28 August 2009

my fascination with the outlaw JESSE JAMES

For years, I've had a fascination with the outlaw Jesse Woodson James (1847-1882). Was he the Robinhood some people claimed he was or was he a cold-blooded murderer and thief? (He didn't rob from the rich and give to the poor as it was rumored at the time. He lined his own pockets.)

I've visited his home in Kearney (Clay County) MO three times, his grave in the Mount Olive Cemetery (also in Kearney) twice, and the Clay County Saving Association in Liberty, MO which he robbed. It was the site of the first daylight armed bank robbery in peacetime. I also saw his home in St. Joseph, MO where Jesse was assassinated by Robert Ford who shot him in the back while he was either dusting or adjusting a picture frame. Ford wanted to collect the $5,000 reward offered by then Missouri Governor Thomas T. Crittenden.

Jesse and his brother Frank James were Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. After the war, they became members of various gangs that robbed stagecoaches, banks and trains. Jesse was the most famous of the James-Younger gang who tried to rob a bank in Northville, Minnesota in Sept. 1876.

After Jesse was killed in 1882, he was buried on the family farm. Later, his body was removed to Mt. Olive Cemetery. Rumors surfaced that he was alive and living in the west under an assumed name. There was always a question over the years whether it was actually Jesse's body buried in Mt. Olive Cemetery in Kearney, MO. In 1995, Jesse's body was exhumed. It was found that the DNA of the body was consistent with the DNA of the relatives of Jesse James. The remains were re-interred once again, under the name "JESSE JAMES. "