Friday, June 22, 2012

Jesse james at Northfield and Chip DeMann

June 22, 2012

Because I have covered a broad range of gunfights in the magazine and in my books I am often asked how I get past the myths and legends and find the closest thing to the truth. The trick, I always say, is to find the one person who has spent their entire life researching a specific event. Many times you get guys (and gals) who specialize in researching everything about one person (Joseph Rosa, the renowned expert on all things Wild Bill Hickok comes to mind), but the rare bird is the one who has spent a lifetime researching one event. In the case of the failed Northfield bank raid by Jesse James and his cohorts, that person is Chip DeMann.

I first visited Northfield and met Chip in the summer of 2000. I returned the next September to take reference photos and Chip allowed me to shoot in the First National Bank, so I could block out where each cashier was sitting at the time of the robbery. Here's Chip, as Alonzo Bunker, looking at the books.

That's his son to his right, standing in for cashier Frank Wilcox. And that is the actual clock and safe, at right, that was in the bank at the time of the robbery. Local tradition has it that the clocked stopped at 2:10 during the robbery and has never been reset. Here is the scene from the other angle:

That's author Jack Koblas (also an expert on the raid), at left, portraying Joseph Heywood. After this, Chip took a group of horseback riders on the gang's actual escape route, through Dundas and out the Millersburg road.

Chip and the boys landed at the Millersburg Store where we had a rousing dinner. In the morning the gang posed for this group photo before moving on to Shieldsville. I took photos all the way and have a veritable gallery of James Gang on the run images.

The chilling part of this for me is that this was September 10, 2001.

"We are rough men used to rough ways."
—Bob Younger