September 7, 2006 marked the 130th anniversary of the Northfield First National Bank robbery attempt by the notorius James-Younger Gang. After two weeks on the run, the Younger brothers, Cole, Jim, and Bob, were captured and sentenced to 25 years in the state prison at Stillwater in November 1876.
Recently, the Minnesota Historical Society acquired a Stillwater State Prison record book that includes information about all three brothers. The record book is entitled “Cell Room Daily Report”, and dates from June 1, 1880 through September 28, 1882. The record book is the prison’s daily record listing prisoners who were sick in their cell, isolated in the “dungeon”, sent on work details, or staying in the prison for the day. The Younger brothers were often “sick in cell”, especially Cole Younger. Why Cole was sick in his cell is not detailed. During the period the record book was compiled there were 210 to 280 inmates, males and females, in the state prison.
It is unclear if the record book is for the entire prison, or for just one cellblock, but the book gives some insights about the Younger brothers and their incarceration. The record book is particularly valuable, since there are few, if any, records documenting the Younger Brothers imprisonment in the state prison. The Younger brothers (Cole, cell no. 64; Bob, cell no. 65; Jim, cell no. 66) are frequently mentioned in the record book, and the State Archives of the Minnesota Historical Society has only a few records documenting the brothers imprisonment in the Stillwater State Prison. Bob Younger died in prison in 1889; Jim was pardoned in 1901 and committed suicide in 1902; Cole, also pardoned in 1901, died in 1916.
The Stillwater State Prison was initally established as a territorial prison in 1853 and become the first state prison when Minnesota became a state in 1858. The State Archives holds a variety of records from the prison including convict registers, case files, annual reports, and photographs.
Charles Rodgers, Government Records Specialist