.