Elgin in Lauderdale County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
Jesse James Gang Canal Payroll Robbery/Trial of Frank James
Jesse James Gang
Canal Payroll Robbery
In, 1881, approximately three miles south of here, the U.S. Corps of Engineers was constructing the Muscle Shoals Canal along the north side of the Tennessee River. On March 11, 1881, Alexander G. Smith, paymaster for the camp near the mouth of Bluewater Creek, traveled to Florence to pick up the payroll. He collected a total of $5,290.18 from the Campbell Banking Company. On his return trip the next day, Smith was robbed by three gunmen. They took the payroll, plus his personal money and watch. Smith was forced to go northward toward Tennessee with the robbers. Later, they divided the money, returned Smith's belongings, and released him. He arrived at the Bluewater Camp at noon on March 13. On March 26, a stranger, claiming to be Tom Hill, entered a saloon near Nashville. After a ruckus, he was turned over to the law enforcement authorities. His real name was William Ryan, a member of the James Gang. He was carrying nearly $1,500 in gold and currency, but denied any knowledge of the robbery. On March 30, Smith identified Ryan as one of the robbers. Ryan stated that Jesse
Trial of Frank James
(Continued from other side)
The Federal District Attorney in Huntsville collected evidence against the major suspects in the Muscle Shoals Canal robbery. Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford in 1882. William Ryan was in prison in Missouri. Dick Liddil was brought to Huntsville and found guilty of complicity in the payroll robbery. Frank James was arrested in Missouri and taken to Huntsville for trial. One of the most noted trials in Alabama history, it was a three-day trial that began April 16, 1884. The prosecuting attorney was William H. Smith, a former governor of Alabama. The prosecution called several witnesses, all of whom claimed to have seen Frank James in Lauderdale County immediately before the robbery, but none could positively identify him. The defense attorney was Leroy Pope Walker, a popular Alabama lawyer, a former Confederate General and Secretary of War. He was assisted by two prominent lawyers. Defense witnesses vouched for the good character of Frank James, portraying him as a good, loyal Southern gentleman who had risked his life many times during the Civil War. Public sympathy was strongly in favor of James' acquittal. He was acquitted and walked out of the Huntsville Courthouse a free man. This marked the end of the Jesse James Gang. The Muscle Shoals Canal payroll robbery was never solved. It was reported that Frank James returned to Missouri and lived an exemplary life until his death on February 18, 1915.
Erected 2016 by East Lauderdale Historical Society.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Law Enforcement • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Jesse James series list. A significant historical month for this entry is April 1884.
Location. 34° 51.574′ N, 87° 26.054′ W. Marker is in Elgin, Alabama, in Lauderdale County. Marker is at the intersection of Lee Highway (County Route 72) and Houstontown raod (Route 33), on the right when traveling east on Lee Highway. Near Woods Wholesale Flooring. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Killen AL 35645, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Mitchell Town Community (approx. 0.3 miles away); Center (Centre) Star (approx. 1.2 miles away); Gabriel “Old Gabe” Butler (approx. 1.2 miles away); Cherokee Chief Doublehead's Village Around 1800 (approx. 1.3 miles away); Daniel White (approx. 1.4 miles away); Earliest Methodist Congregation in Lauderdale County, Alabama (approx. 1.4 miles away); Elgin/Elgin Crossroads (approx. 2˝ miles away); Springfield Community 1810/Springfield Church and School (approx. 3.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Elgin.
Also see . . .
1. The last ride of Jesse James. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers entry:
"Infamous outlaw's last crime was robbing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers" (Submitted on November 22, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA.)
2. Jesse James stole Corps payroll 130 years ago today. U.S. Department of Defense entry:
It was a rainy and windy Friday on March 11, 1881, when Alexander G. Smith, receiver of materials, returned from Florence, Ala., with $5,240.18. He never made good on the cash delivery bound for laborers working on the Muscle Shoals Canal Project on the Tennessee River. (Submitted on November 22, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA.)
3. Jesse James. Find A Grave entry:
Western Outlaw. He was born Jesse Woodson James in Kearney, Missouri to Baptist minister Reverend Robert and Zerelda James and the younger brother of James. His father heeding a calling left for California with the intent of preaching to gold miners but contracted cholera and died. (Submitted on November 22, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA.)
4. James Andrew "Dick" Liddil. Find A Grave entry:
He was with the James Gang after the war. He was a secret foe of James and testified against Frank James at his trial. He was involved in several James Gang train robberies (Submitted on November 22, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA.)
5. Alexander G. "Alex" Smith. Find A Grave entry:
It was while in the service of the government that a most interesting event of his life occurred. He had received at Florence a large sum of money to pay the men at work on the canal, and in carrying it to the place of payment he was attacked by Jessie James, the notorious robber, and the whole amount taken from him. He was bound and carried on horseback up into the hilly country north of the river, and before he could report the robbery the bandit had made good his escape. The amount thus captured by the bold robber amounted $4,000 or $5,000. TIMES DAILY - January 1, 1900 (Submitted on November 22, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA.)
6. Alexander Frank James. Find A Grave entry:
Western Outlaw. He was born Alexander Franklin James in Kearney, Missouri to a Baptist minister. Frank was the first of four children. His father heeding a calling left for California with the intent of preaching to gold miners but contracted cholera and died. (Submitted on November 22, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA.)
7. LeRoy Pope Walker. Find A Grave entry:
Civil War Confederate Brigadier General, Confederate Cabinet Secretary. As the first Secretary of War in the CSA, appointed by President Jefferson Davis, he gave the signal, by telegraph from Montgomery, for the bombardment of Fort Sumter which started the five year civil war. Leroy Pope Walker was born the eldest son into a pioneer and prominent family, his parents were John Williams Walker and Matilda Pope in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama (Submitted on November 22, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA.)
Credits. This page was last revised on February 9, 2021. It was originally submitted on November 22, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. This page has been viewed 1,067 times since then and 92 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on November 22, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.