AKA Thomas Coleman Younger
Birthplace: Jackson County, MO
Location of death: Jackson County, MO
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Lee's Summit Historical Cemetery, Lee's Summit, MO
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The brains of the James-Younger Gang
Cole Younger's father was murdered by Jayhawkers -- Kansas-based bandits, horse thieves, and killers who operated with unofficial sanction from the federal government to suppress anti-Union, pro-slavery sentiment, and to defend Kansas against the guerrilla-vigilantes who fought for the opposite political arguments. After his father's death, Younger took part in the infamous "Bleeding Kansas" border raids. Riding with Frank and Jesse James and William Quantrill's raiders, he engaged in wholesale warfare on behalf of the Confederates, including the infamous August 1863 siege of Lawrence, Kansas, where they killed about 180 of the town's residents. The next year Younger participated in the attack on Centralia, Missouri, helping to kill 150-200 locals and Union soldiers.
After the Civil War, Younger worked for a few years on his mother's farm but eventually became a free-lance gangster. Riding with his brothers James, John, and Robert, he headed the Younger Gang, holding up banks, robbing trains, and murdering policemen, bank tellers, and ordinary people who crossed his path with offense. When the Youngers rode with the James brothers, Younger was tacitly acknowledged as "the brains" of the gang. He sometimes showed kindness, giving stolen foodstuff to the poor, and among Confederate sympathizers Younger and his cohorts were perceived almost as folk heroes. Their occasional hide-out in the hills of Oklahoma is now known as Robbers' Cave State Park.
Riding with the James brothers, Younger was captured after a failed bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1876 -- not by lawmen but by armed and angry civilians. He was shot eleven times that day, but recovered and was sentenced to life in prison. Behind bars, he occupied himself with theological studies, published a prison newsletter, and reportedly distinguished himself with heroism in a fire at the prison. He was paroled in 1901, pardoned in 1903, and returned to his family's Missouri home, where he became a regular churchgoer, and was never again in trouble with the law. He also toured America in speaking engagements and made celebrity appearances in "Wild West" shows. His autobiography, The Story of Cole Younger, by Himself, was a best-seller.
Among the better known (but fully sanitized) Hollywood adaptations of portions of Younger's life, he was played by James Best in Kansas Raiders, Alan Hale, Jr. in The True Story of Jesse James, Frank Lovejoy in Cole Younger, Gunfighter, Cliff Robertson in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, David Carradine in The Long Riders, Randy Travis in Frank & Jesse, and Scott Caan in American Outlaws.
Father: Henry Washington Younger (farmer-shopkeeper, b. 1810, d. 1862)
Mother: Bursheba Leighton Fristoe Younger ("Beersheba", b. 1816, m. 1830, d. 1870)
Sister: Laura Helen Younger Kelly (b. 1832, d. 1924)
Sister: Frances Isabelle Younger Hall (b. 1833, d. 1902)
Sister: Martha Ann Younger Jones ("Annie", b. 1835, d. 1918)
Brother: Charles Richard Younger ("Dick", b. 1838, d. 1860)
Sister: Mary Josephine Younger Jarette (b. 1840, d. 1869)
Sister: Caroline Younger Clayton ("Duck", b. 1842, d. 1865)
Sister: Sarah Ann Younger Duncan ("Sally", b. 1846, d. 1925)
Brother: John Harrison Younger (gangster, b. 1846, d. 1874 in gunfight with Pinkerton agents)
Brother: James Henry Younger ("Jim", gangster, b. 1848, d. 1902 suicide)
Brother: Alphae Younger (b. 1850, d. 1852)
Sister: Emily Younger Rose (b. 1852, d. 1907 train wreck)
Brother: Robert Ewing Younger (gangster, "Bob", b. 1853, d. 1889 in prison, tuberculosis)
Sister: Henrietta Younger Rawlins ("Retta", b. 1857, d. 1915)
Girlfriend: Belle Starr (criminal, b. 1848, d. 1889 murder, possibly one daughter)
Daughter: Pearl Younger (with Starr, paternity presumed, a.k.a. Pearl Starr or Rosie Reed, prostitute, b. 1868, d. 1925)
Shot 11 times, Northfield, MN (7-Sep-1876)
Author of books:
The Story of Cole Younger, by Himself (1903)
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