Tag Archives: Kansas City

Book Review – Son of a Bandit: Jesse James & The Leeds Gang, by Ralph A. Monaco II

BOOK REVIEW: Son of a Bandit: Jesse James & The Leeds Gang, by Ralph A. Monaco II, (Monaco Publishing, LLC, 2012), 268 pp, soft cover, $20.95.

 By Nancy B. Samuelson

The author is a practicing attorney in Kansas City, Missouri, a former member of the Missouri House of Representatives. He also has a passion for living history and historical presentations. He is well grounded in the history and political scene of 19th century Missouri and Kansas City. He has produced a thoughtful and insightful book about Jesse James Jr. that is a welcome addition to James gang literature.

The early part of the book recounts the early life of Jesse Jr., the death of Jesse James and the trials and tribulations of Zee James and her children after the Jesse’s death. Jesse Jr. became the provider for his family and had held a number of jobs and was at the time of the Leeds robbery, the owner of a Cigar Store in the Jackson County, Missouri court house. Jesse Jr. was well liked and respected and the Kansas City community was very shocked when he was accused of involvement in the Leeds train robbery. There is also a chapter, “K.C. at the Twilight of the 19th Century” that gives the reader a good feel for the political and social conditions that prevailed at this time.

The book continues with a chapter on the Leeds robbery and moves on to the investigation of that robbery. Jesse Jr. was soon accused as leader of the Leeds gang. Several chapters are devoted to all aspects of the trial and the acquittal. There are extensive footnotes throughout the book and these are used to provide good information about the political background, the motivation, and the methods of operation that are used by the key players throughout the legal process. It becomes very clear that the treatment of suspects, approaches to jury members by railroad detectives and other similar questionable practices would not be permitted in today’s legal environment. Times were different then!

Ralph A. Monoco II

Jesse Jr. is acquitted at the trial and the charges against all other suspects were dropped. The Prosecuting Attorney felt his strongest case was against James. When he lost that battle he dropped all other charges. Toward the end of the book it is also brought out that W. W. Lowe who had been the man who most strongly accused Jesse Jr. some years later recanted his story. Lowe claimed he had been pressured by railroad detectives to accuse Jesse Jr. of the Leeds robbery.

The final section of the book is an epilogue titled, “What Happened Next?” This part of the book summarizes the remaining years of the life of Jesse Jr. and several other members of the family. The final comment in the book is, “THE END? THE STORY OF JESSE JAMES AND HIS FAMILY WILL NEVER END.”

The book is well written and thought provoking. There are extensive footnotes, a bibliography, and index and a list of illustrations. There are a number of good photos throughout the book. There are a lot of typos in the book; someone relied on spell check a little too much. Highly recommended.

Troubled DNA of the Sam Walton, Lawrence, and James Families

David Ralph James

David Ralph James, and his son Christopher David James, know one thing for certain about their DNA. They don’t possess the Y-chromosome DNA proven to be that of their paternal James ancestors.

The problem rests with David’s great grandmother, Mary Ellen James, who was born in 1856. She also is Sam Walton’s grandmother. As most of America knows, Sam Walton founded Walmart.

Christopher David James

When Mary Ellen James left the home of her father Reverend Daniel Field James in Pulaski County, Kentucky, she took her only child with her. William Otho James was four years old when a history of Fayette County, Kentucky, reported in 1882 that his mother was unmarried and living in Missouri.

Mary Ellen James

Unknown is whether or not Mary Ellen James left her Kentucky home in disgrace. No marriage record can be found for her. Nor can any record be found to identify the father of Will Otho James. Mary Ellen made sure her son bore her own name of James.

Leaving home, Mary Ellen took Will Otho first to Joplin, Missouri. Shortly after the report in Kentucky appeared, she then moved to Johnson County, Kansas, east of Kansas City and Lee’s Summit. There Mary Ellen married Reuben Moore Lawrence. He, too, had been born in Pulaski County, two years before she was. Together, the couple then moved to Corbin, Kansas, south of Wichita, where they started a family.

William Otho James and wife Myrtle Mae Butt

After Mary Ellen bore Reuben Moore Lawrence the second of their four children, Will Otho James struck out for Indian Territory. It was 1892. He was only fourteen. He’d be twenty-one before Sam Walton’s mother, Nancy Lee Lawrence was born. It would be almost a decade before Will Otho married and started a family himself.

Otho Junior James, son of Will Otho James, and uncle of David Ralph James

Will Otho and his family lived in Kingfisher and Bartlesville, Oklahoma. When his children were grown, he settled in Norman. He was a charter member of the Assembly of God church. He operated a hotel, and the Log Cabin Restaurant, where he became a local celebrity among school kids who called him Dad.

David Ralph James is the grandson of Will Otho James. His aunts and uncles visited occasionally with the Lawrence family, and knew Sam Walton personally.

DNA profile of David Ralph and Christopher David James

Knowing his DNA is not that of his James ancestry, David and his son Chris James cannot help but wonder if their DNA isn’t that of the Lawrence family, or even that of Sam Walton’s father, Thomas Gibson Walton.

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ANCESTRY OF SAM WALTON

Samuel Moore Walton, aka Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, is a great grandson of Mary Ellen James. His pedigree is as follows:

Reuben Moore Lawrence Sr. and Rebecca Moore
. Reuben Moore Lawrence Jr. and Mary Ellen James
.. Thomas Gibson Walton and Nance Lee Lawrence
… Samuel Moore Walton

From the family photo album of David Ralph James, Sam Walton visits his ailing aunt, Eva Mae Lawrence-Stock

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IS THE FATHER OF THIS LAWRENCE MAN THE UNKNOWN PARTNER OF MARY ELLEN JAMES ?

Robert H. Lawrence, aka Robert Edward Goff

Robert H. Lawrence shares a physical resemblance with Will Otho James, as well as with Will’s sons Otho Junior and Vern Reuben James, his nephew David Ralph James, and grandson Christoper James. Like theirs, his life has its own mysteries.

Sometime between 1886 and 1890, Lawrence killed a person in a family feud. He was convicted and sent to jail. Within a year, he escaped. He changed his name to Robert Edward Goff and fled to Oklahoma Indian Territory, where many migrants from Pulaski County, Kentucky had settled. He married, settled in Sapulpa, had six children who carried the Goff surname, after which he mysteriously died.

The grandparents of Robert H. Lawrence are Reuben Moore Lawrence Sr. and Rebecca Moore, the same as the great grandparents of Sam Walton. William T. Lawrence, who may be Mary Ellen James’ mystery man, is his father.

W. T. Lawrence was eighteen years older than Mary Ellen James. He had served the Confederacy in the Civil War. Right before the war started, W. T. married Almira Griffin, a very distant cousin of the James. When Almira died around 1884, W. T. promptly remarried to Elvira Cash by whom he had two more children, Gopher and Iona. A third child is known to have been born to W. T. Lawrence, but that child has never been able to be documented. The only information about the mystery child that the descendants of W. T. Lawrence know is that the child bore the name James.

For the Goff descendants of William T. Lawrence, knowing the DNA of the Lawrence family would be as helpful to them as it would be to the family of David Ralph and Christopher James.

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RELATED STORIES

Vern Reuben James, son of Will Otho James, and uncle of David Ralph James and brother of Otho Junior James

VISIT: The extraordinary military career of Vern Reuben James, uncle of David Ralph James and brother Otho Junior James.

Eric James says “No, Thanks” to Jesse James publisher, North Star Press

If you thought you knew Jesse James, wait until you meet his family. So says Eric James, author of the new, long awaited, four volume history of the family of Frank and Jesse James.

According to historian Nancy Samuelson who has previewed portions of the upcoming book, the author of The History of the Dalton Gang says James’ book is likely to send historians back to find what history they missed.

“I was honored that North Star Press of Minnesota wanted to publish my book,” says Eric James. North Star Press already publishes five books about Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang by author John Koblas. “My books would have been a natural complement,” says James. Koblas, who also has previewed a large portion of James’ book, insists James’ book “must be published!”

After two months of negotiations, however, James now is seeking a publisher elsewhere. After twelve years of research and writing, Eric James is not at all disappointed that publication of Volume I of his epic quartet now appears headed for a nine month delay. Publication formerly was expected this Fall. Release now is re-scheduled for Summer of 2011.

Given the economic difficulties in the publishing industry today, James doesn’t begrudge North Star Press for not wanting to produce a hardcover edition. James just wants to meet his readers’ expectations. They tell James a hardcover edition is a must, though some of his readers prefer a case slipped, collector’s edition.

James credits North Star with opening his eyes to his book’s possibilities. “North Star was particularly helpful in establishing the multi-volume format of the work,” says James. “This, in turn, focused my attention on the work’s trans media possibilities.” James is intrigued by the new Vook format, soon to be used by vampire author Anne Rice. A Vook is a book published in tandem with video applications of a book’s content.

Since 1997, Eric James has written and published the official web site for the family of Frank & Jesse James. Stray Leaves, a James Family in America since 1650 (www.ericjames.org). On any given day, over 10,000 visitors are attracted to the web site, particularly to research its gargantuan genealogy database, related to the James family. James also is president of The James Preservation Trust, which addresses the historical interests of the James family.

Eric James already is at work planning a special 4-day schedule of events in Kansas City, where he will premiere the book. Russell Hatter, curator of the Capital City Museum in Frankfort, Kentucky and publisher at The Frankfort Press, is looking forward to James’ quartet of new books. “Eric James’ gift for pulling new history out of genealogy is absolutely brilliant!”