1883 Trial: Witness Testimonies Summarized

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:

Witnesses for the State

JOHN L. PENN was a passenger on the train. Said the robbers were dressed in long linen dusters with collars turned up and that he could not identify any of them.

ADDISON E. WALCOTT was engineer on the train an said that the engine was so dark he could not see or recognize any of the robbers.

FRANK STAMPER was the baggageman and he said one robber had a long gray beard, but he could not identify him.

W.S. EARTHMAN, collector of Davidson County (TN) when Nashville is located, knew Frank James as B.J. Woodson, and saw him at horse races. Never saw him after the fall of 1880. Said Woodson always associated with good people.

JAMES A. (DICK) LIDDEL, testified that he had served a term in the penitentiary for horse stealing and was pardoned so he could testify against Frank James. Said he was a member of the James gang and described the robbery and the shooting of Conductor Westfall and Frank McMillan. Denied telling Joe Chines and Frank Tutt, coal and oil inspector, that he did not know where Frank James was and had not seen him for years. Had been sent $100 when he was pardoned by Bob and Charlie Ford, who had killed Jesse James.

JAMES HUGHES of Richmond said he saw a man resembling Frank James at the depot in September or October, 1881.

JOSEPH MALLORY, a farmer, testified he saw Frank James getting his horse shod a few days before the robbery at the Potts blacksmith shop. Never saw him afterwards until he saw him in jail, and believes he is the man he saw at the shop.

JAMES POTTS, blacksmith, testified he shod a horse for Frank James and knew him when he saw him in the jail at Independence. Never told other witnesses that he had never seen Frank James in his life and his wife was unable to identify Frank.

G.W. WHITMAN, farmer, saw James at the Potts shop on July 14, 1881, where he had a mare shod. Recognized him in court.

MRS. JONAS POTTS testified she had seen Frank James at her house a day or two before the robbery.

REV. JAMIN MACHETTE testified he saw Frank James at his residence on July 14, 1881, and gave him his dinner; that they discussed Shakespeare and Bob Ingersoll.

EZRA SOULE, farmer, testified he saw Frank James about two miles from Winston between four and six o’clock on the day of the robbery and talked with him about an hour. The next time he saw him was in the courthouse.

WILLIAM BRAY of Hamilton saw Frank James two or three weeks before the Winston robbery; saw him at his home.

MRS. WILLIAM BRAY of Hamilton, said that she saw defendant at her husband’s house some 10 days before the robbery and a son testified that a man who looked like James had been at his father’s house.

MRS. DAVID FRANKS, farmer, saw a man at her house eight miles west of Gallatin that looked like Frank James.

FRANK WOLFENBERGER, farmer, saw the defendant at his home the latter part of June, 1881, with three other men. Said he spoke to the defendant in jail; that he had seen him before and said, “I don’t remember. I have no recollection of it.”

MRS. JAMES LINDSAY of Chillicothe testified she saw the defendant at her brother’s house about two weeks before the Winston train robbery.

DR. WILLIAM E. BLACK of Gallatin talked with the defendant in jail at Independence and the defendant had seen Keene play Richard III at Nashville and had also seen Barrett, McCullough and Ward.

Witnesses for the Defense

SAMUEL T. BROSIUS of Gallatin. Lawyer, was on the train that was robbed and did not think Frank James was one of the robbers. He denied telling many people that he could not identify anyone but insisted Frank James was not one of the robbers.

FLETCHER W. HORN of Nashville, TN, detective. God acquainted with B.J. Woodson the summer of 1877 and last saw him in March, 1881. He was either farming or hauling logs for a lumber company. Saw him March 26, 1881. His associates were men of standing and position.

MRS. ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY of Winston, farmer. Some strange men ate at her house the night of the robbery. She did not think that Frank James was one of the men, but could not be positive.

MISS MISSOURI MONTGOMERY, daughter of last witness. Saw the men in her house where they had supper. “Don’t think I saw defendant there.” Wouldn’t say positively. Don’t think he resembled either of them.

JOHN L. DEAN, farmer. Jonas Potts told him he had been to Independence to see Frank James in jail and “that he had never seen him before.”

GUS A. CHAPMAN, farmer, say Jonas Potts after his return from seeing Frank James but “that he didn’t know if he had ever seen him before and could not tell.”

Gen. Jo Shelby, the Confederate leader who fled to Mexico at the end of the Civil War rather than surrender, was a key witness during the trial of Frank James held at Gallatin, MO, in 1883

GENERAL JO O. SHELBY, farmer from Lafayette County near Page City. Caused much trouble. Refused to testify until he could see the court and offered to shake hands, but the court would not do so. Said Dick Liddell told him Frank James’s health was so bad he had been in the South for many years. That he, Shelby, had not seen Frank James since 1872 and “with permission of the court, can I be tolerated to shake hands with an old soldier?” The court said no. He complained of Wallace’s cross-examination and asked if the court was “going to permit a lawyer to insult an unarmed man, who was a witness in this case?” The court said that every witness was unarmed. As Shelby started to leave the courtroom he asked permission to go over and shake hands with Frank James. The court refused to allow him to do so but General Shelby nodded to Frank James as he walked out and said: “God bless you, old fellow.” Shelby threatened to call counsel for the state to an account He appeared in court later to apologize. Judge Goodman asked him if he claimed immunity on the grounds of ignorance. Shelby replied, “No, Sir. I never sail under that flag.” He then paid a $10 fine and left the courtroom.

FRANK TUTT, coal inspector from Kansas City. Asked Dick Liddell where Frank James was about this time, and he said he didn’t know and hadn’t seen him for years.

JAMES S. DEMASTUS of Richmond, justice of the peace. Heard Mrs. Bolton testify at the Wood Hite inquest. “Understood her to testify that she had not seen Frank James for about two years.”

JAMES C. MASON of Ray County. Said Captain Ford told him he didn’t think Frank James was in the Winston robbery; that he had settled down and left the boys.

JOHN T. SAMUELS, farmer and half-brother of Frank James. “Heard my mother ask Jesse James where Frank was and he said he had left him in Kentucky and that he was in bad health and was going South.”

MRS. ZERELDA SAMUELS, farmer and mother of Jesse and Frank James. Asked Jesse where Frank was and he said he was in Kentucky in bad health. Frank was in Missouri in 1881 and she thought he was dead. Lost her arm by the explosion of a bomb when she was 50 years old.

ALLEN H. PALMER, Texas cattleman. Married Frank James’s sister. Frank James was in his house for several weeks about Aug. 1, 1881.

MRS. ALLEN H. PALMER of Texas and sister of Frank James. Said he came to her home in Texas in June, 1881. He stayed there until the first of July and then left there a while and came back the first of August and stayed until September.

FRANK JAMES of Nashville. Said he left Missouri in 1876 and arrived in Nashville in July. Rented a farm, put in a crop during the next few years under the name of B.J. Woodson and worked for the Indiana Lumber Company. Went to a sister’s house in Texas and got there about the first of June, 1881, and remained there some time. When he left Tennessee he sent his wife to General Shelby to see if arrangements could be made with the Governor of Missouri for a surrender. Returned to Kentucky in 1881 and went with his wife to North Carolina and while in Virginia heard of the assassination of his brother, Jesse James. Returned to Kentucky and remained there until my surrender was affected, and came to Missouri, October 5, 1882. Was not in Missouri from 1876.

J.H. McGEE of Winston. Was on the train that was robbed. Saw all three of the men and sized them up, but couldn’t tell whether defendant Frank James was one of them or not.