You had to be tough to make it in the Wild West. If you wanted a vegan drink at the bar, you had to suck it up and chug some booze. While everyone drank, one 17-year old-had to watch from the outside. The folks inside had no idea they had a violent story to tell.

Nothing civil about war

In the 1850s, Jesse James was simply a kid trying to enjoy life. Because he lived in Missouri, the American Civil War was the talk of the town. At such a young age, James didn’t think this pending war would affect him. Unfortunately, he was a victim of a horsewhipping from Union soldiers at the age of 15.

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Looking to get revenge, James became a part of William “Bloody Bill” Anderson’s group a month later. Did William get that nickname because of his love of Bloody Mary’s? Well, not exactly. Before meeting James, Anderson spent his time killing numerous Union soldiers. James learned fast about violence; in one ambush, he killed seven people.

First time for everything

Following the Civil War, James wanted to do something with his brother Frank and their new friend Cole Younger. What’s a better way to enjoy being 16 than plotting your first bank robbery? Along with a few more people, James successfully robbed the Clay County Savings Bank in Liberty, Missouri on February 13, 1866.

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Running away with $62,000 was a complete rush for James. He felt the need to see if lightning could strike twice.

Another chance at big money?

On October 30, 1866, James & Co. decided to rob The Alexander Mitchell and Co. Bank a couple towns away. Unfortunately, his second robbery was a complete bust with only $2,000 stolen. While James didn’t rob another bank until four months later, something interesting happened.

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Writer John Newman Edwards began writing stories about James and his robberies wherever he can. Suddenly, James became this legendary character overnight. On the same coin, he became public enemy number one to the police. For a 17- year-old, that was probably the coolest thing in the world.