Jesse James and the "Great Winnipeg Manitoba Raid" of 1876?
Hubner, Brian, Manitoba History
If you were anywhere near Winnipeg last October you cannot have failed to notice that part of a major Hollywood movie entitled The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was being filmed in the Exchange District. Jesse James, as played by Brad Pitt, made a brief appearance in the Winnipeg scenes, but it is possible that had the fates allowed, the real Jesse would have been in Manitoba for a much longer stay. There are at least two contemporary sources which mention that Manitoba may have been considered when the gang (including his brother Frank, and Cole, Jim and Bob Younger), was planning what became the "Northfield Minnesota Raid" of 7 September 1876. The raid was a fiasco for the outlaws ending with most of them dead or in prison. Only Frank and Jesse escaped to Dakota Territory, and then made their way back home to Missouri.
J. T. Younger, uncle of the Younger brothers, reported that Jesse and his gang may have wanted to retire and settle in Canada (Winnipeg is due north of Northfield) but were forced on route to change their plans when they lost their money gambling. (1) Frank Triplett, author of The Life, Times, and Treacherous Death of Jesse James, written at a rate of sixty pages a day for publication only weeks after the assassination, and later suppressed by Jesse's widow Zee, mentions a slightly more probable story. The following passage from the book is worth quoting at length:
Cole Younger was for a bolder move. Tired of this continual riding and raiding, he had made up his mind to make one more grand stroke, secure a big booty, and retire to some foreign country, since he could have no peace in his. With this aim in view it is perfectly natural that he should desire to make this next stroke not only a successful one, but not a gathering of trivial spoil. It is said that he urged some rich town in Canada. In support of his proposition, and against that of Chadwell [the Northfield raid], he insisted on the fact that the Canadians were a people less inured to fire arms than of the Americans, certainly less so than the hardy borderers of Minnesota, and that, in consequence, a rush such as they contemplated would utterly terrorize them and place them completely at the bandit's mercy. They are said to be a quiet orderly people, not used to the pistol and knife combats of the Americans; they are men who settle a difficulty with their fists, or in their courts, and half a dozen desperate and well-armed men could ride through the biggest city in Canada and come out alive. …