The gang was centered in the state of Missouri. Membership fluctuated from robbery to robbery, as the outlaws' raids were usually separated by many months. At various times, it included the Younger Brothers (Cole, Jim, John, and Bob), the James Brothers (the infamous Jesse James and his brother Frank), Clell Miller, Arthur McCoy, Charlie Pitts, John Jarrette (who was married to Cole's sister Josie), Bill Chadwell (alias Bill Stiles), and Matthew "Ace" Nelson. Contrary to frequent reports, the James brothers and Younger brothers were not related, at least not by blood. Starting in 1879, after the demise of the James-Younger Gang, the James brothers committed further crimes with Clell Miller's brother Ed, the Ford brothers (Robert and Charles), Bill Ryan, Dick Liddil, and the Hite Brothers Wood and Clarence.
The James-Younger Gang had its origins in a group of Confederate bushwhackers who fought in the bitter partisan conflict that wracked the divided state of Missouri during the American Civil War. This group's postwar crimes began in 1866, though it did not truly become the "James-Younger Gang" until 1868 at the earliest, when the authorities first named Cole Younger and both the James brothers as suspects in the robbery of the Nimrod Long bank in Russellville, Kentucky. It dissolved in 1876, after the capture of the Younger brothers in Minnesota after the ill-fated attempt to rob the Northfield First National Bank. Three years later, Jesse James organized a new gang and renewed his criminal career, which came to an end with his death by getting shot in the back while hanging a picture. In 1882. During the gang's period of activity, it robbed banks, trains, and stagecoaches in Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama, Iowa, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and West Virginia.
Having successfully escaped, Frank James joined Jesse in Nashville, Tennessee, where they spent the next three years living peacefully. Frank in particular seems to have thrived in his new life, farming in the Whites Creek area. Jesse, however, does not appear to have adapted well to ordinary pursuits. Accordingly, he gathered up new recruits and returned to a life of crime. On October 8, 1879, Jesse led his new men in robbing the Chicago and Alton Railroad near Glendale, Missouri. Unfortunately for Jesse, one of the raw recruits, Tucker Basham, was captured by a posse. He told authorities of how he had been recruited by Bill Ryan.
On September 3, 1880, Jesse James and Bill Ryan robbed a stagecoach near Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. On October 5, 1880, they robbed the store of John Dovey in Mercer, Kentucky. On March 11, 1881, Jesse, Ryan, and his cousin Wood Hite robbed a federal paymaster at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, taking $5,240. Shortly afterward, a drunk and boastful Ryan was arrested in Whites Creek, near Nashville, and both Frank and Jesse James fled back to Missouri.
On July 15, 1881, Frank and Jesse James, Wood and Clarence Hite, and Dick Liddil robbed the Rock Island Railroad near Winston, Missouri for $900. Train Conductor William Westfall and a passenger John McCullough  were killed by one of the outlaws. On September 7, 1881, Jesse James carried out his last train robbery, holding up the Chicago and Alton Railroad. For only the second time, the gang held up the passengers when the express safe proved to be nearly empty. With this new outbreak of train robberies, the new governor of Missouri, Thomas T. Crittenden, convinced the state's railroad and express executives to put up the money for a vast reward for the James brothers.
Creed Chapman and John Bugler were arrested for participating in the robbery on September 7, 1881. Though they were confirmed as having participated in the robbery by convicted members of the gang, neither was ever convicted.
In December 1881, Wood Hite was killed by Dick Liddil in an argument over Martha Bolton, the sister of the Fords. Bob Ford, not yet a member of the gang, assisted Liddil in his gunfight. Ford and Liddil, with Bolton as an intermediary, made deals with Governor Crittenden. On February 11, 1882, James Timberlake arrested Wood Hite's brother Clarence, who made a confession but died of tuberculosis in prison. Ford, on the other hand, agreed to bring down Jesse James in return for the reward. On April 3, 1882, Ford shot Jesse behind the ear. Bob and his brother Charley surrendered to the authorities, pleaded guilty, and were promptly pardoned by Crittenden.
Only two cases came to trial – one in Gallatin, Missouri for the July 15, 1881 robbery of the Rock Island Line train at Winston, Missouri in which a train crewman and a passenger were killed and other trial was in Huntsville, Alabama for the March 11, 1881 robbery of a United States Army Corps of Engineers payroll at Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Frank James was found not guilty by juries in both cases (July 1883 at Gallatin and April 1884 at Huntsville). Missouri kept jurisdiction over him with other charges but they never came to trial and they kept him from being extradited to Minnesota.
Bob Younger died in prison of tuberculosis at the age of 36 in 1889. Cole and Jim were both paroled in 1901 but Jim could not cope and shot himself to death the next year. He was 54. Cole lived until 1916, when he died at the age of 72. The Youngers remained loyal to the Jameses when they were in prison and never informed on them. They ended up being model prisoners and in one incident helped keep other prisoners from escaping during a fire at the prison. Cole Younger also founded the longest-running prison newspaper in the United States during his stay in Stillwater State Prison, Stillwater, Minnesota.
Frank James died in 1915 at age 72.
See also 
James-Younger gang in movies 
- Bad Men of Missouri (1941)
- The Younger Brothers (1949)
- Kansas Raiders (1950)
- The True Story of Jesse James (1957)
- The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972)
- Frank and Jesse (1995)
- The Long Riders (1980)
- American Outlaws (2001)
- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
- Website for the American Experience documentary on Jesse James, broadcast on PBS, with transcript and additional material
- Website for T.J. Stiles's biography of Jesse James, with excerpts of primary sources and additional essays
- Official website for the family of Frank & Jesse James: Stray Leaves, A James Family in America Since 1650
- John Koblas, author of several Jesse James books
- Yesterday's News blog 1901 newspaper interview with Cole and Jim Younger upon their release from a Minnesota prison
- Northfield (Minnesota) Historical Society Bank Raid Wiki
- Defeat of Jesse James Days, held annually the weekend after Labor Day in Northfield, Minnesota.
- The Younger Brothers: After the Attempted Robbery, a podcast by the Minnesota Historical Society on the Younger Brothers' time in Stillwater State Prison.
- Newspapers report the rise, exploits, and fall of Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang
- Booknotes interview with Ted Yeatman on Frank and Jesse James: The Story Behind the Legend, October 28, 2001.
- B. Wayne Quist: "The History of the Christdala Evangelical Swedish Lutheran Church of Millersburg, Minnesota," Dundas, Minnesota, Third Edition, July 2009, page 19-23, "The Murder of Nicholaus Gustafson;" www.christdala.com
- Stiles, T. J. (October 2003). "Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War". Vintage. p. 544. ASIN 0375705589. ISBN 978-0375705588.
- Settle Jr., William A. (June 1977). "Jesse James Was His Name; or, Fact and Fiction concerning the Careers of the Notorious James Brothers of Missouri". Bison Books. p. 283. ASIN 0803258607. ISBN 978-0803258600.
- Yeatman, Ted P. (February 2003). "Frank and Jesse James: The Story Behind the Legend". Cumberland House; Second Edition. p. 512. ASIN 1581823258. ISBN 978-1581823257.
- Brant, Marley (April 1995). "The Outlaw Youngers: A Confederate Brotherhood". Madison Books. p. 408. ASIN 1568330456. ISBN 978-1568330457.
- Brant, Marley (April 1995). "Outlaws: The Illustrated History of the James-Younger Gang". Black Belt Press; First Edition. p. 224. ASIN 1880216361. ISBN 978-1880216361.
Further reading 
- McLachlan, Sean (2012) The Last Ride of the James-Younger Gang; Jesse James and the Northfield Raid 1876. Osprey Raid Series #35. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781849085991