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Cool Things - Rifle from James Gang Shootout

rifle from Jesse James gang shoot-outA member of the James gang stared down the barrel of this gun, and died.

The notorious Jesse James gang terrorized much of the Midwest in the years following the Civil War. The outlaws thought nothing of committing holdups in Kansas. Based in western Missouri, the gang found it easy to hit sites across the border. In early December of 1874, five of them rode to Muncie, a small town 12 miles west of Kansas City. Their target was a Kansas Pacific train carrying a Wells Fargo safe.

Train Robbery

At Muncie, the gang ordered railroad workers to pile wooden ties across the tracks. They took prisoner the owner of a nearby general store and, as the train approached, ordered him to flag it down. The gang then entered the baggage car and forced the company messenger to open the safe, removing from it $18,000 in currency, $5,000 in gold, and assorted packages of money and jewelry. A gold watch belonging to the messenger was returned to him with the explanation that it was personal property. The gang rode away with a wave and a shout: "Good-bye, boys, no hard feelings. We have taken nothing from you."

A James gang robber takes hostage the Muncie general store's proprietor

The messenger may not have taken the robbery personally, but Wells Fargo did. The State of Kansas and the Kansas Pacific Railroad joined Wells Fargo in offering rewards. The State of Missouri cooperated in trying to track down the robbers. But it was only by accident that one actually was arrested.

William "Bud" McDaniel (a.k.a. "McDaniels") was the son of a Kansas City saloonkeeper, and had a brother who also rode with the James Gang. Just days after the robbery he was stopped by a police officer for "rowdy behavior and public drunkenness." McDaniel was found to be harboring four revolvers, six dozen cartridges, over $1,000, and some jewelry from the Wells Fargo safe. He was sent to Kansas to stand trial. This was not completely welcome news in Kansas City, where officials were intimidated by the James gang and generally willing to look the other way. In fact, McDaniel had been seen drinking with the Chief of Police on the day of his arrest!

The engineer of the Kansas Pacific train was held at gunpoint by the James gang

McDaniel was jailed in Lawrence, Kansas, enough distance from the Missouri border to be considered safe. But on June 27, 1875, he escaped from the Douglas County jail with three other men, arms, ammunition, and horses. The Deputy Sheriff quickly assembled a posse and, by the following day, McDaniel and another prisoner had been tracked to the Lakeview area, seven miles west of Lawrence. Louis Beurman, a local farmer known as a good shot, described what transpired for the Lawrence Republican-Journal:

"I had been harvesting Monday, and soon after midday I met Constable Phillips, who told me he had just seen McDaniels and Dunn seated on a log a short distance off. . . . I ran back to my house, got out my rifle, an old squirrel rifle, and started in pursuit. . . . I ran about a quarter of a mile, when on coming to an open space I saw the two men. . . . They saw me at the same time, and McDaniels slipped from his horse and brought his gun to his shoulder. I took quick aim and fired. He felt the shot and almost fell forward on his face, but recovered himself immediately, pulling the trigger at me, the ball whistling over my head. Then he mounted, and together the two men dashed into the woods."

According to newspaper reports, the shot took "effect in the lower bowels." McDaniel managed to get to a house where the residents sent for the sheriff. He was returned to jail, where a doctor proclaimed his wounds fatal. The outlaw died within hours, remaining silent to the end about the identities of his accomplices in the Muncie train robbery.

The old "squirrel gun" that killed McDaniel--actually a German Schuetzen rifle--remained in the Beurman family until 1958 when Louis' nephew donated it to the Kansas Historical Society. It is in the collections of the Society's Kansas Museum of History.

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Entry: Cool Things - Rifle from James Gang Shootout

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2009

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.