Missouri born Thomas Coleman Younger was just seventeen years old in 1861. He could have entered Federal service, but he chose not to do so. Instead, the youth, whose friends called him “Cole,” joined forces with guerrillas who ravaged Missouri and Kansas.
Younger gained fame as an outlaw during a dozen post-war years in which he cut a wide swath through the West. Then the Civil War veteran spent sixteen years behind bars for his part in a bank robbery at Northfield, Minnesota.
On September 7, 1876, Northfield experienced one of its most important historical events: The James-Younger Gang tried to rob the First National Bank of Northfield. Local citizens, recognizing what was happening, armed themselves and resisted the robbers and successfully thwarted the theft. The gang killed the bank's cashier, Joseph Lee Heywood and a Swedish immigrant, Nicholas Gustafson. A couple of members of the gang were killed in the street, while the rest were cornered near Madelia, Minnesota. Jesse and Frank James escaped west into the Dakotas, while the remaining gang members were killed or taken into custody. Considering the James gang as related to postwar insurgency, the raid has sometimes been called the last major event of the American Civil War. One of Northfield's slogans is "Jesse James Slipped Here", based on the raid's failure.