Tag Archives: Jesse Edwards James Jr.

Last Photo of Jesse Edwards James Jr. – Son of Jesse James

Jesse Edwards James Jr., son of Jesse Woodson James, Norwalk State Hospital, 1949

The James Preservation Trust has received the contribution of what is believed to be the last photo taken of Jesse Edwards James Jr., son of America’s iconic outlaw Jesse Woodson James.

The photo was taken in 1949 during Jesse Jr.’s confinement in the Norwalk State Hospital in Norwalk, California. Months later, Jesse Edwards James Jr. died on March 26, 1951 at the age of seventy-five.

In the same image also is pictured Jesse Jr.’s caregiver at Norwalk. He is Luther Garlin Henderson. The contribution of this historic photographic was made by Henderson’s son, Bruce Henderson, a retired attorney.

Luther Garlin Henderson 1903-1958, caregiver to Jesse James Jr. at Norwalk State Hospital

“My father suffered a heart attack in 1947, and was forced to cease employment in his industry. To support his wife, and infant son (me), he found less physically demanding work at Norwalk State Hospital, Norwalk, California.”                                                                                           – BRUCE HENDERSON ESQ. 

NORWALK HOSPITAL – THEN and NOW

In the beginning, Norwalk Hospital was called Norwalk State Mental Hospital. Often it was referred to as a sanitarium.

Opened in 1916, the facility housed 105 patients with 21 employees, all administered by one physician. The 305 acre property included a farm, worked by the patients, most all of whom were unemployable men. The hospital had its own cemetery.

Then & Now – Norwalk State Hospital, Norwalk, California

Shortly after Jesse’s Jr.’s passing, the name of the facility was changed in 1953 to the Metropolitan State Hospital, housing 1,900 patients. Marilyn Monroe’s mother Gladys was a patient there. In 1955, actor Bela Lugosi was admitted for ninety days for treatment of his morphine addiction.

Today the facility is dramatically changed. Gone is the farm. Much of the land surrounding the Norwalk Hospital where Jesse Jr. was committed now is an industrial park. The old hospital has been replaced by a modern facility. Inside, treatment is administered to conservator patients with psychiatric disabilities, felony defendants found incompetent, parolees treated for mental disorders, and patients judged not guilty by virtue of insanity. A long history of abuse and negligence continues to be alleged.

The Norwalk Hospital Jesse Jr. knew sits abandoned. A walk of the grounds displays the apparent decay. The place is advertised as a location site for film makers.

CONDITIONS  IN JESSE JR.’S TIME

Little, if any, documentation exists that records the experience of Jesse Jr. at Norwalk. Hospital records remain sealed. They even are unavailable to surviving family.

An insight into what Jesse Jr. may have experienced at Norwalk can be found in the book Life Writing and Schizophrenia: Encounters at the Edge of Meaning by Mary Elene Wood. On page 290, the author records the memory of one of Norwalk’s patients. 

“I lay in bed a lot.  It was horrible. There weren’t enough beds for everyone so women were lined up in the hallway. We were all so scared but they didn’t do anything to reassure or comfort us. We would all talk about what would happen to our kids, we were all worried about that. Some of the women lost their kids altogether. Some of the patients got electroshock therapy. I didn’t have to have that, I was lucky. They were scared about it. The whole time I kept thinking those horrible thoughts.”

 

Jesse Edwards James Jr. with caregiver Luther Garlin Henderson, Norwalk State Hospital, 1949
Reverse copy from photo of Jesse Edwards James Jr. & Luther Garlin Henderson, Norwalk State Hospital, 1949

 

 

ELECTROCONVULSION THERAPY

An electro shock terminal used at Norwalk

Electro shock therapy, sometimes more aptly called electro-convulsion, was one of two therapies commonly applied to Norwalk patients. The second was hydrotherapy ice bath immersion.

Given his history of nervous disorder, Jesse Jr. very likely was administered electro shock therapy while at Norwalk.

However, the lingering question is, was Jesse Jr. ever subjected to a procedural lobotomy? The procedure was a popular application in the period, as evidenced by the tragic experience of Rosemary Kennedy, sister of President John F. Kennedy.

Death certificate for Jesse Edwards James Jr.
Lo Angeles Death Index citation for Jesse Edwards James Jr.

RELATED

Book Review: The Trial of Jesse James Jr.

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.