Category Archives: Fun

Possum & Joseph McJames

With so much to be sad and concerned about, Joseph McJames was not about to end his day unpleasantly. Writing to his daughter Mary Ellen, he could not wait to tell her about his possum.

The letter Mack received from Mary Ellen was filled with disappointment. There was the illness of Mack’s wife, too, that concerned everyone. Mack still had his house keeper Clary to rely on. At the age of 82, soon to be 83, this “fine Kentucky gentleman” as Mack was called was still in control. That discipline extended also to his possum.

Letter of Joseph McAlister James to his daughter Mary Ellen James-Saunders-Huestis

10 o’clock
Coffeyville, Oct. 2nd, 1901

Dear Ellen,

Have just read your letter. So sorry, so sorry for you and dear Maggie. And sorry Annie did not come. I feel sure they could have gotten a wise position. I could have gotten it for them.

Don’t be uneasy about your dear mother. If any difference, she is a little better than when you left. I am watching over her both day and night. Clary is here and won’t leave until you get back home. And if she does, I will find someone else.

Everything is going right. Don’t be uneasy. Bring Maggie with you.

I will see Mr. Hunt and will box up all in safe condition.

Send a postal often. Tell us of all things. Clary is all right.

Will have a fine possum for dinner. I caught (it) in her house stealing eggs.

Affectionately,
J. Mc. James


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Christmas presents For you

Through the years, not every Christmas turns out to be perfect. This year, we are sadly disappointed that our special holiday present for you was ruined in delivery. Instead, we bring you the poem “A Christmas Wish,” specially written by Frank Younger for this Christmas season. Also, we re-gift you with a Christmas package of presents from years past.

 A CHRISTMAS WISH  by Frank Younger

Soon we celebrate again that festive Christmas Day
With our fellowship, joy, song and love,
And tiny Baby Jesus in His manger filled with hay,
A chorus of angels from above.

There's food and decorations. There's Santa and his toys,
And families gathered from far and wide -
Mom and Pop and cousins, aunts and uncles, girls and boys
All congregated around the warm fireside.

Let the spirit of this special time be with us all the year,
Let the gladness in our hearts guide what we do.
Let our smiles and generosity sincerely shine forth clear -
Let the Christmas Spirit live each day in me and you.

CHRISTMAS RAP By Thurston James

A GLITCH STEALS CHRISTMAS by Phyllis Marchese

The true story of a James family Christmas gone madly awry.


In my vivid memories, one of those holiday glitches was the year we had the most unusual Christmas tree in the neighborhood.

My Uncle Bud came to our house a few days before Christmas. The plan was for him and my Dad to go shopping for our Christmas tree. After a light lunch, they were off to find a tree. They must have looked for the perfect tree, because they didn’t get home until 10:30 that night.

CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS

From a Christmas past, an ever-present and a timely tale to not let Christmas presents get in the way, lest we forget the true meaning of Christmas.

A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES by Dylan Thomas

Lastly, never to forget dear Mrs. Prothero nor especially our James family’s ancestral roots in Wales…

Poet Dylan Thomas recites his classic Christmas story “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

Not everyone is happy with a Christmas present received. Not everyone can give the Christmas present they want. What matters, in the end, is to share with family the love and meaning of the Christ child, no matter who is your family.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from your family of Stray Leaves.


2017 JAMES-YOUNGER GANG – Diary of a Preview Tour

What Happened in Missouri began in Kentucky

Dan Pence at Spring Hill Cemetery, Harrodsburg, Ky.
Dan Pence, President of the James-Younger Gang, views the plot for the Confederate dead in Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

TOUR DIARY – DAY ONE

April 19, 2017 – Dan Pence and Tom Nall, president and past president of the International James-Younger Gang Inc., will arrive at the 200-year-old Hemp House here in Danville today. Then for three days, we will tour Kentucky and preview historic sites in preparation for the speaking events and tours that are scheduled for the 2017 annual conference in Georgetown come September.

Dan Pence-Tom Nall-Harrodsburg cemetery
Dan Pence & Tom Nall, president & past president of the James-Younger Gang, tour the Confederate cemetery at Hoordsburg, Kentucky

Today, we will begin at Constitution Square. We will talk about the enduring relationship between John M. James, Frank & Jesse’s grandfather, with Judge Harry Innes, his clerk & later Justice Thomas Todd, & Benjamin Sebastian of the Spanish Conspiracy. We will also address what role John M. James may have had in the ten Danville Conventions and how the Spanish Conspiracy led to his ruin.

Next, we will retrace the ride of Frank James, the Younger & Pence brothers with William Clark Quantrill when they rode through Danville in 1864 on a mission to “visit” President Lincoln.

At the family plot of the close Confederate ally of Frank James, John Pendleton “Black Jack” Chinn. Dan Pence stands beside the tombstone of Black Jack’s grandmother, Sarah White Stull Hardin-Chinn. Her husband Christopher Columbus Chinn is the namesake of Kit Chinn who traveled the racetrack circuit with Frank James in his retirement years. Black Jack rests behind Dan Pence among two rows of his Chinn and Morgan families.

We will tour their escape route from Danville to Perryville and up to Sally Van Arsdall’s farm outside Harrodsburg. There, Maj. James Bridgewater, whose wife was a Pence, caught up with the band and attacked them in the middle of a cold January night. Four of the band was killed. Previously, the James-Younger Gang Journal published my account of this event, “Why, Maj. Bridgewater?”

We will then tour Oakland Church cemetery where Quantrill ordered their fallen men to be buried. We also will visit Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, where Frank James and Black Jack Chinn exhumed their slain from Oakland Church Cemetery and re-interred them in the Confederate plot at Spring Hill around 1898.

Nearby the family plot of Black Jack Chinn, Dan Pence tours the family plot of Franklin Pierce “Frank” James. In Harrodsburg, Frank James was the cashier of the Mercer County National Bank. Black Jack Chinn sat on its board of directors. Frank was twice elected Sheriff of Mercer County, and also was elected State Auditor. He halted construction of the new Kentucky State Capitol when the legislature failed to appropriate sufficient funding.

Returning to Danville, we will visit Bellevue Cemetery and the grave site of the grandparents of Clell Miller, Henry Logan Thurmond & Mary Kenley-Thurmond. Clell Miller was one of the James-Younger Gang. He was killed in the Northfield Bank robbery.

We will round off today’s tour in Danville with visits to Weisiger Park next to the Boyle County courthouse where Joseph McAlister James, aka Joseph McJames, operated the St. James Hotel. We also will stop by the parking lot on Third St. backing up to the Boyle County jail where Joseph McJames owned and operated James Hall, Danville’s first and original theater, and convention center.

In the coming two more days, we plan to tour in Woodford and Scott Counties.

DAY TWO  on TOUR 

Tombstone of Thomas Evans James, brother of Franklin Pierce “Frank” James. T.E. James operated the oldest dry goods firm in Harrodsburg – Hansford, James, & Co. His partner Smith Hansford rode with John Hunt Morgan, David Hunt James, & Richard Skinner James, both of whom were captured and sent to Camp Douglas Union Prison Camp in Chicago.

April 20, 2017 – Yesterday, after a full day of touring numerous historic sites relating to the pioneer settlement of John M. James in Kentucky and his pioneer families of Pence, Nalle, Vardiman, & Sallee, we ended our tour at Bellevue Cemetery in Danville.

Standing before the graves of Clell Miller’s grandparents, I received the ultimate compliment from Dan Pence. Turning to me, Dan said, “My grandfather would have loved to have known you.”

Tombstone Rev. Jesse Heah
Behind the tombstone of Thomas Evans James, Tom Nall spotted the tombstone of Rev. Jesse Head.  Rev. Head married President Abraham Lincoln’s parents, Thomas & Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

Dan’s grandfather is Samuel Anderson Pence, the author of I Knew Frank…I Wish I had Known Jesse. This book and its companion book Quantrill’s Guerillas 1861-1865 compiles Pence’s lifetime accumulation of history, stories, facts, and data relating to Pence’s personal relationship with the social communities and family of Frank & Jesse James. Dan edited and published his grandfather’s book posthumously. So much of Dan’s book is new and previously unpublished history. I have used this book often in my own research and writing.

Jesse Head plaque
Tombstone plaque for Rev. Jesse Head. “Rev. Jesse Head, Jan. 28, 1768-March 22, 1842. Preacher-Editor-Patriot. He married June 12, 1806, Thomas Lincoln & Nancy Hanks, parents of Abraham Lincoln. Jane Ramsey Head, April 10, 1768-August 30, 1851. Married Jesse Head January 9, 1789 and nobly shared with him the privations and triumphs of the life of a pioneer preacher.”

Jesse Head
Rev. Jesse Head 1768-1842 who married Abraham Lincoln’s parents

I was thrilled to think Dan thought so kindly about my research and writing. Dan’s generous compliment could not have thrilled me more.

Today, we continue our tour in Georgetown and Midway and the historic site related to the James family there.

DAY THREE on TOUR

April 21, 2017 – So far, very few complications have arisen regarding our programming for the September conference. Everything is working out well and in some cases better than first thought. This conference is going to be great!

However, while conducting our tour, revelations have occurred to us which surprised us. There really is no reason why the three of us, all raised in the upper Midwest, should find ourselves bound together by Jesse James. Yet, here we are.

Yesterday, Dan revealed his story “You have to go to Kentucky.”

Dan Pence-TomNall-Barbara Nall-Perryville Confederate Memorial
Dan Pence, Tom & Barbara Nall tour Perryville Battlefield and its memorial to the Confederate dead.

As a trained chemist, grown up In Michigan, Dan knew nothing of his connections to Jesse James. Not until Dan’s son brought home a book one day about Jesse James and Dan began to look at his grandfather’s box of memorabilia, did Dan begin to follow his path of spiritual discovery.

Dan Pence, Tom & Barbara Nall tour Logan’s Fort, a first stop for any migrant coming to Kentucky from Virginia in the early 1780s, including Frank and Jesse James’ grandfather, John M. James.

Following the neglected leads left to him, Dan began his journey. Dan’s door of discovery opened when a near stranger instructed him “You have to go to Kentucky. When Dan did, like me Dan discovered the unexpected.

In the Kentucky corporate offices of Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Dan met with Bill Samuel. Bill showed Dan Bill’s own neglected box of family memorabilia. Among the artifacts in Bill’s box were photos of Dan’s grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather.

Ever since then Dan has been on his own personal tour to discover what meaning Jesse James holds for him. Even on this preview tour of historic sites in Kentucky and after publishings his grandfather’s books, Dan is still learning more.

James-Younger Gang-2017 Conference logo

The three of us boys from the upper Midwest agree. We are traveling a curious path of divinity. We fully expect more revelations to come. Come to Kentucky, and you can, too. Join us and tour with us at the 2017 annual conference of the James-Younger Gang.

35 Shades of the James Coat of Arms

Repeatedly, the mother of Frank and Jesse James seated her sons in front of the evening fire to drill them in their family heritage. With so little to tell, she only could have wished to have 35 shades of the James coat of arms to show her sons.

Zerelda Cole James
Zerelda Elizabeth Cole-James

Over and over, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole-James made a point of saying to her boys, “Never forget. You are descended from Royalty.” However, Zerelda never could say how that occurred. Nor could she provide her sons with any proof or evidence of what royal and to whom they were related. So, she referenced King James of England. A James coat of arms to display to her children might have helped.

Black Horse Inn
Black Horse Inn, Midway, Kentucky – Birthplace of Frank & Jesse James’ mother, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole

In her childhood, growing up in Woodford County, Kentucky, many wealthier neighbors of young Zerelda possessed a family coat of arms. The coat of arms they proudly presented or displayed was a relic, long held since family ancestors broke rank with the mother England in the American Revolution. Some possessed their coat of arms longer, for generations before. Such was not the case for the Cole family to whom young Zerelda was born.

However, as a teenager when Zerelda seized upon an upstart preacher named Robert Sallee James, she knew what everyone knew about his James family. The James descended from high stock. If Zerelda married that Georgetown College student with all his family connections and a bright career in ministry before him, she could escape her hardscrabble life as a servant girl in her family’s roadhouse ordinary. Zerelda could rise on the economic scale. And when she bore Robert children, her children would descend from royalty, too.

The Prophecy of the Two Bastards

The royal family history, which Zerelda presented to Frank and Jesse, was skeletal at best, and somewhat tarnished.  Jesse’s great-grandson, Judge James Randall Ross, wrote about the story that Zerelda repeatedly told in his book, I, Jesse James. Jim Ross grew up in the household of his grandfather, Jesse Edwards James Jr. He was privy to all the family stories his cousins never heard. Jesse Jr. made Jim promise to keep the story alive among his progeny. The story appears in Jim’s book in mother Zerelda’s words as “The Prophecy of the Two Bastards.”

James R. Ross
Judge James Randall Rosse, great-grandson of Jesse James, author of I, Jesse James

I, Jesse James-book
I, Jesse James by Judge James R. Ross

The prophecy always began with Ma’s description of those who had migrated to the Virginia colony in the early years…Many in the Virginia colony were running from something or somebody. Outcasts, robbers, bandit, bastards and the like were the backbone of the Virginia colony.

”Flowerdieu, Virginia in September 1622, Ma would say, was a place that harbored such people.”

…In September of that long ago year, two brothers William and John were arguing about William’s future…William had insisted on returning to his land [following an Indian raid] rather than staying in the stockade with his brother John…As John tried to convince William to stay, William pointed out that he must return to his land “Because it is my job, John. It is my heritage – our heritage given to us by our father.”

John replied, “Don’t be bitter about duty, William. We both agreed before we left England that we were giving up any rights we had there in exchange for the land and our start here in the new world. But it’s no use losing your life over your land.”

William answered with considerable bitterness. “Yes, a lot of ‘rights’ either of us had as bastards, except for causing the good King James a lot of snickers at court!”…”Oh, I know in his way he thought he was doing the right thing” he continued, “And damn it all that’s why I’m going to make it on my own land and sire my own family under the name of James! If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for my family.”

Background of a Bandit

Background of a Bandit-book
Background of a Bandit by Joan Beamis

In 1970, Joan Malley Beamis published the first genealogy of the Jesse James family, Background of a Bandit. Joan is a first cousin of Frank and Jesse, and a great-granddaughter of their uncle, Drury Woodson James. Joan discovered no royal coat of arms for her James family relatives to claim. Joan further ascertained that William James is the immigrant of the James family, and John was his son.

Nearly fifty years later, Investigation of Joan’s research files revealed her personal doubt about the genealogy she wrote and published. Joan wrote that, for lack of evidence, she still questioned whether William was the immigrant at all. Too many James families occupied the Virginia colony just before the Revolution. For all of them she deduced, the James family might have been in America for generations earlier. The family, too, might have been much larger than she alone could establish.

Stray Leaves

Twenty years of new research since reveals the immigrant John James, an arrival in America in the year 1620. Stray Leaves began publishing this genealogy in 1997, subjecting new research findings ever since to rigorous peer scrutiny on a worldwide basis. Today, the known, documented and established results of these conclusions support Joan’s doubt. They also disclaim Ma Zerelda’s family lore about King James.

Although the land the James family acquired in Colonial Virginia was granted through Alexander Spotswood from Charles II, a grandson of James I, King of England, no other kinship link to King James can be established.

However, through generations of royal courtiers, none bearing the James name, the lineage of Frank and Jesse James indeed can be traced back to their 19th great-grandfather King Edward II of Caernarvon, Wales and beyond. The boys also are descendants of the Plantagenet Kings Edward I, III, and IV, as well as King Henry VII of Pembrokeshire, Wales.

35 Shades of James Coat of Arms

coadbSeeking what coat of arms the Jesse James family might claim, Stray Leaves consulted the eminent coat of arms website, derived from the ancient and reliable records of Burke’s Peerage – coadb.com (Coat of Arms Database). There, on a page specifically devoted to the James surname, were found more than 35 shades of the James coat of arms.

Selecting which coat of arms might apply became an exercise in historical knowledge. Apparently, coats that reflect James of Irish origin were eliminated promptly. Next eliminated were those that reflect nothing relating to what is known of the documented history of the James family in America.  What remained are the two coats of arms that reflect Pembroke, Wales and Somerset, England.

From the study by Joan Beamis, she claimed that William James was an immigrant from Pembrokeshire, Wales. However, in the fifty years of additional research since, no link with Pembroke, Wales or any James family history can be established from Pembrokeshire.

Moreover, Terry Wells, the archivist of the Carmarthenshire Archive Service in Wales formerly has queried Stray Leaves regarding the origin of the claim that William James is the progenitor of the Jesse James family in America. In 2014, he wrote the following to Stray Leaves:

“The reason I was asking was that every so often someone turns up to research the ‘Welsh ancestry’ of the James family, but we have never found any evidence to support the theory at all, at least it is so for west Wales, I can’t answer for north Wales. But, I am not surprised, as in the wealth of supposed James family history to be found there is a dearth of evidence to support the supposed eighteenth-century ancestors.

“I had assumed that the idea had originated from Background of a Bandit. Interesting that the author later doubts both the Welsh connection and that she was an ancestor of the James family. Trusting to family lore is always a risky business.”

What remains to consider are these two coats of arms from Somerset in England.

coats of arms, Somerset 2 james-coat-arms-10-Somerset2

The black background common to both crests symbolizes grief and resistance, powerful emotions that continue to infuse James family members today. The fish that graces the crest represents bravery and steadfastness. Moreover, the fish also accounts for Christian faith, constituting a genuine, generous spirit. The fish also represents economy and science. In the one, the bull replicates bravery and generosity. Its horns replicate strength and fortitude with undertones of patience, humility, and sacrifice connected. The bull topping the crest may represent the landed gentry while the dolphin at the top may represent seafaring gentry, as well as swiftness, diligence, charity, and love. It is believed that John James the immigrant arrived in America from Wales as a captain with a ship of his own. The family’s founding of Somerset in Pulaski County, Kentucky evidences the James family’s continued strong tie to its ancient motherland.

From Longshanks to Courtiers

King Edward II of Caernarvon, Wales, and his father Edward I known as Longshanks, present crests of royal heritage.  Variations of the crest have been adopted by royal courtiers and extended family, all of whom appear in the ancestry of the James family.

Edward II coat of arms
Arms of Edward II

Queen Isabella-arms
Arms of Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II

 

 

 

 

 

Edward I Longshanks-arms
Arms of Edward I, Longshanks

Queen Eleanor-arms
Arms of Queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I, Longshanks

A Modern James Family Coat of Arms

If the James family adopted a coat of arms for use in the contemporary era, the coat would have to reflect the fundamental character, personality, behavior, and soul, which the James family typifies. That panoply of character now is documented and appears in the family’s official biography Jesse James Soul Liberty. A modern crest for the James would have to include escutcheons for education, faith, and service to community. Ironically, these are the modern equivalents of service once provided by kings and courtiers.

book
Education, learning teaching, knowledge

community symbol
Community, public service, equality, social justice

cross smbol
Faith, ministry, charity, compassion

The passage of several hundred years may have caused the use of a coat of arms to fade into past glory and romance. There remains, however, the modern equivalent. Being descended from royalty, as Ma Zerelda instructed her sons Frank and Jesse James, still carries the burden of social responsibility, protection, and defense for living a peaceful, productive, and beneficial life for both one’s self and community.

Hey, Jesse James family, you still do what is necessary, but what will you be wearing on your tee shirt now?