Exploring Iowa's White Pole Road: The crime sites of Jesse James and Bonnie and Clyde

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I traveled the entire distance of Iowa's "White Pole Road". The White Pole Road essentially runs parallel to Interstate 80 between the city of Dexter in Dallas County all the way to the city of Adair in Adair County with the communities of Menlo, Casey, and Stuart, all of Guthrie County, in the middle.

The road has a lot of history. It goes back over a 100 years and to the early days of automobiles. Their website, which is a wealth of information and road trip ideas, does a much better job summarizing it than I. It is, at it's very basic level, a stretch of highway with hundreds of white painted telephone poles.

This byway is an important economic development amenity for this area and these communities as I'm sure it brings people - just like me (and hopefully you!) - to come and go an an adventure. It's been well branded and it's less than a hour drive from the Des Moines metro and a little more than an hour from Omaha or Council Bluffs.

Previously, I profiled Dexter, including stops at The Rusty Duck, Drew's Chocolates, and more. However, there is quite a bit of infamous crime history in this area too, and a trip on the White Pole Road will guide you to three very notorious spots involving some of the most well known criminals in history: Jesse James and Bonnie and Clyde.

Jesse James Moving Train Robbery

Located just south and west of Adair about a mile is the site of the first ever robbery of a moving train in the west. On July 21, 1873, Jesse James and his gang of outlaws thought a train headed from Omaha (and previously Cheyenne, Wyoming) was full of a large shipment of gold and they devised a plan to cause a derailment and run off with the loot. Unfortunately for them, their Intel was flawed and the train did not, in fact, contain the gold. They still managed to cause a derailment which lead to the death of the train engineer and they got their hands on a few thousand dollars. I would highly encourage you to read this account as it summarizes the events of that evening quite nicely.

This is a small park with a little area to park. It's not far from I-80 if you want an unconventional place to stretch the legs. There's a wheel with a plaque, as well as a small stretch of train tracks, and a little information board which has some details on the events that evening as well as other local parks and recreation areas.

I can only imagine how wild it was all of those many years ago. This particular tree, with its deep and knotty roots, impressed me.

Bonnie & Clyde Bank Robbery in Stuart

In Stuart, there is a building in the downtown part of the community that was robbed by the infamous duo of Bonnie and Clyde in 1934. While the building is no longer used as a bank today (it's now a hair salon), they have placed a sign on the outside of the building marking this historic event.

Bonnie & Clyde Shootout Site near Dexter

More than a year before they robbed the bank in Stuart, Bonnie and Clyde and their associates got into a shootout with local authorities and others just north of Dexter. There is now a spot along the Dexfield road that marks this spot and tells a little about the history of what happened. You can click here to read a little bit more about the wild events that happened here. If these trees could talk!

This is the second in a series of posts about the towns and attractions along Iowa's White Pole Road. I was impressed by the quality of these historical marking and enjoyed the visits to the communities, too. Check back to read more.

As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Dallas, Adair, or Guthrie Counties or any of the other 96 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this website.