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Muscle Shoals, Alabama Payroll Robbery

March 11, 1881---On this day at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, government paymaster Alexander G. Smith was robbed of the payroll he was transporting by three armed men. The day before, Smith had been sent to the town of Florence, Alabama to collect a large payroll sum that was to be paid to workers who were digging a canal at Muscle Shoals. Upon reaching Florence in the morning of the 11th, Smith collected $4,371 in cash, $500 in gold, and $419.18 in silver from the local bank and headed back towards Muscle Shoals on horseback. Shortly after leaving Florence, three men rode up besides him and asked directions to a local creek. Smith gave them the directions, and the three men thanked him and continued on their way. A short time later, Smith again ran into the same three men a short distance ahead. This time, however, the three men were all aiming their pistols at Smith. The horsemen ordered Smith to throw up his hands, which he did quickly. Two of the robbers then dismounted, one taking Smith's holstered pistol and the cash that was inside his coat pocket, and the other taking the bag containing the gold and silver off of his saddle and putting it on his own. The third robber stayed seated on his horse with a pistol aimed at Smith. The robber that confiscated Smith's pistol found fifty dollars in Smith's pocket and asked if it was his personal money or the government's. Smith replied it was his and the robbers allowed him to keep this money. The robbery done, the two outlaws on the ground remounted their horses. The three robbers then ordered Smith to ride along with them until they were out of the area. That night, the three outlaws divided the stolen money. A short time later, now being several miles away from the actual robbery site, the outlaws allowed Smith to go. The three robbers then rode away. The outlaws were Jesse James and Bill Ryan for sure, and either Wood or Clarence Hite. Frank James had been listed as a suspect and later went to trial for this robbery, but the descriptions of the robbers that Smith later gave proves Frank was not a participant. Two weeks after the robbery, Bill Ryan was arrested in a bar for getting drunk and causing some ruckus. Later, his share of the loot from the robbery was found on him. He soon after went to trial for the robbery, was convicted, and sentenced to several years in prison.


Amount of Money Stolen

Citizens Killed/Wounded