The Liberty Bank Robbery which took place on February 13, 1866 , was the first robbery accredited to the James Gang. This robbery is considered to be the first successful peacetime daylight bank robbery in the United States.
At two o'clock in the afternoon, Tuesday February 13, 1866 twelve men wearing faded soldier blue overcoats rode into Liberty from varied directions congregating in front of the Clay County Savings Association Bank. It was not until this point that the men were noticed. No great interest was taken in the men since this was shortly after the ending of the great war. Liberty had been occupied a number of times by groups of men.
Two men dismounted their steeds and entered the bank, while the others stayed mounted and were reportedly nervous. The robbery itself was well planned and took ten to fifteen minutes. Two men were inside: Greenup Bird, head cashier, and his son and assistant William.
One of the strangers requested a bill to be changed. This would become their "modus operandi". William approached the counter. As he did, both robbers drew their guns demanding the money and to be quick about it. William was handed an empty feed sack from under the first man's coat. Once the money, bonds, and tax stamps were deposited both Birds were placed in the vault.
The amount stolen totaled over $62,000.00. The bonds totaled $42,000.00. The United States Government Revenue Stamps totalled $518.00. The rest were in gold, silver coin, and greenbacks. The bonds were redeemed within thirty-one months.
The men departed the bank. As the men were mounting their horses a commotion took place. One man appeared to have some difficulty with his horse. Across the street at the Green Hotel two boys were watching. There are several local and family stories concerning for what happened in the next few minutes. The result was that George "Jolly" Wymore lay dying in the street.
The Wymore family has passed down the story, that within a few weeks they received a letter apologizing for the death of the boy, no one was suppose to be harmed and it was signed Jesse James.
There are two strongly opposing views debated as to whether Jesse James was there or not. One view notes that this was shortly after Jesse had received a chest wound and it is documented that he was gravely ill. He had a collapsed right lung from the end of the war.
The second view notes the local stories of one man who reportedly was having trouble staying mounted, appearing to be ill. They believe this to be Jesse. The contention is that if he planned this robbery in such detail he would not have missed the event. During the "get-away", later several people admitted that they recognized many of the boys. They did not come forward out of fear for their families and their own safety.
There is little doubt that Jesse James planned the robbery. It was styled after many of the robberies the men had participated in during the War Between The States. It is probable that Frank James was at this robbery. However, no one was ever convicted of this robbery.
The events of this day caused the bank to close due to insufficient funds. After all FDIC Insurance was not in place. The bank closed, sold all it's assets, called in all loans and paid the depositors $ .60 on the dollar.
Today the bank is owned by Jack Wymore and family a sixth generation to live in Clay County.
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