Jack Chinn and The Great Northfield Bank Robbery
Jack Koblas


1883 Kentucky Derby Race Records and Stats. Who Was Colonel "Black" Jack Chinn and Did He Take Part in the James-Younger Gang’s 1876 Robbery of the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota? -- Conjecture? Coincidence?

The New College Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1980) defines "coincidence" as "an accidental sequence of events that appear to have a casual relationship." In the case of Jack Chinn and his friendship with Frank James, "casual" is putting it mildly.

During the waning months of the Civil War, Chinn and James were both Confederate guerrilla fighters and rode together in Kentucky and Tennessee accompanying William Clarke Quantrill. At war’s end, James stayed at the Chinn home as a guest.

In August 1876, members of the James-Younger Gang arrived in St. Paul to rob a bank. Only a few months earlier, Chinn and his business partner, George Morgan, left their beloved Kentucky and moved to St. Paul, where they opened the Chinn & Morgan Gambling Parlor. After the bank raid, Jesse and Frank fled Minnesota and went home, followed a month or two later by Chinn & Morgan. Coincidence?

When the gang arrived in St. Paul, they headed directly to Chinn’s parlor. Chinn was much too kind to these men—allowing them to stay at the establishment whenever they wanted. When there was gunplay, Chinn locked the doors and kept his guests away from the police. In fact, the Kentuckian even went so far as to talk neighboring merchants into letting his mysterious friends hide their horses inside a private archway behind the businesses where the men could come and go unnoticed at all hours of the night. Coincidence?

The robbers were very much in need of good horseflesh and had made it a habit to ride only the best horses during their heists. Chinn raised Kentucky thoroughbreds—some of the finest in the country and even raised some horses on a relative’s horse farm outside St. Paul. Coincidence.

When the gang rode away from St. Paul on horses possibly purchased or borrowed from Chinn, Bob put on a riding exhibition on Wabasha Street causing many spectators to remark they had never seen such fine horses, equipment, and horsemanship before anywhere. Although these same remarks were repeated nearly everywhere the outlaws went, these words were said first after a visit to Chinn in St. Paul. Coincidence

After Jesse’s death, Frank again visited Chinn in Kentucky where he met the "silver-tongued orator," William Jennings Bryan.

Jack Chinn was not one of the robbers who visited Northfield. This was not a case of a ninth man, or in this case, a tenth man. He may, however, have helped plan the stickup and passed on information re: which roads to travel or avoid. Or did he even provide the gang with Kentucky bluebloods? Conjecture?

I don’t think so. — Jack Koblas, Savage, Minnesota, July 4, 2012

Quality Trade Paperback, 180 pp.
ISBN 978-1-55497-213-5  $20.00


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Jack Koblas is the leading authority on Jesse James in Minnesota and several other subjects. His books have been published in nearly every genre imaginable, despite his being a highly regarded historian. He has penned over 80 books of nonfiction, fiction, poetry, nature; written films for television, and been honored by his induction into the Minnesota Rock Hall of Fame for his music skills. He is well known for his books on such famous and infamous Americans as Jesse James, Frank James, Cole Younger, Ma Barker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, H. V. Jones, J. J. Dickison, John and George Sontag, and Pat Crowe, and his series for young adults—the Doc & Tweed History/ Mysteries which serve to educate our children about local Midwest history.