Three significant events occurred in Daviess County, MO, which dramatically plays into the lore and legend of outlaws Frank and Jesse James. When considering these dates, also consider what other newsworthy events of significance were underway at that particular time:

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. The photo was taken soon before the building was razed. [Shultz Studio, Gallatin]

1869 — James Boys accused of robbery and murder at the Daviess County Savings Association in Gallatin, MO

  • Union Pacific Railroad working westward from Nebraska links up with the Central Pacific working eastward from California meet at Promontory Point, Utah — the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.
  • The Cincinnati Red Stockings became baseball’s first professional team in 1869. They began with a 45-9 thumping of a team called the Great Western of Cincinnati, then proceeded to win nearly every one of its more than 70 games against overmatched amateur teams in the Midwest.
  • Suez Canal was completed on Aug. 18, 1869, and the inauguration ceremony on Nov. 17, 1869. Between 1859 and 1869, Egyptian khedive Saʿīd Pasha partnered with France’s Suez Canal Company to build the present canal connecting the Mediterranean and Red seas.

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.

1881 — James Gang train robbery and murder near Winston, MO

  • President James Garfield was assassinated, just five months into his term of office
  • Billy the Kid escaped from the Lincoln County, New Mexico jail house on April 28, 1881, killing two deputies on guard
  • U.S. Supreme Court rules that the income tax is constitutional since it is not a direct tax prohibited by the Constitution

Frank James, shown here in 1898 at age 55, was the older brother to the now-legendary American outlaw Jesse. Although on the surface the brothers seemed very similar, in truth the siblings were quite different. Jesse was showy, daring to the point of recklessness, and had a thirst for fame that would eventually be his downfall. Frank was shy, referred to spend his time reading, and married a schoolteacher.

1883 — the trial of Frank James at Gallatin, MO

  • Buffalo Bill Cody organizes the first Wild West Show
  • Mark Twain publishes “Life on the Mississippi”
  • The Brooklyn Bridge is completed in New York City, NY, connecting Manhattan and Long Island

Daviess County men who acquitted Frank James during the 1883 trial at Gallatin, MO, J. Snyde, B.F. Feurt, C.R. Nance, Joseph B. Smith, B.H. Shellman, William R. Merrritt, Jason Winburn, Oscar Chamberlain; seated are W.F. Richardson, L.W. Gilreath, N.E. Hale, and J.W. Boggs.