The Day the James Gang Held Up the Ocobock Bank
June 3, 1871 - spirits ran high as Corydon citizens flocked to the Methodist Church for a big town meeting. No one wanted to miss hearing the renowned orator, Henry Clay Dean, extol the virtues of a railroad coming through town. The town square was deserted as the crowd gathered in the church yard one block west of the square.
Earlier that week, four "cattle buyers" had arrived in the Lineville area. On the day of the meeting, people paid little attention to the four men, clad in linen dusters, as they rode into town from the south. The riders approached the northeast corner of the square and the Wayne County Treasurer's Office. The office was full of money from recent tax collections. As a ploy to get into the safe, the leader of the group asked the lone clerk if he could get change for a $100 bill. The junior clerk informed him the safe was locked and the treasurer was gone to the town meeting. Trying to be helpful, the clerk directed them one block west to the Ocobock Bank. (Today this is the site of Citizens Bank).
Quietly mounting their horses, the men rode down the street to the Ocobock Bank. The bank was empty except for an unfortunate clerk. Forcing him into the safe, the gunmen helped themselves to about $10,000! Finding their heist too easy, the gang rode to the town meeting and interrupted the speaker with taunts of "You better check the bank!" and "Someone robbed the bank!" The crowd thought it was a hoax. Legend says the gang leader tossed a silver dollar to a 9-year old boy, Amos Sheets, and told him to tell the crowd he had robbed the bank.
Several minutes passed before the crowd realized the truth. They quickly formed a posse and pursued the bandits into Missouri, but were forced to end their search when the trail became too hard to follow.
Townsfolk soon realized the bank had been robbed by the infamous James-Younger Gang. Eyewitness descriptions of the bandits indicated they were Jesse and Frank James, Cole Younger and Clell Miller. The treasurer's clerk had given Jesse James directions to the bank!
The famous Pinkerton Agency was hired to follow up on the robbery. Clell Miller was later returned to Corydon to stand trial, but was found innocent because of an alibi placing him elsewhere on June 3.
The James-Younger Gang continued their crimes until their defeat on September 7, 1876 in Northfield, Minnesota.
Jesse James Days are held in Corydon the First Friday and Saturday in June.