The Defeat of Jesse James Days in Northfield had it's official beginning today with the Joseph Lee Heywood Graveside Memorial Service in Northfield Cemetery.

Heywood was the 39 year old employee of First National Bank who refused to open the vault for the men attempting to rob the bank on September 7, 1876.

He was killed for the decision. Nicolaus Gustafson was also killed and was recognized during the service.

Northfield Chamber of Commerce and Tourism President/CEO Lisa Peterson was joined by Chamber Membership and Special Events Coordinator Jane Bartho on today's KDHL AM Minnesota Program at Professional Pride Realty in Northfield.

Peterson applauded the community for remembering Heywood's spirit of community and said the service keeps the historic event in it's proper perspective. She commented, "Truthfully Northfield would not be what Northfield is today without that sacrifice. It's really amazing."

Peterson says the robbers, "Would have stolen all the money in the bank which would have broken the town and broke the college and he knew that. So he was willing to defend that with his life and he did."

About Gustafson, Peterson stated, "He was an unfortunate bystander that died through the gunfire. Unfortunately he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and it was just a super unfortunate day in our history.  I'm glad that we honor these two men and that we're able to then move forward and celebrate the defeat of the gang.  We're defeating the gang all weekend."

The Northfield Historical Society states Gustafson was a Swedish immigrant who spoke no English.

Professional Pride owner Pete Mergens said he never thought of the perspective that Heywood's sacrifice made Northfield the community it is today, "Certainly the financial ability of the town and it's future, who knows?  Maybe it wouldn't have continued to exist or at least not at this level.  It's a great perspective and something I think the public should be aware of."

Bartho told us Peterson asked her to come to the Graveside Service a few years ago and now she does not miss the event. She says Northfield can be proud of how the community responded to Heywood's sacrifice, "The fact that the town supported his wife and their one daughter.  There was no life insurance policy back then.  She received a Carleton College education."

Heywood was also a bookeeper at Carleton College in Northfield.

You can listen to the AM Minnesota by clicking below.

For all the Defeat of Jesse James Days events go here.

What do you think were the odds that Nicolaus Gustafson (just over 30 years old) would be killed in the street in Northfield?

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