C. M. James – Artist, Poet, Publisher

C. M. James - Artist, Poet, Publisher
C. M. James – Artist, Poet, Publisher

His family name is Charles Michael James. As an artist poet, and publisher, Mike is known among the art world and literary circles as C. M. James.

Mike was born in Somerset, Kentucky, a second great-grandson of Rev. Joseph Martin James and Permellia Estepp. He attended Youngstown and Ohio State Universities.

As a poet, artist, and illustrator, Mike founded Fantome Press. He began to publish poets of the Beat Generation. He also published classic American and British poets.

Robert Lewis Stevenson by C. M. James
Robert Lewis Stevenson by C. M. James

A retrospective of his work as an artist brought the following comment:

“Several of his pictures are offered in different sizes, combinations, and colors, offering surprise after surprise. An element is offered alone and is quite sufficient. Later, admiring a patterned work of almost ornate intricacy, it is amazing and a little disconcerting to find it composed of repetitions of that element.”

Poet Lawrence Ferlingetti writes to C. M. James
Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti writes to C. M. James

The Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote to Mike:

“Dear James – You’ve done a beautiful job of my poems on your tiny press. Please thank everyone involved. Ad thanks for all the copies. I didn’t expect as many.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti”

As a book collector, Mike assembled a vast library of books on the subject of the tattoo.

William Blake poetry published by C. M. James

Poems of William Blake published by C. M. James


Since 1989: Artist in residence, Trumbull Art Gallery, Warren OH

1988 Board of Directors, Trumbull Art Gallery

1988 Kenneth Patchen Literary Festival Committee, Warren, OH

1987 A.A. Degree with emphasis in painting, Kent State University, Trumbull Campus, Warren OH

1976 Founded Fantome Press

1971 Youngstown State University, graphic design & life drawing

1966-1968 Ohio State University, major in graphic design

1947 Born Somerset, KY on January 20

C. M. James, aka Charles Michael James
C. M. James, aka Charles Michael James


1990 One man exhibition: Ohio Historical Society Museum of Labor & Industry, Youngstown, OH

1989-1990 Butler Institute of America Art Area Annual

1990 Performance piece at Picture Show Gallery, Warren, OH

1988-1990 American Cancer Society Annual Art Show, Warren OH

1989-1990 Exhibition: Park Hotel lobby, Warren OH for 6 months

1990 Mahoning Bank Building, Warren OH for 3 months

1990 Installation at Dimitri’s Restaurant, Warren OH

1989 Trumbull Art Gallery Annual, Warren OH (Award for Painting)

1988 Exhibition: Block prints & Fantome Press material, Library of Trumbull Campus of Kent State University, Warren OH

1988 Exhibition: Trumbull New Theater Gallery, Niles, OH

1988 Exhibition: Youngstown Playhouse, Youngstown, OH

1988 One Man Show: Eastwood Mall, Niles, OH

1988 Exhibition: Celebration of the Square Festival in downtown Warren, OH

1986-1988 Trumbull Art Gallery Annual, Warren, OH

1981 “Art of the Macabre” Exhibition, Ashtabula Arts Center, Ashtabula, OH

1973 Butler Institute of America Art 35th Area Artists Annual, Youngstown, OH (Award for Painting)

1973 Group Exhibit: Avalon Inn, Howland, OH

Jack London, illustrated by C. M. James
Jack London, illustrated by C. M. James


Covellie Enterprises, Warren OH

Jack Gibson Company, Warren OH

The University of California at Santa Cruz Library, Special Collections

I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World) Permanent Collection, Chicago, IL

J. Abronovich, New Jersey

William Mullane, Warren OH

Ohio Historical Society, Museum of Labor & Industry

Drs. Joseph & Ann Chester

Trumbull Memorial Hospital


Recipient of Regrat: Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County for feasibility study & model for Labor Memorial for Trumbull County

Award: Trumbull Art Gallery Annual, 1989

Award: Butler Institute of American Art, 35th Area Artists Annual, 1973

Charles Michael James
Charles Michael James

Mike’s ARCHIVES are found at the Ohio State University, Rare Books and Manuscripts Library,   Identification: Spec.cms.315

“The C. M. James/ Fantome Press Collection consists of documents, publications, video tapes, cassette tapes, correspondence, etc. all relating to the small press owned by C. M. James, The Fantome Press, and the cassette distribution project he ran, called the Underground Culture Vultures. The Fantome Press has been operating in Warren, Ohio since 1976 and publishes original works by various authors including C. M. James.”

Since suffering a stroke in 1993, Mike has retired from writing and publishing.

Hart Crane poem illustrated and published by C. M. James
Poetry of Stepnen Crane illustrated and published by C. M. James

Bob Ford-Jesse James Photo Hoax Cabal

Bob Ford-Jesse James photo hoax JJSL

In the Bob Ford – Jesse James photo hoax formerly written about HERE, a cabal of hoaxers assembled to perpetrate a case of identity theft, at the expense of factual history and in violation of the identity of the Jesse James family.

Through an ample misapplication of fantasy, imagination, slight of eye magic, chicanery, and purposely deceitful tabloid and broadcast journalism, the cabal sought to beguile, hoodwink, and defraud an unknowledgeable audience for the purpose of promoting fake imagery of Bob Ford and Jesse James and for reaping an imaginary million dollar windfall.


The principal motivating forces behind the Bob Ford-Jesse James photo hoax is without doubt Sandy Mills, Lois Gibson, Dylan Baddour, and the Houston Chronicle. Whether the others who followed were witting or unwitting accomplices, each as writer and publishers had a fiduciary duty to investigate and report the truth of the opposite side of Sandy Mills’ story. They did not. But others did.

Among the responsible writers and publishers, the Canadian Broadcasting Company dropped the story from publication altogether. CNN’s Michael Pearson questioned the image’s authenticity and claim.  Christopher Klein who writes for  A&E’s History rewrote his initial story to present the James family’s objection and argument. Elleda Wilson who picked up the story for the Daily Astorian wrote a followup story when alerted about the hoax.

Without doubt, calling out the hoaxers of the Bob Ford-Jesse James fake photo fraud, will not put an end to the constant flow of images claimed to be Jesse James. Within the period of the present hoax, two more claimed images arrived at Stray Leaves, claiming to be authentic images of Jesse James.

Fake image claimed to be Jesse James
Fake image claimed to be Jesse James
Fake image claimed to be Jesse James

More of this kind of nonsense can be expected to come.

Lost Jesse James/BobFord Photo – Not Lost, Not Authenticated

The following is a re-publication of a post to Leaves of Gas that appeared on October 2, 2015. After the initial publication of “Lost Jesse James/Bob Ford Photo – Not Lost, Not Authenticated,” the Leaves of Gas blog was hacked. The hack occurred on the day on which the Houston Chronicle published an addition to the story. The hack prevented public access to the following post which represents the James family’s rebuttal to the falsehoods presented in the Chronicle story. Moreover, the hack appeared to have emanated from Houston, Texas, the home base of this Bob Ford/Jesse James photo hoax.


Robert Ford & Jesse James as hoaxed by Sandy Mills & Lois Gibson
Robert Ford & Jesse James as hoaxed by Sandy Mills & artist Lois Gibson

Two days ago, the Houston Chronicle headlined a story, “Lost Photo of Jesse James, assassin Robert Ford is found. Authenticated. ” Here we go again, I thought. Another day.  Another fake Jesse James photo. Another fake authentication. Another con artist, or two, or maybe more. The fact is, there are no photos of Jesse James or Bob Ford that are lost. Moreover, the ones claimed by the Chronicle are not authenticated. Here is why.

Lois Gibson, artist
Lois Gibson, artist

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Lois Gibson holds the world record for “most successful forensic artist.” Gibson is the chief forensic artist for the Houston Police Department. In my experience as genealogist and historian of the Jesse James family, Texas is the birthplace of numerous Jesse James hoaxes. Some have carried on for decades. Apparently, with three images of Jesse James, Robert Ford, and Zee Mimms-James, which Gibson claims to have authenticated, the 65-year-old Lois Gibson is an artist with a leg up on creating another Jesse James hoax in Texas.

Let us back up on Gibson’s story to my first encounter with Sandy Mills. Sandy is the owner of the image in question. Gibson claims this image was lost, now found, and she has authenticated it.

Sandy Mills, holding the tintype she claims is Bob Ford & Jesse James
Sandy Mills, holding the tintype she claims is Bob Ford & Jesse James

As happens with regularity in most any month here at Stray Leaves, images of all types believed to relate to the Jesse James family are submitted here for review, and opinion. Mills submitted her image to me for review in March of 2013. Mills stated, “I have a tin type photo of Jesse James sitting with another man, we think it is a first cousin Robert Woodson Hite. We are interested in showing you. Please contact me.” The email from Mills arrived under enhanced suspicion. Mills sent the email under an alias email account of Robyn Anderson. Con artists love alias names. Red flags were waving already.

The tintype presented to Eric F. James that is claimed by Sandy Mills to be Jesse Woodson James and possibly Robert Woodson “Woot” Hite
The tintype presented to Eric F. James that is claimed by Sandy Mills to be Jesse Woodson James and possibly Robert Woodson “Woot” Hite

In 2002, Jesse’s great-grandson, Judge James Randall Ross, and I founded the James Preservation Trust. Part of the mission of JPT is to archive the family history, as well as to address issues about the veracity of Jesse James family history, genealogy, images, and documents. Upon receipt of a claimed image, the image is circulated first for preliminary review among family, respected historians, and/or specific authorities most relevant to the image’s provenance. If the image is believed to be possibly verifiable as authentic, the image owner is referred for full forensic investigation and analysis to a reputable authority fully trained in the metrics of scientific forensic analysis and Jesse James history. The image owner then can chose to employ, or not to employ, such services.

The image Sandy Mills provided me was so blatantly false about being either Jesse James or Woot Hite, I told Mills not to waste any money for an authentication.

There exist only a handful of authentic images of the outlaw Jesse James. Those images appear variously on Stray Leaves and have done so for nearly 20 years.

I also included an authentic image of Woot Hite from the Joan Beamis Archive for Mills to compare with her claimed image.

Actual image of Robert WoodsonHite (L)fromthe James Preservation Trust, compared to the claimedWootHite (R). WootHite is a James descendant. His motheris Nancy Gardner James, an aunt of Jesse Woodson James. WootHite displaysthe same genetic physical
Actual image of Robert  Woodson Hite (L) from the James Preservation Trust, compared to the   claimed image (R). Wood, or Woot as he was called, is a James descendant. His mother is Nancy Gardner James, an aunt of Jesse Woodson James.   Wood Hite displays the same genetic physical characteristics that are common to Jesse James and other members of the James family.


Click on an email to enlarge & read


The Houston Chronicle article now links Sandy Mills with Lois Gibson. This raises many questions and more red flags.

Who is conning whom? Did Mills inform Gibson of my reaction to the image? Did Mills offer other information to Gibson that Mills did not offer to me? On the other hand, did Gibson see another opportunity for self-promotion, as Gibson formerly did when she stated a tintype image of Billy the Kid was the authentic tintype of the widely circulated image of the Kid already known to be authentic. At that time, Gibson fell under intense scrutiny. She was widely derided among the western artifact collector community, another red flag.

Regardless of what remains unknown about the relationship between Mills and Gibson, what is known is that the images Lois Gibson states are authentically Jesse James, Robert Ford, and Zee Mimms-James cannot be authenticated as true when, in fact, they are fake.


Customarily, a reputable authentication of any historical image is documented in abundant clinical detail in an image’s authentication report. The report usually bears the signature of a witness or witnesses, and/or a notary for formal and legal recognition. Gibson provides none – a red flag. The report will give a full account of the credentials of the expert performing the authentication, a full explanation of the scientific techniques applied, the entire known provenance of the image and its condition. Gibson pretends to do so, but provides none – another red flag. The report concludes with arguments and resulting findings, which the applied forensic analysis produced.

No evidence exists that Lois Gibson performed any scientific authentication of image assessment, or that she is qualified to do so. In her biographical statement, Gibson says she is a forensic artist. At first glance, her record as an artist is impressive. She claims no forensic science training, though – a significant red flag.

What Lois Gibson has proudly produced from her palette of artist tricks is a deception intended to fool the eye of the indiscriminate viewer and a public un-knowledgeable about Jesse James. Gibson’s deft artwork is intended to convince you she has authenticated the subject image when fact it does not – an additional red flag.

Gibson’s cardinal sin was first to alter the image to her preference by a process of image reversal. Lois Gibson reverses the images presented to me in 2013 by Sandy Mills. In the field of legal evidence, this is termed “tampering,” – a most compelling red flag.

In a series of plates Gibson next manufactures and develops her suppositions with no reference to actual history that is known or recognized.


Plate 1 of Lois Gibson's case results in a false claim
Plate 1 of Lois Gibson’s case results in a false claim

In Plate 1, Gibson describes the spare provenance provided by Sandy Mills. Neither one addresses Mills own genealogy or the personal family background or circumstances that might offer the slightest explanation for how this image fell into the Mills family’s possession. Gibson proceeds to compare Mills’ image to the authentic wedding photo of Jesse James. Mills’ fake Jesse James is cross-eyed, something Jesse was not. Although Jesse suffered from “lazy eye” in his youth, the condition corrected itself by his adulthood. Mills references no relevant history about the condition.

The most telling giveaways of the Mills image are the spatial relationships and physical features. A reputable scientific forensic analysis would have applied a grid system, mathematics, and spatial metrics. Such analysis would have identified the discrepancy in forehead, hairline, eyebrows, eye formation and nose that is all too evidently wrong in the fake photo.

In Plate 2, Gibson commits the authenticator’s crime of comparing one fake photo to another fake photo. She misidentified the comparison fake photo as being “Historically accepted group shot of Jesse James and cohorts, circa 1880s.” Mills cites no recognized authorities for this false claim.

Lois Gibson 2-rejected as fraudulent
Plate 2 of Lois Gibson’s case is rejected as fraudulent

A check of the clock informs the most unknowledgeable person that Bob Ford assassinated Jesse James in 1882. Jesse’s popular death photo reveals his physical features. They resemble the fake comparison photo, not in the least. Jesse, in fact, was a bit chubby when killed. A check of any Jesse James history book also tells us Jesse had no cohorts in the early 1880s, other than the despicable Ford brothers.

Most egregiously, Gibson fails to discuss the physical discrepancies between her fake Jesse James and the fake comparison Jesse James. Between those two fake images, forehead, eyes, nose, ears, and facial width are all different.

Here is the quintessential question everyone looks for in claimed pictures of Jesse James. Where is Jesse’s famous missing fingertip in the comparison fake Jesse James? Mills’ fake Jesse James image displays a full set of unharmed digits.

Fake photos-fingers

“Historically,” Gibson’s comparison fake Jesse photo was rejected already as a fake. The image that originated this fake image went to auction in 2002. At that time, Jesse’s great grandson, Judge James R. Ross, lodged his written complaint with Swann Galleries in New York that was auctioning off the image. The image sold for a paltry sum to a man from Kentucky. I met that collector a few years later. The auction house had not informed him of the written opinion issued by Judge Ross. Proper and full disclosure might have influenced the bidder not to buy.

Plate #3: Remember that shell game where three shells move around while you try to remember under which shell a pea was placed? Artist Gibson plays this game to fool the unsuspecting eye. She is not alone in deploying such tricks. We recently encountered the same technique by an auction house that was trying to sell a fake Jesse James image for an advertised $40,000 to $60,000 windfall expected. Some fool actually anteed up $12,000 for an image known publicly to be worthless. The price of ignorance in the Jesse James artifact market can be dear.

Plate 3 of Lois Gibson's case compares Mills' fake image of Jesse James with a claimed image of Jesse James never seen before
Plate 3 of Lois Gibson’s case compares Mills’ fake image of Jesse James with a claimed image of Jesse James never seen before

While Gibson focuses the unsuspecting eye on her fake image, a knowledgeable eye is asking, “Where did this other fake image come from?” Gibson present a fake image of Jesse James never seen by anyone before. Neither Gibson or Mills cites no origination of this previously unknown image. No one among the Jesse James community ever has seen this second claimed image of Jesse James. Not ever among the Jesse James family. Certainly not among Jesse James historians. Not even among the public. Again, Gibson produces one fake image to compare against yet another fake image. The image she identifies as “Jesse James, 1870s, Webb City, Missouri” is another of Gibson’s gallery of Jesse James fake photos.

Lois Gibson 4
In Plate 4o of Lois Gibson’s case, Gibson employs artistic skill to transform an authentic image of Bob Ford to match Sandy Mills’ claimed image. A scientific authentication of historic images requires no tampering with images, relying chiefly upon scientific comparison application to reach a conclusion about authenticity.

In Plate #4, Gibson performs her same slight of the eye trickery. However, the physical features at the start of her slide characterization are not the same as at the end. If Gibson had simply looked at the photo of Bob Ford and his wife Dot Evans that appears on page 311 of my book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, Volume I, she might have surrendered her gambit to fool the Jesse James family. That photo of Bob Ford, never published before, has been in the possession of the James family for more than a century. That image of Bob Ford should have been integral to Mills’ authentication, had she tried.

Plate #6:  Incredibly, stunningly, and arrogantly, Gibson no longer can control her hoax. She goes full-bore con game. Lois Gibson not only introduces a third, previously unknown, and additional fake image of Jesse James, Gibson throws in a fake image of Zee Mimms-James, Jesse’s wife, to boot. To the trained eye, this third Jesse looks nothing like Gibson’s other two fake Jesse James photos. Nor does it compare to any known and authenticated historical image of Jesse and his wife.

Lois Gibson 6a-rejected as fake
Plate 6 of lois Gibson’s case presents a 4th fake image of Jesse James, and adds a fake image of Jesse’s wife, Zee Mimms-James, to boot.

At this point, Gibson loses all objectivity. She clearly has no knowledge of James family genealogy. Nor has she made an effort to know it. Jesse’s wife Zee is, in fact, a James family descendant herself. Zee’s mother is Mary James, Jesse’s aunt. The couple is first cousins. They share the same genetic DNA that marks their physical appearances with shared identical physical features. Those physical features have been accounted and quantified across five generations of the James family. In physical appearance, Gibson’s fake Jesse James couple share no common physical features that match the proven genetics of the James.


The simple answer is environment and enablers, whether actual conspirators or not Texas is home to nefarious con artists who have preyed upon the Jesse James family and its identity for generations. From Orvis Hauk, to J. Frank Dalton, to Betty Dorsett Duke, Texans lift up their tall tales as they throw factual history into the trash. Texas legislators actually do this with schoolbooks, too.

The true Jesse James family in Texas goes unrecognized. Around Granbury, authentic members of the real Jesse James family who live there roam in confident privacy and anonymity. They can do this because Granbury would rather fete its fake Jesse James internment there. Authentic Jesse James family members populate Texas terrain and cemeteries from Red River to the gulf coast. No Texan celebrates Geneva James who taught Willie Nelson in grammar school in Waco. Nobody in Johnson County knows of John James of Alvarado unless they follow Stray Leaves or read my book. Texas has yet to recognize the kinship shared between Houston’s George W. Bush and the Jesse James family.

But Lois Gibson and Sandy Mills can find ample news coverage for fake Jesse James photos by the Houston Chronicle, whom we now must acknowledge as an enabler of bogus Jesse James imagery, along with their correspondent Dylan Baddour who broke the story.

Dylan Baddour who wrote the Houston Chronicle story
Dylan Baddour who wrote the Houston Chronicle story

We contacted Dylan Baddour and asked for his defense of what he wrote. He provided the following statement: “Lois Gibson, who identified the photo, is one of the world’s most credible sources for facial recognition. She’s a forensic artist and analyst with the Houston Police Department who has garnered a Guinness world record and features in national media for her success. When it comes to identifying faces, there is no higher authority. Every auction house we spoke with found it very compelling that Gibson made the ID, and couldn’t immediately refute it.”

What motivated Baddour to inquire of an auction house and not of reputable Jesse James family, historians, or authorities? When it comes to Jesse James artifacts, we repeatedly take auction houses to the woodshed for their inflated and inaccurate claims, not to mention their despicable practices of deceit. In all of Jesse James auction history, there has been only one auction that performed ethically and responsibly; and, ironically, Heritage Auctions is in Texas.

News aggregator Sarah Laskow who promoted the hoax by republishing Dylan Baddour's story
News aggregator Sarah Laskow who promoted the hoax by republishing Dylan Baddour’s story

We also reached out to Sarah Laskow, a news aggregator for Atlas Obscura. She replied, stating, “I used the Houston Chronicle as a source for this short post, as well as the analysis that Lois Gibson had posted. If there’s countervailing evidence about the authenticity of the image, I’d be interested to hear about it.”

Arden Dier, who may or may not be a real person, also promoted the hoax by republication.
Arden Dier, who may or may not be a real person, also promoted the hoax by republication.

Arden Dier harvested the story for republication for Newser, whose slogan is “Read less. Know more.” Really? We found no contact information for Arden Dier.

Michael Pearson of CNN was suspicious of the hoax.
Michael Pearson of CNN was suspicious of the hoax.

The only reporter we found to question the Mills-Gibson story was Michael Pearson of CNN, for whom we also found no contact information other than his LinkedIn page. Skeptically, Pearson asked, “Does photo show outlaw Jesse James with his killer?” Talk about a slick, Texas slide step.

There is more to this hoax than is apparent at this moment. New information is being researched and developed. More revelations will come.

In the end, this hoax will enter history under the names of Sandy Mills and Lois Gibson. No matter how long it takes, history always gets to the truth. Sandy Mills and Lois Gibson will stay on our watch list of tricksters, con artists, and frauds for some time.

Claimed photo of Bob Ford and Jesse James is proved as a hoax.
Claimed photo of Bob Ford and Jesse James is proved as a hoax.

Book Review – Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol.I

BOOK REVIEW:  Jesse James, Soul Liberty. Volume I. By Eric F. James. Published by Cashel Cadence House, Danville KY. 2012. 411 pages, $36.95, reviewed by Bobbi King of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, June 23, 2013. Reprinted here by permission.


Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter-Dick Eastman

             “Mr. James has conquered the Everest                             of writing a family history genealogy book                                         that is interesting enough                                 for the rest of us to want to read.”


Eric F. James was asked to take on the task of researching and writing the story of the James family, specifically the many members of the family who merited fair consideration distinct from the myth and legend of the notorious outlaw brothers Frank and Jesse.

Mr. James succeeds in acquainting us with a family of characters who do deserve to be featured apart from the tarnished brothers. The book’s subtitle, “Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence” offers a not-so-subtle hint on the family’s take on their historical connection. Apparently, the more well-informed members of the family vigorously sought to put the kibosh on any kinship to Frank and Jesse James when naïve queries arose.

Mr. James introduces the family:

“In the emerging democracy of colonial Virginia, the early Kentucky frontier, and throughout the American heartland, the James were renowned as community builders, public office holders, ministers of faith, financiers, educators, writers, and poets. From these roots shot Frank and Jesse James.

“Following the Civil War, Frank and Jesse James eclipsed the family’s destiny. War may have splintered the family ideologically, but Frank and Jesse James disjoined the family’s compass and direction, casting a longer and darker shadow on the James family, like no other.

“Like their royal ancestors of old when beset by crisis, the James family turned suspicious and distrustful of its own. The larger James family kept apart from one another, holding in muted reverence what relic of itself that it could. The line of Frank and Jesse James was left isolated, unsupported and abandoned.”

Goaded by family in-laws, the Jesse James family withdrew into a citadel of its own. Their ostracism was enforced by every other family line of the James.

Bobbi king
Bobbi King

Mr. James’ book locates the various families’ residences, describes their personal occupations, details relationships and kinship to one another (a six-generation descendant chart is included), chronicles their military service, catalogs their movements about the regions, and quotes a good deal of material from their letters and journals, which always evokes a personality, a spirit, a temperament.

Mr. James’ research appears to be extensive across a wide variety of sources, with references at the end of the book that contain explanatory tidbits adding even more to the story. The photographs and illustrations, even those blurred by age and decomposition, are vivid and well produced, summoning up their subjects and places.

Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I
Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence, by Eric F. James

Mr. James, along with Judge James R. Ross, a great-grandson of Jesse James, is a co-founder of the James Preservation Trust. He writes and publishes on the official website of the James family, and is without a doubt the family cheerleader.

His writing is strong, perhaps a bit hyperbolic for my taste, but this is a good book for fans of Western history who want to know the real story. His research supports a claim to authenticity, and his writing keeps us reading.

Mr. James has conquered the Everest of writing a family history genealogy book that is interesting enough for the rest of us to want to read.

The Exhumation of Jesse James Twin Children

The promise of Jesse Edwards James Jr. to his mother Zee Mimms James, to reunite her twin children whom Jesse buried after their birth in Tennessee with Jesse and her in Missouri, went unfulfilled for three generations. Before he died in 1951, Jesse Jr. bestowed the task upon his grandson, Judge James R. Ross. Three years before Judge Ross died in 2007, the task was bestowed upon me to execute the exhumation of Jesse James twin children for reinternment with their parents in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Missouri.

Title slide from the Reunion of Gould & Montgomery James slide presentation
Title slide from the Reunion of Gould & Montgomery James slide presentation

The moving confluence of legalities, family permissions, socio-political objections, and conflict resolutions seemed always directed at times by an unnoticed, unseen spiritual hand, ever watching from the past and always guiding the exhumation of Jesse’s twins to final resolution and peace in ways surprising to us living participants.

An exhumation might appear as a clinical exercise, executed coldly by professional technicians, paid to do a job. The cost was not a problem to exhume and re-inter the twin children of Jesse and Zee Mimms James. In the end, though, no cost was necessary. The spiritual hand brought forth descendants of former generations and social relations of the James family generations long past to accomplish the task.

Ann Yager Hamlin-McCroskey with her sister Sarah Hamlin-Kuchenbrod
Third generation funeral director Ann Yager Hamlin-McCroskey who assisted in the exhumation of Jesse James twin children, shown here with her sister Sarah Hamlin-Kuchenbrod.

Assisting me was Ann Yeager Hamlin of the Stith Funeral Home in Danville, Ky. Not only was Ann my next door neighbor, she also is a 6th great-granddaughter of Reuben Giles Samuel, who is the great-grandfather of Dr. Reuben Samuel, Jesse’s stepfather. Among Ann’s ancestors are also found some Woodsons and one of the Younger brothers’ uncles. I asked Ann if it was necessary to purchase a casket. She advised, “For exhumed remains, plastic containers that can be bought at any Wal-Mart work best.” I then acquired two plastic containers from Sam Walton’s local store in Danville. Sam Walton is a 4th great-grandson of Jesse’s grandfather, John M. James.

B. Steven Spann of the Spann Funeral Home, formerly the Wheeler Funeral Home, Dickson, Tennessee
B. Steven Spann of the Spann Funeral Home, formerly the Wheeler Funeral Homes, Dickson, Tennessee

Representing the Humphreys County Court, to ensure all was done properly according to Tennessee statutes, was Anne’s funeral school classmate, B. Steven Spann of the Spann Funeral Home, formerly the Wheeler Funeral Home.

One of the gravediggers hired by Steve was Robert Shadowen, a 5th grand-nephew of Rev. Lewis Weaver Chaudoin and Katurah Mimms. Rev. Chaudoin married John M. James to Mary “Polly” Poor, Jesse’s grandparents.

Beleaguering Judge Ross and myself with multiple difficulties to overcome was Darrell L. Cave. The church sexton of Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Missouri. Darrell then was in his mid-eighties. He was the fourth generation of his family to oversee the cemetery. Among Darrell’s ancestry, Darrell’s great-grandfather, William R. Cave founded Mt. Olivet Church and Cemetery. He was baptized by Jesse’s grandfather, Rev. Robert Sallee James. Darrell’s 4th great-grandfather, Rev. William Cave known as Uncle Billy, entered Kentucky with Jesse’s grandfather John M. James, in the self-exile of rebel Baptist preachers from colonial Virginia into the western wilderness.

Regardless of lost time and a promise too long deferred, Gould and Montgomery James, now are reunited with their parents in Missouri, never to be forgotten, just as Zee wanted

  • The Reunion of Gould & Montgomery James



Clell Miller Gets No Respect

Clell Miller, aka Clelland B. Miller 1849-1876
Clell Miller, aka Clelland B. Miller 1849-1876

Maligned and also misunderstood. Misquoted and also misinterpreted. Except for the deadly hit Clell Miller took in Northfield, Minnesota; Clell’s life always ran amiss. Clell Miller gets no respect. Even in death, Clell’s bones are missing. How did the James gang ever wind up with the likes of hapless Clell Miller?

Imagine my surprise, to learn that I live just two blocks from Clell Miller’s grandparents. Since Henry Logan and Mary Kenley Thurmond died together back in 1866, Clell’s grandparents have not gone missing at all. For almost 150 years, they have been right here in Danville, Kentucky, in plain sight. And, like poor Clell, no one has cared.

Tombstone of Henry Logan, Thurmond & Mary Kenley, grandparents of James Gang member Clell Miller. Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky.
Tombstone of Henry Logan, Thurmond & Mary Kenley, grandparents of James Gang member Clell Miller. Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky.

Moving here to Danville, Kentucky twelve years ago to write my five-volume history of the James family, Jesse James Soul Liberty, I made Danville my home base, principally because Danville is the geographic center of the James family’s history in Kentucky, ever since 1782 when Jesse’s grandfather, John M. James, arrived with his Traveling Church. The Youngers, Pence, Scholls, Chinns, Hites, Vardemans, etc. – and now

Clell Miller’s family – lived among one another first around Danville, before moving to Clay County in Missouri. These families left an abundance of history in plain sight, still waiting today for the arrival of serious historians.

John Loyd Thurmond Jr. 1870-1946. First cousin of Clell Miller of the James Gang.
John Loyd Thurmond Jr. 1870-1946. First cousin of Clell
Miller of the James Gang.

Often I take a refreshing walk over to Bellevue Cemetery after long hours of writing. Bellevue is an historic, tree-filled place, where Victorians went for Sunday picnics, courting, and family recreational diversions. Since Danville is where Kentucky separated from Virginia in 1792, Bellevue is populated also by countless blue blood figures of the Commonwealth’s frontier. I commune with them, just as I do with those in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Missouri.

Clell’s grandparents were not Kentucky blue blood. Henry Logan Thurmond and Nancy Kenley were just average, simple folk.

Earnest Clarence Thurmond 1873-1940. First cousin of Clell Miller of the James Gang.
Earnest Clarence Thurmond 1873-1940. First cousin of
Clell Miller of the James Gang.

Henry’s father, Absalom Thurmond, first lived on Pistol Creek in Bedford County, Virginia, but he died in Wilkes County, Georgia. Two of orphaned sisters of Henry won land lotteries there. When Henry’s brother, John Thurmond, returned to Georgia from the Cain-tuc, people called him “Rich John.” His cousin Fielding Thurmond became captain of a Kentucky militia, during separation from Virginia, protecting the incoming flood of migrants, as did Jesse’s grandfather, John M. James. Fielding returned to Georgia, too. The orphaned Henry Miller, though, arrived in Kentucky sometime before 1808 to stay. Near Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home in Washington County, Henry married Mary Kenley. The couple spent some time in Logan County, at the time called “Rogue’s Harbor,” a place for killers, thieves, and con artists to flee Kentucky’s emerging new laws and local governments. By 1828, the couple settled more safely in the established, cultured, and Presbyterian community of Danville.

William Paschal Thurmond 1869-1952. First cousin of Clell Miller of the James Gang.
William Paschal Thurmond 1869-1952. First cousin of Clell
Miller of the James Gang.

Henry and Mary Thurmond were in the mid-70s in April of 1866 when they both died. The couple had nine children, most of them from home, or dead. Henry and Mary recently suffered through the aftermath from the bloody battle at Perryville. Scores of wounded, maimed, and dying were treated in every quarter Danville could offer. Henry and Mary were here on the day when Frank James, Bud and

Donnie Pence and the Youngers rode into town with Quantrill, severing telegraph lines, isolating the train depot, and pillaging food and supplies while Frank casually stole some books from a store.

The gang rode off to Harrodsburg where Frank’s cohort Col. Jack Chinn lived. But the Pence brother’s in-law on the Union side, Maj. James Bridgewater, rode up from Stanford in hot pursuit, cornered the gang at Sally Van Arsdale’s house, and killed off a good number of them in the bloody shootout of a snowy winter’s night. Weeks later, Henry read in the news that Quantrill had died in Louisville’s Catholic hospital, and Frank James turned in his guns.

Soldiers were returning to Danville from Charleston, New Orleans, and Mississippi. They brought diseases with them. About half of the population in Danville was black, Most blacks had been freed long before the war. Those newly emancipated were joining the Union Army at nearby Fort Nelson just to be employed, leaving the town without much help. In sunny April of 1866, old and feeble Henry Thurmond died within weeks of his wife Mary, as hapless as did Clell. Their brains exploded unexpectedly with the excruciatingly painful disease of cerebral spinal meningitis.

By then, Clell’s parents, Emaline Thurmond and Moses W. Miller, were in Kearney, Missouri. Most of Clell’s uncles and aunts had settled in Ash Grove. Only Uncle Fielding and Aunt Cettie Thurmond stayed behind to bury Clell’s grandparents. Fielding, who died in 1896 and Cettie in 1909, now rest next to Henry and Mary.

Tombstone of Cettie Miller 1848-1907, first cousin of Clell Miller of the James Gang. Bellvue Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky
Tombstone of Cettie Miller 1848-1907, first cousin of Clell
Miller of the James Gang. Bellvue Cemetery, Danville,

Exactly when Clell’s parents left Kentucky for Missouri is unknown. An early exodus of Baptist missions had begun in the 1830s. The same rebel preachers of Virginia who took Jesse’s grandfather, John M. James, into Kentucky now were sending missions into Missouri. John’s son, Rev. Robert Sallee James, was part of that effort in 1843. Brother William R. Cave laid out his half of Kearney in 1856, using the settlement land of his father, Uriel Cave. William’s great grandson, the late Darrell Cave, was sextant of Mt. Olivet Cemetery almost all his life. He assisted Judge James R. Ross, Jesse’s great grandson, and me when we reinterred Jesse’s twin children at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, following the twins’ exhumation in Tennessee. The James association with the Cave family reaches back to the American Revolution.

The cholera outbreak of the 1830s in Kentucky also sent other families westward. Alice Lindsay-Cole, Frank, and Jesse’s grandmother, married a second time to Robert Thomason. In 1836, the entire Thomason family was uprooting itself from Kentucky and going to Clay County, triggered in no small part by their neighbor Richard Mentor Johnson, who had just married his second slave woman. Johnson claimed he had killed Chief Tecumseh in the War of 1812. Now he was bent upon being elected president of the United States. He also had set up his Choctaw Academy and was bringing Indians back into the Commonwealth to be educated. Among some, that did not sit too well. They fought Indians and spilled blood to settle the land.

Nora Ruth Miller 1900-1964 & Annie Harwood Miller 1895-1993, second and first cousins respectively of Clell Miller of the James Gang.
Nora Ruth Miller 1900-1964 & Annie Harwood Miller 1895-1993, second and first cousins
respectively of Clell Miller of the James Gang.

When Clell was born on December 15, 1849, Moses W. and Emaline Thurmond Miller were well-established residents of Clay County. Clell never knew his grandfather, Jacob Miller, on the side of his father. He also did not know his Thurmond grandparents. But Clell probably learned that his papaw

Jacob Miller was one of those tough-minded Germans, like the Hite family. The Hites/Heydts all came from Germany, then to Pennsylvania, then into Kentucky, all ending up in Missouri. Despite what trouble Clell and his brother Ed Miller found their selves in, people around Kearney regarded their father Moses W. Miller well. Moses was a far more respectable citizen than his two sons, as shown by the expensive obelisk that graces his grave.

Since the Civil War ended, and especially after, Jesse was presumed to have killed Clell’s brother Ed, what Clell shared with the James brothers no doubt was a sense of family disaffection. Like the

James family with the James boys, Miller family cousins had little, if nothing at all, to do with Clell. Most had moved away, gone to Texas or Oregon. Isolated, Clell Miller never knew his Miller or his Thurmond cousins at all. Like the James family, too, Clell’s family spent their days building honest and respectable lives for themselves, for the most part ignoring Clell, or his brother Ed.

Darrell Mansur, a first cousin, four generations removed of Clell Miller 1848- 1846, aka Clelland B. Miller, shot and killed in the failed Northfield Bank Robbery by the James Gang, September 7, 1876.
Darrell Mansur, a first cousin, four
generations removed of Clell Miller 1848-
1846, aka Clelland B. Miller, shot and
killed in the failed Northfield Bank
Robbery by the James Gang, September 7,

Recently when I met Clell’s first cousin from his Miller side, now four generations removed, I asked Darrell Mansur about his family and about Clell. Having respect for Clell Miller was not at the forefront of Darrell’s mind. In fact, Darrel knew nothing at all about Clell Miller or Ed. I provided Darrell his genealogy of his Miller- Thurmond family and explained the murderous history it contained. Darrell then replied, “This is all new and a bit of a shock to me. It probably explains why I wasn’t told anything about that part of the family when I was growing up…”

Gee, Clell Miller, we hardly knew ya. Seems like your own family did not, either. Cell Miller gets no respect.

This article first appeared in the James-Younger Gang Journal in 2014.

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, Vol. I


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 genealogy and 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

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. I filled in Rick about the James and Hite family who defeated the Native-Americans at Chillicothe, two generations before the Hite and James fought as the James Gang. I also alerted Rick to the religious and socio-political influence of the James family and their community in the War of 1812, and their defeat of Chief Tecumseh. Rick said he may have to book me for a talk about that.

Next year, Rick Hollis becomes president of The Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge. We then discussed the meeting of the grandfathers of the James and Younger brothers at Valley Forge, again two generations before the two families came together again as the James Gang. Since we both were sitting there in Ohio, I also had to tell Rick about the James family who were captured when John Hunt Morgan crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky to meet his defeat in Ohio.

Genealogy always leads the family historian, who then must follow. I know this too well. Never does the family historian lead the genealogy.  Doing so, 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 is now 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.”

Official blog for the family of Frank & Jesse James