The Robbery of Charley Craig's Store

By Larry Horton

One of the most visited spots on my history website is of the robbery of Charley Craig's store, possibly by Jesse James. The store was located at the current address of 113 South Main Street.  More than one reference is given that the James Gang are the ones responsible.

Here are the facts:

The James Gang, consisting at that time of Jesse and Frank James and Cole and Bob Younger, and possibly Arthur McCoy, robbed the stage at Hot Springs on January 15th, 1874 of about $3000. On January 31st, they robbed the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern train in Gad's Hill, MO. They made off with about $12,000. Gad's Hill is located in Eastern Missouri, about 75 miles north of the Arkansas line. If Craig's store was robbed on February 11, 1874, then the gang would have been back in the Kansas City area by March 10th in order to kill a Pinkerton man who decided to go to their home alone and was found later, shot three times.

What the Daily Arkansas Gazette had to say, courtesy of the Bentonville Advance:

Charley Craig and Charley Clark sleep at the store. It was 8 o’clock at night...the two men were sitting by the stove, cooking some eggs, when the door opened and two men entered and took seats by them. This was such a common occurrence that it did not worry the boys. Directly, the door opened again, and in stepped two more men; as they entered the store, the two sitting by the boys, quick as lightning, put pistols to their heads, threatening their lives if they moved or uttered a word. The third watched the door while the fourth ransacked the store, doing the stealing. He literally “went through” the store, stealing all of the money he could find. He took a suit of clothes, the very best in the store, for each of the party, ordered Charley Clark to take off his boots and, when he found they did not fit, ordered Charley Craig to do the same...and left the young man bootless. The boys had to give up their gold shirt buttons and permit themselves to be searched for other valuables. After they had stolen all they wanted, they tied the boys and made their way to the street....so ended one of the boldest robberies ever perpetrated in this part of the state...
— Daily Arkansas Gazette

So was it the James Gang?

Several sources say yes. The newspapers never indicated one way or the other, (meaning that they likely didn't suspect them at the time).

It's a long way from Gad's Hill to Bentonville and then back to Clay County.  However, it is pretty well known that the gang spent a lot of time in the caves around the Missouri line north of Bella Vista, so it's conceivable. The gang's mannerisms seem pretty professional; obviously this wasn't the first time they had robbed someone and gotten away. And the theft of fine suits of clothing seems to fit their mold too. Most thieves would have just gotten the money and left quickly. 


Larry Horton has a Master's degree in history concentrating on southern US history in general and Bentonville in particular. He owns Bentonville Real Estate Company.  Read more on his history blog: www.bentonville123.com