Jesse James, the Outlaw
A Death-Guarded Secret
-- the Minnesota Raid
The country that I traversed was as wild and forbidding as any I had ever
seen in Missouri. I at last came upon Little at work in a roadside field. The
humble cottage of his employer was in view about a quarter of a mile away, and
for loneliness and isolation it might almost as well have been in the heart of
Montana or Idaho.
"Hello!" exclaimed Little, looking up, spade in hand, in answer to
my greeting. "What! is it indeed you, Mr. Lawson? By Jove! I'd never have
known you in that shape."
This was in complimentary allusion to the disguise I had assumed. It was
that of a country storekeeper in hard luck, on the lookout for a new location
and a partner, with a rather sorry-looking steed in keeping with the character.
"Have you anything to say?" I asked.
"Yes, more than you imagine," was the cautious reply. "Yes,
indeed. As soon as you return to St. Joe you can telegraph to your friends that
the Minnesota expedition will start from H ville to-morrow at daybreak. The gang
will make the entire distance on horseback, and as you fellows will doubtless
cover the greater part of it by rail, of course you can take your time with your
preparations. Jess has been compelled to move earlier than he intended, by
reason of the poverty of the majority of the gang. They have done nothing yet to
retrieve the Red Cut failure. Some of 'em are entirely destitute."
"Are you to go?"
"Yes; I have my orders. I will try to communicate with you on the way."
"Who are the others?"
"The entire expedition will consist of the two Jameses, the three
Youngers, the two Hites, Curly Pitts, Hank Burke, Bill Shadwell, Charley Miller,
and Clem Miller, besides myself. It is a bigger gang than I thought would
be used in the affair. Charley Miller is to be the guide. He was a Minnesota
horse-thief, you know, before he joined us, and is familiar with that northern
country. Ed Miller would also have been picked, but there's bad blood betwixt
him and Jess now, though they used to be thick. Only night before last, at the
rendezvous down in Cracker's Neck, Ed more than insinuated that Jess and Frank
took precious good care of themselves, even with the rest of the gang starving
to death. Jess didn't reply then, but we all saw that he didn't like it. Jim
Cummings would also have been selected, but he hasn't got over his scorching.
Wait, there's one more of the raiding party I haven't named -- Charley White.
That's fourteen in all."
Here certainly was a whole budget of news, and important enough in all
conscience. If I had had any doubts as to the sincerity of Dick Little's
intentions, they were now dissipated by the frankness and fullness with which he
gave me these details.
"Clef Miller is a new name to me," I observed. "So is Bill
"They both only recently joined, but have already left records in Texas
and the Indian Territory. Clem Miller is a cousin of Charley's."
While speaking together, we had withdrawn into a fence corner overgrown with
alders and papaw trees.
After giving me some further details regarding the intended raid, Little
gave me a mysterious look, and said, while lowering his voice:
"There's something else, Mr. Lawson."
"What is it?"
"You're the third man that's passed along this lonesome road to-day,
sir. Neither of the two others saw me, for I was digging yonder in the ditch.
And I was devilish careful to duck my head as soon as I recognized 'em, you bet.
They were about ten minutes apart. The first man, perhaps, didn't know that the
other was a-doggie' him. Yet. they both hitched up somewhere up yonder, and
disappeared, one after the other, into the thick woods up the mountain side, in
mighty nigh the same place."
"Why, Dick, what do you mean by all this mystery?" I asked. "Who
were the men?"
He lowered his voice to a hushed, scared sort of tone.
"Mr. Lawson," said he, "the first man was Jess James The man
a-doggie' him was Ed Miller."
"WelI; what is there to it all?"
"Just this," and Dick's frightened voice sank yet lower. "It
looked to me like as Jess was on his way to his treasurehole -- perhaps for the
purpose of making a new plant there -- and like as Ed was shadowin' him, to find
out where the hole is. Didn't I tell you about the two having had some words
about money night afore last?"
This was a better piece of news than I had dreamed of expecting. It almost
startled me. But I was none the less pleased. I at once dismounted, tying my
horse in among the papaws, and taking a look at my pistols.
"What are you going to do?" exclaimed Dick.
"Follow up Jess, as his fellow-bandit is following him,
of course," I replied, in a businesslike tone. "I also would find
the robber's treasure-hole. You shall guide me."
"The thunder I shall!" cried Dick, almost with chattering teeth.
"Good Lord! do you think I'm tired of living?"
"I think you're tired of being a blood-thirsty highwayman's blind tool
and cat's-paw, if there's any sincerity in your professions," said I. "Nothing
venture, nothing have. So, come along."
Much more urging was required to get the better of his fears, but the task
was at last accomplished. We then' proceeded up the road, and entered the woods
at the point where my guide had seen the robbers go into them a short time
before, but without seeing where they had first tethered their horses.
However, we made but a slight search for the latter. Our main quest was a
much more important one.
After climbing the slope with much difficulty, by reason of both its
steepness and the density of its trees and undergrowth, we came out upon an
elevated level not quite so thickly wooded.
We had pushed on for a considerable distance further, when the report of
firearms suddenly rang through the woods. It was followed quickly by a second
report, after which there was dead silence as we came to a momentary pause. But
at this point, with his spade still in his grip, and his knees knocking
together, my guide resolutely refused to go another step.
"Aren't you armed?" I exclaimed, beginning to lose patience.
"Yes," was his sullen answer; and, throwing open his rude farmer's
blouse, showing his belt beneath with the pistols in it.
"What ails you, then? The spade in your hands is moreover a deadly
weapon. Aren't you ashamed to be paralyzed by a danger, even before it is
"No, I'm not; not where Jess James is concerned," he growled, and
then laying his hand on my arm with increased trepidation, he whispered: "Hush
I shook off his grip, laying my hand on my pistol. There was the sound of
some one hurrying through the brush not far away, and evidently making down the
hill toward the road we had quitted.
"Come on!" I said. "Let us at least see who it is."
We retraced our steps to a point on the brow of the wooded slope whence a
view could be obtained of the road below.
A moment later we saw a single horseman galloping off, with a riderless
horse in leading. The horseman was Jesse James. He rode so rapidly that in a few
seconds he was lost to view.
"Now I'll go on with you," said my guide gloomily, and, turning,
he once more led the way back through the woods. "You'll soon see, I'm
thinkin', what it costs to meddle with Jess James' private affairs."
I more than half suspected what he meant. We presently came into a narrow
glade. A feeble groan attracted our attention, and a brief search revealed a man
lying at the edge of the glade. It was Ed Miller, the outlaw, fatally shot
through the head, but slowly coming back to momentary consciousness.
We both knelt at his side, Dick supporting his head,
while I took one of his hands. The other hand firmly grasped a revolver,
from which probably the second shot we had heard had been fired, but
unavailingly for either self-defense or vengeance.
"Just as I supposed!" growled Little. "Jess has, like enough,
killed him to save the secret of his treasure-hole."
"Yes, yes," gasped the dying robber, in a failing voice. "That
I signed Little to let me do the talking, and he at the same time raised
Miller's head a little higher.
"We are friends, my man, who can and will avenge you, if possible,"
I exclaimed, with sympathetic earnestness. "Only try to answer the
questions I shall put to you."
He made a sign in the affirmative, but his eyes were already on the point of
glazing, and his breath came in swift, convulsive pants.
"Quick, then!" I went on. "Did you see Jess at the place
where he hides away his money?"
"Yes, yes; saw him dig out hole put a fresh bag in -- fill it up
again. Cave full of treasure-bags, gold, bags silver, boxes greenbacks, jewels
and watches in piles -- two hundred thousand dollars, sure! Then he saw me. My
first shot missed -- then done for."
The words came out in painful jerks, a gush of blood from his lips closing
"Try and give us directions!" I exclaimed, hurriedly wiping off
the blood and putting my flask to his lips. "Only try -- there's a good
fellow! We'll use a part of the money in hunting down your murderer. Where is it
buried? Quick -- give us the clew!"
The dying bandit, though in his last agonies, made a supreme effort, and
struggled into a sitting posture. His face was livid, but with the hope of
vengeance flaring out through it, as through an expiring lamp. He pointed out
through the glade with a trembling hand.
"There, there!" he faltered. "Two buckeyes, three forties,
heap stones to right, then a forty-five shot straight on; where ball strikes,
It was his expiring effort. He fell back a corpse.
"Cashed in!" commented Little. "Poor Ed. There was worse
'uns in the world than he, robber that he was. What are you doin', Mr. Lawson?
Not jottin' down them last nonsensical words of his'n? Yes. Blamed if he ain't!"
This was just what I was doing. He had risen to his feet, while I, still
stooping, pencil in hand and memorandum-book on knee, was carefully transcribing
those dying words, disconnected and meaningless as they seemed to my guide. And
I had to confess that, as yet, I could make nothing out of them myself.
"Poor fellow!" said I, at last, as I arose from my task. "As
you say, there were probably worse men in the world than he. What shall we do
with the body?"
"Leave it alone for the present, at least," said Little, moving
away. "But you don't really think that head or tail can ever be twisted out
of them last words of Ed's?"
"I can't tell till I try," said I, crossing the forest opening. "Let
us look around a bit."
I had hoped to analyze the mysterious directions, whose transcription I
still held in my hand, and then follow them up observantly. But I got no further
than their very beginning, without coming to a pause, hopelessly at fault.
"Two buckeyes." Yes; there were two buckeye, or horsechestnut
trees, right across the glade at the point to which the robber had pointed. No
other trees of the kind were to be seen. I stood between them, looking
calculatingly off into the woods, but without getting any idea from the
remaining directions, which I kept repeating over and over again.
"'Two buckeyes, three forties, heap stones to right, then a forty-five
shot straight on; where ball strikes, dig.' "
"Well, here we've got our buckeyes at all events," said I,
thinking aloud. "Now for the next item -- 'three forties.' What can that
"It'll be getting dark purty soon, Mr. Lawson," suggested my
"It won't get dark before I can see if three hundred and forty paces
straight ahead shall chance to lead me to a heap of stones," said I, with
the memoranda still in my mind's eye. "Come on."
Dick shrugged his shoulders as he accompanied me, but nothing came of the
test. Three hundred and forty paces, straight through the woods from between the
two horsechestnuts, brought us into a tangle of underbrush, without so much as a
suggestion of a stone-heap anywhere to be seen.
I made several other attempts, equally futile, to follow out what might be
the meaning of the enigmatical directions, and finally gave up the task in
despair, at least for the time being.
"Come, Mr. Lawson, let's get out of these woods before nightfall,"
said Dick, at last inducing me to give up my quest. "Ed must have been
loony when he said them last words, and there can't be nothin' into 'em. I'll
tell my employer about havin' found a man dead, and he'll come up here some time
or other and look after the body."
We returned to the road without meeting any further adventure. Then, upon
getting into the saddle again, I made some definite arrangements with him as to
the part he was to endeavor to play during the forthcoming raid. I also promised
to convey to Mattie Collins a verbal message from him, and we separated.
On returning to St. Joseph I at once telegraphed the information I had
received, concerning the raid, to my confederates in Kansas City and
Independence, making use of a cipher that was intelligble to us alone. Then,
knowing that they would at once set on foot the necessary preparations, I sought
a tavern for the rest and repose of which I was greatly in need.
It was perhaps natural that I was in a despondent frame of mind.
"So," thought I to myself, just before sin-king to sleep that
night, "another great secret has suddenly fluttered from me, like a wounded
bird, just at the instant that it was in my closing grasp. Bob Younger's
revelation, concerning the stolen boy, was almost in my possession, when a
bullet cut it short. In like manner I have just been robbed of this
fortunedisclosing secret by another bullet, though in a different way. It is
infernally hard luck."
Presently however, something seemed to whisper encouragingly to me.
"Courage," the still small voice seemed to say. "As a bullet
has robbed you of these secrets, one after another, so shall they be eventually
revealed to you by a bullet in each instance."
Then I sank to sleep, and dreamed all night of deciphering mysterious
writings and unearthing enormous treasures.
On a certain bright autumnal morning, not long after this, our small but
determined detective force was gathered in the little village of R-- , a
suburb of the town of Northfield, Minnesota.
We had ridden over to R-- from the nearest rail road point at an early
hour that morning, and were now waiting to receive a final notification of the
raiding robbers' advance from the southward, before riding into Northfield, and
notifying the bank and municipal officers of the threatened descent. We had
resolved to refrain from doing this up to the very last moment for a number of
reasons. In the first place we were anxious to allay premature excitement, and
thus get the robbers well into the town, in the hope of killing or bagging them
all. In the second place, we had such confidence in our arrangements that we
felt sure we could give timely warning even at the last moment, without costing
the unsuspecting citizens the loss of a man, or the bank the loss of a dollar.
And finally, we knew enough of the Minnesotian character to be sure of securing
ample backing, at a pinch, either for hard fighting or in an organized pursuit,
and on mighty short notice at that.
In one of these respects it turned out that we had made a grave mistake, as
events will prove.
We had, thus far, received three secret telegrams from Dick Little,
faithfully notifying of the progress of the robber band from time to time. We
had now been waiting for the fourth and last communication for several hours,
and were growing both impatient and anxious.
Neither Sheriff Timberlake nor Captain Craig was with us on this occasion,
on account of the field of operations being shifted so far out of their State
limits. Our troop, eight in number, was composed of professional detectives,
with the exception of George Sheppard and Charley Ford, and I had been elected
to the chief command.
At last we received our notification, but in an unexpected way.
At about noon a horseman, covered with dust, came tearing into the tavern
stableyard, where we were all in waiting with our mounts in readiness.
The horseman was Dick Little.
"Quick, or it's too late!" he gasped. "I'm supposed to be
laid up seriously wounded by an accidental shot. I couldn't find another
telegraphic station, so here I am. I started for this place as soon as the gang
quitted B-- . They're hurrying up from the south. Go on without me, Lawson.
Quick, quick! Maybe they're already at the bank.
I waited for nothing more. Away we dashed, leaving Little behind.
Northfield was only a mile to the south, but the road seemed to merely crawl
under us, though we were going at a thundering pace. Gorham chanced to be the
best mounted, and I ordered him to spur on in advance, and give the general
This duty he performed. It chanced to be in the midst of the prairie chicken
season, when everybody coming to town was armed with a shotgun or rifle.
Gorham's preliminary alarm, therefore, was instantly taken up by good men and
true, in a condition to act upon it. But, nevertheless, as the rest of us came
rushing into the excited town from the north, Jesse James and his outlaws
had already entered it from the south, and were even at the door of the
They had come rushing in their usual style, which had often proved so
successful before -- firing off their pistols, making their horses plunge and
rear, yelling at the top of their voices, and with similar demos/rations.
They reined up at the bank doors, and, while the rest remained in the
saddle, Jesse and Frank James and Cole Younger leaped from their horses, and
dashed into the interior.
Cashier Haywood bravely refused to open the vault, even at the mouth of the
pistol. He was instantly shot dead by Jesse, while the latter's confederates
opened fire upon the remaining clerks, though purposely wounding instead of
killing them outright. Then Jesse marched the cashier's assistant up to the safe
doors, with his still smoking pistol at his ear, and ordered him to open them.
The poor fellow, with his superior lying dead at his feet, was probably
doing the best he could toward obeying the order, when the exchange of shots
outside the bank became so violent and frequent as to distract the attention of
the outlaws within.
And just then Wood Hite rode his horse half way into the bank with horror
and dismay depicted on his face.
"Come out of that, Jess, if you care for your hide!" he yelled. "The
game's up! We're hemmed in with the bull town agin us!"
With a terrible oath of fury and disappointment, the outlaw leader knocked
the clerk senseless with a blow from his revolver and fired a parting shot into
the cashier's body as he turned to make his escape.
Then, followed by his brother and Cole Younger, he rushed out of the bank.
A wild scene of carnage met his gaze. His men still held the approach to the
bank, and were defending themselves desperately, but shots were being poured
into them from every direction, while the accompanying shouts, curses, and yells
were like a massacre.
"Stand to it!" shouted Jesse's undaunted voice. "We'll be
hanged if we're caught alive! Stand to it!"