First National Bank of Northfield Historic Site

Where The Citizens Of Northfield Stood Their Ground

Scriver Building

Built by merchant Hiram Scriver in 1868 on one of the town’s most prominent corners, the Scriver Building has housed many businesses. Scriver’s own store and the First National Bank were early occupants. Other businesses have included the Jesse James Cafe, a barbershop, and a butcher.

In 1975 the Northfield Historical Society purchased the building to use it as a museum and restored the First National Bank to its 1876 appearance.

The Bank Site

When you walk into the fully restored bank site you are traveling back in time. You will walk on the same floorboards that were there that September afternoon. The teller’s cage is fully restored to exact specifications as the original. You will also see the original vault door that Joseph Lee Heywood died protecting.

Restored by the Northfield Historical Society in 1975, the bank includes the actual bank vault from 1876 behind a replica teller’s cage. Here you can imagine what it might have been like to stand up against armed robbers and protect the city’s investments, at your own peril. Guided tours are available upon request. Self-guided tours available year round.

September 7, 1876

Three out-of-town visitors entered the First National Bank of Northfield at about 2 p.m. They were Frank James, Charlie Pitts and Bob Younger. Inside the bank were Frank Wilcox, Alonzo Bunker and Joseph Lee Heywood.

The three gang members sprang over the counter and demanded the safe be opened. Seeing Heywood seated at the cashier’s desk, one of the gang members pointed a pistol at him and demanded the safe be opened, Heywood stated the safe was on a time lock and could not be opened.

When one gang member tried to enter the vault, Heywood sprang to his feet and tried to shut the vault door on the robber. Another robber grabbed Heywood and threw him backward. The robber inside the vault pushed open the vault door and grabbed Heywood by the shirt, pushed him up against the vault door, and demanded the safe be opened. Heywood tried to break free again and shouted “MURDER, MURDER!” The robber took his pistol and hit Heywood over the head, knocking him to the floor.

The same robber dragged Heywood back to the vault, took out his knife and ran it across Heywood’s neck. But the wound was not life-threatening. The robber then took out his pistol and shot at Heywood’s head to wake him. The bullet ricocheted and lodged in a bank box.

Meanwhile chaos ensued on the street. Cole Younger rode up multiple times to the bank door and implored his fellow members to leave the bank.

After the robber fired the pistol inside the bank, Alonzo Bunker seized the opportunity to run out the back of the bank. Charlie Pitts followed and shot Bunker in the shoulder, but Bunker escaped and survived; he sought treatment for his wound at a doctor’s office.

Pitts returned from shooting Bunker and exited the bank. Bob Younger left, too, after grabbing the loose change and script sitting on the tables — the only money the gang escaped with in the robbery.

The final gang member, Frank James, stood up on the teller’s cage to leave the bank. Hearing something behind him, he stepped back down and saw Joseph Lee Heywood staggering to his feet. Frank put his pistol to Heywood’s head and pulled the trigger.

It is the courage of Heywood and these otherwise ordinary citizens who stood up to these ruffians that we honor in this historic site.