Category Archives: New Information

The Other Woman in the Life of Mack Henry James

The pursuit began in 1999. What happened to Mack Henry James, following his abandonment of his wife and children? Following Mac from his home in Kentucky to Bloomington in McLean County, Illinois, the chase has continued since.

It’s known that a third woman was involved with Mack Henry James. First, there was Dorinda “Dora” Phelps-James, the wife he abandoned around 1916. The death of Millie Mae Scanlon, his second wife or partner, from cerebral syphilis occurred in 1934. Flora Audra Spencer is the third. She is the other woman in the life of Mack Henry James. They married in 1935, a year after Millie Mae died. Mac then died tragically in 1945. Flora followed, dying in 1968. Like Millie Mae, Flora died of a severe brain disease. The implication beneath these facts is that Mac may have been the source of infection.

In January of 2016, contact was made with Rebecca Spencer-Landis. As Becky writes in the following, she is a granddaughter of Flora and the partner whom Flora never would identify. With some minor editing, Becky offers the following particulars about her grandmother and her relationship with Mack Henry James.


Email from Rebecca Spencer-Landis to Eric F. James

Hello. It’s nice to meet you. So many questions! Questions are good. I will try to answer them for you as best I can.

First – Flora Audra Spencer was my grandmother. I am the youngest of her son Olin’s four children.

About Flora

The other woman, Flora Audra Spencer
Flora Audra Spencer 1889-1968

She was a school teacher most of the year, which must have been difficult when she was pregnant. During the summer months, she was the housekeeper on a farm (not her parents’ farm) She had my father at her parents’ farm outside Stanford, IL. They cared for him during the week when she was teaching and she returned each weekend when she would take over the childcare and – from everything I was told – pretty much the running of the farm. She died when I was 2 years old so I don’t have any direct memories of her.

From what I was told, she was very strict – to the point that her parents allowed her to run everything when she came home. (According to my father, they hated to see her come home and could not wait for her to leave.)

The Father of Flora’s Son Olin B. Spencer 1921-1994

She never revealed the man who got her pregnant, although according to her sister Alta, the family believed it to be the hired hand who worked at the farm she worked on during the summer. We had always heard he was married with children. Census records list my father’s birth father to have been from Ohio, but no one knows for certain.

Olin B. Spencer, the son of the other woman
Olin B. Spencer 1921-1994 circa 1992 with his second wife Geraldine Pearl Schofield 1926-2001

While no one ever knew who my father’s birth father was, one thing was maintained by everyone – Mac James was not the man who fathered Olin Spencer. I asked – numerous times. I asked my father, his aunt, some of his cousins, all said the same – Mac and my father were not related by blood. (To be 100% honest, I still kind of have my questions on that.) I had thought they were blood related when I was small because I saw a picture of Mac’s son Omar (sic) in an army uniform and thought it was my father in his army uniform. When I got older, I could tell the difference, but they looked very alike when I was young. I don’t know where the photo is now.

Olin, Mac, and Omer

My father told a few stories about going fishing with Mac. I know that Dad and Omar sometimes visited each other, and Dad always spoke fondly of Omar. Don’t recall hearing much of anything about other children Mac had, or even why he was no longer married to their mother. I didn’t even know until now that Flora was his third wife. Either my father didn’t know or it wasn’t talked about. My father usually referred to Mac as “My old man” a phrase he used when talking about his grandfather as well.

The Marriage of Flora and Mac

I am not sure how Flora and Mac met, but my father did work for a time at Tick’s Junk Yard but I don’t know if that was before WWII or after. I would guess – and it’s just a guess – that if Mac was working for Tick’s at the right time, he could well have met her while handling something for the farmer she worked for or for her father’s farm. Tick’s was, and still is, a place most people in McLean County go to get rid of scrap or junk. They may even have met at church.

Flora left teaching after she married Mac. They were married Feb 20, 1935 in Carlock, McLean County, IL. Rev. E. Troyer was listed as the man who married them. They lived outside of Bloomington in an area known as Bloomington Heights. The house as far as I know is still there.

For all accounts Flora was truly happy for the first time in her life after she married Mac. She supposedly became a different person. He ran the house more than she did. She cared for him after he lost his legs and was horribly upset when he died.

She had lost her mother in 1936 and her father in 1944. My father who had been in the army was discharged to help her care for her father and for Mac, as both were ill at the same time and she was trying to take care of both. My father was just as upset at Mac’s death as his mother, perhaps a bit more as he had been the only real ‘father’ he had known outside of his grandfather.

After Mac’s Death

After Mac’s death…I think she did laundry, sewing, odd job types of things. When my parents bought a very small farm outside of Danvers, IL in Dec 1966 and moved in, they had both grandmothers move in as well.

I was told Flora began acting differently in the last few years of her life; sometimes forgetting things like she had experienced a stroke. This is why Dad wanted her living with us. My mother said – a few months after moving in – she began to forget who my father was and simply called him “that man.” She sometimes acted like she was a child, and sometimes as if I – the baby – was a dolly to play with. Many years later my mother would realize that she had what we now know as Alzheimer’s, which was not very well researched in the 1960’s.

The last few months of her life, Flora would hide from my father and only respond to my mother, telling my mother in a childlike voice “That man was here. He was looking for me. He hates me.” She died in Jan 1969 and was buried on my sister’s birthday.

I have seen a picture or two of Flora and Mac but it has been a long time. I will have to see if I have any or if my sister does. She may be able to provide more information too. She and my oldest brother live in Kentucky in the Cambridge Shores Subdivision on Kentucky Lake. It may take some time to do some digging but I promise I will get anything I find to you. I hope that what I have put into this has helped somewhat.

Best regards,

Becky Landis

Becky Landis
Rebecca “Becky” Spencer-Landis
The family of Flora Audra Spencer-James: Siblings standing L-R: Roy Augustus Spencer 1894-1923, Alta E. Spencer 1893-1983, Ross Hamilton Spencer 1891-1976, Flora Audra Spencer 1889-1968. Not shown is deceased infant Harris Edwin Spencer 1899-1900. Parents seated: Mary Catherine Ranes 1865-1936, John Hamilton Spencer 1863-1944

RELATED

Descendants of Mack Henry James & Dorinda “Dora” Phelps

Descendants of Geneva James

Ivadean James & Bernadine “Deanie’ James

James Family Dirt, Literall – Tombstones – Bastard Bunch – Ivadean & Gid Elliott

James & Earp Cousin Rev. Bernard Patton Randall Passes

Portrait of an Abandoned Family

Every photo tells a story. This photo tells the sad story of the aftermath left by a person not in the picture. Mack Henry James 1878-1945 ran out on this abandoned family. He left his wife and his children, shown here, with no support. With few resources, they successfully reorganized themselves into extended family.


Identified by Dean Watkins Conely, Feb 18, 2016: Center: Ivadean James Elliott & her 3 chrildren Patricia Ann, Gerald, & Rod Elliott. 4th Child is Del Watkins, sister of Dean Watkins Conley. 2nd Row L-R: Zena James Randall, Ada James Watkins, Geneva “Ginny” James Randall, Dora James, & Canzada Watkins. Back Row L-R: Lareen Randall Phelps, possibly Boyd Phelps, & Leonard Watkins.

Mac died terribly. He was a junkyard man woefully ridden by  Buerger’s disease. His two legs were amputated. Mac was left entirely to the care of one of the women for whom he abandoned his family. Following Mac’s death, his third wife Flora Audra Spencer, after caring for Mac and watching him die, would enter her own descent into the cruel underworld of Alzheimer’s disease.

Mac’s abandoned family progressed forward painfully. They were more successful. Generations of them, demonstrating high respect for family, have followed. Mac only survives as a lost memory and a sad story. The legacy of Mac’s family lives in his children and theirs.


The Abandoned Family in the Picture

Canzada Frances Gregory-Watkins:  From her apron, it is evident Canzada Watkins is the hostess of this group on the day the photo was taken. Born in 1872, she is the mother of Leonard Watkins, a twin born in 1905.

Leonard Watkins :  Leonard is a son of Canzada Watkins. Leonard also is a 6th great-grandson of Samuel Sallee of Culpeper County, Virginia. Just how Samuel is related to Guillaume “William” Sallee, the associate of Frank and Jesse James’ grandfather John M. James, remains undefined.

Ada James-Watkins :  Ada James, one of the daughters abandoned by Mack Henry James, stands to her husband Leonard’s right. All the descendants of Leonard and Ada James Watkins share a unique combination of James and Sallee kinship.

Delma “Del” Watkins:  The child standing far right is the daughter of Leonard Watkins & Ada James.

Dorinda “Dora” Phelps-James:  Standing to the right of Canzada Watkins, Dora is the first wife of Mack Henry James. She is the mother of his children. All were left to be Mac’s abandoned family shortly after the birth of their 5th child, Ivadean James in 1915. The 1920 census lists Dora at age 37 as head of household with four children between the ages of twelve and four and a half years. She had been head of household for almost four years.

Ivadean James-Elliott:  Standing front and center is the youngest child of Mack Henry James. Ivadean James inherited the genetic tall gene that is occasional among James siblings. Over the years, the unhappiness of her expression in the photo would turn into resignation and peaceful acceptance.

James Family History Is Lost & Unknown

When interviewed in 1999, Ivadean James-Elliott misidentified her paternal great-grandfather. She knew her grandfather Judge John Thomas James, who tragically was dragged under an automobile and killed when Ivadean was 8 years old. But she knew nothing about her actual paternal great- grandfather, the “talented, but erratic” Rev. Joseph Martin James.

Leaving his family in embarrassment and defrocked due to his alcoholism, outrageous misbehavior, and bigamy, Rev. Joe married Permelia Estepp bigamously, while he still was married to his second wife Rhoda May. Rev. Joe continued to father children in alternate years as he lived with his two wives in their houses in alternate years.

The community of Flat Lick Baptist Church and Pulaski County branded the offspring of Rev. Joe and Permelia Estepp as “the bastard bunch.” They were socially ostracized by a communal silence. Children and grandchildren of this line did not know or recognize one another. Nor were they regarded as family by others of the James family. Today, that has changed.

More Abandoned Family

Ronald “Ron,” Patricia Ann, & Gerald Elliott: The three children Ivadean James bore to Gid Chester Elliott, who also abandoned Ivadean as her father did. When Ivadean died in 2000, ironically Gid Elliott also passed 12 hours later.

Zena James-Randall:  Another child in the abandoned family of Mack Henry James, Zena married Rev. Clifford Randall Sr. They had 6 children. Zena operated a mercantile store in Science Hill. She was known to often forgive unpaid due balances. Her kindness and consideration, together with her children and their progeny, salvaged their lost ancestry. She restored dignity and respect.

Geneva “Ginny” James:  Geneva married Rev. William Lesbert Randall, known casually as Willie. Their 7 children moved in a world beyond Pulaski County. Five years after they married, Rev. Randall in 1928 began to conduct missionary work in China. For a year following September, 1936, he furloughed in Victoria of Vancouver, Canada. He returned to China until 1940, when Ginny and he finally returned to Pulaski County, he conducted Baptist evangelism.

Missionary Family

Missionary Family – Rev. William Lesbart Randall & Geneva James, with their youngest son Robert Randall.

Other Outlaw Kin

Through their ancestry in the Randall family, the descendants of Zena & Geneva James also are 3rd cousins, twice removed of Western outlaw & lawman Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp 1848-1929. The common ancestors they share are William H. Earp 1720-1778 & Priscilla Nichols.

Laurene “Lareen” Randall-Phelps:  The daughter of Zena James & Rev. Clifford Randall Sr., she married Boyd Bertram Phelps. The couple produced 4 children.

Boyd Bertram Phelps, possibly:  Zena’s husband.

 

Omer James:  Omer does not appear in this photo above. He is the sole male sibling of Zena, Ada, Geneva, and Ivadean James. Omer was known to visit his father Mack Henry James in Bloomington, Illinois on several occasions. He appears here with a friend identified as Clettie.

Contributors

William Hurt:  The subject photograph above was brought to the attention of Stray Leaves by William Hurt. He is the husband of Mitzi Elaine Watkins, a daughter of Leland Elaine Watkins and a granddaughter of Leonard and Ada James Watkins.


Dean Watkins Conley:  Dean provided William Hurt with the subject photo initially. She provided furthermore identification of the individuals in the picture. Dean Watkins Conley is a daughter of Leonard and Ada James Watkins.


Ada James Watkins’ Lore about Frank & Jesse James

Contributor William Hurt provided Stray Leaves with this following family lore back in 2010.

“Hi. My name is William Hurt (not the actor). I was at my wife’s family reunion sitting with her grandmother Ada James Watkins. We were all sitting around talking and she was sitting quietly enjoying the presence of all the young people around her when a popular cousin arrived and caused a big stir of people wanting to see him.

Ada James-Watkins

“Well, out of the blue she [Ada] started telling a story. I was totally amazed. She said, ‘I can remember when I was a young’un at our reunions when Frank would show up he would cause an even bigger commotion.’

She went on to explain that she was talking about Frank James. I knew that she was somehow related to Frank and Jesse James, but I didn’t know that she actually knew one of them, let alone that Frank would come to Pulaski County to a James family reunion. Unfortunately, she stopped talking and a few months later suffered a stroke and forgot everything and everybody.

“I grew up in Campground close to where The James Gang hid out after an aborted attempt at robbing The Bank of Somerset, according to stories. It seems they rode into town and saw some young men with shotguns and thought someone had tipped them off. In all reality, the boys [with the shotguns] were going rabbit hunting and never even noticed the James gang. The gang returned to Campground and hid out a few days then rode on to rob the bank in Jamestown so the story was told to me. The cabin they hid out in burned when I was very young but the chimneys are still standing.

“My wife has been wanting to find out exactly what her relation to Frank and Jesse really is. Lots of people around here claim relation but most I do not believe. I didn’t really think my wife was related until her grandmother told that story and one of her cousins tried to explain the blood tie. Thank you for your time. I no longer live in Campground I now live in what locals call the Halloween house in Stanford.”

Ada James-Watkins (c) with daughters L-R Dean, Delma, and twins Zena and Lena Watkins.

The Facts about Ada James Watkins Lore

Alexander Franklin “Frank” James died February 15, 1915, when Ada James was still only 4 years old. Other James family relate stories of the James brothers visiting Rev. Joseph Martin James’ stone house in Shopville, but none of the stories are substantiated.  If Ada recalled a Frank James, it probably was another Frank James among the family and not the notorious Civil War partisan who had surrendered.

The attempted robbery of the First National Bank of Somerset, KY occurred in either 1876 or 1877 as reported in Alma Tibbal’s book The History of Pulaski County.  As is widely known and documented, Jesse James lived in Nashville and secondly in Waverly, Tennessee. Frank also lived in Nashville. Both were pursuing the turf trade and racing. Frank was pursuing a lucrative career as a race starter. They had little need for robbing banks.

Lastly, the Campground site mentioned has been researched and documented HERE on Stray Leaves.

Descendants of Dorinda “Dora” Phelps-James, 2017

RELATED

Descendants of Mack Henry James & Dorinda “Dora” Phelps

Descendants of Geneva James

Ivadean James & Bernadine “Deanie’ James

James Family Dirt, Literall – Tombstones – Bastard Bunch – Ivadean & Gid Elliott

James & Earp Cousin Rev. Bernard Patton Randall Passes

Flora Audra Spencer, The Other Woman in The Life of Mack Henry James

Research Updates for Jesse James Soul Liberty

The publication in 2012 of Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence, did not end research into all the subject matter in the book. The accumulation and publication of past biography and living James family history continue. Here are some recent research updates to Jesse James Soul Liberty to begin 2019, plus a couple of previews of what more is to come.


New Photo

The Final One Possibly Before Tragic Destruction

Paso Robles Hotel, 1935
In the 1935 Pioneer Day parade the royalty rode horseback. Marshal Daniel S. Lewis flanked by Belle Hazel Kuhnle on his right and Queen Anna Baker on his left.

Recognize this place?  It’s the Paso Robles Hotel built in California by Drury Woodson James. The sign in front says room rates start at $1.50 per night. This 1935 image surfaced recently among publicity for the annual Pioneer Day held in Paso Robles. Five years later in 1940, Drury’s Paso Robles Hotel would be no more.


Coffeyville Welcomes Joseph McJames

Research Update – More Details Learned

Joseph McAlister James arrives in Coffeyville
Newspaper account of the arrival of Joseph McJames in Coffeyville, Kansas

The story of Joseph McAlister James, aka Joseph McJames, appears in Jesse James Soul Liberty in the chapter “Goodland.” Stray Leaves first introduced Mack’s time in Goodland, as well as his time in Coffeyville and the capture of his son in the Dalton Gang’s raid on the Condon Bank. Now, new details come to light.

This republished newspaper clipping informs us of Mack’s welcome to Coffeyville, Kansas in 1878. We also learn that Mack expected to bring two sons with him, as well as a brother who formerly managed Mack’s holdings in Goodland, Indiana.

We further learn that Mack’s son, John R. James, attended Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, the town Mack was leaving. Centre is the same college attended earlier in 1853 by Coleman Purcell Younger, a first cousin of the Younger Gang, and by Thomas T. Crittenden. As a lawyer, Younger later foreclosed on a large number of properties in Paso Robles owned by Drury Woodson James. The numerous foreclosures triggered Drury’s financial collapse during the Long Depression and the Panic of 1893. Later as Governor of Missouri, Crittenden organized the bounty to capture Jesse James that tragically resulted in the assassination of the outlaw.

Joseph McAlsiter James obituay
Obituary for Joseph McJames

In this obituary, the reference to Mack’s three sons includes George Thomas James 1853-1938, Daniel Ephraim “D.E.” James 1845-1913 who was captured in the Dalton Gang’s raid on the Coffeyville bank, and Francis Marion “F.M.”/Marion James Sr. 1843-1910, great-grandfather of Stray Leaves‘ publisher Eric F. James.


Rev. John R. James, son of Joseph McJames

Research Update – Mack Maintains Press Relations

John Robert James ordination in the news
Newspaper account of the ordination of Rev. John R. James

A son of Joseph McJames was the Baptist minister Rev. John Robert James. He attended Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

However, he was ordained at the age of 27 in Lancaster in Garrard County, Kentucky. In 1782, Garrard County was the arrival destination of the Traveling Church, that included many of rebel the Baptist preachers who self-exiled from Colonial Virginia into the forbidden western frontier of the Kentucky District. Among these dissenters was Rev. James’ great-grandfather John M. James.

Lancaster was a good place for a novice preacher to start his ministry. There, John could get a leg up. The parents of John’s wife, Annie Wearen, owned and operated a furniture store in Lancaster. Within the store, they provided undertaking services and managed the local cemetery.

Following his ordination, Rev. James visited his father in Coffeyville. There, he preached to a congregation of the local Methodist church who welcomed him warmly, as they later would when members of the Younger family visited in Coffeyville.


Rev. John R. James Killed

Research Update – An Early and Untimely Loss

A newspaper in Paris, Kentucky, where Rev. James was serving the First Baptist Church,  announced his tragic passing.

REV. JOHN R. JAMES KILLED
He Jumps From a Buggy, is Knocked Unconscious and Dies Without Speaking.
“WE KNOW NOT THE DAY NOR THE HOUR.”

About 5 o’clock last evening Rev. John R. James, pastor of the Baptist church in the city, started to Millersburg in a buggy in company with WM. M. GOODLOE, and when near the residence of RUSSELL MANN their horse frightened and ran off. MR. JAMES jumped from the buggy, fell on the pike, and was unconscious until 12 o’clock at which time he died. MR. GOODLOE remained in the buggy and was not hurt.

Mr. James had an appointment to deliver a sermon at Millersburg, and expected to return home after the service. They were driving the Mexican pony of MISS LUCY ___LLER, and he was thought to be very gentle. The deceased had only been a resident of this city for the past three weeks, taking charge of the Baptist church on the first Sunday of this month. He came here from Kirksville, Madison County, but was lately of Danville, Ky. His age was 28 years and he leaves a wife and two children, who had lately taken possession of his parsonage.

Rev. Mr. James was winning golden opinions from all who heard him. He had been here only a month, but in that time had delivered a number of the best and most striking discourses ever heard here, and was recognized as a valuable accession to the ministry of our city. The Thanksgiving services were to have been held at the Baptist church tomorrow and MR. JAMES was to deliver the sermon. When the news of the accident reached town, the whole community was shocked and many persons went down to MR. MANN’s to render him all the assistance possible.

His wife and children were taken to him soon after the occurrence, but he never recognized them, being unconscious from the time he was hurt until his death. His father, JOSEPH MC JAMES  was telegraphed, to Westervelt Ohio, their old home, and her mother, MRS. WEARING, to Kirksville.


James City, Virginia

Query of the Day – Opens Door to Vol. III of JJSL

Sept. 15, 2018
When I was a child about (1954) we had a boy (Ray James) who was a foster kid staying at my aunts house near Warrenton, Va. He said he was kin to Jesse James. His family lived in the area near “James City” which is in Madison Co. Va. A few years ago I went to photograph the “Ghost Town” of “James City” and also went into a little local museum of “James City” and read an article that stated that “Frank James” had visited relatives in “James City” some years before he died. Also that the “Ford” family came from this area too. Can you verify that this connection is true?

Reply

Thank you for your query. I wish you still were in contact with Ray James. I’d love to talk with him.

I’d guess that Ray did not know exactly how he was related to Frank & Jesse James. It’s taken me nearly 20 year to figure it out myself. I had a lot of help from DNA, though. I know Frank & Jesse had no idea about all of their early Virginia ancestries that reach back to UK royalty around 1620, and still further beyond to the prophets of the biblical period.

In September 2017 the Graves family of Graves Mountain and Graves Mill in Madison County VA assembled here in Woodford County, KY to hear all about their kinship to the Jesse James family. I gave a slide presentation that took up an entire morning, peppered with endless questions. I have yet to mount that presentation for our website Stray Leaves. However, here (below) is a little introduction video with some photos from my talk.

The story of these James and their descendants will be told in Volume III of my Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet. Expect publication in about 3-4 years.

James City, Virginia (now renamed Leon) was founded by Rev. Daniel James 1764-1845. You will find him listed in our SURNAMES search genealogy database on Stray Leaves. Frank & Jesse James became future cousins of this ancestral James line which the brothers never knew.

Descendants of Rev. James who left Virginia migrated into the Kentucky frontier to become tobacco & hemp planters, bankers, riders with John Hunt Morgan, captives of the Union, and bluegrass blue blood. Others went further into Louisiana Territory to become charge d’affairs for Spain, Natchez slave traders, Mississippi and Nashville bankers. They receded in time as bankrupts.

James City, founded by Rev. Daniel James Sr. 1764-1845

Hazel Goes to Egypt

Upcoming Feature – Budding New Family Author?

On pages 221-222 of Jesse James Soul Liberty appear the McGreevy-Harmon descendants of Thomas Martin “T.M.” James.

T.M.’s second great-grandson, Jamie Harmon, has been taking his family on annual global vacations. Right now the family is in Giza in Egypt, staying next to the pyramids. Jamie and his wife Ashley have been sending back extraordinary photos of their experiences that include their children Hazel and Hugh Harmon.

Back in 2011, Hazel debuted on Stray Leaves in the excellent photos taken at Hazel’s birth. In Egypt now, Hazel is making local friends and really enjoying the sights.

Jamie’s imaginative photos showing Hazel’s fun and delight prompted me to suggest that Hazel should share her vacation adventure with other children who cannot easily go to Egypt. Hazel could write a children’s book about her adventure now, and write about her future vacation adventures in the coming years. The first in this new series of Hazel’s children’s books could be Hazel Goes to Egypt. Easily, Hazel could join others among the James family who are notable book authors.


A Most Unusual Christmas Gift

Research Update Opens the Another Door to Vol. III

A most unusual Christmas gift arrived. On this recent Christmas day, Stray Leaves learned of the passing of Dorvan Paul James.

Although Dorvan died two years ago in 2016, his obituary was not discovered sooner, and for good reason. In the obituary, Dorvan is identified by his nickname of Buddy James. Ironically, that’s the same family nickname given to Eric F. James, publisher of Stray Leaves.

D. D. James
David Daniel “D.D.” James Sr. 1819-1902, great-grandfather of Dorvan Paul James and his siblings

D.P. James, as he was known locally in Texas, is a 3rd cousin, once removed of Frank & Jesse James. On his mother’s side of the family, D.P. James also is a 6th cousin, twice removed of the Younger brothers.

The first great-grandfather of Dorvan is David Daniel “D.D.” James, one of the three brothers who operated the Forks of the Road slave market in Natchez, Mississippi prior to the Civil War.

Their father Thomas Graves James, Dorvan’s 2nd great-grandfather, ran away from the James family home in Culpeper, Virginia, after having a disagreement with his father Joseph James, the Elder. Runaway behavior seems almost genetic among men of the James family. Another sibling, Joseph James the Younger, also ran away from home citing, his disagreement, too, with the elder Joseph James. 

Going South and West, Thomas Graves James became wealthy serving Spain as a charge d’affairs in Georgia and in Choctaw lands of Mississippi territory. He acquired much land, most notable of which was Hyde’s Landing in Nashville, a retreat pictured below where Frank and Jesse James on occasion resided.

In 2014, Dorvan’s brother Gene Dale James pre-deceased Dorvan. Their sister, Sara Ann James-Bowers, survives. The unusual story of this not-so-usual family, reunited by DNA testing with the James ancestry they lost, will appear in Volume III of Jesse James Soul Liberty, The Forks of the Road.



Jesse James oul Liberty, Vol. I

Final Sift and Year-End Roundup of 2018

The final Sift and the year-end roundup of 2018 have produced some surprises.  Then again, Stray Leaves never fails to produce surprises. To receive future Sift surprises as they happen, LIKE Stray Leaves on Facebook.


Swain's Jesse James Tent Show

Mimms and Pence Bombed at Pearl Harbor

Wyatt Leon James, survivor of Pearl Harbor
Wyatt Leon Mimms 1917-2005

December 7 is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. On that fateful day, Wyatt Leon Mimms was stationed in Pearl Harbor, serving the US Navy.

Wyatt is a 3rd cousin, one generation removed of Frank and Jesse James.

After the war, Wyatt remained for some time in Hawaii, working as a police officer and later a special agent with GTE Telephone. He was married six times in his lifetime. He returned to the States and died in Placerville, California.

Wyatt’s father, Eddie Bernard Mimms, brought his family to Salinas, California from Crawford County, Kansas, and Oklahoma where Wyatt was born.

Archibald Bernard Pence Sr.., survivor of Pearl Harbor
Archibald Bernard Pence Sr..

Archibald Bernard Pence Sr. served onboard the USS Oklahoma in the US Navy as Chief Petty Officer. The Oklahoma was docked in Pearl Harbor on that fateful day. Arch was blown overboard. Later, he was picked up by another serviceman in a small boat. They proceeded to pull fellow servicemen from the water.

Archibald Bernard Pence Sr. is a third cousin, two generations removed of Bud and Donnie Pence of the James gang.


Buy the Russellville Bank

Russellville Bank, robbed by the James Gang
The Southern Bank of Kentucky became better known as the Russellville Bank after it was robbed by the James Gang.

The Russellville Bank with its stately attached residence of bank cashier Nimrod Long is back on the market. This time it can be purchased directly from the owner and retired attorney Joe Clark.

Joe and his wife gave me a tour of this beautiful home in 2016 when I spoke before the Southern Kentucky Pastfinders inside the old Logan County Courthouse. Locally, it was claimed, my appearance was the first and only time a James was brought to court and held accountable for the assault on Nimrod long and the James gang’s robbery of the Russellville Bank.

The Carters have executed a wonderful restoration of the historic building. Located in the Russellville Historic District, the restored property combines historical authenticity and preservation with a modern sensibility for high style and luxury Southern comfort.

Anyone interested in an investment partnership with yours truly to turn this into an Airbnb tourism destination?


New Photos of Rhoda James-Hattler

Courtesy of James descendant Gearld Willis, we now have several new images of Rhoda Ann James & spouse Charles Colfax Hattler and their children Glee Estes and Jewell Irene Hatler. Rhoda Ann is a daughter of Cyrenius Waite James and the youngest sister of John James of Alvarado.


Marriage Announcement for Francis Marion James Jr. & Anna Emelian Knaff

wedding announcement of Frank James & Anna Knaff
1908 Wedding announcement of Francis Marion James Jr. 1880-1931 & Anna Emelian Knaff 1883-1954

Look what showed up on Facebook, thanks to cousin Tom Walden who is the administrator of the THOLL family group on Facebook. This is the 1908 wedding announcement of my grandparents.

New information from this is Anna’s residence address, plus her middle name of Emelian,. Formerly she was documented by their family as Emalia. It turns out the name Emelian is Norwegian in origin, and Emalia is the male version of the name. Anna was not Norwegian. Her Knaff family immigrated in 1848 to Wisconsin from the Duchy of Luxembourg, where Knaff cousins still are influential in the state government. Em-ELL-ee-ah is the pronunciation of the name. I’m still looking for the meaning behind the name.


The Early Death of Reno Conley Herrin

Reno Herrin
Dedication of Shopville School Annual to Reno Conley Herrin 1919-1940 who died an early and untimely death.
Allen Custer Herrin & Susan Harriett James
Allen Custer Herrin & Susan Harriett James, parents of Reno Conley Herrin

RENO CONLEY HERRIN 1919-1940 is a great-grandson of the “talented, but erratic” Rev. Joseph Martin James & Rhoda May. His grandparents are Susan Harriet James & Joseph Allen Herrin, pictured here.

From Terry Joseph White, a 3rd great-grandson of Joseph Martin James, to Eric F. James, May 14, 2011:“I just came across the photo booklet that Aunt Virgie (Reno’s sister Virgie Lucille Herrin Fuller) did a few years ago of the Herrin family. Here’s a summary of what she wrote about Reno: ‘Reno had lung problems all of his life and missed a lot of school due to health issues. He was an excellent basketball player, even tho doctors warned him not to play. Reno refused to go to school unless he could play. Reno collapsed on the ball court two months before he was to graduate. When the doctors inserted a needle to draw fluid from his lungs, the needle punctured his heart, which was enlarged, and caused his death’.”

Reno Herrin-Shopville School
Reno Conley Herrin at Shopville School

The eldest sibling of Reno also died too early and tragically. Leslie Raymond Herrin 1902-1930 died by drowning at the age of 28.


Obituary of Maj. George Burns Hite

Maj. George Burns Hite 1825-1891 is the husband of Nancy Gardner James, an aunt of Frank & Jesse James.

Two of their sons, Robert Woodson & Clarence Jeff Hite, associated with Quantrill’s guerrillas and the James Gang.

A third son, John William Hite, associated with Morgan’s Men in the company of John Hunt Morgan, and David Hunt James and his brother Richard Skinner James who were captured and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago where Richard died.