Local James Gang Events in Context

Three significant events occurred in Daviess County, MO, which dramatically plays into the lore and legend of outlaws Frank and Jesse James. When considering these dates, also consider what other newsworthy events of significance were underway at that particular time:

1869 — James Boys accused of robbery and murder at the Daviess County Savings Association in Gallatin, MO

    • Union Pacific Railroad working westward from Nebraska links up with the Central Pacific working eastward from California meet at Promontory Point, Utah — the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.
    • The Cincinnati Red Stockings became baseball’s first professional team in 1869. They began with a 45-9 thumping of a team called the Great Western of Cincinnati, then proceeded to win nearly every one of its more than 70 games against overmatched amateur teams in the Midwest.
    • Suez Canal was completed on Aug. 18, 1869, and the inauguration ceremony on Nov. 17, 1869. Between 1859 and 1869, Egyptian khedive Saʿīd Pasha partnered with France’s Suez Canal Company to build the present canal connecting the Mediterranean and Red seas.

1881 — James Gang train robbery and murder near Winston, MO

  • President James Garfield was assassinated, just five months into his term of office
  • Billy the Kid escaped from the Lincoln County, New Mexico jail house on April 28, 1881, killing two deputies on guard
  • U.S. Supreme Court rules that the income tax is constitutional since it is not a direct tax prohibited by the Constitution

1883 — the trial of Frank James at Gallatin, MO

  • Buffalo Bill Cody organizes the first Wild West Show
  • Mark Twain publishes “Life on the Mississippi”
  • The Brooklyn Bridge is completed in New York City, NY, connecting Manhattan and Long Island

Crittenden Expresses Satisfaction

The “Autobiography of Governor T.T. Crittenden (1832-1909) leaves little to imagination about the governor’s personal involvement and interest in what was to be done about outlaws Frank & Jesse James — and his satisfaction of the outlaws’ demise.

When nominated for governor, Crittenden express three well-defined purposes for him seeking the office: 1. the building up and sustaining the financial health of the state; and 2. to have a broader and more far-reaching system of education for children; and 3. a solemn determination to overthrow and destroy the outlawry in the state whose head and front was the James Gang, who had invested the western part of the state… giving the state the disgraceful cognomen of “The Robber State!” (p. 60)

“With pride I look at the Missouri  at the close of my administration, in comparison to that of its commencement with all its disturbances and lawlessness. There was not a horse nor an ace of land in the western part of the state whose value was not increased at least 33% by the destruction of that band… If asked, as I often have been, which one was the greatest benefit to Missouri as a state and to a people as a class, I should unhesitatingly say breaking up the James Gang of outlaws. ” (p. 61)

Missouri Gov. Crittenden accepted the surrender of Frank James and later attended the outlaw’s trial at Gallatin, MO, in 1883.

It should also be noted that Crittenden later teamed up with Gallatin attorney Henry Clay McDougal to open a law practice in Kansas City, located at 7th and Delaware streets.

Press Agent for Outlaws

The following, in part, is written by Martin McGrane for the February 1980 edition of Rural Missouri:

Not many people become international celebrities without a little promotional help along the way — and Missouri’s famous bandit brothers, Frank and Jesse James, were no exceptions. And while it might be too generous to give John Edwards all the credit for history’s image of the James boys, he certainly deserves a healthy dose.

Edwards was a pioneer Missouri newspaperman, one of the most respected of his generation. But more than that, he was a public relations man operating during an era that hadn’t even coined the term. Using a hero-building formula that had been around for centuries, in tandem with PR techniques so innovative they wouldn’t have labels for another 70 years, he gave the James brothers an image so appealing that it prompted one of Missouri’s most famous skeptics, Harry Truman, to remark: “Jesse was a modern-day Robin Hood. He stole from the rich and gave to the poor, which, in general, is not a bad policy.”

Newspaper publisher John Edwards, ardent defender of the James Boys who largely embellished their lore and legend

Edwards was born in Front Royal, VA, in 1839. He came to Missouri in the mid-1850s, first working as a printer for the Lexington Expositor. When the Civil War began he joined the Confederate Army and won a major’s commission while serving as an adjutant to his friend, General Jo Shelby. Between the war’s end and the time of his death in 1889, Edwards wrote for at least six different Missouri newspapers, authored two books — and became a moody, introverted alcoholic.

Edwards probably met Frank and Jesse James when they were teenaged Confederate guerrillas riding with William Clarke Quantrill and “Bloody Bill” Anderson. The James boys went back to their mother’s farm near Kearney, MO, after the war and although they’ve often been accused of launching their careers with a hit on the Clay County Savings Bank in Liberty, MO, on Feb. 13, 1866, it wasn’t until two men robbed the Daviess County Savings Association at Gallatin on Dec. 7, 1869, that Frank and Jesse came under public suspicion.

By 1872, Edwards was actively involved in glamorizing local crimes charged against unknown ex-guerrillas in general and the James brothers in particular. Perhaps fantasizing that some remnant of the Confederacy still rode whenever the old bushwhackers went outside the law, Edwards began to glorify them, not for the crimes they committed but for the way they did things. Two days after three armed men rode up to the cashier’s window at the Kansas City fairgrounds and came away with $978, while a crowd estimated at 10,000 gaped in astonishment, Edwards published an editorial in the Kansas City Times (which he helped organize in 1868) that showed his admiration for the flashy lawlessness of the ex-guerrillas:

“There are men …who learned to dare when there was no such word as quarter in the dictionary of the Border. Men who have carried their lives in their hands so long they do not know how to commit them over into the keeping of the laws an regulations that exist now, and these men sometimes rob. But it is always in the glare of the day and in the teeth of the multitude. With them booty is but the second thought; the wild drama of the adventure first …These men are bad citizens but they are bad because they live out of their time. The nineteenth century …is not the social soil for men who might have sat with Arthur at the Round Table, ridden at tourney with Sur Launcelot…

“What they did we condemn. But the way they did it we cannot help admiring… It was as though three bandits had come to us from the storied Odenwald, with the halo of medieval chivalry upon their garments…”

Other local editorial writers saw the fairgrounds robbery in a different light. Commenting that a young girl had been accidentally shot and seriously wounded during the fracas, the Kansas City Daily Journal of Commerce stated: “More audacious villains than the perpetrators of this robbery, or those more deserving of hanging on a limb do not exist at this moment.”

Whether he consciously realized it or not, Edwards’ defense of the James brothers and other ex-guerrillas had, by then, already begun to follow a formula for hero-making that had been used for centuries. In immortalizing England’s Robin Hod, Germany’s Schinderhannes, Italy’s Fra Diavalo and Australia’s Ned Kelly, writers have used a consistent, proven scenario. The young hero is forced into a life of crime; his crimes are noble and justifiable (he steals from the rich and gives to the poor); he is kind to defenseless women and children, but a scourge to evil men — and he is eventually killed by a wretched, honor-starved traitor.

Edwards’ editorial that followed the Kansas City fairgrounds robbery hinted at this approach. And in 1877, when Frank and Jesse were already famous as bank and train robbers, Edwards published a 488-page book of real and imaged Civil War exploits called “Noted Guerrillas or the Warfare of the Border,” that plugged the James brothers into all but the last step of that historically proven formula. For openers, the book established the claim that Jesse was not allowed to return to peaceful postwar life by saying that he had been shot and seriously wounded while riding toward Lexington, MO, to surrender to federal troops after the war’s end. Then, in Chapter 18, Edwards eloquently described the kind of harassment he claimed drove Jesse to become a postwar outlaw:

“The hunt for this maimed and emaciated Guerrilla culminated on the night of Feb. 18, 1867. On this night an effort was made to kill him. Five militiamen, well armed and mounted, came to his mother’s house and demanded admittance. The weather was bitterly cold, and Jesse James, parched with a fever, was tossing wearily in bed. His pistols were under his head. His step-father, Dr. Samuel, heard the militiamen as they walked upon the front porch, and demanded to know what they wanted. They told him to open the door. He came up to Jess’s room and asked him what he should do. ‘Help me to the window,’ was the low, calm reply, ‘that I may look out.’ He did so. There was snow on the ground and the moon was shining. He saw that all the horses hitched to the fence had on cavalry saddles, and then he knew that the men were soldiers. He had be one of two things to do — drive them away or die…

He went down stairs softly, having first dressed himself, crept up close to the front door and listened until from the talk of the men he thought he was able to get a fatally accurate pistol range. Then he put a heavy dragoon revolver to within three inches of the upper panel of the door and fired. A man cried out and fell. Before the surprise was off he threw the door wide open, and with a pistol in each hand began a rapid fusillade. A second man was killed as he ran, two men were wounded severely, and surrendered, while the fifth marauder, terrified yet unhurt, rushed swiftly to his horse and escaped in the darkness.

“What else could Jesse James have done? He had been a desperate Guerrilla; he had fought under a black flag; he had made a name for terrible prowess along the border …hence the wanton war waged upon Jesse and Frank James, and hence the reason why today they are outlaws.”

But modern scholars haven’t found much to support Edwards’ claim that the James boys’ only postwar option was a life of crime. Dr. William A. Settle, Jr., author of a book called, “Jesse James Was His Name,” is one skeptic.

“How hostile was the environment in Missouri to which the wartime guerrillas, or even Confederate soldiers, returned in 1865 and later? In most communities, it was as hostile as the men themselves made it… ”

“For over four years after the end of the war the James boys lived at their mother’s home and came and went as they pleased. They apparently cultivated the farm when they were there and got along with their neighbors without serious difficulty in spite of their participation in the most immediate violence of the war in Missouri. During this time Jesse joined the Baptist Church in Kearney and was baptized. Had he and Frank never become involved in postwar banditry, they could, without any question, have lived peaceably at home. Examples are numerous of former Quantrill men who lived in peace and prospered quietly after the war.”


But Edwards did much more than just plug the James brothers’ exploits into a proven image-building formula. Over a span of years, letters attributed to Jesse kept popping up in whatever newspaper Edwards happened to be working for. That might have been coincidence, but the writing style shown in most of the letters was a stylistic dead-ringer for Edwards’ own flowery rhetoric. One of the earliest of them, printed in the Kansas City Times after a Gallatin, MO, robbery and shoot-out that left townspeople dead, was typical:

“I will never surrender to be mobbed by a set of bloodthirsty poltroons. It is true that during the war I was a Confederate soldier, fought under the black flag, but since then I have lived a peaceable citizen, and obeyed the laws of the United States to the best of my knowledge.”

The rival Kansas City Journal observed this flow of correspondence and said that the letters were becoming “suspiciously — almost nauseatingly — monotonous.” One letter that may actually have been Jesse’s work appeared in the Nashville, TN, Banner shortly after Pinkerton Agency detectives tossed either a bomb or a flare into his mother’s home in 1875, killing Jesse’s half brother Archie Peyton Samuel and mangling his mother’s arm so badly it had to be amputated later that same day. The tone of the letter printed in the Tennessee paper was chilling: “Justice is slow but sure, and they (sic) is a just God that will bring all to justice. Pinkerton, I hope and pray that our Heavenly Father may deliver you into my hands… ”

It seems likely that Edwards may have encouraged Jesse and Frank’s mother, Zerelda Samuel, to make herself available to the press to further her sons’ defenses. During one of those early-day press conferences, which followed a stagecoach robbery near Lexington that had been blamed on her sons, she insisted they were innocent and that all their troubles were due, just as Edwards had been saying, to the fact that they hadn’t been allowed to return to a peaceful postwar life. She made another public denial of the boys’ guilt after a Missouri Pacific train was robbed near Otterville in the summer of 1876, and again after a Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific train was hit near Winston, MO, in 1881. She said Frank and Jesse couldn’t have been involved in the Winston holdup, which took the lives of the train’s conductor and one passenger, because her sons were dead.

It was a nice try, but it wasn’t true.

After Bob Ford added the last element of the hero-building formula by killing Jesse on April 3, 1882, Edwards was quick to editorially point out that the men responsible were “self confessed robbers, highwaymen and prostitutes.” As with any true hero, Jesse had been killed by a wretch unworthy to stand in his presence.

With Jesse gone, Edwards turned his public relations strategies toward Frank’s defense. Though many people thought Frank would try to avenge his brother’s killing, Edwards knew better. Frank was ready to retire. On Aug. 1, 1882, Edwards wrote to him and the letter showed the kind of behind-the-scenes maneuvering he was involved in:

“I am now returned home from the Indian Territory (a term Settle says Edwards sued to indicate he was sober again, following a spree) to find your letters. Do not make a move until you hear from me again. I have been to the Governor (Thomas T. Crittenden) myself, and things are working. Lie quiet and make no stir… ”

Edwards went along when Frank surrendered to Crittenden on Oct. 4, 1882. The two of them turned the surrender into something of a media event, which wasn’t very surprising. Edwards, on entering the governor’s office, said, “Governor, I want to introduce you to my old friend Frank James.” Sensing the drama of the moment, Frank removed his pistol belt and told Crittenden, “I want to hand over to you that which no living man except myself has been permitted to touch since 1861, and to say that I am your prisoner.”

But even before Frank’s well-publicized surrender, Edwards had been pulling strings. He’d arranged for Charles P. Johnson, a former Missouri lieutenant governor, to head Frank’s large and capable defense team. Newspapers from around the country were jammed with coverage of Frank’s trial. He was charged with murdering one man during the 1869 Gallatin bank robbery and two more during the 1881 Winston train job. After an eloquent defense, Frank was acquitted and there’s no doubt that Edwards’ efforts at building a climate of public sympathy and support helped enormously. But there were more charges in the works and he wrote to Frank that he was still on the job:

“My Dear Frank:
I need not tell you how great a joy was the verdict… I am now quietly watching the expressions of public opinion and building up some breastworks. Never mind what the newspapers say, the masses are for you. The backbone of the prosecution has been broken. I have been through hell myself since I saw you, but I have driven out the pirates, and got the vessel again. Write to me. You friend, as ever,

J.N. Edwards”

Edwards kept on with his lobbying after John S. Marmaduke became Missouri governor in 1884. In a letter to Frank written in March, 1885, Edwards assured him that the new governor would never surrender him to Minnesota authorities to face charges stemming from the bungled Northfield raid that had sent Cole, Bob and Jim Younger to prison almost 10 years earlier.

“I have just five minutes ago left Governor Marmaduke,” Edwards wrote, “after a long, full, and perfect interview… I tell you that you are a free man, and can never be touched while Marmaduke is governor.”

That visit with the governor was Edwards’ last public relations gesture on behalf of Frank James. But even at the time of his death four years later, Edwards was still working for the men who had fought for the Confederacy — he was preparing a petition asking the release of the Youngers from their Minnesota prison.


General Jo Shelby with Major John Newman Edwards, his longtime adjutant during the war and lifetime friend

Although Edwards was only one among hundreds of writers who published books, pamphlets and stories about the James brothers both during and after their lifetimes, he was different from the rest of the herd. For one thing, his was the original work. Much of what Edwards wrote about Frank, Jesse and the rest of the guerrillas was fiction, but it made fine reading and it was copied by hordes of his followers. Then too, Edward never wrote a word in defense of the James boys because he was after money or fame. A letter to Frank shortly after he was cleared of the Gallatin charges made that clear: “Whatever I do at ay time or upon any occasion is done with an eye simple to your interests. As for myself, I do not care one tinkers damn what is said, I shall stay to the end.”

In a review of Missouri’s first hundred years of journalism, written in 1920, Edwards won warm, understanding praise. He was, it said, “better known and better loved by his generation than any other newspaperman in any generation of the century… Out of the maze of romance his genius substituted for realities, his eloquence expressed itself in dreams… And what he could not otherwise endure, he idealized.”

Edward never waivered in his loyalty to Missouri’s Confederates and he waged a long, self-consuming war to win acceptance for Frank and Jesse James. From time to time, Jesse showed some measure of gratitude. He named his son Jesse Edwards James. Frank, too, must have felt grateful for all the work Edwards did for him.

In a curious way, Edwards was using the James brothers. Through them the Union-flaunting Confederacy still lived and through daring, chivalrous raids — which had most of their reality in Edwards’ mind — dashing rebel guerrillas still outrode, outshot and outwitted their clumsy Union enemies. But if Edwards used the James brothers, they took advantage of his attention, too. Jesse liked the celebrity status that Edwards’ publicity gave him and a reported chance encounter with the famous author made that clear:

“Some time ago I was making a purchase in a small town store in Missouri. A man walked in and seeing me, came over with outstretched hand and said, ‘You’re Mark Twain, ain’t you!’ I nodded. ‘Guess yo and I are about the greatest in our lines’ to which I couldn’t help but nod but wonder as to what his throne of greatness he held. So I asked, ‘What’s your name?’ He replied, ‘Jesse James’ as he gathered up his packages.

So it seems that in the final measure, Edwards and the James brothers did rather well by one another. Edwards found the characters to flesh out a drama he’d probably been planning since the fall of the Confederacy. And the James boys, in turn, discovered a publicist with the skill to turn the bloody reality of their postwar livelihoods into something far more appealing. So appealing, in fact, that it’s become one of the best-loved legends in American history.


$5,000 Reward Offer for Jameses

The following is the proclamation of the Governor of Missouri, announcing rewards for the arrest of train robbers following the crimes which occurred near Winston, MO, in 1881 (the reward was really offered by the railroad companies through the governor, together with what was already authorized by the legislature to pay the rewards offered):

WHEREAS, It has been made known to me, as Governor of the State of Missouri, that certain parties, whose names are to me unknown have confederated and banded themselves together for the purpose of committing robberies and other depredations within this State; and

WHEREAS, Said parties did, on or about the Eighth day of October, 1879, stop a train near Glendale, in the county of Jackson, in said state, and, with force and violence, take, steal and carry away the money and other express matter being carried thereon; and

WHEREAS, On the fifteenth day of July, 1881, said parties and their confederates did stop a train upon the line of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, near Winston, in the County of Daviess, In said State, and, with force and violence, take, steal, and carry away the money and other express matter being carried thereon; and, in perpetration of the robbery last aforesaid, the parties engaged therein did kill and murder one William Westfall, the conductor of the train, together with one John McMillan, who was at the time in the employ of said company, then on said train; and

WHEREAS, Frank James and Jesse W. James stand indicted in the Circuit Court of said Daviess County, for the murder of John W. Sheets, and the parties engaged in the robberies and murders aforesaid have fled from justice and have absconded and secreted themselves;

NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of these premises, and in lieu of all other rewards heretofore offered for the arrest or conviction of the parties aforesaid, or either of them, by any person or corporation, I, Thomas T. Crittenden, Governor the State of Missouri, do hereby offer a reward of five thousand dollars ($5,000) for the arrest and conviction of each person participating in either of the robberies or murders aforesaid, excepting the said Frank James and Jesse W. James; and for the arrest and delivery of said


and each or either of them, to the sheriff of said Daviess County, I hereby offer a reward of five thousand dollars, ($5,000.00), and for the conviction of either of the parties last aforesaid of participation in either of the murders or robberies above mentioned, I hereby offer a further reward of five thousand dollars ($5,000.00).

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Missouri. Done at the City of Jefferson on this 28th day of July, A.D., 1881.


By the Governor:
Mich’l K. McGrtath, Sec’y of State

Creating the James Legend

Newspaperman John Newman Edwards played a significant role in molding public opinion in favor of Frank and Jesse James despite their crimes.

Newspaper publisher John Edwards, ardent defender of the James Boys who largely embellished their lore and legend


The following is taken, in part, from a 2-part series written by Edward A. Higgins on the James boys published in May, 1973, by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Not long afterwards (after the Gallatin bank robbery), a letter appeared in the Kansas City Times, edited by John Newman Edwards, who had ridden with Confederate General Jo Shelby in the War Between the States while the James brothers were riding with Quantrill’s raiders, who conducted guerrilla warfare in Kansas and western Missouri. In the letter, Jesse, who would be classified a functional illiterate today, denied killing the bank owner or holding up the bank, but said he could not surrender because he was convinced he would be lynched as had some of the men arrested as suspects in the five earlier bank holdups.

“I will never surrender to be mobbed by a set of bloodthirsty poltroons,” the letter said. “It is true that during the war I was a Confederate soldier, and fought under the black flag, but since then I have lived as a peaceable citizen, and obeyed the laws of the United States to the best of my knowledge.”

With that letter, Jesse James began his evolution as the first media creation.

Almost ever bank, train or state holdup thereafter was charged to the James brothers or to members of their gang — all former Quantrill men — and almost every one produced a letter of denial from Jesse James. Frank, who was well-read and lied to recite Shakespeare, was not given to letter-writing, at least in his own name. The letters of denial, all of which attributed Jesse’s unwillingness to surrender to his fear that Union sympathizers would not give him a fair trial, produced in turn a gush of sympathetic stories from the Times and other Missouri newspapers that had been in the Confederate camp.

The Jameses, the Youngers, and other former Quantrill bushwhackers were characterized as law-abiding citizens whose families had been persecuted during the Civil War — which was true to some extent — and who, upon returning from war, had been harassed and intimidated by Jayhawkers and the Radical Republicans who controlled the state. They were noble chaps, driven to a life of crime, said the Times and other papers. As the months and years passed, the newspapers embellished the legend by asserting that the criminals never robbed former Confederates, nor did they rob the poor. They were compared to Robin Hood and King Arthur’s knights. The paradox of it all was that the newspapers portrayed the robbers as knights errant, praised their daring, and romanticized their motives, yet denied their guilt.

In short, Jesse James and his kind ere praised for crimes someone else allegedly committed.

There was a good deal of Confederate sympathy in Missouri at the time and this, combined with the press depiction of the robbers as wronged men and citizen fear of being killed for turning them in, permitted the Jameses to live fairly open lives for the 13 years they remained at large after the Gallatin bank job.

The extent of the sympathy the press inspired toward the Jameses and other Quantrill men is reflected in this casual mention of the James brothers in a dispatch from the Liberty Tribune’s correspondent in Kearney in the summer of 1870: “We have no news. We are very dry and suffering from want or rain. The James brothers were in our town this week. They were heavily armed and well mounted.”

Another indication of the public sympathy for the outlaws can be seen in two resolutions introduced in the Missouri House, both in 1875. The first expressed outrage over the fire bombing of the James farm, which took the life of the James brothers’ 9-year-old stepbrother, Archie, and blew off their mother’s right hand. The Richmond Conservator declared, “The James boys never fired a dwelling at might.” The hated Pinkerton detectives were blamed for the act, but the resolution calling for the capture of the culprits never produced results.

The second resolution, vigorously supported by the St. Louis Dispatch, called for amnesty for all former bushwhackers. It described the Jameses and the Youngers as men who were forced from their homes and were seeking only to keep themselves alive, concluding: “Whereas, believing these men too brave to be mean, too generous to be revengeful, and too gallant and honorable to betray a friend of break a promise; and believing further that most, if not all, the offenses with which they are charged have been committed by others …that the return of these men to their homes and friends would have the effect of greatly lessening crime in our state by turning public attention to the real criminals, sound policy and true statesmanship alike demand that general amnesty should be extended …for attacks done or charged to have been done during the war… ”

It is true that the Missouri Constitution of 1865 did not extend amnesty to Confederates, but it is also true that it did not outlaw them. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the Jameses and the Youngers were molested after the war; in any case, the war had been over almost a year before the first bank robbery took place.

The vote on that resolution to grant amnesty, which of course would not have cleared them of any criminal charges arising from the bank, train and stage holdups, was 58-yes and 39-no. It failed for want of a two-thirds majority.

If things had gone well for the James gang up to that point, it was about to come apart. The beginning of the end occurred in September 1876 when eight armed men rode into Northfield, MN. Only two rode out.


The following is taken, in part, from the second portion of a 2-part series written by Edward A. Higgins on the James boys published in May, 1973, by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The gang did not fail to exploit the sympathy generate for them by the newspapers. After almost every robbery a letter would appear in a newspaper over Jesse’s name, though he was nearly illiterate. The theme was nearly always the same: Guilt was denied but surrender was impossible because former Confederate allegiance would make a fair trial impossible.

Apparently sensing what every public relations man knows today, the James gang quickly learned the best way to get full media exposure. On at least one occasion they issued a press release on their exploits:

On Jan. 31, 1874, five men walked into the depot at Gads Hill, a small village and flag station on the Iron Mountain Railroad, 100 miles south of St. Louis. Revolvers drawn, they ordered the station agent to signal the oncoming train to stop. It did, and when the conductor alighted he was looking down the muzzle of a revolver instead of a boarding passenger. The other robbers climbed onto the train and relieved the passengers of their money and jewelry, and also took the contents of the express safe. Estimates of the lot ranged from $200 to $22,000.

As the robbers departed, one of them paused to hand a crewman a neatly written account of the robbery, accurate, as it turned out, in all its details. The account contained a blank in which the amount of money taken could be filled in.

Before long, the Jameses’ mother joined in the media campaign. She visited newspapers and submitted to interviews in which she described her sons as loyal, devoted, peace-loving boys who helped little old ladies across streets, rescued cats from trees, and killed Yankees during the Civil War (the James family owned seven slaves when the war broke out).

…With three of the original gang in custody and three killed — William Stiles, Clell Miller and Samuel Wells — the Jameses moved to Tennessee under assumed names. Train and bank robberies in Missouri continued, however, and after Jesse’s death his former neighbors in Tennessee recalled that he left home for periods of thee and four weeks at a time. Many of these periods corresponded with robberies in Missouri. Trains were held up in 1879 in Glendale in Jackson County, in 1881 at Winston in Daviess County, and at Blue Cut the same year in Jackson County. Some of the jobs were poorly carried out, indicating either that the Jameses were not involved or that the newly recruited members of the gang were not nearly as professional as the six casualties of the Northfield sitckup.

After Northfield, press and public sympathy for the Jameses continued, but press hostility also developed. Missouri’s reputation as the birthplace of the bank holdup and the state in which the train robbery was perfected was thought by civic boosters to have hurt its economic growth. Newspapers in Chicago and the East were scornful of Missouri. Political leaders were increasingly being called to task for their inability to bring the Jameses to justice.

…today towns all over Missouri like to maintain that Jesse James robbed their bank. He probably robbed many banks, stages and trains and if he did, he also killed many innocent, unresisting persons. On the other hand, no one has ever proved that he committed a crime. But if one wants to believe that he was some kind of knight errant of the back woods, a dashing figure of great courage, resourcefulness and daring, one then also must conceded that he was a ruthless murderer.

Who Was Henry Clay McDougal?

Henry Clay McDougal was born in Marion County, VA, on Dec. 9, 1844. He enlisted in the 6th Infantry Volunteers a Union regiment, and served through the Civil War. At its close, he came to Missouri and located at Bancroft (Lincoln Township in Daviess County, MO) near Gilman City where his father had settled a short time before. He moved to Gallatin where he read law in the office of Judge Dodge. For a time he took his residence in the brick residence located at East Berry and North Maple streets on today’s map.

Henry Clay McDougal, Attorney

McDougal was appointed city clerk in 1868-69, the first to fill that office after the reviving of city government following its lapse during the Civil War. He was mayor of Gallatin in 1870-71 and also served on the school board. He served two terms as probate judge of Daviess County while at Gallatin. McDougal was admitted in the bar in 1868 and soon became a member of Shanklin Low & McDougal (Low was M.A. Low who was later to become the guiding spirit of the Rock Island Railroad).

During his 15 years of residence here, McDougal was directly involved in the exploits and prosecutions against outlaws Frank and Jesse James. He was a personal friend of Capt. John Sheets, the cashier slain during the 1869 robbery of the Daviess County Savings Association. McDougal subsequently represented Daniel Smoote, whose stolen horse implicated the James brothers in the murder and robbery, prompting the first bounty for their arrest.

Samuel P. Cox (credited with killing William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, the guerrilla leader of the James-Younger crew in 1864) was in McDougal’s office the morning McDougal received a telegram reporting the kill of Jesse James in St. Joseph. According to his account in his book “Recollections,” McDougal explains that Jesse James had vowed death to both Cox and McDougal — Cox for killing Anderson and McDougal for attaching Jesse’s prized mare to the1869 robbery and murder in Gallatin. Both men were relieved to learn of Jesse’s death. McDougal recounts Jesse James’s attempts on his life in several instances, usually while aboard a train.

In August and September, 1883, McDougal was special counsel in the background for the prosecution of Frank James in Gallatin. “Suppressed excitement was intense,” writes McDougal in his memoirs, “the evidence such as would have convicted any other man.”

In 1884 McDougal moved to Kansas City and became a partner of Gov. T.T. Crittenden. He authored the history of Kansas City in the city charter. He conducted the city’s case in the acquisition of the National Water Works plant a judicial victory which he counted his best achievement.

McDougal’s acquaintances with men who made American history in the period between the Civil War and 1900 comprise an astonishing list, including Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, U.S. Grant, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley plus hundreds of other historical name of significance including Jefferson Davis. He was a personal friend of Gallatin native and Missouri Governor A.M. Dockery.

Henry Clay McDougal died in Los Angeles in December, 1915. Among survivors at the time was a daughter, Mrs. Florence Roosevelt. McDougal was the maternal grandfather of the late Helen Roosevelt, whose estate now lists Daviess County and the operation of the 1889 Squirrel Cage Jail a beneficiary.

— by Darryl Wilkinson for the Gallatin North Missourian

Gallatin attorney H.C. McDougal was just embarking upon his impressive career when he agreed to represent farmer Daniel Smoot in a lawsuit against Jesse James.


McDougal Connection Leads to Endowment for Jail

[The following was written by editor and publisher Darryl Wilkinson for publication in the Gallatin North Missourian announcing an endowment to finance operation of the antique rotary jail in Gallatin, MO, as a visitors’ center.]

Though restoration of the 1889 Squirrel Cage Jail in Gallatin is from from complete, financing to operate the unique facility as a visitors’ center and community museum is now assured.

Daviess County has been named as a $125,000 beneficiary in the settlement of the estate of Helen Roosevelt. The Daviess County Historical Society will act as the trustee of the new endowment fund. Interest revenue from the endowment fund is designated for use at the jail as a memorial to Henry Clay McDougal, maternal grandfather of the late Mrs. Roosevelt.

The surprise announcement was made Saturday evening during Chautauqua activities. The legal transaction is expected to be completed soon, climaxing effort made during the past 13 months.

“We are extremely pleased to be among the beneficiaries of the Helen Roosevelt estate,” Daviess County Historical Society president Dan Lockridge says. “Only interest revenue from the endowment can be expended, but this will provide perpetual funding for operating the jail after restoration is completed.”

Connecticut connection

The trust funds derive from the sale of a 6-acre estate located in Connecticut. Although Helen Roosevelt’s father was a cousin of President Teddy Roosevelt, her will directed that proceeds of her estate be given to not-for-profit entities in ways honoring her mother’s side of the family.

Other beneficiaries of the estate include the Missouri Bar Association, the historical Morose House in Michigan, and a medical foundation.

Daviess County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Arnold provided legal assistance in setting up the trust fund for use here. The Davies County Commission and the board of directors of the Daviess County Historical Society have endorsed the proposal.

Terms of the trust fund mandate an annual report to be publicly available at the county clerk’s office with annual review by the Circuit Court. Should the Historical Society discontinue, the county becomes trustee of the endowment. Should the jail facility be destroyed or discontinued, the Historical Society will have access to both the interest and principal of the endowment for activities furthering the purposes set down in the endowment agreement.

The $125,000 gift is the largest ever received by the Historical Society, probably among the largest ever received by any not-for-profit group in the county. The 1889 Squirrel Cage Jail attracted the interest of estate executor Renee Tackett Grant since it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Restoration continues

The new trust fund comes at a time when work to install a newly fabricated static display of the circular jail cells nears completion. Inmates at Western Missouri Correctional Center are now assembling the last panels in vocational classes at the prison in Cameron. Reassembly of the rebuilt rotary jail in Gallatin could occur within the next month.

Gallatin Rotary Club is presently selling engraved bricks for construction of an exterior sidewalk with proceeds to benefit the jail project. Brick sales will pay for painting the squirrel cage once it arrives in Gallatin and interior lighting. Brick sales currently total half of the announced goal of 75 engraved brick.

“It’s going to take continued fundraisers like that done by the Gallatin Rotary Club and plenty of volunteer work to restore the jail and residence,” Lockridge says. “The endowment will not finance restoration expenses, but it will provide an annual operating budget once the jail project is complete.”

To date approximately $28,000 has been spent on the jail, mostly for rebricking the jail’s exterior layer of brick. The jail account is nearly depleted. Reconstruction of the squirrel cage is a community service provided by WMCC and prison inmates, the only expense being for materials.

After installation of the refabricate jail cells this fall, restoration work will be renewed next spring focusing on the interior sheriff’s residence.

A target date for grand opening festivities has yet to be announced. When that occurs, Renee Tackett Grant will be among those invited.

1883 Trial: One Conclusion Shared

The following conclusion 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. It reads, in part, as follows:


The trial lasted for over a week, and all the leading newspapers had correspondents there. The trial was watched all over America. There were 12 hours of oratory at the close, and the jury retired to consider its verdict after noon. About four o’clock that afternoon it brought in a verdict of “not guilty” and Frank James was a free man for the first time since he started with Quantrill in 1861, but many murder and robbery charges were still pending against him…

Legend says the James boys were with the Younger brothers in the fiasco at Northfield, MN. I do not know. I do know that all the law enforcing agencies in the country tried for more than 15 years to find evidence to convict the James boys, but they were never tried after Gallatin, and of course, Jesse was dead.

I do not think I should express an opinion as to their guilt or innocence, and our guess is as good as mine. I have only tried to review the only trial either of the James boys participated in. No one on the train that was robbed recognized the James boys or any one else, although none of the robbers were maked. Frank had a noticeable scar on his face from a sabre wound, but no witness mentioned seeing a robber with a scar on his face.

Frank’s defense was an alibi, that he was not there. The only witnesses who testified that he was in the vicinity of the robbery before it happened, were farm people who testified that they saw several men in the vicinity for about a month before the robbery, and that Frank James was one of them. In most of the instances of identification, the witnesses told others that they could not identify Frank James or any one else.

Dick Liddill, who was pardoned from the penitentiary to testify against Frank James, was a notorious convict, but he identified Frank James as one of the train robbers. He had not told Governor Crittenden who pardoned him that Frank was one of the robbers, and he had told others that Frank was not one of the robbers.

There was sufficient evidence to have convicted Frank James had it been believed, but the jury did not believe the witnesses. Wallace, who prosecuted Frank James, was trying to make a record for himself as he wanted to be Governor, and probably would have been governor had he convicted Frank James. He fought a hard fight financed by the banks and railroads, and used everything he had.

Neither Governor Crittenden or William F. Wallace ever held another elective office in Missouri. Frank lived in Missouri for many yeas after his trial and always enjoyed a good reputation. He started horse races at many Missouri towns, and took tickets at Ed Butler’s Standard Theater in St. Louis for many years. The Democrats would not elect him Doorkeeper of the House of Representatives at Jefferson City because of eastern criticism. He is buried in the James family gave yard near Kearney, and each year thousands pay to see his grave.

The James boys were not the western type of outlaws. They never saw Dodge City, Abilene, Wichita, Tombstone or Deadwood. They had their families with them all the time. They had many sorrows. They saw their father punished by northern troops. A bomb was thrown into their mother’s room on the farm by Pinkerton detectives and her arm was torn from her body and her youngest child killed in her arms. They saw their girl friends and relatives thrown into a condemned, dilapidated building in Kansas City which soon fell, killing or wounding all of them. They fought from 1861 to 1865 for the Southern cause although they refused to align themselves with regular troops. They fought for the South and the South lost.

Your guess is as to their guilt is as good as mine. I do not know. They were never arrested or convicted. Missouri was called the “Robber State” because of them. People refused to travel through the state, but the James boys are often spoken of in Missouri with admiration and respect, as the men who took the falling torch of “the lost cause” and almost single-handed flaunted it in the face of the enemy. They were the products of a tumultuous era and have passed into legend. Many people now have a soft spot in their heart for the James boys, and time has mellowed the memory of their misdeeds.

They lost and the loser always looks bad. And the winner always looks good. Victory made George Washington and his soldiers patriots and heroes. Had they lost, they would have been branded as traitors and would have been hung. How would the James boys have looked had the South won? How would Quantrill the guerilla have looked had the South won? How would Lincoln have looked had the South won? Would he have been a hero or would he have been hung? Was there a difference in General Sherman burning Atlanta and Columbia, and in Quantrill burning Lawrence? It is hard to judge those people today, because they fought for a lost cause.

Only two losers in American history died heroes: General Robert E. Lee, who lost the Civil War, and Casey, who struck out in the ninth inning with two men on base, losing the baseball game.

The world assumes that the James boys started train robbery as a business and maybe they did. But today they wander in that spirit land with their old comrades in Gray and see again the Stars and Bars floating proudly to the breeze. The feeling against them had died down to a great extent. I think we can all say to the James boys today a long, long farewell.

1883 Trial: Counselors For and Against Frank James

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 State

Prosecutor Wm. Wallace of Jackson County, with statewide political ambitions

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 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.

Counsel for the Defense

Chief Defense Attorney John F. Philips, left his Supreme Court post to participate in the trial

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.

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

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.

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.

Timeline: Life and Times of the James Boys

  • Dec. 28, 1841 — Robert James and Zerelda Cole married in Logan County, KY
  • Jan 10, 1843 — Alexander Franklin James born
  • 1845 — Robert James purchased the James Farm
  • July 7, 1845 — Robert R. James born
  • Aug. 21, 1845 — Robert R. James died
  • Sept. 5, 1847 — Jesse Woodson James born on James Farm
  • Nov. 25, 1847 — Susan Lavenia James born
  • Aug. 18, 1850 — Robert James dies of cholera
  • Sept. 30, 1852 — Zerelda Cole James married Benjamin Simms; marriage lasted around nine months, and Simms died after they separated
  • Sept. 25, 1855 — Zerelda Cole James Simms married Dr. Reuben Samuel
  • Dec. 26, 1858 — Sarah (Sallie) Louisa Samuel was born
  • May 4, 1861 — Frank James joined the Confederate army
  • Dec. 25, 1861– John Thomas Samuel was born
  • April 1862 — After being captured by Union troops, Frank James took the loyalty oath and gave a $1,000 bond
  • Fall of 1862 — Frank James joins Quantrill’s guerillas after being jailed for not joining the Union army
  • Summer 1863 — A regiment of Federal militia came to the James Farm looking for the whereabouts of Quantrill’s guerillas; they hang Dr. Samuel and severely beat Jesse. A few weeks later, Zerelda and their children are jailed in St. Joseph
  • Oct. 18, 1863 — Fannie Quantrill Samuel is born
  • 1863 of 1864 — Jesse James joins Quantrill’s guerillas
  • May 15, 1865 — Jesse James shot in the chest while surrendering in Lexington, MO
  • May 21, 1865 — Jesse James surrenders
  • July 26, 1865 — Frank James is paroled in Kentucky
  • Feb. 13, 1866 — Bank robbery in Liberty (MO) done by ex-guerillas ($62,000 from Clay County Savings Association)
  • July 26,1866 — Archie Payton Samuel is born
  • Oct. 30, 1866 — Lexington (MO) bank robbery ($2,000 from Alexander Mitchell & Co. Bank)
  • March 2, 1867 — Savannah (MO) bank robbery (no record on loss, Judge John McClain Banking House)
  • Feb. 18, 1867 — Five militia men come to James Farm after Jesse because he has served as a guerilla during the war
  • May 22, 1867 — Richmond (MO) bank ($4,000 from Hughes an Wasson Bank)
  • June 1867 — Jesse James in Nashville (TN) under the care of Dr. Paul Eve for a lung wound he received at the end of the war
  • March 20, 1868 — Russellville (KY) bank robbery ( $14,000 from Nimrod Long Banking Co.)
  • 1868-69 — Frank and Jesse James in California
  • Dec. 7, 1869 — Gallatin (MO) bank robbery (estimated $700 from Daviess County Savings Association)
  • June 3, 1871 — Corydon (IA) bank robbery ($6,000 from Ocobock Brothers’ Bank)
  • April 29, 1872 –Columbia (KY) bank ($600 from Bank of Columbia)
  • Sept. 26, 1872 — Kansas City (MO) Fair robbery ($10,000 from fair office)
  • Sept. 27, 1873 — St. Genevieve (MO) bank robbery ($4,100 from Ste. Genevieve Savings Bank)
  • July 21, 1873 — Adair (IA) train robbery ($6,000 from Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad)
  • Jan. 1874 — Hot Springs (AR) stagecoach robbery ($3,000)
  • Jan. 31, 1874 — Gad’s Hill (MO) train robbery ($12,000 from Iron Mountain Railroad)
  • April, 1874 — Austin (TX) stagecoach robbery ($3,000)
  • April 24, 1874 — Jesse James marries Zerelda (Zee) Amanda Mimms in Kearney (MO)
  • Spring 1874 — Frank James marries Anna Ralston
  • Aug. 30, 1874 — Waverly (MO) and Carrollton (MO) stagecoach robbery (unconfirmed involvement by James)
  • Aug. 30, 1874 — Lexington (MO) stage robbery
  • Dec. 7, 1874 — Corinth (MS) bank robbery (unconfirmed involvement by James at Tishomingo Savings Bank)
  • Dec. 8, 1874 — Muncie (KS) train robbery ($55,000 from Kansas Pacific Railroad)
  • Jan. 26, 1875 — Pinkerton raid at James farm; detectives throw a bomb through the kitchen window killing 8-year-old Archie and mangling Zerelda’s (Jesse’s mother) right hand so badly it had to be amputated
  • Aug. 31, 1875 — Jesse James Jr. born in Nashville (TN)
  • Sept. 5, 1875 — Huntington (WV) bank robbery ($10,000 from Huntington Bank)
  • July 7, 1876 — Blue Cut (Otterville, MO) train robbery ($15,000 from Missouri Pacific Railroad)
  • Sept. 5, 1876 — Northfield (MN) bank robbery attempt
  • 1878 — Zee James gives birth to twin sons, Gould and Montgomery; they lived about a month before they died
  • Feb. 6, 1878 — Frank’s son, Robert Franklin James, was born
  • June 17, 1879 — Jesse’s daughter, Mary Susan James, is born
  • Oct. 8, 1879 — Glendale (MO) train robbery ($40,000 from Chicago & Alton Railroad)
  • Sept. 1880 — Mammoth Cave (MO) stagecoach robbery $1,800)
  • March 11, 1881 — Muscle Shaols (AL) robbery of federal paymaster
One of the scenes painted by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) featured in the Missouri State Capitol at Jefferson City features outlaw Jesse James in a mythical train/bank robbery. Benton’s work adorns the House Lounge on the third floor of the Capitol. The murals were commissioned by the legislature in early 1935 for $16,000 and completed in December 1936.
  • July 15, 1881 — Winston (MO) train robbery ($2,000 from Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad)
  • Sept. 7, 1881 — Glendale (MO) train robbery ($15,000 from Chicago & Alton Railroad)
  • April 3, 1882 — Jesse James is shot and killed by Bob Ford at his rented home in St. Joseph; Jesse was unarmed and was shot in the back of the head
  • April 6, 1882 — Jesse James funeral held at the Baptist Church in Kearney (MO); burial at the family farm
  • Oct. 5, 1882 — Frank James surrenders to Gov. Crittenden at the governor’s office in Jefferson City
  • Aug. 21 – Sept. 6, 1883 — Frank James stands trial at Gallatin, MO, for the murder of train passenger McMillan during the 1881 robbery at Winston, MO; he is found not guilty
  • April 17-25, 1864 — Frank James stands trial in Huntsville, AL, for the robbery of federal paymaster Alexander Smith; he is found not guilty
  • Nov. 13, 190 — Zee James dies
  • June 29, 1902 — Jesse James body is moved from the family farm to Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, MO; Zee’s body was moved from a vault at Elmwood Cemetery in Kansas City to Mt. Olivet
  • 1903 — Frank James and Cole Younger travel with the James-Younger Wild West Show
This is the farm home of the James family, where Frank & Jesse James grew up east of Kearney, MO, and later a place of refuge as the boys became wanted outlaws. Today the James Farm is a historic site and museum maintained by Clay County.
  • 1903-08 — Frank James makes his home on the James Farm in Kearney (MO)
  • March 1, 1908 — Dr. Reuben Samuel dies
  • Feb. 10, 1911 — Zerelda Simms James Samuel dies
  • Feb. 15, 1915 — Frank James dies on the James Farm following a stroke
  • Sept. 15, 1915 — Sallie Samuel Nicholson dies
  • May 30, 1932 — Fannie Quantrill Samuel Hall dies
  • March 15, 1935 — John T. Samuel dies
  • Oct. 11, 1935 — Mary James Barr dies
  • July 6, 1944 — Anna Ralston James dies
  • March 26, 1951 — Jesse James Jr. dies
  • Nov. 18, 1959 — Robert James dies
  • March 1978 — Clay County buys the James Farm
  • 1979 — Jesse’s original grave site is excavated
  • July 19, 1995 — Corpse exhumed from the grave in Mt. Olivet Cemetery to identify remains using DNA testing








1995: Jesse James Back in National Spotlight

History says Jesse James was living in St. Joseph under the alias of Thomas Howard when he was shot and killed by Robert Ford at his home on April 3, 1882.

Or was he?

Researchers are digging up Jesse James in hopes of getting enough evidence to begin DNA testing on the remains to establish if Jesse was killed on April 3, 1882, or if his death was faked so he could live out his life under aliases.

Waggoner Carr, a former attorney in private practice, maintains that the corpse in the grave is Charlie Bigelow. Bigelow was a member of the James gang and bore a resemblance to Jesse.

Carr represents clients who claim to be descendants of Jesse James. Their family records indicate that Jesse James was not killed and buried in 1882, but lived to be over 100 years old. They maintain Jesse James died in Grandbury, TX, in 1951.

Dr. James E. Starrs, a professor of forensic science and a lawyer, who is leading the team of investigators, will use mitochondrial DNA testing testing an other analysis to determine if the body in the grave is Jesse James.

“There’s a certain historic mystery that needs to be verified,” Dr. Starrs said. “DNA can solve these mysteries.”

However, after digging all day Monday, researchers found a partially collapsed wooden coffin, some bone fragments, and fabric. Historical records indicate that Jesse was buried in a metal coffin and researchers believe that the headstones may have been reversed and they may uncovered his wife, Zerelda’s coffin.

A crowd estimated at between 300 to 500 people descended on the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney to watch the unearthing of the world’s most famous outlaw. The dig continues Tuesday using trowels, brushes and dustpans. Scientists hope to gather enough remains to begin laboratory testing.

In addition to the DNA test, gender tests and a toxicology test will be conducted. Another dispute to be resolved through the exhumation is the type of weapon that killed Jesse James.

Bob Ford confessed to shooting Jesse James but gave conflicting account as to the gun he used, a .44 or .45 caliber weapon. When Clay County acquired the James Farm in 1978, an archeological dig was done on the original grave site. They found a .38 caliber spent bullet, several small human bones and a tooth. There was speculation that the .38 bullet was one of the bullets that wounded Jesse when he was shot during the Civil War and had never been removed from his body.

Analysis of those remains indicated they belonged to a white male around age 38. Jesse was 34 when he was shot and buried in the front yard of his family’s home.

Men who had known Jesse most of his life were called in to identify the body. Scars from Civil War bullet wounds along with the missing tip of the middle finger of his left hand made the identification certain.

Following an inquest in St. Joseph, Jesse’s body was taken back to Kearney by train. Hundreds of people filed past his open casket in the lobby of a local hotel. A St. Joseph newspaper account said: “it is mere curiosity, doubtless, to look upon the form an face of the boy who had grown up among them who had made for himself a name in crime reflecting an infamous notoriety upon not only the town of Kearney and the county of Clay, but a great commonwealth.”

Jesse was buried in the southwest corner of front yard of the James family home on April 6, 1882. Jesse’s body was taken from its grave at the James Farm and moved to Mt. Olivet Cemetery to lie next to his wife, Zee, in 1902. However, the stories still persist that Jesse James was not killed by Bob Ford, but continued to live to be more than 100 years old. Many say that Ford’s account of the killing just doesn’t add up.

Bonafide relatives of the James family and those who claim to be descendants of the outlaw were at the site for the dig.

National and international news representatives were also in the cemetery to observe and record the dig. The Discovery Channel is also filming the project for a special presentation.

The dig, exhumation and related expenses are being funded by George Washington University and Scientific Sleuthing Inc., a non-profit group. Dr. James E. Starrs is on the faculty of George Washington University.

Research team members are also trying to get a court order to exhume the partial remains at the James Farm. Starrs said he would like to reunite the bones at the farm with those in Mt. Olivet when they are reburied.

Tests on the remains will be done at Kansas State University and at the Kansas City Regional Crime Laboratory.

The DNA tests will b done on a portion of bone matter at Penn State University if a suitable bone is found. The DNA test will settle questions of James’ descendants and determine if the remains are indeed those of Jesse James. Gender tests will be conducted at Kansas State University. Team members will conduct toxicology test on fingernails and toenails at Florida State University to check for drugs.

James’ descendants will have to make decisions regarding the casket in which the remains will be placed and whether or not to have a ceremony when the remains are re-interred this fall.

— reprinted from the July 19, 1995, issue of The Lawson Review (Vol. 114, No. 22)

Trial Overview: James Claimed an Alibi

Frank James’s murder trial in 1883 in Gallatin, MO — where a jury found him not guilty — featured legal luminaries on both sides and impassioned references to the “Lost Cause” for which the bandit had fought two decades earlier.

The story is related in “Trial of a Century: The Acquittal of Frank James” in the January issue of the Missouri Historical Review, published by the State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia.

Alexander Franklin James, older brother of Jesse James and a partner in his exploits, had surrendered Oct. 5, 1882, to Gov. Thomas Crittenden. After being honored at a reception in Independence, he was taken to the Jackson County jail to await trial for the murder of a Pinkerton detective eight years earlier.

However, the article’s author, J. Michael Cronan, writes, the Jackson County prosecutor, William H. Wallace, decided there was not sufficient evidence. James was taken to Gallatin, seat of Daviess County in north Missouri, to be tried for the murder of Frank McMillan, a passenger on a train that was robbed near Winston, MO, on July 15, 1881.

The trial began Aug. 20, 1883, in an opera house with 400 seats, more than the local courthouse had but not enough to hold all the people who wanted to attend.

James’s defense was essentially an alibi. In the background was his service to the late Confederacy.

Out of a 40-man jury panel, 25 were identified as Democrats, 13 as Republicans and two as Greenbackers. The 12 chosen were all Democrats and all farmers. Two were Confederate veterans.

The former Confederate’s defense team was headed by a Union veteran, Col. John F. Phillips, then a commissioner of the Missouri Supreme Court. He was a former member of Congress and later was a state appellate judge and federal district judge. Phillips had distinguished himself at the Battle of Westport.

“The beauty and brilliance of Phillips’s argument lay in its simplicity,” writes Cronan, a Kansas City lawyer. “He presented James as a man drive out of Missouri who only wanted to be left alone to earn an honest living by diligently toiling upon a small farm in Tennessee.”

Phillips spoke contemptuously of Dick Liddell, an ex-convict who testified he took part in the train robbery.

A defense witness was Gen. Jo O. Shelby, a Confederate hero who testified that in November 1861 he saw Liddell and Jesse James and they told him Frank James, because of his health, had been in the South for years. Shelby’s testimony was most notable, though, by his state in inebriation.

After the trial, other charges in Missouri against Frank James were ultimately dismissed. He was tried and acquitted in federal court in Alabama on a robbery charge, and thereafter was an actor, theater doorman, and farmer.

He died Feb. 18, 1915, at the family farm at Kearney, MO. Col. Phillips gave a stirring eulogy of his former client.

— by Dr. James W. Goodrich of the State Historical Society of Missouri

McDougal: Showdown with Jesse James

The following was written in 2007 by Jim Muehlberger, a Kansas City trial lawyer and former prosecutor, for publication in  the February 2010 issue of Wild West magazine (pp. 50-53). Muehlberger found the long-lost lawsuit filed by H.C. McDougal against the James boys in the back of a dusty file cabinet at the Daviess County (MO) court clerk’s office. He also recommends Henry Clay McDougal’s Recollections: 1844-1909.

Showdown with Jesse James

Frontier lawyer Henry Clay McDougal took on the fearsome outlaw in court — and never backed down

by Jim Muehlberger

Among the most dangerous and feared bad men on the Western frontier, Jesse James frightened folks even in states where he had never set foot. Yes, some people most notably the citizens of Northfield, MN, fought back when Jesse and his famous James-Younger Gang associates started to wave their revolvers around. But it usually wasn’t a very good idea to go face to face with Jesse. While robbing banks and trains, he survived at least nine gunfights and probably killed or helped kill as many as 10 people. He was rumored to have killed an equivalent number during his Civil War bushwhacking days.

Although James was never a gunslinger in the mode of say, Wild Bill Hickock, an it has been more than 125 years since his assassination, his name still strikes a chord with folks. The idea of standing exposed on a dusty main street in a showdown with Jesse sounds about as inviting as shaking hands with Bloody Bill Anderson or turning your back on Robert Ford. Who but someone plumb loco would go one-on-one with Jesse in a six-gun exchange? Even Pinkerton detectives weren’t that crazy. But one brave Missouri lawyer sought satisfaction in a more civilized way — he sued Jesse and won. Even more surprising, he lived to tell about it. Barely.

The lawsuit, actually filed against Jesse and older brother Frank, arose from a Dec. 7, 1869, robbery in Gallatin, MO, during which one of the outlaws, most likely Jesse, shot down John Sheets, cashier at the Daviess County Savings Association. As Jesse and another gunman, thought to be Frank, dashed from the bank, Gallatin’s citizens fired on them. Jesse’s horse spooked and bucked as he leaped into the stirrups. He was thrown from the saddle, but his boot remained caught in the stirrup, and the frightened horse began dragging him down the rutted street. Displaying the horsemanship and coolness under fire that would make him a legend, Jesse whipped out a knife, cut the leather stirrup and freed himself. His horse bolted, so he leaped onto the back of his accomplice’s horse.

About a miles outside Gallatin, as the tandem riders were fleeing the posse, they encountered Daniel Smoote, a well-to-do farmer. The outlaws forced Smoote (sometimes recorded as Smoot) at gunpoint to hand over the saddle horse he was riding. The gunmen then galloped off, leaving Smoote standing in the road. The magnificent racehorse left behind in Gallatin was by mid-December identified as the property of “Jesse W. James, living in Clay County.” James family affidavits filed after the crime referred to Jesse’s mare as “Kate” and claimed Jesse had sold the horse the day before the robbery. Kate, one of the finest and fastest horses in Missouri, had been entered in the St. Louis Fair and won several races.

Kate was the first tangible evidence that led to criminal charges against James. In May 1870 a Daviess County grand jury issued a murder indictment against him, and authorities posted a $3,000 reward for his capture or death. With the murder of cashier Sheets at Gallatin, 22-year-old Jesse James had announced his outlaw presence to Missouri and the nation. He would remain a wanted man the rest of his life.


Horse theft was nothing new for Jesse, but farmer Smoote’s reaction was. The latter hired a young and ambitious Gallatin lawyer named Henry Clay McDougal, who had only been practicing law for a year, to sue Jesse and Frank James in January, 1870, for the real value of the horse Jesse had stolen. McDougal also sued for possession of the thoroughbred racehorse Jesse left behind. McDougal, recently married, was a Union Army veteran from Virginia who had moved to Gallatin with his family only three years earlier. He was also a friend of the murdered cashier.

Henry Clay McDougal, Attorney

In Gallatin, McDougal had already proved his courage in connection with another notorious outlaw. After the Civil War, much of the nation suffered a period of unemployment and lawlessness spawning a number of notorious outlaw gangs. The Reno Gang from Indiana began to terrorize the Midwest during this time. About a year after McDougal arrived in Gallatin, on November 17, 1867, outlaws broke open the safe in the Gallatin treasurer’s office and stole $23,618 in cash and bonds. John Reno was identified as one of the robbers. Daviess County Sheriff John Ballinger tracked Reno to a hotel in Indianapolis, where he found the outlaw gambling and enjoying the company of a paid “companion.” Ballinger and Pinkerton detectives captured Reno without a shot.

Ballinger brought Reno back to Gallatin and locked him in the stone-walled county jail. Worried that Reno’s remaining gang members would attempt to break Reno out of jail, or that the infuriated citizens of Gallatin would mob the jail and lynch Reno, Ballinger asked 23-year-old Henry McDougal and five other volunteers to stay in the jail and help watch the prisoners. And so McDougal spent Christmas Day 1867 in jail, guarding a dangerous outlaw.

Two years later, after the latest robbery attempt in Gallatin, McDougal soon discovered he was not Smoote’s first choice for counsel — every one of the other eight lawyers in town had turned down the farmer’s request for legal representation. Young, inexperienced McDougal was the only attorney in the town brave — or foolish — enough to take the case, as to prove the case would effectively hang John Sheets’ murder on Jesse James. This was in an age in which it was said, “To raise your voice or hand against the Jameses’ nefarious operations would cost you your life.”

In fact, soon after McDougal filed the lawsuit, attorney Samuel Harwicke of Liberty, MO, and another man took McDougal around the corner of the old Gallatin courthouse and told him Jesse James had sworn to kill him on sight for seeking possession of the outlaw’s famous racing mare. “As Jesse knew me and I did not know him,” McDougal later wrote, “there was nothing left for me but to take my medicine in absolute silence, and I did.” But Jesse had picked the wrong lawyer to threaten. The threats only prompted McDougal to work with the Pinkerton detectives to track down Jesse. McDougal’s law partner, Marcus A. Low, would meet with Missouri Governor Thomas T. Crittenden 12 years later to offer $10,000 in railroad money for Jesse’s capture, which ultimately led to the outlaw’s murder.

McDougal’s suit against Jesse James didn’t hurt the young lawyer’s popularity in Gallatin. In fact, it made him something of a celebrity. On the first Tuesday in April 1870, McDougal was elected mayor of the town without opposition, a position he would hold for two terms before declining a third. Colonel James McFerran, founder of Gallatin’s Daviess County Savings Association, became his first law partner. And in 1872 McDougal was elected the youngest probate judge in county history. He would thereafter be known as “Judge McDougal.”


Jesse James lawyered up, and the legal fight was on. Frank and Jesse hired Samuel Arbuckle Richardson, the most experienced and successful lawyer in the county, to represent them. Richardson’s knowledge of the law made him one of the most formidable antagonists at the bar to be found anywhere. Men loved or feared him. Richardson’s first move was to ask the judge to squash the service of the complaint, which Clay County Deputy Sheriff John S. Thomason had left at the James family cabin outside Kearney, MO. Richardson argued that Thomason had not established whether a James family member received the lawsuit. The judge granted Richardson’s requested relief, giving the brothers a reprieve. Unless McDougal could somehow serve the complaint on the James boys, the lawsuit was dead in the water.

Meanwhile, in the media storm surrounding Sheets’ murder, Jesse had come to the attention of John Newman Edwards, former Confederal major and founder of The Kansas City Times, who was railing against injustices (perceived and real) being inflicted on former Confederates and encouraging them to jump back into politics. The fiery ad flamboyant Edwards had read about the Gallatin robbery and the notion that Jesse had killed the cashier because he believed the man to be Major Samuel P. Cox, a former Union officer. Cox, who was a resident of Gallatin, had ambushed and killed Bloody Bill Anderson, Jesse’s ruthless Civil War guerrilla leader, in October 1864.

Edwards was fascinated that Jesse had apparently committed murder in the name of the Confederate cause. The publisher arranged a meeting with the outlaw, after which he decided Jesse was a horse he could ride for a distance to further the postwar Southern cause. In June, 1870, Edwards assisted the outlaw in writing the first of Jesse’s many letters to the newspapers. In the letter, Jesse professed his innocence, claimed he was being persecuted for being a former Confederate fighter and offered to turn himself in, if only he would be guaranteed a fair trial. This appeal to the sympathies of former Confederates by waving the Stars and Bars of the Old South was a risky approach — but it worked.

Gallatin attorney H.C. McDougal was just embarking upon his impressive career when he agreed to represent farmer Daniel Smoot in a lawsuit against Jesse James.

Henry McDougal decided to fight fire with fire. As Jesse sought to try the case in the press, McDougal conceived of a novel (at that time) idea to serve Jesse with a complaint: He obtained an order from the Gallatin court that allowed McDougal to inform Jesse of the lawsuit by publishing it in the Gallatin newspaper. So served, the lawsuit was allowed to proceed, and Jesse’s lawyer was ultimately forced to file an answer to Smoote’s accusations. Jesse denied he was in Gallatin on December 7, 1969, and hence denied he had stolen Smoote’s horse.

After two years of legal gunslinging, Jesse found himself outmatched by McDougal’s legal skills and was unable to fight his way out of the lawsuit. When Jesse and Frank refused to appear for trial, the judge ruled in Smoote’s favor on October 20, 1871, awarding him with Jesse James’s prized racehorse. Kate remained an object of considerable interest to visitors over the years, and Smoote raised several fine colts from her. Jesse elected not to appeal but, true to his outlaw nature, twice tried to murder McDougal, narrowly missing each time.


On April 3, 1882, McDougal was in his office with Major Cox when he received a telegraph from law partner Marcus Low: James Gang member Robert Ford had killed Jesse at his home in St. Joseph, MO. In silence McDougal read the wire and then passed to Cox. After Cox finished reading it, McDougal said, “Major, you don’t know what a load that message takes from my mind.” With the fire of war again blazing in his eyes, Cox astonished McDougal by telling him “By Gad, sir, I do know, and I am perhaps the only living man that has known all about this matter for years.” Cox then told McDougal that back in Kentucky he had known the father of Clell Miller, and that in the battle in which he had killed Bill Anderson in Ray County, MO, in 1864, Cox had recognized Clell, only 14 at the time, who was in Anderson’s command and was severely wounded. Cox had driven away one of his men, who was in the act of finishing the boy.

Miller later told Cox that Jesse had ridden to Gallatin in early 1871 with gang members Miller and Dick Liddell to kill McDougal and Cox — McDougal for filing the lawsuit and taking Jesse’s mare, and Cox for killing Bloody Bill Anderson. When Jesse had told Miller the reason for their ride to Gallatin, Miller replied: “Major Cox is my father’s old friend. He saved my life once, and as long as I live, no man shall harm a hair on his head; but I don’t know or care a damn about the other fellow.”

One evening as McDougal and his wife took a stroll, arm in arm, Jesse, Miller an Liddell had waited in ambush behind a hedge. According to Cox, “Her presence alone prevented Jesse from making good his threat in 1871.” It is unknown whether Southern chivalry — or the desire to avoid leaving a witness — prevented Jesse from taking the shot.

In 1883 Governor Crittenden appointed McDougal as a prosecutor in Frank James’ murder trial, billed as the “Trial of the Century.” McDougal also assisted former Sheriff Ballinger in guarding and protecting Liddell, now turned state’s witness, who received almost daily death threats. Liddell told McDougal that in 1882, on Jesse’s last visit to his boyhood home in Kearney, just before he moved to St. Joseph, the outlaw had tried again to kill McDougal.

Liddell said he was with Jesse when he took a shot at McDougal as the lawyer sat in the smoking car of a Rock Island train shortly after leaving the Kearney depot, near the St. Joseph public road crossing. McDougal had been returning to Gallatin from Kansas City. Jesse’s minie ball shattered a window to McDougal’s right, showering glass on the lawyer’s face. McDougal recalled the incident. At the time he told his wife, who was traveling in an adjacent car, that a reckless boy had thrown a stick at the window, in order not to alarm her. While he always suspected the truth, McDougal had never been sure who had fired that shot until Liddell pointed the finger at Jesse.


At the August 1883 Frank James trial in Gallatin, McDougal and the other attorneys chose not to prosecute Frank for Sheets’ murder, as the case against him was weak, and anyway, the late Jesse James had most likely killed the cashier. Instead, Frank was charged with killing a man during the gang’s Winston, MO, train robbery. But the jury acquitted him on September 8. After the trial, McDougal moved to Kansas City. In 1885 he entered into a law partnership with former Governor Crittenden, who had pardoned Bob and Charlie Ford after Jesse’s assassination. Crittenden described McDougal as a “first class lawyer, learned in the black-letter wisdom of the books an as pleasant a social companion as ever a man had or could wish to have.”

In 1895 McDougal became Kansas City’s first counselor, and he successfully represented the city before the U.S. Supreme Court over the acquisition of its water supply and plant, which paved the way for the city’s growth. McDougal died at age 71 on December 17, 1915.

Gallatin in many ways represented both the origin and the terminus of the James boys’ outlaw days. As a result of the 1869 murder of cashier John Sheets, Jesse became a wanted man — for the first time and for the remainder of  his life. Gallatin was also the site of Frank James’ 1883 murder trial, in which he was acquitted. The same lawyer, Henry McDougal, prosecuted both the 1870 civil case over the stolen horse and Frank’s 1883 murder trial.

Although authorities were never able to bring Jesse James to justice, second-year lawyer Henry McDougal was able to recompense one of the outlaw’s many victims. McDougal witnessed a remarkable era in the history of Missouri and America, an era in which the gavel eventually won out over the gun. His life story proved more fascinating than any legend. And in many ways, McDougal is the real hero of the story, for surviving his showdown with Jesse James, even though “the Judge” didn’t fire a single bullet before riding off into the sunset.


Authentic legal documents were rediscovered in August, 2007, by James Muehlberger, shown here with Daviess County Recorder Sue Bird.



Prosecutor Wm. Wallace of Jackson County

The scars of the Civil War were fading in 1880 as a young Kansas City lawyer and Westminster College graduate named William Hockaday Wallace opened his bid for the prosecuting attorney’s seat in Jackson County, MO.

General James A. Garfield and General Winfield S. Hancock were running for the presidency of the United States that fall, but Jackson County hardly knew it, according to author Robertus Love in his The Rise and Fall of Jesse James,  book on the notorious Missouri bandit published by The Knickerbocker Press in 1926. “Jackson County concentered its interest upon the race of the young lawyer whose platform was built directly over a dynamite cache. Old-timers still talk about it, now and then, and some of them wonder if ‘Will’ Wallace was a brave man or just a natural-born fool who happened to be in luck. Opinion drives far in the direction of the brave-man theory.”

Strange as it seemed it was Will Wallace’s bravery that made him somewhat of an enigma to the people of Jackson County in the fall of 1880. They weren’t sure what to make of the 32-year-old lawyer and his bold promise, if elected, to prosecute the James Boys’ Gang, arguably the most notorious band of outlaws in American history. The James Gang had terrorized the people of western Missouri and border states since the end of the Civil War 15 years earlier. It was considered certain death to speak out against them.

An 1898 publication, The History of the Bench and Bar of Missouri, wrote that Wallace was the “first and only candidate for (public) office who ever denounced the band from the stump. By his example he dispelled the intense secrecy that had surrounded their exploits.”

Author Love concurred. “If ever any many in public office or campaigning for election took his life into his hands, that man was Will Wallace,” he said.

Armed with a six-shooter, Wallace campaigned on horseback, usually at night, in the heart of the region where the bandits never failed to find seclusion and aid. Speaking from the stump outdoors and in churches and schoolhouses, Wallace called the outlaws by name. Having been raised in eastern Jackson County, he knew many of the gang members and their relatives personally.

In a passage from his own autobiography, Wallace recalled his message on the political warpath of 1880:

“I charged specifically and by name that Jesse James, Frank James, Ed Miller, Dick Liddil, William Ryan and another man, whose name I did not know, were the men who were committing the train robberies, bank robberies and murders throughout the state. I had been raised in Jackson County, had practiced law for five years at Independence (MO), and was sure of the accuracy of my declarations. My foolhardiness — for such, indeed, it was — occasioned astonishment and intense excitement. Some of the friends of the outlaws knew that my list was correct. Others honestly believed I was charging innocent men with crime, and the feeling for and against me was at fever heat. Word was sent me that I would not be permitted to speak at some of the places advertised, but I went and spoke, and repeated my charge.”

Wallace’s tenacity was rewarded. The voters of Jackson County awarded him a 2-year term as prosecuting attorney, and re-elected him in 1882.

Despite the vote of confidence, people were convinced that Wallace’s promise to prosecute the James Gang was nothing more than a bluff. “Who in is right mind would stand up in court and prosecute one of the gang members?” they asked. After all, Wallace was a Southerner by heritage. He had much in common with the James Boys, they said.

In that, they were wrong.

Beyond the fact they were raised on neighboring farms and their fathers were preachers — the James’s a Baptist and Wallace’s a Presbyterian — the similarities were few.

A year younger than Jesse James, Wallace was born in 1848 in Clark County, KY, the son of the Rev. Joseph Wallace and the former Bettie Hockaday. His ancestors had come from the north of Ireland in the 18th Century, and Wallace’s great-grandfather served as a Virginia captain under George Washington at Valley Forge.

When Wallace was three years old, his mother died. His father remarried, a union that would produce four more sons, and in 1857 moved the family by steamboat to a Jackson County farm between the present towns of Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs. In addition to the Jameses, neighbors included the equally notorious Youngers — Cole, Jim, James and John — who rode with the Jameses for 11 years before meeting their Waterloo in the famous Northfield (MN) raid in 1876.

Unfortunately for the Wallaces, their new homestead was also a battleground in the Missouri-Kansas border warfare over slavery. During the next six years, the border area laid claim to being what one historian called “the reddest spot on the map of the United States.” The horrors Wallace witnessed as a young boy are penned in this autobiographical passage: “Torch and fire, sword and rapine, pillage and plunder, robbery and assassination were abroad in the land. No pen can depict it, no picture fully portray it. Citizens were arrested and lodged in jail, and women and children were left alone and defenseless. The day of vengeance came. Men were hanged to trees or in their barns, or were called from their homes in the night-time and shot. A burning house could be seen across the prairies in the nighttime at a distance of at least 25 miles. One night I looked out of a second-story window and counted 22 houses on fire.”

The Wallaces would escape with their lives, but not much else. Federal soldiers, under the command of the Kansas cutthroat Col. Charles Jennison, pillaged their home. Once considered well-to-do, the family was left with almost nothing. The Wallaces got a reprieve from further violence in August 1863 when the Federal commander at Kansas City issued his celebrated Order No 11. The order compelled all residents of rural Jackson County and nearby territories to emigrate within 15 days.

Drawn by a yoke of oxen, the family traveled for days to reach their new home in Fulton, MO. The Rev. Wallace was given a professorship at Westminster College, and young William enrolled in the college’s preparatory school or academy, as it was known.

Working his way through school, Wallace graduated from Westminster with an A.B. degree in 1871. Over the next decade and a half, the college awarded degrees to William’s four brothers: John (1879), who became a lawyer in Lee’s Summit; Charles (1880) a St. Joseph physician; Theodoric (1880) a Kansas City lawyer; and Addison (1884) a Mexico (MO) minister.

After studying law in Fulton for several years in the office of a relative, Wesstminster alumnus and future Missouri Attorney General John A Hockaday, Wallace became a practicing attorney at Independence. To supplement the income of a budding lawyer, he also wrote news stories for the Kansas City Times and the Independence Sentinel.

In March, 1874, Wallace filed a story on the murder of a man on a rural Jackson County road. The man turned out to be John Witcher, an agent with Chicago’s Pinkerton detective agency, who hoped to capture the Jameses singlehandedly. Nine years later, Wallace would find himself in the courtroom prosecuting Frank James for Witcher’s murder.

By the time Frank James came to trial in 1883, Wallace had succeeded in doing what posses, detective agencies, and law enforcement groups had failed to do — break up the notorious James Gang.

Prosecutor Wm. Wallace of Jackson County, with statewide political ambitions

Wallace got his first opportunity to fulfill his 1880 campaign promise with the capture of gang member Bill Ryan in Tennessee in March 1881. Working single-handed and alone, Wallace won a conviction of Ryan for a train robbery in Glendale, MO. The sentence was 25 years in the state penitentiary, but more importantly, Wallace had sent a message to the public that the outlaws could be convicted by a Missouri jury.

“I put my whole soul into an effort in the closing argument to inspire the jury with courage to convict, for I was afraid that some of them, knowing the danger of a vote to convict, might falter,” Wallace said in his autobiography. “I have always regarded this as the supreme hour of my practice as a lawyer.”

Wallace won the conviction despite numerous obstacles. Witnesses for the railroad, out of fear for their lives, refused to testify against Ryan. Wallace’s closest friends urged him to dismiss the case, saying no jury would dare convict the outlaw. Rumors — later confirmed by a gang member — were everywhere that Jesse James and his men were camped out in the woods near Independence (the trial site) and had plans to rescue Ryan. The courtroom itself was packed with gang members and friends of the Jameses, most of whom carried weapons and slept at night in the courthouse yard.

To this day, the trial of Bill Ryan is considered one of the most exciting trials to ever take place in the Midwest. It marked the beginning of the end for the James Gang. The outlaws found themselves hunted as never  before. Within months Jesse James was shot and killed by 20-year-old Bob Ford in his St. Joseph home. The St. Joseph Herald, in its April 9, 1882, issue, reported rumors that Wallace, Missouri Governor James Crittenden, and two local law officials knew of Ford’s plan for murdering Jesse. The rumors were never substantiated.

“It is but fair to say that (Wallace) took no part and knew nothing of the killing of Jesse James, and as a testimony to his absolute fairness and honesty, it is of record that through him, after the killing Jesse James, the mother and wife of Frank James opened negotiations for the surrender of the latter, they knowing that he would protect him and carry out any agreement he might make,” The History of the Bench and Bar of Missouri reported. “Mr. Wallace’s terms of surrender included, among other things, that Frank James should serve a term in the penitentiary. The terms were declined, being pronounced too severe.”

In October 1882, Frank James walked into the office of Governor Crittenden in Jefferson City and surrendered. He was prosecuted by Wallace in 1883 for the murder of a railroad workman two years earlier. Due to a lack of evidence, Wallace dropped the charge against James for the murder of the Pinkerton agent (Witcher) who Wallace had reported about as a newspaperman eight years earlier.

With sentiment for the deposed gang running high, Frank James was acquitted by a Gallatin (MO) jury. The acquittal was achieved despite a closing argument by Wallace that a former U.S. Senator of the time called “one of the finest productions in the English tongue.” A free man, Frank James would go on to become a “model” citizen and live almost 33 years on the family farm in Jackson County.

Wallace would pay a price for his part in breaking up the James Gang. Before the end of his second term as prosecuting attorney, Wallace was made the Democratic nominee for Congress and resigned his office to enter the 1884 campaign. His opponents charged that he displayed unnecessary vigor in his prosecution of the James Gang. Despite registering a vote at the primaries far in excess of any of his competitors, a dispute erupted as to whether Wallace or an opponent obtained the nomination in the congressional convention. Choosing not to divide the party, Wallace withdrew from the race.

He returned to private practice in Kansas City only to be called out again in 1907 as judge of the circuit court of Jackson County. During the course of his 14 years on the bench, he became one of Kansas City’s leading citizens.

“There is scarcely an office in the gift of the people of Missouri he cold not have had, had he been willing to accede to the urgent and repeated requests made by his many friends throughout the state,” The History of the Bench and Bar of Missouri wrote.

Wallace would die on Oct. 21, 1937, at the ripe old age of 89. His death closed the pages on one of the most colorful periods in the history of Western Missouri.

— reprinted from the spring 1989 edition of The Columns (pp. 19-21), a newsletter for Westminster College at Fulton, MO


The personal courage exhibited by William H. Wallace in pursuing the prosecution of outlaw Frank James is described in an article written by Paul I. Wellman published Sept. 4, 1940, in the Weekly Kansas City Star which, in part, reads as follows:

The third day of the trial, General Jo Shelby was called to the stand and the courtroom was packed to capacity. In a clear voice he spoke of having met Liddil, Jesse James and Bill Ryan at his home about the time of the train robbery, and that Jesse told him Frank was not with them but was in the South and “had not been with the gang for five years.” The general’s mere word held tremendous weight with the people and the testimony created a sensation.

Asked to point out Frank James, Shelby arose from the witness chair and said, “May I, please the court, having recognized an old Confederate comrade, shake him by the hand?” The court refused, but the act was a great boost to Frank James’s cause. From that time on the ‘War for Southern Independence,’ the ‘Bonnie Blue Flag,’ and the ‘First and Second Battles of Mannasses’ were on trial — and the verdict in a Missouri community was foregone.

Wallace attempted to shake the general’s testimony. “Do you, sir, accuse me of lying?” Shelby demanded fiercely.

The court soothed him down, but  moment later he flared again when Wallace asked him if he protected Frank James’s wife. “I protect nobody,” Shelby said, “but I will do what I can, sir, to feed a comrade or succor a woman, even if it was Jennison’s wife!” (the reference was to Colonel Jennison of Kansas, leader of the hated Redlegs).

Wallace smiled scornfully. Instantly the general fixed him with a cold glare: “Mr. Wallace,” he said with deadly quietness, “if you want to make this a personal matter, you can do so.”

Every person in the courtroom knew what that meant. It meant that Shelby was inviting the prosecutor to “call him out” — to meet him in a duel. It was as open an invitation to a challenge as was ever given in a public place, but Wallace did not quail, although he speedily dismissed the witness.

Later in the day, a note was handed to Wallace. He did not reveal its contents but later he said that it was a warning from a friend of his who reported that Shelby had sworn to shoot the lawyer on sight. That kind of a threat was sufficient to make any man think deeply, no matter how courageous he was. Shelby was fearless, reckless of circumstances, and imbued with the old-fashioned belief that a man ought to settle his own wrongs. Moreover, he was deadly with a pistol and always shot to kill.

Wallace probably was considerably troubled in his own mind when he left the courthouse that afternoon. He was a man of inflexible courage, but he had work to do and he wanted to do it. Books of law to study that night were under his arm as he walked along toward his hotel. It had rained and the streets were muddy. Across one mudhole a plank was laid for pedestrians to cross dry shod.

With his mind on his case, Wallace stepped on one end of the plank just as another man stepped on the opposite end. The prosecutor looked up. There standing before him in his long black coat, over the sleeves of which his white cuffs were turned back, stood Jo Shelby.

Nobody ever knew what sent through the attorney’s mind. He was unarmed except for an armful of books, and on the other side of the plank was one of the most dangerous men, when angered, in Missouri. It is quite likely Wallace expected to die on that spot, but he stood without moving a muscle in his face and waited.

Instead of drawing a revolver, Shelby stepped back off the plank. He removed his hat and made a courtly bow. “You pass first, Mr. Wallace,” he said with all a Southern gentleman’s courtesy.

It was probably with an exquisite sensation of relief that Wallace accepted the courtesy, for he knew then that Shelby had never sworn to shoot him. Had he don so, the shooting would have occurred at that moment and at that point.

When court reopened next morning, Shelby appeared and made a public apology for his remarks of the previous day, then cheerfully paid a $10 fine for contempt. It was apparent he know what the outcome of the case would be — with oratory, and table pounding and fine language and frenzied appeals. But the verdict was foregone. When Jo Shelby was a witness, and the Lost Cause an issue, there could be but one answer: Frank James was acquitted.

The Ballad of Jesse James

Ballads are lyrical books. For centuries and centuries they have been a source not only of entertainment but of information, shaping people’s attitudes toward events they would otherwise know little or nothing about. Like movie script writers, however, balladeers were at least as much concerned about telling an interesting story (and getting a rhyme in the process) as recording authentic history. Given this circumstance, it is remarkable that they do not distort the lives and exploits of their heroes more than they do.

“The Ballad of Jesse James” is a case in point. What is most noteworthy about it is not its factual rendering of Jesse James’ outlaw career, though all in all it is reasonably accurate, but the public sympathy toward the Missouri robber that it reflects. In portraying Jess James as a tragic hero rather than the ruthless murderer and robber he was, the ballad faithfully expresses the general public’s feeling toward him at the time he was killed in 1882. And so it is that the ballad can proclaim its chorus.

It was Robert Ford, that dirty little coward,
I wonder how does he feel?
For he ate of Jesse's bread and he slept in Jesse's bed
And laid poor Jesse in his grave. (refrain)

It was his brother, Frank, who robbed the Gallatin bank
And carried the money from the town;
It was in this very place that they had a little race
For they shot Captain Sheets to the ground. (refrain)

They went to the crossing not very far from there
And there they did the same,
With the agent on his knees, he delivered up the keys
To the outlaws, Frank and Jesse James. (refrain)

It was on a Wednesday night, the moon was shining bright
They robbed the Glendale train;
The people they did say for many miles away
It was robbed by Frank and Jesse James. (refrain)

He robbed from the rich and was a friend to the poor;
He had a heart and a hand and a brain.
With his brother Frank he robbed the Northfield Bank
And stopped the Glendale train. (refrain)

It was on a Saturday night, Jesse was at home,
Talking to his family brave,
Robert Ford came along like a thief in the night
And laid poor Jesse in his grave. (refrain)

The people held their breath, when the heard of Jesse's death
And wondered how he ever came to die;
It was one of the gang, called little Robert Ford.
He shot poor Jesse on the sly. (refrain)

Jesse went to his rest with his hand on his breast;
The devil will be upon his knee.
He was born one day in the county of Clay
And came from a solitary race. (refrain)

This song was made by Billy Gashade,
As soon as the news did arrive;
He said there was no many with the law in his hand,
Who could take Jesse James alive. (refrain)

Though it is probably not important, Jesse James had two, not three, children: Jesse Edward, who was about 7 when the outlaw was killed, and Mary, who was about 3. Mrs. James was pregnant at the time, so perhaps the balladeer was anticipating; however, she later miscarried.

Presumably most people would agree that the man who killed Jesse went about it in a cowardly way and therefore deserved the description, “dirty little coward.” By his own account at the inquest, Bob Ford decided to kill Jesse for the reward money because he knew he could not capture him. Accordingly, while a guest in the James home in St. Joseph, Ford waited until Jesse took off his two revolvers and mounted a chair to straighten a picture (some accounts say to dust it) in the living room. Ford drew his .44, pointed it at the back of Jesse’s head and cocked it. The sound prompted the outlaw to whirl around, and when he did Ford shot him above the left eye.

The other references to Jesse’s killer are in the second, seventh and eight stanzas. The second suggest that he should feel guilt and remorse for the killing because he partook of his victim’s hospitality, and the seventh that he employed stealth and the over of darkness to do in the famous robber, while the eighth repeats the theme of stealth and cowardice.

It is true that Ford was Jesse’s overnight house guest, having professed to join the gang, but he shot Jesse in broad daylight, not at night. Jesse’s wife and children were not talking to him at the time as the ballad indicates, but were in another part of the house. Ford certainly felt no remorse, as evidenced by the fact that he tried to make a living on the stage re-enacting the killing. He did well enough in the East for a short time, but in what is now the Midwest he was booed off the stage and threatened. Eventually, Ford opened a saloon in a Colorado mining town and was killed by a man whom he had quarreled earlier.

One part of the first stanza of the ballad is undeniably accurate. Jesse James did kill many a man, though no one knows how many, and he almost certainly robbed the Glendale train. The Glendale train was really the Chicago & Alton, and Glendale was a tiny hamlet in Jackson County, MO, where the robbery took place in 1879. Why the balladeer placed such emphasis on this holdup — it is the subject of the sixth stanza as well — is a mystery. It did follow the standard James gang modus operandi and perhaps was selected for that reason, along with the fact that it is a two-syllable word.

In the Glendale holdup, the robbers rounded up everyone in the hamlet and herded them into the depot. Then they set up the emergency stop signal and threw some timbers across the tracks for good measure. When the train stopped they forced the engineer to beat open the locked door of the express car, pistol-whipped the express agent, and departed with some $6,000, firing their revolvers wildly in the air as they galloped away.

The third stanza refers to the first robbery that can be attributed to the James brothers with certainty. The nation’s first bank robbery had taken place in 1866, but it was not until the Daviess County bank at Gallatin was held up in 1869 that contemporary accounts mention either Jesse or Frank as suspects. In this holdup, the robbers killed the bank president, John Sheets, even though he offered no resistance.

At any rate, after the shooting Sheets the two robbers escaped in a hail of gunfire from the townspeople, leaving one of their horses behind. It was traced to the James family farm near Kearney in Clay County, MO, where Jesse was born, as the ninth stanza points out. Their take on the holdup: nothing.

The fourth stanza apparently alludes to a train robbery at Winston, which is not far from Gallatin. Some authorities question whether the James brothers were involved in this holdup in 1881, because the usual procedure of signaling the train to a halt was not employed. Instead, four robbers got on the train at Cameron as though they were passengers, and held up the express agent as the train approached Winston, allegedly obtaining $10,000.

The sixth stanza contains a popular myth about Jesse James. There is not a shred of evidence that he was a “friend of the poor.” He robbed anyone he thought had money or valuables and there is no contemporary evidence to support the contention that he gave any of it to the poor. Furthermore, his ruthlessness would suggest that he was anything but a philanthropist.

With is brother, Frank, he did rob the Northfield (MN) bank as the fifth stanza says — or more accurately, he attempted to. Three members of the gang were killed in a gun battle with townspeople outside the bank and three others — Cole, Bob and Jim Younger — were captured. Only the James brothers escaped. They continued their outlaw careers for six years after the 1876 debacle in Northfield, but the gang was never as smoothly operated again. In addition, “responsible” citizens began demanding the capture of the James brothers and soon the Governor was offering rewards. It was only a matter of time until someone would be willing to bring Jesse James, dead or alive, for $10,000.

— written by Edward A Higgins, on the editorial page staff of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for The Midwest Motorist published for August, 1973 (pp. 18-19)

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

Judge C.H.S Goodman of Albany, MO

This personal sketch of C.H.S. Goodman, the judge who presided over the trial of Frank James in Gallatin in 1883, is reprinted from the 1882 History of Gentry County as follows:


Charles H.S. Goodman was born at Zanesville, Ohio on May 24, 1843. His parents emigrated to Lawrence County, IL, in the spring of 1853. His chances for obtaining an education were limited, he having received only about six months of schooling, half of which time he attended the common schools in the neighborhood of his home, and the remainder in the Presbyterian Academy at Friendville, IL, making altogether about six months at school. He remained in Lawrence County, IL, until the spring of 1861 when he entered the Union Army, enlisting in the 11th Regiment, Missouri Infantry. He continued in the army three years and one month, where he discharged his duties as a faithful soldier.

When mustered out of the service he was commissary sergeant. After severing his connections, as a soldier, with the army, he still continued with it for the space of 18 months laboring as a commissary clerk in Missouri, Colorado and New Mexico. Continuing in the army, he served for 12 months longer in the ordnance department at Mobile, AL. He came to Albany, Gentry County, MO, in 1867, and soon thereafter began the study of law in the office of Judge George E. Lewis. In the fall of 1868, he began practice forming a partnership with Judge Lewis, with whom he continued from September 1868 to September 1871. He practiced then alone until September, 1879, when he formed a law partnership with Hon. Joseph L. McClullough, which still exists (at the time of this writing). For three months in 1868 he took charge of the editorial department of the Albany Ledger, and again from Jul 1870 to July 1873. He was prosecuting attorney from January 1, 1873, to January 1, 1877.

He married Aurelia Williams in January, 1870, and was the father of two: Charles Kenneth (who died in infancy) and Gertrude. Mrs. Goodman died in February, 1873; Judge Goodman later married Allie Culp. Then in 1894, he married Josephine Vandivert of Bethany who survived him at the time of his death. As a well-known Mason, Judge Goodman’s body was escorted to Grand View Cemetery from the Presbyterian Church with burial under the auspices of the fraternity.

His obituary was published in the May 10, 1917, edition of the Albany Ledger. Mr. Goodman is emphatically a self-made man, and deserves credit for what he has achieved through his own individual efforts.

NOTE: A photo of Judge Goodman hangs in the halls of the Gentry County Courthouse at Albany, MO. The courthouse in Albany burned in 1883 and thus many records which may have related to Judge Goodman were destroyed.

Milt Perry: Debunking Myth with Facts

Many people have contributed to keeping the history of Frank & Jesse James accurate and vibrant, including the late Milton Perry. At the time of his death in 1991, Perry was considered one of the world’s top authorities on outlaw Jesse James. He had been curator of the Clay County Historic Sites for 13 years, restoring the Jesse James birthplace on the farm east of Kearney and the Jesse James Bank at Liberty, MO.

Perry was curator of Truman Library at Independence from 1958 to 1976, and had once been curator of history for West Point Museum at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, NY.

Perry was a frequent guest speaker at historical meetings and conventions held worldwide. In his research on Jesse James, he was a frequent visitor to St. Joseph and made stops at Gallatin. He expressed an interest in confirming the exact railroad bed where the 1881 train robbery occurred near Winston and was a friendly consultant on details being compiled by editor Darryl Wilkinson for the re-enactment of the 1883 Trial of Frank James. He stepped down from his Clay County post just three weeks before his death from heart attack while changing his residence to Lake Tahoe, NV.

The following is a series of comments Mr. Perry frequently used for speeches, including those presented during luncheons of the Gallatin Rotary Club, during 1990-91.

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It may come as a surprise to many Americans, but as far as Europeans are concerned, Jesse James is one of the best known of all citizens of the United States. Movies and books about him are popular, several historical organizations are composed of persons interested in the American West, and even at one time, a popular musical group called itself “The James Gang.” Jesse James represents the nearest thing we have to a Robin Hood, and whether he actually robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, he has that image in folklore, the same as the man who became Robin Hood, but who in reality probably was a poacher.

Visitor registers at the James Farm near Kearney, MO, and the Jesse James Bank in Liberty have the names of many Europeans. Recently, one showed up bearing a copy of the full page story in the London Daily Telegraph about the farm and bank which was published last February. The writer had been here last summer and toured the area with me.

A visit to Jesse’s grave in Kearney, after Memorial Day, revealed another interesting fact. There, in front of the marker, were 11 separate groups of flowers, ranging from complete bouquets to single roses, all placed there by those who revere his memory. It must be remembered that Jesse James was shot on April 3, 1882 — 106 years ago, and at that time was the most sought-after outlaw in the country.

It is also a fact that a large marble monument over his grave was chipped at by those who wanted a bit to put on their mantle, badly defacing it. The current marker, a flat granite piece put there in 1960, has chips missing where a new generation has been taking pieces home.

Fortunately, the original tombstone base, which bears Jesse’s name, age, and date of death on one side and that of his wife, Zerelda, on the other side, was not destroyed, as had been widely believed up until March of this year.

Apparently, Jesse’s daughter Mary James-Barr, had the stone removed in the early 1930s before the rest of the monument could be destroyed. Then Frank James’ son, Robert James, gave it to a friend who sold it to someone else. After a series of hits and misses, I tracked down the stone and the owner agreed to donate it to Clay County on the condition of anonymity. This major artifact of 19th Century history is now on display at the Jesse James Farm near Kearney, MO.

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The best known photograph of Jesse James, and one that shows him as a Civil War guerrilla, was taken in Platte City, MO, in June of 1864. A group of Confederate soldiers, of which the guerilla unit was a part, captured the town and occupied it for two days. During the occupation some of these soldiers had their pictures taken, among them were Jesse and Frank James.

The picture shows Jesse wearing a “guerilla shirt,” a long garment that slipped over the head and hung to mid-thigh. These shirts had four pockets in which extra ammunition, pistol parts, and personal items were kept. Most of them were cotton, linen or wool or some combination, and often included colorful silk edging and embroidery. The shirts were usually made by their wives, mothers or sweethearts. Perhaps Jesse’s was made by his mother, Mrs. Zerelda Samuel.

Jesse is shown wearing a soft felt hat with the brim pinned up and a feather hanging from the back. These hats were favored by those riders rather than the tall, wide-brimmed ones artists of later periods seem to think were used.

Jesse served with Bill Anderson’s company of Confederate guerillas from June, 1864, to May, 1865. He never rode under the most infamous of the guerilla leaders, William C. Quantrill, as is generally thought. He fought in battles at Centralia, Albany and Fayette in Missouri. He was wounded twice, once in Ray County in August, 1864, when he was shot in the right chest, and again in May, 1865. The second wound was received while riding with a group of guerillas who were about to surrender, but were mistaken by Union Cavalry and attacked.

Jesse suffered a third wound during the war when he shot off the tip of his middle finger on his left hand while loading a pistol. This aided in identifying his body after he was killed in St. Joseph on April 3, 1882.

Jesse’s body was moved from its original grave at the farm to Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, MO, in 1902. Clay County excavated the original gravesite in 1978 and found several artifacts which were left behind when the body was moved.

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Because of his popularity with the public, Jesse James has been the central figure of many motion pictures. At this time, approximately 40 have been made, not to mention numerous television features. The films have ranged from potboiler double-feature bills of the 1940s to multi-million dollar epics with big stars and beautiful photography.

The first film about Jesse James was written and produced by his son, Jesse E. James (“Jesse Jr.”), entitled “Under the Black Flag.” It starred none other than Jesse Junior playing his father and used several other members of the family in bit roles. It was filmed locally, but it was a dramatic and economic failure. A planned sequel was never made.

The best-known of all was “Jesse James” (1939) starring Tyrone Power as Jesse and Henry Fonda as Frank and included an all-star supporting cast. Its filming in the Ozarks village of Pineville, MO, which served as Liberty in the move, was an event of national interest. This film was followed by a sequel, “The Return of Frank James” starring Fonda.

A host of films, many of which were “B” movies, have been made since then and starred such actors as Roy Rogers, Robert Wagner, Robert Duvall, Stacey Keach, Kris Kristofferson and other notables portraying Jesse James. Roy Rogers (“Jesse James at Bay”, 1941) was the only singing Jesse, and, conversely, Robert Duvall played him as a psychopathic killer in “The Great Northfield Raid” (1972). However, Tyrone Power played a Jesse so handsome and so good that every other mother in the nation defended him.

One film, “The Long Riders” (1980) starred four sets of brothers playing the four sets of brothers know as “the James Gang.” It was definitely a unique casting treat. In 1986 a film called “The Last Days of Frank & Jesse James” starred Kris Kristofferson as Jesse and Johnny Cash as Frank with June Carter-Cash (Johnny’s wife) as their mother, Zerelda James Samuel. Both of these films have been more historically accurate, accuracy now seeming to be more of the trend …and it’s about time. As a matter of fact, after the premiere of “Jesse James” one of Jesse’s granddaughters remarked that while Jesse and Tyrone both shared the name Jesse James and both rode a horse, the comparison stopped there.

Because the James boys were born and raised in Clay County, the county commission feels the responsibility to maintain the accuracy of stories told about their lives. It is doing so by producing the outdoor drama, “The Life & Times of Jesse James.” This is staged on the ground of Jesse’s birthplace near Kearney, where the audience can see history recreated where much of it actually occurred.

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In 1978 when Clay County purchased the old James Farm, birthplace of Jesse James and home of the James family for more than a century, the first priority was to restore the crumbling structure. It was my responsibility not only to oversee the restoration, which took two years, but to interpret the history which unfolded there and to put it all together in a meaningful way for the hundreds of thousands of people who would visit the site.

It was a tough act to follow. Since Jesse’s death in 1882, visitors have been coming to the farm for tours. The first “tour guide” was the boys’ mother, Zerelda James-Samuel, then it was Frank James. These tours continue today with a new visit center and audio-visual presentation. In addition, the county is quickly obtaining quite a significant collection of James family artifacts donated to the county by surviving relatives.

In 1984 Clay County started producing an historical outdoor drama, “The Life & Times of Jesse James” with the idea that it would be performed on the very spot where the incidents took place; a living history museum. Clay County was the recipient of the National Association of Counties Achievement Award for this innovation, which promoted economic development and tourism. People attending can judge for themselves whether Jesse was a good guy or bad guy based on the circumstances of his time, the tumultuous Civil War era.

For once, an accurate portrayal of the life and times of Jesse James is being produced. It is apropos that it happens right where the legend began, on a peaceful farm near Kearney, MO.

Frank James Testifies, Denies

Frank James took the witness stand on his own behalf. The following report was published on Aug. 31, 1883, by the St. Joseph Daily Gazette (Vol. 39, No. 208):

“There was the largest attendance today since the trial began. The principal witnesses were Mrs. Samuels, John Samuels, Allen H. Palmer and wife, and Frank James, the defendant. The direct testimony and a greater portion of his cross-examination was a disappointment to his counsel and friends. He refused to disclose the names of some parties, which was his legal privilege, and forgot the names of some parties with whom he stopped while in Texas. The witness used good language, spoke distinctly, and his earnest manner implied that his story was true, and it made a good impression on the audience. His friends claim that his tour through Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky was accurately detailed, and accounts for his failure to describe his Texas trip on the ground that he did not want to make certain disclosures with his Texas relatives to corroborate him and aid him. They say his story was more favorable an truthful than if it had been more particular in the description of details, but nothing has transpired to remove the general impression that the state has made out a very strong case, and that the state and its friends will be disappointed if the jury does not convict.