Clarksville, Tn — On Thanksgiving morning, I saddled up on my big black horse to take a ride before all the family get togethers. It was a crisp, but sunny morning, so I decided to take off on a route that takes me through parts of Tennessee and Kentucky.
I ride down Highway 79, then turn on state route 848. From there, I pick up highway 102 to highway 25. That takes me to highway 431 where I ride through Adairville Ky, then on to Russellville where today’s story takes place.
I’ve been riding all up through here for years, and if I’m just looking to get a few hours of “wind” therapy, it’s one of my “go to” routes, and in all my years of living and riding in this area, I NEVER knew that a famous bank robbery occurred here, by one of the most notorious gangs in American history.
When I got to Russellville I was going to shoot a little Thanksgiving video in their town square. There are monuments to the Civil War and it’s a quaint little square that I though would be a good spot to do it.
As I was finishing up, a gentleman stopped to say hello, and wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. He was curious who I was and where I was from. I told him I was a writer and was shooting a little video for my blog. I gave him a card and was about to leave when he said, “you need to go see the old bank that Jesse James robbed.”
In 1868, six members of the James-Younger Gang rode into Russellville, and proceeded to go to the Nimrod Long Banking Company.
While George and Oliver Shepard remained mounted on their horses outside the bank, Jesse and Frank James along with Cole Younger entered the bank.
Inside the bank was Bank President Nimrod Long, Clerk Hugh Barclay and cashier T.H.Simmons.
Long was at the counter when Cole approached him and asked to change a 50 dollar bill. The President told Cole he thought the bill was a counterfeit and Cole then drew his pistol, as did Frank and Jesse.
Cole told Long to give him all the money in the bank. As Long made a dash from the counter, he ran to the back door where another bank employee fired a shot at the robbers, hitting Long in the scalp.
The James brothers made the other employees put the money in a wheat sack and after they were full, the robbers left the bank and mounted their horses and fled out of town, firing their pistols in the air. The amount of money they got away with was between $9,000-$12,000. Accounts vary on the actual amount.
This was the first bank robbery of the notorious Frank and Jesse James, right here in Russellville Kentucky. The locals claim there’s still a bullet hole in the wall of the bank, and the city puts on a re-enactment every year.
As I stood there looking at this old building and trying to imagine what it would have been like “back in the day,” my mind wandered. Outlaws on horseback, roaming the countryside, robbing banks, and leading U S Marshals on a ride that would take years to end.
WELCOME TO THE WILD WILD WEST!
Today I ride a different horse, roaming the countryside in search of adventure and freedom, and I wouldn’t have discovered this piece of history had it not been for this motorcycle.
I love it! I ABSOLUTELY love it!
To think that I didn’t have to go far to discover something new. That’s what this journey is all about. The amazing things you see and learn that could be in your own backyard! All these years of living in this area and I had NO IDEA that the James Gang robbed their first bank just thirty miles down the road.
I LOVE the people and places I meet on the back of this bike!
A video on the James Gang and their Kentucky exploits is here.