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.

James-Younger Gang Journal Raves About the Book, Jesse James Soul Liberty

I got a sneak preview of the book review for Jesse James Soul Liberty back on January 7, but had to wait patiently until it was published in the James Younger Gang Journal. Now that it’s been published in the Journal, as our James cousin Jacqueline Simmonds, who is also an author & publisher, would say…  SQUEEE!

Jesse James Soul Liberty Vol. 1: Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence By Eric F. James (Cashel Cadence House 2012) 411 pp. hard cover, $36.95

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.

The author points out that there is a paradox for the family of Jesse James. America celebrates the outlaws yet has stigmatized the outlaw’s family. This has led to a wall of silence within the family. The author goes on to say that the James family lived lives that are ordinary and the abundance of their accomplishments is more than enough to mitigate any stigma. In fact, the accomplishments of this James family are very impressive. Members of this family have built churches, schools, businesses and communities. They have achieved high professional standards and they have frequently taken a stand for religious, social and personal tolerance.

Early members of the James Family in America left Virginia to avoid religious persecution. In Kentucky they founded churches and helped build communities. Members of the family moved on to Missouri, California, Texas and a number of other states.

Drury Woodson James went to California. He was active in local civic activities and in California politics. Among his descendants were Joan Beamis who battled deafness and helped improve education for the deaf. She also researched family history and compiled extensive family archives. Another descendant of Drury Woodson James was Rev. James Burns Malley. He graduated from Dartmouth, served in the U. S. Navy then graduated from Harvard Law School. Later he became a Jesuit Priest and worked among the poor in Brazil for six years.

Thomas Martin James settled in the Kansas City, Missouri area and he became a very wealthy business- man. He assisted in founding a number of churches in the area. His descendants continued to con- tribute to the educational and business life of the Kansas City community. Vassie James was named for Vassar College. Her mother graduated from the first class of that school. Vassie also attended Vassar. She went on to found two schools in Kansas City. She also managed extensive financial holdings and was an early supporter of what became Planned Parenthood. Her second husband served as the President of the University of Missouri. Another descendant of Thomas Martin James was Daniel Lewis James Jr. He graduated from Yale University, helped organize labor unions in Oklahoma then went to California and became a well-known writer. He worked with Charlie Chaplin on the script of The Great Dictator. He wrote the plays Bloomer Girl and Winter Soldiers. Bloomer Girl played on Broadway for eighteen months. Daniel Lewis James ran afoul of the House of Un-American Activities Committee. He was blacklisted and suffered a severe professional set back as a result of this.

There is considerable material in this book about Jesse Edward James, the son of Jesse James, and his family. There is also a chapter devoted to Judge James R. Ross. Many of us in the outlaw-lawmen community were acquainted with Judge Ross. However, few of us have known about his stand for civ- il rights for gays. Judge Ross made the ruling that Disneyland was violating the civil rights of a gay couple when they were expelled from the park for dancing together.

There are a few tidbits of new information in the book about Frank James. There is some mention of the Dalton gang. One member of the James family settled in Coffeyville, Kansas and his son was in one of the banks when the Daltons attempted their dual bank robbery. There is a family story or two about Belle Starr. There is Burton Allen James the Indian Agent and Missouri legislator. There is also John James of Alvarado, Texas who ran a school for Choctaw Indians and numerous other interesting members of the extended James family.

In addition to the individual stories of a number of the James family the book is liberally illustrated with family photos, pictures of family homes and buildings, copies of book jackets, playbills and items from family art collections. There is an appendix which contains a detailed genealogy chart. There are extensive notes and a bibliography. The book is very well written, has an outstanding dust jacket and is very pleasing in overall presentation.

There are a few editorial glitches such as, the mix up of a couple of names and confusion of relation ships between some of the family members. These are very minor and do not detract from the overall con tent of the book.

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.

~ Nancy B. Samuelson

Remembering Jesse James Author John Koblas

Two days ago on my blog at True West magazine, I wrote about the passing of my good friend Jack Koblas, who finally succumbed to his three year battle with Parkinsons. Jack did not go without a fight.

Most people who know Jack’s books about Jesse James don’t know he was a prodigious author outside the Jess James genre. In the past year, Jack published a book of poetry. Our joke was, he was gathering together all the lovely women he had wooed with his poems, hoping that if his time came one might write a poem for him.

As recently as six weeks ago, Jack was still working to produce another Jesse James book, about Frank’s James and Col. Jack Chinn. Jack had found material that led him to believe that some in Jack Chinn’s Kentucky family had been working out of Jack’s home state of Minnesota through the ruse of a business. I was highly skeptical. Jack sent me his entire research file. I would have liked nothing better than for Jack to make a final “discovery” before he left. Painfully, I had to tell him I saw nothing familiar in his research. I knew Jack was disappointed, but I also knew Jack wasn’t about to quit. I heard he was shopping his research among others who might be able to confirm it.

I first met Jack about 15 years ago. He was in San Diego, writing one of his books. Thurston James, publisher at the time of the James-Younger Gang Journal, and I went to spend the day with him. Jack kept us waiting almost two hours.  When he appeared he said he had been in discussion with his publisher, North Star Press, about his forthcoming book.

During the day, I asked Jack how he wrote. He said, he sat at his computer in the morning, and kept researching and writing from there, until he could do it no longer. As I learned later, that was pretty much how Jack lived, and now died, too.

If you’re ever in Minnesota, check out the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. You’ll find Jack there, too. For many years, Jack was a musician. His doo-wop group The Magpies earned their award over many years. Jack could be counted on for music at any meeting of the James-Younger Gang.

Anyone who heard Jack speak about Jesse James or about Jack’s books always came away knowing there was nothing sham about him, about what he stated, or about his favorite topic. Jack was married to facts and the truths as he found them, even the most inconvenient of truths, like the girl friend who tried to murder Jack. Facts were facts, and facts alone, for dear Jack.

About a year ago when we last visited together here in Kentucky, we discussed his precarious hold on life. He had no illusions. He talked at length about his daughters warmly. Their love had sustained him through every trial of his life.  And we talked about his “other children,” his books. His daughters were his favorite among his family. His Jesse James books were his favorite among his “other children.” Anything and everyone else fell far behind.

I asked Jack, “When you finally know all the Jesse James secrets, will you let me know somehow?” “Are you kidding?” he shouted. “You’re on your own,” he said. He shrugged, and  then concluded, “That’s life!”




Second Book Award Nomination for Jesse James Soul Liberty

MORE GOOD NEWS…Jesse James Soul Liberty has received its second book award nomination.

Previously, the book was nominated for the Spur Award, given by the Western Writers of America. See the previous announcement.

This nomination  is for the best non-fiction biography, given by the Wild West History Association.

Television viewers are well acquainted with WWHA’s members. Many of them are sought-after authorities by cable TV channels such as History and Discovery.  Look forward to the final announcement of winners this summer.

Take a Bow, Judge Ross !

In Chapter 11 of Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, the late Judge James R. Ross a great grandson of Jesse James, risked the loss of his judicial career when he proclaimed before a judicial review panel, “I’m a great grandson of Jesse James. No one in our family backs down.”

Jim Ross was responding to the political vendetta brought against him by conservative political elements in Orange County, California, after Jim made the landmark ruling that found Disneyland guilty of violating the civil rights of two gay young men, who were evicted from Disneyland for dancing together.

That was in 1980. At the same time at Disney World, a young gay man named George Kalogridis had been busing tables for Disney for nine years. He liked his job. He liked working at Disney. But he probably didn’t like being forced to keep part of himself a secret in order to keep his job. In the 33 years since Jim Ross made the courageous decision that fatefully cost him his career,  the equal rights of gays is now a recognized fact in America. Thanks in part to a great grandson of Jesse James, gays can be freely open to be who they are.

George Kalogridis & His Boss

Today in 2013, Alex Kalogridis is the first openly gay president of Walt Disney World, overseeing its operations in Anaheim, California. He’s also Chief Operating Officer of the Disneyland Resort in Paris. On June 1 of each year, Disneyland plays host to the LGBT community holding one of the world largest gay pride parades in America, attracting more than 150,000 visitors.

Take a bow, Jim Ross. Thank you for paying the price to insure equal rights in America. As the Associated Press reported at the time of Jim’s passing, “with that one ruling, Ross proved himself a far better man than his famous ancestor.”

Judge James R. Ross. Retired




Show Your Love. Valentine’s Day Is Coming!




Donate a copy of Jesse James Soul Liberty Vol. I to the library, school, historical, or genealogical society of your choice. Special discount pricing applies right now. See the book’s web site for details.

Here’s what reviewers are saying…

“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..”

“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.”

“My wife was buried in this, and continues to re-read.  Just wish I had gotten the autographed version for her.”

New Found James Families in Kansas City & Australia

James family members, long since lost to one another, are falling out of the heavens this week. For almost a decade I have tried to find the descendants of John Oliver James of Midland, Texas. The family photo of his father Edward Perry James and family appears on page 72 of Jesse James Soul Liberty.

Family of Edward Perry James 1847-1931
John Oliver “Jack” James 1897-1987 & cousin Billie “Cricket” Shirley-Mills 1924-2000


I’ve visited Midland a couple of times, saw the home where John Oliver James lived, and visited his grave site. I learned a few years back that some of his descendants lived in Australia, and that family now includes descendants of Australia’s indigenous aboriginal people.


Search as I did, I found no results….until this week.

Suddenly, Casie Lea James-Spears, a great-granddaughter of John Oliver James, contacted me. Casie’s family includes her husband Jeff Spears and his two children Matthew Jeffrey & Amanda Grace Spears. Casie has two children of her own, Heather Michelle & Samantha Jo Wojahn. Casie’s family lives in Kansas City. Casie produced some leads about what she knew of her family, and a lot about what she didn’t know. I got back to work.

Family of Casie James & Jeff Spears

Following Casie’s clues, within a day I found Elizabeth Lee “Libby” James-Brown, another great-granddaughter, and her family – husband Craig Brown, and children Marlyn, Desmyn, LeeRoy, and Adina Brown. Libby and Casie had heard of each other, but had never met or knew anything about each other.

Casie wrote, “I cannot thank you enough for sharing all that you have with me. I’ve gone most of my life with little information about my father, grandfather and great-grandfather. I feel like I’m getting a new family.”

Libby James & husband Craig Brown
Family of Craig Brown & Libby James

Libby’s first reaction to finding Casie was joy. She wrote, “Casie and I have really only got each other now.” At that point Libby hadn’t seen all the rest of the family and stray leaves she is about to inherit, now numbering about 5,000, and many of us still very much alive and living.

Libby’s husband, Craig Brown, posted to his Facebook page a bit of his philosophy about living one’s family integrity and historical culture:

“Cultural Integrity = maintaining a lifestyle based on our ancestors/elders dreams to insure the sustainability of our culture. Doing the things to the best of your ability within the boundaries of truth, respect, caring, sharing and utilizing the tools we have been gifted by God. Put these elements into a healthy environment and your children’s, children’s children, etc….will prosper = the most valuable inheritance you ever will leave your families.”


Edward Perry James & Elizabeth Langford, son of Rev. Joseph Martin James & Rhoda May
. John Oliver “Jack” James & Dimple Hite
.. Virginia James & Unknown Worrell
… George William James & Beverly Ann Ham
…. Casie Lea James & Joshua Todd Wojahn
….. Heather Michelle Wojahn
….. Samantha Jo Wojahn
…. Casie Lea James & Jeffrey Thomas “Jeff” Spears
… Robert Lee “Bob” James & Susan Anne Syron
…. Elizabeth Lee “Libby” James & Craig Onan Brown
….. Marlyn Bruce Brown
….. Desmyn Francis Brown
….. Leeroy James Brown
….. Adina Susanne Brown

Did the James Gang Steal Morgan Horses From Cousins ?

Raymond James, who appears on pg. 67 of Jesse James Soul Liberty, visited me last week. Raymond has spent a lot of time studying the Operations Orders for the 12th Kentucky Infantry in the Civil War, in which his great grandfather John Thomas James (pg.73) served. Raymond has identified the campaign movements of his grandfather on a daily basis from start to finish. An extraordinary accomplishment that hopefully will make its way into print.

Raymond Edward James

On other topics, Raymond also related a story told to him by his grandmother, Lydia Crow-James. The James family, Lydia said, raised Morgan horses. From her hilltop home in Dabney in Pulaski County, during winter she could see clear to Shopville where the horses were penned. After the James Gang raid on the Columbia Bank in Ky. on April 29, 1872, a large number of the Morgan horses were stolen from their pen in Shopville. Left behind were some very tired, sorry looking horses. A while later, the stolen Morgan horses reappeared at the James farm after the attempted bank robbery in Somerset, presumed to have been by the James Gang who fled when a group of hunters assembled at the same time in the town square for a hunting party.

It’s an interesting story, which unfortunately can’t be verified, unlike the troop movements of the 12th Kentucky Infantry.

Commenting on his appearance in Jesse James Soul Liberty, Raymond said he had read the book twice. “The first time I read it from start to finish. The second time I read it again, but this time with the notes. Reading the notes was like getting an extra book!”

Sadly, Raymond also informed me of the recent passing of his grandson. An autopsy is being conducted. We wish Raymond’s daughter Kathy well.

UPDATE: Raymond James now informs us the autopsy is in on the death of his grandson. The young man died of a brain aneurysm. The autopsy report notes such deaths occur when the brain’s blood vessels become constricted. One other case of death brought on by a brain aneurysm among James family members is known. The death of Eleanor Marie James-Brush was caused likewise, cutting short her life at age 62. Eleanor was known to drink 2-3 pots of coffee per day, the caffeine from which was the most likely cause for constricting her blood vessels and triggering the event. Constriction may also be caused by recreational drug use, particularly hard drugs like heroine, even in short term use or in use long past.

Book Review – In the Shadow by Marley Brant

Marley Brant – In The Shadow (Incarnat Books 2012) 523 pp. soft cover, $19.95
Book Review by Nancy B. Samuelson

Marley Brant is well known to most of us in the outlaw-lawman community. She is the author of nine previous books. Among her books are The Outlaw Youngers: A Confederate Brotherhood, Jesse James: The Man and the Myth and The Illustrated History of the James-Younger Gang. This is Marley’s first book of historical fiction. She draws on her extensive research about the James-Younger gang and now tells the story from the point of view of Bob Younger. The characters in the book are all real people and most of the events described did happen so this is good history.

The horrors of the border war in Missouri and Kansas and the national Civil War that followed are all brought to life very well. The death of Henry Younger, father of the Younger family, and the rape of one of the Younger sisters is all described through the eyes of a very young and innocent Bob Younger. As older brother Cole becomes involved with William C. Quantrill and his band of bushwhackers the Younger family continue to suffer. The family is forced to move, the mother is forced to burn her own home, and the family is forced to move still again.

During Reconstruction things do not improve for the Younger family. The family once had extensive land holdings in Western Missouri but this is all gone. Bob Younger has a dream of returning to Missouri, becoming a farmer and regaining some of the lost family land. But nothing seems to work out for any of the Youngers for very long. The Younger boys try first one thing and another and move about here and there. Cole becomes involved in outlaw activities and the other three brothers, John, Jim, and Bob are eventually drawn in to the outlaw life too. Brother John is killed in a gunfight with lawmen.

Bob now attempts to make it on his own and does return to Missouri. He meets a lady named, Maggie, who is living on some of the land once owned by the Youngers. Bob and Maggie establish a romantic relationship and attempt to make a go of it farming. Bob feels he needs more money to make the farm a paying proposition. He is again drawn into the outlaw activities. This time the James-Younger gang attempt to rob the bank at Northfield, Minnesota and all outlaw-lawman buffs know how this raid ended. The three Younger brothers are all sentenced to life in prison.

The scenes between Bob and Maggie are very touching, however, I wanted to know a lot more about Maggie and her previous life that the author told us. There is a considerable amount of material here and there in the book about farming and country life. Some of these comments led me to the conclusion that the author is a city girl. (This reviewer did grow up on a farm in Missouri.)

The description of the Younger’s lives in Stillwater Prison is well done. And the scenes depicting the death of Bob Younger turned on my tear ducts.

There is not much new about the James-Younger gang in this book. But to tell the story through the eyes of Bob Younger is an interesting twist. The book is well worth reading if you have an interest in this group of outlaws and in the Younger family.


Press Release for In the Shadow

Thanksgiving for the Family of Frank & Jesse James

This Thanksgiving I’m particularly grateful to all among the family of Frank & Jesse James who worked with me and made their own contributions toward bringing my history of the Jesse James family to publication.

Yesterday, the day before Thanksgiving, I received an email from one family member who had just received her copy of the book. She expressed regret that Thanksgiving would prevent her from jumping right into the book, and that reading the book would have to wait until after Thanksgiving was done.

I replied,stating this needn’t be so. No need to wait upon reading the book at all to ingest the seasoning of all of its nourishing tidbits and tangy secrets. All that needed to be done was to insert her copy of Jesse James Soul Liberty into a food processor and grind away. When done the book easily could be absorbed as holiday stuffing.

Have a good one, all!

Virginia Jacques & Arthur B. Church Celebrate 60 Years of Marriage

60th Anniversary of Virginia Jacques & Arthur B. Church

Virginia Jacques-Church is celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary today with her husband Arthur B. Church. Virginia is the granddaughter of William Heberd James, great granddaughter of Luther Tillman James, & 2nd great granddaughter of Thomas Martin James, an uncle of Frank & Jesse James. Virginia added many valuable contributions about her line of the family for Jesse James Soul Liberty. You’ll find her and Arthur pictured on page 177.

Jesse James Book on Display in Kentucky Capitol

After inspecting my booth at the Kentucky Book Fair for tomorrow, I was asked, “Have you seen your book up at the State Capitol?” I got to the Capitol right before it closed. Sure enough, right off the Capitol rotunda, graced by the statues of Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Henry Clay, & Dr. Ephriam McDowell who appears in my book, and a few steps from the entrance to the Governor’s office, there was my book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, handsomely displayed in an antique showcase in the company of some of Kentucky’s finest writers. Any writer will know, viewing your book in a presentation like that is a thrill. I then attended a reception for all the authors, and got to meet some very interesting people. I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of history enthusiasts at the Fair, and signing my book for them.

Fire Damages Home Where Frank & Jesse James Parents Married

Nov. 8, 2012…Last night a fire occurred in the home where Frank & Jesse James’ parents were married in Stamping Ground, Ky. Rev. Robert Sallee James married Zerelda Elizabeth Cole on Dec. 28, 1841, standing before the fireplace in the home of Zerelda’s uncle, Judge James Madison Lindsay. Judge Lindsay parented Zerelda several years in this home, before sending her to convent school. That fireplace was the cause of last night’s fire.

I was last in the home in Sept. of 2007. TV’s Inside Edition interviewed me there about Brad Pitt’s movie The Assassination of Jesse James. I then did another interview in their studio in NYC.

The current owner of the home is James Barber, the son of the late John Barber. When John acquired the property about a decade ago, he sold off much of the land & the contents of the home. As a distant cousin of the Zerelda’s Cole family, John kept the historic home for himself. A couple days before John died, he offered the home to me for purchase, which I declined.

The historic site also was location where the revelation of the Zee James Collection came to light. The collection consisted of the trunk & contents that Zerelda had packed with Jesse’s widow following Jesse’s assassination. The women sent the trunk back to the family home for safe keeping. The home which remained in the ownership of Lindsay family cousins since Jesse’s murder preserved the historic artifacts for well over 100 years.

The fire damage to the home is repairable. Whether it gets repaired remains to be seen.

Photo & video courtesy of WKYT News First, Lexington, Ky.