Jesse James Robs a Bank in Liberty: February 13, 1866

Jesse James Liberty Missouri Bank
Americasroof at en.wikipedia

The infamous outlaw Jesse James robbed a bank in Liberty on this date in 1866. James and his gang, known as the James-Younger Gang, targeted the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, marking not only one of the earliest documented bank robberies attributed to Jesse James, but also according to a PBS report, the first daylight bank robbery to occur during peacetime in the United States. During the robbery a 19-year-old student named George “Jolly” Wymore was shot and killed, seemingly by a stray bullet. The gang eventually made off with close to $60,000 in bonds, dollars, and silver.

A posse of townspeople with guns and horses formed to pursue the robbers, but their tracks were partly covered by snow, making pursuit difficult. Some townspeople admitted to recognizing some of the thieves but did not come forward out of fear. Ultimately no one was caught or held accountable, and no money was recovered.

The Liberty bank robbery was a pivotal event that contributed to the James-Younger Gang’s reputation as outlaws. It also heightened tensions in the post-Civil War era, as the James brothers and many of their associates had Confederate sympathies, and their criminal activities were often fueled by a desire for revenge against Union supporters.

This robbery in Liberty was part of a series of violent incidents involving the James-Younger Gang during the Reconstruction era. The gang’s exploits, including the Liberty bank robbery, solidified Jesse James as a prominent figure in American outlaw history.

The building where the robbery took place, built in 1859, is still standing today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Fittingly, the building today houses the Jesse James Bank museum where visitors can learn more about the famous robber and his exploits.