Description[Cole Younger]. George M. Bennett Autograph Letter Signed "Geo M Bennett." Three pages, 5.75" x 9", on "South Vernon House" letterhead, West Northfield [Massachusetts], July, 1898, to George C. McNeill regarding money that was promised to Cole upon his release. He writes, in part: "I found Thompson this am. He told Cap B as he told me that he would give Cole $1000 - When he was out but wanted the experimenting to be done on other money than his. He gave B $100...he handed me $100 - I shall get Coles receipt for it." With original transmittal envelope. Folds; light staining along the edge of page one. Else fine.
George M. Bennett was a Minneapolis judge who was married to Cora McNeil, a correspondent of Cole and Jim while they were incarcerated in the Minnesota State Prison after the botched Northfield bank robbery. In 1889, Judge Bennett drew up a bill for the Minnesota Senate to extend parole to prisoners with life sentences. The bill passed in the Senate, but failed in the House. According to Cole Younger's autobiography, "The Story of Cole Younger, by Himself," the bill was unofficially known as the "Younger's parole bill." The bill finally passed both houses in 1901 and led to the conditional parole of both Cole and Jim.
Cora McNeill was born in St. Clair, Missouri, in 1862. She was an admirer of Cole and Jim Younger, and it is believed that she was a sweetheart of Jim's before he went to prison. She continued her correspondence to both Jim and Cole while they were incarcerated in Minnesota following the botched Northfield bank robbery. She was married to Minneapolis judge George M. Bennett who attempted to secure a pardon for the Younger brothers.
Cole and Jim Younger began their life of crime during the Civil War as members, along with the James Brothers, of the notorious Quantrill's Raiders. After the war, they may have been associated with the gang of Archie Clement, who led the first daylight, peacetime armed bank robbery in U. S. history on February 13, 1866. While the exact date of their association with the gang is uncertain, by 1868, they, as well as the James Brothers, were unquestionably part of the bank-robbing gang. The Jameses and Youngers were able to avoid arrest longer than many outlaws of the day, largely thanks to the sympathy and support of many of their fellow Confederate veterans. But in 1876 the Younger's luck ran out. Their attempted robbery of the bank at Northfield, Minnesota went famously awry when armed townsfolk interrupted the robbery and chased them off. In the melee two townspeople were killed, and when the Youngers were subsequently captured, they were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Minnesota State Prison in Stillwater (a guilty plea saved them from the hangman's noose). Bob Younger died in prison in 1889; however, Cole and Jim continued to languish in prison, while sympathizers periodically lobbied for their release. In 1899 a bill was before the Minnesota Legislature to secure their freedom. Despite the best efforts of their supporters, the Youngers would not be paroled until July 1901. Jim became engaged to Alix Mueller upon release, but was unable to marry under the terms of his parole. He committed suicide on October 19, 1902.
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