Jesse James, American outlaw

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Jesse Woodson James

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Kearney, Clay, Missouri, USA
Death: Died in St Joseph, Missouri, USA
Place of Burial: Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kearney, Clay, Missouri, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev. Robert Sallee James; Robert James; Zerelda Elizabeth Cole James Simms Samuel and Zerelda James
Husband of Zerelda James and Zerelda Amanda James
Partner of Maggie Goodteacher
Father of Joseph Jesse Chase; Jesse "Tim" Edwards James, Jr.; Montgomery James; Gould James; Mary Susan Barr and 1 other
Brother of Frank James; Frank James; Joseph "Joe" F. Vaughn (claimed to be Frank James); Robert R. James, Jr.; Susan Lavenia Parmer and 2 others
Half brother of Sarah Louisa Nicholson; John Thomas Samuel; Fanny Quantrill James and Archie Peyton Samuel

Occupation: Outlaw, American Outlaw
Managed by: Michael Legh Waddell
Last Updated:

About Jesse James, American outlaw

Jesse James (Wikipedia)

Jesse James (September 5, 1847 — April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer from the state of Missouri and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. Already a celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death. Some recent scholars place him in the context of regional insurgencies of ex-Confederates following the American Civil War rather than a manifestation of frontier lawlessness or economic justice.

Jesse and his brother Frank James were Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. They were accused of participating in atrocities committed against Union soldiers. After the war, as members of one gang or another, they robbed banks, stagecoaches, and trains. Despite popular portrayals of James as a kind of Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, there is no evidence that he and his gang used their robbery gains for anyone but themselves.

The James brothers were most active with their gang from about 1866 until 1876, when their attempted robbery of a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, resulted in the capture or deaths of several members. They continued in crime for several years, recruiting new members, but were under increasing pressure from law enforcement. On April 3, 1882, Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford, who was a member of the gang living in the James house and who was hoping to collect a state reward on James' head.


Jesse James Farm in Kearney. The original farmhouse is on the left and an addition on the right was expanded after Jesse James died. Across a creek and up a hill on the right was the home of Daniel Askew, where Askew was killed on April 12, 1875. Askew was suspected of cooperating with the Pinkertons in the January 1875 bombing of the house (in a room on the left). James's original grave was on the property but he was later moved to a cemetery in Kearney. The original footstone is still outside, although the family has replaced the headstone.Jesse Woodson James was born in Clay County, Missouri, near the site of present day Kearney, on September 5, 1847. Jesse James had two full siblings: his older brother, Alexander Franklin "Frank", and a younger sister, Susan Lavenia James.

His father, Robert S. James, of Welsh ancestry, was a commercial hemp farmer and Baptist minister in Kentucky, who migrated to Bradford, Missouri after marriage and helped found William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. He was prosperous, acquiring six slaves and more than 100 acres (0.40 km2) of farmland. Robert James travelled to California during the Gold Rush to minister to those searching for gold[3] and died there when Jesse was three years old.

After the death of Robert James, his widow Zerelda remarried twice, first to Benjamin Simms and then in 1855 to Dr. Reuben Samuel, who moved into the James' home. Jesse's mother and Reuben Samuel had four children together: Sarah Louisa, John Thomas, Fannie Quantrell, and Archie Peyton Samuel. Zerelda and Reuben Samuel acquired a total of seven slaves, who served mainly as farmhands in tobacco cultivation in Missouri.

The approach of the American Civil War overshadowed the James-Samuel household. Missouri was a border state, sharing characteristics of both North and South, but 75% of the population was from the South or other border states. Clay County was in a region of Missouri later dubbed "Little Dixie," as it was a center of migration from the Upper South. Farmers raised the same crops and livestock as in the areas they migrated from. They brought slaves with them and purchased more according to need. The county had more slaveholders, who held more slaves, than in other regions. Aside from slavery, the culture of Little Dixie was Southern in other ways as well. This influenced how the population acted during and after the American Civil War. In Missouri as a whole, slaves accounted for only 10 percent of the population, but in Clay County they constituted 25 percent.

After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, Clay County became the scene of great turmoil, as the question of whether slavery would be expanded into the neighboring Kansas Territory came to dominate public life. Numerous people from Missouri migrated to Kansas to try to influence its future. Much of the tension that led up to the Civil War centered on the violence that erupted in Kansas between pro- and anti-slavery militias.

Civil War

The Civil War ripped Missouri society apart and shaped the life of Jesse James. After a series of campaigns and battles between conventional armies in 1861, guerrilla warfare gripped the state, waged between secessionist "bushwhackers" and Union forces, which largely consisted of local militia organizations ("jayhawkers"). A bitter conflict ensued, bringing an escalating cycle of atrocities by both sides. Guerrillas murdered civilian Unionists, executed prisoners and scalped the dead. Union forces enforced martial law with raids on homes, arrests of civilians, summary executions and banishment of Confederate sympathizers from the state.

The James-Samuel family took the Confederate side at the outset of the war. Frank James joined a local company recruited for the secessionist Drew Lobbs Army, and fought at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, though he fell ill and returned home soon afterward. In 1863, he was identified as a member of a guerrilla squad that operated in Clay County. In May of that year, a Union militia company raided the James-Samuel farm, looking for Frank's group. They tortured Reuben Samuel by briefly hanging him from a tree. According to legend, they lashed young Jesse.[3] Frank eluded capture and is believed to have joined the guerrilla organization led by William C. Quantrill. It is thought that he took part in the notorious massacre of some 200 men and boys in Lawrence, Kansas, a center of abolitionists.

Frank James followed Quantrill to Texas over the winter of 1863–4. In the spring he returned in a squad commanded by Fletch Taylor. After they arrived in Clay County, 16-year-old Jesse James joined his brother in Taylor's group.[3] In the summer of 1864, Taylor was severely wounded, losing his right arm to a shotgun blast. The James brothers joined the bushwhacker group led by Bloody Bill Anderson. Jesse suffered a serious wound to the chest that summer. The Clay County provost marshal reported that both Frank and Jesse James took part in the Centralia Massacre in September, in which guerrillas killed or wounded some 22 unarmed Union troops; the guerrillas scalped and dismembered some of the dead. The guerrillas ambushed and defeated a pursuing regiment of Major A.V.E. Johnson's Union troops, killing all who tried to surrender (more than 100). Frank later identified Jesse as a member of the band who had fatally shot Major Johnson.[12] As a result of the James brothers' activities, the Union military authorities made their family leave Clay County. Though ordered to move South beyond Union lines, instead they moved across the nearby state border into Nebraska.

After Anderson was killed in an ambush in October, the James brothers separated. Frank followed Quantrill into Kentucky; Jesse went to Texas under the command of Archie Clement, one of Anderson's lieutenants. He is known to have returned to Missouri in the spring.[12] Jesse was shot while trying to surrender when they ran into a Union cavalry patrol near Lexington, Missouri. Jesse James suffered the second of two life-threatening chest wounds.

After the Civil War

At the end of the Civil War, Missouri was in shambles. The conflict split the population into three bitterly opposed factions: anti-slavery Unionists, identified with the Republican Party; the segregationist conservative Unionists, identified with the Democratic Party; and pro-slavery, ex-Confederate secessionists, many of whom were also allied with the Democrats, especially the southern part of the party. The Republican Reconstruction administration passed a new state constitution that freed Missouri's slaves. It temporarily excluded former Confederates from voting, serving on juries, becoming corporate officers, or preaching from church pulpits. The atmosphere was volatile, with widespread clashes between individuals, and between armed gangs of veterans from both sides of the war.

Jesse recovered from his chest wound at his uncle's Missouri boardinghouse, where he was tended to by his first cousin, Zerelda "Zee" Mimms, named after Jesse's mother.[12] Jesse and his cousin began a nine-year courtship, culminating in marriage. Meanwhile, his old commander Archie Clement kept his bushwhacker gang together and began to harass Republican authorities.

These men were the likely culprits in the first daylight armed bank robbery in the United States in peacetime,[18] the robbery of the Clay County Savings Association in the town of Liberty, Missouri, on February 13, 1866. This bank was owned by Republican former militia officers who had recently conducted the first Republican Party rally in Clay County's history. One innocent bystander, a student of William Jewell College (which James's father had helped to found), was shot dead on the street during the gang's escape.[19] It remains unclear whether Jesse and Frank took part. After their later robberies took place and they became legends, there were those who credited them with being the leaders of the Clay County robbery.[ It has been argued in rebuttal that James was at the time still bedridden with his wound. No concrete evidence has surfaced to connect either brother to the crime, or to rule them out.[20]

This was a time of increasing local violence; Governor Fletcher had recently ordered a company of militia into Johnson County to suppress guerrilla activity.[21] Archie Clement continued his career of crime and harassment of the Republican government, to the extent of occupying the town of Lexington, Missouri, on election day in 1866. Shortly afterward, the state militia shot Clement dead, an event James wrote about with bitterness a decade later.[19][20]

The survivors of Clement's gang continued to conduct bank robberies over the next two years, though their numbers dwindled through arrests, gunfights, and lynchings. While they later tried to justify robbing the banks, these were small, local banks with local capital, not part of the national system that was an object of popular discontent in the 1860s and 1870s.[22] On May 23, 1867, for example, they robbed a bank in Richmond, Missouri, in which they killed the mayor and two others.[12][23] It remains uncertain whether either of the James brothers took part, although an eyewitness who knew the brothers told a newspaper seven years later "positively and emphatically that he recognized Jesse and Frank James ... among the robbers."[24] In 1868, Frank and Jesse James allegedly joined Cole Younger in robbing a bank at Russellville, Kentucky.

Jesse James did not become famous, however, until December 1869, when he and (most likely) Frank robbed the Daviess County Savings Association in Gallatin, Missouri. The robbery netted little money, but it appears that Jesse shot and killed the cashier, Captain John Sheets, mistakenly believing him to be Samuel P. Cox, the militia officer who had killed "Bloody Bill" Anderson during the Civil War. James's self-proclaimed attempt at revenge, and the daring escape he and Frank made through the middle of a posse shortly afterward, put his name in the newspapers for the first time.[25][26][27] An 1882 history of Daviess County said, "The history of Daviess County has no blacker crime in its pages than the murder of John W. Sheets."[28]

The 1869 robbery marked the emergence of Jesse James as the most famous of the former guerrillas turned outlaw. It marked the first time he was publicly labeled an "outlaw," as Missouri Governor Thomas T. Crittenden set a reward for his capture.[28] This was the beginning of an alliance between James and John Newman Edwards, editor and founder of the Kansas City Times. Edwards, a former Confederate cavalryman, was campaigning to return former secessionists to power in Missouri. Six months after the Gallatin robbery, Edwards published the first of many letters from Jesse James to the republic, asserting his innocence. Over time, the letters gradually became more political in tone, denouncing the Republicans and voicing James' pride in his Confederate loyalties. Together with Edwards's admiring editorials, the letters turned James into a symbol of Confederate defiance of Reconstruction. Jesse James's initiative in creating his rising public profile is debated by historians and biographers, though the tense politics certainly surrounded his outlaw career and enhanced his notoriety.[27][29]

Meanwhile, the James brothers joined with Cole Younger and his brothers John, Jim, and Bob as well as Clell Miller and other former Confederates to form what came to be known as the James-Younger Gang. With Jesse James as the public face of the gang (though with operational leadership likely shared among the group), the gang carried out a string of robberies from Iowa to Texas, and from Kansas to West Virginia. They robbed banks, stagecoaches, and a fair in Kansas City, often in front of large crowds, even hamming it up for the bystanders.

On July 21, 1873, they turned to train robbery, derailing the Rock Island train in Adair, Iowa and stealing approximately $3,000 ($51,000 in 2007). For this, they wore Ku Klux Klan masks, deliberately taking on a potent symbol years after the Klan had been suppressed in the South by President Grant's use of the Force Acts. Former rebels attacked the railroads as symbols of threatening centralization.[30] The James' gang's later train robberies had a lighter touch. In fact, in only two train hold-ups did they rob passengers, because James typically limited himself to the express safe in the baggage car. Such techniques reinforced the Robin Hood image that Edwards created in his newspapers, but the James gang never shared any of the robbery money outside their circle.[29]

Pinkertons

The Adams Express Company turned to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1874 to stop the James-Younger Gang. The Chicago-based agency worked primarily against urban professional criminals, as well as providing industrial security, such as strike breaking. Because the James-Younger gang received support by many former Confederate soldiers in Missouri, they eluded the Pinkertons. Joseph Whicher, an agent dispatched to infiltrate Zerelda Samuel's farm, shortly afterwards was found killed. Two others, Louis J. Lull and John Boyle, were sent after the Youngers; Lull was killed by two of the Youngers in a roadside gunfight on March 17, 1874, fatally shooting John Younger before he died. A deputy sheriff named Edwin Daniels was also killed in the skirmish.[31][32]

Allan Pinkerton, the agency's founder and leader, took on the case as a personal vendetta. He began to work with former Unionists who lived near the James family farm. On the night of January 25, 1875, he staged a raid on the homestead. Detectives threw an incendiary device into the house; it exploded, killing James's young half-brother Archie (named for Archie Clement) and blowing off one of the arms of mother Zerelda Samuel. Afterward, Pinkerton denied that the raid's intent was arson. But biographer Ted Yeatman located a letter by Pinkerton in the Library of Congress in which Pinkerton declared his intention to "burn the house down."[33][34]

The raid on the family home outraged many, and did more than all of Edwards's columns to create sympathy for Jesse James. The Missouri state legislature only narrowly defeated a bill that praised the James and Younger brothers and offered them amnesty. Allowed to vote and hold office again, former Confederates voted to limit reward offers that the governor could make for fugitives. This extended a measure of protection over the James-Younger gang. (Only Frank and Jesse James previously had been singled out for rewards larger than the new limit.)[35][36]

Downfall of the gang

Jesse and his cousin Zee married on April 24, 1874, and had two children who survived to adulthood: Jesse Edward James (b. 1875) and Mary Susan James (b. 1879). Twins Gould and Montgomery James (b. 1878) died in infancy. Jesse, Jr. became a lawyer and made a career as a respected member of the bar in Kansas City, Missouri.[citation needed]

On September 7, 1876, the James-Younger gang attempted a raid on the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. After this robbery and a manhunt, only Frank and Jesse James were left alive and uncaptured.[37] Cole and Bob Younger later stated that they selected the bank because they believed it was associated with the Republican politician Adelbert Ames, the governor of Mississippi during Reconstruction, and Union general Benjamin Butler, Ames' father-in-law and the Union commander of occupied New Orleans. Ames was a stockholder in the bank, but Butler had no direct connection to it.[38]

To carry out the robbery, the gang divided into two groups. Three men entered the bank, two guarded the door outside, and three remained near a bridge across an adjacent square. The robbers inside the bank were thwarted when acting cashier Joseph Lee Heywood refused to open the safe, falsely claiming that it was secured by a time lock even as they held a bowie knife to his throat and cracked his skull with a pistol butt. Assistant cashier Alonzo Enos Bunker was wounded in the shoulder as he fled out the back door of the bank. Meanwhile, the citizens of Northfield grew suspicious of the men guarding the door and raised the alarm. The five bandits outside fired in the air to clear the streets, which drove the townspeople to take cover and fire back from protected positions. Two bandits were shot dead and the rest were wounded in the barrage. Inside, the outlaws turned to flee. As they left, one shot the unarmed cashier Heywood in the head. Historians have speculated about the identity of the shooter but have not reached consensus on his identity.

The gang barely escaped Northfield, leaving two dead companions behind. They killed two innocent victims, Heywood, and Nicholas Gustafson, a Swedish immigrant from the Millersburg community west of Northfield. A massive manhunt ensued. The James brothers eventually split from the others and escaped to Missouri. The militia soon discovered the Youngers and one other bandit, Charlie Pitts. In a gunfight, Pitts died and the Youngers were taken prisoner. Except for Frank and Jesse James, the James-Younger Gang was destroyed.[39][40]

Later in 1876, Jesse and Frank James surfaced in the Nashville, Tennessee area, where they went by the names of Thomas Howard and B. J. Woodson, respectively. Frank seemed to settle down, but Jesse remained restless. He recruited a new gang in 1879 and returned to crime, holding up a train at Glendale, Missouri (now part of Independence, Missouri),[41] on October 8, 1879. The robbery was the first of a spree of crimes, including the holdup of the federal paymaster of a canal project in Killen, Alabama, and two more train robberies. But the new gang did not consist of battle-hardened guerrillas; they soon turned against each other or were captured, while James grew paranoid, killing one gang member and frightening away another.

With authorities growing suspicious, by 1881 the brothers returned to Missouri where they felt safer. In December, Jesse rented a house in Saint Joseph, Missouri, not far from where he had been born and raised. Frank, however, decided to move to safer territory, heading east to Virginia.

Death

With his gang nearly annihilated, James trusted only the Ford brothers, Charley and Robert.[44] Although Charley had been out on raids with James, Bob was an eager new recruit. For protection, James asked the Ford brothers to move in with him and his family. James had often stayed with their sister Martha Bolton and, according to rumor, he was "smitten" with her.[2] James did not know that Bob Ford had been conducting secret negotiations with Thomas T. Crittenden, the Missouri governor, to bring in the famous outlaw.[44] Crittenden had made capture of the James brothers his top priority; in his inaugural address he declared that no political motives could be allowed to keep them from justice. Barred by law from offering a sufficiently large reward, he had turned to the railroad and express corporations to put up a $5,000 bounty for each of them.[2]

On April 3, 1882, after eating breakfast, the Fords and James prepared to depart for another robbery. They went in and out of the house to ready the horses. As it was an unusually hot day, James removed his coat, then declared that he should remove his firearms as well, lest he look suspicious. Noticing a dusty picture on the wall, he stood on a chair to clean it. Bob Ford shot James in the back of the head.[45][46][47] James' two previous bullet wounds and partially missing middle finger served to positively identify the body.[12]

The murder of Jesse James was a national sensation. The Fords made no attempt to hide their role. Indeed, Robert Ford wired the governor to claim his reward. Crowds pressed into the little house in St. Joseph to see the dead bandit, even while the Ford brothers surrendered to the authorities but they were dismayed to find that they were charged with first degree murder. In the course of a single day, the Ford brothers were indicted, pleaded guilty, were sentenced to death by hanging, and two hours later were granted a full pardon by Governor Crittenden.[48]

The governor's quick pardon suggested that he knew that the brothers intended to kill James rather than capture him.[citation needed] Like many who knew James, the Ford brothers never believed it was practical to try to take him into custody.[citation needed] The implication that the chief executive of Missouri conspired to kill a private citizen startled the public and added to James' notoriety.[49][50][51]

After receiving a small portion of the reward, the Fords fled Missouri. Law enforcement officials active in the plan also shared the bounty. Later the Ford brothers starred in a touring stage show in which they reenacted the shooting.

Suffering from tuberculosis (then incurable) and a morphine addiction, Charley Ford committed suicide on May 6, 1884, in Richmond, Missouri. Bob Ford operated a tent saloon in Creede, Colorado. On June 8, 1892, a man named Edward O'Kelley, went to Creede on a personal vendetta with avenging James. He loaded a double barrel shotgun, entered Ford's saloon and said "Hello Bob" before shooting Bob Ford in the throat, killing him instantly. O'Kelley was sentenced to life in prison. O'Kelley's sentence was subsequently commuted because of a 7,000 signature petition in favor of his release. The governor pardoned him on October 3, 1902.[54]

James' mother Zerelda Samuel wrote the following epitaph for him: In Loving Memory of my Beloved Son, Murdered by a Traitor and Coward Whose Name is not Worthy to Appear Here.[44] James's widow Zee died alone and in poverty.

Rumors of survival

Rumors of Jesse James's survival proliferated almost as soon as the newspapers announced his death. Some said that Robert Ford killed someone other than James, in an elaborate plot to allow him to escape justice. These tales have received little credence, then or later. None of James's biographers has accepted them as plausible. The body buried in Kearney, Missouri, as Jesse James's was exhumed in 1995 and subjected to mitochondrial DNA typing. The report, prepared by Anne C. Stone, Ph.D., James E. Starrs, L.L.M., and Mark Stoneking, Ph.D., stated the mtDNA recovered from the remains was consistent with the mtDNA of one of James's relatives in the female line.[55] This theme resurfaced in a 2009 documentary, Jesse James' Hidden Treasure, which aired on the History Channel. The documentary was dismissed as pseudo-history and pseudo-science by historian Nancy Samuelson in a review she wrote for Winter, 2009-2010 edition of The James-Younger Gang Journal.[56]

One prominent claimant was J. Frank Dalton, who died August 15, 1951, in Granbury, Texas. Dalton was allegedly 101 years old at the time of his first public appearance, in May 1948. His story did not hold up to questioning from James's surviving relatives.[57]

Legacy and controversies

Further information: Social bandits and Robin Hood

James's turn to crime after the end of Reconstruction era helped cement his place in American life and memory as a simple but remarkably effective bandit. After 1873 he was covered by the national media as part of social banditry.[58] During his lifetime, James was celebrated chiefly by former Confederates, to whom he appealed directly in his letters to the press. Displaced by Reconstruction, the antebellum political leadership mythologized the James Gang exploits. Frank Triplett wrote about James as a "progressive neo-aristocrat" with purity of race.[59] Indeed, some historians credit James' myth as contributing to the rise of former Confederates to dominance in Missouri politics[citation needed] (in the 1880s, for example, both U.S. Senators from the state, Confederate military commander Francis Cockrell and Confederate Congressman George Graham Vest, were identified with the Confederate cause).

In the 1880s, after James' death, the James Gang became the subject of dime novels that represented the bandits as pre-industrial models of resistance.[59] During the Populist and Progressive eras, James became a symbol as America's Robin Hood, standing up against corporations in defense of the small farmer, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor while there is no evidence that his robberies enriched anyone other than his gang and himself,[2] though they attacked small banks that benefited local farmers.

In portrayals of the 1950s, James was pictured as a psychologically troubled individual rather than a social rebel. Some filmmakers portrayed the former outlaw as a revenger, replacing "social with exclusively personal motives."[60]

Jesse James remains a controversial symbol, one who can always be interpreted in various ways, according to cultural tensions and needs. Although some of the neo-Confederate movement regard him as a hero[49][61][62] renewed cultural battles over the place of the Civil War in American history have replaced the long-standing interpretation of James as a Western frontier hero. Some point to his absolute commitment to slavery and his vow after the Civil War to shoot any black in Missouri not fulfilling the role of a slave.

While his "heroic outlaw" image is still commonly portrayed in films, as well as in songs and folklore, recent historians place him as a self-aware vigilante and terrorist who used local tensions to create his own myth among the widespread insurgent guerrillas and vigilantes following the American Civil War.[1]

Museums

Some museums and sites devoted to Jesse James:

James Farm in Kearney, Missouri: In 1974 Clay County, Missouri, bought it. The county operates the site as a house museum and historic site.[63]

Jesse James Home Museum: The house where Jesse James was killed in south St. Joseph was moved in 1939 to the Belt Highway on St. Joseph's east side to attract tourists. In 1977 it was moved to its current location, near Patee House, which was the headquarters of the Pony Express. The house is now owned and operated by the Pony Express Historical Association.[64]

First National Bank of Northfield: The Northfield Historical Society in Northfield, Minnesota, has restored the building that housed the First National Bank, the scene of the 1876 raid.[65]

Heaton Bowman Funeral Home, 36th Street and Frederick Avenue, St. Joseph, Missouri. The funeral home's predecessor conducted the original autopsy and funeral for Jesse James. A room in the back holds the log book and other documentation.

The Jesse James Tavern is in his father's birthplace in Asdee, County Kerry, Ireland, from where his father immigrated to the US in the 1840s as a young man.[66] The parish priest, Canon William Ferris, says a solemn requiem mass for Jesse James every year on April 3.

Cultural depictions

Festivals

The Defeat of Jesse James Days in Northfield, Minnesota, is among the largest outdoor celebrations in the state and is held annually in September during the weekend after Labor Day. Thousands of visitors watch reenactments of the robbery, a championship rodeo, a carnival, performances of a 19th-century style melodrama musical, and a parade during the five-day event.[67]

Jesse James' boyhood home in Kearney, Missouri, is a museum dedicated to the town's most famous resident. Each year a recreational fair, the Jesse James Festival, is held during the third weekend in September.[68]

During the annual Labor Day weekend Victorian Festival[69] at the 1866 Col. William H. Fulkerson estate Hazel Dell in Jersey County, Illinois, Jesse James' history is told in stories and by reenactments of stagecoach holdups. Over the three-day event, thousands of spectators learn of the documented James Gang's stopping point at Hazel Dell and of their connection with ex-Confederate Fulkerson.

Russellville, Kentucky, the site of the robbery of the Southern Bank in 1868, holds the Jesse James International Arts and Film Festival. The JJIAFF completed its second annual event in April 2008 and the third annual is planned for April 25, 2009. The festival has featured a bluegrass band from San Francisco and experimental bands from southern Kentucky as well as painters, sculptors, photographers, and comic artists. Children's activities are a mainstay of the festival. A highlight for adults is the film festival held at the Logan County Public Library in Russellville. Past entrants have included films from Norway and northwestern Kentucky, modern silent film projects, nature studies, and fan films.

In addition, the annual Tobacco and Heritage Festival in Russellville features a reenactment of the James-Younger Gang's robbery of the Southern Bank. Today used as a residence, the historic structure on South Main Street has been preserved by the town and county.

The small town of Oak Grove, Louisiana, also hosts a town-wide annual Jesse James Trade Days, usually in the early to mid fall. This is a reference to a short time James supposedly spent near this area.

Literature

Jesse James is often used as a fictional character in many Western novels, including some that were published while he was alive. For instance, in Willa Cather's My Antonia, the narrator reads a book entitled 'Life of Jesse James' - probably a dime novel.

In Charles Portis's 1968 novel, True Grit, the U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn describes fighting with Cole Younger and Frank James for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Long after his adventure with Mattie Ross, Cogburn ends his days in a traveling road show with the aged Cole Younger and Frank James.

During his travel to the "Wilde West," Oscar Wilde visited Jesse James' hometown in Missouri. Learning that James had been assassinated by his own gang member, "...an event that sent the town into mourning and scrambling to buy Jesse's artifacts," "romantic appeal of the social outcast" in his mind, Wilde wrote in one of his letters to home that: "Americans are certainly great hero-worshippers, and always take [their] heroes from the criminal classes."[70]

Comics

In 1969, artist Morris and writer René Goscinny (co-creator of Asterix) had Lucky Luke confronting Jesse James, his brother Frank, and Cole Younger. The adventure poked fun at the image of Jesse as a new Robin Hood. Although he passes himself off as such and does indeed steal from the rich (who are, logically, the only ones worth stealing from), he and his gang take turns being "poor," thus keeping the loot for themselves. Frank quotes from Shakespeare, and Younger is portrayed as a fun-loving joker, full of good humor. One critic has likened this version of the James brothers as "intellectuals bandits, who won't stop theorising their outlaw activities and hear themselves talk."[71] In the end, the at-first-cowed people of a town fight back against the James gang and send them packing in tar and feathers.

Music

In his adaptation of the traditional song "Jesse James," Woody Guthrie magnified James's hero status. "Jesse James" was later covered by the Anglo-Irish band The Pogues on their 1985 album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, and by Bruce Springsteen on his 2006 tribute to Pete Seeger, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.

A somewhat different song titled "Jesse James," referring to Jesse's "wife to mourn for his life; three children, they were brave," and calling Robert Ford "the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard," was also the first track recorded by the "Stewart Years" version of the Kingston Trio at their initial recording session in 1961 (and included on that year's release Close-Up).

Echoing the Confederate hero aspect, Hank Williams, Jr.'s 1983 Southern anthem "Whole Lot Of Hank" has the lyrics "Frank and Jesse James knowed how to rob them trains, they always took it from the rich and gave it to the poor, they might have had a bad name but they sure had a heart of gold."

Rock band James Gang was named after Jesse James's gang. Their final album, released in 1976, was titled Jesse Come Home.

Warren Zevon's 1976 self-titled album Warren Zevon includes the song "Frank and Jesse James," a romantic tribute to the James Gang's exploits, expressing much sympathy with their "cause." Its lyrics encapsulate the many legends that grew up around the life and death of Jesse James. The album contains a second reference to Jesse James in the song "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" with the lyric "Well, I met a girl in West Hollywood, I ain't naming names. She really worked me over good, she was just like Jesse James." Linda Ronstadt covered the song a year later with slightly altered lyrics.

In her album Heart of Stone (1989), Cher included a song titled "Just Like Jesse James," written by Diane Warren. This single, which was released in 1990, achieved high positions in the charts and sold 1,500,000 copies worldwide.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's album Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy features the song "Jesse James," ostensibly recorded on a wire recorder.

Jon Chandler has also written a song about Jesse and Frank James entitled "He Was No Hero," written from the perspective of Joe Hayward's widow cursing Bob Ford for cheating her out of killing Jesse James.

Around 1980 a concept album titled The Legend of Jesse James was released. It was written by Paul Kennerley and starred Levon Helm (The Band) as Jesse James, Johnny Cash as Frank James, Emmylou Harris as Zee James, Charlie Daniels as Cole Younger, and Albert Lee as Jim Younger. There are also appearances by Rodney Crowell, Jody Payne, and Roseanne Cash. The album highlights Jesse's life from 1863 to his death in 1882. In 1999 a double CD was released containing The Legend Of Jesse James and White Mansions, another concept album by Kennerley about life in the Confederate States of America between 1861-1865.

Films

There have been numerous portrayals of Jesse James in film and television,[72] including two wherein Jesse James, Jr. depicts his father. In many of the films, James is portrayed as a Robin Hood-like character.[73]

1921: Jesse James Under the Black Flag, played by Jesse James, Jr.

1921: Jesse James as the Outlaw, played by Jesse James, Jr.

1927: Jesse James, played by Fred Thomson

1939: Jesse James, played by Tyrone Power with Henry Fonda as Frank James and John Carradine as Bob Ford

1939: Days of Jesse James, played by Don 'Red' Barry

1941: Jesse James at Bay, played by Roy Rogers

1947: Jesse James Rides Again, played by Clayton Moore

1949: I Shot Jesse James, played by Reed Hadley

1950: Kansas Raiders, played by Audie Murphy

1951: The Great Missouri Raid, played by Macdonald Carey

1957: True Story of Jesse James, played by Robert Wagner

1959: Alias Jesse James, played by Wendell Corey in a comedy starring Bob Hope

1960: Young Jesse James, played by Ray Stricklyn

1965: The Legend of Jesse James, TV series starred by Allen Case

1966: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, played by John Lupton

1969: A Time for Dying, played by Audie Murphy

1972: The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, played by Robert Duvall

1980: The Long Riders, played by James Keach

1986: The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James, played by Kris Kristofferson with Johnny Cash as Frank James and Willie Nelson as Gen. Jo Shelby

1994: Frank and Jesse, played by Rob Lowe

1999: Purgatory, played by J.D. Souther

2001: American Outlaws, played by Colin Farrell

2005: Just like Jesse James is the title of a movie that appears in Wim Wenders' Don't Come Knocking, in which Sam Shepard plays an aging western movie star whose first success was with that movie.

2005: Jesse James: Legend, Outlaw, Terrorist (Discovery HD), played by Daniel Lennox

2007: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, played by Brad Pitt, with Casey Affleck as Bob Ford[73]

Television

The actor Lee Van Cleef played Jesse James in a 1954 episode of Jim Davis's syndicated television series, Stories of the Century, the first western series to win an Emmy Award.

The ABC series The Legend of Jesse James aired during the 1965-1966 television season, with Christopher Jones as Jesse, Allen Case as Frank James, Ann Doran as Zerelda Cole James Samuel, Robert J. Wilke as Marshal Sam Corbett, and John Milford as Cole Younger.

In the episode of Little House on the Prairie titled "The Aftermath" (aired November 7, 1977), Jesse (Dennis Rucker) and Frank James (John Bennett Perry) took refuge in Walnut Grove after a failed robbery attempt.

In the American Western series The Young Riders (1989–1992), Jesse James is portrayed by the late actor Christopher Pettiet. He appeared in 17 episodes as a Pony Express rider.

An episode of Deadliest Warrior on "Spike TV" features the Jesse James gang vs. the Al Capone gang. The main weapons used by Jesse James was the Colt .45, the Pistol Whip, the Winchester rifle, and the Bowie Knife. The Jesse James gang came out victorious in the simulated match.

In Episode 33 of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction in a segment titled "Mysterious Strangers," a story is told about two men in 1870 who take refuge on a rainy night in an old widow's house. While there they find out that she is about to lose her home to foreclosure. The strangers disappear in the night, leaving her $900 to give to the banker. The strangers, at the end of the story, turn out to be Frank and Jesse James. Beyond Belief purports that the story is documented and true.

Secondary sources say he lived under the alias of John Davis HOWARD, but the 1880 census shows him living under the name of George Davis HOWARD.

Jesse was buried in the front yard of the James farm and his mother Zerelda allowed tourists to view the grave of her son for 25 cents and sold rocks from his grave. Legend has it that when the rock supply ran low, she simply restocked from the river.

 

Shortly after his death, the inscription on Jesse's monument near the Kearney Baptist Church read:

In Loving Remembrance of My Beloved Son

Jesse James

Died April 3, 1882

AGED 34 YEARS, 6 MONTHS, 28 DAYS

MURDERED BY A TRAITOR AND COWARD WHOSE

NAME IS NOT WORTHY TO APPEAR HERE

---

The celebrated Jesse W. James

Taken at last

HIS CAPTOR, A YOUNG WOMAN.

ACCOMPLISHED, AND BEAUTIFUL.

(Special correspondence to the St. Louis Dispatch.)

Sherman, Texas, June 5, 1874.

Not many days ago I saw the celebrated Jesse W. James in the city of Galveston, talked with him, was introduced to his wife, and recognized in her an old acquaintance of Jackson county---a lady whom I had known both before and since the war, and one who had been of immense service to the Southern guerillas when they were operating upon the border in 1863 and 1868.

I had a long talk with Jesse. He had been waiting for a vessel bound for Mexico, when it was his intention to go with his wife to Vera Cruz, and from there into the interior and take him a farm. Frank was with him and they appeared to have many friends and acquaintances in Galveston.

Jesse gave me some interesting items regarding his marriage, and told me that it was his intention to keep the matter a secret as long as he could, but that before he left home the event had been talked of much, both in Kansas City and Clay county, and so now that as he was going to leave the country in a few days, he would give all the particulars concerning it. Jesse's statements to me were about these:

"On the 23rd day of April, 1874, I was married to Miss Zee Mimms, of Kansas City, and at the house of a friend there. About fifty of our mutual friends were present on the occasion, and quite a noted Methodist minister performed the ceremonies. We had been engaged nine years, and through good and evil report and notwithstanding the lies that have been told upon me, and the criminal law at my door, her devotion to me has never wavered for a moment. You can say that both of us married for love, and that there cannot be any sort of doubt about our marriage being a happy one."

This is about the substance of the talk I had with Jesse. His wife is a young lady of about twenty-two with an elegant form, beautiful eyes, and a face that would be attractive in any assembly. When Jesse James was so badly wounded in 1864, in a fight with some Wisconsin cavalrymen, she nursed him uninterruptedly in the brush for nine weeks, and until he could be removed to a house. She is also a true and consistent Christian, and a member of the M. E. Church, South. She is a sister of the Hon. Judge Mimms, of Helena, Montana Territory and a niece of Mr. J. H. West, a most respectable and prosperous merchant of Kansas City. The whole courtship, engagement and final marriage has been a most romantic series of events, and someday I may write them up for you. By this time the parties have left the country. Jesse, however, declared it to be his full intention to return and take his trial when he thought he could get a trial rather than at the hands of a mob. RANGER. -------------------- Jesse James (September 5, 1847 – April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer from the state of Missouri and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. Already a celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death. Some recent scholars place him in the context of regional insurgencies of ex-Confederates following the American Civil War rather than a manifestation of frontier lawlessness or alleged economic justice.

Jesse and his brother Frank James were Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. They were accused of participating in atrocities committed against Union soldiers. After the war, as members of one gang or another, they robbed banks, stagecoaches, and trains. Despite popular portrayals of James as a kind of Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, there is no evidence that he and his gang used their robbery gains for anyone but themselves.

The James brothers were most active with their gang from about 1866 until 1876, when their attempted robbery of a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, resulted in the capture or deaths of several members. They continued in crime for several years, recruiting new members, but were under increasing pressure from law enforcement. On April 3, 1882, Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford, who was a member of the gang living in the James house and who was hoping to collect a state reward on James' head.


Jesse James Farm in Kearney. The original farmhouse is on the left and an addition on the right was expanded after Jesse James died. Across a creek and up a hill on the right was the home of Daniel Askew, where Askew was killed on April 12, 1875. Askew was suspected of cooperating with the Pinkertons in the January 1875 bombing of the house (in a room on the left). James's original grave was on the property but he was later moved to a cemetery in Kearney. The original footstone is still outside, although the family has replaced the headstone.Jesse Woodson James was born in Clay County, Missouri, near the site of present day Kearney, on September 5, 1847. Jesse James had two full siblings: his older brother, Alexander Franklin "Frank", and a younger sister, Susan Lavenia James.

His father, Robert S. James, of Welsh ancestry, was a commercial hemp farmer and Baptist minister in Kentucky, who migrated to Bradford, Missouri after marriage and helped found William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. He was prosperous, acquiring six slaves and more than 100 acres (0.40 km2) of farmland. Robert James travelled to California during the Gold Rush to minister to those searching for gold and died there when Jesse was three years old.

After the death of Robert James, his widow Zerelda remarried twice, first to Benjamin Simms and then in 1855 to Dr. Reuben Samuel, who moved into the James' home. Jesse's mother and Reuben Samuel had four children together: Sarah Louisa, John Thomas, Fannie Quantrell, and Archie Peyton Samuel. Zerelda and Reuben Samuel acquired a total of seven slaves, who served mainly as farmhands in tobacco cultivation in Missouri.

The approach of the American Civil War overshadowed the James-Samuel household. Missouri was a border state, sharing characteristics of both North and South, but 75% of the population was from the South or other border states.[3] Clay County was in a region of Missouri later dubbed "Little Dixie," as it was a center of migration from the Upper South. Farmers raised the same crops and livestock as in the areas they migrated from. They brought slaves with them and purchased more according to need. The county had more slaveholders, who held more slaves, than in other regions. Aside from slavery, the culture of Little Dixie was Southern in other ways as well. This influenced how the population acted during and after the American Civil War. In Missouri as a whole, slaves accounted for only 10 percent of the population, but in Clay County they constituted 25 percent.

After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, Clay County became the scene of great turmoil, as the question of whether slavery would be expanded into the neighboring Kansas Territory came to dominate public life. Numerous people from Missouri migrated to Kansas to try to influence its future. Much of the tension that led up to the Civil War centered on the violence that erupted in Kansas between pro- and anti-slavery militias.

The Civil War may have shaped the life of Jesse James. After a series of campaigns and battles between conventional armies in 1861, guerrilla warfare gripped the state, waged between secessionist "bushwhackers" and Union forces which largely consisted of local militia organizations ("jayhawkers"). A bitter conflict ensued, bringing an escalating cycle of atrocities by both sides. Guerrillas murdered civilian Unionists, executed prisoners and scalped the dead. Union forces enforced martial law with raids on homes, arrests of civilians, summary executions and banishment of Confederate sympathizers from the state.

The James-Samuel family took the Confederate side at the outset of the war. Frank James joined a local company recruited for the secessionist Drew Lobbs Army, and fought at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, though he fell ill and returned home soon afterward. In 1863, he was identified as a member of a guerrilla squad that operated in Clay County. In May of that year, a Union militia company raided the James-Samuel farm, looking for Frank's group. They tortured Reuben Samuel by briefly hanging him from a tree. According to legend, they lashed young Jesse. Frank eluded capture and is believed to have joined the guerrilla organization led by William C. Quantrill. It is thought that he took part in the notorious massacre of some 200 men and boys in Lawrence, Kansas, a center of abolitionists.

Frank James followed Quantrill to Texas over the winter of 1863–4. In the spring he returned in a squad commanded by Fletch Taylor. After they arrived in Clay County, 16-year-old Jesse James joined his brother in Taylor's group.[3] In the summer of 1864, Taylor was severely wounded, losing his right arm to a shotgun blast. The James brothers joined the bushwhacker group led by Bloody Bill Anderson. Jesse suffered a serious wound to the chest that summer. The Clay County provost marshal reported that both Frank and Jesse James took part in the Centralia Massacre in September, in which guerrillas killed or wounded some 22 unarmed Union troops; the guerrillas scalped and dismembered some of the dead. The guerrillas ambushed and defeated a pursuing regiment of Major A.V.E. Johnson's Union troops, killing all who tried to surrender (more than 100). Frank later identified Jesse as a member of the band who had fatally shot Major Johnson. As a result of the James brothers' activities, the Union military authorities made their family leave Clay County. Though ordered to move South beyond Union lines, instead they moved across the nearby state border into Nebraska.

After Anderson was killed in an ambush in October, the James brothers separated. Frank followed Quantrill into Kentucky; Jesse went to Texas under the command of Archie Clement, one of Anderson's lieutenants. He is known to have returned to Missouri in the spring. Jesse was shot while trying to surrender when they ran into a Union cavalry patrol near Lexington, Missouri. Jesse James suffered the second of two life-threatening chest wounds.

At the end of the Civil War, Missouri was in shambles. The conflict split the population into three bitterly opposed factions: anti-slavery Unionists, identified with the Republican Party; the segregationist conservative Unionists, identified with the Democratic Party; and pro-slavery, ex-Confederate secessionists, many of whom were also allied with the Democrats, especially the southern part of the party. The Republican Reconstruction administration passed a new state constitution that freed Missouri's slaves. It temporarily excluded former Confederates from voting, serving on juries, becoming corporate officers, or preaching from church pulpits. The atmosphere was volatile, with widespread clashes between individuals, and between armed gangs of veterans from both sides of the war.

Jesse recovered from his chest wound at his uncle's Missouri boardinghouse, where he was tended to by his first cousin, Zerelda "Zee" Mimms, named after Jesse's mother. Jesse and his cousin began a nine-year courtship, culminating in marriage. Meanwhile, his old commander Archie Clement kept his bushwhacker gang together and began to harass Republican authorities.

These men were the likely culprits in the first daylight armed bank robbery in the United States in peacetime, the robbery of the Clay County Savings Association in the town of Liberty, Missouri, on February 13, 1866. This bank was owned by Republican former militia officers who had recently conducted the first Republican Party rally in Clay County's history. One innocent bystander, a student of William Jewell College (which James's father had helped to found), was shot dead on the street during the gang's escape.[19] It remains unclear whether Jesse and Frank took part. After their later robberies took place and they became legends, there were those who credited them with being the leaders of the Clay County robbery. It has been argued in rebuttal that James was at the time still bedridden with his wound. No concrete evidence has surfaced to connect either brother to the crime, or to rule them out.[20]On June 13, 1866 in Jackson COunty Missouri two jailed members of Quantrils gang were demanded to be freed by a gang and the Jailor killed it is beleived the James Brothers were involved.

This was a time of increasing local violence; Governor Fletcher had recently ordered a company of militia into Johnson County to suppress guerrilla activity. Archie Clement continued his career of crime and harassment of the Republican government, to the extent of occupying the town of Lexington, Missouri, on election day in 1866. Shortly afterward, the state militia shot Clement dead, an event James wrote about with bitterness a decade later.

The survivors of Clement's gang continued to conduct bank robberies over the next two years, though their numbers dwindled through arrests, gunfights, and lynchings. While they later tried to justify robbing the banks, these were small, local banks with local capital, not part of the national system that was an object of popular discontent in the 1860s and 1870s. On May 23, 1867, for example, they robbed a bank in Richmond, Missouri, in which they killed the mayor and two others. It remains uncertain whether either of the James brothers took part, although an eyewitness who knew the brothers told a newspaper seven years later "positively and emphatically that he recognized Jesse and Frank James ... among the robbers." In 1868, Frank and Jesse James allegedly joined Cole Younger in robbing a bank at Russellville, Kentucky.

Jesse James did not become famous, however, until December 7, 1869, when he and (most likely) Frank robbed the Daviess County Savings Association in Gallatin, Missouri. The robbery netted little money, but it appears that Jesse shot and killed the cashier, Captain John Sheets, mistakenly believing him to be Samuel P. Cox, the militia officer who had killed "Bloody Bill" Anderson during the Civil War. James's self-proclaimed attempt at revenge, and the daring escape he and Frank made through the middle of a posse shortly afterward, put his name in the newspapers for the first time. An 1882 history of Daviess County said, "The history of Daviess County has no blacker crime in its pages than the murder of John W. Sheets."

The 1869 robbery marked the emergence of Jesse James as the most famous of the former guerrillas turned outlaw. It marked the first time he was publicly labeled an "outlaw," as Missouri Governor Thomas T. Crittenden set a reward for his capture. This was the beginning of an alliance between James and John Newman Edwards, editor and founder of the Kansas City Times. Edwards, a former Confederate cavalryman, was campaigning to return former secessionists to power in Missouri. Six months after the Gallatin robbery, Edwards published the first of many letters from Jesse James to the republic, asserting his innocence. Over time, the letters gradually became more political in tone, denouncing the Republicans and voicing James' pride in his Confederate loyalties. Together with Edwards's admiring editorials, the letters turned James into a symbol of Confederate defiance of Reconstruction. Jesse James's initiative in creating his rising public profile is debated by historians and biographers, though the tense politics certainly surrounded his outlaw career and enhanced his notoriety.

Meanwhile, the James brothers joined with Cole Younger and his brothers John, Jim, and Bob as well as Clell Miller and other former Confederates to form what came to be known as the James-Younger Gang. With Jesse James as the public face of the gang (though with operational leadership likely shared among the group), the gang carried out a string of robberies from Iowa to Texas, and from Kansas to West Virginia. They robbed banks, stagecoaches, and a fair in Kansas City, often in front of large crowds, even hamming it up for the bystanders.

On July 21, 1873, they turned to train robbery, derailing the Rock Island train in Adair, Iowa and stealing approximately $3,000 ($51,000 in 2007). For this, they wore Ku Klux Klan masks, deliberately taking on a potent symbol years after the Klan had been suppressed in the South by President Grant's use of the Force Acts. Former rebels attacked the railroads as symbols of threatening centralization. The James' gang's later train robberies had a lighter touch. In fact, in only two train hold-ups did they rob passengers, because James typically limited himself to the express safe in the baggage car. Such techniques reinforced the Robin Hood image that Edwards created in his newspapers, but the James gang never shared any of the robbery money outside their circle.[

[edit] PinkertonsThe Adams Express Company turned to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1874 to stop the James-Younger Gang. The Chicago-based agency worked primarily against urban professional criminals, as well as providing industrial security, such as strike breaking. Because the James-Younger gang received support by many former Confederate soldiers in Missouri, they eluded the Pinkertons. Joseph Whicher, an agent dispatched to infiltrate Zerelda Samuel's farm, shortly afterwards was found killed. Two others, Louis J. Lull and John Boyle, were sent after the Youngers; Lull was killed by two of the Youngers in a roadside gunfight on March 17, 1874. Before he died, Lull fatally shot John Younger. A deputy sheriff named Edwin Daniels was also killed in the skirmish.

Allan Pinkerton, the agency's founder and leader, took on the case as a personal vendetta. He began to work with former Unionists who lived near the James family farm. On the night of January 25, 1875, he staged a raid on the homestead. Detectives threw an incendiary device into the house; it exploded, killing James's young half-brother Archie (named for Archie Clement) and blowing off one of the arms of mother Zerelda Samuel. Afterward, Pinkerton denied that the raid's intent was arson. But biographer Ted Yeatman located a letter by Pinkerton in the Library of Congress in which Pinkerton declared his intention to "burn the house down."

The raid on the family home outraged many, and did more than all of Edwards's columns to create sympathy for Jesse James. The Missouri state legislature only narrowly defeated a bill that praised the James and Younger brothers and offered them amnesty. Allowed to vote and hold office again, former Confederates voted to limit reward offers that the governor could make for fugitives. This extended a measure of protection over the James-Younger gang. (Only Frank and Jesse James previously had been singled out for rewards larger than the new limit.)

[edit] Downfall of the gangJesse and his cousin Zee married on April 24, 1874, and had two children who survived to adulthood: Jesse Edward James (b. 1875) and Mary Susan James (b. 1879). Twins Gould and Montgomery James (b. 1878) died in infancy. Jesse, Jr. became a lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri and Los Angeles, California.

On September 7, 1876, the James-Younger gang attempted a raid on the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. After this robbery and a manhunt, only Frank and Jesse James were left alive and uncaptured. Cole and Bob Younger later stated that they selected the bank because they believed it was associated with the Republican politician Adelbert Ames, the governor of Mississippi during Reconstruction, and Union general Benjamin Butler, Ames' father-in-law and the Union commander of occupied New Orleans. Ames was a stockholder in the bank, but Butler had no direct connection to it.

To carry out the robbery, the gang divided into two groups. Three men entered the bank, two guarded the door outside, and three remained near a bridge across an adjacent square. The robbers inside the bank were thwarted when acting cashier Joseph Lee Heywood refused to open the safe, falsely claiming that it was secured by a time lock even as they held a bowie knife to his throat and cracked his skull with a pistol butt. Assistant cashier Alonzo Enos Bunker was wounded in the shoulder as he fled out the back door of the bank. Meanwhile, the citizens of Northfield grew suspicious of the men guarding the door and raised the alarm. The five bandits outside fired in the air to clear the streets, which drove the townspeople to take cover and fire back from protected positions. Two bandits were shot dead and the rest were wounded in the barrage. Inside, the outlaws turned to flee. As they left, one shot the unarmed cashier Heywood in the head. Historians have speculated about the identity of the shooter but have not reached consensus on his identity.

The gang barely escaped Northfield, leaving two dead companions behind. They killed two innocent victims, Heywood, and Nicholas Gustafson, a Swedish immigrant from the Millersburg community west of Northfield. A massive manhunt ensued. The James brothers eventually split from the others and escaped to Missouri. The militia soon discovered the Youngers and one other bandit, Charlie Pitts. In a gunfight, Pitts died and the Youngers were taken prisoner. Except for Frank and Jesse James, the James-Younger Gang was destroyed.

Later in 1876, Jesse and Frank James surfaced in the Nashville, Tennessee area, where they went by the names of Thomas Howard and B. J. Woodson, respectively. Frank seemed to settle down, but Jesse remained restless. He recruited a new gang in 1879 and returned to crime, holding up a train at Glendale, Missouri (now part of Independence, Missouri), on October 8, 1879. The robbery was the first of a spree of crimes, including the holdup of the federal paymaster of a canal project in Killen, Alabama, and two more train robberies. But the new gang did not consist of battle-hardened guerrillas; they soon turned against each other or were captured, while James grew paranoid, killing one gang member and frightening away another.

With authorities growing suspicious, by 1881 the brothers returned to Missouri where they felt safer. In December, Jesse rented a house in Saint Joseph, Missouri, not far from where he had been born and raised. Frank, however, decided to move to safer territory, heading east to Virginia.

Site at 1318 Lafayette Street, where James was killed. To the right is the top of Patee House, where his wife Zerelda stayed after his death. His house was subsequently moved to the Belt Highway and later to its current location on the Patee House grounds.

Jesse James's home in St. Joseph, where he was shot (currently at the grounds of the Patee House)With his gang nearly annihilated, James trusted only the Ford brothers, Charley and Robert. Although Charley had been out on raids with James, Bob was an eager new recruit. For protection, James asked the Ford brothers to move in with him and his family. James had often stayed with their sister Martha Bolton and, according to rumor, he was "smitten" with her. James did not know that Bob Ford had been conducting secret negotiations with Thomas T. Crittenden, the Missouri governor, to bring in the famous outlaw. Crittenden had made capture of the James brothers his top priority; in his inaugural address he declared that no political motives could be allowed to keep them from justice. Barred by law from offering a sufficiently large reward, he had turned to the railroad and express corporations to put up a $5,000 bounty for each of them.

On April 3, 1882, after eating breakfast, the Fords and James prepared to depart for another robbery. They went in and out of the house to ready the horses. As it was an unusually hot day, James removed his coat, then declared that he should remove his firearms as well, lest he look suspicious. Noticing a dusty picture on the wall, he stood on a chair to clean it. Bob Ford shot James in the back of the head. James' two previous bullet wounds and partially missing middle finger served to positively identify the body.

The murder of Jesse James was a national sensation. The Fords made no attempt to hide their role. Indeed, Robert Ford wired the governor to claim his reward. Crowds pressed into the little house in St. Joseph to see the dead bandit, even while the Ford brothers surrendered to the authorities but they were dismayed to find that they were charged with first degree murder. In the course of a single day, the Ford brothers were indicted, pleaded guilty, were sentenced to death by hanging, and two hours later were granted a full pardon by Governor Crittenden.

The governor's quick pardon suggested that he knew that the brothers intended to kill James rather than capture him. Like many who knew James, the Ford brothers never believed it was practical to try to take him into custody.[citation needed] The implication that the chief executive of Missouri conspired to kill a private citizen startled the public and added to James' notoriety.

After receiving a small portion of the reward, the Fords fled Missouri. Law enforcement officials active in the plan also shared the bounty. Later the Ford brothers starred in a touring stage show in which they reenacted the shooting.

Suffering from tuberculosis (then incurable) and a morphine addiction, Charley Ford committed suicide on May 6, 1884, in Richmond, Missouri. Bob Ford operated a tent saloon in Creede, Colorado. On June 8, 1892, a man named Edward O'Kelley, went to Creede on a personal vendetta with avenging James. He loaded a double barrel shotgun, entered Ford's saloon and said "Hello, Bob" before shooting Bob Ford in the throat, killing him instantly. O'Kelley was sentenced to life in prison. O'Kelley's sentence was subsequently commuted because of a 7,000 signature petition in favor of his release. The governor pardoned him on October 3, 1902.

James' mother Zerelda Samuel wrote the following epitaph for him: In Loving Memory of my Beloved Son, Murdered by a Traitor and Coward Whose Name is not Worthy to Appear Here. James's widow Zee died alone and in poverty.

Rumors of Jesse James's survival proliferated almost as soon as the newspapers announced his death. Some said that Robert Ford killed someone other than James, in an elaborate plot to allow him to escape justice. These tales have received little credence, then or later. None of James's biographers has accepted them as plausible. The body buried in Kearney, Missouri, as Jesse James's was exhumed in 1995 and subjected to mitochondrial DNA typing. The report, prepared by Anne C. Stone, Ph.D., James E. Starrs, L.L.M., and Mark Stoneking, Ph.D., stated the mtDNA recovered from the remains was consistent with the mtDNA of one of James's relatives in the female line. This theme resurfaced in a 2009 documentary, Jesse James' Hidden Treasure, which aired on the History Channel. The documentary was dismissed as pseudo-history and pseudo-science by historian Nancy Samuelson in a review she wrote for Winter, 2009-2010 edition of The James-Younger Gang Journal.

One prominent claimant was J. Frank Dalton, who died August 15, 1951, in Granbury, Texas. Dalton was allegedly 101 years old at the time of his first public appearance, in May 1948. His story did not hold up to questioning from James' surviving relatives.

James's turn to crime after the end of Reconstruction era helped cement his place in American life and memory as a simple but remarkably effective bandit. After 1873 he was covered by the national media as part of social banditry. During his lifetime, James was celebrated chiefly by former Confederates, to whom he appealed directly in his letters to the press. Displaced by Reconstruction, the antebellum political leadership mythologized the James Gang exploits. Frank Triplett wrote about James as a "progressive neo-aristocrat" with purity of race. Indeed, some historians credit James' myth as contributing to the rise of former Confederates to dominance in Missouri politics[citation needed] (in the 1880s, for example, both U.S. Senators from the state, Confederate military commander Francis Cockrell and Confederate Congressman George Graham Vest, were identified with the Confederate cause).

In the 1880s, after James' death, the James Gang became the subject of dime novels that represented the bandits as pre-industrial models of resistance. During the Populist and Progressive eras, James became a symbol as America's Robin Hood, standing up against corporations in defense of the small farmer, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor while there is no evidence that his robberies enriched anyone other than his gang and himself.

In portrayals of the 1950s, James was pictured as a psychologically troubled individual rather than a social rebel. Some filmmakers portrayed the former outlaw as a revenger, replacing "social with exclusively personal motives."

Jesse James remains a controversial symbol, one who can always be interpreted in various ways, according to cultural tensions and needs. Although some of the neo-Confederate movement regard him as a hero renewed cultural battles over the place of the Civil War in American history have replaced the long-standing interpretation of James as a Western frontier hero. Some point to his absolute commitment to slavery and his vow after the Civil War to shoot any black in Missouri not fulfilling the role of a slave.

While his "heroic outlaw" image is still commonly portrayed in films, as well as in songs and folklore, recent historians place him as a self-aware vigilante and terrorist who used local tensions to create his own myth among the widespread insurgent guerrillas and vigilantes following the American Civil War.

Additional Information

Birth: Sep. 5, 1847 Death: Apr. 3, 1882 Saint Joseph Buchanan County Missouri, USA

Western Outlaw. He was born Jesse Woodson James in Kearney, Missouri to Baptist minister Reverend Robert and Zerelda James and the younger brother of James. His father heeding a calling left for California with the intent of preaching to gold miners but contracted cholera and died. He is buried in an unmarked lost grave in Placerville. By the time Jesse was eight, his mother had remarried twice more. From the third marriage, he gained two stepbrothers and two stepsisters. As a youth, he was churchgoer, baptized at the Kearney Baptist Church and sang in the choir wanting to emulate his father and become a Baptist preacher. Jesse had very little formal education but was skilled with horses and a natural leader. When but fifteen, he followed his brother James into the ranks of Quantrill's Raiders. After the war ended, he attempted to surrender at Lexington, Missouri and gain amnesty along with his brother Frank, Cole Younger and others but a gun battle ensured. The remnants of the "Raiders" were forced to hide out in the woods. With no means of livelihood, the James-Younger gang came into being. For the next fifteen years they robbed banks and when security made that difficult, they turned to stagecoaches and trains. After the failed disastrous attempt to rob the bank in Northfield, Minnesota, many of the gang member were wounded and captured, However, Jesse slipped away and lived quietly in St. Joseph Missouri under an assumed name. Two of his gang members were tempted by a reward for his capture dead or alive. They went to his house and while his back was turned, Robert Ford shot him one time in the back of the head. His mother had him buried in the front yard of the James Farm with an imposing monument with a inscription condemning the assassin. The house in St Joseph where Jesse met his death is preserved and is the epitome of morbidity. Here you can see the bullet hole made as it passed thought the skull of Jesse. The structure is filled with James memorabilia. The house was actually moved here after being saved from the jaws of demolition. Now more has been added. Artifacts from the controversial exhumation of 1995. A bullet from his right lung stemming from an old civil War injury, the tie tack he was wearing when first buried and fragments of wood, the handles and the glass fragments from the coffin front piece grace a glass cabinet. Jesse James boyhood home today remains relatively secluded in the countryside near the small town of Kearney. After Zerelda's third and very successful marriage to her neighbor a country doctor, the two farms became one and was very prosperous with several slaves doing most of the work. After the death of her son, a defiant mother sat on the front porch giving tours of the house and selling stones from the grave and supposed pistols owned by her famous son. It was here Union soldiers harassed the family known as confederate sympathizers and attacked Zerelda and tried to hang her third husband. The incident defined young Jessie's determination to join the Confederate army. It was here Pinkerton detectives threw an incendiary bomb into the residence killing a younger step brother and maiming Zerelda. After her death and Jesse's wife, his body was moved from the farm to the family plot in Mount Olivet Cemetery Kearney and interred beside her. Frank James in his old age kept up the tours by charging 50 cents until his death. Clay County purchased the rundown property and after two restorations, 75 percent of the original material remains. It contains original furnishings. The James home is perhaps one of the most authentic birthplace sites in America today. Now, the Clay County government at the Jesse James Farm and Museum is still selling pebbles for 25 cents along with shirts, books and toys. The Jesse James Bank Museum, formerly the Clay County Savings Assoc., located on the historic square in Liberty, Missouri, was the site of the nation's first successful daylight peacetime bank robbery on February 13, 1866, when the James-Younger gang robbed the bank of $60,000 in cash, gold and negotiable instruments. During their getaway, they shot and killed an innocent bystander, 17-year old college student, George C. 'Jolly' Wymore, who was standing across the street. (bio by: Donald Greyfield (inactive))


Family links:

Parents:
 Robert Sallee James (1818 - 1850)
 Zerelda Elizabeth Cole Samuel (1825 - 1911)

Spouse:
 Zerelda Mimms James (1845 - 1900)*

Children:
 Joseph Jesse Chase (1870 - 1940)*
 Jesse Edwards James (1875 - 1951)*
 Gould James (1878 - 1878)*
 Montgomery James (1878 - 1878)*
 Mary Susan James Barr (1879 - 1935)*

Siblings:
 Frank James (1843 - 1915)*
 Jesse Woodson James (1847 - 1882)
 Susan Lavenia James Parmer (1849 - 1889)*
 Sarah Louise Samuel Nicholson (1858 - 1915)**
 Fannie Quantrill Samuel Hall (1863 - 1922)**
 Archie Payton Samuel (1866 - 1875)**
  • Calculated relationship
    • Half-sibling

Burial: Mount Olivet Cemetery Kearney Clay County Missouri, USA


Maintained by: Find A Grave Record added: Jan 01, 2001 Find A Grave Memorial# 539

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Jesse James, American outlaw's Timeline

1847
September 5, 1847
Kearney, Clay, Missouri, USA
1860
1860
Age 12
Washington, Clay, Missouri
1860
Age 12
Washington, Clay, Missouri
1870
March 1870
Age 22
Nebraska, USA
1874
April 24, 1874
Age 26
Clay Co., MO
1875
August 31, 1875
Age 27
Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee, USA
1878
February 1, 1878
Age 30
Humphreys, Tennessee, USA
February 1, 1878
Age 30
Humphreys, Tennessee, USA
1879
June 17, 1879
Age 31
Nashville, TN, USA
1882
April 3, 1882
Age 34
St Joseph, Missouri, USA