History, the network for male entertainment formerly called the History Channel, is taking steps not be chastised again for producing bogus historical accounts. The effort appears as honest as a baby step.
The website for its upcoming mini-series Sons of Liberty sports a link called the “Historian’s View.” Therein lays History Channel’s disclaimer. “SONS OF LIBERTY is a dramatic interpretation of events that sparked a revolution. It is historical fiction, not a documentary.” So much said for History to set the record straight, but is it?
Apparently not enough, for The Journal of the American Revolution. The Journal ‘s TV reviewer Thomas Verenna got an early preview of Sons of Liberty. He was drowned by the network in a sea of promotional material. Despite the appearance of credentialed historians in the series, Verenna observed, “Understandably, one might get the impression from these sneak peeks that this is some sort of docu-drama. Well, it’s not that at all. You have to dig a bit to find it (it’s never explicitly stated in the trailers or promotional content)… actually, it’s more of an alternate history…”
Over the years, we’ve taken History to the woodshed a number of times, recently in 2013 for “making [up] history every day” regarding productions relating to Jesse James. Challenging History has stopped it from producing more Jesse James fictional invention. Realistically, though, we expect the network will continue to develop more fictional entertainment around Jesse in the future. Jesse James is too appealing just to give up.
Unfortunately, neither historians of Jesse James, nor historians. in general, carry the political clout of the family of John F. Kennedy, as we reported. The Kennedy clan effectively put a cease and desist order on the network with only the threat of going to court. History has since dropped any proposals altogether of producing fictional history around the personage of President John F. Kennedy.
The Journal admits that the production values of the mini-series are pretty good. The show is entertaining. But the show also is flawed, sufficiently enough to warrant a lengthy list of fact checking on its historical facts. The Journal breaks down each episode here, as we’ve done here in the past.
Nothing would please us better than, not to be the guardian of the History Channel’s truancy. If only the network had changed its name from the History Channel to Wishful History. Then there would be no need to disclaim its productions. As it persists in its brand of flawed, interpretative, alternate, or downright bogus history, the network and its productions must continue to be monitored for a chronic lack of integrity masquerading as an authority.
The Stamp Act passed by the parliament of King George III instructed the grandfather of Frank and Jesse James in the power to disobey.
John M. James was informed by his uncle Henry Field, a son of Henry Field Sr. and Esther James. Putting his life and the lives of his family on the line, John’s Uncle Henry was a judge on the Culpeper Court who had resigned his judgeship to oppose the king.
“Parliament recently had imposed a cider tax, plus a sugar tax. Now, a stamp tax was to be paid. The revenue stamp was to affix to most every paper item generated throughout the Colony, including documents issued by the Culpeper Court in its jurisdiction over churches and preachers. The stamp equally applied to countless other documents and papers as well, such as a gazette, a bill of sale, a land transfer, or even a will. Payment to the Crown was required in sterling, scarcely found in the colony where barter was the principal currency. Feeding upon every official and non-official act of the colonists, the stamp tax amounted to economic enslavement.”
How egregious were these taxes to cause the James family to turn to revolution?
Everything in print bore a tax. A magazine tax would add $294.56. A printed diploma would bear a tax of $234.84; a deck of cards, $5.87 in taxes. A printed calendar bore $1.96 additional tax.
Previously levied taxes already were proving burdensome. A pound of tea bore $1.46 in tax. Foreign coffee was expensive, costing $350.86 in tax. Foreign sugar carried a tax burden of $129.16.
The preferred beverage to water was wine. But wine was getting very expensive, too. A ton of wine imported from Spain or Portugal bore a tax of $58.72. Wine imported from Madeira, the favorite of Thomas Jefferson, carried a tax of $821.94, fifteen times more than European wine. The paper on which a license to sell wine was printed, added $469.68 in tax to the license cost.
Indeed, these tax excesses amounted to economic enslavement. Absent relief, revolution became the only recourse. The lessons of economic oppression have remained with the James family since.
Around the historical figure of America’s icon Jesse James congregates a community of con artists, charlatans, liars, claimants, and fraudsters. The entry fee is nominal. All it takes is an intense desire TO BE NOTICED. It is the exit fee that is costly and dear. Once identified among this community, most all never recover integrity.
Fools like these feed off one another voraciously. They can command no significant following. Their only power comes from the power to infect the un-knowledgeable, and to lie.
So it occurred in January of 2015 when the editor Joel Willans of the blog WhizzPast elected to headline an article titled, “25 little-known facts about the outlaw Jesse James,” with a fake photo of the Jesse James gang. Willans is an ex-pat of the UK, and apparently a man without a country.
The article was decent and fairly accurately written account with legitimate photos, almost a rarity these days, written by Kathleen Harris from the staff of WhizzPast. The “25 little-known facts” structure of the article is a favored darling of internet algorithms, intended to attract more clicks than relevant audience.
Editor Willans, I’d estimate, adores algorithms. He could not let the Harris article go unpublished without mucking up the writing integrity of Kathleen Harris with a fake photo of the James gang. Willans proudly explained in Comments to the article, the image was obtained from “an expert.”
The “expert” Willans cited is found on a website that is a well-known seedbed of fraudsters. It is no surprise to find Jesse James con artist Ron Pastore among them. Pastore’s activities are long known to Stray Leaves. Whenever Pastore speaks, the stats for pages on Leaves of Gas that relate to Pastore jump astronomically and the queries roll in. We’ve taken Pastore to the wood shed time and time again for his fraud. Now there’s Joel Willans to join with Pastore.
Gratuitously, Willans invited me to provide him a bone fide image of the James gang. If I could not, he said, he’d would persist in publishing the photo that is fraudulent. This is a typical con man’s gambit. The fact is, no image of the James gang exists. None, whatsoever. The James, as fugitives of the law, were not dumb so to photograph themselves and distribute their images, either as a gang or individually, begging to be captured. Asking to provide something that doesn’t exist is the con man’s way of saying, “Gotcha.” The fact that the faces in the Willans image cannot be authenticates as the identified names attached to them is the James way of saying “Gotcha, con man.”
Mr. Willans believes his college degree in history should stand for something. Indeed, it should, but certainly not for the perpetration of fake history. Modestly, Mr. Willans does not mention, he also has a degree in journalism from the London School of Journalism. His brand of journalism differs little from the tabloid trash Britain wildly generates.
Commentator Willans bows before the Holy Grail of algorithms, amazon(dot)com. After all, Willians is no journalist at all. He’s an adman. He invokes the once beacon of hope turned rampant despoiler to render people disparagingly as does his Grail. Two book reviews of Jesse James Soul Liberty on amazon only can mean a worthless book to him.
Willans appears to have backslid on his journalism degree. He makes no mention of the book’s Milton F. Perry Award, or its nominations for Best Non-Fiction Biography of the Wild West History Association, or Spur Award nomination from The Western Writers of America. He mentions not at all that the Tony Award winning Steppenwolf Theater commissioned award winning playwright Carlos Murillo to write a play based on a James family member featured in the book’s chapter “All for the Underdog.” Nor does Willans acknowledge the book’s popularity among libraries across the nation and book collectors of original new history, not regurgitated. Willans’ idolatry can produce only cynicism, which he believes is amusing.
The “Incorrect Facts” review of Virginia Church, Willans boasts of, has been addressed here before. Never mind the oxymoron title that would cancel out any subsequent content, her complaint is a closed issue until she alone elects to correct whatever she deems untrue. As for amazon, if I was able, I’d delete amazon from my book’s distribution network. Not because of how my book appears there, or amazon’s feeble sales results due to its skewed algorithms, but more for the fact that I disagree with the company’s predatory and exploitative business practices, and its despoliation of the literary market in favor of flooding the market with 99 cents pulp, most all lacking in any literary merit.
WhizzPast is a clever title for a blog. Its subtitle is “The fastest way to travel back in time.” Under the editorial hand of Joel Willans, with his history and journalism degrees, the Jesse James family is ridiculed and disparaged, and Jesse James history is steampunked, all for the sake of Willans’ algorithm success. So much for the value of a college education, and two degrees utterly wasted.
In this tawdry episode, WhizzPast fails in its mission as “The fastest way to travel back in time.” WhizzPast makes the issue entirely present, and not the truest. You see, Joel Willans is no more than an adman…whose art is deception, no different than the con men attracted to Jesse James throughout history, and who are much too prevalent today, preying upon the uneducated, the un-knowledgeable, and the ignorant.
A lifelong friend asked me to describe myself. As an author, historian, and genealogist I’m used to describing others. I believe I do it well. To describe one’s self, though, is not so easy. My “self” can get in the way. The problem was to get my “self” out of the way.
My friend, Connie Otto, and I have known each other for almost fifty years. We met as actors, doing a Broadway show road tour. When Otto left show business to become a Jungian psychologist and holistic health professional, she adopted her professional name of Chaitania. I’ve been privileged to be among the few she allows to still call her Otto.
In all our time, I’ve also come to respect Chaitania. I’ve learned It is Chaitania who pulls me out of my comfort zone in a way no close friend who loves you can. After I married a second time, Chaitania and her husband came to visit. Within the first twenty-four hours, Chaitania asked me directly, “What are you doing with this woman?” I responded, “I want to be married again.” Chaitania replied, “But you’re a good person.” That was all to our conversation. Chaitania’s skills left me to assess what was said.
Chaitania now has a blog, where she does the same thing for others as she’s done so long for me. She’s installed a new section on her blog Chaitaniaunder the menu link “Amazing People.” That’s when Chaitania asked me to describe myself. Among all the people she has known, I am privileged to be her first subject. Otto is the one who asked me to describe myself, but I also recognized that this is Chaitania’s blog.
You cannot snow job a lifelong friend, and you dare not even try with a Jungian holistic psychologist who knows more secrets of the universe than you alone can imagine.
In answer to the request to describe myself, I wrote, “So…Who Am I?” For Chaitania, I believe my “self” has been written away. For my dear friend Otto, she will still recognize me.
A year before the Jesse James family reunion, Judge James R. Ross and myself made a trip to Paso Robles to meet with Tom Martin, then current owner of the Paso Robles Inn. I had visited there in 2000 when the remnant of the old hotel was undergoing preservation and restoration. I was anxious to see what had been done since. Both I and Judge Ross also hoped Tom Martin would agree to host our Jesse James family reunion at the historic hotel, first founded by Drury Woodson James.
Needless to say, the Martins were thrilled to be our host. We were equally thrilled to be holding the family reunion on Uncle Drury’s old hotel property. We were especially excited about having a family banquet in Uncle Drury’s ballroom, which the Martins had preserved and restored. Until Tom Wallace
Until Tom Wallace, who supervised the reconstruction, told us his story of working on the formerly condemned property as he does in this video, the only information I had about it was gleaned from George Jackson. a heating contractor, employed to install a heating plant for the old ruin. I was particularly tickled by Jackson’s story of discovering a petrified cat when he opened up sealed portions of the original brick basement. You can find Jackson’s story on Stray Leaves.
This is the last episode from the Jesse James family reunion of 2002. Among all the fourteen episodes, this is my favorite, because it represents the spirit of the reunion as we experienced it then, both simply and beautifully.
Please read the closing credits. The people who put this event together deserve every appreciation. The event could not have been as effective as it was without their advice, guidance, assistance, and support.
The music that accompanies this montage is performed by the gospel group Mountain Glory. This is a group brought to our attention by David Best. David’s grandfather baptized Jesse James’ daughter in the years before her passing.
One event that never made it into our video, due to technical difficulties, was the enactment by Mary Mimms of Zerelda, Frank & Jesse’s mother. If you ever have a chance to catch Mary in her performance again, don’t miss it.
On the morning when everyone was leaving the Paso Robles Inn, I stood outside saying goodbye. Charles Broomfield, who helped effect the donation of James farm in Kearney to Clay County, when he was a Clay County commissioner, asked me, “Why don’t we ever have something as good as this in Missouri?” I answered Charlie, saying, “Because no one has ever invited us.” I’m still waiting for that invitation.
Until then…Merry Christmas and best regards.
NOTE: If you think you missed Part 11, you haven’t. It just hasn’t been posted yet. Look for Part 11 and Part 13 after Christmas. OR…SUBSCRIBE ABOVE and be notified. Merry Christmas.
When Joan Beamis, a great granddaughter of Drury Woodson James, discovered she was a first cousin of Frank and Jesse James, due to her father’s inadvertent slip of the tongue, Joan was all excited to learn more about her family’s secretive connection. Her grandmother, Drury’s daughter, lived with Joan in their New Hampshire home, but Nanna looked at Joan sternly as if to say, “One doesn’t ask such things,” so Joan wrote. Nanna never surrendered the information she knew or the genealogy she kept in her traveling case.
When Joan reached beyond her home to New York Ciry and very far beyond for information, she was specifically warned not to contact any family in Missouri. Joan wrote that in her letter to Gilbert Cam, the executive director of the New York City Library.
The isolation of the Jesse James family in Missouri had been solidified from 1882 up to 1950 when Joan began her research.
The isolation Joan encountered then still persists today, despite every effort made then, and being made now, by some among the family, and outside of the family, to crack that shell.
No one from the James family in Missouri showed up to attend this family reunion in 2002, though they were repeatedly invited. The board the directors of the James-Younger Gang accepted the James family’s invitation to attend and participate. Subsequently, however, the group’s founder Phillip Steele hijacked the group to Tennessee instead. Judge Ross, Jesse’s great grandson, never spoke to Phillip Steele again and resigned his membership in Steele’s group. I just recently learned that Steele had that privilege to sidestep the group’s board of directors written into their by-laws. Steele already had built a reputation for himself re-publishing the James family genealogy that Joan Beamis first produced in her book Background of a Bandit, published by the Kentucky Historical Society in 1970. Steele considered he was the James family’s genealogist alone, though to my knowledge he never conducted any genealogy research. The last time I saw Philip Steele, he pumped me for everything new I had found that he could appropriate and publish as he might his own.
As I point out in this video, some of the Jesse James family prefers their self-imposed isolation to genealogical and historical transparency. They continue to do so today. The research before 2002 and since has shown no further need for the protective cover they covet. Still, they object to the research and publication of findings being discovered every day. Oddly, they do not confront the facts of their heritage whatsoever. They simply turned a blind eye to them.
As this video outlines, the research into the James family continues, even today and hopefully beyond. With each advance in the research, the genealogy and history becomes more and more undeniable. I know history stands on the side of informational transparency. Those who object today soon will pass. With their passing, new generations of James family and new generations of those interested in their family and outlaws, will become the beneficiaries of all the work being done today to recapture the James history that’s been lost for over 300 years.
Future generations will have a picture of the Jesse James family far different, and far more comprehensive, than the fragments of the family now embattled with one another.
NOTE: If you think you missed Part 11, you haven’t. It just hasn’t been posted yet. Look for Part 11 and Part 13 after Christmas. OR…SUBSCRIBE ABOVE and be notified. Merry Christmas.
When Judge James R. Ross and I were laying out the event schedule for the family reunion, I asked Judge Ross if he would speak about his childhood and growing up in the household of Jesse Edwards James Jr. as his de facto father. In all the time we spent together, I always was most intrigued by those stories he related to me privately. I thought his family would find them of interest, too.
What I didn’t realize was that his agreement to discuss the subject meant he intended to use the topic as an opportunity to sell his book. In the mind of Judge Ross, he had written his book I, Jesse James specifically for that reason, to tell people the stories he had heard about Jesse James while growing up in the household of the outlaw’s son. The talk Judge Ross delivered was not the leisurely reminiscence I thought he would present. Instead, what he delivered was a short promotion for his book.
What was really on his mind, though, was a deal to make a movie from his book. What he said on that in his talk he had kept close to his vest. I had no idea beforehand of the option contract for a movie that he just had signed. Judge Ross intended to surprise us all.
Sadly, TNT never did make a movie of Judge Ross’ book. The Judge’s lifelong ambition to make the only movie about Jesse James that was factual and true went unfulfilled in his lifetime.
Arriving at Hearst Castle, the Jesse James family at first believed they were simply visiting a local stellar attraction not too far distant from the home of Drury Woodson James. Hearst Castle’s docent regaled the family with the story of William Randolph Hearst’s legendary castle town recreation on a hill overlooking the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean and the area’s local history.
My postscript to the presentation made by the Hearst Castle’s docent in which I revealed the purpose of our visit, surprised even the docent. Since it was such a surprise, I knew I had to bring along the sources from where I had gleaned information that now appeared surprising. After my short presentation, the docent asked about my notes, “Can I see that?”
I have to admit that the first time when I discovered this small morsel of James history that now it so appetizing, I couldn’t be more grateful for all the effort that had been made to learn of it. The new research techniques I had developed in my years of researching the James family’s genealogy have paid off in very big ways, in excess of this little exciting discovery.
Leaving no stone unturned meant that my research not only had to study the James family, but also had to study their in-law families, and additionally to study the social communities among whom they lived. That’s how this small piece of Drury Woodson James’ history came to be found in a research depository I never might have looked in, had I only confined myself to studying the genealogy of the Jesse James family.
From Hearst Castle, we were off to visit the Tobin James Wine Cellars. While there, our host Tobin James told us the story about his bar which he had purchased and its claimed relationship with Jesse Woodson James.
Our first full day of lectures at the James Family Reunion in 2002 left us feeling a bit of cabin fever. What better relief than to take a day trip to visit the cabin that Frank & Jesse James occupied during their visit with their uncle Drury Woodson James between 1868 and 1869.
The cabin had been relocated to its present site. Local historians produced the research to verify the fact. They also aided us. They contacted the owner so we could meet with him. We then presented him a plaque and historical commemoration for the cabin. (If anyone can name the name of the owner in 2002 or the owner today, please email it to me. It’s been misplaced among my records.)
When Jesse & Frank visited Paso Robles, Drury Woodson James was not entirely welcoming of their visit. A preliminary visit by Frank was required to convince Uncle Drury to permit the visit for the purposes of Jesse using Drury’s ancient hot springs to recover from the two bullet shots he was carrying in his chest.
As Jesse gradually recovered and put on a little weight, Drury employed his nephew with his vaqueros who worked Drury’s La Panza Rancho. As much as Jesse would have like to be considered an experienced cattleman, the vaqueros knew better. Jesse’s ropes were brand new and not woven like the ropes of the vaqueros. They laughed at Jesse as they would at any tenderfoot.
During their visit, Frank and Jesse visited San Francisco. They also took an exploratory trip to Hangtown, in search of the burial site of their father, Rev. Robert Sallee James, who had died of cholera shortly after his arrival. A forest fire had ravaged the cemetery, buring a large number of wood grave markers and crucifixes, their father’s own among them. To present day, the exact burial site of Rev. Robert Salle James remains unknown.
The day trip ended at the Norman Vineyards. Owner Art Norman entertained us, showing us how wine is made. He then generously shared his product with us.
The Jesse James family was utterly surprised when Drury Woodson James showed up, alive and in person, at their family reunion in 2002, even though the event program announced he would be there.
When Drury was scheduled to appear, Judge James R. Ross and myself were just looking to insert a little diversion into the program, more as a fun break from some of the serious presentations and content that had gone before. Little did we expect that Drury’s appearance would throw the remainting events off schedule when people started lining up to have their photos taken with him.
When I agreed to enact D. W. James, I thought nothing of it. After all, I was retired from a sixteen-year career as a professional actor. I hadn’t given a second thought to the fact that it had been a long time since I had been on the stage or appeared before a large audience.
When I left the meeting room to go put on Drury’s costume, something strange seemed to be changing in my body. When I had put on the costume completely, I finally added my hat. Suddenly, a surprising panic seized me. My costume smothered me in a gigantic envelope of unexpected stage fright.
As the presenter continued on in the other room, I sat outside, waiting for the time for my appearance. I had written no script. Everything I was to say was supposed to be extempore and improvised. I had a list of key points about Drury’s life that had to be made. But, for the life of me, my mind was starting to lose everything I had learned about the man. As the moments crept on, I was losing more and more of my memory of Drury Woodson James.
Oops! Too late, now.
As the applause for the earlier speaker died down, I threw open the door, and Drury Woodson James entered the room to meet his guests at his Paso Robles Hotel. He was well met with appreciation. Everyone enjoyed being with him as he enjoyed their company, too. He was very comfortable among his hotel guests. And he was freindly as expected, and very conversational. Everyone had a good time.
To this day, I still don’t know where Drury Woodson James came from. But I sure am grateful he showed up.
When taking our bus tour around Paso Robles, visiting the sites where Drury Woodson James lived and worked, we made a special trip to San Luis Obispo. The old Franciscan mission there was where Drury Woodson James and his business partner Daniel Drew “D.D.” Blackburn married the Dunn sisters from Australia, the young ladies being twenty years their junior.
A lot could be read into these two 40 years old geezers marrying women half their age, while living on a frontier that still was lawless. For Drury, the likelihood was he wanted a wife capable of giving him a large family like the one he grew up among, his 8 James brothers and sisters and his 12 step brothers and step sisters, who included Jesse’s wife Zee Mimms-James.
Our videographer for the reunion, Tommy Barrios, was not present when we went to the mission. This video was shot instead by my niece, Kathryn Craft, which explains its “home video” quality. Was it not for Kathryn, though, we wouldn’t have any record of this funny little event.
That was not the only unexpected development at the mission, Little did we all know how seriously Jesse’s great grandson, Judge James R. Ross, would take his acting role, portraying Patrick Dunn, Drury’s alcoholic father-in-law. Talk about “stealing the show.”
Rarely does the owner of an image claimed to be that of Jesse Woodson James ever proceed to the costly process of a formal authentication. The process itself is lengthy, and requires an administrator who is highly trained.
Antiquarian Gary Taylor was pretty sure of what he had, enough to commit further resources to prove it. In this video, Gary talks about his reward. Gary present’s Jesse’s great-grandson, Judge James R. Ross, with a photo-copy.