With so much to be sad and concerned about, Joseph McJames was not about to end his day unpleasantly. Writing to his daughter Mary Ellen, he could not wait to tell her about his possum.
The letter Mack received from Mary Ellen was filled with disappointment. There was the illness of Mack’s wife, too, that concerned everyone. Mack still had his house keeper Clary to rely on. At the age of 82, soon to be 83, this “fine Kentucky gentleman” as Mack was called was still in control. That discipline extended also to his possum.
10 o’clock Coffeyville, Oct. 2nd, 1901
Have just read your letter. So sorry, so sorry for you and dear Maggie. And sorry Annie did not come. I feel sure they could have gotten a wise position. I could have gotten it for them.
Don’t be uneasy about your dear mother. If any difference, she is a little better than when you left. I am watching over her both day and night. Clary is here and won’t leave until you get back home. And if she does, I will find someone else.
Everything is going right. Don’t be uneasy. Bring Maggie with you.
I will see Mr. Hunt and will box up all in safe condition.
Send a postal often. Tell us of all things. Clary is all right.
Will have a fine possum for dinner. I caught (it) in her house stealing eggs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
DAY TWO on TOUR
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.”
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.
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.
DAY THREE on TOUR
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
TOUR SITES NEARBY
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.
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.
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.
Official website for the family of Frank & Jesse James – Living lives, telling the story. Knowing self.
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