The world’s first robbery of a moving train took place just 1 1/2 miles west of a little town called Adair, Iowa. On July 21, 1873, Jesse James and his gang of Outlaws derailed a train by moving a rail out of place, causing the engine to crash and fall over.
The gang was hoping to find a shipment of $75,000 in gold, but that shipment was delayed. Instead, they only got away with approximately $3,000. They stole $2,000 cash from the safe, and they got another $1,000 in currency and loot from passengers on the train. And the engineer and another train man were killed, which added murder to the robbery.
After the robbery, Jesse James and the gang separated and stayed hidden while authorities searched for them. It wasn’t long after that that the governor of Missouri offered a $10,000 reward for the caprure of Jesse James, dead or alive.
I’m a sucker for “wild west” history AND odd roadside attractions. This quick stop off of exit 75 on Interstate 80, just outside of Adair, Iowa, offers both!
You can pull onto the semi-circle drive at the robbery site, just off the road, if you have a car. We didn’t think our trailer would go under the tree, so we pulled off the road right in front. The road wasn’t too busy, so it wasn’t a problem.
There is an informative board with info pamphlets about the robbery and the town of Adair. There is also a locomotive wheel with a plaque on it that says, “Site of the first train robbery in the west, committed by the notorious Jesse James and his gang of Outlaws July 21, 1873.” The plaque was placed there by the Rock Island Railroad in 1954.
There is even the actual section of track that Jesse James moved out of place to cause the train to derail. It’s pretty cool to see. The kids loved seeing the broken track and hearing about the robbery. It’s neat to stand there and picture it all. It made us want to learn more about Jesse James and his gang! I just love these odd little historic stops!
If you are ever near exit 75, on I-80 in Iowa, you should take a little detour to see this! It is only about a mile or so south after you exit, and is a quick, well marked stop. It’s definitely worth your time!