Tag Archives: Crittenden

The Plot to Assassinate Jesse James

The Plot to Assassinate Jesse James

By Phil Stewart

             “The Plot to Assassinate Jesse James” first appeared on Stray Leaves in 1999 as part of Phil Stewart’s Article Archive

Jesse James was killed on April 3, 1882. What began as a desire of several neighbors to the fear and killings since the days of the Civil War had developed into a death plot to kill a wanted outlaw. Jesse James was assassinated in every definition of the word.

The plot against Jesse was building. On December 6, 1881, Wood Hite arrived at the home of Martha Bolton. In addition to being a member of the gang, Wood Hite was Jesse’s cousin. Hite’s presence made it impossible for the gang to discuss, plan, or coordinate their assassination efforts. The next day, Dick Liddil and Bob Ford killed Wood Hite.

Henry H. Craig-Police Commissioner when Jesse James was assassinated
HENRY HARRISON CRAIG – Commissioner of Police, Kansas City, Missouri

The first attempt to capture Jesse James occurred on or around December 28, 1881 in Richmond, Missouri. Jesse walked into Cap Ford’s store asking where he could find Dick Liddil and Wood Hite. Cap Ford told him he had not seen Wood at all. The last time he had seen Liddil was at the Bolton home. As Jesse rode out of town, Cap Ford telegraphed Sheriff Timberlake. By the time a posse arrived at the Bolton’s, Jesse had gone.

Two days after the raid on the Bolton home, in the little town of Greenville, just a few miles east of the James family’s farm, James Rhodus was having a New Year’s party for the young people of the neighborhood. One of those who arrived was eighteen-year-old John Samuel, the half-brother of Frank and Jesse. Rhodus wanted no trouble. It became obvious that John Samuel and his two friends had a bottle. They were becoming increasingly boisterous. Rhodus asked them to leave. Young John pointed out that he was the brother of Jesse James. He would not be told what to do by Rhodus or any man. Rhodus simply pushed him out the door and into the January cold. John Samuel began throwing rocks at the door and windows. Rhodus took a pistol, walked out on the porch, and shot John Samuel in the belly. Many believed the young man would not survive.

Rumors spread, that Jesse would soon arrive to avenge his younger brother. Few would have given a plug nickel for the life of James Rhodus. The group of neighbors discussed the situation. Terry Stephenson, who lived less than a half mile east of the Samuel farm, was selected to give Zerelda a message. The message was clear and to the point. If one hair was harmed on the head of James Rhodus, the Samuel home would be burned to the ground. If the family happened to be inside at the time, so be it.

Thomas T. Crittenden preferred to capture Jesse James and not assassinate him
THOMAS T. CRITTENDEN – Governor of Missouri whose family was close to the James in the days of early Kentucky

On  January 6 of the new year, Sheriff James Timberlake was contacted with Dick Liddil’s proposal. Dick would surrender and assist with the efforts to capture or kill Jesse James in return for a full pardon by the Governor and a part of the reward money if the plan was successful. Both Timberlake and Crittenden agreed.

Dick Liddil surrendered to Sheriff Timberlake on January 24, 1882. He met with Governor Thomas T. Crittenden. He received the Governor’s assurance that he would not be prosecuted if he cooperated and provided information that would bring an end to Jesse James. Dick must have sung like a bird. Within a week, a group of Kansas City officers, led by Commissioner Craig, went to Kentucky. Clarence Hite was arrested and returned to Missouri to stand trial for the Winston train robbery, Commissioner Craig gave to Liddil $500 of the $5,000 reward.

Charlie Ford
CHARLIE FORD – Conspirator to assassinate Jesse James

On February 13, Bob Ford “surrendered himself” to Commission Craig in Kansas City. On February 22, the entire group, including Governor Crittenden and Sheriff Timberlake, Commission Craig, Dick Liddil, and Bob Ford, met at the St. James Hotel in Kansas City to finalize plans and agreements. The group now had an “inside man.”

In late March of 1882, there was another bank to rob. Perhaps it would be his last, for Jesse had inquired about a farm that was for sale in Nebraska. His “gang” now consisted solely of himself and Charlie Ford. Jesse wanted one more man to accompany him on the raid. Two men inside the bank and one outside to hold the horses. It was a tried and proven plan. Charlie suggested his young brother, Bob Ford. Bob was a brash little cuss and could be depended upon. Jesse had little choice in the quality of men who rode with him. Bob Ford, the governments “inside man,” would have to do.

On March 30, 1882, Jesse and Charlie arrived at the home of Martha Bolton. He asked if Bob was around. He was told Ford was with his Uncle Cap in Richmond. Showing boldness, of not arrogance, Jesse rode right into Richmond to the home of Cap Ford. Jesse asked Bob if he was interested in a “little job.” Bob agreed to join him. As Jesse and the Ford brothers left town, Cap Ford sent a message to Sheriff Timberlake and Commissioner Craig. The trap was set. Within day, Jesse James would be assassinated by the “inside man.”

Ed O'Kelley
ED O’KELLEY, killed Bob Ford in Creede, Colorado

Following the events on the morning of April 3, 1882, Charlie Ford received as much condemnation for killing Jesse James as his brother, Bob Ford. The evidence indicates Charlie knew nothing about it until the night before Jesse was killed. Sheriff Timberlake stated he knew that Jesse was living in Leavenworth or Atchison, Kansas, or in St. Joseph, Missouri. These are the exact towns Jesse was checked when searching for a home after leaving Kansas City. Cap Ford said he knew Jesse was living in St. Joseph and he had advised Timberlake of the fact. Timberlake did not want the world to know that he knew where Jesse was living. That fact would not only support the position that Jesse James could have been captured.

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RELATED:   More from Phil Stewart’s 1999 Archive

The Plot to Capture Jesse James

The Gad’s Hill Train Robbery

Frank James – Scholar with a Gun

School Time for Jesse James – Part I

School Time for Jesse James – Part II

Jesse James & Half-Brother Perry Samuel

Jesse James Family – Slaves & Servants

Robert Sallee James – Father of Jesse James

Jesse James Myths & Facts

Book Review – The Trial of Jesse James Jr. by Laurie Ann Little

BOOK REVIEW: The Trial of Jesse James, Jr.: The Son of An Outlaw Stands Accused, adapted by L. A. Little, (Vintage Antique Classics Publishing Co. 2012), 201 pp., soft cover, $14.99.

By Nancy B. Samuelson

The Trial of Jesse James, Jr. book

This book opens with a short section, “Beginnings” which gives a bit of the history of Jesse James Jr. (Jesse Edward James). This tells how Jesse Jr. applied for a job as office boy to Thomas T. Crittenden Jr., the son of the Governor who was responsible for the death of the outlaw Jesse James. Young James and young Crittenden became lifelong friends. Young Jesse met many influential friends in the Kansas City area. He was a well liked and had a reputation as a hard-working, honest young man.

The bulk of the book is a series of newspaper articles from The Kansas City Journal. These begin in September 1898 after the robbery of a Missouri Pacific passenger train near Leeds, Missouri. Jesse James Jr. was soon accused of taking part in this robbery. The newspaper articles continue through early March 1899 when Jesse was acquitted of all charges.

These articles tell about the accusations of W. W. Lowe, a suspect himself, and a switchman at the Santa Fe Railroad switch yards. There were other suspects as well including Andy Ryan, the brother of Bill Ryan of the old Jesse James gang, and Jack “Quail Hunter” Kennedy, who was suspected of a number of crimes.

Jesse Jr. maintained his innocence and had a wide circle of friends who stood by him during the trial for this robbery. He had four defense attorneys and they were able to get a new Judge to try the case. Affidavits were submitted to show that Judge Wofford was prejudiced against Jesse Jr. Wofford was replaced by Judge W. D. Shackelford of Boonville, Missouri. The Prosecuting Attorney was James A. Reed, later a U. S. Senator and a presidential aspirant. Reed had six other attorneys assisting in the prosecution.

The articles give a good look at some of the police procedures at the time. Suspects were detained but not arrested for some time. There is discussion of “Sweating” prisoners as well. Jury selection is discussed and a lot of testimony from witnesses is included in a number of the articles.

The trial ends in acquittal of Jesse Jr. on all charges. The jury was out for about one hour and only one ballot was needed to make the decision. The Prosecuting Attorney then dismissed the charges against the other suspects.

Frank James attended the trial and he is mentioned several times. Mrs. Samuel, grandmother of Jesse Jr., and other family members were present and testified in Jesse’s behalf.

One additional newspaper article appears near the end of the book. This is in February 20, 1910. W.W. Lowe, who was the primary accuser of Jesse Jr. admitted he lied about James’ involvement in the robbery and said his story was a frame up.

The book has a one-page epilogue about the later life of Jesse Jr. The last section of the book is a reprint of the first four chapters of Jesse James, My Father, written in 1899 by Jesse Jr.

The book is nicely produced and easy to read. The front cover has a nice photo of Jesse Jr. There are a few illustrations from the newspapers throughout the book. There are no notes nor is there an index.

Edmond Thompson James Serves the Confederacy

Edmond Thompson James
Edmond Thompson James, 1835-1920

The Civil War had begun to surround the old Virginia home that James Carter James once occupied at Plainview in Fauquier County before he died in 1842. His progeny occupied the place since.

Avoiding the war for the James family was impossible. On April 15, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln ordered 75,000 troops, authorizing the Union to launch an aggressive attack upon the Confederacy.

A series of assaults throughout January and February of 1862 culminated on February 25th in the capture of Nashville, the first Confederate capital to fall to the Union. Eight days later, Carter James youngest son, George Carter James, enlisted at age twenty in the army of the Confederate States of America. He joined Company A of the 9th Virginia Cavalry. His regiment was called Stafford’s Rangers.

George Carter James 1842-1890, brother of Sgt. Edmond Thompson James
George Carter James 1842-1890, brother of Sgt. Edmond Thompson James

In July of the previous year, the U. S. House of Representatives passed the Crittenden Resolution, declaring that the war’s objective was not to interfere with slavery. The resolution required the Union take no action against the South’s “peculiar institution.” The bill’s sponsor, John Jordan Crittenden of Frankfort, Kentucky wrote, the war’s objective was to “defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union.”

Two weeks later, Congress passed the First Confiscation Act which emancipated slaves who served the Union during the war. In August, Gen. John C. Fremont ordered the emancipation of slaves in Missouri though Lincoln requested Fremont alter his decree. The following month, black troops were recruited in Kansas. By December, the Secretary of War issued a report authorizing the use of former slaves by the Army. At the same time, bills were introduced to abolish slavery.

The day after George Carter James enlisted, Abraham Lincoln requested Congress to pass a joint resolution urging for compensated emancipation. On March 10, 1862, President Lincoln met with Border State congressmen about the matter.

George Carter James compared with his cousin Jesse Woodson James
George Carter James compared with his cousin Jesse Woodson James

That very day on March 10th, two older brothers of George Carter James enlisted in Stafford’s Rangers, together with their brother-in-law. Edmond Thompson James joined with his brother John W. James. With them enlisted Richard Mortimer Crittenden, the husband of their sister Lucy Ann. Another sister, Sarah, married William T. Crittenden Jr.

Edmond Thompson and John W. James served Quarter Master duty. By December, Edmond was made a Sargent. After serving little more than a year, John W. James died on March 23, 1863, of an “inflammation of the bowels.” Edmond was severely ill the same month, but survived. Shortly afterward, Crittenden was assigned to detached service as a wagon master, a role he fulfilled through the end of the war, when he was paroled on April 15, 1865.

Through their service, Edmond was absent in March and again April of 1864. In July, as Confederate General Jubal Early got within five miles of Washington D. C. but was repelled, and again in August as Sherman began his march on Atlanta, Edmond was absent again. In this time, his brother George had gone AWOL. Edmond may have been sent to return George to duty. Both returned in August. On February 5, 1865, George was paroled, as Sherman scorched Georgia and South Carolina, and Jefferson Davis sued for peace. As Richmond fell, Edmond was paroled on April 18th together with George Mortimer Crittenden.

They all returned to Plainview to rebuild their lives in Fauquier County. George Carter James lived to 1890. Roger Mortimer Crittenden died in 1894. Edmond Thompson James lived well into the 20th century, dying in 1920 in his 85th year. John W. James gave his life to the war and to the Confederacy while on duty with Stafford’s Rangers.

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STAFFORD’S RANGERS

The Ninth Virginia Cavalry – Company A
Stafford Rangers – Stafford County

JAMES, EDMOND THOMPSON: Enl. 3/10/62 in Co. A. Promoted to Sgt., 12/1/62. Absent sick, Dec. 1862. Absent on QM duty, March-April and July-Aug. 1864. Present at 10/6/64 final roll. Paroled at Blacks and Whites, 4/18/65.

JAMES, GEORGE C.: Enl. 3/5/62 in Co. A. AWOL, Nov.-Dec. 1863 and July-Aug. 1864. Present at 10/6/64 final roll. Reported to the Bureau of Conscription on 2/5/65 as being AWOL in Fauquier Co.

JAMES, JOHN W.: Enl. 3/10/62 in Co. A. On extra QM duty, Sept. 1862 thru Feb. 1863. Died of “Inflamation of the bowels,” 3/21/63.

CRITTENDEN, RICHARD MORTIMER: b. 9/30/1825. Enl. 3/10/62 in Co. A. On detached service as wagon master, March 1863 thru Aug. 1864. Present at 10/6/64 final roll. Paroled in Va., 4/15/65. d. 4/2/1894 in Stafford Co. bur. Grove Church, Fauquier Co.
(ed. Brother-in-law, spouse of Lucy James.

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PEDIGREE

John W. James 1824-1863                                                                              Edmond Thompson James 1835-1920                                                                 George Carter James 1842-1890
. James Carter James & Martha Lee Tiller
.. Capt. Joseph James & Clarissa Brown
… George James Sr. & Mary Wheeler
…. Thomas James & Sarah E. Mason
….. John James, the Immigrant & Unknown

James Preservation Trust Gets Historic New Digs

Jonathon Nichols Office & Home, c. 1802-1816

The James Preservation Trust soon will occupy the historic, 200 year old building built by Jonathon Nichols in Danville, Kentucky. The structure sits on the Wilderness Road, the entry road from the Cumberland Gap into central Kentucky, pioneered by Daniel Boone with his ax-man Johannes Vardeman. Vardeman is the father of Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman who married Betsy James, the daughter of John M. James & Clara Nall. John M. James himself rode this path repeatedly, bringing pioneers from Virginia and North Carolina to settlement in Kentucky.

The structure was built originally in 1802 for Nichols & his hemp farm. Nichols purchased the land from Phillip Yeiser. The dual doors facing Wilderness Road entered Nichols’ one room office on the left & his one room & attic residence on the right.

Jonathon Nichols Home & Office, Original Entry Facade

Sometime before 1816 Nichols added more spacious living space to his original structure. Subsequently, the main entrance to the home was shifted to the side facade.

From this home, Nichols’ hemp farm extended along the streets of today’s Lexington & Broadway Avenues to Danville’s First Street. Constructing hemp rope requires a building as long as the rope being manufactured. It is believed an additional manufacturing structure occupied the property extending up to 400 feet in length. Today, the property’s original Lexington Avenue boundary is occupied by mansion style homes dating to the pre-Civil War era.

Over time, the office-residence housed enslaved people. Joseph McAlister James, who left Pulaski County to settle in Danville, brought his enslaved with him. Prior to the Civil War, Mack set them free, establishing them in their own plantations off Clark’s Run nearby.

At the Boyle County Courthouse nearby, generations of Jonathon Nichols’ descendants have served as County Clerk & Recorder. Nichols family signatures have witnessed the deeds of Joseph McAlister James in the eighteenth century & deeds of Stray Leaves publisher Eric James in the twenty-first century. They also have witnessed the deeds of the Sallee & Samuels family descendants who also lived in Danville.

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TOUR SITES NEARBY

Constitution Square, Danville, Kentucky

Within walking distance of the JPT’s new home are many sites relevant to the James family. One can visit Constitution Square, where John M. James attended Judge Harris Innes in 1784, when Innes petitioned Virginia for the separation of the District of Kentucky to become its own Commonwealth.

James Hotel, c. 1910. When the original wood structure burned in 1876, Joseph McAlister James rebuilt the hotel in brick.

Off Fourth & Main Sts. in downtown Danville, is the site of James Hall, owned by Joseph McAlister James. James Hall was home for decades to Danville’s community & social events, politicking, Chautauqua presentations, & theatricals.

A block away, adjacent to the Court House built by Isaac Hite, is Weisiger Park, the former site of Mack James’ hotel, originally built by Jeremiah Clemens as the Black Horse Inn. Clemens was a relation of the author & humorist Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.

Boyle County Courthouse, Built by Isaac Hite

In this same area, William Clark Quantrill, Frank James, the Pences, & the Youngers invaded Kentucky after the end of the Civil War, on their mission to “meet” Abraham Lincoln in Washington. Frank James took the opportunity to acquire some new book while in town. Further down Main St. is the First Presbyterian Church & cemetery, where Mack James was its first cemetery sextant. Adjacent is Centre College where Crittendens & Youngers were schooled.