Stray Leaves Diary of John James of Alvarado – 2

2nd Installment of “Stray Leaves” from my diary

John James of Alvarado, Texas
John James of Alvarado, Texas

In my last I told you about our moving about up to the time I came to Texas. Now I will go back and tell some other things connected with my life in Illinois, for it was there the greatest epoch in my life and history occurred, when we lived there it was a new and sparsely settled country and not very much society schools and preaching until after the war.

Just before I was 16, I professed religion and joined the “New Light” church and from that time I became an active Sunday school and church worker, and I now see that was the very best thing that could have happened.

While Father was gone to the war I grew out from under his rule and influence so that when he came home I felt in me a feeling of rebellion against him and was never willing for him to boss me as I called it, so in the summer after I was 16 I left home “ran away” after night I went to another county about 30 miles from home taking only one extra shirt and my testament that I loved so well. I hired to a man to herd cattle, so did not have much to do but put in all my spare time reading my Testament.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 3
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 3

I planned to get myself plenty of clothes and then go to school for I wanted to get an education I wanted that above everything else, of course I loved my dear mother and the children, wanted to see them and went home in the fall on a visit intending to go back to Philo, Illinois, where a man had offered to board me and send me to school for my work of nights and mornings. But Father begged me to stay at home and promised me an education, so I stayed on account of our financial condition and father’s feebleness (from hardships and exposure in the war) I never got to go to school any more, I had never went to school but nine weeks and that was to Uncle Henry… (illegible writing)…by a chip fire light until I ruined my eyes that had been afflicted with granulated lids from the time I was 5 yrs. old (our first year in Illinois), but I stayed with my Father and learned to love him again and done all I could for him but read and studied all the time I could.

I loved that Sunday School and prayer meeting and debating societies and sing schools and became active in all that work and I loved the girls too and had several precious sweet hearts ” that I hated most of to Leave” when we came to Texas, but I learned to write by writing back to several of them for over a year after I came here.

During the summer (our first summer here) after I was 18, the neighbors fixed up an old log house with split log seats and plank on pegs in the wall for a writing desk and put me in as teacher over about a dozen children, but my school was a success from the start. It gave me the chance to study and I would study every evening after school was out every lesson that was to come up the next day so I kept ahead of my school. I taught four schools at that place and my salary grew from about $20.00 up to $75.00 per month and at the end of the 4th school I had carried my advanced classes up into such high branches as higher arithmetic, algebra, physical geography, philosophy and Astronomy and Book keeping.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 4
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 4

I had not only taught a good school, but had educated myself during the two years or four schools that I taught there so I kept on teaching for 18 years, the last three years a mission teacher to the Indians where I learned to love the Indians and learned their language and can talk it yet, though it has now been 15 years since I quit teaching.

The 3rd year, after coming to Texas in September after I was 20, in April I married into one of the very best families in this country or state, I would teach in the winter and wake crops in the spring, teach again in the summer. Father had moved to Wise County, 50 miles north of here. I also moved up there and went to teaching and farming as I did here where my wife and baby child died the same week in I had joined the Baptist Church in spring 1873 and up there in Wise County in 1878.

I was licensed to preach and was ordained soon after, so I mixed preaching with teaching and farming. I had 4 motherless children that my dear Mother was taking care of so I married again in fall 1879. I now have eleven children living and thirteen grandchildren.

While I was among the Indians I a Missionary preacher, teacher, and doctor would have stayed there had it not been for my family, I did not want to raise up my children and have them marry off in that country. So in spring of 1883 I moved back to Johnson County to the same neighborhood we first came to 33 years ago and where I first began teaching, Some of my first pupils are living here yet and most of them Grandfathers and Grandmothers and when I think of it, it makes me feel old, but I am only 51 next month, have not a grey hair in my head.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 5
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 5

In politics, I am a Democrat but in politics religion and everything else I am very liberal and kind to those who differ with me in their views. I believe there is good in all creeds and in all nations of the Earth and believe God’s people do wrong in keeping up separate denominational creeds instead of trying to live together in Love and Unity. I began to preach that kind of doctrine about twelve years ago. Of course, that did not suit Baptists. They took my credentials away from me; but I am glad of it, and have never regretted it. From that day until this I have been an independent free man and preach and teach what I believe and hold myself accountable to no man or set of men but God only.

While a mere boy reading the Bible, I began to believe in the Mighty Power of the mind. I felt that I had some mysterious secret power but did not know how to use it. I believed a correct understanding of this secret mental or Spiritual power would make plain many of the mysterious things spoken of in the Apostles and of the similar things among the different nations of the earth, all the way down from that time until now. There were my feeling and thoughts back to 30 or 40 years ago and I have lived up to those4 very things demonstrated.

I have learned how to recognize and use that secret power that I felt swelling up in my very being when I was but a mere child from a mere boy. I have always desired to be able to heal the sick. Now I have witnessed hundreds of them getting well under my treatments and; yet it is not I that do it, but it is done by God-given power that I have learned how to use.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 6
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 6

All my youthful desires for knowledge and for power was my earnest prayer, and God has answered them not as I expected but more fully than I had ever dared hope for and above all I have a better understanding of the great doctrines of the Bible and have a more vital and intelligent conception of God’s love and serve him better than I could ever have done by following human creeds.

I have had many strange and wonderful experiences through life much that was dark and mysterious at the time but all is plain now. As I look back along the journey of my past life, I can now see how God in his mercy and wisdom was leading me. I seem to have come to the great Fountain of Wisdom and day by day Wonderful Knowledge of the here to fore hidden mysteries of the world and of life are coming to me. Praise the Lord, O my Soul. Amen.

JOHN JAMES    March 8, 1903


Stray Leaves Diary of John James of Alvarado – 1

This website takes its name of Stray Leaves from the diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, which he titled his Stray Leaves. John began his diary of four typewritten pages on March 8, 1903, but he never wrote any more of a diary. His progeny inherited his four-page diary. John also sent copies home to relatives in Shopville, Pulaski County, Kentucky. This four-page document and historical record has been disseminated among the James family and its descendants since.

Stray Leaves from my diary

John James – Alvarado, Texas, March 8, 1903


My father is of English descent on his paternal side. My mother’s name was Hall and her people were mixed-Americans. Both were born and raised in Pulaski County, Kentucky.


The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 1
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 1


I was born on Flat Lick Creek, same county and state Apr. 29, 1832, and recollected quite distinctively some of the people and places there, such as Grandma Hall’s and orchard. Grandma James’ stone house and mill pond, the Peyton Randall place, and of going there and staying all night with Grandma James and of sleeping in a small side room in which I saw the first high chair for children. I was less than 4 years old then.

I can remember Uncle Perry James building me a cornstalk playhouse in a fence corner to the front and right of the stone house, and of he and I and Aunt Babe coasting downhill, out in from of the house on the sleet and snow using warped clapboards from an old ash hopper to ride on.

I can remember mother, carrying water from the mill pond to wash with in a cedar churn and of the churn getting away from her in the mill pond and of someone getting it for her own at the dam. I also remember playing hide and seek with Aunt Babe and some neighbor children and of Aunt Mary  (Mary Martha James) hiding me under her big cook apron. I also remember being at Uncle Shad Owens place and some of the family, also remember some of the places where we lived all before I was 5 yrs. old.

The stone house built by Rev. Joseph Martin James prior to the Civil War at Flat Lick Creek in Shopville, Pulaski County, Kentucky.
The stone house built by Rev. Joseph Martin James prior to the Civil War at Flat Lick Creek in Shopville, Pulaski County, Kentucky.

In Feb. 1857, Father (Cyrenius Waite James) and family and Uncle Henry and his young bride (who was Rachel Tomlinson) moved to Illinois. Jesse Nance hauled us to Danville, Kentucky in a covered wagon where we stayed all night with Uncle Mack James (Joseph McAlister James, aka Joseph McJames) Uncle Henry being drunk all the way and his young wife crying all the time, Uncle Mack offered her $50.00 if she would go back to her Father. We traveled from Danville to Louisville on R.R. train, crossed the Ohio River on a large ferry boat stayed all night in a hotel in the Ind. side and from our window saw a big fire over the river in Louisville. We went on to Pesotum, Illinois on the train. At Pesotum, we stayed in a small depot until Father walked out to Squire Lee’s, 4 miles, and got a wagon and team and hauled us out there.

We lived in Champaign County twp years near Uncle Squire Lee’s (husband of Elizabeth Ann James) then moved to Uncle Mack’s farm in Douglas County, 15 miles S.W. (Spring 1859).

In 1861 Father enlisted in the U.S. army and was a soldier 3 years passing through 17 of the great battles of the rebellion in Sherman’s and Grant’s armies. He got wounded slightly once at Rebecca Ga. was paroled and came home and stayed a few days and returned to his command, then in Tennessee.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, page 2
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, page 2

During the war, mother and I tried to farm and did make a crop but had a hard time to keep something to eat and wear. Everything was high-priced and Father’s 13 dollars a month was not sufficient to keep us supplied as there was then a family of Mother myself, William Henry, George Mack, Squire Martin, and Mary Martha, four children.

My little and only sister Mary Martha only 2 years old got choked to death on a grain of corn. While Father was a prisoner of war at Marietta Ga 1000 miles away but in a vision the night and hour she died, he saw her come to near his pallet dressed in white and was the most beautiful. Father woke up his bedfellow and told him of the strange vision, and looked at his watch and noted the time.

John James of Alvarado, Texas
John James of Alvarado, Texas

When Father came home in 1865, I was 13 yrs. old and could do a man’s work on the farm. Father’s health was bad and I had all the work to do. We had nothing left but a poor pony team and old wagon and one cow, but prospered and came to Texas in fall of 1869 when I was 17 years old. I had never been to school but nine weeks in my life but had picked up a fair education and had read the New Testament through one that Father brought home and given me.

(To Be Continued)

Kathleen Laid Down Her Basket & Left a Gift

The Little Girl & Her Basket

By Kathleen Brush-Meccia

There was a little girl whose daddy was in the Navy. “Bell bottom trousers, coat of navy blue – I love a sailor and he loves me too.” Her mommy had her sing this song for everyone quite often. She was a very good little girl, but a terrible pain in the ass!

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen & family, post World War II party


Her mommy was awful upset about the war and wondered if the daddy would come back o.k. The little girl wanted to help somehow, so she started filling her basket with her mother’s worries.

There was already some ugly stuff in it, because the little girl thought, or her mother thought, she was born too soon after the marriage, and her mother was only 20 or so and hadn’t spent too much time with her husband before the war had taken him away. I don’t even think the mother thought she wanted to be married. They had come from different backgrounds.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen, her mother Eleanor Marie James-Brush, & her cousin Buddy James

The little girl wanted to help, but she didn’t know how, so she just started taking on her mother’s unhappiness and plopped it into the basket and carried it everywhere. She really thought she was helping.

When her daddy came home, she continued to be this terrible pain in the ass – because she was afraid of so many things – high places, low places, fire, water, bugs, and even merry-go-rounds. She was afraid of doctors and dentists. They got thrown out of many a dentist’s office. Her mother was probably embarrassed. But most of all she was really afraid of being left alone. Also she was very lonely. She even had an imaginary playmate. Boy, did she have an imagination! She even drew her friend on the sheet one time. That made her mother very angry. Her parents had their own problems. But she kept being this pain in the ass and filling her basket.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Best cousins – Kathleen & Buddy James

The little girl didn’t know why, but she felt her parents didn’t like her. No matter what they did for her, the girl kept having terrible, terrible nightmares and got hysterical a lot because they tried to shock her out of those fears. They must have thought something was wrong with her, because they took her to a child psychologist when she was about 5, she was told. Then again at 13. When they didn’t know how to handle her anymore, they just didn’t. But they never stopped letting her know what a terrible pain in the ass she was.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen, first communion

She was a very lonely little girl, but her mother made her pretty clothes and made the most wonderful things to eat. They also went a lot of places and saw lots of things. She doesn’t know why but she was frightened very easy. She was anxious all the time and got too excited. She was very unhappy, because she thought her parents didn’t want her. She had nice grandmas and aunties who spoiled her to death. She spent lots of times at their houses – probably because she was such a pain in the ass to her mother. She was a flower girl twice and she really thought weddings were very happy. She was even on TV and won a puppy and dog food. She really loved the puppy. She was in school and did well – she was afraid not to – the nuns were sort of mean. She went to church and she loved God very much. But she asked an awful lot of questions. She continued to be unhappy and kept filling her basket. Her dad wasn’t there a lot of the time and her mother was also unhappy. Her mother liked love songs – she does, too. Her mother must have loved her father very much.

Then one day she came home again from school and her puppy was gone. She thought her heart would break! Her mother had sold her puppy and she walked and walked and walked to visit her puppy until the people moved.

Her father used to come take her on Sundays. He even took her to see his girlfriend Toni. This made her very unhappy and she liked him even less. Her basket was so heavy, and she had to lie to her mother about where they went. This made her feel very “guilty.” Then she told her mother the truth and her mother was very sad and the dad was really angry with her for telling her mother. She also remembers the father beating the little puppy for chewing inside the car.

Her mother knew how to keep busy – she cleaned all the time and she kept making the same wonderful things to eat. The little girl thought it would really help to carry the basket. The little girl became chubby and it was a real pain in the ass to find clothes for her, but she went to the Catholic school and they wore uniforms and it wasn’t so bad.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Siblings – Anne Marie, James Robert, Kathleen, Elizabeth Jane, & Robert Charles Brush

Her little sister came when she was 7. She didn’t like her too much. She was sickly and got lots of attention. Then the father came back and they moved to the country. It was real different and another sister was coming. There were other dogs, but they all had to go, too. The little girls weren’t responsible enough to take care of the dogs and the mother got tired of cleaning up dog shit. One puppy was sick, and she remembers warming a brick for him to sleep next to. She thought he was going to die, and when he did she thought it was her fault for not taking good enough care of him. She couldn’t understand that pain comes with living – she thought living was supposed to be all happy.

The little girl liked the girl scouts and riding her bike. She really missed her dogs – she loved dogs! Her mother used to give her money to go to the dog shows in the city. Her dad even took her to some. And she still went to church and loved God. But she was still a pain in the ass. She remembers going lots of places alone, even on busses and trains.

The little girl didn’t know why she was extra sensitive or hurt extra much, or was afraid extra much. She was quite clever, but her mother didn’t like this about her either. She never learned patience or self-discipline and she had a hell of a time getting through life. But just imagine this basket filled with pain, guilt, and shame. She really wanted it to be filled with hopes, dreams, and wishes, even pretty flowers. She never learned how to “enjoy” and she didn’t know any better. She didn’t want to be a burden. Her mother used to tell her she was just like her father and he caused lots of unhappiness. She believed in the buy now (enjoy)-pay later plan. Sometimes she still does.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen with her visiting grandfather, James Francis “Jimmy” Keating

Then, it seemed suddenly, that something happened. She started growing. She had new feelings – sexual feelings, and she didn’t know how to handle them. She began to have crushes on boys – even men! These new feelings felt good – even made her forget her basket sometimes.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen’s most admired sibling, Bobby, from whom she drew inspiration. Bobby was born with down syndrome & met his challenges daily for 52 years.

Another brother came and her father wasn’t there too much. Her mother worked a lot at night, and she took care of her brothers and sister. When her father was there, he was asleep in the green chair. She couldn’t stand all that it had become, and she wanted to get out of there. Her father did and said cruel things to her, and it really hurt her – they fought about her constantly.

She wasn’t so chubby anymore, but she didn’t get to do too many fun things with her friends. Her mother never liked her friends. So she started to ‘sneak” and she got caught. She really felt guilty! Then she was 15 and got herself pregnant. She had committed the most cardinal sin of all. And her heart broke when she realized how much she hurt her parents. She gathered even more pain for her basket, and left with it.

Many sad years followed. She sifted through the contents of the basket quite often to make sure everything was in there.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
First family – husband John Edwards Jones with twin sons James Mark & John Michael Jones

She became a baby factory. Sometimes she’d sit the basket in the closet on the shelf, but she always knew it was there.

Then she started having silly, stupid crushes again. She wanted someone to love her so badly, but she just kept getting into disasters. She cried many times. “Will someone please help me carry this basket?” But no one heard her. Even all those babies were pains in the ass, too – she never stopped loving them. She just didn’t know what to do. She wanted to dance and have fun but she couldn’t. She was sick and miserable and sorry. Boy! Was she sorry!

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Jones children – Lisa Marie, Jean Marie Jones & the twins

So she set out back and forth across the country lugging babies and her basket, searching for someone or something that would make her stop hurting. She even took pills and was a hippie, and she had even more babies. There were people to hold her for a while but they always left. A lot of strange people were her friends but they didn’t hurt her. They even helped share the basket sometimes.

She really hated herself for the mess she made of her life and the hurt she brought to her parents and babies. But no matter what she did, she was wrong to her parents. But most of all she wondered why no one could love her. Why is she such a burden to everyone?

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
John Albert Meccia, her third husband

Then she met “HIM.” He was just as unhappy as she. They, of course, would love each other and make each other happy. He was so big, and strong, and handsome and bold. She just knew he would love her and protect her from any more harm. After so long she was finally going to be happy. Boy, was she wrong. He couldn’t even take care of himself – and yet – still – they had more babies. Oh, how she loved him, and he wound up hurting her more than all the others combined.

He’s gone, too, and considers her a pain in the ass! What did she do so wrong? Why is she such a burden to everyone?

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Proud mother & daughters – Ann Meccia, Mary Cronk-Steele, Cara Crew Meccia with daughter Lauren, & Ellen Cronk-Credi

Now there are four babies left, and guess what? One is helping her carry the basket. Another one torments her and is such a pain in the ass, but at least she understands. I don’t think the little girl’s mother did. One is very bright, and one is a budding pain in the ass. But she still loves them, and would never part from them no matter how many mistakes they made. She would like to be friends with her family again, but they seem to want her to be unhappy. She wishes she knew why.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen, enjoying the little things.

                                                                                      She feels sorry for herself a whole lot of the time – because there is no one else. She still has nightmares and thinks God might have left her side, too. She’s not even sure if she wants to live, but she can’t leave her babies.

She feels sorry for herself a whole lot of the time – because there is no one else. She still has nightmares and thinks God might have left her side, too. She’s not even sure if she wants to live, but she can’t leave her babies.

She feels sorry for herself a whole lot of the time – because there is no one else. She still has nightmares and thinks God might have left her side, too. She’s not even sure if she wants to live, but she can’t leave her babies.

Her heart is so scarred; it never even started to heal. She wants to put down the basket once and for all, but she doesn’t desire to hold it anymore. Besides, the basket itself is frayed and becoming unwoven. Please teach her how to set the basket down, so she can live happily ever after.

Kathleen Brush Meccia - The Little Girl & Her Basket
Kathleen Brush-Meccia, enjoying life with a wicked sense of humor


No one ever teaches us how to live happily ever after.

When my dearest cousin Kathleen gave me this story many years ago, I was so thrilled with it that I told her she had produced a gift. She should write more, I said. Regretfully, she never did. But she did grant me her permission to publish it. I’ve been saving it to publish in a book of stories written by other cousins and family. This unexpected moment, though, seems a more appropriate time.

From childhood, when Kathleen and I were best buds, I always admired Kathleen. I never saw the pain of which she wrote. Had I seen it, we probably would have grown closer than we were. Our lives and our pains were not too much different.

What I did see in Kathleen was a beautiful girl, who grew into an attractive young woman, who took her life and literally ran with it. I was doing the same. Where Kathleen sought her fulfillment in having eight children, I sought mine in a career, just as time consuming, busy, and often thankless.

No one teaches us that our children produce lives of their own, or that our lives might not turn out as expected. That, we teach ourselves.

But time does come eventually to put down our pain, so we can live on the other side, in the joy of what our life created when we took it and ran with it. If we put that legacy in writing, it is left to others for the taking. A story like Kathleen’s story becomes a sustaining legacy, more valued than money or property. Our story is an heirloom, an endowment, and a gift.

Despite a world of ideas, no manual on how to live happily ever after has ever been written. There never will be one. With our very lives, we write our own. The gift of our lives, and what we have learned and what we can teach, will be lost unless we share our story.

Kathleen Ann Brush-Jones-Cronk-Meccia laid down her basket one final time on January 27, 2015. But she left each of you a basket to pick up, holding her gift of this story to you.

Kathleen Brush & Buddy James, aka Eric F. James
Kathleen Brush & Buddy James, aka Eric F. James

Sons of Liberty Take History Channel to the Woodshed

History logoHistory, the network for male entertainment formerly called the History Channel, is taking steps not be chastised again for producing bogus historical accounts. The effort appears as honest as a baby step.

The website for its upcoming mini-series Sons of Liberty sports a link called the “Historian’s View.” Therein lays History Channel’s disclaimer. “SONS OF LIBERTY is a dramatic interpretation of events that sparked a revolution. It is historical fiction, not a documentary.” So much said for History to set the record straight, but is it?

join or die-sons of liberty

Apparently not enough, for The Journal of the American Revolution. The Journal ‘s TV reviewer Thomas Verenna got an early preview of Sons of Liberty. He was drowned by the network in a sea of promotional material. Despite the appearance of credentialed historians in the series, Verenna observed, “Understandably, one might get the impression from these sneak peeks that this is some sort of docu-drama. Well, it’s not that at all. You have to dig a bit to find it (it’s never explicitly stated in the trailers or promotional content)… actually, it’s more of an alternate history…”

Sons of Liberty logo

Over the years, we’ve taken History to the woodshed a number of times, recently in 2013 for “making [up] history every day” regarding productions relating to Jesse James. Challenging History has stopped it from producing more Jesse James fictional invention. Realistically, though, we expect the network will continue to develop more fictional entertainment around Jesse in the future. Jesse James is too appealing just to give up.

Unfortunately, neither historians of Jesse James, nor historians. in general, carry the political clout of the family of John F. Kennedy, as we reported. The Kennedy clan effectively put a cease and desist order on the network with only the threat of going to court. History has since dropped any proposals altogether of producing fictional history around the personage of President John F. Kennedy.

Journal of the American Revolution

The Journal admits that the production values of the mini-series are pretty good. The show is entertaining. But the show also is flawed, sufficiently enough to warrant a lengthy list of fact checking on its historical facts. The Journal breaks down each episode here, as we’ve done here in the past.

Nothing would please us better than, not to be the guardian of the History Channel’s truancy. If only the network had changed its name from the History Channel to Wishful History. Then there would be no need to disclaim its productions. As it persists in its brand of flawed, interpretative, alternate, or downright bogus history, the network and its productions must continue to be monitored for a chronic lack of integrity masquerading as an authority.

Sons of Liberty principals

Taxes Drove Jesse James’ Ancestors to Revolution

The Stamp Act of King George III
The Stamp Act of King George III

The Stamp Act passed by the parliament of King George III instructed the grandfather of Frank and Jesse James in the power to disobey.

John M. James was informed by his uncle Henry Field, a son of Henry Field Sr. and Esther James. Putting his life and the lives of his family on the line, John’s Uncle Henry was a judge on the Culpeper Court who had resigned his judgeship to oppose the king.

As This Bloody Ground, Volume II of Jesse James Soul Liberty, points out,

Parliament recently had imposed a cider tax, plus a sugar tax. Now, a stamp tax was to be paid. The revenue stamp was to affix to most every paper item generated throughout the Colony, including documents issued by the Culpeper Court in its jurisdiction over churches and preachers. The stamp equally applied to countless other documents and papers as well, such as a gazette, a bill of sale, a land transfer, or even a will. Payment to the Crown was required in sterling, scarcely found in the colony where barter was the principal currency. Feeding upon every official and non-official act of the colonists, the stamp tax amounted to economic enslavement.

Sterling coin, the only way to pay King George's taxes
Sterling coin, the only way to pay King George’s taxes

How egregious were these taxes to cause the James family to turn to revolution?

A recent article titled “What 11 Common Objects Would Cost in 2015 if Colonial Taxation Still Existed” outlines the financial burden in the dollar values of 2015.

Everything in print bore a tax. A magazine tax would add $294.56. A printed diploma would bear a tax of $234.84; a deck of cards, $5.87 in taxes. A printed calendar bore $1.96 additional tax.

Previously levied taxes already were proving burdensome. A pound of tea bore $1.46 in tax. Foreign coffee was expensive, costing $350.86 in tax. Foreign sugar carried a tax burden of $129.16.

no tax revolt

The  preferred beverage to water was wine. But wine was getting very expensive, too.  A ton of wine imported from Spain or Portugal bore a tax of $58.72. Wine imported from Madeira, the favorite of Thomas Jefferson, carried a tax of $821.94, fifteen times more than European wine. The paper on which a license to sell wine was printed, added $469.68 in tax to the license cost.

Indeed, these tax excesses amounted to economic enslavement. Absent relief, revolution became the only recourse. The lessons of economic oppression have remained with the James family since.

Receipt for Taxes Paid
Receipt for Taxes Paid

EnGarde WhizzPast – Your Jesse James Gang Photo Is A Fake!

Around the historical figure of America’s icon Jesse James congregates a community of con artists, charlatans, liars, claimants, and fraudsters. The entry fee is nominal. All it takes is an intense desire TO BE NOTICED. It is the exit fee that is costly and dear. Once identified among this community, most all never recover integrity.

Fools like these feed off one another voraciously. They can command no significant following. Their only power comes from the power to infect the un-knowledgeable, and to lie.

So it occurred in January of 2015 when the editor Joel Willans of the blog WhizzPast elected to headline an article titled, “25 little-known facts about the outlaw Jesse James,” with a fake photo of the Jesse James gang. Willans is an ex-pat of the UK, and apparently a man without a country.

WhizzPast's fake Jesse James Gang photo
WhizzPast’s fake Jesse James Gang photo

The article was decent and fairly accurately written account with legitimate photos, almost a rarity these days, written by Kathleen Harris from the staff of WhizzPast. The “25 little-known facts” structure of the article is a favored darling of internet algorithms, intended to attract more clicks than relevant audience.

Editor Willans, I’d estimate, adores algorithms. He could not let the Harris article go unpublished without mucking up the writing integrity of Kathleen Harris with a fake photo of the James gang. Willans proudly explained in Comments to the article, the image was obtained from “an expert.”

The “expert” Willans cited is found on a website that is a well-known seedbed of fraudsters. It is no surprise to find Jesse James con artist Ron Pastore among them. Pastore’s activities are long known to Stray Leaves. Whenever Pastore speaks, the stats for pages on Leaves of Gas that relate to Pastore jump astronomically and the queries roll in. We’ve taken Pastore to the wood shed time and time again for his fraud. Now there’s Joel Willans to join with Pastore.

Ron Pastore's bazaar of fake photos
Ron Pastore’s bazaar of fake photos

Gratuitously, Willans invited me to provide him a bone fide image of the James gang. If I could not, he said, he’d would persist in publishing the photo that is fraudulent. This is a typical con man’s gambit. The fact is, no image of the James gang exists. None, whatsoever. The James, as fugitives of the law, were not dumb so to photograph themselves and distribute their images, either as a gang or individually, begging to be captured. Asking to provide something that doesn’t exist is the con man’s way of saying, “Gotcha.” The fact that the faces in the Willans image cannot be authenticates as the identified names attached to them is the James way of saying “Gotcha, con man.”

Joel Willans
Joel Willans

Mr. Willans believes his college degree in history should stand for something. Indeed, it should, but certainly not for the perpetration of fake history. Modestly, Mr. Willans does not mention, he also has a degree in journalism from the London School of Journalism. His brand of journalism differs little from the tabloid trash Britain wildly generates.

Commentator Willans bows before the Holy Grail of algorithms, amazon(dot)com. After all, Willians is no journalist at all. He’s an adman. He invokes the once beacon of hope turned rampant despoiler to render people disparagingly as does his Grail. Two book reviews of Jesse James Soul Liberty on amazon only can mean a worthless book to him.

Willans appears to have backslid on his journalism degree. He makes no mention of the book’s Milton F. Perry Award, or its nominations for Best Non-Fiction Biography of the Wild West History Association, or Spur Award nomination from The Western Writers of America. He mentions not at all that the Tony Award winning Steppenwolf Theater commissioned award winning playwright Carlos Murillo to write a play based on a James family member featured in the book’s chapter “All for the Underdog.” Nor does Willans acknowledge the book’s popularity among libraries across the nation and book collectors of original new history, not regurgitated. Willans’ idolatry can produce only cynicism, which he believes is amusing.

The “Incorrect Facts” review of Virginia Church, Willans boasts of, has been addressed here before. Never mind the oxymoron title that would cancel out any subsequent content, her complaint is a closed issue until she alone elects to correct whatever she deems untrue. As for amazon, if I was able, I’d delete amazon from my book’s distribution network. Not because of how my book appears there, or amazon’s feeble sales results due to its skewed algorithms, but more for the fact that I disagree with the company’s predatory and exploitative business practices, and its despoliation of the literary market  in favor of flooding the market with 99 cents pulp, most all lacking in any literary merit.

WhizzPast is a clever title for a blog. Its subtitle is “The fastest way to travel back in time.” Under the editorial hand of Joel Willans, with his history and journalism degrees, the Jesse James family is ridiculed and disparaged, and Jesse James history is steampunked, all for the sake of Willans’ algorithm success.  So much for the value of a college education, and two degrees utterly wasted.

In this tawdry episode, WhizzPast fails in its mission as “The fastest way to travel back in time.”  WhizzPast makes the issue entirely present, and not the truest. You see, Joel Willans is no more than an adman…whose art is deception, no different than the con men attracted to Jesse James throughout history, and who are much too prevalent today, preying upon the uneducated, the un-knowledgeable, and the ignorant.


UPDATE: Jan 25, 2015

While Joel Willians plays smackdown with his guest commentators, one commenter slipped in with a fact that once more puts the lie to Willians’ claim that his James gang photo is authentic. Judy posted:

“I don’t see how this could have been a picture of the James Gang. Just a quick google search tells me that according to the Minnesota Historical Society Mueller, the photographer, didn’t start his photo studio in Owatonna until 1884.

“I kept looking for more info about Mr. Mueller and found him in the Minnesota 1905 census and he had been a resident for 23 years, making his move to MN 1882.
By 1882-1884 the Youngers were in prison and Jesse was dead.”

Not to mention, Jesse James was dead in 1882.

So…Who Am I?

A lifelong friend asked me to describe myself. As an author, historian, and genealogist I’m used to describing others. I believe I do it well. To describe one’s self, though, is not so easy. My “self” can get in the way. The problem was to get my “self” out of the way.

Connie Otto, actress, 1969
Connie Otto, actress, 1969

My friend, Connie Otto, and I have known each other for almost fifty years. We met as actors, doing a Broadway show road tour. When Otto left show business to become a Jungian psychologist and holistic health professional, she adopted her professional name of Chaitania. I’ve been privileged to be among the few she allows to still call her Otto.

In all our time, I’ve also come to respect Chaitania. I’ve learned It is Chaitania who pulls me out of my comfort zone in a way no close friend who loves you can. After I married a second time, Chaitania and her husband came to visit. Within the first twenty-four hours, Chaitania asked me directly, “What are you doing with this woman?” I responded, “I want to be married again.” Chaitania replied, “But you’re a good person.” That was all to our conversation. Chaitania’s skills left me to assess what was said.

Chaitania now has a blog, where she does the same thing for others as she’s done so long for me. She’s installed a new section on her blog Chaitania under the menu link “Amazing People.” That’s when Chaitania asked me to describe myself. Among all the people she has known, I am privileged to be her first subject. Otto is the one who asked me to describe myself, but I also recognized that this is Chaitania’s blog.

Chaitania blog

You cannot snow job a lifelong friend, and you dare not even try with a Jungian holistic psychologist who knows more secrets of the universe than you alone can imagine.

In answer to the request to describe myself, I wrote, “So…Who Am I?” For Chaitania, I believe my “self” has been written away. For my dear friend Otto, she will still recognize me.

You can read “So…Who Am I” HERE.

Jesse James Family Reunion 2002 Video – Pt. 11

A year before the Jesse James family reunion, Judge James R. Ross and myself made a trip to Paso Robles to meet with Tom Martin, then current owner of the Paso Robles Inn. I had visited there in 2000 when the remnant of the old hotel was undergoing preservation and restoration. I was anxious to see what had been done since. Both I and Judge Ross also hoped Tom Martin would agree to host our Jesse James family reunion at the historic hotel, first founded by Drury Woodson James.

Tom Martin, Anne Martin-Bowler, Judge James R. Ross, Eric F. James
Tom Martin, Anne Martin-Bowler, Judge James R. Ross, Eric F. James

I had already posted a lengthy feature story about Uncle Drury and his famous hotel on our website Stray LeavesWhen Meeting Tom Martin, we also met his sister Anne Martin-Bowler. She informed us she was writing a book about Drury Woodson James and the founding of the hotel. The book was planned as a promotion for the hotel. The History of the Paso Robles Inn, More Than a Century of Pride has been published since.  Anne did an excellent job.

Needless to say, the Martins were thrilled to be our host. We were equally thrilled to be holding the family reunion on Uncle Drury’s old hotel property. We were especially excited about having a family banquet in Uncle Drury’s ballroom, which the Martins had preserved and restored. Until Tom Wallace

Until Tom Wallace, who supervised the reconstruction, told us his story of working on the formerly condemned property as he does in this video, the only information I had about it was gleaned from George Jackson. a heating contractor, employed  to install a  heating plant for the old ruin. I was particularly tickled by Jackson’s story of discovering a petrified cat when he opened up sealed portions of the original brick basement. You can find Jackson’s story on Stray Leaves.

Jesse James Family Reunion 2002 Video – Pt. 14

This is the last episode from the Jesse James family reunion of 2002. Among all the fourteen episodes, this is my favorite, because it represents the spirit of the reunion as we experienced it then, both simply and beautifully.

Please read the closing credits. The people who put this event together deserve every appreciation. The event could not have been as effective as it was without their advice, guidance, assistance, and support.

The music that accompanies this montage is performed by the gospel group Mountain Glory. This is a group brought to our attention by David Best. David’s grandfather baptized Jesse James’ daughter in the years before her passing.

One event that never made it into our video, due to technical difficulties, was the enactment by Mary Mimms of Zerelda, Frank & Jesse’s mother. If you ever have a chance to catch Mary in her performance again, don’t miss it.

On the morning when everyone was leaving the Paso Robles Inn, I stood outside saying goodbye. Charles Broomfield, who helped effect the donation of James farm in Kearney to Clay County, when he was a Clay County commissioner, asked me, “Why don’t we ever have something as good as this in Missouri?” I answered Charlie, saying, “Because no one has ever invited us.” I’m still waiting for that invitation.

Until then…Merry Christmas and best regards.

NOTE: If you think you missed Part 11, you haven’t. It just hasn’t been posted yet. Look for Part 11 and Part 13 after Christmas.                          OR…SUBSCRIBE ABOVE and be notified. Merry Christmas.


Jesse James Family Reunion 2002 Video – Pts. 12 A-12 B

When Joan Beamis, a great granddaughter of Drury Woodson James, discovered she was a first cousin of Frank and Jesse James, due to her father’s inadvertent slip of the tongue, Joan was all excited to learn more about her family’s secretive connection. Her grandmother, Drury’s daughter, lived with Joan in their New Hampshire home, but Nanna looked at Joan sternly as if to say, “One doesn’t ask such things,” so Joan wrote. Nanna never surrendered the information she knew or the genealogy she kept in her traveling case.

Eric F. James, standing beside the public monument to Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles, California. The monument stands in the two blocks of public park Drury donated to the city
Eric F. James, standing beside the public monument to Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles, California. The monument stands in the two blocks of public park Drury donated to the city.

When Joan reached beyond her home to New York Ciry and very far beyond for information, she was specifically warned not to contact any family in Missouri. Joan wrote that in her letter to Gilbert Cam, the executive director of the New York City Library.

The isolation of the Jesse James family in Missouri had been solidified from 1882 up to 1950 when Joan began her research.

The isolation Joan encountered then still persists today, despite every effort made then, and being made now, by some among the family, and outside of the family, to crack that shell.

No one from the James family in Missouri showed up to attend this family reunion in 2002, though they were repeatedly invited. The board the directors of the James-Younger Gang accepted the James family’s invitation to attend and participate. Subsequently, however, the group’s founder Phillip Steele hijacked the group to Tennessee instead. Judge Ross, Jesse’s great grandson, never spoke to Phillip Steele again and resigned his membership in Steele’s group. I just recently learned that Steele had that privilege to sidestep the group’s board of directors written into their by-laws. Steele already had built a reputation for himself re-publishing the James family genealogy that Joan Beamis first produced in her book Background of a Bandit, published by the Kentucky Historical Society in 1970. Steele considered he was the James family’s genealogist alone, though to my knowledge he never conducted any genealogy research. The last time I saw Philip Steele, he pumped me for everything new I had found that he could appropriate and publish as he might his own.

As I point out in this video, some of the Jesse James family prefers their self-imposed isolation to genealogical and historical transparency. They continue to do so today. The research before 2002 and since has shown no further need for the protective cover they covet. Still, they object to the research and publication of findings being discovered every day. Oddly, they do not confront the facts of their heritage whatsoever. They simply turned a blind eye to them.

As this video outlines, the research into the James family continues, even today and hopefully beyond. With each advance in the research, the genealogy and history becomes more and more undeniable. I know history stands on the side of informational transparency. Those who object today soon will pass. With their passing, new generations of James family and new generations of those interested in their family and outlaws, will become the beneficiaries of all the work being done today to recapture the James history that’s been lost for over 300 years.

Future generations will have a picture of the Jesse James family far different, and far more comprehensive, than the fragments of the family now embattled with one another.

NOTE: If you think you missed Part 11, you haven’t. It just hasn’t been posted yet. Look for Part 11 and Part 13 after Christmas. OR…SUBSCRIBE ABOVE and be notified. Merry Christmas.

Jesse James Family Reunion 2002 Video – Pt. 10

When Judge James R. Ross and I were laying out the event schedule for the family reunion, I asked Judge Ross if he would speak about his childhood and growing up in the household of Jesse Edwards James Jr. as his de facto father. In all the time we spent together, I always was most intrigued by those stories he related to me privately. I thought his family would find them of interest, too.

Judge James R. Ross beside the historical monument that commemorates his cousin, Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles California. The memorial stands in the park D.W. James donated to the city.
Judge James R. Ross beside the historical monument that commemorates his cousin, Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles California. The memorial stands in the park D.W. James donated to the city.

What I didn’t realize was that his agreement to discuss the subject meant he intended to use the topic as an opportunity to sell his book. In the mind of Judge Ross,  he had written his book I, Jesse James specifically for that reason, to tell people the stories he had heard about Jesse James while growing up in the household of the outlaw’s son. The talk Judge Ross delivered was not the leisurely reminiscence I thought he would present. Instead, what he delivered was a short promotion for his book.

What was really on his mind, though, was a deal to make a movie from his book. What he said on that in his talk he had kept close to his vest. I had no idea beforehand of the option contract for a movie that he just had signed. Judge Ross intended to surprise us all.

Sadly, TNT never did make a movie of Judge Ross’ book. The Judge’s lifelong ambition to make the only movie about Jesse James that was factual and true went unfulfilled in his lifetime.

Three great grandsons of Jesse Woodson James: Donald James Baumel, Judge James R. Ross, James Lewis
Three great grandsons of Jesse Woodson James: Donald James Baumel, Judge James R. Ross, James Lewis

Jesse James Family Reunion 2002 Video – Pt. 9

Arriving at Hearst Castle, the Jesse James family at first believed they were simply visiting a local stellar attraction not too far distant from the home of Drury Woodson James. Hearst Castle’s docent regaled the family with the story of William Randolph Hearst’s legendary castle town recreation on a hill overlooking the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean and the area’s local history.

A docent from Hearst Castle welcomes the Jesse James family.
A docent from Hearst Castle welcomes the Jesse James family.

My postscript to the presentation made by the Hearst Castle’s docent in which I revealed the purpose of our visit, surprised even the docent. Since it was such a surprise, I knew I had to bring along the sources from where I had gleaned information that now appeared surprising. After my short presentation, the docent asked about my notes, “Can I see that?”

Jesse's great-grandson catches up the to James gang, eager to hear about the relationship between Hearst Castle and Drury Woodson James.
Jesse’s great-grandson, Judge James R. Ross, catches up the to James gang, eager to hear about the relationship between Hearst Castle and Drury Woodson James.

I have to admit that the first time when I discovered this small morsel of James history that now it so appetizing, I couldn’t be more grateful for all the effort that had been made to learn of it. The new research techniques I had developed in my years of researching the James family’s genealogy have paid off in very big ways, in excess of this little exciting discovery.

Leaving no stone unturned meant that my research not only had to study the James family, but also had to study their in-law families, and additionally to study the social communities among whom they lived. That’s how this small piece of Drury Woodson James’ history came to be found in a research depository I never might have looked in, had I only confined myself to studying the genealogy of the Jesse James family.

From Hearst Castle, we were off to visit the Tobin James Wine Cellars. While there, our host Tobin James told us the story about his bar which he had purchased and its claimed relationship with Jesse Woodson James.

Jesse James Family Reunion 2002 Video – Pt. 8

Our first full day of lectures at the James Family Reunion in 2002 left us feeling a bit of cabin fever. What better relief than to take a day trip to visit the cabin that Frank & Jesse James occupied during their visit with their uncle Drury Woodson James between 1868 and 1869.

James Curtis Lewis, Judge James R. Ross, Eric F. James
James Curtis Lewis, Judge James R. Ross, Eric F. James

The cabin had been relocated to its present site. Local historians produced the research to verify the fact. They also aided us. They contacted the owner so we could meet with him. We then presented him a plaque and historical commemoration for the cabin. (If anyone can name the name of the owner in 2002 or the owner today, please email it to me. It’s been misplaced among my records.)

When Jesse & Frank visited Paso Robles, Drury Woodson James was not entirely welcoming of their visit. A preliminary visit by Frank was required to convince Uncle Drury to permit the visit for the purposes of Jesse using Drury’s ancient hot springs to recover from the two bullet shots he was carrying in his chest.

The James Family present a commemorative citation to the Jesse James cabin's owner

As Jesse gradually recovered and put on a little weight, Drury employed his nephew with his vaqueros who worked Drury’s La Panza Rancho. As much as Jesse would have like to be considered an experienced cattleman, the vaqueros knew better. Jesse’s ropes were brand new and not woven like the ropes of the vaqueros. They laughed at Jesse as they would at any tenderfoot.

During their  visit, Frank and Jesse visited San Francisco. They also took an exploratory trip to Hangtown, in search of the burial site of their father, Rev. Robert Sallee James, who had died of cholera shortly after his arrival. A forest fire had ravaged the cemetery, buring a large number of wood grave markers and crucifixes, their father’s own among them. To present day, the exact burial site of Rev. Robert Salle James remains unknown.

The day trip ended at the Norman Vineyards. Owner Art Norman entertained us, showing us how wine is made. He then generously shared his product with us.

Jesse James' great grandson Judge James R. Ross visits Jesse's Paso Robles cabin for the first time
Judge James R. Ross visits for the first time the cabin his great-grandfather Jesse Woodson James occupied in 1868 in Paso Robles, California

Official blog for the family of Frank & Jesse James