Parole day for two very famous outlaws
- March 31, 2009 - 10:48 PM
July 10, 1901, was a big day for Cole and Jim Younger. That day the Minnesota Board of Pardons granted the brothers parole from Stillwater prison, where they had spent almost 25 years for their part in the Jesse James gang's 1876 Northfield bank robbery.
Their brother Bob had died in the prison in 1889, not long after the three had founded the Prison Mirror, which today is the oldest prison newspaper in the United States.
"It is expected that possibly today the gates of Stillwater prison will open for their exit into a world of which they know but little," said a long story on the Minneapolis Tribune's front page. In an interview, Jim Younger said he wouldn't be surprised by 20th-century technology because he had been reading Scientific American for years. But he did allow, "Of course, it will look odd to see a carriage running around without horses, or a big car traveling without mules or steam."
Cole Younger was amused by the telephone, which he had used once in a prison office: "That tickled me to death, because I had heard them talking at one end of the line, and it was all I could do to keep my face straight at the spectacle of a fellow jabbering into a dumbbell." The 57-year-old also told the Tribune: "I believe there is agility enough in my old bones to let me turn just one somersault. I feel like a 10-year-old boy."
Said Jim Younger, 53: "I have looked for the brighter side of things ever since coming in here. Otherwise I should have died long ago, a maniac most likely."
Jim Younger killed himself the next year in St. Paul, reportedly after a broken love affair. Thomas Coleman Younger wrote an autobiography and appeared in Wild West shows until he died in 1916 in Lee's Summit, Mo.
Fellow Missourian Frank James, in 1901 the only other survivor of the disastrous bank raid, was living a model life in St. Louis by then. In the Tribune story, he said he had fought in the Confederate army with the brothers, and he commented : "They might not have been angels, and on Sundays you might not have found them sitting up in the front row [in church], but they were men of their word, and had they been given a chance might have led different lives."
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