Jesse James historical site

I’m biking east along I-80 and today I’m stopping by at Jesse James historical site.

He is apparently a “legendary” criminal of the Civil War era. He was active as a guerrilla / militia man of the Confederate during the Civil War, and I guess he couldn’t adjust back to civilian life after the war? He kept leading the gang to commit various highly visible crimes, such as bank robberies. This site is where the gang robbed a moving train in 1873, the first of the kind in the US. He let a segment of rail loose, derailed the train, and proceeded to rob the train and its passengers. The video game Red Dead Redemption has just such a character and just such a mission, and I didn’t realize until now it was based on actual history, at least loosely.

But the best part of the story for me was not what Jesse James did. It was what the supposedly “good guys” did.

One of the stagecoach companies must have been robbed by his gang one too many times, so they hired a detective agency to stop the gang. (Pinkerton, which makes an appearance in RDR, too!) One night, this detective agency mounts a night raid on James’ family house, pictured below. They threw in an explosive, killing his brother and blowing off one arm of his mother, but Jesse himself wasn’t even there! Can you imagine that in the 21st century? Some mid level management in a company planned that, somebody above him approved it, and people carried it out, all presumably thinking this is an acceptable & normal business conduct. I wonder if anyone went to a jail for that but I couldn’t track it down.

I guess it was a different time. When you have ex-soldiers on both sides, maybe your rules of engagements change a bit. Or maybe the law was more loosely enforced and everyone was more on their own. Both the stage coach company and Pinkerton still exist today, BTW. Makes me feel like history is all connected.

My bike’s rear tire popped, so for the past few days I could only ride a short distance. I got a repair kit coming, so I’ll try fixing this myself.

I’m about 25% in Iowa. Des Moines, Iowa is 90km away. The road is gently curving left & right over rolling hills, creating a beautiful change of scenery. I’m liking it.

(This trip is virtual, not physical)

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