By Linda Emley
And now it’s time for more tales about the May 23, 1867 bank robbery in Richmond. At the close of my last story, the desperados were heading down the road to Liberty while Deputy Sheriff Tom Reyburn and his posse of local citizens were in hot pursuit. A short skirmish was engaged, with the villains retreating all the while.
The Richmond Conservator from May 25, 1867 continues: “It is thought one of them received a wound, as blood was discovered on a fence rail where they entered. They took into the woods, to the left of the road, after leaving Elkhorn, and the pursuing party found it difficult to follow their trail. They were, however, on it at last account, and it is to be hoped they may succeed in capturing some if not all of the party.
“Yesterday, our city was draped in mourning, and the faces of all betokened the deepest grief. The corpses of the two Griffins were interred yesterday afternoon at the city cemetery; the remains of Mr. Shaw will be deposited, with Masonic rites, this morning at the family burying ground west of town.”
Three good men died in Richmond on May 23, 1867. I’ve been trying to think of a nice way to tell the story of these three men but there is no way to glorify their deaths. They fought back to save Richmond and paid the price for their bravery with their lives.
The James-Younger Gang robbed banks in Liberty and Lexington before hitting Richmond. One young man was killed in Liberty and no one was killed in Lexington, but neither of these towns actually put up a fight against the robbers. The citizens of Richmond were the first to fight back and we are very lucky that more people were not killed. I’m proud of our town for taking a stand.
So who were these three men, Mayor John B. Shaw, Lt. Frank B. Griffin and his father William.
“John B. Shaw was a highly respected gentleman, and at that time mayor of the city, was in the middle of the street, near the Shaw House (now Wasson House), of which he was proprietor.”
I found the following story about him that gave a few more details of his life: “Mr. John B. Shaw, one of the men murdered at Richmond, was one of the best and most enterprising in upper Missouri. There has been no enterprise of great public benefit agitated in the last twenty years of which John B. Shaw was not a warm advocate and worker. To Richmond and Ray County, he has been the back bone and sinew – having made more substantial improvements in buildings, stock etc., than any other 10 men. He was very popular, and had just been elected mayor of Richmond on the conservative ticket.”
The mayor was buried in the Martin Cemetery, which is located in the middle of Lexington Street at the west end of Richmond. His tombstone has been lost to time, but it’s thought he was buried in this location, which was a family farm in 1867.
I was surprised when I found where Lt. Frank B. Griffin and his father were buried because I’ve visited their final resting place many times and didn’t know they were there.
On Oct. 7, 2010, I wrote a story about the Richmond Pioneer Cemetery and didn’t mention the Griffin men because I didn’t know their story.
The Richmond Pioneer Cemetery is also known as the Mormon Cemetery. It was the main Richmond city graveyard from 1846 to 1875 and is sometimes referred to as the old city cemetery. The last known burial was in 1881.
Pioneer Cemetery is located six blocks north of the Richmond Square on the corner of North Thornton and Crispin Street. There are over 90 people known to be buried there. The list was compiled from the tombstones.
However, I‘d heard there could be as many as 250 people buried there and I selected a few random people and shared their stories, ending that 2010 article with “For every story here, there are hundreds more waiting to be told. I hope someday to be able to tell all their stories as we stroll down the roads of our past.”
So now two years later, I can finally share some details about two more people buried at the Richmond Pioneer Cemetery.
We’ve always heard that Frank Griffin was a 15-year-old boy but that’s not what his tombstone says. “Pvt. G.F.S. Griffin served in Company K, 3rd Iowa Cavalry. I found another note that says he was born in 1844, which would make him 23 when he died on May 23, 1867.
His father’s tombstone reads, “B. G. Griffin, Born April 24, 1794 and Died May 23, 1867. “That would make him one month shy of being 73 years old, so I think he made a good showing by running up to the bank to avenge his son’s death. His wife, Lucy Asbury Griffin, is buried beside him. She died on March 26, 1876. I am still looking for more stories about the Griffin men, but at least we know where they are buried.
While researching the Griffins, I found a story about our bank robbery that tells a whole different story about this day in history. I haven’t found any proof to tell if there’s any truth to it, so it may just be one man’s account. Either way, it’s a good example that proves that none of us really know what happened because we weren’t there.
Here is Joseph Geringer’s tale “Jesse James: Riding Hell-Bent for Leather into Legend.” “Onto the jail, boys! Make ‘em remember Quantrill!” Jesse hallooed. Mounting, he reined his stallion toward the hoosegow. He heard his friends cheer behind him. But, things turned dark.
“By this time, some of the townsmen, including Mayor John B. Shaw, had grabbed whatever weapons were available and began to take pot-shots at the roisterers. Bullets cut the air, coming close to but missing the hombres. The outlaws returned the sporadic fire. Shaw foolishly deserted his cover to get closer aim, but he never pulled the trigger. He crumpled dead in the street, his body full of holes.
“When the riders reached the jailhouse at the further end of the street, they found its front door bolted. Ramming it with their shoulders, they didn’t see the figure crouching behind a tree in the adjacent lot; it was Frank Griffin, the jailer’s 15-year-old son with a carbine. Griffin opened fire, nearly hitting Jim Younger. Impulsively, the Youngers blazed at the shooter, never realizing he was a kid behind all that gun smoke and street dust. When Jailer Griffin saw his son’s body recoil on impact, he lost his wits and scooted from his home, firing in rage. He joined his son in Paradise moments later.”
You can write Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org