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.

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

“This is true. I saw him”

TO REPLY, OR NOT TO REPLY ??? This letter request for my book Jesse James Soul Liberty arrived in the mail today. The writer claims to be a member of The Friends of James Farm, and claims to have met Jesse James because Jesse James did not die. Oh yeah…the writer further states that Jesse James was a blond. The writer states, “This is true. I saw him.”

I like selling books and enjoy doing so, but this takes the fun out of it. What if anything can be gained by selling factual information to an individual so clearly out of touch with reality? I feel like I’d be stealing from the ill or infirm.

Jesse james fan letter

Gunslingers Target Jesse James Author Eric F. James

Yesterday Castle Pictures invited me to take part in their upcoming docudrama Gunslingers: Icons of the Old West, to be broadcast by the Military Channel. One episode will be devoted to Jesse James.

Castle Pictures screenshot

http://castlepix.com/gunslingers.php
https://vimeo.com/57377686

In the preview video for the program, Johnny Boggs, past president of the Western Writers Association and friend to the James, appears. Earlier this week I knew Bob Boze Bell, the publisher of True West magazine taped another segment for the series. I passed on the project.

A production assistant informed me, “The goal of this series is to tell these stories in a thrilling, visceral, personal way, as no documentary series before it has. If we succeed, viewers will relate to each character on a more emotional level than they might have when they first heard about them growing up, and come away with a renewed appreciation both for the protagonist and the time and place where his legend was born.”

I replied, stating, “Since my focus is the James family, and not the partisan or criminal exploits of the James brothers, I am probably not one you’d want for your project.” What I neglected to say was I’d quickly grasp the opportunity to appear in programming that presented a factual historical viewpoint that was intellectually stimulating as well as informative and enlightening about Jesse James, his family, and his community.

Instead, I directed the producer to my book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, adding, “My quintet is intended to define the unknown character of Jesse James, that no historian or media has yet grasped or reported in 150 years. My books show the genetic character, personality, and behaviors, showed in his family from the American Revolution to present day. It may illuminate the many misconceptions of what history to date commonly has defined as Jesse James. “

I further added, “As successive volumes of my history roll out over the next four years, I expect the family of Frank & Jesse James will acquire a whole new meaning for America and the history of its development as a nation.” We already know painfully and all too well what the emotional promotion of gunslinging has done for America.

Time Vault Opened in Oklahoma

The discovery of historical artifacts always is thrilling. My exhumation of the twin children of Jesse James was clearly more poignant than the authentication we conducted of the Zee James Collection. The trunk and its collection was packed after Jesse’s assassination that his wife and mother. They sent it to his mother’s family in Stamping Ground, Kentucky for safesafe keeping. The collection became a lost treasure itself as 130 years of history passed until the trunk and its contents were rediscovered.

As I periodically return to the original family documents, memoirs, and writings that I draw upon for writing the five volumes of Jesse James Soul Liberty, the tie between my readers with the family of Jesse James, I know, will be authentic and true, and as much a discovery as if they stumbled upon the material artifacts of history themselves.

Because of this, I can relish and enjoy the discovery of others.

This week I learned of a 100-year-old time vault that the First English Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, just opened. From 1913 to 2013 the vault laid air tight and water tight beneath the church floor. When finally opened this year in April, the dead long gone again were able to speak. And because of new gramophone technology in the era past, they are heard decades past their time. See the mark at 1:06.00 for the unveiling of the vault and its contents.

Many of us pray to the dead. But fewer of us speak, or sing, or leave gifts for those yet to come. Shouldn’t we be doing a lot more of that?