The Wild West.
Those three words are sure to spawn images in your mind of cowboys and American Indians, sheriffs and outlaws. Complete anarchy with a romantic ambiance. Back in the late 1800s when settlers were moving out west, it represented freedom. A wide open expanse where one could make their name or get lost in the annuls of history.
In the past 100 years, Hollywood has further romanticized these stories with countless movies telling the tale of the antihero outlaw. The bank robber that had a heart of gold and was only trying to survive. Likes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Billy the Kid fill western paperbacks transporting readers back in time to these golden fields.
Today, I had the pleasure of discovering where it all started, where the infamous Jesse James robbed a train for the first time in the history of the west, starting a quintessential trend that followed trains for years afterwards.
On the dusky summer evening of July 21, 1873, Jesse James and his gang came to this spot, planning on stealing $75,000 (over $1m in todays value) from a group of train cars owned by Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. They planned on stopping the train by dismantling the track, forcing it to a halt. To James’ surprise, a delayed shipment of gold meant a paltry $2,000 was aboard the trains safe. To make up for the unfortunate turn of events, personal belongings were stolen from the train’s passengers.
Little diid they know, this moment in history would go on to influence the west and train robberies were the new hot way to make a quick buck in the west.
There is one more interesting tidbit about this small memorial hidden in rural Iowa and it comes down to inspiration.
You see, last year when I was exploring Oklahoma, I ended up at The Woolaroc Museum which is a Wild West museum created by one of the Phillips brothers of Oklahoma Oil fame. In the museum, there were portraits of famous people from the west including many cowboys and chiefs of tribes. One that stuck out to me was a portrait of Wild Bill Hickok. He looked just like me. At that moment, I knew someday in the near future, I would create a time machine and go back to become Wild Bill.
I know it sounds crazy. It probably is. It’s true though. I know it’s going to happen. How does this connect with the story of Jesse James? Well I now know that this moment, sitting at the memorial, is when I got my inspiration to create said time machine and start my journey.
Today, it begins.
Closest Supercharger: Shelby IA 43 mi
12 Eastern Ave, Shelby, IA 51570
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Jesse James Train Robbery Memorial
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