September 16, 2013

W. Va. Bank Robber Killed in Pine Hill Mistaken As Jesse James, Rockcastle, 1875



Excerpt from Column 4. The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 17, 1875. Page 3. LOC.

[September 17, 1875] -

On Tuesday night last, W. R. Dillion, near the house of his brother, Doc Dillion, in Rockcastle county, shot and mortally wounded a Virginian, who turned out to be one of the gang which recently robbed the Bank at Huntington, Va. He was watching the road, it seems, when four men on foot passed, between 12 and 1 o'clock. On halting them, he was fired upon, he returned fire with the above result. The other men ran away; the wounded one, after being taken to the house, admitted that they were the robbers, but refused to tell his name. He had on his person $100 in 25 cents fractional currency. The whole county was up at last accounts, in search of the other three.


Excerpt from "Home Jottings." The Courier Journal, Stanford, KY. September 24, 1875. Page 3. LOC.

[September 24, 1875] - 

THE ROBBER. -- The man, supposed to be Jesse James, and who was shot at Pine Hill, last week, by W. R. Dillion, died there last Sunday evening, and was buried near Pine Hill. Mr. Dillion and his brother Doc, have done a noble deed, and rid the whole country of one dangerous and bloody outlaw. A few more such men as the Dillions, scattered around over the country, would make bank and railroad robbing, a very precarious business for these darling scoundrels, and they would eventually put a stop to it. We hope they will be able to secure the reward which is said to have been offered in Missouri, for one, or all, of this gang of highwaymen. 


Jesse James was not shot and killed in Rockcastle County in 1875. The man killed in Pine Hill was identified as James by some papers, but soon after identified as another Missouri bandit, a man named Thompson McDaniels. 

Some secondary sources (with no traceable citations) I've read have claimed that James was involved in the Huntington heist along with McDaniels, but that they took different escape routes after the robbery.  Regardless of whether Jesse James was actually involved in the Huntington robbery, the man killed in Rockcastle Co. was not James, although it was widely reported at the time that this was the case.

I found reports of James' death in Pine Hill, KY (Rockcastle Co.) in the following papers:
  • The Fort Wayne Sentinel of Fort Wayne, IN on Sept 17, 1875
  • The Courier Journal of Louisville, KY on Sept 18, 1875
  • The Tennessean of Nashville, TN on Sept 18, 1875
  • The Boston Post of Boston, MA on Sept 18, 1875
  • Pittsburg Weekly Gazette of Pittsburg, PA on Sept 18, 1875
  • The Baltimore Sun of Baltimore, MD on Sept 18, 1875 and Sept 20, 1875
  • Philadelphia Inquirer of Philadelphia, PA on Sept 18, 1875 and Sept 20, 1875
  • Daily Nebraska Press of Nebraska City, NE on Sept 18, 1875
  • Springfield Republican of Springfield, MA on Sept 18, 1875
  • Evansville Courier and Press of Evansville, IN on Sept 18, 1875
  • Quincy Whig of Quincy, IL on Sept 18, 1875 and Sept 20, 1875
  • Times-Picayune of New Orleans, LA on Sept 19, 1875
  • The Daily Journal of Wilmington, NC on Sept 19, 1875
  • Augusta Chronicle of Augusta, GA on Sept 19, 1875 and Sept 21, 1875
  • St. Louis Dispatch of St. Louis, MO on Sept 20, 1875
  • Cincinnati Daily Star of Cincinnati, OH on Sept 20, 1875
  • The Burlington Free Press of Burlington, VT on Sept 20, 1875
  • Auburn Daily Bulletin of Auburn, NY on Sept 20, 1875
  • Albany Evening Journal of Albany, NY on Sept 20, 1875
  • Daily Albany Argus of Albany, NY on Sept 20, 1875
  • National Republican of Washington, DC on Sept 20, 1875 and Sept 28, 1875
  • Alexandria Gazette of Alexandria, VA on Sept 20, 1875 and Sept 28, 1875
  • Wheeling Register of Wheeling, WV on Sept 20, 1875 and Sept 28, 1875
  • Watertown Daily Times of Watertown, NY on Sept 20, 1875 *later retracted
  • Daily Inter Ocean of Chicago, IL on Sept 20, 1875 and Sept 28, 1875
  • Galveston Daily News of Galveston, TX on Sept 21, 1875
  • Ste. Genevieve Fair Play of Ste.Genevieve, MO on Sept 23, 1875
  • (full text below) The State Journal of Jefferson City, MO on Sept 24, 1875 *later retracted 
  • Jamestown Journal of Jamestown, NY on Sept 24, 1875
  • The Cambria Freeman of Ebensburg, PA on Sept 24, 1875
  • Rockford Weekly Register-Gazette of Rockford, IL on Sept 24, 1875
  • Andrew County Republican of Savannah, MO on Sept 24, 1875 *later retracted
  • Clarksville Weekly Chronicle of Clarksville, TN on Sept 25, 1875 and Oct 2, 1875
  • San Francisco Bulletin of San Francisco, CA on Sept 27, 1875
  • Plain Dealer of Cleveland, OH on Sept 27, 1875 and Sept 28, 1875
  • Boston Traveler of Boston, MA on Sept 28, 1875
  • Evening Star of Washington, DC on Sept 28, 1875
  • Providence Evening Press of Providence, RI on Sept 28, 1875
  • Arkansas Gazette of Little Rock, AR on Sept 28, 1875
  • Massachusetts Spy of Worcester, MA on Sept 28, 1875 and Oct 1, 1875
  • New Hampshire Sentinel of Keene, NH on Sept 30, 1875
  • The Highland Weekly News of Hillsborough, OH on Sept 30, 1875
  • The Worthington Advance of Worthington, MN on Oct 1, 1875 *skeptical
  • Northern Tribune of Cheboygan, MI on Oct 2, 1875
  • Nebraska Advertiser of Brownville, NE on Oct 7, 1875

I found retractions and/or articles discrediting the story in the following papers:
  • Watertown Daily Times of Watertown, NY on Sept 24, 1875
  • (full text below) Indianapolis Sentinel of Indianapolis, IN on Sept 24, 1875 and Sept 27, 1875
  • Sunday Times of Chicago, IL on Sept 26, 1875
  • (full text below) Leavenworth Weekly Times of Leavenworth, KS on Sept 30, 1875
  • The State Journal of Jefferson City, MO on Oct 1, 1875
  • Andrew County Republican of Savannah, MO on Oct 1, 1875
  • The Emporia News of Emporia, KS on Oct 1, 1875
  • Hartford Herald of Hartford, KY on Oct 6, 1875
  • Holt County Sentinel of Oregon, MO on Oct 15, 1875

(Please note that I do not intend the above lists to be complete.  I'm sure there are many more instances of the report and/or retractions that I did not find.)

As you can see, this report was published widely throughout the country.  I have transcribed three of the above listed news reports below.  The first is an example of one reporting the claim that the slain bandit is Jesse James.  The second reports the controversy over the identification and reprints an article from the Louisville Courier-Journal's which sticks by the initial report of James's death despite discrediting information.  The second report also includes a letter possibly written by James which says that the West Virginia bank robbery was not his work.  The third article reports that the man killed was actually Thompson McDaniels. 


From page 4 of The State Journal of Jefferson City, MO on September 24, 1875:

Bligh Identifies the Reckless Missouri Outlaw.
Winged at Last by a Kentucky Bullet.
LOUISVILLE, September 17.--Detective Bligh returned from Pine Hill, Ky., and is satisfied that the man captured and wounded there several evenings ago, is Jesse James, the notorious Missouri outlaw.


[From the Courier-Journal of the 17th.] 
A Courier-Journal reporter had a talk, yesterday afternoon, with the conductor of the Richmond train, and learned that up to yesterday morning the three Huntington bank robbers were still free, but that they were still being closely pursued. The last seen of them, after they left their wounded companion in the hands of the Dillions, was by the watchman of Harris' coal-yards in Pin Hill, making their way across the coal-banks in the direction of Somerset, Ky.  This was between 12 and 1 o'clock Wednesday morning.  They were then on foot.  The capture of one of the robbers was telegraphed to the President of the Huntington Bank, who replied asking that he be held until the cashier of the bank arrived at Pine Hill.  The conductor also stated to our reporter that three men had been arrested at Mt. Vernon, Tuesday night, about 11 o'clock, supposed to be three of the robbers, but that they were subsequently released on ascertaining that they were not the parties, but were three men hunting through the country for work.  From Mr. G. W. Robertson, of Livingston, Ky., we have received further information concerning the pursuit of the robbers through the State, and the wounding and capture of one of the by Will. and Jim Dillion.


Tuesday afternoon it was rumored in Livingston that two of the robbers had met one of the coal miners on the road, and one of them, being hatless, offered the miner fifty cents for his hat.  This man had lost his hat in the skirmish in Jackson county.  When the miner was found it was ascertained that he had met two men, one hatless and with a handkerchief tied around his head, and that he had received fifty cents for his hat.  About dusk four strange men were seen on the south side of Rockcastle river about a mile from Livingston.  They crossed the river together and then separated, two going together into the hills, and the two other coming toward Livingston.  The latter two stopped at a camp fire some distance from the town, and one was seen to read a letter.  They soon moved on in the direction of Mt. Vernon, and nothing was seen of them until the four were again seen near F. W. Dillion's home, on their way to Mt. Vernon.  W. R. Dillion and James Dillion, as was stated yesterday, were on the watch for them.


W. R. Dillon was sitting in front of the house when he saw the four men.  When about fifty yards from him, they halted again divided, two leaving the road and surrounding the house, the other two keeping the road.  About this time James Dillon joined his brother, and then followed what was related in yesterday's issue.  About two dozen shots were fired altogether.  It was the last shot fired by W. R. Dillon that took effect on one of the robbers.  He, however, ran about two hundred yards before he fell, calling for help.  The two Dillons collected some neighbors, and about daybreak found the wounded man in a cornfield near the road.  He was bleeding profusely.  He was taken to the house of Mr. Woodson, where he is lying in a critical condition.  Dr. S. W. Bruce, of Mount Vernon, and Dr. Pettus, of Crab Orchard, examined the wound Wednesday afternoon and pronounced it dangerous, though not necessarily fatal, there being chances for his recovery. 

He has steadily and stubbornly refused to answer any questions concerning himself or his three partners.  


The wounded man is described as about six feet high, fair complexion, light brown hair and brown eyes, weighs about 160 pounds, broad across the shoulders, thin through the chest and slim around the waist, reddish chin whiskers and moustache, the moustache being trimmed.  The side of his face has the appearance of a recent shave, the skin looking whiter than the other portions of the face.  He is about twenty-six years old, wears about No. 8 boots, high forehead, had on the little finger of his left hand a plain gold ring, also on the same finger a gold ring with a large pale blue set.  He had a double-case gold watch, manufactured by G. M. Wheeler, Elgin, Illinois, No. 1370275, and a large oroide[?] chain, with the representation of an Eagle's head.  The only money found on his person was $17 in fractional currency.  He had on a long, white linen duster, blue cottonade overalls, and dark, striped cloth pants under them, dark vest, and the miner's hat before spoken of; also, three diamond-shaped shirt-studs.


Three photographs were found in his pockets, one a portrait of a rather good looking young lady, and the other two pictures of two young men, one with a small mustache.  The young looked to be about eighteen or twenty years of age, the lady a little older.  Two letters were also found on his person, and addressed "dear brother," no date, and signed "Anna."  No name to the other.  Portions of each letter had been cut out, so that nothing could be learned about him.  He also had a small pocket compass and a map of Tennessee and Kentucky.--The bravery of the two Dillon brothers has received great praise around Livingston.  The description given above answers to the description of robber No. 2, given by the President of the Huntington Bank.


From page 2 of the Leavenworth Weekly Times of Leavenworth, KS on Sept 30, 1875:

A Louisville Detective's Attempt to Discredit the Death of McDaniels.
Jesse James' Latest Expistolary Effort--A Poor Opinion of Bligh and Pinkerton.

The Lousville Courier-Journal still hugs Detective Bligh's delusion, that the dead bank robber was Jesse James.  The identity of the dead man as Thompson McDaniels was first made known in the St. Louis Times, and the Associated press dispatches of yesterday confirmed the statement, on the evidence which Detective Bligh forwarded to Kansas City.  The following, from the Courier-Journal, was written before the news was received from Kansas City, and had it been delayed another day would probably not have appeared.  With reference to the statement about the Times special, it need only be said that the Times correspondent did visit Pine Hill, saw McDaniels and fully identified him.  After endeavoring to detect some inaccuracies in the Times special, the Courier-Journal says:

"The correspondent does not think that either the James or Younger brothers were in the Huntington bank robbery, and prtends that he recognized the dead man as Thompson, alias "Charley" McDaniels a noted desperado.  The description of the men leaves no doubt that two of the Younger brothers were there, and possibly a third.  While although the fourth might have been Jesse James, yet it was not McDaniels, as the description of the latter is entirely different from that of the dead man.

Thompson McDaniels is described as six feet high, sparely made, light or sandy complexion, light moustache, and thirty two years of age.  The dead robber was not over thirty, but rather younger, was dark complexioned, and had no light moustache.

Now comes the Nashville American with another letter from St. Louis, of which Jesse James is purported to be the author.  The letter is sent as a special from Nashville, and is published below.  It will be perceived that it is devoted to a denunciation of Captain Bligh and Detective Pinkerton, the two best detectives in the country.  Captain Bligh is especially denounced in the severest terms in the letter.  Coming as it does, from St. Louis, the authorship looks rather suspicious.  The letter is entirely different in phraseology and spelling from any of Jesse James' former letters, the grammatical construction and spelling being generally good, although there is an attempt at a poor formation of sentences, while all of his former letters, the grammatical construction and spelling being generally good, although there is an attempt at a poor formation of sentences, while all of his former letters were illy constructed and very badly spelled.

[Special dispatch to the Courier-Journal.]

NASHVILLE, TENN., Sept. 24.--The following letter has been received by the American:

St. Louis, Sept. 21, 1875.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE AMERICAN:--In a previous communication I spoke of how the Jameses and Youngers had been lied on by Bligh, the incompetent detective of Lousiville, Kentucky.  I will take the present opportunity to inform you that Blight's recent statement about the James and Younger boys, robbing the Huntington bank, is false.  Instead of my being shot and captured, I am in St. Louis with my friends, well, felling much better than I have for years.  I can't see what motive any one can have in reporting such malicious lies as detective Blight is certainly doing.  I know that Jarrett and the Youngers had no hand in the robbery, and if the wounded robber in ever recognized, it will undoubtedly be seen that he is not a James, a Younger, or Jarett.  Bligh is a perfect gas-pope, and is unworthy of the title of detective.  He has never captured but one man and he slipped on the blind side of him.  As for shooting, he doesn't know what that means.  I am thankful that at least one robber has been got who was published everywhere by Bligh as being first Cole Younger and afters Jesse James.  The world can now see that neither one of the Jameses and Youngers are the men shot and captured.  Every bold robbery in the country is laid on us, but after a few of the robbers have been caught, and when it is seen two or three times that other people are robbing banks, [m]ay be we will get fair play from the newspapers.

In a few days it will be seen how the Jameses  and Youngers have been lied on by such men as Pinkerton and Bligh.  I and Cole Younger are not friends but I know he is innocent of the Huntington robbery, and I feel it my duty to defend him and his innocent and persecuted brothers from the false and slanderous reports circulated against them.  I think that the public will justify me in denouncing Bligh, as I now do, as an unnecessary liar, a scoundrel and poltroon.

Very respectfully,
Jesse W. James.

Courier-Journal, St. Louis Times, Globe, and Kansas City Times please copy.

MR. EDITOR:--Please publish this letter for me.  I am innocent of the Huntington robbery, and this is the only way I have to defend myself.
J. W. J.


From page 7 of the Indianapolis Sentinel of Indianapolis, IN on Sept 24, 1875:


A special correspondent of the St. Louis Times has been down to Pine Hill, Ky., and has succeeded in identifying the deceased member of the gang who robbed the Huntington, W. Va., bank.  He writes:  I reached Pine Hill on Monday, having traveled night and day under your instructions to seek out and identify, if possible the wounded robber of the West Virginia bank.  The capture, and when I arrived, the death of the robber were the chief topics of conversation, and excitement ran high.  So far as their course has been traced it appears that after robbing the bank, the circumstances of which were almost identical with the robberies of the banks at Russellville, Kentucky, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, and Corydon, Iowa, in recent years, the robbers rode away with their booty, about $18,000, into Kentucky, by the way of the mountainous country in Morgan county; thence they passed into Lee county and through Clay county into Jackson, shunning the settled portions and finally into Laurell county.  There they were a week ago yesterday, having distanced the West Virginia sheriff and his posse.  The only brush the robbers had with the Huntington pursuers, was on Friday, the tenth, when a party of thirteen surprised them.  The pursuers were armed with double-barreled shot-guns and Spencer rifles, and for a few minutes a lively fusilade was kept up until the robbers finally abandoned their horses and took to the brush.  That night, however, they stole fresh horses and came on to Jackson county, where, early Sunday morning, they met a party of ten men, exchanged shots, and one of the robbers, it is said, was winged.  They were forced again to leave their horses, and tried during the day to reach Livingston station.  Foiled in this, they again.


Their presence in the vicinity was known and people were continually on the watch for them.  Among others who remained up late Tuesday night, just a week ago were the Dillion boys, two young men who deal in coal here, and live just outside of the town with their mother.  About midnight one of them happening to look out saw, in the moonlight, four men coming up the road.  As they neared the house two of the men left the road and went into the woods.  The other two came up toward the house.  The Dillion boys took their pistols and went down and opened the door, accosting their visitors.  The latter made no reply but suddenly fired.  The Dillions returned the fire and one of the men dropped with a cry.  The other left.  While the firing was going on in front a noise was heard in the rear, and one of the Dillions, going back, found that the other two men, having made a detour through the woods, were trying to force an entrance.  Shots were exchanged and the robbers drew off.  Since then, the whole country has been scoured, far and near, by mounted men, but without any success, and the trail has grown cold.  The wounded man was taken in by the Dillions, and cared for, but died Sunday evening at the house of a Mr. Woodson.  He was very guarded in his conversation, and gave several names a locations, evidently as a mere blind.  Without making known my mission, I picked up these facts and then started for Woodson's to see the corpse.  A hundred times I had been assured that


was no other than the famous Jesse James, of Missouri.  Bligh, the Louisville detective, was here, passed pretty much the whole night at the bedside of the dying man, and assured everybody that it was Jesse James beyond all question of doubt.  The people here had a kind of an idea that there was price of Jesse James's head in Missouri and that the corpse ought to be forwarded like a wolf's scalp to secure the bounty.  They had applied to Bligh, however, who is their oracle, and had been told to go on with the funeral.  When I went into the house the body had been laid out decently for the grave.  There were other visitors at the same time, and I confess my nerves had been wrought up so that there was a slight tremor.  The sheet was drawn down and as I expected the features bore no likeness to those of Jesse James, whose face years ago was as familiar to me as the face of a daily acquaintance.  There came an unexpected shock, however, for like a flash I recognized the face of Thompson McDaniels, a desperado known to thousands of people in western Missouri.  Thompson McDaniels has not been in the papers much, but he has a terribly desperate record of it in Western Missouri.  He was a bushwhacker of the worse type during the war, and the brother of Bud or Bill McDaniels, who was killed in Kansas not long ago.  Thompson has been virtually an outlaw for nearly ten years.  In 1867, he was arrested in Lafayette county, Missouri, for taking horses, but got off by turning state's evidence and betraying his partners.  Sometime after that he shot without provocation an old man named Seth Mason, and only escaped lynching by fleeing from Missouri.  He spent some time in Texas, where he will be well remembered as


an ex-confederate officer, of Shelby's famous brigade.  Bill McDaniels will be readily remembered by your readers as one of the five who robbed the Kansas Pacific train at Muncie on the 8th of last December and plundered the express car of thirty thousand dollars in greenbacks and gold dust.  Within a few days after the robbery he ventured back to Kansas City where he had lived and being arrested on a trivial charge was found to have on him some of the plunder.  He was indicted for the robbery, and, it is said, in a partial confession implicated his brother Thompson in the robbery, with three other desperadoes, who had come up from their lurking places in the Indian nation especially to do this job.


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