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Jesse Edward Smith Recalls Jesse James, His Namesake & Cousin

Susan Prudence James-Smith 1845-1919

My mother (ed. Susan Prudence James-Smith) and her brother, R. W. James (ed. Robert Woodson James 1838-1922), were first cousins to the James Brothers. The Jesse in my name was taken from Jesse James.

He paid some special attention to me when I was a small boy and made occasional visits to our house until the law was in such hot pursuit they hardly dared to visit among their kin. On one visit to Salt Springs Jesse gave me a one dollar gold piece. I lost it playing in the dusty road. Had plenty voluntary helpers looking for it but it was never found. Jesse told my mother he was going to give me a horse and bridle and saddle when I became of age – his idea about a perfect gift for a boy. He gave my father a fine riding mare with a bullet wound in her neck and a pair of spurs he was wearing and father used them as long as he was riding horses. Then he gave them to me and I am passing them on to my son, Arnold (ed. Edwin Arnold Smith b. 1903), a lover of horses, who wants them as a keepsake.

Zee Mimms-James with her children, Jesse Edwards James & Mary Susan James

Shortly after Jesse’s death in 1882, when he was shot in the back by Bob Ford, one of his men, his wife (ed. Zerelda Amanda “Zee” Mimms-James 1845-1900), who was also a relative of mothers, and Uncle Bob James (ed. R.W. James previously mentioned), came to our farm home at Shackleford, with her small son, Jesse, and daughter, Mary, and spent several days with us. She was a sad and broken-hearted widow and I believe she was dressed in full mourning as was the custom for widows in that day.

Father (ed. John Wesley Smith) sold his blacksmith shop in Salt Springs and moved to the Thompson farm at Shackleford in the spring of 1877 or 1878. Mr. Thompson lived in the East, Boston, I think, and we only saw him once a year. He would come about the time of year to collect the rent and would stay several days or a week. He brought his son whom he wanted to learn something about farming as he was to be the owner of the farm at some future date.

Jesse Edward Smith 1872-1964

The Chicago and Alton Railroad was constructed through the Thompson farm while we lived there. I remember something about the construction work. No tractors, no bulldozers, no hi-loaders. All done with horses, mules, plows, scrapers, picks and shovels. The laborers chewed tobacco and smoked pipes; no cigarettes. We saw the first trains operated on that line.

We moved to Butler, Missouri, in 1888 where father had a Livery, Feed, and Sale Stable. After Frank James had been acquitted of all criminal charges for which he was tried, we saw or heard from him occasionally.

Frank was in Butler one fall and was official starter for the races at the County Fair, a job he had performed at other tracks all over the country. He proved to be about as much attraction as any other feature of the fair. Again he was in Butler with Cole Younger, when they were traveling with a Big Circus as drawing cards. They rode together in a street parade, and, of course, they drew lots of attention.

–  Historical Notes from the Bates County Museum, by Reva Stubblefield; Bates County News, Feb 8, 1973

–  Special thanks to Sandy Kassem, a cousin of Jesse Edward James, for providing this article.