• Ted Stillwell: The mystery of Clell Miller's body

  • The whereabouts of the body of Clell Miller has come into question lately; he was one of the outlaws who rode with Jesse James during the failed attempt to rob the bank in Northfield, Minn.

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  • The whereabouts of the body of Clell Miller has come into question lately; he was one of the outlaws who rode with Jesse James during the failed attempt to rob the bank in Northfield, Minn.
    Miller was a neighborhood kid in Kearney who joined with Bloody Bill Anderson’s raiders during the Civil War at the tender age of 14. He was captured during the skirmish in which Anderson was killed in 1864. Miller was lucky not to have been executed by his captors. However, because of his youth, he was sent to a prison in St. Louis.
    Many years later, Clell joined up with the James Gang and was implicated in at least 12 stagecoach holdups, train robberies and bank jobs. He also was accused in the death of at least three men, including Pinkerton agent Jack Ladd.
    Miller took a bullet himself when eight men rode into the town of Northfield on Sept. 7, 1876. The men did not ride in together. Jesse James, Bob Younger and Charlie Pitts rode in first and hitched their horses to a rack outside the First National Bank. The men crossed the street dressed in long white linen dusters, often worn by cattlemen to protect their clothing from the dirt. The dusters also came in handy to hide revolvers. The three sat down on some boxes and watched the people walking up and down the busy street.
    Soon Cole Younger and Clell Miller came riding in. Cole developed trouble with his saddle right in front of the bank. He got off of his horse to fix it, while Jesse and his men slowly got up and strolled into the bank. Clell quickly followed, pulling the bank door shut behind him. Clell stood guard by the door.
    Jesse walked up to the teller’s window with guns drawn and things immediately began going wrong as the bank employees were less than cooperative. Suddenly, Clell Miller got into an argument with a customer who was trying to enter the front door. When Clell refused to let him in, the man immediately alerted the townspeople to the fact that the bank was being robbed.
    The two hardware stores in town started pulling weapons from display cases and arming men on the streets. The first thing they knew, shots were being fired from all directions as Frank James, Jim Younger and Bill Chadwell came galloping into town with blazing guns and the old rebel war whoops. Seeing that Cole and Frank were in trouble out in front, Clell Miller and the inside gang ran from the bank with blazing guns to join in the nightmarish street scene.
    When the dust settled, outlaws Bill Chadwell and Clell Miller lay dead in the street, along with the bank cashier and a Swedish immigrant, Nicholas Gustavson. With the exception of maybe Jesse James, the rest of the gang were all wounded as they attempted their escape. All three Younger brothers were captured and imprisoned for the next 25 years.
    Page 2 of 2 - Miller’s body was photographed and then buried in Northfield. The rumor is that a medical student, Henry Wheeler, dug up the body and had it shipped to Michigan, where he attended medical school. The remains were used in an anatomy class. When Miller’s family learned of what happened, his dad went up and retrieved what was thought to be Miller’s body and brought it back to Missouri.
    But Wheeler maintained that he had kept Clell Miller’s skeleton, and when he established a medical practice in Grand Forks, N.D., he took it with him. When he retired in 1923, he donated the skeleton to the Odd Fellows Lodge. Miller family descendants are now asking for a DNA test to answer the age old question.
    Reference: “Wanted! Frank and Jesse James” by Margaret Baldwin and Pat O’Brien.
    Ted W. Stillwell will be the featured speaker on the Civil War at 6:30 p.m. Monday, before the Shriner’s Club at the Post 499 American Legion Hall on Missouri 7 in Blue Springs.
    To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send email to teddystillwell@yahoo.com or call 816-252-9909.

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