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Read Chapter Previews – Jesse James Soul Liberty

               Think you know Jesse James ?                  Wait until you meet his family

Read chapter previews of Jesse James Soul Liberty now

Authorized historical biography of the family of Frank & Jesse James. The first of five volumes, drawn from primary family sources. Includes family photos, letters, documents, memoirs, interviews, genealogy, with source citations, notes, bibliography, & index.

Published in the USA by Cashel Cadence House, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8957469-0-2. Hardcover, $36.95

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“Eric James knows more about the Jesse James family  than anyone in America.”

– Charles Broomfield, former Clay County (MO) Commissioner, responsible for the transfer of James Farm in Kearney, Missouri from the Jesse James family to Clay County.

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REVIEW: James-Younger Gang Journal

REVIEW: Wild West History Association

Most longtime outlaw-lawman aficionados have probably read a number of books about Jesse and Frank James. Those books probably included Background of a Bandit by Joan M. Beamis and William E. Pullen and Jesse and Frank James: The Family History by Phillip W. Steele. Chances are you think you know a lot about the family of America’s most famous bandits. However, if you think this– think again– you have seen only the tip of the iceberg.

Jesse James fanatics are going to be delighted with all the new material and serious historians are going to wonder how they have missed so much for so long…

In summary, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I did not want to put the book down. It reads a lot like the family sagas written by Howard Fast and John Jakes. However, this is all fact, not fiction.

If you have any interest in the James gang and their history this book is a “must read”.  And do not skip the notes; there is a wealth of material to be found in the notes and the bibliography is a gold mine. Four more volumes of James family history are to follow this book. I eagerly anticipate all of them.

REVIEW: Western Writers Association of America

The extended family of the James outlaws has unjustly been ignored by historians. The abundance of the accomplishments of the James family is more than enough to mitigate any stigma attached because of the outlaws. This family has led the way for social justice in many fields. They have been leaders in law, business, church, education and the arts…

The research and writing is outstanding and there is awealth of photos. There are excellent notes, bibliography and family charts. The book is very highly recommended.

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Order your PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED copy HERE.

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Available also at LOCAL BOOKSTORES & LIBRARIES.    If they don’t stock the book, ask them to order a copy for you through       Ingram Distribution.

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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.

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 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. 10

When Judge James R. Ross and I were laying out the event schedule for the family reunion, I asked Judge Ross if he would speak about his childhood and growing up in the household of Jesse Edwards James Jr. as his de facto father. In all the time we spent together, I always was most intrigued by those stories he related to me privately. I thought his family would find them of interest, too.

Judge James R. Ross beside the historical monument that commemorates his cousin, Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles California. The memorial stands in the park D.W. James donated to the city.
Judge James R. Ross beside the historical monument that commemorates his cousin, Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles California. The memorial stands in the park D.W. James donated to the city.

What I didn’t realize was that his agreement to discuss the subject meant he intended to use the topic as an opportunity to sell his book. In the mind of Judge Ross,  he had written his book I, Jesse James specifically for that reason, to tell people the stories he had heard about Jesse James while growing up in the household of the outlaw’s son. The talk Judge Ross delivered was not the leisurely reminiscence I thought he would present. Instead, what he delivered was a short promotion for his book.

What was really on his mind, though, was a deal to make a movie from his book. What he said on that in his talk he had kept close to his vest. I had no idea beforehand of the option contract for a movie that he just had signed. Judge Ross intended to surprise us all.

Sadly, TNT never did make a movie of Judge Ross’ book. The Judge’s lifelong ambition to make the only movie about Jesse James that was factual and true went unfulfilled in his lifetime.

Three great grandsons of Jesse Woodson James: Donald James Baumel, Judge James R. Ross, James Lewis
Three great grandsons of Jesse Woodson James: Donald James Baumel, Judge James R. Ross, James Lewis