The Smack & Zing of This Bloody Ground

This Bloody Ground, Volume II of the Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet
Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. II, This Bloody Ground

Daniel Boone and John M. James are ancestors of today’s descendants of Jesse James. In the present film documentary Daniel Boone & the Opening of the American West, Boone once more cuts a path and trail for Jesse’s grandfather John M. James, again today as Boone did in the past. The film is worth viewing as a preview of the smack and zing of John’s own history, soon to come in my book This Bloody Ground.

In recent years, as I sat in Danville, Kentucky, writing the story of Frank & Jesse James’ grandfather as the second book of my Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet, Kent Masterson Brown was in Lexington, Kentucky, beginning his journey of three years to bring Boone to film.

Both my book and Brown’s film cover the same period, the same territory, many of the same people, and a lot of the same history. However, each of us delivers a different view. Much of Boone’s story, as Brown tells it, is located north of the Kentucky River. The story of John M. James in This Bloody Ground, as might be expected, resides south of the Kentucky River.

Brown credits Boone in part with opening the Northwest Territory that became everything from Ohio west to Minnesota. John M. James and his band of rebel Baptist preachers, not only opened the West from colonial Virginia to Missouri Territory, but also way beyond into the Far West, to the Rockies and California.

Daniel Boone is a star in history’s firmament, replete with legend and misleading mythology, which Brown goes to great length to extinguish in a shower of facts. John M. James, for the most part, is unknown to legend, mythology, or fact. Equally, unknown is the origination in John’s Kentucky of many of those families affiliated with John who later spawned their own history of the American West.

Kent Masterson Brown
Kent Masterson Brown

I have enjoyed the former work of Kent Masterson Brown. Brown resembles for me the often fabled Kentucky lawyer whose telling of a good history lesson, more than a trial, vindicates justice. His voice that speaks through grit is invaluable. Brown and I are in the same business. Maybe that explains our mutual fondness for a neat and tidy bow tie.

Scitt New as Daniel Boone
Scott New portrays Daniel Boone

As a boy, John M. James tried to join Daniel Boone, when Boone stood beside his wagon in Stevensburg, Virginia, seeking recruits to enter the dark and unknown wilderness. Though John was too young for Boone to accept, each man became a pioneer. Each did so in his own way. Each has had a lasting effect on American history.

In This Bloody Ground, I will argue, however, that John M. James was more an average person’s pioneer. John M. James, not Daniel Boone, produced a more lasting effect relative to the common person. The legacy of John M. James endures in the social, religious, and political culture of America.

The marriage of Jesse’s son Jesse Edwards James Jr. to Estella Frances “Stella” McGowan might have appeared surprising at the time. It should not. He is a great-grandson of John M. James. She is a third great granddaughter of Daniel Boone. Their marriage represents the reunion of Daniel Boone and John M. James. For today and all tomorrows, the descendants of Jesse James will be the progeny of a star pioneer and a pioneer of the common man.

To view the entire program of Daniel Boone and the Opening of the West, and to savor the smack and zing of This Bloody Ground coming this year, CLICK HERE. The program may not be available for very long.

Behind That Book Cover of Jesse James

Why not go behind that book cover and read some chapter previews of Jesse James Soul Liberty? You know what they say. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

                          Click on the book jacket below to preview chapters.                                                                    Click here to purchase now.       

I’m not saying my book cover is bad. I intentionally made it look imperfect. This book cover, in fact, has drawn more attention than what readers expect to find inside the book. That’s because this image of Jesse James never has been published before. This book cover is intended to surprise and arrest, like what’s inside the book that also never has been published before. I’m inviting you to consider imperfection.

Jesse James Soul Liberty book cover
Jesse James Soul Liberty book cover
Book cover for Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I,
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Do you recall other books about Jesse James, and what the pictures on those book jackets reveal? For the most part, nothing is revealed. When Jesse James appears on a book jacket, he appears mostly in relief, leaving you a vague image of the outlaw, and an even more vague image of what to expect inside the book. Not so, here. That’s one reason why you may want to read some chapter previews to find out for yourself what’s behind this book cover.

Here is why I chose this particular image for the book jacket.  Jesse appears matter-of-factly on this book jacket. Like the scarred tintype this image comes from, Jesse is a flawed character. He’s defective. Universally, Jesse James is unacceptable. Like his damaged tintype, he’s not useful to society in the manner society expects. If he is, in fact defective, what do his defects represent? There’s another reason for you to read the chapter previews behind this book cover.

This image holds the promise of what you will discover inside Jesse James Soul Liberty.  Inside, you will find the Jesse James that only Jesse’s own family can bring to you.  It’s an understanding of the outlaw, his reality behind his distortions, fallacies, and mythology, that no historian ever has been able to capture. Not in books. Not on TV. Not in the movies.

No historian of Jesse James ever has looked at the genetic makeup that made him an outlaw. Behind this book cover, though, individual members of the Jesse James family reveal to you in their own actions just what it takes to make the quintessential character, personality, behavior, and soul that is a James. They do this in generation after generation. For that, however, you’re going to have to get behind the book cover and delve more deeply beyond chapter previews alone.

What the James family shows you behind that book cover of Jesse James will have you looking again and again at what you think you know about Jesse James, and what exactly was the meaning of his actions and history.

You definitely can’t judge a book by its cover.

The Plot to Assassinate Jesse James

The Plot to Assassinate Jesse James

By Phil Stewart

                              This article first appeared on Stray Leaves in 1999                              as part of Phil Stewart’s Article Archive

Jesse James was killed on April 3, 1882. What began as a desire of several neighbors to the fear and killings since the days of the Civil War had developed into a death plot to kill a wanted outlaw. Jesse James was assassinated in every definition of the word.

The plot against Jesse was building. On December 6, 1881, Wood Hite arrived at the home of Martha Bolton. In addition to being a member of the gang, Wood Hite was Jesse’s cousin. Hite’s presence made it impossible for the gang to discuss, plan, or coordinate their assassination efforts. The next day, Dick Liddil and Bob Ford killed Wood Hite.

Henry H. Craig
HENRY HARRISON CRAIG – Commissioner of Police, Kansas City, Missouri

The first attempt to capture Jesse James occurred on or around December 28, 1881 in Richmond, Missouri. Jesse walked into Cap Ford’s store asking where he could find Dick Liddil and Wood Hite. Cap Ford told him he had not seen Wood at all. The last time he had seen Liddil was at the Bolton home. As Jesse rode out of town, Cap Ford telegraphed Sheriff Timberlake. By the time a posse arrived at the Bolton’s, Jesse had gone.

Two days after the raid on the Bolton home, in the little town of Greenville, just a few miles east of the James family’s farm, James Rhodus was having a New Year’s party for the young people of the neighborhood. One of those who arrived was eighteen-year-old John Samuel, the half-brother of Frank and Jesse. Rhodus wanted no trouble. It became obvious that John Samuel and his two friends had a bottle. They were becoming increasingly boisterous. Rhodus asked them to leave. Young John pointed out that he was the brother of Jesse James. He would not be told what to do by Rhodus or any man. Rhodus simply pushed him out the door and into the January cold. John Samuel began throwing rocks at the door and windows. Rhodus took a pistol, walked out on the porch, and shot John Samuel in the belly. Many believed the young man would not survive.

Rumors spread, that Jesse would soon arrive to avenge his younger brother. Few would have given a plug nickel for the life of James Rhodus. The group of neighbors discussed the situation. Terry Stephenson, who lived less than a half mile east of the Samuel farm, was selected to give Zerelda a message. The message was clear and to the point. If one hair was harmed on the head of James Rhodus, the Samuel home would be burned to the ground. If the family happened to be inside at the time, so be it.

Thomas T. Crittenden
THOMAS T. CRITTENDEN – Governor of Missouri whose family was close to the James in the days of early Kentucky

On  January 6 of the new year, Sheriff James Timberlake was contacted with Dick Liddil’s proposal. Dick would surrender and assist with the efforts to capture or kill Jesse James in return for a full pardon by the Governor and a part of the reward money if the plan was successful. Both Timberlake and Crittenden agreed.

Dick Liddil surrendered to Sheriff Timberlake on January 24, 1882. He met with Governor Thomas T. Crittenden. He received the Governor’s assurance that he would not be prosecuted if he cooperated and provided information that would bring an end to Jesse James. Dick must have sung like a bird. Within a week, a group of Kansas City officers, led by Commissioner Craig, went to Kentucky. Clarence Hite was arrested and returned to Missouri to stand trial for the Winston train robbery, Commissioner Craig gave to Liddil $500 of the $5,000 reward.

Charlie Ford
CHARLIE FORD – Conspirator to assassinate Jesse James

On February 13, Bob Ford “surrendered himself” to Commission Craig in Kansas City. On February 22, the entire group, including Governor Crittenden and Sheriff Timberlake, Commission Craig, Dick Liddil, and Bob Ford, met at the St. James Hotel in Kansas City to finalize plans and agreements. The group now had an “inside man.”

In late March of 1882, there was another bank to rob. Perhaps it would be his last, for Jesse had inquired about a farm that was for sale in Nebraska. His “gang” now consisted solely of himself and Charlie Ford. Jesse wanted one more man to accompany him on the raid. Two men inside the bank and one outside to hold the horses. It was a tried and proven plan. Charlie suggested his young brother, Bob Ford. Bob was a brash little cuss and could be depended upon. Jesse had little choice in the quality of men who rode with him. Bob Ford, the governments “inside man,” would have to do.

On March 30, 1882, Jesse and Charlie arrived at the home of Martha Bolton. He asked if Bob was around. He was told Ford was with his Uncle Cap in Richmond. Showing boldness, of not arrogance, Jesse rode right into Richmond to the home of Cap Ford. Jesse asked Bob if he was interested in a “little job.” Bob agreed to join him. As Jesse and the Ford brothers left town, Cap Ford sent a message to Sheriff Timberlake and Commissioner Craig. The trap was set. Within day, Jesse James would be assassinated by the “inside man.”

Ed O'Kelley
ED O’KELLEY, killed Bob Ford in Creede, Colorado

Following the events on the morning of April 3, 1882, Charlie Ford received as much condemnation for killing Jesse James as his brother, Bob Ford. The evidence indicates Charlie knew nothing about it until the night before Jesse was killed. Sheriff Timberlake stated he knew that Jesse was living in Leavenworth or Atchison, Kansas, or in St. Joseph, Missouri. These are the exact towns Jesse was checked when searching for a home after leaving Kansas City. Cap Ford said he knew Jesse was living in St. Joseph and he had advised Timberlake of the fact. Timberlake did not want the world to know that he knew where Jesse was living. That fact would not only support the position that Jesse James could have been captured.

The Plot to Capture Jesse James

From Phil Stewart’s Archive, first published on Stray Leaves in 1999. 

The Plot to Capture Jesse James

By Phil Stewart

Robert Ford, the "dirty little coward"
Robert Ford, the “dirty little coward”

Bob Ford killed Jesse James with the full knowledge and consent of Sheriff James H. Timberlake of Clay County, Police Commission Henry H. Craig of Kansas City, and the Governor of Missouri, Thomas T. Crittenden. While the James neighbors plotted to capture Jesse James, the government plotted to assassinate Jesse James.

By the fall of 1880, it was nearly impossible for Jesse and his family to justify robberies and murders on injustice and social conditions brought about by the Civil War. There was no place for roaming bands of old guerilla fighters and outlaws. Jesse was bad for business. Land prices in the outlaw’s home county were lower than in other parts of the state. Business and banking interests avoided the area, despite opportunities for growth. Jesse James was an economic liability.

John Watts Shouse, conspirator to capture Jesse James
John Watts Shouse, conspirator to capture Jesse James

A small group of Clay County citizen talked among themselves, although very quietly. Chief among them was John Watts Shouse, a veteran of the Mexican and Civil Wars, and a southerner by birth. Shouse was a no-nonsense man who had organized and commanded on of the first Confederate Home Guards. With him were other prominent citizens: John T. Pettigrew, William Dollis, William Dagley, Riley Henderson, William Wysong, and John Shouse’s younger brother James. Most of the lived in the Bethel community, which also was the home of the Ford and Cummins families, a few miles from James farm.

The neighbors made at least one attempt to convince Jesse’s mother, Zerelda, to speak to her son and convince him to surrender. The feisty, fiery, and protective Zerelda Samuel would not consider surrender. Not Jesse James! Having failed, the group shifted focus to capture Jesse and  turn him over to Sheriff Timberlake for prosecution.

Jim Cummins
Jim Cummins

During the fall of 1881, Jesse came searching for one of his old associates, Jim Cummins. Jesse believed Cummins was about to turn traitor. Jesse already had killed Ed Miller, one of his gang and a neighbor who Jesse no longer trusted.

Jesse arrived in the Bethel community during the first few days of October. Jesse soon learned that Cummins had been seen around the home of Cummins’ brother-in-law, William Ford. Bill For was also an uncle to Robert and Charles Ford. When Jesse arrived at Bill Ford’s home, he found Bill’s wife, and fifteen-year-old son, Samuel. In a scene reminiscent of the time young Jesse James himself was beaten by Union soldier in search of his brother Frank James, Jesse grabbed the teenager. He threated to kill him if he didn’t “fess up” where Jim Cummins could be found. When the boy would not, or could not, provide the information, Jesse lost his temper. Frustration got the best of him. He began slapping the boy. The slapping became a beating. When Jesse mounted to leave, young Samuel Ford was beaten and bloody.

New of the beating quickly made its way throughout the neighborhood. John Shouse and his group were fed up. Jesse once protected the farmers and resident of the area. Now he was the aggressor and torturer. Time had come to bring the others into the group to plot the outlaw’s capture. Not surprisingly, William Ford eagerly and enthusiastically joined.

Sheriff James H. Tiberlake
Sheriff James H. Tiberlake

Dick Liddil separated from Jesse following the beating. Liddil worried about being around Jesse. His boss was increasingly paranoid and irrational. Liddil believed it was only a matter of time before Jesse came after him. Although not quite ready to turn traitor against Jesse, it would not take much to push Dick Liddil to side with the neighbors.

The conspiring neighbors changed focus and makeup. Some now plotted the murder of Jesse James. Not wishing to become involved in planned murder, many of John Shouse’s group departed. Capturing Jesse was one thing, but planned assassination left their mouths bitter. John Shouse himself wanted nothing to do with it. The group was asking for war against the James gang. Shouse had a family to consider. Others soon took his place. A brother of William Ford, Elias Capline Ford known as “Cap,” quietly and cautiously joined the group. The group now comprised of a few silent citizen and several members of the Ford and Cummins families. The conspirators sought someone they could trust inside Jesse’s new gang.

In early November of 1881, William Ford contracted Sheriff James Timberlake. He informed Timberlake that a network was in place. They could inform Timberlake of the comings and goings of Jesse James. They could assist with his capture.

Timberlake was more than enthusiastic. He offered William Ford $1,000 for his assistance in capturing Jesse James. He further assured Ford no members of the group would be prosecuted if the plan resulted in the death of the outlaw.

But they needed the assistance of other agencies. Timberlake, along with Cap Ford, traveled to Kansas City and contacted Police Commissioner Henry Craig who was briefed. Commissioner Craig traveled to Jefferson City to enlist the cooperation of the Governor of Missouri, Thomas T. Crittenden. The Governor had made the subject of Missouri outlaws the main topic of his campaign. He would do whatever possible to fulfill his campaign promises. Rewards were guaranteed and pardons would be given. The plot to assassinate Jesse James was formed.

Frank James – Scholar with a Gun

From Phil Stewart’s Archive, first published on Stray Leaves in 1999. 

Frank James – Scholar with a Gun

By Phil Stewart

Frank James received more education as a young man than did most rural Missouri farm boys of the 1850s and 60s. The James farm was just a mile from Somersette school. Frank attended regularly…almost enthusiastically…until he was eighteen years old.

Frank James
Frank James

In addition to “The Three Rs,” Frank developed a love for classic literature. He would sit for hours with the works of Shakespeare and other famous writers of the time. His father, the Rev. Robert Sallee James, had been a scholarly man himself. Frank had his father’s collection of books readily available. Frank’s love for literature would remain with him throughout the dark years of the Civil War, and even through the outlaw years to come.

Many researchers believe that Frank James desired to further his education by attending William Jewell College in nearby Liberty. There is no doubt Frank had the intellectual capacity. His acceptance into the college was a given. His father had been a major influence in the founding of the school, and had been a member of the first Board of Trustees. Any such plans were dashed, though, with the coming of the Civil War. Frank James was 18 years old in 1861, and like most young men, left home to serve “the cause.”

Henry IV
Henry IV, Tomb Effigy, Canterbury Cathedral

The blood, death, and brutality of the border war could not extinguish the love Frank James had for reading, knowledge, and for classic works of literature. They became his passion. It is difficult to imagine one member of Quantrill’s Raiders sitting around a campfire reading anything, let alone reading English literature like Frank.

If Frank desired to further his education, the circumstance had changed. Like most schools of the area, William Jewell College closed shortly after the opening shots of the war. The college would not reopen for nearly three years. Frank still had his father’s library. Shakespeare had become his favorite works. He read and reread the plays until he could snap out a quote for almost any situation. During the war, Frank and been tabbed with the nickname “Buck.” “Professor” might have been more appropriate afterward.

If more education was out of the question, Frank certainly could put Shakespeare to work on behalf of the James Gang…which is exactly what he did at Gad’s Hill, Missouri. Frank James lifted the script of Shakespeare’s HENRY IV for a train robbery, during which Frank performed Shakespeare for a captive audience.

Henry IV-Pt 1

ANALYSIS by Drew Fracher

So, what about this play?

Although called HENRY IV, I believe that this is the story and journey of his son Hal, the Prince of Wales, who will go on to become Henry V.

Here we have a young man who knows in his heart that he will inherit a huge job…and who is trying his best to have some fun before the fact. I realize that much of what Hal I doing is not avoiding responsibility, but trying to learn as much as possible about the job to come. Trying to experience the society that he will eventually be in charge of from all levels, figuring out what fairness and justice are all about, who you can trust and what realis is important in his own world. A journey all of us must go through.

Hal clings to his life and friends in the tavern as substitutes for the things that are lacking in his relationship with his father. Hal and his dad are having trouble communicating. We witness Hal’s coming of age, his growth to manhood and an acceptance of huge responsibility, all the steps on his rocky road.

The good news is that he not only survives, but flourishes. There are no true villains or heroes here, only different sorts of people trying their best to figure out how to make it in the world. That is perhaps what I like best, that no one is clearly in the right and politics is politics, then and now.

DREW FRACHER,  Director, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, 1999

*************

COMMENTARY by Eric F. James

As a former actor myself, I perceive Frank James as Prince Hal…an eldest son, a carefree and boisterous youth, distinguished in war, a “wild prince” given to audacity and rebellion.

Henry IV expelled and banished his son, Hal. Did Frank James spiritually experience a similar disapproval by his deceased father?

Frank James was 27 years old at the time of the Gad’s Hill train robbery. His performance from HENRY IV in the middle of the robbery intentionally may have been foreshadowing his expected retirement.

Serendipity Encounters at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference

Months ago, I answered the Call for Papers from Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS), intending to broaden the audience for my book Jesse James Soul Liberty. My proposal offered a presentation about the unique methodology adopted in my twelve years of researching and writing my history of the Jesse James family. Illness stopped me once before from presenting my talk Jesse James’ Genealogy Is Not For Crackpots Any More to the Minnesota Genealogical Society. With OGS, I was expecting a second chance.

Ohio Genealogical Society, 2015 Conference

Ohio Genealogical Society, 2015 Conference

My expectation was thwarted. OGS was not excited about the genealogy of Jesse James. Fair enough. Not everyone is.

Looking for a backup, I defaulted to the two talks I finally did present at OGS – How to Write a Family History Everyone Wants to Read. I also produced a companion presentation – How to Publish, Sell, or Give Away a Family History Everyone Wants to Read. Still steadfast to promote my book, I also subscribed to an exhibit table at OGS, where I’d display the letters of the Jesse James family from the Joan Beamis Archive, as the James family wrote to one another, trying to identify and define their genealogy and family history.

Ohio Theater, Columbus, Ohio
Ohio Theater, Columbus, Ohio

Arriving at the luxurious Sheraton Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, I encountered my first serendipity. I literally had to drive around the block twice to make sure my eyes had not deceived me. Right around the corner from the Sheraton was the Ohio Theatre. Back in the late 1960s I appeared in that beautiful theatre for two years in a row while touring in the hit Broadway shows, Generation and Impossible Years. Thirty-five years later now, I was booked for two more appearances. However, this was not my only serendipity at OGS.

Mark Gideon
Mark Gideon

The first person to stop and talk with me at my exhibit table was Mark Gideon. Mark’s family farm sits outside of Northfield, Minnesota. I’d expect to meet Mark in Minnesota, but never in Ohio. There he was, telling me about the Gideon family’s experience following the Northfield robbery by the James-Younger gang. Jesse James had appeared at the fence of the Gideon farm. As fast as the Gideons spotted Jesse, he disappeared. Who would expect to hear that Jesse James story in Ohio?

Craig R. Scorr
Craig R. Scorr

Next, Craig R. Scott stopped by my table. Craig is president of Heritage Books, Inc., the largest seller of genealogical books in the nation. He lives in North Carolina. Craig was speaking at OGS about Researching Your Revolutionary War Ancestor and Beyond the Compiled Military Record. At my table, Craig was most interested in telling me about his Woodson ancestry. Craig has a double Woodson ancestry, one from Robert “Potato Hole” Woodson, plus another in a different Woodson line. The only Woodson I would expect to encounter in Ohio was one who descended from Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson. Those Woodson cousins have resided in Ohio since Jefferson died. Serendipity instead produced James-Woodson cousin, Craig R. Scott.

Pam, a Hite family relative
Pam, a Hite family relative

Serendipity then began to swirl. Pamela, whose last name escapes me now, stopped by to pick up a copy of my book. She has Hite cousins. Pamela informed me well about Russellville. Another book buyer told me their family in St. Louis knew the blacksmiths named Butcher who tended to the horses of Frank James.

Standing Turkey-Cunne Shote-Francis Parsons 1762-Gilcrease MuseumJodie L. Logan, president of the Huron Chapter of OGS, bought my book.  A day later, she had read parts of it already and informed me about Lillie James and Jodie’s Choctaw kinfolk from the Trail of Tears. She mentioned Cherokee warrior Oconostota, whom some believe may have been the son of Chief Moytoy. James family member Mark New is a descendant of Chief Moytoy. Jodie also claims kinship with Chief Standing Turkey. Reading about the Choctaw in my book, Jodie delivered me a note, joking, “Oh my! Certain I’m an outlaw.”

Rena Goss
Rena Goss

Jodie was not the only one reading my book at the OGS conference. Within hours of buying a copy, Rena Goss reported she already had read the first chapter. Rena thought Joan Beamis was quite an extraordinary woman. Rena talked at length about a bundle of letters she inherited, titled “Percy’s Letters,” which describe in rich detail the raunchy life in a Colorado frontier town. I told her, without reading the letters, I was ready to publish them.

Martha Gerdeman
Martha Gerdeman

Serendipity then closed in on me, big time. Martha Gerdeman, a professional genealogy researcher at Climbing Family Trees, in Dickson, Tennessee stopped by. We talked about the James families there, who will appear in Forks of the Road, Volume III of Jesse James Soul Liberty. The James in Tennessee always have known they were kin to Frank and Jesse James, though they’ve never known how. Volume III will show how. I was very excited to meet Martha, and plan to revisit with her my next time in Tennessee.

Rick Hollis & Eric F. James
Rick Hollis & Eric F. James

Then as my stay was winding down, Rick D. Hollis appeared from Clarkesville, Tennessee. We had communicated briefly many years ago after I researched there. Rick sat with me for a very long talk, as Rick waited for the banquet dinner and his induction into one more of the twenty lineage societies of which he is a member. Rick formerly was married to a James.

Like Martha Gerdeman, Rick also knew about the James in Tennessee and their claimed kinship to Frank and Jesse. I previewed for him, some of the information that will be in my forthcoming Volume III. Rick added many interesting details I had not known. He also invited me to visit him in Tennessee for more. I’ll definitely be taking him up on the offer as soon as Volume II is published this year.

Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge
Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge

Rick also is deputy president general of the General Society of the War of 1812. Next year, he becomes president of The Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge. We discussed the meeting of the grandfathers of the James and Younger brothers at Valley Forge.

Genealogy leads the family historian, who then must follow. I know. Never does the family historian lead genealogy.  In addition, a family historian sometimes experiences revelations of a spiritual nature. The hand of some “other” at times directs the family historian. Occasionally the slap of spirituality is so forceful, the notice to alter course is impossible to ignore. My slap of serendipity at the 2015 annual conference of the Ohio Genealogical Society tells me, time has come for me to get crackin’ on Forks of the Road, Volume III of Jesse James Soul Liberty.

Declare Liberty for All – Boycott Indiana

Thomas Edward "Bud" Pence
Thomas Edward “Bud” Pence 1842-1880

Bud & Donnie Pence were members of the Jesse James gang. The Pence brothers are ancestral cousins of Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana. Today Gov. Pence signed SB101, Indiana’s “right to discriminate” law. Old history has come around again. The solution is to declare liberty for all, and boycott Indiana.

Those Pence people have seemed somewhat flaky to me. When Bud and Donnie came riding through Kentucky with Quantrill, Jesse & Frank James, and the Younger brothers in 1865, Maj. James Bridgewater chased them into a deadly shootout on a bleak winter night outside Harrodsburg. Eight men were killed. Bridgewater’s wife was Bud and Donnie’s cousin! It appears that even among family, the Pence penchant for discrimination was OK.

Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana
Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana

Today, following the signing of the bill by Gov. Mike’s Pence, I have decided to boycott the 5th Annual Authors Fair in Indiana. I’ve submitted my resignation. Since SB101 is state law, I will boycott Indiana entirely. Ever since Arizona legalized bigotry with its notorious “papers please” law, I have boycotted Arizona.

Previously I wrote about what the Youngers would have to say about that nativist discrimination. I also wrote about Frank and Jesse’s cousin, Daniel Lewis James, and how he would deal with discrimination, too, after his own U.S. Government blacklisted him.  As other states legalize their blatant bigotry and hatred, I will boycott them, too.

The history and people I write about are devoted to social justice. As an author, so am I. If I disrespect my subjects and their beings, as Arizona and Indiana disrespects the people its laws target, I as a creative artist becomes a target also, as does the brand of my art. Bigotry, when supported, diminishes not one person or one class, but everyone.

Upon my liberty and for the liberty of others, I will stand up against such bigotry and put my art, my money, and my livelihood where my mouth is. I have never forgotten “with liberty and justice for all.” That spells equality.

In the words of Jesse & Frank’s cousin, Daniel Lewis James, who wrote The Great Dictator with Charlie Chaplin, “Speak. You must. It’s our only hope.”

More Lookalike Photos From the Gene Pool

Photos appearing in lookalike galleries from the Jesse James family have proved a big success, ever since they first appeared on Stray Leaves in the late 1990’s. Whether it is comparison images of Jesse Woodson James, Jesse James Jr., Frank James, Susan Lavenia James, Rev. Robert Sallee James, the childhood photos of Mary Susan James, or Jesse’s great grandson Judge James Randall Ross, all of the lookalike photo galleries prove popular with Stray Leaves’ family,  guests, and visitors. The time has come for more.

Jesse James Jr Jesse James lookalike Ribert Salle James

With rapid changes in internet technology, and the pressing need to expand publishing to platforms that are more mobile friendly, now seems a good time to update the availability of those preciously endearing lookalike photos. We’d like to ensure they can be enjoyed everywhere.

The thought also has occurred; why not expand the   lookalike galleries, to better show the unique characteristics that are common, not only within the gene pool of the James family, but also among those who are key relevant figures to the James family  saga?

In my recent articles, here about Henrietta Younger and about Clell Miller in the James-Younger Gang Journal, the physical characteristics that appear in their family photos as genetic, are very evident. They recur generation after generation. In fact, they are so arresting that they remind us something additional should be done to mine this overlooked category of interest.

In Jesse James Soul Liberty, I advocate the recurrence of genetic personality, behavior, and character that permeates the James family, through each and every generation. That identity is the James family’s very soul of personhood, their  quintessential identity that has eluded Jesse James historians from the start. The genes that form this very soul of behavior, character, and personality, are the same genes that form the family’s physical features. The continual evolution of that physicality compels the same attention as does the family’s personhood. This is true now more than ever, as our study of the James family turns increasingly more toward DNA, family genetics common heritage, and their underlying implications for heredity and health.

Zee Mimms James ear

My article “Hey, James Family, Send Me Your Ears” is an excellent example of reader interest in this subject of lookalike photos and family genetics. This story shows up in the daily statistics as a web page of continual interest bearing a very high visitor count. The stats indicate Stray Leaves may be overlooking a key parameter for assessing the identity of the James family.

History books often rely upon illustration for telling stories. Illustrators lean heavily toward attention grabbing techniques that insert invented details. Those details may appear dramatic in rendering and succeed in securing a reader’s focus,  but seldom are they historically accurate. Such illustrations skewer historical fact. Nowhere is this more evident than in every reality TV program ever produced. Note: I said reality TV program, not documentary history or documentary film.

However, an historic photo that is reliable and true does not distort history, unless, of course, the photo is fraudulent. In fact, when relevant and factual images appear together to tell a story, the image enhances history and the understanding of it. The history is rendered better. An illustration may enhance a reader’s imagination, but the use of a photographic image does the same with accuracy and reliability. Of course, this does not pertain to photoshopped images.

An underlying goal of Stray Leaves and of Jesse James Soul Liberty is to dispel mythologies. A primary objective is to wipe out the chronic myth-making or fictionalization and revisionism that plagues the history of Jesse James and stalks his family. Here, we identify and call out the fraudsters and con artists who lie. We put media on the chopping block, when media feeds the public pabulum instead of the nutritious sustenance of truth and facts. In every effort, we intend and strive to be historically accurate and correct, whether it be in the hundreds of thousands of genealogical details appearing in the SURNAMES database, the history featured in our stories or in blog posts or commentary.

A decision has been made. As our SURNAMES genealogy research formerly expanded beyond the core of the James family alone to include research into their in-law families, and by a third-level extension to include research into those individuals who form the social communities of the James, the James family lookalike galleries now will be expanded to include those additional levels, too.

Watch for the upcoming post “Cole Younger’s Lookalike Gene Pool.”

Hot to Trot for How to Write Family History

Writing my presentations for the upcoming annual conference of the Ohio Genealogical Society has me super-charged.

Program presentations by Eric F. James for the Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conference 2015
Program presentations by Eric F. James for the Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conference 2015

It makes no sense at all though if I show up in front of my audience all hot to trot only to find that my audience needs a warm-up.

I hate losing ten minutes of precious presentation time, or lose content from either of my two talks:  “From Bodice Ripper to Jack the Ripper, How To Write a Family History Everyone Wants to Read,” and “How to Publish, Sell, or Give Away a Family History Everyone Wants to Read.”  I want my audience jazzed from the moment they walk into the conference room.

Program for talks by Eric F. James at the Ohio  Genealogical Society Annual Conference 2015
Program for talks by Eric F. James at the Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conference 2015

My solution is to grab their interest with the following video that will arrest their attention the moment they walk in the door.

As the audience takes their seats, this video already is at work relaxing the house and setting the tone for my talk. If everything  goes as expected, the video is building anticipation, excitement, and readiness for my moment to appear. In fact, I can play the same video after my talk, and have them dancing out the door.

Next, I just have to find a way of keeping the attention of anyone who takes a potty break.

Viewers of this video may recognize some of its images. They were used first in banners appearing on the Facebook page for my book Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I. My own book cover appeared in the box “My Book Here.”

Since I change Facebook banners often, I had plenty of banners from which to choose. The ones I selected for use in this video chiefly reflect upon the content contained in my talks.

Retta Younger and A. B. Rawlins – Destiny by Marriage

The following is a preview of what readers can expect to find in THIS BLOODY GROUND – Volume II of the Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet, scheduled for publication in 2015.

Henrietta Younger-Rawlins with brothers Jim, Bob, & Cole Younger
Henrietta Younger-Rawlins with brothers Jim, Bob, & Cole Younger

While history recognizes Henrietta Younger-Rawlins as a sister to the notorious Younger brothers, history has ignored Retta’s husband A. Bledsoe Rawlins. When Retta married A. Bledsoe Rawlins on April 2nd of 1894, two families whom Frank and Jesse’s grandfather John M. James had known as his neighbors in Kentucky, were brought together in a union destined to be both comfortable and natural. The two families had known each other for over 100 years, through at least three generations.

Charles Lee Younger, Wilbur Zink Collection
Col. Charles Lee Younger, Wilbur Zink Collection

When Retta’s young but aristocratic grandfather, Col. Charles Lee Younger, arrived on the Kentucky frontier at Crab Orchard, no one could mistake the young man for what he was. Col. Younger first appeared as the dutiful son of his father, John Logan Younger. But the untamed and wild frontier of Kentucky soon transformed him into the man he was destined to become, as the destiny of many of Col. Younger’s new neighbors also was being constructed.

The elder Younger was crippled. John Logan Younger had suffered “a rupture” while serving at Valley Forge in the 12th Regiment of Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army. John M. James, then a wagoner and spy for Washington, was there, too, suffering from a bullet wound. Valley Forge was where the alliance of the James-Younger families first aligned. Despite his disability, John Logan Younger continued in military service until discharged in January of 1779. He and John M. James then migrated with a Traveling Church of rebel Baptist preachers, arriving on the Kentucky frontier around 1782. Also among those rebel preachers were the brothers Moses Owsley and William Miller Bledsoe. According to pension papers, the elder Younger was a farmer, but now he was “unable to follow it.” He was in need of an income. More importantly, he needed his youngest son’s help. Col. Younger arrived to assist his older brothers, Lewis, Peter, Henry, and Isaac. The Colonel brought the company of his Indian woman.

The Olde Fort of Harrod's Town 1775-1776
The Olde Fort of Harrod’s Town 1775-1776

Nothing on this bloody ground of Kentucky wilderness could be achieved alone. The land Col. Younger tried to farm, also forced him into taming and protecting it. Around Crab Orchard, Col. Younger found himself among the surveyors and cabin builders from Fort Harrod, Abraham and Isaac Hite. From Harrods’s Fort, their cousin Col. John Bowman repelled the Shawnee back into Ohio territory with his brothers Isaac, Joseph, and Abraham, all grandsons of Hans Jost Heydt and Hite cousins. The Bowman brothers were renowned as “The Centaurs of Cedar Creek.” The bonds formed here among the Hite, Younger, and James families would strengthen across two future generations, when the grandsons of John M. James and Col. Charles Lee Younger produced the explosive identity of the James-Younger gang in the Civil War era.

Nearby at Cedar Creek in the shadow of Col. William Whitley’s station, John M. James was acquiring land adjacent to his neighbors, the former Marylanders Thomas Owsley and Johannes Vardeman. Daniel Boone hired Vardeman as an ax man to blaze his Wilderness Road. John M. James was captain of a militia protecting it from Native-American assaults.

Col. William Whitley
Col. William Whitley

An early arrival at Cedar Creek, William Whitley became mentor to all of these men. Whitley perfected the principle of fighting the enemy on its home ground. When he did, Whitley always returned with the finest horses the Indians could breed, excellent enough to attract the eyes of Col. Younger and John M. James, who became gambling turfmen of horse racing at Whitley’s Sportsman’s Hill. Here the personality for racing and risk entered the DNA of the James-Younger gang.

As the rebel preachers, led by the rabid Elijah Craig, fanned out across this new frontier, ferociously founding churches in all the future Kentucky strongholds of the James family, Rev. William Miller Bledsoe married Craig’s niece, Elizabeth Craig. When she died giving childbirth, Bledsoe married Patience Owsley, a daughter of Thomas Owsley, John M. James’ adjacent neighbor. Bledsoe initiated a religious revival, expecting to seed the meetinghouse at Cedar Creek as the first Baptist church of Crab Orchard. Through the power of four hundred conversions, Bledsoe made his move.

The expectation of the upstart preacher John M. James to build a house for the Lord was eclipsed once more. John had occupied himself too much with ushering and settling migrants, furnishing supplies for them, and keeping an eye for more land to acquire, and perhaps a town he could found for a church of his own.  For now, the ministry of others shadowed the fervor of John M. James. He vowed, someday his fervor would be unleashed.

Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman, son of Johannes Vardeman. As a teenage miscreant, Jerry Vardeman played fiddle for balls in William Whitley’s attic. After eloping with a daughter of John M. James, Jerry was brought into the fold of the Cedar Creek Baptist Church, later succeeding William Miller Bledsoe as its pastor. From his 4,000 converts and an abundance of other churches he preached among, Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman culled money necessary to supply Frank & Jesse James’ father, Rev. Robert Sallee James, with 7 slaves, and fund to buy James Gilmore’s farm and found William Jewell College in Clay County, Missouri.
Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman, son of Johannes Vardeman.

As a teenage miscreant, Jerry Vardeman, a son of Johannes Vardeman, played fiddle for balls in William Whitley’s attic. After eloping with a daughter of John M. James, Jerry was brought into the fold of the Cedar Creek Baptist Church, later succeeding William Miller Bledsoe as its pastor. From his 4,000 converts and an abundance of other churches he preached among, Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman culled money necessary to supply Frank & Jesse James’ father, Rev. Robert Sallee James, with 7 slaves, and $20,000 in additional funds to buy James Gilmore’s farm and found William Jewell College in Clay County, Missouri, installing one of Vardeman’s converts, Robert Stewart Thomas as its first president.

When William Miller Bledsoe’s son was born, Rev. Bledsoe looked at the infant and commented, “He looks like a Bledsoe,” pronouncing the word a as the letter A. The boy was nicknamed “Honest A. Bledsoe,” to become the future namesake of A. Bledsoe Rawlins.

Prior to the Civil War, A. Bledsoe moved to Texas. He purchased the headright of Capt. Roderick A. Rawlins, who later became his son-in-law. In 1865, A. Bledsoe was elected Chief Justice of Dallas County, but was unseated in the following election. During Reconstruction, A. Bledsoe was elected again to the Constitutional Convention, aligning himself with the Radical Republican faction, familiar to some among the Younger family. When A. Bledsoe took the oath of loyalty to the United States, A. Bledsoe was nicknamed a second time as “Iron-Clad Bledsoe.” A. Bledsoe established the controversial and unpopular Texas State Police. Then A. Bledsoe returned to Dallas County to live out his days as a judge.

Abram Bledsoe
Abram Bledsoe, aka A. Bledsoe
Capt. Alexander Roderick Rawlins
Capt. Alexander Roderick Rawlins

In 1852, Roderick Alexander Rawlins married Virginia Bledsoe, granddaughter of Rev. William Miller Bledsoe who eclipsed John M. James in founding a church, and the great granddaughter of Thomas Owsley, John’s neighbor at Cedar Creek. The couple named their firstborn, A. Bledsoe Rawlins. On April 12th of 1894, A. Bledsoe Rawlins met his destiny when he took Retta Younger, the granddaughter of Col. Charles Lee Younger, as his midlife bride. Except for his eight children spawned in his prior marriage, his marriage to Retta Younger went unfruitful. The families of Cedar Creek and Crab Orchard had forged the destiny of the union of Retta Younger and A. Bledsoe Rawlins beginning one hundred years before.

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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

Nativity

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

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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

Official blog for the family of Frank & Jesse James