I first read about Northfield in a Jesse James children's book when I was about 7. I was on the other side of the world, but never forgot about it. Almost 40 years later, I finally made it here - and am so glad I made the drive.
The museum curators - with a huge amount of luck on their side - have recreated the bank as it was on the day that the James-Younger gang tried to rob it in 1876. Everything is pretty much authentic, including the time-lock vault that vexed the raiders. You can also see the ledger showing the bank's handwritten transactions (the bank closed the day after, but reopened the following day).
A detailed gallery includes some of the guns used in the shootout, a saddle and other artifacts. We learn that one of the robbers killed in Northfield ended up on the dissection table and his bones were tossed in the river. Cole Younger eventually hit the lecture circuit, and we all know the fate that befell Jesse James.
The townsfolk are justly proud of their defense of the bank. You have to remember that deposits were not insured. If the gang had cleaned out the vault, the town might have withered away.
My only complaint is that I left the gift shop empty-handed. All I wanted was a contemporary postcard of the bank and/or a fridge magnet. No luck.
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