Jesse James Days

Northfield celebrates the Defeat of Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang because prior to September 7th 1876, no one had fought the gang back to protect its community. The city is clear about the focus: this is a celebration of history, courage and community, not criminals.

The two-day event is held the weekend after Labor Day, spread across town for tractor pulls, rodeos, an arts fair and car show. If you are looking for a cowboy steak fry and chili cook-off this is the time to enjoy their beautiful city.


I asked a Jesse James Committee Official and Police Officer about a good location for taking pictures and they were spot on.....where the horses and actors turn the corner onto Division Street and exit.  I took a few steps in front of the barricades and got low.  The officers saw me but seemed alright with my placement.  I was laying on my belly in the middle of the street, listening closely to the narration before the action starts.  

The narration emphasizes a couple things:

  • The James/Younger Gang does re-enact the raid with Horses and Pistols and the Towns People are also armed. They are discharging blank rounds of ammunition and it will be loud. The actors portray the eight bandits up to and including the death of two men and the botched robbery attempt.

  • The re-enactment is recognition of the citizens bravery facing danger in their community. It is not intended to glorify the events of that day or facts pertaining to their life of robbing trains, stagecoaches and banks killing many innocent men, women and children.

 Article obtained from

Minnesotans nearly wipe-out the James-Younger Gang

Attempting a bold daytime robbery of the Northfield Minnesota bank, the James-Younger gang suddenly finds itself surrounded by angry townspeople and is nearly wiped out on this day in 1876.  The bandits began with a diversion: five of the men galloped through the center of town, hollering and shooting their pistols in the air. As the townspeople ran for cover, three other men wearing wide-brimmed hats and long dusters took advantage of the distraction to walk unnoticed into the First National Bank. Brandishing pistols, one of the men ordered the bank cashier to open the bank safe. Though the cashier recognized the famous face of the dangerous outlaw, Jesse James, he stalled, claiming that the safe had a time lock and could not be opened. As Jesse James considered his next move, a brave–or foolish–bank teller made a break for the back door. One of the robbers fired twice, hitting the teller in the shoulder, but the man managed to stumble to safety and sound the alarm.

The citizens of Northfield ran to surround the bank and mercilessly shot down the robbers as they tried to escape. A 19-year-old medical student killed one gang member, Clell Miller, while the owner of the Northfield hardware store mortally wounded Bill Chadwell, peppering his body with bullets from a rapid-firing Remington repeater rifle. Jesse’s brother, Frank, was hit in the leg, while their criminal partners–Jim, Cole, and Bob Younger–were also badly wounded.

Jesse was the last one out of the bank. After pausing briefly to shoot the uncooperative cashier in the head, Jesse leapt onto his horse and joined the rest of the survivors as they desperately fled town. For the next two weeks a posse pursued them relentlessly, eventually killing or capturing four more of the gang members. Luckily for Frank and Jesse James, the two brothers had decided to go their own way, escaping to Dakota Territory. After things had cooled down, they went to Nashville, Tennessee, where they started rebuilding their gang and planning new robberies.

The Bank Raid-Reenactment (photos by J. Oliver taken Sept 9, 2018)