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Reward: Prominent Villain

Rewards have ended countless criminal careers. On occasion, the lure of money has even been enough to entice criminals to turn in their associates. Such was the downfall of the famous nineteenth-century outlaw Jesse James (1847–1882).

After the U.S. CIVIL WAR, James quickly became one of the most notorious bandits on the U.S. frontier. With his older brother Frank, Jesse led the so-called James Gang through several robberies and murders during the 1860s and 1870s. Their daring holdups of banks, stage coaches, and trains made them figures of romantic myth for readers and prime targets for law enforcement posses, which they long managed to evade.

A reward brought James to his end. Having barely escaped with his life after a thwarted bank ROBBERY in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1876 that left two of his gang dead, James hired new outlaws and lived under an alias in Missouri. In 1881 Thomas T. Crittenden, the state's governor, offered a reward of $10,000 for James's capture—dead or alive. One of the new gang members, Robert Ford, contacted the governor, then bided his time. On April 3, 1882, Ford saw his chance in James's house. When the gunslinger laid down his pistols and climbed on a chair to adjust a picture frame, Ford shot him in the head and instantly killed him. What the law had been unable to do, one of the lawless accomplished.

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