Posted January 26, 2011
"CONFESSIONS OF THE NINTH MAN"
Always interested in conversion stories, I found a tale by a former member of the Jesse James gang, Bill Stiles, unique and quite interesting. In Confessions of the Ninth Man - The Jesse James Northfield Raid, John Koblas has researched extensively and written about a time when Bill Stiles - supposedly killed in the Northfield, Minnesota 1876 James-Younger bank robbery attempt - planned another robbery in Los Angeles in 1913:
"Sauntering down Main Street, Stiles became frightened when he noticed a police officer walking in his direction. Fearing he was being followed, the outlaw ducked into a service at the Union Rescue Mission, then located at 145 North Main Street. Hoping to shake his pursuer, Stiles took a seat near the front, losing himself in the audience.
"Stiles later recalled: 'I did not hear much of the service, for my mind was upon the work for the next day. I felt a little uneasy, for I had left my suitcase in my room, and in it some of the soup (nitroglycerin), some high explosives, and my guns. I had everything ready and so far my plans had gone smoothly; but as I say, I felt worried, and was just getting up to leave when one of the workers came to me and asked me to give myself up to God.'
"Stiles told the evangelist, Mel Trotter, he did not believe in God because of the horrible lifestyle he had been forced to live. Stiles stood up to walk away and found he had no control over his legs.
"'I do not know what you think,' recalled the outlaw, 'but I know my legs were fastened to the floor by a power not of this earth. I kept trying to get up, when a woman came and sat down beside me, and urged me to go up to the altar. I listened to her pleadings for a time and then consented to go, thinking it would do me no harm anyway. What seemed so strange to me was that I did not have any power to resist. It was not the woman, for I had been a woman-hater since my early life; it was the power of God. As soon as I gave my consent my legs were released, and I went up and knelt at the altar.'
"During the prayers, Stiles began weeping, feeling remorse for the outlaw life he had led. Mother Benton, wife of mission superintendent, Fred Benton, played the piano, all the while 'coaching' the inspired Stiles through his conversion to Christianity."
To find out more about this book and other Jesse James stories, check out the website www.johnkoblas.com or attend an upcoming lecture Thursday, January 27, at the Montgomery Historical Society, Hilltop Hill on First Street, Montgomery, MN.
The book can be ordered through Amazon.com or the John Koblas website.
Quotes with permission of John Koblas.
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