7 September – On this day
A bold daytime robbery on the Northfield Minnesota bank, by the James-Younger gang suddenly finds itself surrounded by armed angry townspeople and is nearly wiped out.
The gang attempted to rob the First National Bank of Northfield about 2 p.m. on this day in 1876. To carry out the robbery, the gang divided into two groups. Three men entered the bank, two guarded the door outside, and three remained near a bridge across an adjacent square. The robbers inside the bank were thwarted when acting cashier Joseph Lee Heywood refused to open the safe. Assistant cashier Alonzo Enos Bunker was wounded in the shoulder as he fled out the back door of the bank.
Meanwhile, the citizens of Northfield grew suspicious of the men guarding the door and raised the alarm. The five bandits outside fired in the air to clear the streets, driving the townspeople to take cover and fire back from protected positions. Two bandits were shot dead and the rest were wounded in the barrage. Inside, the outlaws turned to flee. As they left, one shot the unarmed cashier Heywood in the head. Historians have speculated about the identity of the shooter but have not reached consensus.
The gang barely escaped Northfield, leaving two dead companions behind. They killed two innocent victims, Heywood and Nicholas Gustafson, a Swedish immigrant from the Millersburg community west of Northfield. A massive manhunt ensued. The James brothers eventually split from the others and escaped to Missouri. The militia soon discovered the Youngers and one other bandit, Charlie Pitts. In a gunfight, Pitts died and the Youngers were taken prisoner.
Except for Frank and Jesse James, the James-Younger Gang was destroyed.