Home » Campbell E. James Takes Bashi-Bazouk to Victory
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
In Victorian Frankfort, Kentucky, high society held washtub boat races on the Kentucky River. In once race, Campbell E. James took his competing craft Bashi-Bazouk to victory. From the Turkish, Bashi-bazouk translates as “damaged head,” and as “disorderly,” and as “leaderless.” The term originated when applied to different soldiers in the Ottoman Army who fought as irregulars. The intent of Campbell E. James to characterize his prospects for victory was evident in his irrepressible humor.
In her book Filling the Chinks, Ermina Jett Darnell wrote about everyday life in Frankfort at the time. As a descendant of the Cole family ancestors of Frank & Jesse James, Darnell was their 3rd cousin. Campbell Edmundson James, or C. E. James, was the son of Judge A. J. James & Mary Allison Beatty, and also a relation. In Filling the Chinks, Darnell recorded the following story of Campbell E. James taking his Bashi-Bazouk to victory.
On September 1, 1877, the local paper announced that there would be a tub race on the river at 5:30 on the following Tuesday. The writer said: “The course selected is from Herndon’s wharf to the boathouse below the upper bridge. All tubs other than the regulation wash-tub will be ruled out.”
“Herndon’s wharf” was back of the site of the present Southern Hotel. “The regulation wash-tub” was a heavy affair made of wooden staves held together with metal hoops.
The contestants were: E. H. Berry, C. C. Todd, Jacob Evans, Ed Grant, M. H. Malone, Dudley Watson, Campbell James, Clarence Drane, Howard Jett, W. C. Dudley, M.P. Gray, John W. Milam, John Pendleton, Robert Franklin, Peter Dudley, T. L. Crittenden, F. C. Hutchinson, Willoughby Rodman, Albert Crutcher.
New announcements were made in such an edgy, eager style that it is hard to see how anyone in Frankfort slept the night before the race. No contestant could be under eighteen. There were to be no paddles, but each man steer and propel with his hands. The winner would become the proprietor of all the tubs. There would be boats in attendance to pick up the crew of any capsized tubs. Crews would not be allowed to swim by the side of their tubs, and no tubs could go ashore until the end of the race.
Then came the great day, and all Frankfort turned out. The bridge was crowded, and both sides of the river were lined with people.
But of the twenty entries, only sixteen started, and of these, only three reached the goal. The Bashi-Bazouk, paddled by Campbell James, came in full two tub lengths ahead of Ocean Wave, paddled by Dudley Watson. The Undine No. 2, by Albert Crutcher, was capsized, alas, about ten feet from the string!
FIND-A-GRAVE BLUNDERS LEAVE JAMES FAMILY HOWLING . . . Can you spot the errata in this Find a Grave post for the grandfather of Frank & Jesse James? The most glaring deception is the photograph!
History tells us the photograph was invented about the time John M. James was dying. Neither history, nor the administrator of this posting, Charlotte Raley McConaha, can tell us is how photographic technology made its way from France to the distant American frontier to take a photo of John M. James, months before his demise.
Another imprecise miscalculation in this post is the attribution of the middle name “Martin” to John M. James. The name never has been proved by evidence. To guess the name is unreliable and wrong. … See MoreSee Less
A CANOPY NOW PROTECTS HISTORIC CHOCTAW ACADEMY . . . Preservation efforts continue outside Georgetown in Scott County, Kentucky, where four members of our James family attended this school for Indians between 1826 and 1836.
The four boys who were schooled here were the Choctaw and Chickasaw sons of Benjamin James “of the Choctaw” and his sister Susannah James. Benjamin and Susannah were children of the lawyer and Indian trader Benjamin James Sr. and his Choctaw spouse.
Robert McDonald “R.M.” Jones was the first to enroll in Choctaw Academy in 1826. He was followed in 1828 by Daugherty Winchester Colbert. The brothers Johnny and George James attended the Academy from 1831 to 1836.
JAMES-YOUNGER GANG TO CLOSE . . . Sad news as Danny Urban, former President of the J-Y Gang, posted to Facebook that the organization is about to disband. Here’s the statement: "It is a sad year for us in the Gang. Since I originally posted this, we have lost members due to death. We are down to around 30, but the Board has decided to shut the Gang down at the end of the year. Donate all of our monies to Non-Profits around the country that are history related in the areas that the real Gang had robbed, etc. Two of our members will be taking over the website and they plan on keeping it going." The photo below is of yours truly in 2002 at the family reunion with some great-grandchildren of Jesse James. The 2017 logo is from the last meeting of the Gang that I helped to organize. … See MoreSee Less
Stray Leaves . . . Still the watchdog for the family of Frank & Jesse James. "James has asserted that Jesse James, a bank and train robber, was his great-great-cousin, grandfather’s but Eric James, head of the James Preservation Trust, disputes this and claims that there is no mention of Jesse in the outlaw’s family tree." … See MoreSee Less