All posts by Eric F. James

Meet Eric James - a Broadway & TV has-been, living in the Kentucky Bluegrass. A former law journalist turned politico, blogger, publisher, author, historian, archivist, & lecturer, Eric continues to build upon the success he earned during his 16 years in show business & 35 years as a pioneer in international real estate brokerage. Presently, Eric is writing Volume II of his five-volume history of the family of Frank & Jesse James- Jesse James Soul Liberty. He also publishes & writes their official web site Stray Leaves, and blog Leaves of Gas.

Honestly…I was in Cynthiana, Kentucky, signing books

My book signing this past weekend in Cynthiana, Kentucky, once more produced the kind of surprises I’ve come to expect. Most everyone who stopped by had a Jesse James story to tell. But two of them appeared much more interesting than the others.

Young Mr. Waters recounted four generations of his family genealogy as a descendant of Adelaine Lee Sullivan Younger & James Lewis Dalton, Jr., the parents of the Dalton Gang brothers. I asked Mr. Waters to send me his genealogy so I can review it in more detail. If the documentation is there, his genealogy can be added to the SURNAMES genealogy database on Stray Leaves. While browsing my book, Mr. Waters commented on the photo in the book of the dead Daltons. Mr. Waters said a copy of that same image hung in his family home.

Floyd McDannel
Floyd McDanell

When Floyd McDanell’s wife came to my table, she had a lot of questions to ask about the book and myself. She didn’t offer much information in return, though, but she did decide to purchase a copy. When I asked to whom I should sign the book, she replied, “I’m buying it for my husband. He’ll be very interested in this.”

About an hour later, Mrs. McDanells returned with her husband. I said, “You look very familiar to me. Have we met before?” It was then Floyd McDanell’s informed me that he is a Samuels family relation, although he is a direct descendant of Reuben Ellis McDaniel, one of the founders of William Jewell College, with Frank & Jesse’s father, Rev. Robert Sallee James, and with Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman of my line of James.

R. E. Daniel
R. E. Daniel, a Founder of William Jewell College

We talked at length. I answered some questions he had about some of his other family relations among his kinship. Mentioning some of those names, I was able to inform him how they, too, were his kin.

After our conversation, I fully expected Mr. Danell to leave. Instead, he went inside the bank behind us and lingered. I later found out he is one of the officers of the bank and was on duty to watch over it during the festival.

Here’s are some pictures of our Authors Alley panel. It was a great time getting to know the people of Cynthiana and my fellow authors. We all were invited back by our coordinator Kristi Robinson for next year. You’ll find me there again with Vol. II of Jesse James Soul Liberty.

Authors Steve Flairty and Steve Vest with Kristi Robinson
Steve Flairty, Kristi Robinson, Steve Vest of Kentucky Monthly
Book authors John Sparks and Jerry Deaton
John Sparks & Jerry Deaton
Book author Eric F. James
Eric F. James

*******************

It’s November 17, 2014, and I just found this old postcard, showing where we were signing our books in 2013.

Historic Cynthiana, Ky.

A PREVIEW of Jesse James Soul Liberty, Volume II

An interview today prompted the question, “What are you working on now?” Here’s your preview…

Baptist preacher in the colonial era

I’m finishing writing Volume II of my Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet; this volume subtitled “This Bloody Ground.”

This biographical history focuses on the grandfather of Frank & Jesse James, John M. James, a patriot of the Revolutionary War who falls in with the rabid Baptist preachers, violently persecuted by the Anglican establishment. This band of rebel, sharpshooting preachers barter their participation as minutemen of the Revolution for the promise of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. They fight pivotal battles that win the Revolution.

As adoption of independence and religious liberty is lagging, the rebel preachers exit the Old Dominion with their Traveling Church for New Canaan, the violent and uninhabited western frontier of the Cain-tuc. There, John M. James and his fellow Baptist ministers construct the socio-political, religious communities and structures that separate the independent Commonwealth of Kentucky from the Old Dominion. They win the War of 1812 to secure their own establishment, and for the future of a new frontier pastorate. Then, they migrate once more, this time into the West and Far West to ground the political environment of American religious conservatism, still so much in evidence today.

Doing so, John M. James further imprints a legacy upon his family’s progeny with the socio-political interests that not only made iconic outlaws of the James brothers, but also formed the modern American character and identity of the James family, so amply depicted in Volume I, “Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence.”

Upcoming Book Signing – Authors Alley, Cynthiana, Kentucky

My book signing for Jesse James Soul Liberty with Authors Alley this coming Saturday, July 27, 2013, is raising all kinds of expectations.

The event is in Cynthiana, KY, a town known for the volatility of its sentiments, as seen in this picture. I’ve will join with four other Kentucky authors with prestigious reputations. To boot, I will be signing books inside the Farmer’s Deposit Bank from 3-9 pm at Pike & Main Streets. Imagine, Jesse James Soul Liberty INSIDE the Farmer’s Bank. Is that karma, or what?

Author John Sparks also will be signing his books with me. I met John several years ago when he wrote Raccoon John Smith, Frontier Kentucky’s Most Famous Preacher. Smith was associated with many of the rebel Baptist preachers like Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman who I preview in Jesse James Soul Liberty, and about whom I will write more in Volume II. John Sparks most recent offering is Kentucky’s Most Hated Man, Charles Chilton Moore & the Bluegrass Blade.

Author Jerry Deaton had a hit book, Tales of Bloody Breathitt, a companion book to his Feuds of Bloody Breathitt. Jerry also is an innkeeper who owns the Carriage House Inn in Lexington, Kentucky.

Author Steve Flairty will be signing his two volumes of Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes, two books about ordinary people doing ordinary things.

Rounding out our panel is Steve Vest, publisher, and editor of Kentucky Monthly magazine. Steve is a great supporter of the literary efforts of Kentucky authors.

Other authors also will be participating. At the Old Ben Franklin Building at the corner of Walnut and Pike, you’ll find:
Debbie Cooper
Cynthia Ellingsen
Sherry Chandler
Matthew Haughton
Terry Cummins

Drop by, and visit us all. We’ll be happy to sign a book for you.

GET MAP

A NEW (extended) FAMILY ARRIVAL

Prince Harry & Kate Middleton

CONGRATULATIONS to Prince William Arthur Phillip Louis Windsor & his wife Katherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, on the birth of their new son, His Royal Highness, the First Prince of Cambridge, born 8 pounds, 6 ounces, on July 22, 2013, 4:24 pm GMT in London, England – our newest 10th cousin in the James family.

UPDATE; July 24, 2013
The new name for the First Prince of Cambridge has been selected. His name is: George Alexander Louis Windsor, First Prince of Cambridge.

Paul Sawyier Library Gathers Kentucky Authors & Some Jesse James Family History

I’ve accepted the invitation of the PAUL SAWYIER LIBRARY in Frankfort, Ky., to join its GATHERING OF AUTHORS.

Court house, Frankfort, Kentucky
Original Frankfort Courthouse on Wapping Street, Frankfort, Kentucky

The Sawyier Public Library building, on Wapping St., was the first courthouse built in the Kentucky capitol of Frankfort. In this building, Andrew Jackson James began his career as a country lawyer who became citified. His early success there soon led to his becoming the esteemed A. J. James, Kentucky’s attorney general, then secretary of state, and almost its governor of the Commonwealth.

Artist Paul Sawyier and Mayme Bull
Paul Sawyier & Mayme Bull

Paul Sawyier, the library’s namesake, was a local artist, whose art remains highly collectible today. Sawyier was a friend of A.J.’s son, Dr. Samuel Evans James. Dr. Sam kept a yacht, berthed in back of the courthouse on the Kentucky River. He often took Frankfort society aboard The Wanderer on river excursions. Once, he took Paul Sawyier aboard as his guest. They traveled upstream to the Drennon Springs resort. There, Paul met Mayme Bull. The Bull family worshiped at the First Presbyterian Church of Frankfort, where Dr. Sam was a deacon for 17 years.

Samuel Evans James
Dr. Samuel Evans James
First Presbyterian Church of Frankfort, Ky.
First Presbyterian Church of Frankfort, Kentucky

Paul was instantly attracted to Mayme. Together they set up housekeeping on a barge moored in the river, from which Paul proceeded to paint his sentimental landscapes. The women of Frankfort were outraged that Mayme would be forced to live on a river barge.

Mayme Bull painted by Paul Sawyier
Mayme Bull by Paul Sawyier

But society found much more about the couple to be enraged about. The couple said they were married, but without any witnesses, the attractive young couple became the scandal of Frankfort Society.

There will be a lot more of this scandalous history surrounding the James family to appear on Volume II of Jesse James Soul Liberty, This Bloody Ground, to be published later this year.

Wapping Street, Frankfort, Ky.
Wapping Street, Frankfort, Kentucky. The First Presbyterian Church on the left.

For now, come meet with me at the PAUL SAWYIER PUBLIC LIBRARY. Join us at its GATHERING OF AUTHORS on Saturday, August 24, 2013 from 10 am to 3 pm, and learn more of the James family’s history in Kentucky. I’ll be signing books, too.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet someone with whom you can create some scandal of your own.

Paul Sawyier Library Gathers Kentucky Authors & Some Jesse James Family History

I’ve accepted the invitation of the PAUL SAWYIER LIBRARY in Frankfort, Ky., to join its GATHERING OF AUTHORS.

Original Frankfort Kentucky Courthouse
Original Frankfort Courthouse on Wapping Street, Frankfort, Kentucky

The Sawyier Public Library building, located on Wapping St., was the first courthouse built in the Kentucky capitol of Frankfort. In this building, Andrew Jackson James began his career as a country lawyer who became citified. His early success there soon led to his becoming the esteemed A. J. James, Kentucky’s attorney general, then secretary of state, and almost its governor of the Commonwealth.

Paul Sawyier and finace Mayme Bull
Paul Sawyier & Mayme Bull

Paul Sawyier, the library’s namesake, was a local artist, whose art remains highly collectible today. Sawyier was a friend of A.J.’s son, Dr. Samuel Evans James. Dr. Sam kept a yacht, berthed in back of the courthouse on the Kentucky River. He often took Frankfort society aboard The Wanderer on river excursions. Once, he took Paul Sawyier aboard as his guest. They traveled upstream to the Drennon Springs resort. There, Paul met Mayme Bull. The Bull family worshiped at the First Presbyterian Church of Frankfort, where Dr. Sam was a deacon for 17 years.

Samuel E. James
Dr. Samuel Evans James
First Presbyterian Church in Frankfort, KY
First Presbyterian Church of Frankfort, Kentucky

Paul was instantly attracted to Mayme. Together they set up housekeeping on a barge moored in the river, from which Paul proceeded to paint his sentimental landscapes. The women of Frankfort were outraged that Mayme would be forced to live on a river barge.

Painting of Mayme Bull by Paul Sawyier
Mayme Bull by Paul Sawyier

But society found much more about the couple to be enraged about. The couple said they were married, but without any witnesses the attractive young couple became the scandal of Frankfort Society.

There will be a lot more of this scandalous history surrounding the James family to appear on Volume II of Jesse James Soul Liberty, This Bloody Ground, to be published later this year.

Wapping Street, Frankfort, KY
Wapping Street, Frankfort, Kentucky. The First Presbyterian Church on the left.

For now, come meet with me at the PAUL SAWYIER PUBLIC LIBRARY. Join us at its GATHERING OF AUTHORS on Saturday, August 24, 2013 from 10 am to 3 pm, and learn more of the James family’s history in Kentucky. I’ll be signing books, too.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet someone with whom you can create some scandal of your own.

Paul Sawyier Public Library

A Mountain of Genealogy Comes Down to Earth as Entertaining History

screenshot of book review

“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.”

Transforming 12 years of genealogy research into a biographical history book that appeals to most any reader who enjoys a good tale, indeed, has been one of the most formidable challenges of my life.

Physically, I’ve never climbed Mt. Everest, though the prospect of doing so often has fascinated me since I was a  teen. I preferred writing to mountain climbing.

Having now climbed the Mt. Everest of turning a massive genealogy database of close to 300,000 related people into an epic view of one family and their panoramic history, and the reflection of their discovery of self in that view, has left me standing on the mountaintop, definitely feeling the chill of the thrill. When I was the author standing alone on the mountaintop, though, I was challenged with bringing that thrill back to earth in an intimate and engaging story for the average reader. This was the most formidable challenge in writing Jesse James Soul Liberty.

Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter is a primary meeting ground for genealogists and family historians at all levels of experience. From how-to and tech tips to the latest news in archival development and events, Eastman’s covers the full spectrum of genealogical interest. In recent months, the book reviews of Bobbi King have been added as a regular feature.

Bobbi King has reviewed a couple of family history books on Eastman’s before mine. Mostly they appear as personal memoirs, more than an objective history book. So I was very pleased when Bobbi accepted the challenge to review mine.

In her book review of Jesse James Soul Liberty, Bobbi King gently reminds genealogists that a good family history book should be interesting to an audience beyond a book’s own subject family.

As I was inadvertently climbing my Mt. Everest, every step that lead to each successive discovery or view made me wonder, how can someone else see what I do and enjoy the experience of it. The view from the top of the James family’s precipice is spectacular, and each step leading to that view is an insightful reminder of what it takes to make a magnificent mountain. Magnificent mountains always have interesting stories to tell.

– ERIC F. JAMES, Author

Film by Elia Saikaly

 

 

Younger Gang Fiddle at Auction

Frank Younger just sent me this additional background information about Jim Younger’s violin, to be auctioned today in the Wilbur Zink Collection at Heritage Auctions. Frank’s email now will be included when the fiddle is transferred to its new owner.

auction fiddle

“Just to let you know, the case in which Jim Younger’s violin appears in the auction picture is not the original case. I am the one who restored the violin (it was not in bad shape at all, just some glue joints which had given up the ghost.) The “original” case was literally falling apart. It was, as I recall, painted black and looked not unlike a small coffin – this type may still be seen, usually carrying beginner-student violins. I insisted that Wilbur replace the case; he sometimes took the fiddle to different venues to give a talk and there was a very real danger that the case would “let go” while carrying with disastrous results to the fiddle.

“The size of the fiddle is what we call a 7/8, which is applied to any violin larger than a 3/4 but smaller than full size. I replaced the bridge and added the fine-tuners found on the tailpiece to make it easy to tune and easier to play for the “Younger Desperadoes” CD, and left the original bridge with the fiddle The instrument is strung with new strings. Although I would have liked to re-set the sound post, I could not knock it down using the usual method of going through the E-string side f/hole. It could have been glued in (!) but I do not know. I could find no sign of a maker. It appeared to be a factory violin, but of this I am not sure.

“As I recall, the bow was a disaster. I cannot recall if I re-haired it or not. The frog looked to me to be roughly carved from a bone.

“After the repairs I played a few tunes on the fiddle for Wilbur, using my bow. It certainly sounded like it had not been played for 100 years! My sister, Evelyn Hall, made the CD recording (with Matt Audette on guitar) in Phoenix.

“The repairs were made at Wilbur’s home in Scottsdale, Ariz. in the winter of 1997. I photographed both sides of the instrument, stringless, from above in Wilbur’s car port where the lighting seemed as near to ideal as we could find.”

Belle Starr’s Daughter Pearl Starr? – Or Not?

auction catablogueFed-Ex arrived today with my complimentary copies of the catalog for Wilbur Zink’s upcoming auction of his James-Younger Collection, conducted by Heritage Auctions. I was curious to see if Wilbur Zink’s image of Belle Starr is included.

The catalog is a collector’s item of its own.

Leafing through the catalog, one image popped out to immediately rivet my attention. It was Wilbur’s tintype of a young lady purported to be the daughter of Myra Maebelle Shirley, aka Belle Starr.

This image, identified as Pearl Starr, has generated quite of bit of controversy over the years. My book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I displays the best-known image of Belle Starr. On an opposite page are pictures of other Shirley family members, primarily that of Emma Wren Shirley, who married Everett Elbert “Elo” James. Emma is pictured with her parents. The image of her father Paul Porter Shirley offers a third Shirley family image, by which to compare the picture claimed to be Pearl Shirley.

What do you think? Are those the eyes, lips, forehead, and ears of a Shirley?

Belle Starr and her Shirley family

 

Wilbur Zink’s FRANK JAMES COLLECTION Goes Up for Auction

Frank James wrote to his wife Annie, “Burn these letters.” Now Frank’s letters are going to auction.

I learned about Frank’s letters from Wilbur Zink personally. They were my partial impetus for writing Vol. IV of Jesse James Soul Liberty, Frank James in Atonement & Retirement. On June 22, 2013, Frank’s letters will beat my book about Frank to market by three years, as Wilbur Zink’s collection of letters, photos, artifacts, and memorabilia related to Frank James, his family, and the James-Younger Gang, go on the auction block.

Photos of Cole Younger

Often I’ve been put in the position of challenging auction houses and their exaggerated or outright misrepresentations. At an auction of a gun, advertised to have belonged to Jesse James, I feared my life was in danger as Jesse’s great-grandson, Judge James R. Ross, marched up to the podium, snatched the microphone from the auctioneer, and read the Judge’s statement of Denial of Authenticity. Jim was shouted down, booed, and threatened. I didn’t know if we’d get out alive, especially since we now had to sit in the front row until the auction ended, to see if the auctioneer would re-introduce the item he withdrew.

Henry Washington Younger and spouse

This auction is far different.

We know the artifacts are bone-fide.

We know their provenance is genuine.

And we’re working with a reputable auction house that has engaged the support of the James family, and myself in particular. Other authentic authorities also have been consulted.

While today’s economic climate remains troubled, and the expected institutional bidder may, or may not, appear due to budget constraints, these artifacts may go for bargain prices. They are certainly realistically priced enough to start the bidding.

For anyone wishing to own a piece of the history of Frank & Jesse James, this opportunity may prove the most affordable bargains of all…then again, the James family always have been known for confounding expectations.

LINK to Heritage Auction & entire collection

ABOUT Wilbur Zink

CLICK photos for larger images

artifacts from the Wilbur Zink collection

International Visitor Interest in Jesse James

Charles Broomfield was showing me statistics of international visitors to James Farm & Museum in Kearney MO. Charlie sits on the Parks & Rec Board that oversees James Farm & Museum. I thought I’d offer him some comparison data for his performance review. Here are the international stats for visitors to the James family’s web site & blog, Stray Leaves and Leaves of Gas, for the first 8 days of June, 2013.

Important Auction Coming Soon

FLASH ALERT !!! …An important auction of Frank James’ artifacts is coming to market.

I’ve spent today reviewing some of the collection with the auction house representative. There’s still more to review, and some that probably will be held back perhaps for another time.

This is a bonafide collection from a well-respected collector. Visit HERE for a clue.

Given today’s economic climate, and the fact that nothing like this has hit the market in a long time, this auction should prove very interesting. Watch here for details, coming very soon.

Death Follows Birth…again

It’s heartbreaking for me to report this death. My darkest side might term this a curse, or better, a re-occurrence of history.

Yesterday Ann Yager Hamlin and her husband Alex McCrosky lost their newborn daughter, Alexandra Stith McCrosky, following childbirth.

funeral directors

A funeral director by profession, Anne assisted me in the exhumation of Jesse James’ twin children, who also died following childbirth. Anne executed many of the arrangements required by the Humphreys County Court in Waverly, Tennessee while coordinating them with her former school classmate Steve Spann, who represented the Humphreys Court.

Anne is a descendant of the Samuels family belonging to Dr. Reuben Samuels, who married Zerelda Elizabeth Cole-James after Rev. Robert Sallee James died.

I know the sympathies of all of us go out to Anne and Alex. Life will renew, and we’ll all wait for a happier day.

Anne’s photo here is from the slide show of the Exhumation of Gould & Montgomery James