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 Thomas Coleman “Cole” Younger

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Thomas Coleman “Cole” Younger

  • Birth 15 Jan 1844 Lees Summit, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
  • Death 21 Mar 1916 Lees Summit, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
  • Burial Lees Summit, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
  • Plot Intersection of Langsford and Hwy 291
  • Memorial ID 1138

Post Civil War Outlaw. Today, Cole Younger's days of outlawry evokes romance and even chivalry in American folklore. However, the romantic, loveable character portrayed is far from the truth. Cole was instead a heartless cold blooded murderer of not only peace officers and bank tellers but women and children. Cole first killed at 17, was wanted dead or alive at 18 and is credited with killing dozens including innocent bystanders. He was born near Lee's Summit as Thomas Coleman Younger, the son of a prosperous livery and dry goods business owner into a family of 14 children. His father was robbed and killed by members of the Kansas Militia. Spurred on by many injustices attributed to federal authorities, he joined William Clarke Quantrill as a member of his Confederate raiders during the Civil War, participating in many daring and bloody exploits, including the infamous Lawrence, Kansas, massacre. He was 18 at the time, selected because he owned a revolver. Younger left Quantrill's renegades and joined the regular Confederate Army attaining the rank of Captain and led his own company while serving in Louisiana and later California. At the close of the war, Cole returned home and went to work on his mother's farm. He soon became a desperado, robbing banks, trains, stagecoaches and people with Jesse Woodson James at times then a gang of his own, a family affair, with many of his brothers. Cole Younger was friends with Myra Shirley (Bell Starr) who he knew from childhood and during flights from lawmen would sometimes hide out at the Shirley family farm. Bell would turn to crime herself. A fateful attempt in 1876 to rob the Northfield, Minnesota bank, severely wounded, Younger was captured, tried and sentenced to twenty five years in state prison at Stillwater, Minnesota. There he became a hero helping to protect women convicts during a disastrous fire. He founded the "Prison Mirror," a newspaper intended to shed a ray of light upon the lives of those behind bars. Paroled and able to obtain a pardon at age 59, his first job was at the Peterson Granite Company in Stillwater making tombstones. He later teamed up with his old comrade Frank James to form a Wild West show. Finding religion, he went on the Chataqua lecture circuit speaking on the evils of crime and drink. He wrote and had published a badly embellished autobiography of his criminal past. With old age creeping ever closer, Cole purchased a house in Lee's Summit enjoying the good life while sitting on his porch reading his ever present bible and talking with neighbors, reporters and friends. Impressionable youngsters began calling him "Uncle Cole." His health steadily declined. He died peacefully in his own bed from Heart and kidney failure at the most unrealistic age of 72. His closely examined remains determined 14 bullets were still embedded in his body. After a well attended funeral at the Lee's Summit Baptist church where he attended regularly, the last member of the James-Younger Gang was buried in the town cemetery next to his brothers Jim and Bob and their mother. There's not much left of the old prison at Stillwater which was closed in 1914. During its time it held many notorious prisoners beside the Younger Brothers. The Warden's house a 1853 stone building remains and is now a museum as well as a few workhouse buildings. This is where Bernard Casey worked as a prison guard, before becoming a celebrated beatified priest, befriending Cole Younger with his counseling influencing him to lay aside his bitterness and lead a model life while incarcerated which he continued in his post prison life. Many plaques were erected marking locations of the Cole Younger gang robberies put up by proud gleeful towns in Missouri and Kansas. The house constructed by his father remains standing to this day. 8,000 acre Robbers Cave State Park located in Wilburton, OK is a popular tourist destination and contains the cave purported to be a hiding place of the James-Younger gang.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield



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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1138
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Coleman “Cole” Younger (15 Jan 1844–21 Mar 1916), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1138, citing Lee's Summit Historical Cemetery, Lees Summit, Jackson County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .