Jesse James Robs The Bank That Makes Him Famous

Jesse James did not become famous, however, until December 1869, when he and (most likely) Frank robbed the Daviess County Savings Association in Gallatin, Missouri.

The robbery netted little money, but it appears that Jesse shot and killed the cashier, Captain John Sheets, mistakenly believing him to be Samuel P. Cox, the militia officer who had killed "Bloody Bill" Anderson during the Civil War. James's self-proclaimed attempt at revenge, and the daring escape he and Frank made through the middle of a posse shortly afterward, put his name in the newspapers for the first time. An 1882 history of Daviess County said, "The history of Daviess County has no blacker crime in its pages than the murder of John W. Sheets."

In 1864 Anderson gained notoriety for his particular savagery against Union soldiers and civilian sympathizers alike. He and his men usually shot their prisoners, and often mutilated and scalped the dead. He sent letters to newspapers in Lexington, Missouri, promising further violence against pro-Union civilians and threatening to take women of Union families as hostages. That year he was joined by a group of recruits who had served briefly with Archie Clement, his own lieutenant; these recruits included Frank James, who had been one of Quantrill's Raiders, and the sixteen-year-old Jesse James. During this time, Anderson's men adopted the practice of dangling the bloody scalps of their victims from their horse bridles.