At the Jesse James family reunion in 2002, living descendants in the family of Peter Burnett appeared. They were seeking knowledge of the Burnett family’s connections to the Jesse James family. Stories of a connection had come down in their family lore.
To date, no specific connection with the James family, or with Drury Woodson James, Jesse’ s uncle and founder of Paso Robles, California, has been found. Given D.W. James social and political connections, it remains highly likely some connection existed. Is also is highly certain that Peter Burnett would have known Rep. Coleman Purcell Younger of Santa Cruz, California, the husband of Burnett’s niece, Rebecca J. Smith, among other Burnett-Younger kinships.
Peter Burnett may not be a name that is familiar to many people these days. It seems a pity that he has been largely forgotten. He was a man of some rather significant achievements in the states of Missouri, Oregon and California. I have been interested in him for some time and was pleased to see that someone had finally written a book about him. However, I found that the author chose to judge Burnett by today’s standards of political correctness and ignore or belittle his many real accomplishments.
R. Gregory Nokes is a journalist and is a competent writer but the book will appeal more to a general audience than to historians or scholars. He did do a fair amount of research and has discovered a number of Burnett’s letters that have never been made public before. He has also thoroughly researched Burnett’s other writings, and there is a considerable amount of this material. There is no evidence, however, that he consulted any contemporary newspapers reports of the actions and events in Burnett’s life. Nor did he dig very deeply into family connections and the accomplishments of many other members of this talented Burnett family and their near kinfolks.
The author makes much ado about Burnett’s contributions to the deplorable “Lash Law” in Oregon that Burnett helped put on the books. But little is said about the almost immediate revision of the law and the fact that the law was never once enforced. Many, in fact, most other states and territories had similar or worse laws on the books concerning African Americans and other minorities. Nokes is highly critical of Burnett in many ways and this detracts from the contributions Peter Burnett did make.
Peter Burnett was almost completely a self-educated man. He was born into a poor family in Tennessee but the family soon moved to Missouri to better themselves. Burnett was able to become an attorney and established a good law practice and engaged in several business enterprises. He was one of the men responsible for getting the U. S. Congress to approve the Platte Purchase that added a considerable amount of territory to the northwestern section of Missouri. Some of Burnett’s business enterprises were not successful and he soon turned his eyes to the Oregon Territory. He “boomed” Oregon and organized the first major wagon train to travel to Oregon in 1843. He was active in the organization of the Oregon Territorial Government and was Oregon’s first Supreme Court judge.
When word came of the discovery of gold in California, Burnett once more decided he could improve his fortunes by going to California. He took the first wagon train from Oregon to California and achieved a fair amount of success in mining for gold in California. He then moved to Sacrament and went back into the legal business. He took over some of the real estate sales for John Sutter and was well on the way to repairing Sutter’s finances until Sutter, Sr. fired him in a huff. Burnett did bolster his own finances as well from his sales of Sacramento real estate.
Burnett then turned his hand to helping get a state government organized in California and was overwhelmingly elected as the first Governor of California. He later resigned from this office to pursue his business interests. He later went into the banking business in San Francisco and was president of one of the most successful banks in California. Peter Burnett died a wealthy and highly esteemed man.
Burnett was completely honest, a rare quality in the hectic days of Gold Rush California, a deeply religious man, and a devoted husband and father. All of his children that survived were successful and talented people. His sons-in-law were attorneys and served in state government as did some of his grandchildren.
An item of interest to Wild West buffs was completely missed by the author. Burnett had close connections to the Younger and Dalton families. His brother, George William Burnett, was married to Sydney Ann Younger, an aunt of the Younger boys of James-Younger gang fame. Sydney Ann’s half-sister, Adeline, was the mother of the Dalton brothers of Dalton gang fame. George William Burnett served in the Oregon legislature for some time and his son George Henry Burnett served on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1911 to 1927, twice serving as the Chief Justice of the court. Peter Burnett also maintained close social relations with Coleman Younger, the uncle of the outlaw Younger brothers, in Santa Clara County. California for a number of years.
This book is certainly worth reading and it inspired me to dig even deeper and to see what else I could learn about this fascinating man. Peter Burnett is worthy of more study so we can fully appreciate his contributions to our history.
An ambrotype, claimed to be Jesse James, has raised multiple red flags, particularly from the Jesse James family.
Patrick Taylor Meguiar wants to sell his ambrotype. He claims the subject of his picture is Jesse James. Patrick says the artifact was handed down from Jesse, through Patrick’s family, to him. Patrick also says he is Jesse’s cousin. Patrick’s ambrotype is waving red flags.
Patrick has two problems. Patrick cannot prove his kinship to Jesse. Moreover, Patrick cannot prove his ambrotype is Jesse James. Disregarding what may be wishful thinking, Patrick is taking his claimed Jesse James ambrotype to auction.
“Dear Cousin” – Red Flag # 1
Fatal flaws in Patrick’s wishful thinking first appeared when he solicited the Jesse James family. Emailing to Jesse James family historian and Stray Leaves publisher Eric F. James, Patrick wrote, “Dear Cousin Eric.”
A greeting like “Dear Cousin Eric” raises an immediate red flag among the James family. The common belief within the James family is that those who claim to be a relation most likely are not. Moreover, those who are a legitimate and genetic relation are not likely to admit it, let alone to talk about it. A greeting like “Dear Cousin” forewarns that something amiss is about to follow.
No Sources – Red Flag # 2
Writing to Eric F. James, Patrick staked his claim to Jesse James kinship, but he provided no genealogical details or sources as evidence of his claim.
“This is the image that has passed down in my family with the tradition that Cousin Jesse Woodson James gave this photo to my great great grandmother Sarah Mariah Martin Meguiar & her siblings in 1868. I descend twice directly from Sarah Hines Martin who was the sister of Mary Hines James the wife of William James.
“My line is as follows: John Hines had Sarah Hines who married John Martin. They had Robert Martin who married Sarah Jane Hoy. They had Sarah Mariah Martin who married Thomas William Meguiar. They had Thomas Charlie Meguiar who married Dorothy Robert Turner. They had Thomas Maynard Meguiar who married Allene Moore Hobdy. They had Thomas Maynard Meguiar, Jr. who married Eva Nell Groves. They had me, Patrick Taylor Meguiar.
“My second line is Sarah Hines married John Martin. They had Elizabeth Martin who married Martin Turner. They had Robert Williamson Turner who married Almira Lucetta Hammond. They had Dorothy Robert Turner who married Thomas Charlie Meguiar. (See the line above to continue to me).”
Muddy Ancestry – Red Flag # 4
At Stray Leaves, an independent genealogical investigation into Patrick’s claim revealed the particulars of his ancestry. The investigation also revealed Patrick’s knowledge of his own ancestry was somewhat muddy. Patrick’s wishful thinking attempted to graft his ancestral tree to the Jesse James family tree.
Research indeed confirmed the two lines of ancestry from Patrick to Sarah Hines that Patrick claimed, with a couple of muddy anomalies. Stray Leaves considers the discrepancies as minor and irrelevant to proving Patrick’s tree attaches to the James.
The principal point of grafting between the Meguiar and the James trees, Patrick says, occurs with Sarah Hines, Patrick’s second great-grandmother. Patrick claims Sarah and Mary Hines are sisters. As his evidence, Patrick cites the Douglas Register where the marriages of Sarah and Mary are identified.
The Douglas Register does not show evidence of Sarah Hines and Mary Hines being sisters, however. Just because the names of both girls named Hines appear among a list of marriages performed by Rev. William Douglas of St. James Northam Parish in Goochland County, Virginia, nothing in the Register substantiates that one Sarah Hines is a relation to another Mary Hines. In the Douglas Register, other James are listed who are not related to William James and wife Mary Hines.
Aggravating this artificial grafting point of two family trees, Patrick’s Sarah Hines appears to have unexplained ancestry in America. Whereas, evidence in the Jesse James family affirms Mary Hines was an immigrant from England. The James family cites the The Unites States Biographical Dictionary (Missouri Volume), U.S. Bio. Pub. Co. 1878.
Additionally, Joan Malley Beamis acknowledges in her essay “Unto the Third Generation,” which she wrote to the third generations of Jesse James’ descendants, that William James and Mary Hines may not be the progenitors of their Jesse James family at all. Joan acknowledges so many James families occupied Virginia in the Colonial period where the James lived. Joan M. Beamis researched and wrote Background of a Bandit between 1950 and 1970. The Kentucky Historical Society published Joan’s book in 1970. Joan is a great-granddaughter of Drury Woodson James, Jesse’s uncle. Eric F. James included the entire text of the Beamis essay “Unto the Third Generation” in his book Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence.
Ambiguous Affidavit – Red Flag # 5
Together with his ambrotype, Patrick submitted to Eric F. James an affidavit, dated February 24, 2014. The document, executed on the letterhead of Williams Galleries, American Art & Antiques, is written and signed by James E. Williams.
In the affidavit, Williams states in generalities but no details, “Using my many years of experience in historic research; artifact search and evaluation; exposure to a wide variety of historic expertise at universities, historic sites and museums; and specifically researching photographs of Jesse and Frank; my educated opinion is that a very sound case can be made that the subject in the ambrotype is Jesse James.”
Williams further concludes, “The preponderance of circumstantial evidence that has been collected to support the idea that this is a photo of Jesse is very impressive. Consequently, my opinion can be nothing else other than this is an ambrotype of Jesse Woodson James.”
Writing to James E. Williams, Eric F. James inquired,
“1. Did you conduct any further due diligence, other than what you state in the affidavit? What was the nature of that research?
“2. Did you subject the image to a scientific forensic investigation and analysis? If so, what was the outcome?
“3. Did Mr. Meguiar consign his artifact to you for sale, auction, or disposition? What was its outcome?”
When James E. William replied, he avoided the direct questions to say instead, “Considering much information Mr. Patrick Meguiar provided, it was my opinion that the ambrotype was an image of James. At no time did Mr. Meguiar consign the photo to me for sale, nor do I have financial interest in the photo, nor do I claim or want financial interest in the photograph. I’m sure Mr. Meguiar has the information that was evaluated and will go over the information with you. I have no interest in the photograph other than its’ potentially historical significance.”
For its lack of specificity and detail, the affidavit Meguiar provides to substantiate his claims amounts to no more than hearsay.
Inexpert Auction House – Red Flag # 6
Patrick strangely placed his claimed Jesse James ambrotype with the auction house of Addison & Sarova. The firm’s circle of expertise is antiquarian books. Its location in the state of Georgia is well beyond the customary locale and sphere for western artifact auctions.
A further lack of expertise is evident in Addison & Sarova’s promotional description of the Russellville Bank robbery, written to promote the sale of the artifact. Concocting a witless fiction, Addison & Sarova spins an unschooled tale straight out of pulp fiction from the 19th century. The uneducated fable is a contradiction, replete with historical falsehoods and gross inaccuracies regarding Jesse James and his factual history.
Fictional Promotion – Red Flag # 7
The fakery begins with Addison & Sarova’s assertion that Jesse James was a principal actor in the Russellville Bank robbery. No evidence supports this tall tale. In fact, at the time of the robbery Jesse was bedridden, lying on death’s doorstep. Two doctors attended Jesse. They were unable to remove the two bullets Jesse carried in his chest and lung.
The auction house clearly fashions its appeal to prospective bidders ignorant of facts or factual history.
The auction firm then spins another whopper, integrating the wishful thinking from Patrick Meguiar’s family stories. The fibbery has Jesse James casually meandering around town after the bank robbery, handing out his ambrotype. This he does in the place where he is so desperately hunted. The chicanery defies common sense. Why would a most hunted outlaw spread pictures of himself, risking that he might be identified?
Factual history records where Jesse James went. Jesse was sent to Paso Robles, California. There, his Uncle Drury Woodson James afforded Jesse the use of his ancient springs on the property of his El Paso de Robles Hotel. The ancient spring was long respected by local indigenous people for its healing properties.
When Eric F. James contacted Michael Addison, objecting to such gross distortions of factual history, Addison refused to be quoted. The due diligence Addison exercised consisted of corroborating Patrick Meguiar’s claimed genealogy using Find-a-Grave memorials. Find-a-Grave has been a notorious and flagrant abuser of the Jesse James family, allowing fraudulent memorials to remain published despite historical contradiction.
Addison produced laughter, however, when he placed so much emphasis on the ambrotype’s coloring. Reproducing blue eyes that Addison claims match the eyes of Jesse James, was all the evidence Addison needed apparently. Never mind the historical fact that color was not integral to an ambrotype image. Color was added as a post-production technique by a photographer or artist. If desired, an artist could have painted Jesse’s eyes purple.
Most significantly, Michael Addison confirmed his firm had not executed any scientific forensic analysis of Patrick’s claimed ambrotype.
The negligence of Addison & Sarova in failing to objectively assess the wishful thinking of Patrick Meguiar is not surprising at all. The firm wants a sale and will do whatever it takes to produce one.
However, now for the benefit of an auction bidding public, the James family will subject the claimed Jesse James ambrotype to the experienced commentary of the James family before the auction occurs. The James family also will provide to the public the commentary that first was provided to Patrick Meguiar, but which was ignored and disregarded. More rigorously, the family has retained a scientific forensic analyst to subject the auction artifact to an independent scrutiny. The James family will make the report of that independent inquiry and analysis publicly known and available.
“Whatever the determination of the resulting forensic report may be,” Eric F. James says, “authoritative information will be available to a prospective bidder, useful for making an informed decision. A bidder need not rely solely upon the wishful thinking of a consignor nor upon the sales promotion typical of auction house smoke and mirrors.”
In 1947, the long-widowed Mary Louisa James Burns wrote to R. C. Heaton in Paso Robles, California. She sent him a history of her father, Drury Woodson James, a founder of the town. In 1905, Heaton had purchased the home Drury Woodson built for his family, the same home in which Mary Louise was born. The residence was one of many buildings Drury Woodson James built as part of his El Paso de Robles Hotel, around which he built the town of Paso Robles. In one correspondence, written by her granddaughter Mary Joan Malley Beamis, Mary Louise James identifies and tags the early building of Paso Robles.
Joan Beamis transcribes the identification tags dictated by her grandmother Mary Louise James…
This is froma wood cut. I have the original copy.
D. W. James Home – 1969 or 70. I was born in this house. A very good likeness considering.
South Cottage where your “Nana” was married (long cottage).
Original Hot Springs Hotel.
Patsy Dunn store. (Ed.: D.W.J.’s father-in-law Patrick Dunn) My father moved this and we used it for storage for many years. It was torn down in 1960.
The Ralston Cottage, or at least its location.
Bath House – original – another was built here but burned in about 1910.
Old Stage Road, now Spring St.
Park Water Station
(does not appear)
Sunnyside Cottage, or Cottage A
LETTER FROM R. C. HEATON TO MARY LOUISE JAMES BURNS
Paso Robles, Cal. April 20th, 1948
Mrs. E.F. Burns
Dear Mrs. Burns: Thank you for the copy of your father’s history sent me by the Paso Robles chamber of commerce at your request. I have it filed away in the history of San Luis Obispo county.
Thinking that you would like to see a picture of the old home place as it was in your younger days I had some copies made and am enclosing one to you. I sent one to Carrie.
Please tell me when the house was built and when your folks moved in – also anything that you recall about the place.
Frank and Jesse James were out to California twice but I do not have the record of what years or where they stayed.
This would be interesting to some people.
The visit of Carrie and Hattie B.* last year with us is a happy remembrance.
Too bad that your father could not have ended his days peacefully in the grand old hotel** he had the faith and courage to build in those early days.
Too few people appreciate what he and that other active generous citizen – Uncle Jim Blackburn – done for this community and its old time residents.
* The references to Carrie and Hattie is to Mary Louise’s sisters Carolina F. James Maxwell and Helen James Bennett.
Drury Woodson James was born in Logan County, Kentucky on the 14th of November, 1826. His parents and grand-parents were Virginians, and his grand-fathers fought for Independence in the Revolutionary War. Drury Woodson James was the youngest of five boys. They were reared by his oldest sister, having been orphaned at an early age. Drury’s mother died when he was three months old, and his father when he was a year old.
In 1846, Drury enlisted in the Mexican War as a drummer boy, and fought through the war under General Taylor. After the war was over, James went to California. He left old Fort Kearney with a pioneer wagon train and reached the Hangtown gold fields in 1849. He mined for several months and then entered the business of buying and selling cattle. This proved to be a very successful venture. It is stated that his practice was to drive the cattle to the different mining towns and sell the cattle on the hoof for as much as three or four times the amount paid for them. James became known in the country in 1850, and played an important part in the early history of the community.
In 1850, D. W. James and a John G. Thompson of Kentucky purchased the La Panza Rancho. They engaged in the business of buying cattle and horses. The county records of this time show numerous failures among the cattlemen. During the years of 1862, 1863, and 1864 occurred one of the worst droughts in the history of the country. At this time James and Thompson found themselves with 5000 head of cattle. At this time, cattlemen all over the area, when they saw their feed and water going, turned their cattle loose to fend for themselves. Not James; he drove the cattle to the Tulare and Buena Vista Lakes and saved them. James and Thompson also owned the Comatti8 and Carissa ranches. It is not known when they purchased these ranches, and they were probably sold along about the same time that the La Panza Rancho was sold.
Thompson and James sold the La Panza Rancho in 1869 to Jones and Schoenfield. Thompson then returned
to Kentucky. In 1857, a James H. Blackburn had bought the El Paso de Robles Rancho from Petronelli Ries. Ries had acquired the ranch in 1850 from one Pedro Novares. Novares had acquired the ranch under a Mexican land grant in 1844. Novares claimed six leagues or about 25,000 acres along the Salinas River. In 1850, James B. Blackburn divided the ranch. Daniel D. Blackburn chose the northern league of the rancho on which were located the springs. Daniel D. Blackburn then sold one-half of his northern half to a Thomas McGreal who sold it to James in 1869. D. D. Blackburn and D. W. James each owned half of the northern league. D. D. Blackburn then sold half of his half to James H. Blackburn. So James owned a half and the two Blackburn brothers each owned a quarter of the northern league.
On September 15, 1966, Daniel D. Blackburn and Drury W. James married sisters at a double wedding in the San Luis Obispo Mission. They were married by the Rev. Father Sastra in the old Mission church. Louise M. Dunn married D.W. James and Cecelia Dunn married D. D. Blackburn. The Dunn family had come to America from Australia about 1850. They settled first in Sacramento and later moved to San Luis Obispo.
James B. Blackburn was the first of this famous partnership to die. He left the bulk of his estate to Daniel and Cecelia Blackburn and their children. At this time, there was talk of the railroad coming through to El Paso de Robles. Realizing the possibilities of this part of the country as a resort area, Blackburn and James decided to build a hotel. The cornerstone was laid in 1889. The railroad tried to buy the property and the half-finished hotel from Blackburn and James but they refused the offer.
The business set-up became more and more complicated and the number of heirs and D. W. James found that it would be almost impossible to sell any portion of his interest in the property should he want to. So in 1890 he started court action for the purpose of dividing the property. The court ordered the property partitioned.
The following history of Drury Woodson James was dictated to me, Mary Jean Malley Beamis, by my maternal grandmother, Mary Louise James Burns in 1949 when she was eighty one years of age.
It was written at the request of the officials of the city of Paso Robles, California, on the occasion of the dedication of a monument to her father’s memory in the Park which had been given to the city by Drury Woodson James and Daniel D. Blackburn.
(s) Mary Joan Beamis
May 22, 1971
STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
May 23, 1971
Personally appears Mary Joan Beamis and made oath that the above statement is true and the information to the attached statement is true to the best of her knowledge and belief.
(s) John F. Beamis
Official website for the family of Frank & Jesse James
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