Other County Histories | Civil War | 1886 | 1913 Vol. 2 | 1916 | Depression |
Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History

by Major A. J. Roof. 1913

Table of Contents

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter



Page 304

From the present president of the Peoples' Bank of Chillicothe, Mr. W. H. Ellett, and some additional data from the county's history published by the O. P. Williams Company, the attempted robbery as it actually occurred on the night of the 21st of June, 1873, is herewith given. It was about the hour of eleven o'clock on the date named when four men approached the home of Sidney McWilliams, in the outskirts of the town and attempted to kidnap the president for the purpose of getting possession of the keys to the bank. Mr. McWilliams, however, was prepared to give the would-be "yeggers" a warm reception. A brisk fusillade of bullets was opened by several friends of the president, who had been forewarned of the attempt on the bank, the robbers returning the fire on the inmates of the house.

A few days before the attempted robbery, a young man named J. W. Brunk, who had been in the employ of Rambo and lived in his neighborhood, came to Sid McWilliams' house and told him that Rambo and certain others, who were named, had formed a conspiracy to rob the bank and that the time fixed upon to do so was the next evening. Brunk said that he himself was included by Rambo in the party that was to engage in the robbery, and he gave all of the particulars of the plan. He said that Rambo was to come up to the house of an acquaintance near town, apparently on a social call as he was to bring his wife with him. This was for the purpose of proving an alibi after the deed was done. At a certain hour in the night he was to come up to town, meet his confederates, accomplish the robbery, and return to his friend's house in good time before morning.

Rambo did come up at the time stated by Brunk; but some accidental circumstance prevented the carrying out of his plan that night so the matter was postponed.

Brunk again posted Sid McWilliams in regard to the time of the postponement and the change of plans for that occasion; and everything happened as he indicated, except that something again caused Rambo to postpone the time.

Sid McWilliams, after full consultation with a few trusty friends, planned his mode of meeting the emergency. He had learned from Brunk that Rambo and his three confederates, namely, Jim Manso, George Munro and Brunk himself were to go out to the McWilliams' house a short time before midnight; that one of them was to rap at the door, inquire for McWilliams, ask for an interview on business, and when he came to the door, seize him, menace him with weapons, disarm him if armed, and take him and his father-in-law, Mr. J. H. Ware, prisoners; that Rambo was then to take McWilliams and Ware, securely bound, down to a secluded part of town, while Mrs. Ware and daughter, Mrs. McWilliams, should proceed to the bank with the other three men and bring the money from the vaults; the inducement for them to do so being that in case they did not come with the money or in case they made an alarm in town, McWilliams and Ware would be shot by Rambo.

Seven men were stationed at McWilliams' house, well armed, namely: Joseph Cooper, cashier of the People's bank; Wm. B. Leach, assistant cashier; W. H. Gaunt; Ben Grant; J. H. Ware; Sid McWilliams and a colored man who was in the McWilliams' employ at the time. Other citizens were stationed in the vicinity.

The plan was, that when the robbers came McWilliams was to appear at an upper window and hold parley with them. Meanwhile the blinds of a window on the first lower floor were to be opened from within, and Brunk was to enter by mounting a box outside for the purpose. Then circumstances were to govern the further procedure.

A few minutes past eleven o'clock the four men came, and Brunk acted as spokesman. Rambo was thoroughly disguised; he had on a gun coat; an old piece of coarse tow cloth was tied about his neck; he wore a dark colored slouch hat, instead of the light straw hat which he had worn during the day; his face was blackened with common blacking; and besides all this he had a dark veil drawn over his face. His accomplices said that he tried every way to avoid going with them to the house; but they insisted that he should do so, and finally he reluctantly consented. When he did go, he skulked under the portico, so as to be out of the sight of McWilliams, although the night was dark and he could not have been detected through his disguise.

When McWilliams appeared at the window in answer to the summons of Brunk, the other three men outside moved off a short distance, but Brunk came up to the lower window which he had previously selected as the one he was to enter; the window blinds were thrown open and he hastily entered. Immediately upon his entering firing began. The first shots were from the inside. The robbers, however, returned the fire, and Manso and Munro fled, but Rambo was shot down dead, three balls at least having entered his side near the arm, and another in the upper and back part of the head.

When the firing began, the other parties who were stationed at convenient points with horses, rode hastily up toward the scene of action, and by some mistake were fired upon by those who had been defending the house. Fortunately, the mistake was discovered before anybody was seriously hurt, although one man, Hon. W. A. Jacobs, got a slight bullet wound in his foot.

Before morning a large number of the citizens of Chillicothe were apprised of the event that had occurred, and another posse of competent men went in search of the two robbers that had escaped. Munro was found at home in bed, his home being about four or five miles south of Chillicothe, and he was arrested and brought to town, and was of course lodged in jail. He confessed of having been engaged in the attempted robbery, and gave an account of it, which substantially confirmed the statements of Brunk.

Rambo was in town a considerable part of the day previous to the robbery; but in the evening started out in his wagon. It was ascertained the next day, that he unhitched his horses in the woods about a mile and a half or two miles south of town, where the wagon and one of the horses were found. The other horse he rode on his robbing expedition.

Rambo was a farmer and lived in the south part of the county, about eight or ten miles southeast of Chillicothe, where he owned about four hundred acres of land. He had, however, been in pecuniary difficulty for three or four years, and the general opinion was, that when his affairs came to be settled he would be a bankrupt. It was supposed that this condition of affairs induced him to engage in the desperate undertaking in which he lost his life. He was a large, portly man, with a well formed head and intelligent, though sinister-looking face. He was fifty-four or fifty-five years old.

He left a family of the highest respectability, for whom the deepest and sincerest sympathy was felt. The deed of the father worked no attainder; his ill fate has not been remembered against his posterity nor his shame made a part of their inheritance.

Manso and Munro were indicted, pleaded guilty, and ere sentenced to the penitentiary. Each served his time, returned to the county, and has ever since conducted himself in an upright, honorable and exemplary manner., winning the respect and esteem of the community.

Following is a copy of the report of the school trustees of Chillicothe made and published in 1860. The little book containing the original in manuscript is in possession of Clayton Keith, Louisiana, Missouri. Judge Wm. C. Samuel and Dr. William Keith were two of the trustees of the public school of Chillicothe in the years 1859, '60, and '61. At Doctor Keith's request his son, Clayton Keith, took the enumeration of the children of school age in the fall of 1860 for the western half of the city and two weeks later in passing Judge Samuel's office he called young Keith in and said, "Clayton, I guess you'll have to take my side of the town, the east half, for George Warder, my stepson, don't seem to have time to do it." "Why he's got as much time as I have, Mr. Samuel, for we are in the same class." "Yes, but he's too busy writing poetry to attend to a little thing like that." So young Keith took the east half of the town and wrote out the report and handed it to Mr. Samuel on the following Saturday for which he was paid a two dollar bill. This was the first money the boy had ever made with his pen. Here is the report:

Annual report of the trustees of district No. I in township 58, range 24 in Livingston county, Missouri, including the City of Chillicothe, Missouri, for the year ending the first day of December, A. D. 1860.

Number of males west of Locust street


Number of females west of Locust street


Total number over ~ and under 20 years of age


Number of males east of Locust street


Number of females east of Locust street


Total Number over 5 and under 20 years of age


Total number over 5 and under 20 years in the city


Number of males in detached district


Number of females in detached district


Total number over 5 and under 20 in detach dist


Total number in the district


Total number of children (between 5 and 20) in township 57, being attached to 58 are


Grand total


Amount of school funds paid


Amount reserved for Miss Temple


Amount reserved for Mr. Loop


Amount reserved for detached district


Amount received


Trustees. WM. KEITH,


CHILLICOTHE, MO., November 25, 1860

Table of Contents

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter