Tag Archives: Danville

2017 JAMES-YOUNGER GANG – Diary of a Preview Tour

What Happened in Missouri began in Kentucky

Dan Pence at Spring Hill Cemetery, Harrodsburg, Ky.
Dan Pence, President of the James-Younger Gang, views the plot for the Confederate dead in Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.


April 19, 2017 – Dan Pence and Tom Nall, president and past president of the International James-Younger Gang Inc., will arrive at the 200-year-old Hemp House here in Danville today. Then for three days, we will tour Kentucky and preview historic sites in preparation for the speaking events and tours that are scheduled for the 2017 annual conference in Georgetown come September.

Dan Pence-Tom Nall-Harrodsburg cemetery
Dan Pence & Tom Nall, president & past president of the James-Younger Gang, tour the Confederate cemetery at Hoordsburg, Kentucky

Today, we will begin at Constitution Square. We will talk about the enduring relationship between John M. James, Frank & Jesse’s grandfather, with Judge Harry Innes, his clerk & later Justice Thomas Todd, & Benjamin Sebastian of the Spanish Conspiracy. We will also address what role John M. James may have had in the ten Danville Conventions and how the Spanish Conspiracy led to his ruin.

Next, we will retrace the ride of Frank James, the Younger & Pence brothers with William Clark Quantrill when they rode through Danville in 1864 on a mission to “visit” President Lincoln.

At the family plot of the close Confederate ally of Frank James, John Pendleton “Black Jack” Chinn. Dan Pence stands beside the tombstone of Black Jack’s grandmother, Sarah White Stull Hardin-Chinn. Her husband Christopher Columbus Chinn is the namesake of Kit Chinn who traveled the racetrack circuit with Frank James in his retirement years. Black Jack rests behind Dan Pence among two rows of his Chinn and Morgan families.

We will tour their escape route from Danville to Perryville and up to Sally Van Arsdall’s farm outside Harrodsburg. There, Maj. James Bridgewater, whose wife was a Pence, caught up with the band and attacked them in the middle of a cold January night. Four of the band was killed. Previously, the James-Younger Gang Journal published my account of this event, “Why, Maj. Bridgewater?”

We will then tour Oakland Church cemetery where Quantrill ordered their fallen men to be buried. We also will visit Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, where Frank James and Black Jack Chinn exhumed their slain from Oakland Church Cemetery and re-interred them in the Confederate plot at Spring Hill around 1898.

Nearby the family plot of Black Jack Chinn, Dan Pence tours the family plot of Franklin Pierce “Frank” James. In Harrodsburg, Frank James was the cashier of the Mercer County National Bank. Black Jack Chinn sat on its board of directors. Frank was twice elected Sheriff of Mercer County, and also was elected State Auditor. He halted construction of the new Kentucky State Capitol when the legislature failed to appropriate sufficient funding.

Returning to Danville, we will visit Bellevue Cemetery and the grave site of the grandparents of Clell Miller, Henry Logan Thurmond & Mary Kenley-Thurmond. Clell Miller was one of the James-Younger Gang. He was killed in the Northfield Bank robbery.

We will round off today’s tour in Danville with visits to Weisiger Park next to the Boyle County courthouse where Joseph McAlister James, aka Joseph McJames, operated the St. James Hotel. We also will stop by the parking lot on Third St. backing up to the Boyle County jail where Joseph McJames owned and operated James Hall, Danville’s first and original theater, and convention center.

In the coming two more days, we plan to tour in Woodford and Scott Counties.


Tombstone of Thomas Evans James, brother of Franklin Pierce “Frank” James. T.E. James operated the oldest dry goods firm in Harrodsburg – Hansford, James, & Co. His partner Smith Hansford rode with John Hunt Morgan, David Hunt James, & Richard Skinner James, both of whom were captured and sent to Camp Douglas Union Prison Camp in Chicago.

April 20, 2017 – Yesterday, after a full day of touring numerous historic sites relating to the pioneer settlement of John M. James in Kentucky and his pioneer families of Pence, Nalle, Vardiman, & Sallee, we ended our tour at Bellevue Cemetery in Danville.

Standing before the graves of Clell Miller’s grandparents, I received the ultimate compliment from Dan Pence. Turning to me, Dan said, “My grandfather would have loved to have known you.”

Tombstone Rev. Jesse Heah
Behind the tombstone of Thomas Evans James, Tom Nall spotted the tombstone of Rev. Jesse Head.  Rev. Head married President Abraham Lincoln’s parents, Thomas & Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

Dan’s grandfather is Samuel Anderson Pence, the author of I Knew Frank…I Wish I had Known Jesse. This book and its companion book Quantrill’s Guerillas 1861-1865 compiles Pence’s lifetime accumulation of history, stories, facts, and data relating to Pence’s personal relationship with the social communities and family of Frank & Jesse James. Dan edited and published his grandfather’s book posthumously. So much of Dan’s book is new and previously unpublished history. I have used this book often in my own research and writing.

Jesse Head plaque
Tombstone plaque for Rev. Jesse Head. “Rev. Jesse Head, Jan. 28, 1768-March 22, 1842. Preacher-Editor-Patriot. He married June 12, 1806, Thomas Lincoln & Nancy Hanks, parents of Abraham Lincoln. Jane Ramsey Head, April 10, 1768-August 30, 1851. Married Jesse Head January 9, 1789 and nobly shared with him the privations and triumphs of the life of a pioneer preacher.”
Jesse Head
Rev. Jesse Head 1768-1842 who married Abraham Lincoln’s parents

I was thrilled to think Dan thought so kindly about my research and writing. Dan’s generous compliment could not have thrilled me more.

Today, we continue our tour in Georgetown and Midway and the historic site related to the James family there.


April 21, 2017 – So far, very few complications have arisen regarding our programming for the September conference. Everything is working out well and in some cases better than first thought. This conference is going to be great!

However, while conducting our tour, revelations have occurred to us which surprised us. There really is no reason why the three of us, all raised in the upper Midwest, should find ourselves bound together by Jesse James. Yet, here we are.

Yesterday, Dan revealed his story “You have to go to Kentucky.”

Dan Pence-TomNall-Barbara Nall-Perryville Confederate Memorial
Dan Pence, Tom & Barbara Nall tour Perryville Battlefield and its memorial to the Confederate dead.

As a trained chemist, grown up In Michigan, Dan knew nothing of his connections to Jesse James. Not until Dan’s son brought home a book one day about Jesse James and Dan began to look at his grandfather’s box of memorabilia, did Dan begin to follow his path of spiritual discovery.

Dan Pence, Tom & Barbara Nall tour Logan’s Fort, a first stop for any migrant coming to Kentucky from Virginia in the early 1780s, including Frank and Jesse James’ grandfather, John M. James.

Following the neglected leads left to him, Dan began his journey. Dan’s door of discovery opened when a near stranger instructed him “You have to go to Kentucky. When Dan did, like me Dan discovered the unexpected.

In the Kentucky corporate offices of Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Dan met with Bill Samuel. Bill showed Dan Bill’s own neglected box of family memorabilia. Among the artifacts in Bill’s box were photos of Dan’s grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather.

Ever since then Dan has been on his own personal tour to discover what meaning Jesse James holds for him. Even on this preview tour of historic sites in Kentucky and after publishings his grandfather’s books, Dan is still learning more.

James-Younger Gang-2017 Conference logo

The three of us boys from the upper Midwest agree. We are traveling a curious path of divinity. We fully expect more revelations to come. Come to Kentucky, and you can, too. Join us and tour with us at the 2017 annual conference of the James-Younger Gang.

Major Bridgewater, why?


By Eric F. James

“Major Bridgewater, Why?” first appeared in the James-Younger Gang Journal.  It appears here in a revised and enhanced edition.

“They gutted my office pretty effectually.” So telegraphed Capt. William R. Gross to his Union superiors from the train depot in Danville, Kentucky.

The Raid on Danville

James H. Bridgewater
Major James H. Bridgewater, abt. 1835-1867. Photo from the collection of Wayne Bennett, Bridgewater’s second great-grandson

By January 29, 1865, all hostilities of the Civil War had ceased. Regardless, the telegraph message of Capt. Gross stated that thirty-five guerrillas, dressed in Union uniform, sacked his Union telegraph office that morning. The town’s boot store was plundered, too.1 Their horses were refreshed, probably from William Sallee’s Livery at Fourth and Walnut Streets, a block south of the courthouse. Oddly, one of the band also robbed a bookstore.2

Gross further reported the guerrillas were under the command of a Capt. Clark, who identified his group as the Fourth Cavalry from Missouri, on their way to Washington to have a personal meeting with President Lincoln. Capt. Gross broadcast that Clarke’s band headed west for Perryville at 11:15 a.m.

Judge Fry Gives Chase

Speed Smith Fry
Gen. Speed Smith Fry, 1817-1892

From an earlier experience, Judge Speed Smith Fry of Danville learned not cotton to the idea of guerrillas, masquerading in Union uniform, especially in his town. Fry had earned his rank of Brigadier General at the Battle of Perryville He still retained his command of Danville’s Home Guards.

The Battle of Mill Springs outside of Somerset, Kentucky is where Fry killed General Felix Kirk Zollicoffer of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, seemingly over an issue of mistaken dress and identity. When the hapless General Zolly rode up to Fry out of a foggy early morning rain, wearing a “light drab overcoat, buttoned to the chin.” Fry, who was “in undress uniform,” presumed the rider to be a Union officer like himself. Zolly ordered Fry to cease his fire. Both clustered together, riding so closely that their knees touched. Then Fry objected insistently. “I do not intend to fire upon our men.” Out of the misty drizzle, Capt. Henry M. R. Fogg of Zollicoffer’s staff suddenly rode forward and fired at Fry, killing his horse. “Sir, these are the enemy!” Fry instantly drew his revolver and shot Gen. Zollicoffer in the breast. His rebels secured Zollicoffer’s horse, but Fry seized the dead man’s saber. A letter in Zolly’s pocket revealed Zollicoffer’s actual  Confederate identity.3 Fry sneered, “You sneaking cowardly, infernal scoundrels, why do you not come up and fight us like men?”4

Spring House Farm
Spring House Farm, home of Gen. & Judge Speed Smith Fry, Danville, Kentucky

His ire raised again; Judge Speed Smith Fry now suspected Gen. Clarke of Missouri to be none other than William Clark Quantrill. With Danville’s Home Guards, Judge Fry gave chase from his home at Spring House Farm. He headed down the pike, eight miles to Perryville.

Maj. Bridgewater in Stanford

Four miles southeast of Danville, Maj. James H. Bridgewater received the telegraph message in Stanford, Kentucky. Bridgewater had been in the Union Secret Service, commanding scouts who chased Confederate guerrillas throughout central Kentucky. Only recently, Maj. Bridgewater had organized the Hall’s Gap Battalion of Home Guards. Most everyone in Stanford was a Southern sympathizer, who considered Bridgewater’s guards as being guerrillas themselves, not at all for the South but the Union.

Bridgewater Family Terror

None of the Northern guerrillas was more nefarious than Maj. Bridgewater’s older brother Augden.

A retreating Confederate Army captured Augden Bridgewater’s Home Guard in 1862 after the Battle of Perryville. Augden escaped. His captain, Harbert King, and King’s two sons John Franklin and William Alexander King, were captured and hanged.5 Acting as a Union Home Guard since the Battle of Perryville, Augden “terrorized Lincoln County and robbed indiscriminately.”

Finally, Augden was hunted down. He was cornered in Harrodsburg with a wagonload of loot. He was shot in the face, leaving his entire jaw dangling. A doctor wired his jaw to his tongue. Augden then was jailed briefly in Stanford before being sent to the Kentucky penitentiary. Subsisting on liquids sipped through a quill until he got religion, Augden Bridgewater repented and was released to return to Stanford.6

Maj. James Bridgewater Gives Chase

Route of the chase. Harrodsburg at the top. Stanford on lower right. Danville at center. Perryville on the left.
Route of the chase by Fry and Bridgewater. Harrodsburg at the top. Stanford on lower right. Danville at center. Perryville on the left.

Upon the telegraph news, Maj. Bridgewater mobilized the Hall’s Gap Battalion and headed for Harrodsburg up the old buffalo trace, north of Perryville. Maj. Bridgewater assumed Fry would drive Clarke’s band from Perryville. Harrodsburg, a staunchly Confederate bastion of Southern sympathy, would be the guerrillas’ nearest destination of safety.

Late in that cold and snowy night, Maj. Bridgewater found a detachment of the guerrillas four miles west of Harrodsburg. The band, including Frank James, Bob Younger, Allen Parmer, and the Pence brothers Bud and Donnie was concealed in the home of Sallie Ann Van Arsdale.7 Maj. Bridgewater would not wait for the break of dawn to commence slaughter.

Frank James

Frank James long since had learned how to protect himself when taking refuge for the night. Even when called to dinner at the home of his Samuels kinfolk in Nelson County, Frank waited until all others sat at the table. He then walked the exterior perimeter of the home, surveying the horizon, before taking his customary seat at the table with his back towards an interior wall. Frank performed the same ritual before retiring for the night.8

When Maj Bridgewater assaulted the Van Arsdale farmhouse full bore, with Kentucky rifles and keen marksmanship famed since the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the unforeseen force against Frank James and Quantrill’s men turned deadly.

Bridgewater’s First Assault

Elisha Farmer of Bridgewater’s Home Guard held position behind a field fence. Holding only a pistol, Farmer held his fire, waiting for a reachable and precise target. Bridgewater’s assault raged for ten or fifteen minutes, Farmer recollected.

In a lull, two riders emerged in the field before him. Farmer took aim between two fence rails and shot. Down and dead fell the first rider. The second rider, later identified as Frank James, escaped death by a hair second.9

Escaping with Frank was Allen Parmer. That night, Quantrill had partitioned his original band of forty-two into three squads, housing each third in separate farmhouses. Parmer reported, “Quantrill flew into a terrible rage when we told him about it, and he wouldn’t believe it. He sent Chat Rennick, Frank James, Peyton Long, and myself back to see if we could get any of the wounded boys out. They killed Chat Rennick on the way back.“10

Oakland Christian Church
Oakland Methodist Church cemetery outside of Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Now the Oakland Christian Church. First burial site for Quantrill’s fallen. Numerous Van Arsdale and Sallee families are buried here.

Quantrill lost nine of his forty-one men that night. Jim Younger and three others were captured. The arrested were ordered to bury Quantrill’s dead in the cemetery of the Oakland Methodist Church.

In his retirement, Frank James returned to the scene later in 1889. With the help of Col. Jack Chinn and his son Kit who lived on the other side of Harrodsburg, Quantrill’s fallen were exhumed and re-interred in the new Spring Hill Cemetery in the town of Harrodsburg. Spring Hill Cemetery had been dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the Confederacy.

Spring Hill Cemetery
Spring Hill Cemetery, Harrodsburg, Kentucky, dedicated to the fallen of the Confederacy.
Spring Hill Cemetery, reintenrment plot for Quantrill's Raiders.
The plot in Spring Hill Cemetery where Frank James and Col. Jack Chinn reinterred those of Quantrill’s Raiders who fell under the assault of Maj. James H. Bridgewater.

Bridgewater’s Second Assault

Ten days later, Maj. Bridgewater struck again at 2:00 a.m. west of Hustonville where Quantrill had been spotted. On this occasion, Bridgewater killed four more of Quantrill’s band. The balance fled barefoot in the snow when Bridgewater captured all of their horses.

In Kentucky, Quantrill never gained more distance on President Lincoln than Georgetown, Kentucky. Lincoln soon was killed on April 15th.

On May 10th, Quantrill was shot up and left for dead in the farm field of Dr. James Heady Wakefield in Nelson County. Quantrill had taken refuge there. When alerted to the shooting of Quantrill and his being severely wounded, Frank James was found reading a book he had picked up while in Danville. In a Louisville hospital, Quantrill got religion. He was baptized a Catholic like the Youngers. Quantrill then expired on June 6th. Frank James retreated to a home on the railroad tracks not too far from Samuel’s Depot, where he and Quantrill’s band surrendered on September 26th. Frank James then was paroled.

Bridgewater Retires

Before the Civil War in Stanford in 1858, James H. Bridgewater and his brother Augden had been members of the Lincoln Lodge No. 60 of the Free & Accepted Masons.11 At that time, Stanford elected Bridgewater as Sheriff. When Bridgewater ran for election to the state legislature, his popularity faded, and he was not as successful.

After the war, Stanford began to view Maj. Bridgewater more as a hindrance. Settling into a position with the Freedman’s Bureau, Bridgewater sought protections for the formerly enslaved. In May of 1867 at Louisville, Bridgewater turned in a list of “regulators” he believed were terrorizing Stanford’s former slaves and staunch Unionists. “Regulators used terror tactics both to stymie political competition for the building blocks of state power, including the offices of sheriff and magistrate and to impose a white supremacist social order after the form abolition of slavery.”12

Bridgewater Killed

Stanford, Kentucky
Assassination site of Maj; James H. Bridgewater, Stanford, Kentucky

On July 17, 1867, an assassin’s bullet brought down Maj. James Bridgewater.

Previously, twenty-seven-year-old Walter G. Saunders made an attempt on Bridgewater’s life. Bridgewater’s brothers and nephews repelled Saunders when they appeared in the street carrying Spencer carbines.

L&N Railroad Depot, Stanford, Kentucky
The site of second attempt on the life of Maj. James H. Bridgewater. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Depot, Syanford, Kentucky

A subsequent attempt against Bridgewater occurred on Danville Avenue in Stanford at the crossing of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

On July 17, 1867, however, Bridgewater was playing cards in a saloon. Saunders appeared again with four men of his own. They chased Bridgewater to a stairwell where they killed him.

Walter G. Saunders tombstone
Walter G. Saunders tombstone. Crab Orchard Cemetery, Crab Orchard, Kentucky

At the trial of Walter G. Saunders in Crab Orchard, no prosecution witnesses showed up to testify. Afterward, Stanford elected Walter G. Saunders as Sheriff, but Saunders only lived another ten years.13

Ever since the assassination of James H. Bridgewater, candidates for Sheriff’s office in Stanford, Kentucky customarily demonstrate their Southern sympathy.

Bridgewater Buried

His Masonic Lodge buried Maj. Bridgewater with Masonic Rites.14  He is presumed buried in an unmarked grave near his father-in-law Abraham Dawes outside Stanford on Howell Lane, off Route 127 at the foot of Hall’s Gap. Immediately adjacent and across Howell Lane lay buried the enslaved of the Dawes family.

Bridgewater’s Southern Family Revealed

One issue remains unresolved in the saga of Maj. James H. Bridgewater’s pursuit of Quantrill,  Frank James, the Younger brothers and especially the Pence brothers.

With Maj. Bridgewater murdered and buried, Bridgewater’s widow and children departed Kentucky with Sarah Pence-Dawes, Bridgewater’s mother-in-law. They moved to Missouri, first to Warrensburg in Johnson County about 20 miles southeast of Kansas City. They subsequently removed to Nevada in Vernon County.15 One of Bridgewater’s sons settled in Kansas City.

Also living in Missouri in Pettis County was Rebecca Younger, a first cousin of Bob Younger whom Bridgewater captured. Bridgewater cousins of the Major proceeded to live among Rebecca Younger’s nieces and nephews there.

Maj. Bridgewater’s mother-in-law is Sarah Pence, who removed her family to Nevada, Missouri.16 Back in Stanford, Kentucky, the parents, nieces, and nephews of Sarah Pence-Bridgewater stayed to continue populating Lincoln County. Today, they lay buried in Buffalo Springs Cemetery outside Stanford.

Sarah and her Pence family, like Maj. Bridgewater’s wife Susan Dawes and Bridgewater’s children, are cousins of Bud and Donnie Pence, whom Bridgewater hunted to kill on his chase to Harrodsburg.

The question left unsettled no doubt in the mind of Maj. Bridgewater’s widow, as well as for history, is – Maj. Bridgewater, why?


1  Sanders, Stuart W. “Quantrill’s Last Ride.” America’s Civil War Vol.12. March 1999, p.42-48.

2  Brown, Richard C. A History of Danville and Boyle County, Kentucky, 1774-1992. Danville. Bicentennial Books. 1992. p. 41.

3  Louisville Daily Courier, March 1, 1862. The text of the full letter addressed to “Gen. F. K. Zollicoffer,” is reproduced.

4  Interview with Col. Speed S. Fry, 4th Kentucky Infantry, to the Editors of the Louisville Journal. Danville, Kentucky, Feb. 23, 1862.

5  A year before the battle, King had written to his neighbor Capt. Isaac Singleton, whose son was hanged with King’s two sons. Letter of Capt. Harbert King to Capt. Isaac Singleton, dated, “Camp Robinson, Kentucky, Oct. 16, 1861,” in possession of King descendant Madelene Henley.

6  Obituary. Lafayette Advertiser, Lafayette, Louisiana. September 2, 1893. p. 6, col. 5.

7  Sanders, Stuart W.

8  Author’s interview with Robert Hamlin, great grandson of bourbon distiller Taylor William Samuel 1821-1898, the brother of Dr. Reuben Samuel. Danville, Ky. March 18, 2004.

9  Author’s interview with Jack Farmer at age 76, great-grandson of Elisha Farmer. Stanford, Ky. June 16, 2007. The attack pistol remains in the possession of Jack Farmer. Jack Farmer has since deceased.

10  Hale, Donald R. We Rode with Quantrill, self-published 1975. ed. 1982, p. 147.

11  Records of Lincoln Lodge No. 60 of the Free & Accepted Masons, confirmed by Chaplain David Gambrel in preparation for the Bridgewater dedication service.

12  Rhyne, J. Michael “A Murderous Affair in Lincoln County: Politics, Violence, and Memory in a Civil War Era Kentucky Community” American Nineteenth Century History, Volume 7, Issue 3, September 2006, pp. 337 – 359.

13  The Advocate-Messenger, June 14, 2007. Danville, Ky. Also, David Gambrel, Vice-President, Lincoln County Historical Society. Saunders tombstone in Crab Orchard Cemetery identifies him as born in 1840 and died in 1877. His epitaph reads, “A kind husband and affectionate father and a friend to all.”

14  Records of Lincoln Lodge 60.

15 1870 Census. Johnson County, Hazel Twp. Missouri. Also, 1900 Census. Vernon County, Richland Twp., Missouri.

Clell Miller Gets No Respect

Clell Miller, aka Clelland B. Miller 1849-1876
Clell Miller, aka Clelland B. Miller 1849-1876

Maligned and also misunderstood. Misquoted and also misinterpreted. Except for the deadly hit Clell Miller took in Northfield, Minnesota; Clell’s life always ran amiss. Clell Miller gets no respect. Even in death, Clell’s bones are missing. How did the James gang ever wind up with the likes of hapless Clell Miller?

Imagine my surprise, to learn that I live just two blocks from Clell Miller’s grandparents. Since Henry Logan and Mary Kenley Thurmond died together back in 1866, Clell’s grandparents have not gone missing at all. For almost 150 years, they have been right here in Danville, Kentucky, in plain sight. And, like poor Clell, no one has cared.

Tombstone of Henry Logan, Thurmond & Mary Kenley, grandparents of James Gang member Clell Miller. Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky.
Tombstone of Henry Logan, Thurmond & Mary Kenley, grandparents of James Gang member Clell Miller. Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky.

Moving here to Danville, Kentucky twelve years ago to write my five-volume history of the James family, Jesse James Soul Liberty, I made Danville my home base, principally because Danville is the geographic center of the James family’s history in Kentucky, ever since 1782 when Jesse’s grandfather, John M. James, arrived with his Traveling Church. The Youngers, Pence, Scholls, Chinns, Hites, Vardemans, etc. – and now

Clell Miller’s family – lived among one another first around Danville, before moving to Clay County in Missouri. These families left an abundance of history in plain sight, still waiting today for the arrival of serious historians.

John Loyd Thurmond Jr. 1870-1946. First cousin of Clell Miller of the James Gang.
John Loyd Thurmond Jr. 1870-1946. First cousin of Clell
Miller of the James Gang.

Often I take a refreshing walk over to Bellevue Cemetery after long hours of writing. Bellevue is an historic, tree-filled place, where Victorians went for Sunday picnics, courting, and family recreational diversions. Since Danville is where Kentucky separated from Virginia in 1792, Bellevue is populated also by countless blue blood figures of the Commonwealth’s frontier. I commune with them, just as I do with those in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Missouri.

Clell’s grandparents were not Kentucky blue blood. Henry Logan Thurmond and Nancy Kenley were just average, simple folk.

Earnest Clarence Thurmond 1873-1940. First cousin of Clell Miller of the James Gang.
Earnest Clarence Thurmond 1873-1940. First cousin of
Clell Miller of the James Gang.

Henry’s father, Absalom Thurmond, first lived on Pistol Creek in Bedford County, Virginia, but he died in Wilkes County, Georgia. Two of orphaned sisters of Henry won land lotteries there. When Henry’s brother, John Thurmond, returned to Georgia from the Cain-tuc, people called him “Rich John.” His cousin Fielding Thurmond became captain of a Kentucky militia, during separation from Virginia, protecting the incoming flood of migrants, as did Jesse’s grandfather, John M. James. Fielding returned to Georgia, too. The orphaned Henry Miller, though, arrived in Kentucky sometime before 1808 to stay. Near Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home in Washington County, Henry married Mary Kenley. The couple spent some time in Logan County, at the time called “Rogue’s Harbor,” a place for killers, thieves, and con artists to flee Kentucky’s emerging new laws and local governments. By 1828, the couple settled more safely in the established, cultured, and Presbyterian community of Danville.

William Paschal Thurmond 1869-1952. First cousin of Clell Miller of the James Gang.
William Paschal Thurmond 1869-1952. First cousin of Clell
Miller of the James Gang.

Henry and Mary Thurmond were in the mid-70s in April of 1866 when they both died. The couple had nine children, most of them from home, or dead. Henry and Mary recently suffered through the aftermath from the bloody battle at Perryville. Scores of wounded, maimed, and dying were treated in every quarter Danville could offer. Henry and Mary were here on the day when Frank James, Bud and

Donnie Pence and the Youngers rode into town with Quantrill, severing telegraph lines, isolating the train depot, and pillaging food and supplies while Frank casually stole some books from a store.

The gang rode off to Harrodsburg where Frank’s cohort Col. Jack Chinn lived. But the Pence brother’s in-law on the Union side, Maj. James Bridgewater, rode up from Stanford in hot pursuit, cornered the gang at Sally Van Arsdale’s house, and killed off a good number of them in the bloody shootout of a snowy winter’s night. Weeks later, Henry read in the news that Quantrill had died in Louisville’s Catholic hospital, and Frank James turned in his guns.

Soldiers were returning to Danville from Charleston, New Orleans, and Mississippi. They brought diseases with them. About half of the population in Danville was black, Most blacks had been freed long before the war. Those newly emancipated were joining the Union Army at nearby Fort Nelson just to be employed, leaving the town without much help. In sunny April of 1866, old and feeble Henry Thurmond died within weeks of his wife Mary, as hapless as did Clell. Their brains exploded unexpectedly with the excruciatingly painful disease of cerebral spinal meningitis.

By then, Clell’s parents, Emaline Thurmond and Moses W. Miller, were in Kearney, Missouri. Most of Clell’s uncles and aunts had settled in Ash Grove. Only Uncle Fielding and Aunt Cettie Thurmond stayed behind to bury Clell’s grandparents. Fielding, who died in 1896 and Cettie in 1909, now rest next to Henry and Mary.

Tombstone of Cettie Miller 1848-1907, first cousin of Clell Miller of the James Gang. Bellvue Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky
Tombstone of Cettie Miller 1848-1907, first cousin of Clell
Miller of the James Gang. Bellvue Cemetery, Danville,

Exactly when Clell’s parents left Kentucky for Missouri is unknown. An early exodus of Baptist missions had begun in the 1830s. The same rebel preachers of Virginia who took Jesse’s grandfather, John M. James, into Kentucky now were sending missions into Missouri. John’s son, Rev. Robert Sallee James, was part of that effort in 1843. Brother William R. Cave laid out his half of Kearney in 1856, using the settlement land of his father, Uriel Cave. William’s great grandson, the late Darrell Cave, was sextant of Mt. Olivet Cemetery almost all his life. He assisted Judge James R. Ross, Jesse’s great grandson, and me when we reinterred Jesse’s twin children at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, following the twins’ exhumation in Tennessee. The James association with the Cave family reaches back to the American Revolution.

The cholera outbreak of the 1830s in Kentucky also sent other families westward. Alice Lindsay-Cole, Frank, and Jesse’s grandmother, married a second time to Robert Thomason. In 1836, the entire Thomason family was uprooting itself from Kentucky and going to Clay County, triggered in no small part by their neighbor Richard Mentor Johnson, who had just married his second slave woman. Johnson claimed he had killed Chief Tecumseh in the War of 1812. Now he was bent upon being elected president of the United States. He also had set up his Choctaw Academy and was bringing Indians back into the Commonwealth to be educated. Among some, that did not sit too well. They fought Indians and spilled blood to settle the land.

Nora Ruth Miller 1900-1964 & Annie Harwood Miller 1895-1993, second and first cousins respectively of Clell Miller of the James Gang.
Nora Ruth Miller 1900-1964 & Annie Harwood Miller 1895-1993, second and first cousins
respectively of Clell Miller of the James Gang.

When Clell was born on December 15, 1849, Moses W. and Emaline Thurmond Miller were well-established residents of Clay County. Clell never knew his grandfather, Jacob Miller, on the side of his father. He also did not know his Thurmond grandparents. But Clell probably learned that his papaw

Jacob Miller was one of those tough-minded Germans, like the Hite family. The Hites/Heydts all came from Germany, then to Pennsylvania, then into Kentucky, all ending up in Missouri. Despite what trouble Clell and his brother Ed Miller found their selves in, people around Kearney regarded their father Moses W. Miller well. Moses was a far more respectable citizen than his two sons, as shown by the expensive obelisk that graces his grave.

Since the Civil War ended, and especially after, Jesse was presumed to have killed Clell’s brother Ed, what Clell shared with the James brothers no doubt was a sense of family disaffection. Like the

James family with the James boys, Miller family cousins had little, if nothing at all, to do with Clell. Most had moved away, gone to Texas or Oregon. Isolated, Clell Miller never knew his Miller or his Thurmond cousins at all. Like the James family, too, Clell’s family spent their days building honest and respectable lives for themselves, for the most part ignoring Clell, or his brother Ed.

Darrell Mansur, a first cousin, four generations removed of Clell Miller 1848- 1846, aka Clelland B. Miller, shot and killed in the failed Northfield Bank Robbery by the James Gang, September 7, 1876.
Darrell Mansur, a first cousin, four
generations removed of Clell Miller 1848-
1846, aka Clelland B. Miller, shot and
killed in the failed Northfield Bank
Robbery by the James Gang, September 7,

Recently when I met Clell’s first cousin from his Miller side, now four generations removed, I asked Darrell Mansur about his family and about Clell. Having respect for Clell Miller was not at the forefront of Darrell’s mind. In fact, Darrel knew nothing at all about Clell Miller or Ed. I provided Darrell his genealogy of his Miller- Thurmond family and explained the murderous history it contained. Darrell then replied, “This is all new and a bit of a shock to me. It probably explains why I wasn’t told anything about that part of the family when I was growing up…”

Gee, Clell Miller, we hardly knew ya. Seems like your own family did not, either. Cell Miller gets no respect.

This article first appeared in the James-Younger Gang Journal in 2014.

Gee, Clell Miller, we hardly knew ya !

Clell Miller, member of the James Gang

Imagine my surprise, to learn that I live just two blocks from Clell Miller’s grandparents. Gee, Clell Miller, Kentucky hardly knew ya.

Since Henry Logan and Mary Kenley Thurmond died together back in 1866, Clell’s grandparents haven’t gone missing at all. For almost 150 years, they’ve been right here in Danville, Kentucky, in plain sight. And like poor Clell, no one has cared.

Who’s Clell Miller? Hapless Clell was a member of the James Gang. During their robbery attempt of the Northfield Bank in Northfield, Minnesota in 1876, Clell Miller will killed.

Jesse James is reputed to have killed Clell’s brother, Ed Miller.

Tombstone of Henry Logan Thurmond & Wife Mary Kenley, Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky

Moving here twelve years ago to write my histories of the Jesse James family, I made Danville my home base, because Danville’s the geographic center of the James family’s history in Kentucky, ever since 1782 when Jesse’s grandfather, John M. James, arrived with his Traveling Church. The Youngers, Pence, Scholls, Chinns, Hites, Vardemans, etc. – and now Clell Miller’s family – lived among one another first around Danville, before moving to Clay County in Missouri. These families left abundant history in plain sight, still waiting today for the arrival of serious historians.

Often I take a refreshing walk over to Bellevue Cemetery after long hours of writing. Bellevue is an historic, tree-filled place, where Victorians went for Sunday picnics, courting, and family recreational diversions. Since Danville is where Kentucky separated from Virginia in 1792, Bellevue is populated also by countless blue blood figures of the Commonwealth’s frontier. I commune with them, just as I do with those in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Missouri.

Now that I know I have Clell Miller’s grandparents for neighbors, I think I’ll write a story about them for the James-Younger Gang Journal. I believe Jesse James fanatics know just about as much about Clell’s family as they know about Clell Miller himself.

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.



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.

When a Younger Rode to Defeat Arizona-style Nativism

Fontaine Talbott Fox Sr., Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Ky.

Born in Liberty, Missouri, Charles Bruce Younger Sr. was only twenty-three when he took a stab at killing the political campaign of his older cousin, Fontaine Talbott Fox. Their cousins in the future Younger Gang were yet in their teens.

Fox was a politically savvy old codger. Already in his fifties, he had been a lawyer, judge, and attorney general for Kentucky. He had weathered two successful elections to the state legislature. Fox had muscle and political pull. His father Will Fox was a long standing court clerk, securely installed in his position when he was only sixteen or seventeen by John M. James, the grandfather of Frank and Jesse James. Regardless, Younger was determined to take Fox down.

Fox’s challenger was Albert Gallatin Talbott Sr. An attorney, Talbott received his law education from Samuel Hughes Woodson, an eminent Kentucky lawyer who later turned notorious for fixing elections in the Missouri-Kansas border wars. As a Democrat, Talbott was an abolitionist. Seeking another term in the legislature, Fox, who formerly was elected as a Whig, had drifted into the opposition No-Nothing Party.

No-Nothings were strictly anti-immigration. They supported only native-born candidates for public office. On a religious platform, the No-Nothings were also anti-Catholic.

As a boy, Charles B. Younger served in the Liberty Company of Missouri Volunteers at Fort Leavenworth under Alexander Doniphan, preparing for war against Mexico. When Doniphan went to war, Younger went to St. Joseph’s Catholic College in Bardstown, Kentucky, to pursue an education. His father, Coleman Purcell Younger, had converted to Catholicism, in respect of his wife’s faith when they married. Both father and son were Democrats.

Albert Gallatin Talbott, Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Ky.

When Albert G. Talbott contested Fontaine T. Fox, Charles B. Younger had just arrived in Danville, Kentucky to complete his senior year at Centre College. Two years behind him was Thomas T. Crittenden, who later would plot to kill Jesse James. Younger became Talbott’s campaign manager.

Danville was known as a seat of enlightenment. The town revered knowledge, education, and clear thinking. There, Younger also studied law under Joshua Fry Bell, who had been educated in Europe, and held a worldly view of matters. Bell was a U. S. Congressman, and later was appointed to the Peace Conference and Border State convention to avoid the calamitous Civil War. Danville respected clear thinkers. What Danville didn’t like was political candidates who, when asked what they stood for, replied “I know nothing.”

Albert Gallatin Talbott, inscription. Bellevue Cemetery, Danville, Ky.

C. B. Younger defeated his cousin Fontaine T. Fox with a blast of words. Writing repeatedly in a Danville Democratic newspaper, Younger dismantled Fox piece by piece as the candidate with no solutions to serious problems. Younger won the election for Albert G. Talbott. Later when elected to Congress, Talbott took on the serious problem of avoiding civil war. He urged the surrender of slaves in the South to the United States for fair compensation.

Charles B. Younger became a lawyer. He removed with his father to San Jose, California, where the two practiced law, settling disputes among Anglos, immigrants, and Mexicans. His mediation in the Soquel Rancho dispute led to the founding of Santa Cruz.

The junior of C.B.Y. Sr, as he came to be called, married the daughter of Augustus Hihn, a wealthy German immigrant. Working together across European, American, and Mexican cultures, the Youngers became wealthy representing Hihn’s financial interests. As his cousins in the Younger Gang sided with the James Gang, C.B.Y. faced his most delicate circumstance. On behalf of Augustus Hihn, Younger foreclosed on the town of Paso Robles, California, developed and owned by Drury Woodson James, the uncle of Frank and Jesse.

In California politics, the Youngers have remained liberal Democrats, always ready to craft equitable solutions. In Kentucky, their defeated cousin Fountain T. Fox bequeathed his political sentiments to Fountain T. Fox Jr. In 1936 the junior Fox wrote, “I have ready for publication an manuscript on the Woman Suffrage Movement in this country … my argument is against the movement.”


What would Jesse James’ cousin, Dan James, do about Arizona ?

Hey, Arizona…We don’t need no stinkin’ “papers” !