This account is reprinted from the July 21, 1881, edition of the Gallatin North Missourian (with later photos added for digital display here). The report’s subheadings were: “Conductor Westfall and Frank McMillen Killed” and “The Express Car Robbed”:

Friday night the regular Kansas City and Chicago passenger train, on the Rock Island road, was robbed just this side of Winston, and the Conductor, Wm. Westfall and a passenger, Frank McMillan of Wilton, Iowa, were killed by the train robbers. The train was on time, and as it left Winston at 9:30 p.m., three armed men stepped onto the front end of the smoking car. They fired through the glass in the car door, three men disguised with heavy black whiskers entered the car and fired through the windows in the front end of the car. While thus terrifying the passengers they ordered “hands up.” Conductor Westfall was about the middle of the car, taking up tickets when he was shot in the back. He was between S.T. Brosius, Esq., and Joseph H. McGee of this place. They say he dropped his lantern and staggered to the door. Whether he fell off the platform of the car or was pushed off by one of the robbers they do not know. His body was found just this side of the section house at Winston.

One of the scenes painted by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) featured in the Missouri State Capitol at Jefferson City features outlaw Jesse James in a mythical train/bank robbery. Benton’s work adorns the House Lounge on the third floor of the Capitol. The murals were commissioned by the legislature in early 1935 for $16,000 and completed in December 1936.

J.L. Penn and Frank McMillen were on the platform of the baggage car, and while looking in at the door window he was shot in the forehead and rolled off the car.

Two of the robbers went into the express car and ordered Murray, the express messenger, to open the safe. He began parleying with them, when instantly they knocked him down with a pistol and made him open the safe. It is not known but it is thought they got about $4,000.

They shot out the glass of the cab of the engine and made the engineer stop the train at the Dog Creek bridge. Quite a number of hands are at work at this bridge, and hearing the firing on the train they were aroused, and it is probable for this reason that the robber made the engineer run the train one half mile further to Little Dog Creek where they left the train. Their horses were tied in the brush about 200 yards south of the Dog Creek bridge. They did not take time to untie their horses but cut the halter straps, but before they mounted they threw out the empty shells from their pistols. Our City Marshal, Albert Gibbons, got the pieces of the halter straps left on the trees. He carefully examined where the horses stood and he thinks there were only three horses at that place.

This impressive stone culvert is located a mile east of Winston, MO, on the now abandoned railroad bed of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. This is about the location where the train robbery involving murder by outlaws Frank & Jesse James occurred. However, this stone culvert easily visible next to Highway 6 was constructed after the infamous crime occurred.

[Sidenote: The July 22, 1881, edition of the Liberty Tribune reported that the robbery and murder occurred “near some stone work being constructed by the railroad… after the flight of the gang, another man was found lying dead near the stone work. The opinion is, that he was a stone cutter who had tried to prevent the escape of the robbers and had been shot down in his tracks…”]

On Friday, two men having very fine horses, got their dinner at Benj. Machette. They told him that they lived at Plattsburg and were hunting horse thieves. That afternoon Kara Souls was in the brush near the Little Dog Creek bridge., and the same two men who were laying in the woods by their horses. They told him that they lived at Plattsburg, were resting and were going to Ben Matchette to buy a cow. They had got their dinner at Matchett’s and that is the way they knew his name.

Sheriff Crozier and our City Marshal Gibbons tracked the three horses about seven miles towards the H & St. Joseph, and the lost the track. Young Caster living south of Winston, says he was up in the night and saw three men loping their horses past his house, and they were tracked past his house from Dog Creek. This is the last that was seen of them so far as we can hear.

About 11 o’clock the word came here of the robbery. Sheriff Crozier waked up about 30 of our citizens and hurried to the depot to get the train going to Winston. It was about 12 o’clock before the train left and then had orders to lay on the Highland switch until the robbed train passed. It was 2 o’clock before they got to Winston. The robbers then had 4 hours the start of them. Sheriff Crozier and Oscar Naylor hurriedly mounted horses and rode to Kidder, and gave the alarm. As soon as it was daylight they watched the road carefully to Winston for tracks of the robbers but did not see any until they came near Mr. Casters.

Mr. Walker, Division Superintendent of the Rock Island RR, was not at home or there would have been an extra through sooner.

In 1871 a new Rock Island railroad depot was built on a high point in Daviess County, halfway between Cameron and Gallatin at Winston, MO. T.F. Jefferies, a native of Somersetshire, England, was the first station agent. Two sets of tracks were to the front of the depot and were used for switching cars while a set of siding tracks ran behind the depot. The depot today is located at the intersection of Route Y and Hwy 69 in Winston, MO. (Source: interview with Omar Baxter and Harle A Garner; 1837-1937 Centennial publication). This is the train depot where outlaws Frank & Jesse James and gang initiated their murderous train robbery in 1881.

Everything looks as if it was the work of the James boys or their gang. Westfall was the conductor on the train which carried the Pinkerton detectives to Mrs. Samuel the time her boy was killed and she lost her arm by the explosion of the shell which the detectives threw into her house. They James boys swore they would kill him, and they or their gang have done it.

Tuesday, Mrs. Samuel, the mother of the James boys, was in Kansas City. She talked freely with the reporters about the robbery. She says Frank and Jesse James are both dead, and could have had nothing to do with the robbery unless their ghosts were there.

Sheriff Crozier was out three days and nights but could get no clue to the whereabouts of the robbers.

The express company has offered $5,000 and the railroad company $5,000 for the robbers.

—  account published July 21, 1881, in the Gallatin North Missourian

Wm. Westfall [1843-1881] was killed during the train robbery at Winston by Frank & Jesse James on July 15, 1881. Westfall was the train conductor. He is buried in the old Plattsburg Cemetery. (1989 photo)