Rest in Peace Sam Shepard, bluegrass neighbor in Midway, Kentucky and the best Frank James ever.
Rest in Peace Sam Shepard, bluegrass neighbor in Midway, Kentucky and the best Frank James ever.
When I first read Dennis Smith’s story “My Loveable but Unrestrainable Grandfather, Stanley D. Smith” the ancestry of Stanley D. Smith seemed entirely incidental to our James heritage. Except for his wife, Stanley’s ancestry easily could have been dismissed. After all, Stanley’s wife Geneva Josephine Curry relates more evidently to our James through her Harper ancestry at Nantura Farm in Woodford County, Kentucky. Nantura is adjacent to the Black Horse Inn, where Frank and Jesse James’ mother Zerelda Elizabeth Cole was born. Had I ignored Stanley’s antecedents out of habit and not looked more closely into Stanley’s origins out of instinct, I might not have uncovered the delightful odyssey of surprise that lay hidden.
Stanley’s hidden ancestry proved to be as unrestrainable as Stanley’s character. To my surprise, out of Stanley’s past appeared a variety of multiple spontaneous relationships. These surprises would have been unrecognizable before. Now, they assembled progressively to attach Stanley as a New Found Line relation of our James. At my odyssey’s end, Stanley D. Smith’s unrestrained ancestry links Stanley to another New Found Line of our James family that was first discovered almost twenty years ago. What a surprise to learn that our James family was in the past of Stanley’s wife, and Stanley, too!
THE DEMAREST SURPRISE
Not even Dennis Smith expected this new surprise. The genealogy Dennis provided to Stray Leaves for Stanley did not reach farther back than Stanley’s grandparents. When I spotted the surprisingly familiar “Thiebaud” surname of Stanley’s grandmother, my curiosity was piqued. I had to dig back further into Stanley D. Smith’s past.
The first surprise sprang up when I discovered Stanley’s ancestors reached back from Stanley’s grandmother, Emily Jane Thiebaud 1842-1919, to David Demarest 1620-1693. This immigrant Huguenot family of the Demarest came to America from the Picardy region of France through Baden-Wurtemburgh, Germany. Their “des Marest” family name was transformed in America to DeMarest or sometimes to Demaree. David’s brother Jean Demarest was the founder of the French patent that settled the northern part of New Jersey. Today this region is called Bergen County.
The DeMarest name is very familiar to me. When growing up in Chicago, I often spent my summers living with my aunt and uncle in Cresskill, a small town in north Bergen County. I wrote about this in a photo album I posted on Facebook, titled “My Summer Mother.” Six doors away from my aunt and uncle’s home at 425 Piermont Road was the borderline between Cresskill and the borough of Demarest. This town was named after the Jean Demarest family. Ralph E. Demarest built the small railroad that ran behind my aunt and uncle’s home, linking the developing small towns of Tenafly, Closter, and Demarest. Below Tenafly, the railroad line of Ralph E. Demarest linked to a connecting line in north Hudson County. From there, passengers rode the connector down to the ferry at Weehawken that crossed the Hudson River from New Jersey into New York City.
THE RANDOLPH SURPRISE
Here in Danville, Kentucky, where I live now, I formerly owned an historic Italianate home built by Rev. James C. Randolph. He was a Presbyterian minister who came to Kentucky from New Jersey’s Bergen County.
When I bought the home and began to research its history, I learned that in the early 1830’s a large exodus of veterans from the Revolutionary War departed upper New Jersey to claim lands in Kentucky for their military service.
I was especially surprised to learn that the home’s original owner and builder, James C. Randolph, came from Bergen County to teach at Centre College in Danville. Presbyterians were not the only group to come to Kentucky from New Jersey. Dutch families came, too. They settled in Harrodsburg and Mercer County, just north of and adjacent to Danville.
THE COLE SURPRISE
I also learned that a Cole family resided in northern New Jersey. To my surprise, a couple of these Cole turn up in the genealogy of the DeMarest family.
This New Jersey family of the Cole originated in Connecticut. They had a different immigrant progenitor than our Cole family in Kentucky, belonging to Zerelda Elizabeth Cole, Frank and Jesse James’ mother. The progenitor of the Cole family of Frank and Jesse James was John Cole. He came from England to Culpeper County in Virginia. From there, this Cole line migrated through the Dutch region of Pennsylvania into Kentucky.
Since the Connecticut-New Jersey Cole line appeared to me not to have any overt connection to the Cole ancestry of Jesse and Frank James, I never investigated this Connecticut Cole line any further. After the surprise I found now by looking more closely into Stanely’s past, I am beginning to think that maybe I should research more deeply into both of these Cole families, focusing precisely on the timeline prior to their arrival in America. The probability of these two Cole families being one now appears to be significantly increased.
THE POOR SURPRISE
During the American Revolution, Brigadier General Enoch Poor also was active in this region around the settlement patent of the Demarest family.
As the son of Thomas Poor growing up in Andover, Massachusettes, young Enoch enlisted to fight in the French and Indian War. Enoch’s family were supporters of the separatists against the Stamp Act of King George. In his mid-teens, Enoch entered the campaign to invade Canada against the British.
Later Enoch became a general in George Washington’s Continental Army, spending a winter at Valley Forge. Afterward, Gen. Enoch Poor was assigned to protect the Marquis de Lafayette. Some history says Enoch Poor died when he was shot in a duel. He is buried in the yard of the Dutch Reformed Church in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Although not yet proven, there is a very high probability that Enoch Poor, born and raised in Andover, Massachusettes, shared a kinship with Frank & Jesse James’ second great-grandfather Abraham Poor also of Andover, Essex County, Massachusettes. Both Enoch and Abraham Poor have progenitors named Thomas Poor.
While too old for military service himself, Abraham Poor was a supplier to Gen. Washington in the Revolution. Enoch Poor was specifically found at Valley Forge. So, too, was John M. James who married Abraham’s granddaughter Mary “Polly” Poor, born of Robert Poor a Coronet in the Revolution and Elizabeth Woodson Mimms. Also at Valley Forge with Poor and James was Joshua Logan Younger, another supplier to Washington’s army who became the great-grandfather of the brothers of the Younger gang.
The evident synergy shared by these two families of Enoch and Abraham Poor significantly increases the likelihood that, like the two Cole lines, these two lines of the Poor family also are directly related.
THE VAN ARSDALL SURPRISE
Returning to the irrepressible ancestry of Stanley D. Smith, I reached back through the ancestry of Stanley’s mother Della Belle Malcomson. There I discovered Stanley’s third great-grandfather to be Capt. Simon Van Arsdall 1750-1820 of Somerset County in New Jersey.
Simon’s Van Arsdall family was long established in its day among the Dutch of New Amsterdam (New York City), and from northern New Jersey through central New Jersey and down to Pennsylvania. During the Revolution, some Van Arsdall joined the Conewago settlement in Pennsylvania. Three generations of Simon Van Arsdall’s family reached back to their immigrant Sijmon Jansz van Arsdalen. Leaving the Netherlands, he came to the New Amsterdam of New York City. Like the Demarest, the Van Arsdalen surname transformed itself over time to Van Arsdale and Van Arsdale, and on occasion VanOsdol.
In Pennsylvania’s York County, Capt. Simon lead a militia group consisting of Dutchman. The militia included Abraham Banta, an uncle of Rachel Banta who was born in Bergen County. Surprisingly, Rachel Banta is a granddaughter of David Demarest. When Rachel’s first husband died, she married Capt. Simon.
Following the Revolution, Capt. Simon and Rachel Banta Van Arsdall joined a large group of “low Dutch,” many of them from Capt. Simon’s militia. Following the lead of another migrant from Pennsylvania, Col. James Harrod in 1775, they migrated in 1779 down the Ohio River and overland to Fort Harrod in Kentucky, later to become the town of Harrodsburg.
I was well acquainted with the Banta family in Harrodsburg. In 2012, I was visited by Warren Bonta who came to Kentucky in search of his Banta ancestry. Warren was a former right-hand man for civil rights leader Ceasar Chavez in California. Warren’s son Rob Bonta is a California State Representative. Warren and I traveled all over Harrodsburg, visiting Banta cemeteries and sites.
Some of these Banta and Van Arsdall who did not remain in Harrodsburg moved on to Switzerland County in Indiana, where Stanley D. Smith was born.
THE FINAL JAMES SURPRISE
My odyssey of surprise findings, seemingly circuitous and disconnected, finally pulled together. My litany of families – the Demarest, Cole, Poor, Banta and Van Arsdall – altogether brought me to a final surprise destination. Stanley D. Smith is, in fact, linked to the James family. The final connection between the James and Stanley’s Van Arsdall families occurred in Harrodsburg, Kentucky when Margaret Lightfoot James married Dwight Van Arsdall on October 27, of 1880.
Around 1999, Stacy Lynn Foster-Bennett contacted me. She had discovered our Stray Leaves website. Stacy is a fourth great-granddaughter of John LIghtfoot James and Margaret T. Brown, progenitors of the James family line in Harrodsburg. Stacy arranged a reunion of her line of James descendants. She provided historic photos and family bible documents with personal introductions to living descendants. Through Stacy’s generous contributions, the New Found Lines of
Stacy arranged a reunion of her line of James descendants. She provided historic photos and family bible documents with personal introductions to living descendants. Through Stacy’s generous contributions, the New Found Lines of John Lightfoot James and of Henry Field James then were published on Stray Leaves.
Since then, research has continued to advance. New lines of other related family have been found. In another stunner, four generations of men descend from Dwight Van Arsdall and Margaret Lightfoot James. All four generations carry the name of Clyde James Van Arsdall. Their middle name of James honors their James ancestry. They also wear some genetic physical characteristics of the James. See this FREE DOWNLOAD of their ancestry.
As if this long journey of research and findings did not produce enough stunning surprises, additional bonus surprises can be added to the mix. Besides his kinship with the James family, Dwight Van Arsdall has two other significant kinships.
Because Dwight Van Arsdall is a half-third cousin of President Thomas Jefferson, Dwight and his descendants also inherit kinship with all of the descendants of President Jefferson and Sally Hemmings who carry the Woodson surname.
Furthermore, because of Dwight’s marriage with Margaret Lightfoot James, Dwight Van Arsdall inherits Margie’s kinship with Cole, Dick, and Jim Younger of the Younger Gang. Not to mention, he also inherits half-cousins in the Dalton Gang. See FREE DOWNLOAD.
Finally, within a short distance from the burial sites of Dwight and Margaret Lightfoot James-VanArsdall reside the burial plots of John Pendleton “Black Jack” Chinn. Frank James and Chinn were wartime cohorts and close peacetime friends for the rest of their days.
Still riding through Kentucky with Quantrill at the end of the Civil War, they were confronted in the winter of 1864 by Maj. James H. Bridgewater, a Unionist but also a Pence family relation. Bridgewater’s bloody assault occurred at the farmhouse of Sallie Van Arsdall, east of Harrodsburg. Four members of Quantrill’s band were killed. When Springhill Cemetery was founded as a memorial to fallen Confederate dead, Frank James and Chinn disinterred their fallen friends and reinterred them at Springhill.
THANK YOU, STANLEY
Would any of these surprise findings be made if the story of Stanley D. Smith remained untold and restrained? No one can tell.
The James family owes some debt of gratitude to Stanley and to his grandson, biographer Dennis Smith, for teaching us about Stanley’s unrestrainable character, and for their ancestry that also appears to be just as unrestrainable.
by Dennis Smith
My great-grandmother Della Belle Malcomson-Smith died from complications when she gave birth to my grandfather Stanley D. Smith. My great-grandfather Arthur Kingsley Smith blamed Stanley for his wife’s death. He would not have much to do with Stanley until seven years later when he remarried and had a new wife.
Stanley’s grandparents, Oliver M. Smith and Elizabeth Shaw, raised Stanley. Oliver was a veteran of the Civil War. In Oliver’s household, Stanley’s four aunts spoiled him. They had a lot of influence on his upbringing.
Stanley Smith grew to manhood in Braytown in Switzerland County, Indiana. His maternal grandparents, John Shaw Malcomson and Emily Jane Thiebaud, were very prosperous farmers who farmed the historic Thiebaud farmstead. When they died, Stanley received a large inheritance.
Stanley married Grace Barnes Adams and spent his entire inheritance on her. He took Grace to Europe, but when the money was gone, Grace was gone, too. For the rest of his life, Stanley never proved himself a good money manager.
In his broke status, Stanley married a second time to my grandmother, Geneva Curry. The Curry farm was not too far from where Stanley grew up. When Stanley’s father took Dollie Turner as his second wife, Arthur reconciled with his seven-year-old son. When Stanley married for his second time to Geneva, Arthur built them a small house on his land to live in. Having watched his son squander an inheritance making bad financial decisions, Arthur never deeded the land to Stanley. It was in this house where my father, Arthur William Smith, was born.
Next to this small house, Stanley built and ran a small gas station and store. He also, farmed and did custom butchering in the fall of the year. Occupied as he was, Stanley began drinking and going to bars in Vevay and Madison, Indiana. Sometimes he would take Geneva and the children, only to leave them outside in the car. My aunt Elizabeth remembered going into a tavern to get her father and the bartender giving her fresh fried potato chips.
When Stanley’s money would run out, he was known to pass a bad check, only to be arrested. Geneva would sell a cow to get Stanley out of jail. This went on for several years until Geneva had enough of it. Even though she was pregnant at the time, my mother Geneva filed for divorce from StStanley in 1939.
Geneva’s divorce from Stanley was final in 1940 when my uncle, Paul Edward Smith, was born. Stanley was to pay child support for Paul. According to my Aunt Elizabeth, he never did.
Stanley moved to Indianapolis, Indiana with his son Arthur, my father. They lived with a cousin, Harold Mains, who was working for the Indianapolis Street Car Company. Harold and Stanley were raised together in Switzerland County. They were lifelong friends. Stanley’s store and gas station reverted to Arthur and Dollie and Stanley’s half-sister Reba Smith. They continued to run it for several more years.
In Indianapolis, Stanley married for the third time to Laura Woolford, bringing my father Arthur together with his new step-sister Myrtle Woolford. Stanley managed a parking garage, and my father Arthur worked for him parking cars. Stanley continued to drink but more responsibly. He had a hobby wood shop in the basement of his home, where he cut off part of his fingers on his left hand. I remember watching his hand when I was a small boy, with amazement as he ate his breakfast with missing parts of his fingers.
As his grandsons, my brother Randy and I always were treated well by Stanley. We stayed many a night at his house with Laura. Myrtle babysat us. Myrtle always likes to tell the story of me at age five when I told Stanley that teenage Myrtle had begun smoking. I suggested she should be spanked. Stanley did not spank her, but he did tell Myrtle’s mother Laura. Ironically, Laura and Stanley were heavy smokers. I remember Laura, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and play solitaire. She was always, Grandma Smith to me.
Sadly, Stanley D. Smith brought on his own death. He got diabetes. Stanley would not stay on his diet, which caused him to have a stroke. I saw him at his home then. We hugged. He was slender and frail. The damage was done. He had a second stroke and then a heart attack killed him at his home in 1961. I went to his funeral and burial. No matter what flaws my grandparents had, I still loved them.
FREE DOWNLOAD – The Ancestry & Kinship of Stanley D. Smith
“William Arthur Smith, His Military Life & Purple Heart” is a new installment series, revealing a New Found Line for Stray Leaves. Written by Dennis Smith, a first cousin of Frank & Jesse James, Dennis traces his ancestry in personal family stories through each generation. He reaches back to his ancestors Anthony Lindsay III & Ailsey Cole, Richard James Cole & Anne Hubbard, and Anthony Lindsay Jr. & Rachel Ann Dorsey. The series culminates in the story of the author’s cousin Dr. James V. Scruggs, the doctor and family relative who was the first to arrive on the bloody scene of the Pinkerton Agency raid on James Farm in 1875.
Arthur “Art” Smith had already dropped out of school prior to his marriage to Lois Roberta Roberts. He worked at various jobs to support his new family. That included working for his father Stanley D. Smith, parking cars. Stanley managed a parking garage in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Art and Lois R. Smith were now living with Nellie Roberts, his mother-in-law, on the east side of Indianapolis, in a half of a double at 251 S. Gray St. Nellie Roberts was paying most if not all of the bills. My brother, Randall Robert Smith, was born there on March 23, 1947.
Art Smith and George Thayer, a first cousin of Lois, decided that they would enlist into the U.S. Army, together in September of 1948. According to military records, they entered the U.S. Army in Madison, Indiana.
George Thayer related that they left for basic training from Indiana to Fort Lewis in the State of Washington. On the train ride to Fort Lewis, Art and George visited one of the stores at a train stop and they took some candy without paying for it. They were caught and the U.S. Army had to pay for the candy. Art and George were not allowed off the train at any other stops.
While at Fort Lewis, Art and George decided to go into the Airborne together, but George got injured in basic training. Art was transferred to the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, North Carolina after basic training. George stayed at Fort Lewis. During this time, Art received Airborne training, even though George related later they had to push Art out of the airplane every time they took him up to jump.
In 1949, the 82nd Airborne had the rare opportunity of going to Philadelphia for a parade. President Truman visited the parade and Art was one of the guards along the president’s parade route. Art’s photo was in the newspaper together with Harry Truman that year.
While at Fort Bragg, Art missed his wife Lois and son Randy. He had them come and live with him on the base. Lois related that Art did not make enough money as a private to take care of the family. She said Art ate in the mess hall. All she had to eat one night was a candy bar. She wrote her mother for a train ticket home. Her mother, Nellie Roberts, sent the ticket.
Art Smith had been friends with Chuck Hughes since he was a teenager in the Westside of Indianapolis. Chuck Hughes and two other unknown friends had come to Fort Bragg to visit Art about the same time Lois was preparing to return to Indianapolis. They had driven down in an old car. They were running low on gas money. Art, Chuck Hughes, and their friends talked Lois into cashing in the train ticket her mother sent her, and use it instead for gas money. Lois and son Randy drove back with Chuck Hughes back to Indianapolis. Art stayed at Fort Bragg. This was in the late summer of 1949.
On the drive back, Lois related she had used an outhouse at a rest stop where she was attacked by a rooster. Blood was running down her leg where the rooster had spurred her. Chuck Hughes knocked the chicken out with a dirt clod. The farmer who owned the rooster was upset because it was his fighting rooster. They high-tailed it from the rest stop.
By late 1949, Lois was back in Indianapolis. She lived with her mother Nellie at 316 S. Gray St. on the east side. Lois was pregnant again. Art no longer wanted to be in the U.S. Army. He asked Lois to get him out on a “hardship discharge,” because he had a wife, son and a baby on the way. Lois went to the Red Cross in early 1950 and the Red Cross got Art Smith out of the Army by the Spring of that year.
Art’s Father, Stanley D. Smith drove Lois to the hospital in an old pickup truck, on the day I was born. Stanley drove a little faster every time Lois had a labor pain. After I was born, Art and Nellie Roberts were in the living room at 316 S. Gray St., where they gave me the name of Dennis Smith. My grandfather Stanley always kept a good relationship with his grandson’s.
To explain in one word, the marriage of Art and Lois turned “volatile”. They fought the whole time. Lois threw a bottle at Art as he was walking away from her and hit him in the back. Art, Lois, sons Randy and me continued living with grandmother Nellie in the small two bedroom house on Gray Street.
Art was working in Auto Body Repair but he went out for cigarettes and a newspaper one day. He never returned. Nellie Roberts who was making less than $20.00 a week took care of her daughter Lois with grandsons Randy Smith and me while paying all the bills. There was no welfare in Indiana at that time.
My mother Lois searched Indianapolis for Art. She found him on the Westside, lying on a couch with a blond girl that looked like the actress “Doris Day”. She asked him to return home but he refused.
Lois then went to the Red Cross to see what they could do to help with her financial situation. They could not help her but they were upset that Art Smith was not living with his family and informed the U.S. Army. Lois R. Smith then consulted with an attorney and filed for divorce and support in June/July 1950, her only recourse. In June 1950, the United States went to War with Korea. On 22 Sept 1950, the divorce of Arthur William Smith and Lois Roberta Smith was final, with custody and child support of Randall R. Smith and me, Dennis Smith, going to our mother.
Lois R. Smith then consulted with an attorney and filed for divorce and support in June/July 1950, her only recourse. In June 1950, the United States went to War with Korea. On 22 Sept 1950, the divorce of Arthur William Smith and Lois Roberta Smith was final, with custody and child support of Randall R. Smith and me, Dennis Smith, going to our mother.
On 25 Sept 1950, the U.S. Army sent Arthur William Smith to Fort Hood, Texas. By Oct 1950, Arthur William Smith was on his way to the Korean conflict. He had requested to be returned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. The U.S. Army refused his request. Arthur William Smith was sent to the front lines of the Korean War.
Art was sent on patrols and guard duty. One time he was disconnected from his company and he found himself in the midst of North Koreans and Chinese. He covered himself with dead bodies to evade capture. Then on Jan 7, 1951, Arthur W. Smith received the Bronze Star. The U.S. Army had Art’s service record number incorrect in this order. He never received or knew of his Bronze Star. An attempt to get this corrected has been filled with an Indiana Senator.
Art sent a letter to his mother. Nine days later, Arthur W. Smith received the Purple Heart, for getting wounded in the buttocks from friendly fire. Korea had the worst winter in history with the temperature going 30 below zero at night.Geneva Curry Smith in Madison, Indiana telling her “he doesn’t expect to survive”, he has body lice, his feet are frozen and his friends are dying around him. An army colonel had taken their blankets away because he thought they had it too soft. By Jan. 22, 1951, Art was in a hospital in Osaka, Japan.
After his somewhat physical recovery, Art Smith was assigned to Osaka, Japan as a pay clerk until March/May 1951. Then he was sent to Wake Island to work as a clerk. They did not send him back to the front line because of his prior military service and the short time left in his enlistment. Art finally was discharged on Nov. 10, 1951 in Camp Carson, Colorado.
My grandfather Stanley was living at 1330 Naomi St. in Indianapolis in 1951, with his wife Laura Smith and stepdaughter Myrtle Woolford. When Art got out of the Army he lived with his father, stepmother, and stepsister. Art had post-traumatic stress, from his experience in the war. He was hard to wake up. Stanley had to throw a glass of water on him and run. Art would always come up fighting.
Art’s drinking increased. He was a bartender in several rough and seedy bars, one being “Blake’s Tavern.” Once, he claimed he played cards in the back room after closing with “Elvis Presley,” This could not be confirmed. It was possible, though, since the owner of Blake’s was an entertainment promoter.
Art started racing motorcycles and stock cars. He raced stock cars at the old “Art Zipps” or now Speed Drome on Kitley Road. He married a second time to Margie Louise Moore on Sept. 2, 1956. The marriage soon ended in divorce. It is said that she tried to shoot Art.
Art’s drinking led him to have a stroke before he was 30. The stroke left one side of his face paralyzed for a while.
He dated several women until he met Lorene Kellams Sodrell, who had a young son. He married Lorene on Aug. 31, 1958.
He remained married to her until his death in 2009. Art helped raise her son but he remained estranged to his own son’s his entire life. He rarely paid any child support for me and Randy. This put a huge strain on grandmother Nellie Roberts who mostly raised us. She never complained.
It is believed Art blamed Lois for his return to the Army and for his being sent to Korea. It is believed this resentment was directed against his sons, too. The casualties of War extend far beyond the battlefield.
Art deserved his Purple Heart and Bronze Star, but he would not have been in Korea if he had just stayed home and taken care of his family.
SMITH FAMILY TODAY
Arthur William Smith was born Nov. 15, 1928, in Switzerland County, Indiana.
On Aug. 31, 1946, Arthur William Smith married Lois Roberta Roberts, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Arthur was 17 years old and Lois was 16 years old. Lois was pregnant with Randall Robert Smith. They were living on the westside of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Arthur W. Smith was the son of Stanley D. Smith and Geneva Curry Smith. Stanley divorced Geneva in 1940. Stanley remarried to Laura B. Woolford. They lived in Indianapolis. Geneva later remarried to Edgar Fredenburgh. They lived in Madison, Indiana. Arthur’s sister Elizabeth A. Smith lived with Geneva Curry Smith Fredenburgh.
Lois Roberta Roberts-Smith’s mother was Nellie Plummer-Roberts. She had married John D. Roberts but John Roberts left her and Lois Roberta Roberts in 1941 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Lois’ father moved to Mississippi to train troops for WWII, where he married another woman.
Nellie P. Roberts never remarried.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, DENNIS SMITH
FREE DOWNLOAD – The Ancestry of William Arthur Smith
Read chapter previews of Jesse James Soul Liberty now
Authorized historical biography of the family of Frank & Jesse James. The first of five volumes, drawn from primary family sources. Includes family photos, letters, documents, memoirs, interviews, genealogy, with source citations, notes, bibliography, & index.
Published in the USA by Cashel Cadence House, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8957469-0-2. Hardcover, $36.95
– Charles Broomfield, former Clay County (MO) Commissioner, responsible for the transfer of James Farm in Kearney, Missouri from the Jesse James family to Clay County.
REVIEW: James-Younger Gang Journal
REVIEW: Wild West History Association
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.
Order your PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED copy HERE.
Available also at LOCAL BOOKSTORES & LIBRARIES. If they don’t stock the book, ask them to order a copy for you through Ingram Distribution.
In the boxing ring, the reach of Muhammad Ali spanned seventy-eight inches, longer at better striking than any of his opponents. In his genetic makeup, the heavyweight ancestry of Muhammad Ali stretched from Roman era enslavement toward Civil War emancipation, For Ali, that never was enfranchisement enough.
Prompted by a conversion from the Baptist faith to the Muslim religion, during which he changed his name, Muhammad Ali seized upon his deliverance. “Why should I keep my white slavemaster’s name visible and my black ancestors invisible, unknown, and unhonored?”
Moved by faith, Ali’s adopted persona infused every corner of his being. In the end, his fight redefined and symbolized his every oddity and eccentricity as authentically American. Ali claimed personal freedom, executed individual accomplishment, spread loving care and humanitarianism, and promoted social justice. Recognized in his time as “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali became a legend, not too unlike the legendary cousin in his shadowy ancestry whom Ali never knew, America’s favorite outcast Jesse James.
Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, named for his father who bore the same name. Although his father’s nickname was Cash, Ali’s full name came from a notable emancipationist, Cassius Marcellus Clay, a second cousin of famed Kentucky statesman Henry Clay. Five members of Henry Clay’s family bore the name of Cassius Marcellus Clay.
The Clay family naming practice, although trendy in the period for its classical allusion, derived from the naming practices of ancient Rome. Romans attached a three-part structure to naming. The given name was a praenomen. The family name was the nomen. Finally, the nickname was the cognomen, the common name by which one was recognized.
The family name Cassia was taken from the Latin “cassus,” meaning empty, void, hollow, or vain. In the Roman era, vanity was respected as a positive force by which one might rise in status out of nothing. As a class, the Cassii advanced to the patrician level, the name dating back to the 6th century B.C. Back then, Spurius Cassius Viscellinus vainly addressed land ownership issues between the patrician and plebeian classes. Patricians considered the laws too friendly to plebeians. Cassius was tried. Then he was violently executed. The Cassius name arose from a lack of estimability to transfix itself as a representation of honor. In Roman time, Gaius Cassius Longinus conspired vainly to assassinate the tyrant Julius Caesar. In the Middles Ages, four Saints held the Cassius name, most all were persecuted, martyred and then honored.
The Clay family vanity is well earned. Green Clay was a patriot of the American Revolution. He served in the Continental Army and the Virginia Legislature. After moving his family from Virginia to Kentucky, Clay served in both houses of the Kentucky Legislature. In his private life, he was a surveyor, retaining half of everything he surveyed. He also operated Clay’s Ferry at Boonesborough. Although a slave owner and planter, his wealth accumulated more via his industry and labor, owning warehouses, distilleries, and taverns. He was not so reliant upon plantation enslavement, common in the era, for building his fortune. Called upon by Gov. Isaac Shelby. Green Clay went the War of 1812 with the rank of General. Those who followed him were militia volunteers. Documents show he expressed concern over the treatment of “friendly Indians.” Clay County in Kentucky was named for Green Clay, and not for Henry Clay as some may think
CASSIUS MARCELLUS CLAY – THE LION OF WHITE HALL
Vanity affixed almost naturally to Green Clay’s son, Cassius Marcellus Clay. As a Major General for the Union in the Civil War, Clay was recognized widely as “The Lion of White Hall.” The family estate is located in Richmond in Kentucky’s Madison County. Twenty years before the Civil War, Cassius freed White Hall’s enslaved people. He then published an anti-slavery, abolitionist newspaper, The True American. While Cassius recovered from typhoid fever, his printing office was attacked and pillaged. Cassius removed his printing office across the Ohio River to Cincinnati, though he continued to edit from Lexington in Kentucky.
Following the Mexican War in which Clay was imprisoned in Mexico City, Clay returned to run for the office of Kentucky Governor. His anti-slavery platform defeated him. He then provided land and underwriting to found Berea College. The new institution of learning accepted women as well as men, Moreover, it welcomed people of color as students and educators. Cassius furthermore took a role in founding the Republican Party. His anti-slavery sentiments befriended him to Abraham Lincoln.
At the onset of the Civil War, Clay’s Battalion protected Washington D.C. A biographer described the battalion leader in personal terms as conceited and somewhat ridiculous. “With three pistols strapped to his waist, and an elegant sword hanging at his side, he talked to anyone who would listen about his Mexican War exploits and his political battles.” Lincoln thought Clay “had a great deal of conceit and very little sense,” Lincoln “did not know what to do with him, for he could not give him a command—he was not fit for it.” Lincoln appointed Clay Minister to Russia. Upon Emancipation by Lincoln, Cassius Marcellus Clay believed his influence upon the Emancipation Proclamation was “the culminating act of my life’s aspirations.”
While in Russia, Clay’s wife Mary Jane Warfield administered to White Hall flawlessly. However, upon Clay’s returned to White Hall bringing a son she never knew, Mary Jane divorced Cassius Marcellus Clay. He married again to fifteen-year-old Dora Richardson but divorced her quickly, and never remarried again.
Despite the controversy surrounding him, the social contribution of Cassius Marcellus Clay was indelible and genuine. On his death, the comment was made, “Never was a more striking scene witnessed on the way to Richmond, where the funeral services were to be held. From every humble negro cottage along the roadside and at every crossroads, the mothers and large children carrying those who were too little to walk, the negroes were lined up to pay their last respects to the man whom they honored as the Abraham Lincoln of Kentucky.”
THE CLAY ANCESTRY MUHAMMAD ALI KNEW
History does not record if Muhammad Ali’s great-grandparents, John Clay and Sallie Ann Fry were part of the enslaved family at White Hall. Nor can history confirm if John Clay was an actual descendant of Cassius Marcellus Clay. History may never solve the former, but DNA testing still can resolve the latter.
The possibility also exists that the Clay family of Muhammad Ali may not attach to the family of Cassius Marcellus Clay at all. Ali’s family might connect to some other Clay line of the Henry Clay family.
Regardless, the persistence of genetic behavior, character, and motivations between Muhammad Ali, today recognized as “The Greatest,” and Cassius Marcellus Clay the Lion of White Hall are compelling, as is Muhammad Ali’s apparent acceptance of his high probability of kinship. One cannot listen to Muhammad Ali speak about all he found in his world that was white without the Lion of White Hall appearing ghostly behind him. Ali is not an imitation of the former. Ali is an authentic reflection.
ALI’S KINSHIP TO JESSE JAMES
If Muhammad Ali’s ancestry on his paternal side is indefinite concerning his kinship to the family of Henry Clay, his mother’s ancestry points decisively to ancestry just as complicated and white but with a clear path to his relationship with America’s iconic outlaw for social justice, Jesse James.
Ireland claims it is the source of Muhammad Ali’s pugilistic genes. Odessa Lee Grady’s grandfather Abe Grady was an immigrant from Ennis, County Clare in Ireland. He immigrated to America in the Civil War era. Abe married an emancipated African-American daughter of Louis and Amanda J. Walker. Abe bought and farmed land on Duck Lick Creek in Logan County, about ten miles from Russellville. Their son, John Lewis Grady found employment with the St. Bernard Mining Company as a coal miner in Earlington. His registration card for World War I lists John as Ethiopian by race.
When Odessa Lee Grady married Ali’s father, Cash Clay, the couple removed from Earlington to Louisville. Cash Clay was an abusive husband and an alcoholic. Ali later affirmed of his mother, “She is afraid of him.” The couple separated when Ali was nine. When Ali’s bicycle was stolen when he was twelve, Ali turned to boxing. Odessa supported Ali in the recreation that became his profession.
Odessa inherited her Baptist faith from Ali’s great-grandparents Thomas Morehead and Elizabeth Bibb. Baptist tradition in Ali’s family originated in their Old Union Church in Russellville in Logan County. (Old Union is sometimes identified as the New Union or as the First Baptist Church of Russellville. The church is not to be confused with the Old Union Missionary Church of Bowling Green.)
The Old Union Church was founded in the early 1800s when the Russellville region was called Rogue’s Harbor. Migrants with few resources, little financial support, and no military land to claim in Kentucky following the American Revolution populated the area among a scattering of lawless miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. Among the founding members of Old Union Church were Spencer Curd with his father-in-law Col. John Curd. Joined with the Curds was Ali’s fourth great-grandfather Drury Woodson Poor.
Settling at Lickskillet on Whippoorwill Creek among founders of Old Union Church was John M. James who married Drury Woodson Poor’s sister, Mary “Polly” Poor. The couple became the grandparents of Frank and Jesse James. When John and Polly died within months of one another, Drury Woodson Poor was entrusted with the couple’s eight orphans. Col. William Grubbs of Old Union purchased the slaves of John M. James upon his demise. William Perkins acquired land from Spencer Curd’s brother Samuel with a house on Whippoorwill Creek formerly occupied by their father, William Curd. Thereby, Perkins became neighbors with John M. James. Later, Spencer Curd was instrumental in finding Thomas Martin James, one of the James orphans, a teaching position at Bethel College, before T.M. James departed Kentucky to become a millionaire merchant in Kansas City. Spencer Curd also was the father-in-law of Nimrod Long whom the James Gang shot in the robbery of the Russellville Bank much later in 1868.
William Perkins’ daughter Adeline R. Perkins married Muhammad Ali’s third great-grandfather Armistead S. Morehead. Sometime after their third child was born, Armistead had an illicit liaison with a girl named Dinah. She is presumed to be a slave. Sometime between June and December in 1839, Dinah gave birth to Thomas Armistead, Ali’s great-grandfather. Armistead and Adeline had one last child before Adeline died. In Old Union Church, Thomas Armistead married Lizzie Bibb, who bore Ali’s grandmother Birdie Belle Morehead-Grady. Birdie made her home in Louisville.
Some inaccurate history argues that the mother of Thomas Morehead was Armistead’s second wife, Henrietta Elizabeth Frances Poor. Henrietta formerly was married to Armistead’s brother, James Duncan Morehead Sr. With James, Henrietta bore five children. Among them, Elizabeth Ann Morehead was born in April of 1836, followed by the birth of Presley Leland Morehead in February of 1838. These two dates leave an interval in which Thomas Morehead could have been born in July of 1837. More decisively, however, both Armistead S. Morehead and Henrietta were ethnically Anglo and white. The census of 1870 defines Thomas Morehead as being mulatto, confirming that his mother Dinah had to be African-American. Regardless, Henrietta Poor’s marriage to Armistead S. Morehead makes Henrietta a step-great-grandmother of Muhammad Ali. From her Poor family descendants comes Ali’s step-kinship to Jesse Woodson James.
ALI’S CORROBORATING VARDEMAN CONNECTION
Muhammad Ali had more than one path to his step-kinship with Jesse Woodson James.
The sixth great-grandfather of Muhammad Ali is Johannes Vardeman, father of the eminent Baptist Devine Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman. Johannes is the Vardeman family’s immigrant to America from Sweden. The Vardeman family’s settlement in Kentucky was adjacent to the land of John M. James at Cedar Creek in Lincoln County. Next to them both lived the Kentucky’s famed Indian fight Col. William Whitley. Before their settlement, Johannes Vardeman was an ax man for Daniel Boone, blazing the Wilderness Road, which John M. James patrolled and protected.
When Jeremiah Vardeman eloped with Elizabeth “Betsy” James, John M. James arranged to bring Jerry into Baptist ministry. In his time, Jeremiah Vardeman baptized over 6,000 converts. He founded, pastored, and preached among many of the Baptist churches in central Kentucky. He also gave Jesse James’ father, Rev. Robert Sallee James, $20,000 and seven enslaved, sending him to Missouri to found William Jewell College, where Vardeman also founded a School of Theology.
Muhammad Ali’s connection to the Vardeman family gives him a confirmation line of kinship with the family of Jesse James.
OTHER ALI KINSHIP CONNECTIONS
Extending Muhammad Ali’s relationships further, other relatives appear to contribute to the genes of “The Greatest.” Among them are US Presidents John Tyler and Benjamin Harrison, Confederate President Jefferson Davis; several governors of Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina; plus celebrities Glenn Close, Hillary Duff, and Katie Couric. Several ancestors, like Robert (Coronet) Poor, make Ali and his descendants eligible for membership in the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution as well as numerous other patriotic lineage societies.
“I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I’ve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ain’t going 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other people. If I want to die, I’ll die right here, right now, fighin’ you. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice.” – Muhammad Ali
Kinship alone did not predestine the life of Muhammad Ali. Almost entirely, it can be said, the life of Muhammad Ali was constructed by his choice and direction alone. Whether Ali knew his ancestry or not did not preclude him in his choices. Muhammad Ali, aka Cassius Marcellus Clay, fulfilled the destiny of his genes.