An Account of the 1869 James Gang Robbery

This account summarizes the robbery of the Daviess County Savings Association and murder of Capt. John Sheets upon the 44th anniversary of the incident. The following is reprinted from the files of the Gallatin Democrat:

This account summarizes the robbery of the Daviess County Savings Association and murder of Capt. John Sheets upon the 44th anniversary of the incident. The following is reprinted from the files of the Gallatin Democrat:

Artist’s concept of the shooting of Capt. John Sheets

Forty-four years ago, December 7, 1869, the Gallatin bank was robbed. It is said by the James boys and Jim Anderson. It was a dark, gloomy day. The cashier of the bank, Capt. John Sheets, was killed. The robbers got about $100 and left a fine bay mare that was worth more than the money they took from the bank. The mare was taken by Daniel Smoot, who was forced to give up the horse he was riding to his home southwest of Gallatin. The robbers told him he could have the mare left in town. This mare was kept for several years by Mr. Smoot and he raised several fine colts from her.

The 1869 robbery of the Daviess County Savings Association marked the first time Missouri proclaimed Frank and Jesse James as outlaws. The building where Capt. John Sheets was murdered, was located on the southwest corner of the Gallatin business square. This photo was taken shortly before it was demolished. Standing second from right is J.J. Mettle, who owned the building when this photo was taken. Fourth from right is Napolean B. Brown. All others are unknown. As the sign painted on the building indicates, owner Jacob Mettle operated a boot and shoe repair shop from these premises. [Shultz Studio, Gallatin]
The bank building stood at the southwest corner of the square, the present site of the Mann & Musselman Hardware Store. The picture, shown here, was taken in 1903, a short time before the authentic bank building was torn down. The marks of one of the bullets made during the robbery was pointed out to school children on their way to school and to inquiring strangers up to the time the building was torn down.

In October, 1876, Governor Woodson of the state offered a reward of $1,000 for the James brothers and under date of Dec. 20, 1878, Jesse James replied from Deer Lodge, Montana Territory, denying the robbery by saying they were not in the state at the time of the bank robbery. He said among other things that if he was offered a fair trial that they would come to any place in Missouri except Gallatin, if the governor would guarantee them a fair trial, and would agree not to honor extradition papers from the governor of Iowa. Nothing came of the offer. Jesse James was killed by Bob Ford in St. Joseph, MO, in April, 1882, and Frank now lives on his farm near Kearney, MO, and he is about 70 years old. Mrs. Sheets, the wife of the bank cashier killed, offered a reward of $500. Daviess County $250 each, and the bank $500, and the State of Missouri $500, making a total of $3,000.

The Winston train robbery, for which Frank James was tried in Gallatin in 1883, occurred at Winston in this county on the night of July 15, 1881. By this time, the reward for the capture of the James brothers totalled $50,000. Clarence Height was caught and he plead guilty to the Winston train robbery and was sentenced to a long term in the state prison. He said he was on the engine and looked after the engineer and fireman. He was pardoned and died shortly afterwards from tuberculosis.

MORE DETAILS…

The Sept. 30, 1943 edition of the Gallatin Democrat featured an tribute to longtime Gallatin businessman R.R. Wynne, written by C.M. Harrison upon Wynne’s death at age 84:

“In 1866 the Wynne family bought and moved into a home located where the Democrat office now stands and in the front yard of which he heard the shot that killed Capt. Sheets in the robbery of the Sheets bank in 1869. At that time the population of the town was about 300, and there was not a graded street nor sidewalk in the town except in front of the few business houses. There were no railroads here then, and all merchandise was brought in by a stage line running from Hamilton to Gallatin.

“Outside the courthouse and jail, both of which were in the square, there were only two brick buildings in town, the Sheets bank, which afterwards housed Jacob Mettle’s shoe repair shop, and a brick dwelling where the Bank of Gallatin now stands. Part of this building was occupied by The Tourchlight, a newspaper conducted by the Fram brothers, Thomas and George, his paper was later purchased by the late Harfield Davis and the name was changed to the Democrat.”

— Reprinted from the Gallatin Democrat