Defeat of Jesse James Days 75th Anniversary
When the James-Younger Gang came to Northfield in 1876, they expected an easy target. Their decade-long run of bank and train robberies had been incredibly successful and their getaways clean. But Northfield’s citizens, inside and outside the bank, resisted and foiled their plans. The heroes of Northfield brought down the gang and ended their crime spree.
Since 1948, Northfield has been reenacting the story of the 1876 Bank Raid each September. The Defeat of Jesse James Days (DJJD) is now the 3rd largest community celebration and the largest all-volunteer celebration in the state of Minnesota.
Over the years, DJJD has included far more than the reenactments. From the opening memorial service to the closing parade, there’s plenty to do, see, and eat. But it’s more than that. Generations of families have been involved in reenactments, organizing events, and serving on committees, and grandparents and grandkids alike enjoy the parade and carnival. From kiddie parades & bounce horse races to Ambassador banquets, interviews and scholarships, this event both marks and bears witness to childhood and adolescence.
There’s no doubt that this is a community-wide event. Northfield’s police & fire departments, rescue squad and hospital all help to keep us safe during DJJD week, while public works handles the set-up, maintenance and clean up. But alongside the city’s official contributions are the business sponsors, the civic groups, the countless non-profit organizations and the many, many volunteers who help make this event spectacular, year after year. This exhibit tells the stories of all who come together to celebrate the Defeat of Jesse James Days.
James-Younger Gang Bank Raid
The Northfield Historical Society’s main exhibition tells the story of Northfield’s most famous day, September 7, 1876. The exhibit dives into Northfield’s beginnings, fostering a sense of the land and the people who settled the town. It provides an introduction to the notorious James-Younger Gang and the series of events at the First National Bank of Northfield that led Northfield’s citizens to rise up and defend itself. Additionally, it highlights Northfield citizens of all ages who witnessed the event and the aftermath including the town’s heroes who are still celebrated to this day.
Features of the display include the bank’s ledger book, one of the single shot rifles used to defend the town, reprinted photographs of the outlaws taken at death or capture, as well as firearms, spurs, and a saddle taken from an outlaw’s horse. Eyewitness accounts are peppered throughout the exhibit and the bank site itself, the location of the actual robbery and murder of cashier Joseph Lee Heywood, proves to be a chilling reminder of Northfield’s most famous day.