Born Jesse Woodson James September 5, 1847(1847-09-05) Clay County, Missouri, USA
Died April 3, 1882 (aged 34) St. Joseph, Missouri, USA Nationality American Known for Banditry Spouse(s) Zerelda Mimms Children Jesse E. James, Mary James Barr Parents Robert S. James, Zerelda Cole James Jesse Woodson James (September 5, 1847 – April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw, gang leader, bank and train robber, and murderer from the state of Missouri and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. Already a celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death. Some recent scholars place him in the context of regional insurgencies of ex-Confederates following the American Civil War rather than a manifestation of frontier lawlessness or economic justice.
Jesse and his brother Frank James were Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. They were accused of participating in atrocities committed against Union soldiers. After the war, as members of one gang or another, they robbed banks. They also robbed stagecoaches and trains. Despite popular portrayals of James as a kind of Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, there is no evidence that he and his gang used their robbery gains for anyone but themselves.
The James brothers were most active with their gang from about 1866 until 1876, when their attempted robbery of a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, resulted in the capture or deaths of several members. They continued in crime for several years, recruiting new members, but were under increasing pressure from law enforcement. On April 3, 1882, Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford, who was a member of the gang living in the James house and who was hoping to collect a state reward on James' head.
Jesse James Farm in Kearney. The original farmhouse is on the left and an addition on the right was expanded after Jesse James died. Across a creek and up a hill on the right was the home of Daniel Askew, where Askew was killed on April 12, 1875. Askew was suspected of cooperating with the Pinkertons in the January 1875 bombing of the house (in a room on the left). James's original grave was on the property but he was later moved to a cemetery in Kearney. The original footstone is still outside, although the family has replaced the headstone. Jesse Woodson James was born in Clay County, Missouri, near the site of present day Kearney, on September 5, 1847. Jesse James had two full siblings: his older brother, Alexander Franklin "Frank", and a younger sister, Susan Lavenia James. His father, Robert S. James, of Welsh ancestry, was a commercial hemp farmer and Baptist minister in Kentucky, who migrated to Missouri after marriage and helped found William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. He was prosperous, acquiring six slaves and more than 100 acres of farmland. Robert James travelled to California during the Gold Rush to minister to those searching for gold and died there when Jesse was three years old. After the death of Robert James, his widow Zerelda remarried twice, first to Benjamin Simms and then in 1855 to Dr. Reuben Samuel, who moved into the James' home. Jesse's mother and Reuben Samuel had four children together: Sarah Louisa, John Thomas, Fannie Quantrell, and Archie Peyton Samuel. Zerelda and Reuben Samuel acquired a total of seven slaves, who served mainly as farmhands in tobacco cultivation in Missouri. The approach of the American Civil War overshadowed the James-Samuel household. Missouri was a border state, sharing characteristics of both North and South, but 75% of the population was from the South or other border states. Clay County was in a region of Missouri later dubbed "Little Dixie," as it was a center of migration from the Upper South. Farmers raised the same crops and livestock as in the areas from which they had migrated. They brought slaves with them and purchased more according to need. The county had more slaveholders, who held more slaves, than in other regions. Aside from slavery, the culture of Little Dixie was Southern in other ways as well. This influenced how the population acted during and after the American Civil War. In Missouri as a whole, slaves accounted for only 10 percent of the population, but in Clay County they constituted 25 percent.
After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, Clay County became the scene of great turmoil, as the question of whether slavery would be expanded into the neighboring Kansas Territory came to dominate public life. Numerous people from Missouri migrated to Kansas to try to influence its future. Much of the tension that led up to the Civil War centered on the violence that erupted in Kansas between pro- and anti-slavery militias.
to be continued...Jesse James during and after the civil war, Pinkertons, Downfall of gang, Death, Rumor of Survival, Legacy and controversies
Copyright ©2013 Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc. an Active Interest Media company. All rights reserved.