Mr. Fred Barber, has generously contributed this article,
written from his personal family history, about the day that
the Jesse James gang robbed the Ocobock Bank in Corydon, Iowa,
and has given his permission for it to be posted to the
website to share with all who are interested in the history of
Wayne County, Iowa. Mr.
Barber is a native of Wayne County who was born on a farm
about 3 miles east of Lineville. He is a published author and currently
resides in Las Vegas, Nevada.
by F. Eugene
Rev. A 2004
was first written for the Mercer County Historical Society
Journal printed in hardback—1992.
grandmother Margaret Belle “Maggie” (Bright) Owen told me
this story about an event that happened to her mother Mary
(Wood) Bright. (The name Bright was Brecht in Germany).
great-grandmother, Mary Bright was boiling clothes in an old
iron kettle when several men in dusters rode up out of the
cornfield that lay to the south of the cabin in Mercer
County Missouri. Sam Bright, my great-grandfather, had gone
into Lineville, Iowa (Wayne County) to get some cottonwood
logs sawed up to rebuild a chicken house. It was just 7
miles to Lineville. (I was born on a farm 3 miles from
asked the men what they wanted, the tall skinny one with a
scraggly beard, said, "We would like something to eat."
put out some cold biscuits that had been wrapped in a tea
towel and she added milk to the gravy left over from her and
Sam's early breakfast, re-heated it, and then fried up some
fat-back for the men.
had no coffee, but one of the seven did. She boiled up some
coffee and they ate the food and drank the coffee. As they
left, the tall man with the scraggly beard, flipped her a
twenty dollar gold-piece—the most money she and Sam had at
one time since they had sold some shoats the fall before.
Sam Bright pulled up with his wagon-load of lumber that
night, he told her, "The Ocobock Brothers Bank at Corydon
was robbed today by Jesse James and his boys."
Bright laughingly told him she had breakfast with Jesse and
They got $9000 and change from the robbery at Corydon.
JESSE AND THE COLT
Jr. told this "colt" story to my grandfather, Charles Andrew
Barber, over a hundred and twenty years ago. My grandfather
told it to my father around 1918 and my father, Fred Gerald
Barber, told it to me in the 1940s and again in 1987—this
last time I had the sense to write it down.
June 3, 1871 Jesse James and his gang rode to the east of
Lineville towards the "Old Duff" place after leaving the Sam
Bright place where Mary Bright had fed them breakfast. My
dad and his twin sister, Frankie, were born in the old Duff
farmhouse on August 23, 1910 just east of Lineville. The
farm had land on both sides of the Iowa/Missouri line (hence
the name Lineville).
gang arrived at the Hines Livery Stable on the Missouri side
of the line in Lineville and soon talked John Hines, Sr.
into trading one of their horses that was ‘winded’ from the
long ride from Clay County, Missouri, for a mare, and
offered money to boot. John Hines Sr. told Jesse that he had
to take the colt too as it was not weaned. Jesse agreed and
the men rode off.
few moments later John turned to his young son and said,
"Johnny I believe I made a mistake—we will soon be hearin’ a
enough they did. A hired hand named Nick, Johnny Hines Jr.,
and his father walked about a half mile towards the old
Clio, Iowa road and crossed the crick. There lay the poor
little colt. Jesse and his boys could not be bothered with a
colt as they were on their way to Corydon, Iowa to make an
"unauthorized withdrawal" from the Ocobock Brothers’ Bank.
dad and the hired hand skinned out the colt for the leather.
The timber wolves got the rest. Mr. Hines was sorry, he said
later, he just didn’t think about the fact that they might
kill the colt until the gang had ridden away. He could have
bottle fed the little colt.
two men entered the Ocobock Brothers bank in Corydon, Iowa. Two stayed at the
door and acted as watchers and guards. Two others waited
outside by the hitching rail as look-outs and to hold the
horses. They didn't tie them, just held onto the reins.
robbing the bank, Jesse and his gang headed west towards
Decatur County, Iowa. (Leon is the county seat). They passed
through Woodland, Iowa at a fast gallop, turned south, and
camped just out of rifle range over on the Missouri side of
the state line. The gang cooked up some stolen chickens over
a hastily made fire, and ate and rested. They had been
riding all night from Clay County, Missouri, had robbed the
bank at Corydon in Wayne County and had only eaten early
that morning at the Sam and Mary Bright place.
of the men-folk in Corydon were at a town rally and were
listening to Henry Clay Dean discuss the merits of a
proposed railroad that might come through Corydon.
it was discovered that the Ocobock bank had been robbed,
some of the men in the crowd quickly formed a posse and
headed west. When they finally discovered the gang and
realized that the robbers were across the Missouri state
line, one of the posse members went into Davis City, Iowa to
obtain a legal paper allowing them to follow the gang into
Missouri. (Davis City is in Decatur County and south of
Leon, Iowa about 14 miles and on the other side of
Pleasanton, Iowa—about 2 miles). Jesse and his gang had
timed it just right, and were gone before the fellow got
back to the posse after seeing the Judge.
and his boys followed the Weldon River for several miles
then crossed over and picked up the trace along the Thompson
River. Grand River and Middle River also fed into the river
systems. The posse tracked them down into Jackson County,
Missouri, but by this time the gang was deep into their home
territory. They were heading towards Clay County when the
posse finally gave up and went back to Iowa. The bank
robbers had split up and gone separate trails.
Miller was arrested in Kansas City, Missouri a few days
later and was brought back to Corydon, Iowa for trial. He
supposedly was one of the horse holders. None of the
witnesses could positively identify him and he had an alibi,
so he was turned loose. No one else was ever implicated in
the Corydon, Iowa, Obocock Brothers Bank robbery on June 3,
1871. Clell Miller was later killed during the Northfield,
Minnesota bank robbery—September 1876. The museum in
Northfield still has Clell Miller’s saddle.
Younger, who had been with Jesse and Frank at Corydon, later
went on to rob banks on his own after Jesse was shot in the
back of the head in St. Joseph, Missouri. The home that
Jesse was killed in was made into an Auto Court back in the
late 1930s and was called “The Jesse James Court”. (A Court
would be called a Motel nowadays). It has been moved about 3
blocks down the street and is a small museum now.
Home Sweet Home sign (that Jesse was supposedly taking down
or dusting at the time he was shot in the back of the head
by Bob Ford) was still there when I visited it in 1938.
and his family were heading for California to start a new
life—so it has been said.
Jesse’s son (a lawyer) used to work with Harry S
Truman in Kansas City for the Pendergast political group.
Pendergast was the political power broker for the entire
state—except for St. Louis—the beer barons “own” the
politics in St. Louis.
granddaughter lived in Orange County, CA and was in a mobile
home park right behind our home in Huntington Beach in the
late 1970s and early 1980s. One of Jesse’s grandsons also
became a lawyer.
least one of the Youngers was along with Jesse during the
Ocobock Bank robbery in Corydon, Iowa. There might have been
two. The Younger Boys most infamous robbery was the bank at
Coffeyville, Kansas. I was through Coffeyville back in the
late 1940s and the bullet holes in the bank walls were still
to be seen. Coffeyville is famous for making bricks. Main Street, in
Junction City, Kansas (where I went to High School), was
paved with Coffeyville bricks. The City has pulled most of
them up. The
word “Coffeyville” was embedded on the face of each brick
and the city fathers have left a small strip of bricks as a
James was caught later for other robberies and served time
in the “Pen”. He died a free man in Nebraska in 1910 just a
few miles from my great Aunt’s house (She was a Hashman) in
Alliance, NE. In his later years Frank attended the local
Baptist Church in Nebraska on a regular basis. (Jesse and
Frank’s father was a Baptist Minister). Their stepfather was
a Medical Doctor.
THE JAMES FARM
The James home
and farm is still intact near Liberty, MO and can be toured
for a small fee. It is an easy 35 min. drive from the Kansas
City Airport. The land was leased by a farmer close by and
he was raising corn when I was last there in 2003—I rented a
car and visited the James' home between planes. They dug
Jesse up and re-buried him on the Farm in 1995.
was believed that the RR detectives that surrounded the James
home threw a bomb inside. It was found out later to be a
railroad flare. Jesse’s mother picked it up with a coal shovel
and threw it into the stove and it blew up. It took her arm
off and killed Jesse and Frank’s little stepbrother. RR flares
in those days were usually built with the flash powder poured
into a cast iron shell and with a cotton wick so the RR men
could light them easily—no wonder it blew up. It was sort of
shaped like a corncob. I have seen them in a RR museum. The RR
detectives claimed later that they just wanted some light so
they could see to shoot Jesse. Of course he was long gone
before they arrived as he had been warned by friends in Clay
AIDING AND ABETTING
grandmother, Ollie Ellen (Moore) Barber told me that my
great grandfather, James Buchanan (Buck) Moore let Jesse
James stay with him for a few days back in the 1870’s. I
don’t know if Jesse was on the “run” or just needed a place
to stay. Grandmother Ollie said he stayed in the barn loft
and slept in the hay. She told me the year, but I was just a
kid and didn’t write it down. It was probably 1874—my best
guess because my great grandfather moved to Daviss County in
1875—Bethany is the county seat.
great grandfather’s farm at the time was in Mercer County
and between the town of Mercer, Missouri and Lineville,
Iowa. It was almost directly north of the James Farm down in
Clay County only about 65 miles apart.
Frank were not Robin Hoods in any sense—they had ridden with
the Missouri Red Legs during the Civil War and had helped
burn and sack Lawrence, Kansas while with the infamous
leader, Col. Quantrill. Some say that is where Jesse and
Frank got the practice (and the idea) of robbing trains and
was born near Lineville, Iowa—near the state border—Clay
County Missouri is less than 90 miles straight south where
the James home is. In 1936/1938, I lived in Cameron,
Missouri—just a short drive to Liberty.
This page was last updated September 30,