BOOK REVIEW: Baker, L. C., The Ones That Got Away: Knights of the Golden Circle Exposed (no publication information given) pp.177, some photos and illustrations, no endnotes, bibliography, or index. ISBN 978149959393, soft cover $14.99
The Knights of the Golden Circle seems to attract all kinds of strange people and theories. This book, indeed, contains some strange theories and a lot of misinformation. The writing is littered with errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The photographs and illustrations used are of very poor quality. The author gives little or no information about where he got his material.
The author would have us believe that Lewis Cass, who resigned as Secretary of State because Buchanan took little or no action against the secessionists, and Illinois Senator Orville Browning were connected with the Knights of the Golden Circle. He hints that both men may have had something to do with Lincoln’s assassination. He also makes the preposterous accusation that Browning, a close friend and confidante of Lincoln for many years, carried on a lengthy love affair with Mary Todd Lincoln!
There is a lot of misinformation about Ben Ficklin and his association with Sen. William M. Gwin of California and the freighting firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell. He says Ficklin was a West Point graduate. This is not so, Ficklin graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Ficklin was acquainted with Sen. Gwin and Gwin did back the Pony Express, which was first Ficklin’s idea. Gwin was a farsighted man who fought long and hard for all sorts of development on the Pacific Coast that would benefit California and the nation. Gwin was, as one author put it, “adept at reconciling contradictory forces for his own political advantage”. However, to state that Gwin was trying to obtain a monopoly in the opium trade to raise money for the Knights of the Golden Circle is way out there in left field.
The author’s idea that Russell, Majors and Waddell and Ficklin had a monopoly of freighting during the “Mormon War” and made a fortune is completely wrong. Russell, Majors and Waddell lost a half million dollars when their wagons and livestock was stolen or destroyed by the Mormons and the Indians. The Pony Express also lost money and the company went broke and sold out to Ben Holladay.
Jesse James gets into the story in the chapter on Captain Logan Enyart. Enyart served in Company G. of the First Missouri C.S.A. He was married to a sister of Col. Richard B. Chiles, his commanding officer. Chiles later joined Quantrill’s Raiders and was killed during the war. Enyart probably knew Frank and Jesse James during the war. The author would have us believe Jesse James made regular visits to Enyart’s home in Nebraska City, Nebraska after the war. The author states that is was a well known fact that Enyart had a secret underground passage between his house and stables over 100 yards long to give the James gang entrance to his house. (He must have borrowed this one from some Dalton Gang mythology.) The author did not, however, seem to know that Enyart did invite Frank James to stay at his home when Frank was an official race starter in Nebraska City in August 1909.
Many other examples of bad information in this book, could be pointed out. The above should be enough to tell the discerning readers to save their book money for something more worthwhile.
When Frank and Jesse James appeared in the family history of Tony Johnson, he turned to DNA. Tony wanted to learn and know the truth of his family’s story. The story was told to each generation for over 150 years.
In 1975, I had a high school project requiring me to build a family tree. I reached out to my grandmother, Effie Ramsey. She shared what she knew. Then quickly, she referred me to her cousin, Cleburne G. “Pat” Pound of Seminole, Oklahoma.
Grandmother Effie said Pat was our family historian. He spent most of his life doing family research. Pat visited places throughout the country. He wrote letters to various history centers and libraries. Numerous genealogy chronicles published his work.
I met with Pat first. Then we corresponded through letters. Every year, Pat shared more information with me. My family records started to come together, especially the records for our Pound cousins and James ancestors. This was before the use of computers for record keeping.
Pat knew how to educate. Not too long ago, one of Pat’s daughters mentioned to me how amazed she was that her classmates would waste a summer break visiting a place like Disneyland. Why didn’t they go to cemeteries? Or rummage through dusty courthouse basements, like she and her father did?
In no time at all, I took up the torch to be educated, too. I had two full storage crates of material, plus what Pat had accumulated. Suffice it to say, my torch fizzled out rather quickly. I was finishing high school. I had my career before me. I put away the documents for almost 30 years.
Now, it is the 21st century. My own son is heading to college. My wife says that I really need to get a hobby. She does not know. Already I am dusting off the old records, documents, and research. I am looking at them with fresh eyes.
Throughout Pat’s research, a famous name pops up time and again. The name repeats itself through Pat’s interviews with family and with townspeople, stories especially about my third great-grandfather, Jeremiah James of Franklin County, Arkansas. The family stories tell that Jeremiah was related directly to Frank and Jesse James.
Moreover, among Primitive Baptist ministers in Pat’s own Pound family, this story was family lore, too. It was Jeremiah’s daughter, Nancy J. James, who married into the Pound family. These men of the cloth shared stories of the James gang being at their home, visiting their blacksmith shop, and being related to wife and sister-in-law, Nancy Jane (James) Pound.
Here are some notes and quotes from Pat’s notes and files:
“Our James family ties in to the above James family (Robert and Zerelda James) in Virginia. In our home, my brothers and sisters and I grew up in the knowledge that we were related by blood to the outlaws Frank and Jesse James, the connection being through our father’s mother, Nancy Jane James, whose father, Jeremiah James, was said to have been a first cousin to the bandits.“
In 1945, Pat received a letter from William Thomas James. The writer was the 80-year-old grandson of William Russell James, a brother of Jeremiah James. In the letter, William Thomas James confirms that his ancestors were cousins to Frank and Jesse James.
“Another verification of our connection with the James family of Logan County, Kentucky, was Mr. Walter Harris, late historian of Franklin County, Arkansas, legislator, school teacher, and author of a history of Franklin County. A few years ago, he took me to the grave of great-grandfather Jeremiah James. On the way, he said, ‘I guess you know that you are kin to some pretty famous people, don’t you?’ I remarked that I did, and he proceeded to tell me the same thing that W. T. James had.”
“Our Grandfather, Isaac S. Pound, a Primitive Baptist preacher and a blacksmith at Alma, Crawford County, Arkansas, was awakened one night at midnight by two men who needed their horses shod. My grandfather told them that he did not usually shoe horses at that time of night. They told him he would when they told him who they were. They were Frank and Jesse James. He shod their horses.” This Isaac S. Pound married Nancy Jane James, joining the James and Pound families together.
So now, in the 21st century, I have a computer, Google search, and Ancestry.com to enhance my research skills. I also have our persistent family story. I am pursuing new leads.
In my revived research, I came across Mary Helen Simon, Pat Pound’s sister. She lives in Colorado and just recently turned 93 years old. I flew out to meet her. I wanted to hear the stories that she and Pat heard in their childhood.
I told Mary that I wanted to prove the family lore about Frank and Jesse. With that, I started looking for a male relative who bore the James surname. It took a couple of years. I finally found the family line that was descended from Jeremiah James’ brother. Amazingly, their five generations grew up in Arkansas in the same location as Jeremiah.
Receiving approval to have a DNA test performed on one of these James cousins, I purchased a Y111 test from Family Tree DNA. Impatiently I waited for the test results.
At the same time, I also contacted Eric James of “Stray Leaves” fame. I inquired about having DNA compared to known members of the Frank and Jesse James family.
Eric already had the uniform results of the principle lines of the James family on file. The James conducted their own DNA study between 2002 and 2006. Eric said the results were private for now, except for the troubled DNA of Sam Walton, a James family descendant; and for the Ross DNA of Judge James R. Ross, Jesse’s great-grandson. Knowing the DNA of Judge Ross revealed the Ross family history that Judge Ross never knew. Eric write about this in his book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence. The James DNA results done between 2002-2006 have not yet been made public. For now, Eric could not reveal their DNA profile. But Eric did offer that, if an outside DNA profile was submitted for comparison, he could confirm or deny if the external profile was a match or not.
I thought I was impatient while waiting for the initial test results from Family Tree DNA. I quickly realized that I was anxious again, now waiting to hear from Eric after I had sent off my cousin’s alleles for his comparison and review.
Sadly, the results were not positive, but that is what research is all about. Genealogy is about proving the data, the family stories, and the lore. Suffice it to say, that now that I have become our family historian, my cousins are a bit skeptical about my information. Of course, they will always believe that Frank and Jesse are in our blood, if not at least in our hearts.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Official website for the family of Frank & Jesse James
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