An account published in the Weekly Kansas City Star  on Sept. 4, 1940, offers the following description of legal counsel participating in the 1883 trial of Frank James at Gallatin, MO:

“Rarely has the legal counsel on both sides of a case been composed of such eminent men… not the least, William H. Wallace, the fiery, crusading prosecutor of Jackson County who had already sent one of the James Gang, William Ryan, to the penitentiary. Two notable figures headed the defense, Charles P. Johnson of St. Louis, former lieutenant governor of Missouri, and Judge John F. Philips of Kansas City…

“Curiously, the two leading defense attorneys (Johns and Philips, had been officers in the Union Army. On the other hand the prosecutor, Wallace, was a former Confederate. But the political sympathies of counsel had nothing to do with the injection of the war issue in the trial [that come when cavalry leader, Gen. Jo Shelby, appeared in court to help one of his old comrades facing charges].”

The following about the 1883 trial of Frank James is taken from an address given by General John T. Barker for a meeting of The Boone County Bar Association held at Columbia (MO) on August 7, 1952. He prefaced this summary by stating, “The counsel for both sides were the ablest lawyers in the Midwest”:

Counsel for the Defense

John Philips was the chief defense counselor for Frank James during the trial held in 1883 at Gallatin, MO. At the time Philips was a Commissioner of the Missouri Supreme Court. A Union officer at the Battle of Westport, Philips later served as U.S. District Judge of the Western District of Missouri.

JUDGE JOHN F. PHILIPS of Kansas City. Union Colonel and a member of the firm of Vest & Phillips. Member of Congress, Supreme Court Commissioner. Judge, Court of Appeals and United States District Judge. Great orator.

JAMES H. SLOVER of Kansas City. Able lawyer and judge of the Jackson County Circuit Court.

JOHN M. GLOVER of St. Louis. Able lawyer and member of Congress.

CHRISTOPHER T. GARNER of Richmond. Able lawyer and served in legislature.

J.W. Alexander of Gallatin, MO, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1881 and became Speaker of the House in 1886. Known for his efforts on behalf of veterans of the Mexican, the Civil and the Spanish wars. He was judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit (1901-07). When elected to the 60th Congress, Alexander chaired the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee. He drafted important laws, including the original act controlling wireless telegraphy. He was appointed Secretary of Commerce by President Wilson (1919) and was succeeded by Hubert Hoover when Warren G. Harding was president. The Alexander residence in Gallatin is located at 301 East Grand Street. This photo and more information is found on pages 332-337 in the History of Daviess and Gentry Counties (1922).

JOSHUA W. ALEXANDER of Gallatin, Speaker, Missouri House of Representatives, Judge of the Circuit Court, member of Congress, and member of Wilson’s Cabinet.

Charles P. Johnson had helped organize Missouri troops for the Union cause during the Civil War. He served in the Missouri legislature before and after his term as lieutenant governor. In the 1880s, when the James-Younger Gang was breaking up, the strong Union-supporter Johnson was one of the defense attorneys for Frank James. Johnson taught law at Washington University for many years.

LT. GOVERNOR CHARLES P. JOHNSON of St. Louis. Great criminal lawyer, great orator, Lieutenant Governor of Missouri.

WILLIAM H. RUSH, able lawyer — made opening statement — mother a daughter of Judge James H. Birch, who sued Benton.

Counsel for the State

Attorney William Wallace of Jackson County prosecuted Frank James in the 1883 trial at Gallatin, MO. Ironically, Wallace was a Confederate soldier during the Civil War and was never elected again to public office after Frank James was acquitted.

WILLIAM H. WALLACE of Jackson County. Prosecuting Attorney four years, judge of Criminal Court, 1907. Great orator.

WILLIAM D. HAMLTON of Gallatin. Able lawyer.

JOHN H. SHANKLIN, president of Missouri Bar, 1882, member of Shanklin, Low & McDougal. Able lawyer.

MARCUS A. LOW of Gallatin, member Shanklin, Low & McDougal. Great lawyer and became General Solicitor of Rock Island Railroad an the delegate to the Republican Convention.

Henry Clay McDougal had many ties to Gallatin, MO, besides being one of the attorneys for the prosecution of outlaw Frank James in 1883. McDougal was appointed Gallatin city clerk (1968-69) and served as mayor (1870-71); he served on the school board, was probate judge for two terms and was admitted in the bar in 1868 as a member of Shanklin Low & McDougal Law Firm. He resided in Gallatin, MO, for 15 years. He was a personal friend of Capt. John Sheets, slain during the 1869 robbery of the Daviess County Savings Association. McDougal represented farmer Daniel Smoote, whose stolen horse implicated the James brothers in the murder and robbery of the bank, prompting the first bounty for their arrest.

HENRY CLAY McDOUGAL of Gallatin. Went from Virginia to Gallatin in 1867. Became a member of the Low firm. Moved to Kansas City and was head of the firm of McDougal & Sebree; president of the Missouri Bar, 1894.

JOSHUA F. HICKLIN of Gallatin. Able lawyer.

Note: Digital images were added to this account for online display.

Many books have been written about notorious outlaws Frank and Jesse James but few focus sharply on the legal trials authorities brought against the brothers. This book, “The Lost Cause” by James P. Muehlberger (published in 2013) provides outstanding context and summary of the 1883 trial of Frank James which unfolded in Gallatin, MO.