Today will mark the 139 anniversary of the failed bank raid by the James-Younger Gang. The gang rode into Northfield intent on robbing the First National Bank of Northfield. It was just a bit before 2:00 p.m. when three of the raiders entered the bank. It only lasted seven minutes but those seven minutes have stayed with Northfield forever.
This week Northfield celebrates the Defeat of Jesse James Days (DJJD). The celebration is for the towns people that defeated the James-Younger Gang. People like, J.S. Allen, Henry Wheeler, Elias Stacy, A.R. Manning, Frank Wilcox, Alonzo Bunker and of course Joseph Lee Heywood. It was because of the bravery of these men the gang was defeated. Heywood paid the ultimate price, he refused to open the vault for the gang even after multiple beatings and was he was killed for protecting Northfield’s future. It is the extraordinary courage of these ordinary men that we honor this week.
DJJD starts Wednesday (September 9th) with a graveside memorial for Heywood in the Northfield Cemetery at noon. It is a great way to start off a fun-filled weekend as it really helps put things in perspective.
This is a guest column NHS Executive Director, Hayes Scriven submitted to the Northfield News on September 5.
For the past two years I have been writing a column to the Northfield News wearing my general chair of the Defeat of Jesse James Days Committee hat. However, since this year I am no longer chair — that honor has been passed onto TJ Heinricy — I will instead don my Northfield Historical Society hat.
DJJD is a fun, family-friendly community event. Because of the crowds and commotion, though, some consider it an annoyance (and understandably so). But here’s an often-forgotten fact: At its heart, DJJD is a community celebration.
DJJD is about honoring the heroes of 1876 and supporting Northfield’s nonprofits. At its core, DJJD is all about honoring Joseph Lee Heywood, Alonzo Bunker, Elias Stacey, Frank Wilcox, Henry Wheeler and the others that were involved in defending the First National Bank of Northfield.
We must remember that what these people did helped shape Northfield into the great place it is today.
Through community pride and support, the DJJD committee is still helping shape our great city. With more than 160 volunteers, DJJD is the largest all-volunteer festival in Minnesota. These are the dedicated people that attend the monthly meetings, chair events, ride horses, drive tractors and much more. This does not include the volunteers from the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the Sertoma clubs, the Swim Club, the Sundowners Car Club — too many to list in all.
Finally, the one thing most people do not know is that DJJD functions as a fundraiser for many of these service clubs. Last year the DJJD Committee donated $39,000 to charities and high school students in Northfield. That does not include the more than $100,000 that charities made on their own using the DJJD celebration as a fundraiser — the majority of which comes back into the Northfield community.
DJJD is so much more than a carnival, entertainment center, car show or even a parade. It is a time of year when Northfielders can come together to celebrate the unique qualities that make this community great. So please join us September 9-13 to celebrate our community and the sacrifices of the people that came before us. But also let’s just celebrate Northfield!
Northfield Historical Socety
Defeat of Jesse James Days is September 9-13. NHS will have special hours during the celebrations. They are:
September 9, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
September 10, 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
September 11, 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
September 12, 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
September 13, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
NHS Open House
Every year we host an open house, this year we are celebrating the release of Derk Hansen’s new painting, “I knew how to handle a rifle.” See more about that below. In addition, we will also be hosting a product tasting by Northfield’s own Loon Liquors. The tasting will include their inaugural product, “Loonshine”, their newest gin, “Metropoligin,”and if we are lucky, we may even get to taste some of the test batch of their “James-Younger Gang” themed whiskey. So join us on Thursday September 10, at 6:30 p.m. for our open house.
Dan Marcou Book Signing
Author of the newly release book Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History will be signing copies of his book September 12 and 13 at the NHS tent on Bridge Square. The book gives the reader a fresh perspective on the old favorites, Wild Bill Hickok and the Earps, from a cop’s point of view. Additionally, you will read about the best law men and law women you have never heard of, whose careers and achievements eclipse even those of better known law men. A complete chapter is given to praise the unmatched efforts of the citizens in Northfield and Madelia, Minnesota in their successful battle and pursuit of the notorious James Gang. Finally, a book gives the real heroes of the James Gang saga their just due.
NEW Derk Hansen painting!
In addition, patrons will be able to order prints of Derk Hansen’s newest painting “I knew how to handle a rifle.” This new limited edition painting will celebrate the heroism of Northfield resident Henry Wheeler, a medical student home on leave who witnessed the robbery unfolding in front of his father’s store. After altering the other citizens by shouting “ROBBERY ROBBERY!,” he grabbed a rifle and found a good vantage point. Wheeler was responsible for the shot that wounded Bob Younger and the bullet that killed Clell Miller.
In this painting Derk captures the moment when Wheeler shoots Miller — a scene that flanks Wheeler’s portrait which was taken from an 1873 carte de visite.
New in the Museum Store!
Every year during DJJD we always stock up on some new merchandise and this year is no different. Take a look and get ready to cowboy up!
We will reopen on Tuesday September 8 at 10:00 a.m.
During the Northfield Public Library’s renovation, the Northfield News microfilm collection has been temporarily moved to the Northfield Historical Society (NHS). Northfield Public Library staff will be available to help with searching the Northfield News and other historical Northfield newspapers on microfilm at NHS Mondays from 2:00-5:00 PM. Service is on a first come first served basis.
Researchers should come to the NHS Museum Store to let staff know they are interested in using the microfilm during that time. They will then be brought down to the research area.
Use of the microfilm on other days is by appointment only. Call the Historical Society at 507-645-9268.
People who are unable to come to the Northfield Historical Society but still need information from the film should contact the Northfield Public Library at 507-645-6606 or the Northfield Historical Society at 507-645-9268.
We are now accepting pre-orders for the soon-to-be-released Henry Wheeler painting, “I knew how to handle a rifle.”
The painting is a collaborative project of the Northfield Historical Society, the Norman Oberto family, and artist Derk Hansen. The idea for the painting stems from events surrounding the Henry Wheeler collection being loaned to the Northfield Historical Society, which includes last year’s purchase by the Norman Oberto family of the Henry Wheeler collection and their subsequent loan of it to the society. The collection includes the .50 caliber Smith carbine that Wheeler used to wound Bob Younger and kill Clell Miller in the failed 1876 raid on the First National Bank by the James-Younger Gang.
“We were looking for a way to end this amazing year and Norman really enjoyed Derk’s early drawings of the raid,” explains Hayes Scriven, executive director of the society. “So we approached him to see if he was interested in a new project around the raid.”
Hansen — a western wildlife artist who identifies himself as a “cowboy” — has more than 150 limited edition lithographs and collector prints, plus several dozen limited edition collector plates to his credit. In 1983 Hansen, along with the Defeat of Jesse James Days Committee, created a set of seven pencil drawings depicting the historic raid. The last of those seven drawings was unveiled in 1990.
This new limited edition painting will celebrate the heroism of Wheeler, a medical student home on leave who witnessed the robbery unfolding in front of his father’s store. After alerting the other citizens by shouting “Robbery! Robbery!,” he grabbed a rifle, found a good vantage point, and played an important role in thwarting the outlaws.
In this painting Hansen captures the moment when Wheeler shoots Miller — a scene that flanks Wheeler’s portrait that was taken from an 1873 carte de visite.
The public will get the chance to bid on two artist proof prints of the painting at the Joseph Lee Heywood Distinguished Service dinner on September 9 at 5 p.m. at the Northfield Ballroom.
Orders can be placed at the Northfield Historical Society at 408 Division Street in downtown Northfield or at northfieldhistory.org
The Northfield Historical Society is pleased to announce it has hired Stephanie Hess as museum collection assistant. The majority of her work will be to continue working with the NHS photograph collection and digitizing some of the files from the City of Northfield’s collection. Stephanie is filling the void left by Kristin Glomstad, who left her position with NHS to pursue her masters degree in museum studies.
Stephanie began her museum career by volunteering at NHS while she was a student at St. Olaf College. She graduated in 2006 with a double-major in history and ancient studies, and immediately sought further training in Washington, D.C. After earning her M.A. in museum studies from the George Washington University in 2008, she worked in the Exhibitions Department of the National Building Museum for five years. While there, she helped develop exhibitions on such varied topics as parking garages, world’s fairs, and toy building sets.
She returned to Minnesota two years ago, and is excited to once again explore Northfield’s history — especially through historic photographs.
A growing staff
Hiring Stephanie comes three years after NHS hired Cathy Osterman, the society’s curator. Cathy has been working in the museum field for almost 17 years. Before working with NHS she spent eight years working in museums in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Since joining NHS Cathy has spearheaded the collection shelving project, conducting an inventory of our archives, and rehousing the collection. Her current projects include revising the society’s disaster plan.
NHS Executive Director Hayes Scriven, who has been with NHS for 10 years, is excited for what the future holds for the organization. “The past year and a half has been non-stop motion,” he says. “We have expanded our collections, our digital efforts, and our programming” by adding events like the annual Northfield History Month in June.
“I am very happy with the direction NHS is taking,” Scriven adds. “When I began as director I was one-half of a staff of two plus a volunteer bookkeeper. It is great to be apart of an organization that is growing and changing. Our goal is to become the best local history organization in the state, and I believe we are on course to accomplish that.”
The Northfield Historical Society is a 501 c3 organization that is dedicated to serving as the primary stewards of Northfield-area history by fostering an awareness of its meaning and relevance through discovery, documentation, preservation, and interpretation. It is located at 408 Division Street in historic downtown Northfield and northfieldhistory.org.