Daviess County families share James Gang lore, often passed down by word of mouth. No attempt at verifying facts are made here; it is of interest how the legend keeps growing.
CAROLYN YOUTSEY, “Jameses Helped Out” — “In 1939 there was an old couple in their 80s named May and Cown Jewell (Joanne Smith’s grandparents), who lived six miles south of Kidder. There was a little schoolhouse on the corner named Jewell Schoolhouse, and 1/4 mies west of there was a log cabin where the couple began their married life. Mrs. Jewell says when she was a child they were having a hard time making it. When the James Gang was in the neighborhood many times early in the morning the family would awaken to find a couple of turkeys or deer left on their doorstep by the James Gang. The family knew the James boys and had fixed meals for them when they had passed throgh and became friendly with them. The people who lived in the neighborhood all thought the James Gang were really super because they helped her family out so much.”
MARJORIE TROTTER, “They Fed the Jameses” — “My great-grandparents, Mary and John William Patton, lived about two miles northwest of Altamont. My great-grandfather said travelers came to their home and asked for food. My great-grandmother prepared the food, and my great-grandfather and his son, William, fed the horses. They were well paid. My great-grandfather went to Altamont, heard about eht train robbery and from the description of the men and horses, realized they had fed the James Gang.”
WENDY GATTON, “Related to the Jameses” — “My great-great-grandmother, Mary Beller, was a first cousin of Jesse James.” Wendy’s mother’s name is Wanda Ballard of Gallatin. Mrs. Beller was from the Kansas City area.
AVA PUGH, “They Gave Jameses Water” — Margaret (Tibbs) English, my neice now of Yonkers, NY, is the granddaughter of Elizabeth (Reynolds) Tibbs. Elizabeth was raised in Marion Township, the only daughter of Harvie Reynolds. When Elizabeth was a young girl, Frank and Jesse James stopped at the Reynolds farm home and asked for water to fill their jugs and to water their horses. After doing that, they rode off.”
NORMAN E. O’HARE, “Found Themselves Lost” — “My great-grandfather, Martin O’Hare, homesteaded our farm in 1855. He was discharged from the Civil War in 1865, after which he continued to clear more land for farming. The timber that was cleared was used for building and for firewood, and the process took several years. According to him, and this tale has been passed down through the generations, one day while he and some men folk were in the timber on the east side of the farm where Brushy Creek runs through, some rough looking characters on horses came up. They asked directions to Gallatin, Missouri, and ‘How in the hell do we get out of this brush?’ Being in new territory they found themselves lost, out of the familiar surroundigns of St. Joseph and Platte County. Grandpa thought they were the James Gang, and his assumption became more valid when he heard in a short time (however fast news traveled in the late 1860s) that the Daviess County Savings Association had been robbed, and Captain Sheets had been killed.”
MARGARET M. (Schoonover) MESEBERG, “The Cut Reins” — “The History of Daviess and Gentry Counties (Leopard-McCammon-Hillman on page 77) states the 1883 trial of Frank James was in the buildling owned by Judge Alexander on the west side of the square. Jury went 11-1 for acquittal. Jesse’s fight at Harrisonville is on page 12 of ‘The Life, Times and Treacherous Death of Jesse James.’ The guerrillas were forced to retire, and at Flat Rock Ford on the Grand River, Jesse was shot through the breast, a minnie ball tearing through his right lung. I found the post mortem for Jesse on page 293 interesting. I was shown the sliced tied bridle rein ends from one rider’s bridle that was left at the railroad trestle at Gould Hill east of Winston in 1935 by my dad, Eldia Schoonover. We lived neighbors to the Willis DeFord family who lived where the Martindale family now lives. Willis’ father, Ross DeFord, after the robbery of the train in 1881 found the evidence. I do not think there is evey a chance of anyone knowing the whereabouts of this evidence today, but it made quite an impression on me at the time. I hav quite a scrapbook of clippings about Jesse, Frank and family. I am trying to make the connection between my great-great-grandfather David James and Calvin James of Buchanan County. Calvin James, of barbecue fame, located near the present town of Easton, MO, in 1837. I believe that Mr. Lawrence Barr, one of six grandchildren of Jesse, worked as a part time manager for Katz Drug Store at 12th & Walnut in Kansas City in 1944. I also worked part time while going to school, at Katz. Mr. Barr was a payroll accountant for Hallmark Cards, Inc. I am not saying for certain that this was THE Lawrence Barr, but I have reason to believe it was.”
ROY, VIRGIL J. and GEORGIA SWEANY, “Dinner Guests” — Roy Sweany, a widower who was married to Lulu Opal Brown for 63 years, has one living son, Fred Sweany of Lock Springs. The first Sweany in this area was probably Roy’s great-grandfather, John Sweany, who resided at Civil Bend, where the current owner is Jim Snider. Roy thinks that Georg occasionally had Jesse and Frank James for guests for meals. While one outlaw fed the horses and acted as a sentinel, the other bandit ate a meal with Roy’s grandfather and family. Roy’s father, McIvin Sweany, lived in Altamont; he was a farmer and real estate agent. Melvin died at the age of 58 in 1922.
MARY ROGERS, “Frank James Held The Baby” — “Many years ago my aunt, Mary Smith Aldridge, told me this story. One day before Frank James surrendered, some men on horses came to her father’s (D.L. Smith) farm home near Civil Bend. They insisted her mother cook dinner for them. She told them her baby was fussy so she couldn’t cook for them. One of the men said ‘go ahead and cook. I will take care of your baby.’ He held my aunt on his lap and enteretained her while my grandma cooked. A few hours after the men left, the James boys were captured and taken to jail in Gallatin. My grandparents felt sure they were the men grandma had cooked dinner for. When Frank James saw my Aunt Mary, he said, ‘where is my curly-headed baby?'”
MRS. GLENN RIDDELL, “Silhouettes of the Gang” — Mrs. Glen Riddell, an 82-year-old resident at Daviess County Nursing Home, remembers a story her grandfather, Adam Ream, used to tell her when she was a little girl. He was an resident of the Kidder area, doing chores one night, and noticed three riders walking single file, silhouetted in the sunset. The men were headed south where J Highway lies now, which runs from Kidder to Highway 36. Since the neighbors those days recognized each other’s horses, he knew they were strangers to the area. Two or three days later Mr. ream heard the train had been robbed at Winston and quickly recalled the strangers on horseback near his home. Judging the time of day when he saw them, he figured they must have been part of the James Gang.
JACK TINGLER, “A Ride With Frank James” — “My grandfather, Lewis Allen Tingler, lived west of Galaltin and told how one day he was riding down the road. He came upon a stranger, well-armed and riding a fine horse, They rode together a ways, and eventually the stranger rode into the timber. The next day the savings association in Gallatin was held up. My grandfather always thought it was Frank James. After Frank James’ pardon, later in Oklahoma, my father as a small boy witnessed watching Frank James ‘rob’ a stagecoach at a fair held there. Both were at Joe Jump’s hanging. My grandmother hunter her head so she wouldn’t watch it, but heard the crowd groan so looked up just in time to see the actual hanging. She said she’d never go to another.”
OLIVE HOWARD, “Jameses Would Never Relax” — “The most famous characters associated with my family were the James and Younger brothers. My husband’s grandfather, Gibson Howard, and great-grandfather, Mckleborough Howard, were their contemporaries and had come to Northwest Missouri at about the same time. They were all Southern sympathizers and all received much the same treatment from the guerrillas, treatment that was to ahve far-ranging consequences.”