Area Sightings of Jesse James and Gang
Hinkletown, Greene Valley, North English, Millersburg, Wellman and Fairview Communities
It seems that every small southern and central Iowa town claims a connection to the famous James Gang. Whether it be a sighting, a direct contact, or the smoldering embers from a overnite campfire; some reality or myth fueled this legend. The James' made frequent trips to Minnesota, pulled off their first train robbery in Adair, Iowa in 1873; so it is logical they traversed the State in their travels. The purpose of this page is to share a few of the local written accounts, without judgment, of the sightings and contacts around Hinkletown.
1. Hinkletown: (from the 1979 History of Kinross, Iowa, Scott Romine and Steve Miller)
"Ed O'Brien clearly recollects Johnny Corridan's old story about the time the Jesse James gang camped on Corridan land to the north of Kinross (John Corridan's land was 1/4 mile directly south of Hinkletown). Old Johnny claimed that Jesses James and his notorious bunch of outlaws were passing through the area long ago when they reportedly stopped over for the night. He remembered them making camp a short distance east of the Corridan home. The story goes that one of the gang slipped into Wellman for a haircut and a shave. We have no doubt that Liberty Township has had plenty of outlaws in its history past and present, so a report on Jesse James' appearance in the area was no surprise to us."
Note: John Corridan was a member of the "Union Horse Company", a well-organized early law enforcement group also know as the "vigilantes", who tracked down many horse thieves and criminals around Hinkletown beginning in 1869. Visit our page about: Hinkletown's Old West Justice
2. Greene Valley: (one mile east of Hinkletown) (From A Glimpse of Greene Valley, by Donna Miller 1964)
"Sadly enough, there were a number of thieves in Greene Valley. One Sunday the F. M. Berry family returned home from church only to notice some strange men by one of their log cabins. Being very hospitable, they invited these men in for dinner. Just as they were preparing to sit down to eat, the sheriff from Marengo arrived and arrested the guests; the men were a group of horse thieves. "
"There were numerous other bands of horse thieves around. A group of men who called themselves "the Vigilantes" was organized to protect the civilians and their property. The captain of these Vigilantes was William Popham of Yankee Lane. It was reported to Mr. Popham that the thieves were operating around Greene Valley but had their headquarters in North English or Millersburg. A Mr. Johnson and a Mr. Grimm both reported seeing suspicious looking men near Yankee Lane. Upon investigation they discovered these men had their camp near Greene Valley. Soon Mr. Johnson and Mr. Grimm missed some good horses. Mr. Popham and Mr. Grimm went in pursuit of the thieves, but lost their trail in some heavy timber near Millersburg. They questioned a Mr. McCarthy, who said they had gone to Saint Joseph, Missouri. Mr Grimm and Mr. Popham then split up; Mr. Grimm followed them, and Mr. Popham went ahead on a train to head them off. A little after sun-up the next day, Mr. Grimm captured the thieves as they were attempting to trade off the stolen horses. Mr. Grimm turned them over to officers who returned them to Iowa County for trial. While waiting to be tried, the thieves broke out of jail, never to be captured again. It is believed that the horse thieves in this area were a part of the famous, law-breaking Jesse James Gang."
The James brothers, Jesse and Frank
3. Fairview: (from the William Hull family biography)
"The Billy Hull place was a busy one. There was always a lot of work and a lot of people would come and go. One evening an able looking young man rode in on a lame horse. He asked if he could stay until his horses leg healed. He would do anything about the place there was to do. Of course, he spoke well when spoken to, but volunteered no information. They liked him since he was a good man and apparently clean spoken. Any man who used foul language was immediately asked to leave. This man kept to himself, devoting his attention to caring for his horse. When there was no task he could perform, then he rested. Naturally the young boys were curious and they soon started watching him. They found that he was not only tending a sore leg on his horse, but one of his own too. They told their father, but he told them to mind their own business. Probably the man had an accident as riders often do and he was no cry baby. The horse healed and so did he. One morning he was gone, leaving a note of thanks and wishing them well. About 2 weeks later, William came home from where ever he had been, carrying a newspaper he had picked up. In it was a picture of their late guest and an account of a train robbery in which he had taken part and the surmise that he had not come off Scot free. It was Jesse James. No matter what others might have said or thought, the Hull Boys always had a good word for Jesse."
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