Who Were ‘The James Boys?’

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.”

Frank & Jesse James, 1870


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 y0ung 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