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Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project

The JAMES Gang

Almost every child who grew up in Southern Iowa heard tales of Frank and Jesse JAMES and their outlaw band robbing trains and banks. Almost all of us kids who grew up in the Grand River vicinity [Decatur County] were told that Frank and Jesse often would hide in a cave located near the Grand River north of town. When we pressed for more information, the old men telling the story would raise their canes to point off in the distance somewhere near the river. We would look and squint our eyes, thinking that if we squinted hard enough, we just might see that cave. Secretly, we vowed that we'd find that cave some day. But we never found it nor did anyone seem to have exact directions to the cave.

Years later, Forest MILLER of MILLER Insurance, Leon, Iowa, told me that when the JAMES gang robbed the Corydon Bank, they were fleeing back to Missouri. One of their horses began to tire out on them. They stopped at Forest's grandpa's farm, stole a mare to replace the exhausted horse. The mare had a young colt at her side and Forest told of the colt trying to keep up with it's mother and the fleeing gang. The MILLERS found the colt wandering around, lost and half exhausted and half starved. Forest told of helping to bottle feed the colt since it was too young to be weaned and how he always felt sorry for it long after it grew up because it was "orphaned" at such an early age. Even though this had happened decades before Forest told me the story, his voice and eyes were sad for this young colt.

NOTE: According to legend, the JAMES gang hid out near Caledonia after robbing the Corydon bank in June of 1871.

Contribution by Sharon R. Becker, April of 2009

To contribute to Ringgold County's Front Porch Project, contact Sharon R. Becker at
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