Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of books, films, TV, & events

Frank James Was Framed – Remove from Frame

Two new articles about Frank James drew our attention last week. The Wild West History Association just published an informative article in their WWHA Journal, March 2017, about Frank James in Oklahoma. The article is written by Roy B. Young. The article shows Frank James was framed.

 

Frank and Jesse James-OK
Frank & Jesse James in Oklahoma by Roy B. Young

The face of the article, which is more about Frank James than Jesse James, presents an old-timey vibe, reminiscent of western pulp magazines of more than fifty years ago when sensationalism was the rage. Regretfully, the article then begins with the fake-news subject of treasure hunting for Jesse James hidden gold in Oklahoma. You have to leap past that hurdle and another hurdle at the end to get to the meat of Young’s story that is bonafide and new.

Roy B Young-framed
Author Roy B. Young

Roy B. Young employs the current rage of culling old newspapers, many now online, to tell a story either overlooked, forgotten, or not present in today’s history consciousness. Having culled most of these papers myself in their original depositories for a couple of decades, I noted a lot of familiar information in Young’s story. My forthcoming Volume IV of Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet is a biography of Frank James in his retirement years.

Informed as I think I am, Roy B. Young found lost history I did not know about. I’ve expressed my thanks to him for writing it. Nothing tickles a historian more, than learning something new he didn’t know.

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Excerpt – The Jameses decided to bid on farm land in the Indian Pasture Reserve two and a half miles northwest of Fletcher, Oklahoma just inside the southern border of Caddo County. On November 9, 1960, a Lawton newspaper announced that Frank was seen in that city with a “companion” driving a two-horse buggy “bidding a few friends goodbye on the fly and drove out of town under whip.” The article continued, “Just as the buggy rounded the curve of Fifth Street, east of the courthouse, James doft his big white sombrero so that his long gray locks fluttered in the breeze and he gave a yell as in days of old.”

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Regrettably, Young ends his well-done story of Frank James, writing about the Jesse James imposter J. Frank Dalton. Why Oklahoma feels it necessary to include fake news as a necessary component to its true history is beyond me. Sensationalism calls into question any factual or true history associated with it.

This article would have truly been a superior one had it not been for the bookends of treasure hunting and J. Frank Dalton, framing it.

Forget for now Frank James being framed in this manner. Grab the fresh history Roy B. Young now offers anyway. Then wait for Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. IV, Frank James in Retirement to address Young’s speculation and provide you even more unknown history about Frank James in his retirement years.

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The second article about Frank James comes from the Osage County News. Wendi Bevitt writes about the visit of Frank James to Burlingame, Kansas and the 1899 Osage County Fair.
1899 Burlingame
Burlingame Fair – 1899

Prior to writing her story, Wendi queried us about Burton Allen James, Indian Agent from the James family for the Sac and Fox Reservation. She also queried about Perry Fuller, the onetime business partner of Frank and Jesse’s uncle Thomas Martin James, whom I also wrote about in Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I.

Since Volume IV of JJSL will address Frank James in his retirement, I was pleasantly surprised to read the outcome of Wendi’s article. Much of her story is focused upon Frank James in his career as a public speaker and as a race starter when he appeared in 1899 at the Osage County Fair.

Frank James-Osage County Fair
Frank James as race starter at the Osage County Fair, 1899

Like Roy Young’s reporting on Frank James, Wendi Bevitt’s article brings fresh history into view. The freshness is in the details, such as how Frank James started a race.

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Excerpt – He would stretch an immense rubber rope across the track and when the racers were at their mark, he would let the rope fly free.

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Interesting, too, is the behind the scenes arrangements of a Frank James speaking engagement. History like this has not been published before and is a welcome addition to the historical record.

WENDI BEVITT is the owner-operator of Buried Past Consulting LLC, a firm specializing archaeological surveys, historical research and report preparations for both public and private sector clients.

Jesse James Cave, located on the Sac-Fox Reservation in Osage County, Kansas, is visited by Wendi Bevitt’s children.

Jesse James, Prince of Robbers!

BOOK REVIEW: Wybrow, Robert J. Jesse James, Prince of Robbers! A Collection of Essays on the Noted Missouri Outlaw and His Times. (London: The English Westerners’ Society, 2015) 485 pp., illustrations, notes, index. Paperback, $32.00.

By  Nancy B. Samuelson

This is a valuable collection of James gang literature. One trademark of Mr. Wybrow’s work is his in-depth research. Even though he lives in England, he knows how to find things in U.S. archives and newspapers.  The number of resources he has consulted is truly impressive.

Jesse James Prince of Robbers-book cover
Jesse James, Price of Robbers by Robert J. Wybrow

This collection includes articles about some more obscure robberies and raises questions about the participation of the James boys in the Columbia, Ste. Genevieve and Concordia bank robberies.  There is one article about the Youngers in the state of Texas, and this article contains some intriguing information about an illegitimate son of Cole Younger in Louisiana. One article is devoted to Dick Liddil’s supposed wife, Mattie Collins. Mattie has always been a rather mysterious lady and this article explores her many escapades in depth. Another article deals with the 1875 raid on the James/Samuel farm that killed young Archie Samuel and caused the amputation of Zerelda James Samuel’s arm. This raid produced a great deal of sympathy for the James boys throughout the state of Missouri.

This book presents information from many obscure sources and at times disagrees with material that has been presented by other well-known authors. Everything in the book is informative and often thought-provoking.  I highly recommend this book; this should be in the library of everyone with more than just a passing interest in the James-Younger gang. This book will serve as an outstanding resource for anyone that is interested in doing further research on the James-Younger gang and their associates.

Robert J. Wybrow is a graduate of the University of London and has worked for the British Gallup Poll for over forty years. He is a long time member of The English Westerners’ Society and began to write and publish articles about the James gang in 1969. Most of his work has appeared in the publications of The English Westerners’ Society. A lot of his articles and booklets are now rare collector’s items and are very difficult to find. He has selected the best of his works about the James gang and related subjects and published updated versions in this book. Some 15 of his articles are included in this collection, and there are also four appendixes. The appendixes are: “From the Pen of a ‘Noble Robber’—The Letters of Jesse Woodson James”, “Dick Liddil’s Confession”, “Clarence Hite’s Confession” and “List of Original Articles”. This final appendix is a complete list of all of the articles about the James gang written by Wybrow.

TO PURCHASE: e-mail Ray Cox, secretary of English Westerner’s Society: rymd.cox@gmail.com. Domestic postage rates in the UK or USA may apply.

Confederates in Montana Territory

BOOK REVIEW: Robison, Ken, Confederates in Montana Territory: In The Shadow of Price’s Army, (South Carolina: The History Press, 2014.) 190 pp., photos, illustrations, bibliography/notes, index. ISBN 978-1-62619-603-2, paperback, $19.99

By Nancy B. Samuelson

Confederates in Montana Terrirtory-Ken Robison
Confederates in Montana Territory: In the Shadow of Price’s Army by Ken Robison

I was eager to dig into this book as I am a long time student of Missourians in the Civil War. However, I was very disappointed in the book. It is an attractive book with a lot of good photos and illustrations, but the research is only skin deep.  The title of the book is misleading as only about four of the men discussed in the book served in Price’s Army. The author does not have a very good grasp on the history of Price’s Army and the guerrilla units associated with Price. The book contains several errors. In the forward to the book, 1859 is given as the year California entered the Union. The correct year is 1850. Colonel Thoroughman was said to have been taken to a prison in Quincy, Illinois after he was captured. There was no Union prison at Quincy, he most likely was taken to the prison at Alton, Illinois. The Moore brothers were said to have gone south into Kentucky and spend a night with John M. James, the grandfather of Jesse James. A good trick indeed, as John M. James died in 1827.

Confederates in Montana
An early tintype, owned by Ken Robison, showing unidentified Confederate soldiers in Montana Territory.

There are two stories in the book concerning supposed Quantrill men. The first story is about James Berry. This chapter is reasonably close to the facts; Berry did serve with Quantrill for a short time. He also did participate in a robbery with the Sam Bass gang and was killed when there was an attempt to apprehend him. The author states that Berry’s family survived to become prominent in Montana history, but leaves the reader completely in the dark about the family’s contribution to the state’s history.

Ken Robison, author
Author Ken Robison

The chapter about Langford “Farmer” Peel, is titled “When Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction”. A good title, since this tale is almost entirely fiction. Langford Peel never served with Quantrill or anybody else during the Civil War. He hung out in mining camps in California, Utah, Nevada and Montana during the time of the Civil War. He was a rough customer and was accused of several murders. He was finally shot and killed in Montana. The tale about some of Quantrill’s men hijacking a steamboat to come after Peel is from a newspaper article from the Great Falls Tribune of April 30, 1922. The story is complete fiction.

There were a number of men from Price’s Army who did go to Montana and who became prominent men. John C. C. “Coon” Thornton and Thomas L. Napton immediately come to mind, but the author ignored these men. Several Quantrill men are known to have gone to Montana too, one served as the Sheriff of Lewis and Clark County. These folks are also ignored. The book is an easy read but it is history light-weight.

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This book review is co-published with the James-Younger Gang Journal.

Review – Frank and Jesse James “Friends and Family”

Book Review: Frank and Jesse James “Friends and Family” by Freda Cruse Hardison. Morris Publishing, Kearney, Nebraska, 2015. 381 pp. ISBN 978-0-9842111-2-8. $29.00. Paperback. Photos. No end notes, bibliography or index.

Reviewed by Nancy B. Samuelson

Publication of this review is shared by Stray Leaves, the James-Younger Gang Journal, and the Wild West History Association.

This book is billed as a historical novel told in the voice of Alexander Franklin James. However, the book  has none of the attributes of a novel and it is certainly not historically accurate. The book is poorly organized, rambling and incoherent.

Frank and Jesse James "Friends and Family"The author seems to have little knowledge of well-known historical facts about the Civil War and some well-known personalities of the era. She states that Senator Stephen Douglas was famous for the Missouri Compromise. Stephen Douglas was born 1813 and the Missouri Compromise took place in 1820. Douglas did, however, play a major role in the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. General Nathan Bedford Forrest is given credit for establishing the Knights of the Golden Circle but that organization was founded by a man named George Bickley. Union General Grenville Dodge becomes Greenville Dodge. The Union prison that collapsed killing and injuring the sisters of Bloody Bill Anderson and other female relatives of Quantrill guerrillas is placed in Lawrence, Kansas. (It was in Kansas City, Missouri.)There are numerous errors of this sort throughout the book.

Military rank structure appears to be foreign territory to the author. Men are one rank on one page and on the next page they are another rank. In one instance a captain is commanding a colonel. And on occasion John Thrailkill is identified as both a colonel and a major at the same time. (He was a major.) The military abbreviations for rank are used in a rather bizarre fashion. In one place ferries were of Maj. importance, in another instance something was a Maj. task for Union troops. Then strangest of all, the military rank is used as a name as follows: Alexander Maj’s is the manager for Russell, Maj. and Waddell, the freighting firm.

Fred Cruse Hardison, author of Frank and Jesse James "Freinds and Family" and fake Jesse James image
Author Freda Cruse Hardison standing next to a cutout of a fake image of Jesse James. The image was debunked as fake by the great-grandson of Jesse James, Judge James R. Ross.

There is a lot of dubious genealogy throughout the book. One egregious example of this is the claim that William “Wild Bill” Thomason, step-uncle of the James boys, was the grandfather of Bill and Jim Anderson. It is also stated that “Wild Bill” taught the James and Anderson boys, together, to shoot, ride and practice other martial skills. A quick check of the census records shows this to be fiction. The 1850 census for the Anderson family show them in Randolph County, Missouri and W. Tomason (sometimes spelled Tomasson) and his wife Mahala are living with the William Anderson family. The Tomason couple is undoubtedly the grandparents of Bill and Jim Anderson.  Both William Anderson, father of Bill and Jim, and W. Tomason list their occupation as hatters (they make hats).  In 1850 William Thomason, the step-uncle of the James boys,  is 62 years old and is living in Liberty Township in Clay County, Missouri. The Anderson family moved to Iowa for a short time, back to Randolph County, Missouri, then to what is now Lyon, County Kansas. A brief look at the map of Missouri and Kansas should quickly quell any notion that the Anderson and James boys visited frequently and learned to ride and shoot together.

There are a number of photographs in the book and many of them dubious, including the one on the front cover of the book. Several of the photos are from the Emory Cantey Collection and a number of serious scholars and photo collectors have questioned the validity of this entire collection. Several photos offer no source and are also very dubious. Only the photos from the Missouri Valley Special Collection, Kansas City Public Library should be considered as valid.

This book is poorly written, historically inaccurate, and tedious to read. It is also overpriced for a paperback. Save your money for something more worthwhile.

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EDITOR’S COMMENT:  Author Freda Cruse Hardison is part of the cabal that promoted the Bob Ford/Jesse James photo hoax, previously noted HERE.  Hardison employed this book as her authoritative collateral to piggyback on the fake photo hoax and identity theft perpetrated by Sandy Mills, Lois Gibson, Dylan Baddour, the Houston Chronicle, and others.

Book Review – Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol.I

BOOK REVIEW:  Jesse James, Soul Liberty. Volume I. By Eric F. James. Published by Cashel Cadence House, Danville KY. 2012. 411 pages, $36.95, reviewed by Bobbi King of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, June 23, 2013. Reprinted here by permission.

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Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter-Dick Eastman

             “Mr. James has conquered the Everest                             of writing a family history genealogy book                                         that is interesting enough                                 for the rest of us to want to read.”

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Eric F. James was asked to take on the task of researching and writing the story of the James family, specifically the many members of the family who merited fair consideration distinct from the myth and legend of the notorious outlaw brothers Frank and Jesse.

Mr. James succeeds in acquainting us with a family of characters who do deserve to be featured apart from the tarnished brothers. The book’s subtitle, “Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence” offers a not-so-subtle hint on the family’s take on their historical connection. Apparently, the more well-informed members of the family vigorously sought to put the kibosh on any kinship to Frank and Jesse James when naïve queries arose.

Mr. James introduces the family:

“In the emerging democracy of colonial Virginia, the early Kentucky frontier, and throughout the American heartland, the James were renowned as community builders, public office holders, ministers of faith, financiers, educators, writers, and poets. From these roots shot Frank and Jesse James.

“Following the Civil War, Frank and Jesse James eclipsed the family’s destiny. War may have splintered the family ideologically, but Frank and Jesse James disjoined the family’s compass and direction, casting a longer and darker shadow on the James family, like no other.

“Like their royal ancestors of old when beset by crisis, the James family turned suspicious and distrustful of its own. The larger James family kept apart from one another, holding in muted reverence what relic of itself that it could. The line of Frank and Jesse James was left isolated, unsupported and abandoned.”

Goaded by family in-laws, the Jesse James family withdrew into a citadel of its own. Their ostracism was enforced by every other family line of the James.

Bobbi king
Bobbi King

Mr. James’ book locates the various families’ residences, describes their personal occupations, details relationships and kinship to one another (a six-generation descendant chart is included), chronicles their military service, catalogs their movements about the regions, and quotes a good deal of material from their letters and journals, which always evokes a personality, a spirit, a temperament.

Mr. James’ research appears to be extensive across a wide variety of sources, with references at the end of the book that contain explanatory tidbits adding even more to the story. The photographs and illustrations, even those blurred by age and decomposition, are vivid and well produced, summoning up their subjects and places.

Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I
Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence, by Eric F. James

Mr. James, along with Judge James R. Ross, a great-grandson of Jesse James, is a co-founder of the James Preservation Trust. He writes and publishes on the official website of the James family, and is without a doubt the family cheerleader.

His writing is strong, perhaps a bit hyperbolic for my taste, but this is a good book for fans of Western history who want to know the real story. His research supports a claim to authenticity, and his writing keeps us reading.

Mr. James has conquered the Everest of writing a family history genealogy book that is interesting enough for the rest of us to want to read.

The Lost Cause: The Trials of Frank and Jesse James

BOOK REVIEW: Muehlberger, James P. The Lost Cause: The Trials of Frank and Jesse James (Westholme Publishing, LLC, 2013) 255 pp. index, timeline, bibliography, end notes, some photos, illustrations, and maps, hardcover $18.96.

By Nancy B. Samuelson

The author begins the book with a Prolog where he expounds on the “myth of The Lost Cause.” He seems to believe that the only cause of the Civil War was slavery. There were a number of other causes and many of them had to do with economics.

The Lost Cause, the Trials of Frank and Jesse James

One of the main themes of the book is the Gallatin, Missouri bank robbery. He makes a fair case that this may have been a planned assassination and not a bank robbery at all. Jesse James and maybe Jim Anderson set out to kill Major Samuel Cox who killed Bloody Bill Anderson during the war. However, Captain John Sheets, who looked much like Cox, was killed instead. The author does not believe Frank was involved in this event at all.

The author makes much of the suit that was filed against the James boys after the Gallatin affair. The attorney who filed the suit was Henry Clay McDougal. He represented Daniel Smoote, whose horse had been taken by the fleeing gunmen. Smoote won the suit and as settlement was awarded the horse that had been left behind the by the supposed Frank and Jesse James. The author relies on McDougal’s book, Recollections: 1844-1909, for much of what he says about the suit and the aftermath. Throughout the book McDougal is on a real ego trip and much of what he says is open to question. McDougal says he was working with Samuel Hardwicke, a Clay County attorney, and the Pinkerton Detective Agency as early as 1869. However, all the evidence that this reviewer has been able to locate shows that the Pinkertons did not become involved in trying to catch the James boys until after the Corydon, Iowa bank robbery in 1871. Further, Samuel Hardwicke did not begin to work with the Pinkertons until the spring of 1874. McDougal claimed that Jesse James tried to kill him twice because of his involvement in the law suit. This claim is not supported by any other evidence that this reviewer has been able to find. We have only McDougal’s word for this.

James P. Muehlberger

There are any number of inaccuracies in the book. Several names are incorrect. Union General James Blunt is identified as Jones Blunt. Sheriff James Timberlake is identified as Henry Timberlake. One of Frank James’ key attorneys during his trial at Gallatin in 1883 is first identified as John F. Philips then suddenly he becomes Thomas Philips. The author says Susan James and Allen Parmer married in Kentucky instead of in Clay County, Missouri. Archie Samuel’s age is given as thirteen when the Pinkertons bombed the James-Samuel home in 1875. He was actually not yet nine years old when he was killed. Zerelda Samuel’s age is given as fifty-five at the time of Frank’s trial when she was really fifty-eight. The date of Frank James’ surrender to Missouri Governor Crittenden is stated as October 5th 1881 instead of 1882.

There are also a number of omissions that seem odd. For example, the hanging of Dr. Samuel by Union troops is discussed but the severe beating the same troops gave Jesse James is not mentioned. One of the key attorneys in Frank James’ trial in Alabama is never mentioned either. He was Robert W. Walker, a graduate of Princeton and Columbia University Law School and a former member of the Alabama Supreme Court.

In summary, this book adds little to the knowledge of the James-Younger gang and it contains a lot of misinformation.