James Bandits Escaped to Wayne County after Thrilling Bank Robbery
Among the many tales of pioneer life in Wayne County is the story of the escape of Jesse James, the bandit, through this county in 1875 after his "gang" had robbed the Huntington Bank. There are still people living here who recall the "heroes of dime novels" as they made their get-away from Huntington, which was then a town instead of a city.
When the James "gang" were making their escape from Huntington toward Kentucky, they stopped over in the town of Wayne (then Trout's Hill) and ate dinner with Aunt Lizzie Christian in the old house which formerly stood on the Northwest corner of the Freizzells Square. While here they talked with the citizens but not until the next day did the people of the town discover that they had entertained the noted "Jesse James" crew that were in those days well known in the yellow back novels. From Wayne they went up Toms Creek to the Kentucky State line.
The 47th anniversary of the robbery of the Huntington National Bank by Jesse James and his co-horts causes pioneer citizens of Huntington to recall some of the interesting details of the bank hold-up.
It was Huntington's first big robbery and the story as told by John H. Sanborn, D. I. Smith who was sheriff at the time, and Gene Salmon, deputy clerk of the county court, reads more like one of the tales of Jesse and Frank James and his gang, printed in one of the yellow backed dime novels of 25 years ago.
Mr. Salmon, by coincidence, wrote the commitment papers which sent Miller under the name of Webb to the state prison for fourteen years, and seven years later, as clerk in the secretary of state's office, when the capitol was in Wheeling, he wrote Governor Jackson's pardon of the bank robber.
On September 15, 1875, the robber quartet appeared at noon at a blacksmith shop owned by Mr. Sanborn's father. Hitching their horses, members of the gang approached the bank. One entered the store operated by Lindsay T. Powell, ordered Powell and Dr. S. J. Unseld to sit down and remain silent. One bandit stood outside the bank, two others entered.
Robert T. Oney, cashier, cowed at the point of two guns, gave up $10,252. Leisurely, the bandits left, mounted their horses and trotted out 12th Street and Fifth Avenue. Reaching that point they flourished their guns, fired a fusillade of shots in the air and spurred their horses and trotted their horses past 5th and Ninth Street and thence out 8th Street Rd toward Four Pole.
Sheriff Smith organized a posse. He was joined by Thos. Garland, James Elkins and Mrs. Sanborn's father. Other posses were formed each striving to head off the robbers. The chase lay through Wayne County and into Kentucky at White's Creek.
The chase grew so hot the bandit gang divided, James and Younger swinging to the north and McDaniel and Miller continuing over the original route to the Cumberland mountains of Tennessee. The loot was divided. A rendezvous in northern Texas was decided upon.
James and Younger won clear but Miller and McDaniel, crossing thru Bell Co., KY, had a skirmish with the Dillon boys who thought they were horse thieves and McDaniel was killed. Miller continued his wild ride into Fentress Co., TN. His horse lost a shoe and while the animal was being shod the sheriff of that county found Miller bending over the animal's hoof in front of the blacksmith shop.
Cashier Oney went to Fentress Co. and identified Miller and recovered $4,000 found on the robber. The remaining $6,000 disappeared with James and Younger.
Judge Evermont Ward sentenced Miller, who after conviction said other members of the gang came from Missouri but his home was in Kentucky. The robbers first met in Wheeling with a view of robbing a bank there. Then it was planned to rob a B & O train, next the gang went to Charleston by way of Point Pleasant by the Kanawha River, blocked a speedy getaway there. The gang came to Huntington, staged the robbery and made a getaway on horseback.
Note: There are at least two homes in Wayne County where pieces of furniture exist reportedly made by Frank James while he was in the area - a chest and a rope bed.
Source: Wayne County News article circa 1922
FRANK and JESSE JAMES
September 5, 1875---Four members of the James-Younger Gang rode into the town of Huntington, West Virginia with the intent to rob the town bank. This robbery was the farthest away from the outlaws' homes so far. In the middle of the street the four men dismounted from their horses. Two of the robbers, Cole Younger and newcomer Tom Webb, also known as Jack Keene (which name was his birthname is still unknown), entered the bank. Newcomer Tom McDaniels (Bud McDaniels's brother and the friend of the late John Younger) entered a dry goods store near the bank. Frank James entered a blacksmith stable near the bank. Frank and McDaniels were looking through windows from their positions, watching the bank. Cole and Webb casually walked up to the cashier, Robert T. Oney, and drew their pistols. They ordered Oney to open the safe and hand over all the money in the bank. Oney replied that he didn't know where the safe key was. Cole and Webb then went through drawers until they found the key. They then opened the safe and stole around $9,000. Afterwards, they looted another $1,000 from other parts of the bank. As they began to leave the bank, Cole, who was holding the money sack, turned around and asked Oney how much money in the bank was his. Oney replied about $7.50. Cole then pulled seven dollars and fifty cents out of the sack and gave it to Oney, saying there was no reason for a bank employee to lose his personal money. At this point, a man named Jim entered the bank. Cole and Webb took him hostage. Cole and Webb then walked out of the bank while using Oney and Jim as shields in front of them. When they got to their horses, they let the two men go. Frank and McDaniels then ran out of their positions, mounted their horses, and the four outlaws rode away. A huge manhunt ensued. Old foe Yankee Bligh helped in the manhunt. The four outlaws reached Kentucky. Shortly after they did, a posse caught up to them. A farmed shot at them with his rifle. The bullet hit McDaniels and he fell from his saddle. The three other outlaws dismounted and hid McDaniels in a cluster of bushes. They remounted and rode away in a hurry. The posse soon found McDaniels. He died a few hours later due to his wound. Another posse surrounded the three surviving outlaws a few days later. Webb/Keene was captured, but Frank and Cole somehow managed to escape the posse's grasp and made it back to Missouri. Webb/Keene never gave up his accomplices, but was sent to jail for several years.
Amount of Money Stolen
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