Cole Younger, Gunfighter (1958)




Director:    R. G. Springsteen.

Starring:   Frank Lovejoy (Cole Younger), James Best (cowboy Kit), Abby Dalton (sweetheart Lucy), Jan Merlin (romantic competitor Frank), Douglas Spencer (Woodruff), Ainslie Pryor (Follyard), Frank Ferguson (Wittrock), Myron Healey (Bennett Twins), George Keymas (Price), Dan Sheridan (Phelps), John Mitchum (Bartender).

A romanticized view of Cole Younger who is thrown into a drama about others. Not much in the way of history.



Spoiler Warning:



Historical Background:

1810  --  Henry Washington Younger born.  He was the father of 14 children. 

1830  --  he married Bersheba Leighton Fristoe. 

1844 (January 15)  --  Thomas Coleman Younger was born.  His brothers in crime were Jim, John and Bob Younger. 

1848  --  Jim Younger born.

1851  --  John Younger born. 

1853  --  Bob Younger born. 

1857  --   the family moved to Harrisonville, Missouri near the border with Kansas. Henry was assigned as second mayor of the city.

1857  --  Dred Scott decision by the US Supreme Court that said slaves were the property of their owners and, if the slaves escaped they should be returned to their owners. 

Trouble followed the Supreme Court decision. Pro-southern Missouri militia (guerilla warriors) fought under William Quantrill.  The north called Quantrill an outlaw.   

1861  --  raid and sacking of Osceola, Missouri by Kansas militia, Jayhawkers and Red Legs under James Lane.  (The movie The Outlaw Josey Wales is based on these events)

1862  (July)  --  their father Henry Younger traveled to Kansas on a business trip carrying $1,500 dollars. About one mile south of Westport, someone shot him three times in the back, killing him.  (The motive for the killing was not robbery, but politics.)

Among the "militia" under Quantrill were Cole Younger and Franks James (later of the James gang).  Cole joined to avenge the death of his father by Kansas Union soldiers. 

1863 (August 21)  --  Cole participated in the destruction of Lawrence, Kansas.  Quantrill and his men killed over 150 townspeople, including women and children. 

1865  --  after the end of the Civil War, the Youngers and the James boys refused to surrender and take the "Oath of Loyalty" to the Union.

Jesse and Frank James agreed to form an outlaw gang to rob banks and trains.

1865-1866 (winter)  --  Frank and Jesse James, and Cole, Jim, John and Bob Younger, along with a tight-knit group of former confederate guerillas, formed the James-Younger gang.

1866  --  the gang carried out the first daylight, peacetime bank robbery story.

The James-Younger gang robbed from Iowa to Texas, even eluding the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

1873  --  the James-Younger gang pulled off the first successful train robbery in the West.  They got away with $3,000 dollars from the Rock Island Express in Adair, Iowa. 

The Gang was romanticized by eastern journalists as some king of Robin Hood outfit.  But the gang was not composed of philanthropists, but criminals. 

1876 (September 7)  --  the James-Younger gang attempted to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota.  Alerted, the townspeople fired on the robbers.  Two gang members, Clell Miller and Bill Chadwell, were killed.  The James brothers got away.  A local posse led by Madelia Sheriff Glispin captured three Younger brothers: Cole, Jim and Bob Younger.   Cole was wounded 11 times and Jim five.  Bob had an elbow and chest wounds. Gang member Charlies Pitts was killed during the capture. 

1876 (November)  --  Cole, Jim and Bob pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life in prison at the Minnesota State Prison. This ended the James-Younger gang.

1882 (April 3)  --  Jesse was murdered. 

1882 (October)  -- Frank James surrendered.  He was acquitted after four years of legal battles. 

1889  --  Bob Younger died in prison of tuberculosis.

1901  --  Cole and Jim Younger were paroled.

1902  --  Jim Younger committed suicide.  (He was despondent over the parole rules not allowing him to marry his long-time sweetheart.)

1903  --  Cole wrote and book about his career and joined Frank James in a wild west show, The Cole Younger and Franks James Wild West Company.

1912  --  Cole became a Christian and repented his wicked ways. 

1915  --  death of Frank James.

1916  --  death of Cole Younger in his home town of Lee's Summit, Missouri. 


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)