Gad's Hill is noted as the place where Jesse James conducted the first train robbery in Missouri on Jan. 31, 1874. Gads Hill was the high point along the Iron Mountain Railroad between Des Arc and Piedmont. This made it the ideal spot for a hold-up.
For years, a sign has stood along Highway 34 marking the spot near where the robbery occurred. A few years ago, the Piedmont Rotary Club and the Wayne County Historical Society had the sign remade. About three weeks ago, the sign vanished. Someone stole the sign which had been screwed into a frame. All the remains is the frame.
It's a bit ironic.
Five masked men rode into Gads Hill and took control of the town and railroad station in 1874. They threw a switch so that the next train would be shunted to the siding and forced to stop. Then the robbers proceeded to rob the passengers at gunpoint.
The gang handed one of the passengers a pre-written press release so that the newspapers would get their facts straight. Supposedly, it read:
THE MOST DARING
ROBBERY ON RECORD
The south bound train on the Iron Mountain railroad was boarded here this evening by five heavily armed men and robbed of _ dollars. The robbery arrived at the station a few minutes before the arrival of the train and arrested the agent and put him under a guard and then threw the train on the switch.
The robbers were all large men, none of them under six feet tall. They were all masked and started in a southerly direction after they had robbed the express. They were all mounted on fine blooded horses. There's a hell of an excitement in this part of the country.
No one knows who took the Jesse James commemorative sign. Rotary Club members believe it was probably some teenagers who thought the sign would be a neat keepsake to hang in their room. Whoever took the sign was in no hurry. Stealing the sign required a vehicle and a ladder. The thief had to remove screws in several locations in order to remove the large sign. It would have been impossible to carry the sign away on foot or on a motorcycle due to its size.
Jon Kiser and Randy Schuller, members of the Piedmont Rotary Club, said that they would like to see the sign returned. A small reward is being offered.
Jesse James' gang rode northwest, not south, after the hold-up. Not that anybody would expect the gang to broadcast their real destination to the authorities. No one knows which direction the sign bandits headed.
If you have any information about the whereabouts of the sign, contact any member of the Wayne County Historical Society, the Piedmont Rotary Club, or the Wayne County Sheriff's Department.