Welcome to the Old West of Jesse James!

A Legend in His Own Time

This page represents an ongoing exploration into the life and legend of one of the Old West's most celebrated outlaws -- Jesse Woodson James. I hope you enjoy your visit.

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Books about Jesse James

The Truth About Jesse James
by Betty Dorsett Duke
Despite 1995 DNA results highly touted as proving Jesse James was shot dead by Bob Ford in 1882 and is buried just as history reports, he instead pulled off one of the biggest hoaxes in American history by getting away with his own murder, and hightailing it to Texas where he lived under the alias of James Courtney for the rest of his long life.
672 pages, Fiddler's Green Press; Revised edition, 2008.

LINKS

Jesse Woodson James (1847 – 1882)
Jesse Woodson James was born in Clay County, Missouri, on September 5, 1847. He was the third of four children born to Robert and Zerelda Cole James, both Kentucky natives. Jesse James had an older brother Frank, a brother, Robert, who died in infancy, and a younger sister, Susan. His father was a slave-owning farmer and popular Baptist minister in Clay County. Intending to preach to the gold miners, lured by the prospect of gold, or simply restless, Robert James left his family and traveled to California when Jesse was three years old. He never returned to Missouri, dying—probably of cholera—in a gold mining camp in 1850.
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Jesse James' Death Hoax and Buried Treasures
What if the traditional history of Jesse James was not all true, and there was a clever twist where he escaped and lived to a peaceful and ripe old age? What if others close to him followed suit? Some have considered such proposals as utterly preposterous, while others have opened their minds to seriously consider the growing and undeniable alternative evidences. After perusing this site each reader will have to decide for his or her self if Jesse James was wise enough to fake his death, or did he just wait for the inevitable? As you consider the possibilities, ask yourself what you would have done given his limited choices.
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Jesse Woodson James: Photos From 1995 Interment
      Over the years many a long debate has occured over the assassination of Jesse Woodson James. History has been written that Jesse was murdered by Robert Ford in St. Joseph, MO on April 3, 1882.
      But, through the years, some had suggested that a man by the name of Charlie Bigelow, who strongly resembled Jesse, had been killed. And that a hoax to throw off the authorites followed to save Jesse from punishment and possible death from Pinkertons and authorities. Even a few of Jesse's modern day relatives thought his death in 1882 was a hoax.
      So, after all these years of speculation, in 1993 the families agreed to allow a medical team to finally have his body exhumed. Much DNA and forensic testing were done. The results came back on the skull, bone and tooth fragments that the body in the grave was indeed that of Jesse Woodson James.
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Jesse Woodson James
A Chronological Biography

September 5, 1847 - Jesse Woodson James was born in Clay County, Missouri, near the site of present day Kearney. He was the third of four children born to Robert and Zerelda Cole James, both Kentucky natives. Jesse James had an older brother Frank, a brother, Robert, who died in infancy, and a younger sister, Susan. His father was a slave-owning farmer and popular Baptist minister in Clay County. Intending to preach to the gold miners, lured by the prospect of gold, or simply restless, Robert James left his family and traveled to California when Jesse was three years old. He never returned to Missouri, dying—probably of cholera—in a gold mining camp in 1850.

February 13, 1866 - The Clay County Savings Association in the town of Liberty, Missouri is robbed. 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. It remains unclear whether Jesse and Frank took part.

December 7, 1869 - Jesse James became famous 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. Cox had earlier been a partner of the firm Ballinger, Cox & Kemper with Gallatin businessman J.M. Kemper whose son William Thornton Kemper, Sr. went on to found two of the largest banks headquartered in Missouri (Commerce Bancshares and UMB Financial Corporation) but the business relationship had dissolved by the time of the robbery. 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."

September 7, 1876 - The James-Younger gang tried to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota. The robbery was the gang’s first serious disaster. The Younger brothers were caught and sent to prison. The James brothers fled and eventually settled in Nashville, Tennessee, where they lived under assumed names. Jesse became “Thomas Howard” and Frank became “B. J. Woodson.”

1881 - Governor Thomas T. Crittenden issued a proclamation for the arrest of Frank and Jesse James. By 1882 Jesse James had moved his family back to St. Joseph, Missouri. Still using his alias, James passed himself off as a cattle buyer and brought two new men, Robert and Charley Ford, into his gang to help him scout banks for future robberies. James was unaware that Robert Ford had already talked with Governor Crittenden about getting a reward for killing him.

April 3, 1882 - Jesse James is shot and killed by Robert Ford, in the James' home in St. Joseph, Missouri. The Ford brothers were tried for murder and found guilty, but the governor pardoned them.


This page created on 28 March 2014