Most longtime outlaw-lawman aficionados have probably read a number of books about Jesse and Frank James. Those books probably included Background of a Bandit by Joan M. Beamis and William E. Pullen and Jesse and Frank James: The Family History by Phillip W. Steele. Chances are you think you know a lot about the family of America’s most famous bandits. However, if you think this– think again– you have seen only the tip of the iceberg.
Jesse James fanatics are going to be delighted with all the new material and serious historians are going to wonder how they have missed so much for so long…
In summary, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I did not want to put the book down. It reads a lot like the family sagas written by Howard Fast and John Jakes. However, this is all fact, not fiction.
If you have any interest in the James gang and their history this book is a “must read”. And do not skip the notes; there is a wealth of material to be found in the notes and the bibliography is a gold mine. Four more volumes of James family history are to follow this book. I eagerly anticipate all of them.
REVIEW: Western Writers Association of America
The extended family of the James outlaws has unjustly been ignored by historians. The abundance of the accomplishments of the James family is more than enough to mitigate any stigma attached because of the outlaws. This family has led the way for social justice in many fields. They have been leaders in law, business, church, education and the arts…
The research and writing is outstanding and there is awealth of photos. There are excellent notes, bibliography and family charts. The book is very highly recommended.
The following letter of apology written by Thelma Duncan Barr to Joan Malley Beamis is transcribed as written. No editing has been applied.
Thelma Duncan Barr is the spouse of Henry Lafayette Barr, a grandson of Jesse Woodson James. Joan Malley Beamis is the great-granddaughter of Drury Woodson James, an uncle of Jesse Woodson James, America’s iconic outlaw.
Overland Park, Kansas
Oct. 26, 1970
Mrs. John F. Beamis
7 Hamilton Street
Somersworth, N.H., 03878
Dear Mrs. Beamis.
My name is Thelma Duncan Barr. My husband is Lawrence H. Barr.
We were in Los Angeles, Calif. In Oct. on our way home from Hawaii. We visited several days with our cousins, the daughters of Aunt Stella James. Ethel Rose Owens gave me your letter, Sept. 1970, to read. I wanted to write you and offer an explanation for my husband not answering your letter of several years ago?
I am sorry he did not see fit to answer your letter. You have no idea how many inquiries he gets through the mails. He simply didn’t want to be bothered. I told him at the time he should have answered your letter.
However, he does not know very much about the historical facts of the family. Mother Barr would not let it be “talked about” in her home. Now Forster has always been interested in the “James Stories” and got into his possession all he could find about Jesse James. He has all the keepsakes, historical data, pictures (what there are) etc. Lawrence has very, very little about his grandfather! Only in the past few years has he become interested. If all I recall correctly you were asking for a picture of Drury Woodson James.
He did not have it and has only very few pictures of his mother. What we do have is in books we have had to buy and newspaper clippings. Forster was always the one who answered people’s letters. Now that is the best excuse I can give him, which is true, believe me.
However, in the past three years I have been doing a Genealogy of “my” family. I started with my mother’s family and then my father’s family. They both came from the early day settlers of Mo. They came from Virginia to Kentucky, to Mo. About 1820 & 1825. This, to me, has been most interesting. I am not finding very many stories or historical events. It is mostly lineage.
A long time ago, when on a trip to Calif., we went to see Lutie Mimms. She gave me, to bring home with me a Genealogy of the Mimms family. She & Mother Barr were double cousins. At that time it was all in a gig-saw puzzle to me. I read, read, & read it before I could begin to understand it. When I finished copying it I found a “gap” in it that directly linked the Mimms & the James families together. She (Lutie) said he niece had it. I never did get it from Lutie, her niece, or Aunt Stella.
We went to the nursing home to see Aunt Stella & she did know us!
In the research of some of the related families to my direct lines I came across a James family in the “Germanna Records” of Richmond, Va. But Dr. B. C. Holtzclaw said he did not think there was a connection with the Rev. Robert Sallee James.
In Ethel Rose’s letter you spoke of a book, or pamphlet, that you and your co-author Mr. William E. Pulliam, were going to publish! Has it been published yet? You said you were going to give them away to historical societies, libraries, D.A.R. of Washington D.A.C. of Texas.
I belong to the Clay Co. (Historical) Museum Ass. They are endeavoring to write a new history of Clay Co. of some of their earlier families. Of course they have not asked the Barr boys for the James Family because many, many books have been written about them. (There is a Jesse James Museum in Liberty. He makes money at it and seems to think he’ s an authority.)
Each month they have a resume of a family on their monthly letter. I wrote one on my Duncan family fr Jan. 1969 (I believe) it was. I also belong to Smithville Historical Society. They are compiling a lot of families. I have given them the Thomas Fry family; the McCullough Family; Capt. James Duncan; John Duncan and have a great deal on related families (which others are working on, too.) I don’t type so mine is all handwritten. It has been work. I know how to appreciate your labors, believe me!
I am interested in where you got your information on the exact connection of Mimms or (Mims) & James line. I “think” I have it figured out, but am not sure I am correct!
Do you get all the brothers & sisters that you can of each family or – do you just get direct lineage?
The only data we have on Drury Woodson James was that he was the youngest of 8 children (of John James who married Mary Polly Poor.) He was born Nov. 17, 1825 (also have another date from another source as Nov. 14, 1826.) Which is correct?
You no doubt have more authentic data than I do. What I have has been from books others have written. A Mr. Ed Knowles who in 1908 was at Topeka, Ks. on the “Topeka Capitol Journal”. He is no longer with them. He sent my husband a “copy” of a talk he gave at Clay Co. Museum meeting in Liberty. That is where I got my little on “Lindsay” and “Cole” family.
All I have on James Family is
I. Martin James married?
II. John James married Mary Polly Poore their ch.
1. Mary; 2. William; 3. John 4. Elizabeth; 5. Robert Sallee James; 6. Nancy; 7. Thomas and; 8. Drury Woodson.
III. Gen. Robert Sallee James married Zerelda Cole
Their children & on down to present day
Do you have any data back older than Martin James?
We have Carl Breihan’s book but didn’t think much of it. I couldn’t find the entire Genealogical history of Lindsay-Cole line in it. Has he written more than one book?
We thought “Jesse James was His Name” was a good book (as far as we know) that is.
If I have any data you don’t have I’d be willing to exchange with you. I would like for you to verify my connection between the Mimms & James family. It isn’t in too good an order right now, but I could re-write it for you.
You see I have written so much these past three years that I have about ruined my right hand. I hurt a tendon in it over 3 yrs. ago. When I write too much it gets very sore.
I am corresponding with a Mrs. Sale on Ind. In respect to some mutual family connections. Also a woman in El Centro, Calif on a connection with a branch in my mother’s line. It seems to never end.
This week I had a request for some Barr data. It don’t have any to speak of so now I have to search for it. I think Forster has the Barr family Bible too.
I must quit for tonight.
If you are going to give out copies of your “James Family” I’d love to have one.
If you contact the Clay Co. Historical or Museum Ass. Don’t contact a Mrs. Eldridge. She is a “professional”. She gets her material
“free” then sells it. This woman in deed paid her $20.00 for research & got very little” for it.
The Clay Co. Museum told me about 2 yrs. ago they didn’t want mine because they at that time did not have a facility for handling them. No file system or anything. Of course mine was hand written and not printed. A book might be different. Mr. Donald Pharris is the Pres. He is rather up in years tho. He re-wrote some of my sketch & misspelled so many names it made me sick. He botches up nearly every one. He wanted another sketch but I wouldn’t give him another.
Are you a member of D.A.R. or D.O.C.? I can’t find proof of Dr. James Duncan in the Rev. War. He was; but I haven’t found the proof yet. They sent my money back twice. I’ll have to find another source. There were dozens of James Duncans, one in every generation!
It has been nice visiting with you. Please don’t think too harshly about my husband. He just doesn’t see the importance of our work. He thinks I’m wasting my time!
Thelma Duncan Barr
9519 El Monte
Overland Park, Kansas 66207
Next Day – Oct. 27, 1970
My husband finally dug out of his files, this morning, your letter that I asked him several times to hunt up for me.
You wrote him March 1, 1966/ He ans. You Aug. 21, 1966. Then you sent him an air mail card Sept. 23, 1966 & a Xmas greeting. You said you were going to send him copies of your research but we did not received them.
So he didn’t ignore your letter completely. He has an office in the basement. I never know who he writes to or anything about it.
He is retired now but “sits a lot.” Not me, I have to be up and doing things! This Genealogical work I have done on my family has been done by correspondence mostly. We do have a good library down town Kansas City; but it is hard for me to get there. It costs about $1.50 to park car. I always get so interested I forget to eat lunch. I stay so long I get caught in heavy traffic. Some trips you don’t find a thing you want – other times more than you can copy.
In re-reading your letter I see you do belong to D.A.R. I am eligible for D.O.C. but have not found proof yet on Duncan line for D.A.R. Duncan Tavern in Paris, Ky. Has it but can’t get it unless I go there.
(final unmarked page)
Do you have cousin Luties’nleice’s address?
Do you have the Mimms line back to Thomas Mimms who came to Lancaster Co., Va. In May, 1657?
In 1947, the long-widowed Mary Louisa James Burns wrote to R. C. Heaton in Paso Robles, California. She sent him a history of her father, Drury Woodson James, a founder of the town. In 1905, Heaton had purchased the home Drury Woodson built for his family, the same home in which Mary Louise was born. The residence was one of many buildings Drury Woodson James built as part of his El Paso de Robles Hotel, around which he built the town of Paso Robles. In one correspondence, written by her granddaughter Mary Joan Malley Beamis, Mary Louise James identifies and tags the early building of Paso Robles.
Joan Beamis transcribes the identification tags dictated by her grandmother Mary Louise James…
This is froma wood cut. I have the original copy.
D. W. James Home – 1969 or 70. I was born in this house. A very good likeness considering.
South Cottage where your “Nana” was married (long cottage).
Original Hot Springs Hotel.
Patsy Dunn store. (Ed.: D.W.J.’s father-in-law Patrick Dunn) My father moved this and we used it for storage for many years. It was torn down in 1960.
The Ralston Cottage, or at least its location.
Bath House – original – another was built here but burned in about 1910.
Old Stage Road, now Spring St.
Park Water Station
(does not appear)
Sunnyside Cottage, or Cottage A
LETTER FROM R. C. HEATON TO MARY LOUISE JAMES BURNS
Paso Robles, Cal. April 20th, 1948
Mrs. E.F. Burns
Dear Mrs. Burns: Thank you for the copy of your father’s history sent me by the Paso Robles chamber of commerce at your request. I have it filed away in the history of San Luis Obispo county.
Thinking that you would like to see a picture of the old home place as it was in your younger days I had some copies made and am enclosing one to you. I sent one to Carrie.
Please tell me when the house was built and when your folks moved in – also anything that you recall about the place.
Frank and Jesse James were out to California twice but I do not have the record of what years or where they stayed.
This would be interesting to some people.
The visit of Carrie and Hattie B.* last year with us is a happy remembrance.
Too bad that your father could not have ended his days peacefully in the grand old hotel** he had the faith and courage to build in those early days.
Too few people appreciate what he and that other active generous citizen – Uncle Jim Blackburn – done for this community and its old time residents.
* The references to Carrie and Hattie is to Mary Louise’s sisters Carolina F. James Maxwell and Helen James Bennett.
Drury Woodson James was born in Logan County, Kentucky on the 14th of November, 1826. His parents and grand-parents were Virginians, and his grand-fathers fought for Independence in the Revolutionary War. Drury Woodson James was the youngest of five boys. They were reared by his oldest sister, having been orphaned at an early age. Drury’s mother died when he was three months old, and his father when he was a year old.
In 1846, Drury enlisted in the Mexican War as a drummer boy, and fought through the war under General Taylor. After the war was over, James went to California. He left old Fort Kearney with a pioneer wagon train and reached the Hangtown gold fields in 1849. He mined for several months and then entered the business of buying and selling cattle. This proved to be a very successful venture. It is stated that his practice was to drive the cattle to the different mining towns and sell the cattle on the hoof for as much as three or four times the amount paid for them. James became known in the country in 1850, and played an important part in the early history of the community.
In 1850, D. W. James and a John G. Thompson of Kentucky purchased the La Panza Rancho. They engaged in the business of buying cattle and horses. The county records of this time show numerous failures among the cattlemen. During the years of 1862, 1863, and 1864 occurred one of the worst droughts in the history of the country. At this time James and Thompson found themselves with 5000 head of cattle. At this time, cattlemen all over the area, when they saw their feed and water going, turned their cattle loose to fend for themselves. Not James; he drove the cattle to the Tulare and Buena Vista Lakes and saved them. James and Thompson also owned the Comatti8 and Carissa ranches. It is not known when they purchased these ranches, and they were probably sold along about the same time that the La Panza Rancho was sold.
Thompson and James sold the La Panza Rancho in 1869 to Jones and Schoenfield. Thompson then returned
to Kentucky. In 1857, a James H. Blackburn had bought the El Paso de Robles Rancho from Petronelli Ries. Ries had acquired the ranch in 1850 from one Pedro Novares. Novares had acquired the ranch under a Mexican land grant in 1844. Novares claimed six leagues or about 25,000 acres along the Salinas River. In 1850, James B. Blackburn divided the ranch. Daniel D. Blackburn chose the northern league of the rancho on which were located the springs. Daniel D. Blackburn then sold one-half of his northern half to a Thomas McGreal who sold it to James in 1869. D. D. Blackburn and D. W. James each owned half of the northern league. D. D. Blackburn then sold half of his half to James H. Blackburn. So James owned a half and the two Blackburn brothers each owned a quarter of the northern league.
On September 15, 1966, Daniel D. Blackburn and Drury W. James married sisters at a double wedding in the San Luis Obispo Mission. They were married by the Rev. Father Sastra in the old Mission church. Louise M. Dunn married D.W. James and Cecelia Dunn married D. D. Blackburn. The Dunn family had come to America from Australia about 1850. They settled first in Sacramento and later moved to San Luis Obispo.
James B. Blackburn was the first of this famous partnership to die. He left the bulk of his estate to Daniel and Cecelia Blackburn and their children. At this time, there was talk of the railroad coming through to El Paso de Robles. Realizing the possibilities of this part of the country as a resort area, Blackburn and James decided to build a hotel. The cornerstone was laid in 1889. The railroad tried to buy the property and the half-finished hotel from Blackburn and James but they refused the offer.
The business set-up became more and more complicated and the number of heirs and D. W. James found that it would be almost impossible to sell any portion of his interest in the property should he want to. So in 1890 he started court action for the purpose of dividing the property. The court ordered the property partitioned.
The following history of Drury Woodson James was dictated to me, Mary Jean Malley Beamis, by my maternal grandmother, Mary Louise James Burns in 1949 when she was eighty one years of age.
It was written at the request of the officials of the city of Paso Robles, California, on the occasion of the dedication of a monument to her father’s memory in the Park which had been given to the city by Drury Woodson James and Daniel D. Blackburn.
(s) Mary Joan Beamis
May 22, 1971
STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
May 23, 1971
Personally appears Mary Joan Beamis and made oath that the above statement is true and the information to the attached statement is true to the best of her knowledge and belief.
BOOK REVIEW: Wybrow, Robert J. Jesse James, Prince of Robbers! A Collection of Essays on the Noted Missouri Outlaw and His Times. (London: The English Westerners’ Society, 2015) 485 pp., illustrations, notes, index. Paperback, $32.00.
This is a valuable collection of James gang literature. One trademark of Mr. Wybrow’s work is his in-depth research. Even though he lives in England, he knows how to find things in U.S. archives and newspapers. The number of resources he has consulted is truly impressive.
This collection includes articles about some more obscure robberies and raises questions about the participation of the James boys in the Columbia, Ste. Genevieve and Concordia bank robberies. There is one article about the Youngers in the state of Texas, and this article contains some intriguing information about an illegitimate son of Cole Younger in Louisiana. One article is devoted to Dick Liddil’s supposed wife, Mattie Collins. Mattie has always been a rather mysterious lady and this article explores her many escapades in depth. Another article deals with the 1875 raid on the James/Samuel farm that killed young Archie Samuel and caused the amputation of Zerelda James Samuel’s arm. This raid produced a great deal of sympathy for the James boys throughout the state of Missouri.
This book presents information from many obscure sources and at times disagrees with material that has been presented by other well-known authors. Everything in the book is informative and often thought-provoking. I highly recommend this book; this should be in the library of everyone with more than just a passing interest in the James-Younger gang. This book will serve as an outstanding resource for anyone that is interested in doing further research on the James-Younger gang and their associates.
Robert J. Wybrow is a graduate of the University of London and has worked for the British Gallup Poll for over forty years. He is a long time member of The English Westerners’ Society and began to write and publish articles about the James gang in 1969. Most of his work has appeared in the publications of The English Westerners’ Society. A lot of his articles and booklets are now rare collector’s items and are very difficult to find. He has selected the best of his works about the James gang and related subjects and published updated versions in this book. Some 15 of his articles are included in this collection, and there are also four appendixes. The appendixes are: “From the Pen of a ‘Noble Robber’—The Letters of Jesse Woodson James”, “Dick Liddil’s Confession”, “Clarence Hite’s Confession” and “List of Original Articles”. This final appendix is a complete list of all of the articles about the James gang written by Wybrow.
TO PURCHASE: e-mail Ray Cox, secretary of English Westerner’s Society: firstname.lastname@example.org. Domestic postage rates in the UK or USA may apply.
BOOK REVIEW: Robison, Ken, Confederates in Montana Territory: In The Shadow of Price’s Army, (South Carolina: The History Press, 2014.) 190 pp., photos, illustrations, bibliography/notes, index. ISBN 978-1-62619-603-2, paperback, $19.99
I was eager to dig into this book as I am a long time student of Missourians in the Civil War. However, I was very disappointed in the book. It is an attractive book with a lot of good photos and illustrations, but the research is only skin deep. The title of the book is misleading as only about four of the men discussed in the book served in Price’s Army. The author does not have a very good grasp on the history of Price’s Army and the guerrilla units associated with Price. The book contains several errors. In the forward to the book, 1859 is given as the year California entered the Union. The correct year is 1850. Colonel Thoroughman was said to have been taken to a prison in Quincy, Illinois after he was captured. There was no Union prison at Quincy, he most likely was taken to the prison at Alton, Illinois. The Moore brothers were said to have gone south into Kentucky and spend a night with John M. James, the grandfather of Jesse James. A good trick indeed, as John M. James died in 1827.
There are two stories in the book concerning supposed Quantrill men. The first story is about James Berry. This chapter is reasonably close to the facts; Berry did serve with Quantrill for a short time. He also did participate in a robbery with the Sam Bass gang and was killed when there was an attempt to apprehend him. The author states that Berry’s family survived to become prominent in Montana history, but leaves the reader completely in the dark about the family’s contribution to the state’s history.
The chapter about Langford “Farmer” Peel, is titled “When Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction”. A good title, since this tale is almost entirely fiction. Langford Peel never served with Quantrill or anybody else during the Civil War. He hung out in mining camps in California, Utah, Nevada and Montana during the time of the Civil War. He was a rough customer and was accused of several murders. He was finally shot and killed in Montana. The tale about some of Quantrill’s men hijacking a steamboat to come after Peel is from a newspaper article from the Great Falls Tribune of April 30, 1922. The story is complete fiction.
There were a number of men from Price’s Army who did go to Montana and who became prominent men. John C. C. “Coon” Thornton and Thomas L. Napton immediately come to mind, but the author ignored these men. Several Quantrill men are known to have gone to Montana too, one served as the Sheriff of Lewis and Clark County. These folks are also ignored. The book is an easy read but it is history light-weight.
This book review is co-published with the James-Younger Gang Journal.
Official blog for the family of Frank & Jesse James
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