This is another rehash of the Northfield Bank Robbery and the escape of Frank and Jesse James. The author used several creditable sources for the book, but he also used a lot of newspaper articles as sources. The newspapers are often from areas far removed both geographically and in time from the crimes which they described. It stretches the imagination to believe newspapers from Vermont or Florida forty years after the incident would be considered as accurate sources.
The author repeats many of the more garish tales about the James and Younger gang members and often says that what he repeats is probably just a story. For example the tale of Cole Younger checking out his new Enfield rifle. Cole supposedly lined up fifteen Kansas Jayhawkers and kept shooting until he killed them all. Competent historians have long dismissed this story as a complete myth.
The author repeatedly proves that his knowledge about the state of Missouri is not very comprehensive. He makes the statement that Missouri was a slave state with most slaves in the southern part of the state. In fact, most of the slaves in Missouri were along the Missouri River in the area often referred to as “Little Dixie.” When Jesse James is living in St. Joseph, Missouri, the author states he was living there in the “Cracker Neck District”. The Cracker Neck area was located in Jackson County, near Independence, Missouri, not in St. Joseph.
Jesse James is made out to be a most brutal man. He reportedly shot and killed a “St. Louis drummer” who was just walking down the street out of pure wantonness. Jesse was also a real ladies man and had liaisons with hundreds of women. He supposedly had a daughter living in Howard County, Missouri at the time of his death. And Jesse also killed Ed Miller because Miller caught Jesse fooling around with his girlfriend. Ed Miller was a married man, but I guess he might have had a girlfriend too.
Bill Anderson’s men always rode under the Black Flag. And when Anderson’s men killed Major Johnson and his troops during the Centralia raid, they shot Johnson and all 148 men in the head.
Two new members of the James gang are revealed in this book, Sam Kaufman, and Sam Hill. None of the most reliable books about the James gang every mentions these two names. This author also claims the notorious liar, Kit Dalton, is a friend of Jesse James. This is very unlikely although Kit Dalton did know Frank James in later years.
This book has little to recommend it. The book is full of inaccuracies, has misspelled words (deputy marshal is consistently deputy Marshall) and contains some dubious photos. It is very disappointing to see McFarland & Company publishing such a poor quality book at such an outrageous price.
At the Jesse James family reunion in 2002, living descendants in the family of Peter Burnett appeared. They were seeking knowledge of the Burnett family’s connections to the Jesse James family. Stories of a connection had come down in their family lore.
To date, no specific connection with the James family, or with Drury Woodson James, Jesse’ s uncle and founder of Paso Robles, California, has been found. Given D.W. James social and political connections, it remains highly likely some connection existed. Is also is highly certain that Peter Burnett would have known Rep. Coleman Purcell Younger of Santa Cruz, California, the husband of Burnett’s niece, Rebecca J. Smith, among other Burnett-Younger kinships.
Peter Burnett may not be a name that is familiar to many people these days. It seems a pity that he has been largely forgotten. He was a man of some rather significant achievements in the states of Missouri, Oregon and California. I have been interested in him for some time and was pleased to see that someone had finally written a book about him. However, I found that the author chose to judge Burnett by today’s standards of political correctness and ignore or belittle his many real accomplishments.
R. Gregory Nokes is a journalist and is a competent writer but the book will appeal more to a general audience than to historians or scholars. He did do a fair amount of research and has discovered a number of Burnett’s letters that have never been made public before. He has also thoroughly researched Burnett’s other writings, and there is a considerable amount of this material. There is no evidence, however, that he consulted any contemporary newspapers reports of the actions and events in Burnett’s life. Nor did he dig very deeply into family connections and the accomplishments of many other members of this talented Burnett family and their near kinfolks.
The author makes much ado about Burnett’s contributions to the deplorable “Lash Law” in Oregon that Burnett helped put on the books. But little is said about the almost immediate revision of the law and the fact that the law was never once enforced. Many, in fact, most other states and territories had similar or worse laws on the books concerning African Americans and other minorities. Nokes is highly critical of Burnett in many ways and this detracts from the contributions Peter Burnett did make.
Peter Burnett was almost completely a self-educated man. He was born into a poor family in Tennessee but the family soon moved to Missouri to better themselves. Burnett was able to become an attorney and established a good law practice and engaged in several business enterprises. He was one of the men responsible for getting the U. S. Congress to approve the Platte Purchase that added a considerable amount of territory to the northwestern section of Missouri. Some of Burnett’s business enterprises were not successful and he soon turned his eyes to the Oregon Territory. He “boomed” Oregon and organized the first major wagon train to travel to Oregon in 1843. He was active in the organization of the Oregon Territorial Government and was Oregon’s first Supreme Court judge.
When word came of the discovery of gold in California, Burnett once more decided he could improve his fortunes by going to California. He took the first wagon train from Oregon to California and achieved a fair amount of success in mining for gold in California. He then moved to Sacrament and went back into the legal business. He took over some of the real estate sales for John Sutter and was well on the way to repairing Sutter’s finances until Sutter, Sr. fired him in a huff. Burnett did bolster his own finances as well from his sales of Sacramento real estate.
Burnett then turned his hand to helping get a state government organized in California and was overwhelmingly elected as the first Governor of California. He later resigned from this office to pursue his business interests. He later went into the banking business in San Francisco and was president of one of the most successful banks in California. Peter Burnett died a wealthy and highly esteemed man.
Burnett was completely honest, a rare quality in the hectic days of Gold Rush California, a deeply religious man, and a devoted husband and father. All of his children that survived were successful and talented people. His sons-in-law were attorneys and served in state government as did some of his grandchildren.
An item of interest to Wild West buffs was completely missed by the author. Burnett had close connections to the Younger and Dalton families. His brother, George William Burnett, was married to Sydney Ann Younger, an aunt of the Younger boys of James-Younger gang fame. Sydney Ann’s half-sister, Adeline, was the mother of the Dalton brothers of Dalton gang fame. George William Burnett served in the Oregon legislature for some time and his son George Henry Burnett served on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1911 to 1927, twice serving as the Chief Justice of the court. Peter Burnett also maintained close social relations with Coleman Younger, the uncle of the outlaw Younger brothers, in Santa Clara County. California for a number of years.
This book is certainly worth reading and it inspired me to dig even deeper and to see what else I could learn about this fascinating man. Peter Burnett is worthy of more study so we can fully appreciate his contributions to our history.
There is another group of people who knew Harold Dellinger on a much different level. Harold was known to them as a pop-historian. That is, Harold was one who appreciated history so much that he rose to a level of authority although he was not trained officially as a historian. For many, Harold was their introduction to the popular history of Jesse James and the Civil War. Only those close to Harold knew his interest in Jesse James began simply enough when Harold was a young parole officer in Kansas City.
In recent years, Harold produced some YouTube videos, as the Quantrill Society visited obscure historic sites connected to Jesse James and the Civil War.
Harold’s visit with the Quantrill Society to the historic residence of Judge Luther Mason prompted Stray Leaves to initiate an inquiry into the ancestry and kinship of Judge Luther Mason. Not surprisingly, the research revealed Judge Mason is kin to Frank and Jesse James, as well as to other notables of the Civil War era. While their kinship as half 5th cousins is somewhat distant and indistinguishable in the period, the tug and pull of their shared genetics now remains known and unmistakable, revealing new history to come.
The James-Younger Gang issued the following condolence:
“We are saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Harold Dellinger and send our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and associates. Our historical community has lost a valued member. Harold will be remembered fondly for his kindness and willingness to help fellow historians.
“We had the pleasure of having Harold as a guest speaker at our 2015 conference in Kearney, Missouri. He gave us a wonderful presentation on Jim Cummins then joined us for our banquet where he mingled with new and old acquaintances.
“He will be greatly missed.”
On behalf of the Quantrill Society, President Cyndy Taylor had this to say:
“The William Clarke Quantrill Society is still reeling from this blow–Harold was fine one day, before Higginsville, and gone the next.
His daughter, Laura, told me today that there would be a visitation on June 14 from 4-7pm with a eulogy at 6 pm during that time, at Passantino Funeral Home in Kansas City, Missouri. The obituary will be coming any day now, as the family is still putting it together. He will be buried at Lancaster, Missouri where his parents are buried.
“Harold was president of the WCQS for 10 yrs. or more, and good friend /assistant to Don Hale. He belonged to a number of historical organizations.
“To say ‘We miss him’ is the understatement! He was on our ‘frequent contact’ list; all of us, especially the board members, talked to him and asked questions of him sometimes weekly.
On Saturday, June 2, 2018, Harold was scheduled to participate in Confederate Memorial Day events in Higginsville, Missouri. When he failed to appear, members of the Quantrill Society checked his residence, where Harold was found deceased.
Dan James gave Charlie Chaplin the unique American verbiage the British actor required when Dan co-wrote The Great Dictator with Chaplin. His story is featured in the chapter “All For the Underdog” in Volume I of Jesse James Soul Liberty.
Each time I must enter the passing of another James family member into the master genealogy database for Stray Leaves, I do so with a measure of sadness. On rare occasion, such as in recent minutes, I do so with difficulty.
Barbara Pierce Bush was not of James blood. She is an in-law to her Bush family who is our blood. Like many in-laws of our family, Barbara Bush was a stellar influence whose impact never will be under-measured but celebrated instead.
For those among our family who found themselves at odds with Bush politics, none that I know ever found themselves at odds with the political understanding and insights that Barbara provided. She connected the dots with effective savvy and sometimes necessary glue.
Barbara Bush is a unique American treasure. Prayers will be left for those she left behind. For each tear, there will be a smile, followed by the music of laughter. She is a person well worth remembering and celebrating.
Smith denies he is a third great-grandson of Susan Prudence James & John Wesley Smith, despite bearing all the customary genetic physical features of James descendants, including the telltale ear formation.
Smith is not the first to deny his kinship. Nor will he probably be the last. His art is rather ironic since it is constructed around the use of mirrors and reflective imagery. On the other hand, outside of Stray Leaves research into Smith’s ancestry, his art may be his only reflection of his self-constructed identity.
Beware Minnesota Historical Society & Good Riddance as Executive Director of Kentucky Historical Society Departs
Former Executive-Director Kent Whitworth is the fool who bamboozled the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Historical Society into filing a lawsuit against its own members! He charged me and other members with trying to create a shadow government. Really! After filing his frivolous lawsuit, he then failed to prosecute it.
This week Mark Griffin queried me. Mark is the reference specialist at the Logan County Public Library in Russellville, Kentucky. Mark questioned, “Have you come across any information saying Gov. Thomas Crittenden of Missouri ever met with Gov. Luke Blackburn of Kentucky in Louisville to discuss the matter of Jesse James?”
My answer was as follows:
“I don’t know of any specific meeting, however, the following is known. Thomas T. Crittenden was a close ally and supporter of the James family, the family relationship stretching back at least a couple of generations and closer, following the killing of Jesse James. Crittenden had put out the $10,000 reward for Jesse’s capture, not for his murder.
“Dr. Luke Pryor Blackburn, born in Woodford County, Kentucky, contained two epidemics in Natchez, Mississippi in 1848 and in1854, one of yellow fever and another pf cholera. He also was a physician to Gen. John Anthony Quitman. Next to Quitman’s plantation on St. Catherine St. was the Forks of the Road slave market, operated by three brothers of the James family – Thomas Green, David Daniel, & John Duke James. The father of the James brothers, Thomas James, was a charge d’affaires to the Spanish government. Later he retired to Hyde’s Landing in Nashville, Tennessee where Frank and Jesse visited and lived periodically. Blackburn and the James surely would have known one another in this period.
“During the Civil War, Blackburn served with Sterling Price together with A.J. James. A.J. was attorney general under Gov. Beriah Magoffin when Magoffin refused to send four regiments to Lincoln for the war. During the war, Magoffin’s descendants are a first cousin of Blackburn. A.J. James served under Preston Leslie, and it is said under Gen. Joseph Orville “Jo” Shelby, who is Blackburn’s nephew. After the war, James would become Secretary of State. In retirement, A.J. James was president of the Farmers Bank of Frankfort, with Blackburn’s cousin Edmund Haynes Taylor on its Board of Directors.
“In the Civil War period, Blackburn shipped infected clothing to the North and to Lincoln, in particular, intending to kill him. Months after the war ended, Quantrill and the James brothers rode through Kentucky en route to Washington. It is said they intended to assassinate Lincoln. They were halted by Maj. James Bridgewater. Quantrill was killed. Frank James surrendered. Blackburn’s nephew Jo Shelby testified at Frank’s trial and Frank was exonerated.
“Blackburn is related to a small number of James. He also is kin to Presidents George Washington, James Madison, and the Lee family of Virginia of Gen. Robert E. Lee, as well as V.P. Richard Mentor Johnson. He also is related to my second wife through her grandfather R. J. Reynolds. Most of these kinships are in the third to fifth cousin categories.
“Given all of these relationships, it is entirely possible that Dr. Luke Pryor Blackburn talked with Gov. Crittenden.”
I referred Mark Griffin to Dr. Thomas J. Sabetta of the University of Kentucky, who recently was a panelist at the 2017 James-Younger Gang & Family conference. Dr. Sabetta currently is writing two books, one about Capt. Delos T. “Yankee” Bligh who pursued the James Gang, and another on “Dynamite” Dick Mitchel, a rider with John Hunt Morgan, Basil Duke, Sue Munday, and Sam Berry.
In this historic home in Paris, Kentucky grew up Elizabeth “Betsy” Wright, the spouse of Justice John Thomas James, a son of Capt. John James & Dinah Allen. Their long line of James descendants includes living family today. Notable among them is Richard “Dick” Overgard, who first contributed the data on this line to Stray Leaves almost 20 years ago.
Other notables in this line also include Sheriff John Payne Kelly Sr. of Kelly’s Ford in Culpeper County, VA., made famous in the Civil War. The Sheriff married Betsy’s daughter Margaret Wright James. Their son Granville James Kelly Sr. was postmaster at Kelly’ Ford and the father of Alexander Doniphan Kelly. At Kelly’s Ford, this family essentially knew everyone personally in and around Kelly’s Ford, including those associated with the escape of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincon’s assassin.
From this citadel, the Hite-Bowman family entered the frontier of Kentucky to inform, direct, and protect Frank & Jesse James’ pioneer grandfather John M. James in the wilderness. The keynote speaker is Richard Hite, whose book Sustainable Genealogywe have reviewed and recommended.
Matrilineal Ancestry Key to Choctaw & Chickasaw Descendants of the James Family
Our new and most recent research at Stray Leaves has taken a decided turn towards our James descendants of Choctaw & Chickasaw blood. Recently, we mounted a new searchable genealogy database, devoted to these two lines of unique James descendants.
A key thing to know when learning about the Choctaw and Chickasaw is how they differ fundamentally from our Anglo bloodlines.
In traditional Anglo bloodlines, power, family, and identity flow through the male paternal side of ancestry. Among those of Choctaw & Chickasaw blood, just the opposite is true. These Native-American tribes take their power, family, and identity from their female ancestry.
You can learn more about this matriarchal structure below where you will find a number of links and videos.