The stories and legends about the James boys are so many and their escapades real or fancied, have been recounted by countless authors, would be authors, news writers, motion pictures and others to the extent that great confusion prevails as to the true story of their lives. Perhaps the real facts, known only to Frank and Jesse James, were lost to the world when death sealed their lips.

The fact remains that neither Frank nor Jesse James were ever convicted of any crime, though they were hunted for years as outlaws, with a price on their heads, following the Civil War. During the war they served probably with what may be termed “irregular cavalry.”

The James family was among the many slave-owning families with ties to the South in the Little Dixie region of Missouri. While Jesse, born 1847, was too young to serve as the Civil War began, by August 1861 Frank James, four years older, joined the pro-secession regiment of Col. John Hughes, participating in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. The following year Frank joined William C. Quantrill’s raiders, and was in on Quantrill’s massacre at Lawrence, KS.

From early 1866 to April 3, 1882, they appear to have been the leaders of bandits known as “The James Boys’ Gang;” at least 30 men rode with them at some time or another.

This gang was generally credited with the first daylight bank robbery in America when the Clay County Savings Association was robbed of $60,000 and a young man, George Wymore, was shot to death. This took place on February 13, 1866.

James was shot and killed by one of his gang, Bob Ford, at St. Joseph, MO, on April 3, 1882. Frank eventually voluntarily surrendered to Missouri Governor Crittenden who had promised him a pardon if he would surrender.

— by R.A. Whipple, editor & publisher of the Kearney (MO) Courier, for the Kearney Centennial 1856-1956

Legends and myths of Old West outlaws were popularized by dime novels and comic books, such as this example. Although colorful, nothing about the cover of this dime novel is historically accurate.