Category Archives: Places

Old Photos Found of First Jesse James Museum

Jesse James Museum
The First Jesse James Museum, Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky

For 20 years, I have searched for any old photos of this James family home that became the first Jesse James museum. James family lore had spoken about the museum for years. Recently Curtis Gilliland, a cousin who is vice-president of the Pulaski County Historical Society in Somerset, Kentucky notified me about a new accession received by the Society that arrived right before Christmas, 2016. At last, now we can see what the first Jesse James museum looked like.

D.A.R. HISTORIAN UNCOVERS ARCHIVE

Helen Vogt Greene
Helen Vogt Greene, museum historian of the Lake Worth Historical Museum, 414 Lake Avenue, Lake Worth, Florida

Helen Vogt Greene, curator and museum historian of the Lake Worth Historical Museum in Lake Worth, Florida, donated the accession to the Pulaski County Historical Society.

Greene is an award-winning historian. In April of 2016, the Palm Beach Historical Society awarded Greene the coveted Fannie James Pioneer Achievement Award. The award is named for an African-American pioneer (of no known relationship to the Jesse James family) who served as the first postmistress of the post office in the settlement of Jewell, now Lake Worth.

In October of 2016, the Florida State Daughters of the American Revolution also recognized Greene for her demonstrated record of 45 years as a “historical, educational, social, religious, political, scientific, and cultural innovator.”  The National Society of the DAR honored Past Honorary Regent Greene as one of its “Women in American History.”

THE RECOVERY

The photo accession includes several photographic images, personally written notations, a business card, and Helen Vogt Greene’s written letter statement of provenance and donation.

In my personal interview with Mrs. Greene, she confirmed the facts of the letter and explained more of the story behind the photos. Greene, who was 7 years old when her family took these images around 1943, stated that a group from Poland had visited Somerset and Pulaski County in Kentucky at that time. The interest group was attracted to the county’s name and its namesake of Casimir Pulaski. Greene’s family joined their tour.

Casimir Pulaski
Count Casimir Pulaski of Poland, 1745-1779

I informed Mrs. Greene that John M. James, a founder of Pulaski County and the grandfather of Frank and Jesse James per local lore, selected the name for the county. In the American Revolution, John M. James was a supplier to the Patriot cause together with Joshua Logan Younger, grandfather of the Younger brothers of the James gang. Also as a spy for Gen. Washington, John M. James was a great admirer of Casimir Pulaski as an American Patriot from Poland.

Helen Greene stated that she was unpacking some boxes recently when she uncovered the photographs that had been long stored away. As an historian cleaning house, Greene determined her family photos should return to their place of origination. So, she donated them to the Pulaski County Historical Society.

TEXT OF THE DONATION LETTER

December 31, 2016

Pulaski County Historical Society

304 South Main Street

Somerset, Ky 42501

 Dear Mr. Elmore, President

Since 1980, I have been associated with the small Historical Museum of the City of Lake Worth, Florida. In all that time, first as the Curator and now as the Historian, I have never been able to tell families what they should save and what in the world do other people want? I add myself to that list.

donation letter
Donation and provenance letter of Helen Vogt Greene

Enclosed you will find three c. 1943 pictures and an advertising card for the Oak Leaf Tourist Cmp. I am quite certain we were traveling through. My father traveled from place to place working on government projects. He was an Electrical Supervisor. He wanted his family with him and we lived in a trailer. These pictures were just ‘unpacked”. If these are not ‘keepers”, please feel free to use File #13.

I find the card quite interesting.  If you still have cabins for 50 cents a night, we may visit you…when it is warmer. Success in all that you do to protect and preserve your history.

Blessings and a Happy New Year…2017

(S)  Helen Vogt Greene

Contact information of address, telephone number, and email for Helen Vogt Greene are redacted here.

HISTORY OF THE JESSE JAMES MUSEUM

When I first visited the site of the old Jesse James museum, it was in 2001. Cousin Virgie Herrin-Fuller 1922-2009, a James descendant and retired schoolteacher, took me there. Virgie lived on the same road as the old museum, just a few minutes away. Virgie grew up in Shopville, in the home that her grandparents Joseph Allen Herrin and Susan Harriett James had built on the original land of John M. James.

Museum ruins
Ruins of the Jesse James Museum, 2001

Virgie said at that time that she always recalled the old log cabin where we stood was used as a Jesse James museum. It was a tourist attraction. She further stated that the log cabin originally was built on the land of John M. James in Shopville where she grew up.

As we looked around that day, all that was left of the old museum were two standing brick chimneys. Virgie confirmed that the museum had burned down years ago. Everything that the museum contained, that was collected from the James homes in Shopville, was consumed by the flames.

Jesse James Museum ruins
Alternate view of the ruin of the Jesse James Museum, 2001

In further research, I found many others among the James family and in the town of  Somerset who recalled the old museum as Virgie did. Nowhere I looked did I ever find someone who could provide photographic evidence of the building’s existence. Now, thanks to Helen Vogt Greene, that is changed.

GRAFFITI CONFIRMS JAMES FAMILY LORE

Now the lore of the James family is confirmed by the newly recovered photographic images. Graffiti painted on the building walls in the period, presumably when the structure became a museum, tells the story of the building.

Jesse James Museum
Jesse James Museum, front facade graffiti

This house built in 1816 was

123 years old when rebuilt in 1938.

Jesse James Funeral (illegible)

Rev. J.M. Martins (illegible)

I have chosen this day

24th chapter of (illegible)

44th verce (sic)

Rhoda May-James
Rhoda May-James 1806-1889. No photographic image of Rev. Joseph Martin James ever has been found. The James family’s archives, however, do include an image of one is his wives, Rhoda May, and an abundance of photos of his children and their families.

John M. James settled the land on Buck Creek that became Shopville, from two land grants he acquired in 1799. John’s son, Rev. Joseph Martin James operated a store house on nearby Flat Lick Creek, that gave the area its name.

The reference to a reverend is unclear. The text could refer to Virgie’s great-grandfather Rev. Joseph Martin James, at times referred to as Martin among his congregation, at other times referred to as Joe among his family. For many years, Rev. Joseph Martin James served as pastor of the Flat Lick Baptist Chruch, of which his father was a founder. A history of Flat Lick Church acknowledges the James in the formation and operation of the church, and also in their relationship and kinship with Frank & Jesse James. Rev. James later founded the First Baptist Church of Somerset, Kentucky, also serving there as pastor. Joseph Martin James was a very popular preacher.

Rev. James was the son of John M. James and Clarissa “Clara” Nall. The congregation of Flat Lick Church defrocked Rev. J. M. James due to his becoming an alcoholic bigamist who sired 24 children, among three wives, his last four children being born in consecutive years by two alternate wives, one of whom was a teenager from his congregation. Remaining very popular nonetheless after his demise in 1848 for his preaching ability, his congregation memorialized him as being “talented, but erratic.”

Zee Mimms-James Bible
Bible of Zee Mimms-James, inscribed on the day her husband Jesse Woodson James was killed

The biblical reference that appears on the museum building is reminiscent of the notation Jesse’s wife Zee Mimms-James made in her bible, following Jesse’s assassination. In very precise handwriting, Zee inscribed her bible, “Jesse killed this day April 3, 1882, in St. Joseph.” Her inscription appeared below the bible verse: I Thessalonians, Chapter V: “But of the times and seasons, Brethren,  you have no need that we write to you, for you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord is to come as a thief in the night.”

A side view of the building reveals additional graffiti, which states:

Jesse James Museum
Jesse James Museum, side graffiti

The hangout house of Jessie (sic) & Frank James

Moved from Shopville & reblt.

A letter from Frank James telling how

They began their life.

We began slaying Yanks one by one

We joined Quantell (sic). He had 37 men.

We made things hot

Now & then.

 ADDITIONAL CONFIRMATION FOUND

 Around the time of the discovery of the of the Zee James Collection of historical images and artifacts by Al King of Somerset, Mr. King found himself at an estate sale on Main St. in Somerset. A small number of items attracted King’s attention. The seller stated the items came from the Jesse James Museum on North Route 1247 outside Somerset when the museum went out of business. Mr. King purchased a photo, not knowing who was pictured in the image.

Mary Harriet James
Mary Harriet James-Owens 1843-1935

During the first meeting with Mr. King to authenticate the artifacts he purchased from the historical home of Judge James Madison Lindsay, King alerted me to the photo he had bought on Main St. King asked me if I could identify the person in the photograph. When the photograph was produced, I knew instantly who was in the picture. The photo was of Mary Harriett James, a daughter of Rev. Joseph Martin James and Rhoda May. The image reflected other known images of Mary Harriet James in the family archives. This was corroborating evidence that the first Jesse James Museum actually contained artifacts produced from the Shopville homes of the James family.

 

__________________________________________________

The James family expresses its deepest appreciation to historian Helen Vogt Greene for this valuable contribution to our James family history.

_________________________________________________

OAK LEAF TOURIST CAMP & S. L. WILSON

The former site of the first Jesse James Museum was part of the Oak Leaf Tourist Camp, N. Rt. 1247 near Abbott Rd., 3 miles north of Somerset, Kentucky. Except for two remaining brick chimneys, the site sits vacant today, but conitnues to be talked about and visited.

Oak Leaf Tourist Camp-Business Card
Oak Leaf Tourist Camp

Free DOWNLOAD

The Ancestry & Kinship of S. L. Wilson

First Jesse James Museum site-2017
The former site of the Oak Leaf Tourist Camp and first Jesse James museum today, 2017.

 

Cole’s Bad Tavern, Black Horse Inn, & Cole Cemetery

Known as Little Sodom in its day, Cole’s Bad Tavern and the Cole Cemetery nearby sit in serious danger today. The encroaching development could trigger their disappearance. Thanks to the present owners Jim and Mary Nuckols, and Jim being a Cole descendant, efforts have begun to help the two historic sites ensure preservation and escape extinction. Future preservation begins here, adding new research to what has been written before about the tavern, about the inn, and about the cemetery.

COLE’S BAD TAVERN, aka LITTLE SODOM

The two historic sites reside on land once settled by Richard James Cole and Anne Hubbard, the second great-grandparents of Frank and Jesse James.

spring house
The spring house today is all that is left of Cole’s Bad Tavern

Migrating first from Pennsylvania to Culpeper County, Virginia, the couple moved next into the Kentucky District of Virginia in 1787. The District was America’s westernmost frontier. Kentucky was not yet an independent Commonwealth. They followed the prior mass exodus from Virginia of the rebel Baptist preachers of the Traveling Church and their congregations. Between 1782 and 1784, the Traveling Church brought thousands of pioneers into the wilderness frontier. John M. James, believed to be the grandfather of Frank and Jesse James, was one of the Traveling Church exodus. He arrived in Kentucky five years prior to the Cole family.

Unlike the Traveling Church that led John M. James into Kentucky, Maj. John Hancock Lee (1742-1802) led Richard James and Anne Hubbard-Cole in their migration to their new home in the Cain-tuc. The Coles formerly executed a leasehold in Virginia with Maj. Lee’s father, Capt. Hancock Lee (1709-1765) who was married to Mary Willis. The leasehold was a farm of 150 acres on Horsepen Run in King George County. The term of the lease was for life. Whether the leasehold was abandoned by the Coles is unknown. More likely, Capt. Lee needed the Coles to settle part of his Kentucky survey and released the Coles from their leasehold obligations.

Lee's Big Spring survey map
Survey for Lee’s Big Spring and environs, showing Nugent Corners and the site of Lee’s Station and future site of the Black Horse Inn

Capt. Lee surveyed land in Kentucky beginning in 1773. His son, Maj. Lee, also surveyed in Kentucky with his cousin Willis Lee. Father and son surveyed in and around today’s Midway, Kentucky on behalf of the Ohio Company of Virginia. The Lee’s company was seeking to replicate a settlement colony, the kind William Penn did in founding the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. To claim Kentucky land, the Lees needed to establish permanent settlers on their new surveys.

On the Lee family’s settlement farmland outside today’s Midway, the Cole family established an ordinary. The pending arrival of future settlers virtually guaranteed the success of their enterprise. The location of the ordinary was ideal, cited equally distant from Frank’s Ford and the new settlement at Fort Lexington, today’s towns of Frankfort and Lexington. The road, which Richard James Cole surveyed for Maj. John Hancock Lee between the two localities bore his name for decades to come as Cole’s Road. Cole was responsible for the maintenance of the road and its supervision. In later time, the developing geography renamed the road as Leestown Pike.

A BAD REPUTATION

Based on its reputation for the clientele it served, Cole’s Tavern over time degenerated in name and reputation. The ordinary’s earliest name of Cole’s Tavern then became Cole’s Bad Tavern. In its final days, the travelers and the public called the place Little Sodom.

Little Sodom Covered Brigge
The former covered bridge connected Little Sodom to the community of Sodom north of Route 421 on Fisher’s Mill Road at South Elkhorn Creek.

Cole’s Tavern was a popular center for political meetings.  As settlers populated the manufacturing town of Sodom nearby, the tavern also served as a community meeting place. Sodom village was located on Elkhorn Creek. Its businesses included flour and gristmills, hemp and cotton factories, a tannery, a shoe shop, a machine shop, and a storehouse.  Decades later, encroaching railroads passed by the community of Sodom. The village, its people, and enterprises disappeared.

THE BLACK HORSE INN

Foreign visitors, curious about the unusual American scene, were common on the Kentucky frontier. On his return trip from his tourist exploration in the last decade of the 1700s, Fortesquieu Cummings wrote about his experience at Cole’s Bad Tavern, contrasting it to the Lee’s Black Horse Inn.

“Quitting Frankfort, we took a different route which brought us, after riding ten miles mostly through woods, to Cole’s who keeps an inn on this road in opposition to Daly, on the other end. But any traveler, who has once contrasted Cole’s rough vulgarity and the badness of his table and accommodations, with the taste, order, plenty, and good attendance of his mulatto competitor, will never trouble Mr. Cole a second time; especially as there is no sensible difference in the length or goodness of the roads, and that by Daly’s is through a generally much better settled country.”

Hancock Lee's Tavern
Lee’s Tavern at Nugent Corners – Drawing depicting the original log structure and brick addition, constructed by Maj. Lee, with the toll gate separating Midway from Frankfort.

Cummings assessment of Cole’s business stood in stark contrast to Cummings’ prior experience in his former departure from the Dailey-Kennedy Stagecoach Inn, a few miles distant.

“After crossing the town branches of Wolf Fork, Steels Run and the South Branch of the Elkhorn River, to which the three former are auxiliaries, we arrived at the hamlet of three or four houses called Leesburg, twelve miles from Lexington. One of the houses had been the seat of the late Col. Lee and is still owned by his widow who rents it to a mulatto man named Dailey, who had converted it into an excellent inn. Nearby Dailey occupied much cultivated land as required to furnish supplies to his well-frequented stables with hay, corn & oats.

“There is also a good kitchen garden in which are vast quantities of culinary sweet herbs, besides useful vegetables and he has good stabling and other out offices – for all which he pays only forty pounds per annum. We experienced the benefit of his spacious icehouse. Where everything was good, particularly the coffee which was almost a la Francaise.

William Clark
Painting of William Clark by Charles Willson Peale

“Dailey having a good violin, on which he plays by ear with some taste, entertained us with music while we supped, in return for which we played for him afterward some duets, by the aid of another violin borrowed of young Mr. Lee, who resides in the neighborhood with his mother.”

In his Memorandum Book, William Clark noted his visit to the Black Horse Inn in 1806, following his return from exploring America’s westernmost frontier to the Pacific Ocean with the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery –  “…took the Frankfort Pike. The party spent the night of 29 October at William Dailey’s tavern at present Nugent’s Crossroads.”

COLE FAMILY ACQUIRES THE BLACK HORSE INN

Before Christmas on December 12 of 1811, Richard James Cole Jr. executed a lease to operate Little Sodom’s classy competitor, Lee’s Tavern.  William Dailey and John Kennedy had been operating the inn under the Lee’s name as well as their own. Cole and his wife Sally Yates assumed proprietorship of the place and its business. The excellent reputation carefully cultivated by Dailey and Kennedy now fell into the hands of the Cole family. The inn was rebranded as The Black Horse.

Black Horse Inn
Black Horse Inn where the mother of Frank & Jesse James, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole, was born on the second floor, first window from the left.

 

 

 

 

The earliest survey period of 1773 and1774 identifies the inn’s site as Hancock Taylor’s Station Camp. This was an initial destination for incoming migrants and the meeting camp for surveyors in the Kentucky District. In 1785, during the ownership of Willis Lee and his brother Capt. Hancock Lee, the station developed into a public inn. Two log rooms were constructed. Maj. John Hancock Lee added a two-story brick addition in 1799. At this point, the building officially was identified as the first stagecoach stop west of the Allegheny Mountains. Here, Maj. Lee died in 1802. John Hancock Lee Jr., who was born in the tavern, divested himself of his family’s business when he executed his lease of the premises to the Coles.

Black Horse Inn
The Black Horse Inn where Amos Cole was stabbed to death outside the right front door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A son of Richard James Cole Jr., named James Cole, assumed the operation of The Black Horse with his wife Sarah Lindsay, a granddaughter of Anthony Lindsay Jr. who arrived in the Cain-tuc with his wife Rachel Dorsey in 1784, about the same time as John M. James entered the District. Lindsay promptly constructed Lindsay’s Station. On January 29 of 1825, Sally Lindsay Cole gave birth to Zerelda Elizabeth Cole, the future mother of Frank and Jesse James. Zerelda was born in the upstairs brick addition that often converted into a swanky ballroom. when an entire wall was lifted, much like a garage door of today, to create the needed space.

Two years later on May 12, the reputation of the Black Horse Inn was irreparably stigmatized by the Cole family.  Young Zerelda’s uncle Amos Cole was stabbed and killed at the inn. Two men, named R. Taylor and Mr. Gallaspie, arrived at the inn in the evening. They were intent on creating trouble for the Coles. A knife fight ensued with Amos. The struggle spilled outside the front door. When Amos was mortally wounded, he was taken inside. Amos was laid before the fireplace of the upstairs room in the old log building. His blood stains remain embedded in the floor and unremovable to this day, indelibly marking his demise. It is the only evident memorial of Amos Cole.

Zerelda Elizabeth Cole-James
Zerelda Elizabeth Cole 1825-1911

Following the death of her uncle, Zerelda and her brother Jesse Richard Cole were sent to live with their grandparents Richard James Cole Jr. and Sally Yates at Little Sodom. For the next ten years, young Zerelda was witness to every kind of high life and low life imaginable, from horse thieves and murderers to politicians and international diplomats.  When her grandparents died, Zerelda was sent to live with her uncle Judge James Madison Lindsay at his home in Stamping Ground.  When Judge Lindsay found her too much of a handful, he sent her to be disciplined by the Catholic nuns of St. Catherine’s Academy in Lexington. Zerelda escaped by marrying Rev. Robert Sallee James before the fireplace of Judge Lindsay’s parlor; but not before her Christmas wedding was delayed as a wedding guest caught ill, lingered for three days while everyone waited, and died in the room above the wedding couple’s heads.

Bible of Zerelda Elizabeth Cole
Zerelda Cole’s Bible, from the Zee James Collection. Upper inscription: “St. Catherine’s, Lexington.” Lower inscription “Sarah Lindsay, James Cole, February 1827, Zerelda Elizabeth, Lexington, Kentucky

From what she witnessed and was exposed to in her childhood, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole learned how to deal with people of every status. Her experience stood her in good stead later in life when her son Jesse was assassinated and she held the Missouri Governor and political establishment accountable for her financial support. As her robust frame grew to six feet tall, she acquired a lifelong taste for bourbon. Mary Ellen Clemens, who once kept house for Zerelda testified to her boisterousness. “After a few drinks, she would yell, ‘I’m wild and wooly and hard to tame, but my name’s Zerelda just the same!'”

Jesse Richards Cole
Jesse Richard Cole 1826-1895, brother of Zerelda Cole.

Zerelda and her brother Jesse Richard Cole remained close all their lives. Zerelda named her third child in honor of her brother. Though a successful farmer and father to nine children, Jesse suffered intensely from depression.  On November 25, 1895, the Liberty Tribune in Missouri reported, “he went out to the chicken house. he put his watch and pocket book in his hat and set it in a hen’s nest, and with further deliberation made a pillow of some old sacks and laid down. Placing a revolver to his heart he pulled the trigger and sent his soul to eternity. “

COLE CEMETERY

The Cole family’s first need of a burial site in Kentucky occurred in 1795 when Ann Hubbard-Cole died on February 11. She and her husband, Richard James Cole Sr., had moved to the area of Midway, Kentucky in 1782. Richard died on November 21 of 1814 and was buried with Ann. It is known that other burials occurred with them on the farmland set aside as the Cole Cemetery. No documentation exists to account who is buried with Richard James and Anne Hubbard-Cole, although it is believed to be principally their descendants and their enslaved.

Cole Cemetery
Cole Cemetery at Five Springs Fram

A reasonable assumption is that at least one child of the couple is buried with them. Richard James Cole Jr. died on July 9 in 1839. Most certainly, he would have been buried with his parents and his wife Sally Yates who predeceased him on November 8 of 1836. Other siblings of Richard James Cole Jr. would have been buried by their in-law spouses in separate burial grounds located on their separate farms elsewhere.

The children of Richard James Cole Jr and Sally Yates most likely rest with their grandparents, too. William Yates Cole died in 1823 at the age of thirty-five. His is the earliest burial after his grandparents. Following his murder, Amos Cole was likely buried in Cole Cemetery.  His widow, Elizabeth Hynes Cole, a first cousin of the same surname, quickly remarried. Three months after the murder of Amos, his brother James Cole was thrown from a horse and died. At the height of a cholera epidemic when a mass exodus departed Kentucky for Missouri on religious missions and escape from the disease, Jesse Cole died on August 3, 1833, at the age of forty.  He left a widow, Fanny Rice, and a young child. Fanny also quickly remarried. All of these Cole family members likely rest in Cole Cemetery without markers. Due to customs of the time, the enslaved and servants of the Cole family were interred at Cole Cemetery, too.

Five Springs Farm
Five Springs Farm, owned by Jim & Mary Nuckols, Rte. 421 at the intersection of Fisher’s Mill Rd.

The Smack & Zing of This Bloody Ground

This Bloody Ground, Volume II of the Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet
Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. II, This Bloody Ground

Daniel Boone and John M. James are ancestors of today’s descendants of Jesse James. In the present film documentary Daniel Boone & the Opening of the American West, Boone once more cuts a path and trail for Jesse’s grandfather John M. James, again today as Boone did in the past. The film is worth viewing as a preview of the smack and zing of John’s own history, soon to come in my book This Bloody Ground.

In recent years, as I sat in Danville, Kentucky, writing the story of Frank & Jesse James’ grandfather as the second book of my Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet, Kent Masterson Brown was in Lexington, Kentucky, beginning his journey of three years to bring Boone to film.

Both my book and Brown’s film cover the same period, the same territory, many of the same people, and a lot of the same history. However, each of us delivers a different view. Much of Boone’s story, as Brown tells it, is located north of the Kentucky River. The story of John M. James in This Bloody Ground, as might be expected, resides south of the Kentucky River.

Brown credits Boone in part with opening the Northwest Territory that became everything from Ohio west to Minnesota. John M. James and his band of rebel Baptist preachers, not only opened the West from colonial Virginia to Missouri Territory, but also way beyond into the Far West, to the Rockies and California.

Daniel Boone is a star in history’s firmament, replete with legend and misleading mythology, which Brown goes to great length to extinguish in a shower of facts. John M. James, for the most part, is unknown to legend, mythology, or fact. Equally, unknown is the origination in John’s Kentucky of many of those families affiliated with John who later spawned their own history of the American West.

Kent Masterson Brown
Kent Masterson Brown

I have enjoyed the former historical work of Kent Masterson Brown. Brown resembles for me the often fabled Kentucky lawyer whose telling of a good history lesson, more than a trial, vindicates justice. His voice that speaks through grit is invaluable. Brown and I are in the same business. Maybe that explains our mutual fondness for a neat and tidy bow tie.

Scitt New as Daniel Boone
Scott New portrays Daniel Boone

As a boy, John M. James tried to join Daniel Boone, when Boone stood beside his wagon in Stevensburg, Virginia, seeking recruits to enter the dark and unknown wilderness. Though John was too young for Boone to accept, each man became a pioneer. Each did so in his own way. Each has had a lasting effect on American history.

In This Bloody Ground, I will argue, however, that John M. James was more an average person’s pioneer. John M. James, not Daniel Boone, produced a more lasting effect relative to the common person. The legacy of John M. James endures in the social, religious, and political culture of America.

The marriage of Jesse’s son Jesse Edwards James Jr. to Estella Frances “Stella” McGowan might have appeared surprising at the time. It should not. He is a great-grandson of John M. James. She is a third great granddaughter of Daniel Boone. Their marriage represents the reunion of Daniel Boone and John M. James. For today and all tomorrows, the descendants of Jesse James will be the progeny of a star pioneer and a pioneer of the common man.

To view the entire program of Daniel Boone and the Opening of the West, and to savor the smack and zing of This Bloody Ground coming this year, CLICK HERE. The program may not be available for very long.

Jesse James Family Reunion 2002 Video – Pt. 11

A year before the Jesse James family reunion, Judge James R. Ross and myself made a trip to Paso Robles to meet with Tom Martin, then current owner of the Paso Robles Inn. I had visited there in 2000 when the remnant of the old hotel was undergoing preservation and restoration. I was anxious to see what had been done since. Both I and Judge Ross also hoped Tom Martin would agree to host our Jesse James family reunion at the historic hotel, first founded by Drury Woodson James.

Tom Martin, Anne Martin-Bowler, Judge James R. Ross, Eric F. James
Tom Martin, Anne Martin-Bowler, Judge James R. Ross, Eric F. James

I had already posted a lengthy feature story about Uncle Drury and his famous hotel on our website Stray LeavesWhen Meeting Tom Martin, we also met his sister Anne Martin-Bowler. She informed us she was writing a book about Drury Woodson James and the founding of the hotel. The book was planned as a promotion for the hotel. The History of the Paso Robles Inn, More Than a Century of Pride has been published since.  Anne did an excellent job.

Needless to say, the Martins were thrilled to be our host. We were equally thrilled to be holding the family reunion on Uncle Drury’s old hotel property. We were especially excited about having a family banquet in Uncle Drury’s ballroom, which the Martins had preserved and restored. Until Tom Wallace

Until Tom Wallace, who supervised the reconstruction, told us his story of working on the formerly condemned property as he does in this video, the only information I had about it was gleaned from George Jackson. a heating contractor, employed  to install a  heating plant for the old ruin. I was particularly tickled by Jackson’s story of discovering a petrified cat when he opened up sealed portions of the original brick basement. You can find Jackson’s story on Stray Leaves.

Jesse James Family Reunion 2002 Video – Pt. 8

Our first full day of lectures at the James Family Reunion in 2002 left us feeling a bit of cabin fever. What better relief than to take a day trip to visit the cabin that Frank & Jesse James occupied during their visit with their uncle Drury Woodson James between 1868 and 1869.

James Curtis Lewis, Judge James R. Ross, Eric F. James
James Curtis Lewis, Judge James R. Ross, Eric F. James

The cabin had been relocated to its present site. Local historians produced the research to verify the fact. They also aided us. They contacted the owner so we could meet with him. We then presented him a plaque and historical commemoration for the cabin. (If anyone can name the name of the owner in 2002 or the owner today, please email it to me. It’s been misplaced among my records.)

When Jesse & Frank visited Paso Robles, Drury Woodson James was not entirely welcoming of their visit. A preliminary visit by Frank was required to convince Uncle Drury to allow the visit for the purposes of Jesse using Drury’s ancient hot springs to recover from the two bullet shots he was carrying in his chest.

The James Family present a commemorative citation to the Jesse James cabin's owner

As Jesse gradually recovered and put on a little weight, Drury employed his nephew with his vaqueros who worked Drury’s La Panza Rancho. As much as Jesse would have like to be considered an experienced cattleman, the vaqueros knew better. Jesse’s ropes were brand new and not woven like the ropes of the vaqueros. They laughed at Jesse as they would at any tenderfoot.

During their  visit, Frank and Jesse visited San Francisco. They also took an exploratory trip to Hangtown, in search of the burial site of their father, Rev. Robert Sallee James, who had died of cholera shortly after his arrival. A forest fire had ravaged the cemetery, burying many of wood grave markers and crucifixes, their father’s own among them. To present day, the exact burial site of Rev. Robert Salle James remains unknown.

The day trip ended at the Norman Vineyards. Owner Art Norman entertained us, showing us how wine is made. He then generously shared his product with us.

Jesse James' great grandson Judge James R. Ross visits Jesse's Paso Robles cabin for the first time
Judge James R. Ross visits for the first time the cabin his great-grandfather Jesse Woodson James occupied in 1868 in Paso Robles, California

Jesse James Family Reunion 2002 Video – Pt. 6

When taking our bus tour around Paso Robles, visiting the sites where Drury Woodson James lived and worked, we made a special trip to San Luis Obispo. The old Franciscan mission there was where Drury Woodson James and his business partner Daniel Drew “D.D.” Blackburn married the Dunn sisters from Australia, the young ladies being twenty years their junior.

A lot could be read into these two 40 years old geezers marrying women half their age, while living on a frontier that still was lawless. For Drury, the likelihood was he wanted a wife capable of giving him a large family like the one he grew up among, his 8 James brothers and sisters and his 12 step brothers and step sisters, who included Jesse’s wife Zee Mimms-James.

Drury Woodson James
Drury Woodson James

Our videographer for the reunion, Tommy Barrios, was not present when we went to the mission. This video was shot instead by my niece, Kathryn Craft, which explains its “home video” quality. Was it not for Kathryn, though, we wouldn’t have any record of this funny little event.

That was not the only unexpected development at the mission, Little did we all know how seriously Jesse’s great-grandson, Judge James R. Ross, would take his acting role, portraying Patrick Dunn, Drury’s alcoholic father-in-law. Talk about “stealing the show.”