Tag Archives: Louisville

SIFT from Stray Leaves – March 2019

The Sift from Stray Leaves is a periodic omnibus of significant, but smaller, ingredients of history, genealogy, and news, received behind the scenes & sifted daily at Stray Leaves.

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Beating the Bushes for How Daniel Lewis James Jr. Died

Who says how you die? Over the weekend I was talking with Martha Diehl, the granddaughter of Daniel Lewis James Jr. Dan is the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter and subject of the chapter “All for the Underdog” in Jesse James Soul Liberty. Martha commented about Dan and how he died. “He died instantly of an aneurysm in his kitchen while fetching a piece of bread for his pet rabbit.” That was how Martha received the news of Dan’s passing from her mother, Barbara James.

The New York Times reported Dan’s passing far less personally.

OBITUARY
New York Times
DANIEL LEWIS JAMES IS DEAD AT 77; WROTE ABOUT LOS ANGELES BARRIO 
By EDWIN MCDOWELL 
Published: May 21, 1988
LEAD: Daniel Lewis James, who startled the literary world when he was revealed to be the author of a prize-winning novel about a Mexican-American family in a Los Angeles barrio, died Wednesday at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey, Calif.

Martha complains, “Dan died at home, not at CHOMP,” i.e. Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.

And yet, Dan’s death certificate, issued by Monterey County in California, produced a third and entirely different story. Monterey County cites the cause of Dan’s death in clinical terms as a heart attack and “severe coronary atherosclerosis.”

Somehow, all three reports perfectly reflect the multi-dimensional personality of Daniel Lewis James Jr. who practiced the art of multiple identities. You can suspect Dan scripted the three scenarios himself, each for a different audience.

Here’s laughing with you, Daniel Lewis James Jr.


Hunting for Elk Run Farm of Capt. John James 1708/09-1778 & Dinah Allen 1716-1800

From a biographical sketch of John James in the book “Virginia Ancestors by George W. Moffett” by V.L. Moffett, Clarksburg, WV, 1980.

Thanks to the recent appearance of an old map, the location of their Elk Run farm and its James cemetery can now be identified. This has been a hunt in progress for years. This also is where the Capt. James and Dinah Allen are presumed to be buried.

Elk Run Farm is central to the triangular points of the Potomac River, Washington D.C. and the town of Culpeper. From this location, the James family financed George Washington with specie during the Revolution. 

This family also is a progenitor of Benjamin James, the Indian Trader, whose children Susannah and Benjamin James “of the Choctaw” went forward to become integral elements of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations.

Furthermore from Elk Run Farm, their daughter Elizabeth James and her spouse John “Old Wisdom” Bradford migrated into the Kentucky frontier where John Bradford founded the Kentucky Gazette. The newspaper recorded the events surrounding the early founding of the Commonwealth and remains a seminal course of Kentucky’s first history.

As well, Capt. John James and Dinah Allen of Elk Run Farm are 2nd great grand uncle & aunt of Frank & Jesse James, as well as of John James “of Alvarado.” Among the James family, Elk Run Farm is an important key factor and geographic location point in the genealogical origination of the James family.


Campaign to Honor Choctaw & Chickasaw Women of the James – Survivors of the Trail of Tears

Susannah James-Colbert and Jane James-Wilson are a granddaughter and a 2nd great-granddaughter respectively of Capt. John James and Dinah Allen. For more on their kinship, both can be found in the special Choctaw/Chickasaw genealogy database on Stray Leaves.

Top row, 2nd from right:
Susan James-Colbert, born March 27, 1783; daughter of Benjamin James, interpreter and agent to the Choctaws and his Choctaw wife; wife of Maj. James Colbert. She died Dec 3, 1863 near Soper, Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma Territory.
Bottom row, 2nd from left:
Jane James-Wilson, born 1837; daughter of Dace James and Rutha; wife of John Wilson; died in 1909 in Fort Towson, Oklahoma. One-year old Jane and her mother came over the Trail of Tears with the Chickasaws, her white father having died in Lowndes County, Mississippi in June 1837.

Study of Ward Hall

For those who attended the James-Younger Gang & Family conference in 2017 and who visited Ward Hall with us, here’s a charming reprise of Ward Hall, beginning with our host that day, Kentucky historian Ron Bryant.

Recently, young filmmakers used Ward Hall as a backdrop for the film short below. We wish we had known these talented young filmmakers when we visited Georgetown. Back then we were looking for someone to video our events. Maybe another time.


Dalton Gang Photographer Also Photographed the James   

An incoming photographic artifact to the James Preservation Trust, courtesy of James family descendant Geoff Saunders, amplifies the story of Joseph McJames and the Dalton Gang robbery in Coffeyville. Mack’s son Daniel Ephraim James was captured in the robbery while it was in progress. The story also appears in Chapter Three of Jesse James Soul Liberty, titled “Goodland.” Contributor Geoff Saunders is a 2nd great-grandson of Mary Ellen James and a 3rd great-grandson of Joseph McJames.

Photo portrait of Mary Ellen James, taken by Coffeyville photographer W. H. Clark. Mary Ellen’s brother, Daniel Ephraim James, was captured by the Dalton Gang during their robbery of the Coffeyville Bank.

Mack’s daughter, Mary Ellen James who is Daniel Ephraim James’ sister, had her photo portrait taken in Coffeyville. Her photographer was W.H. Clark. He is the same photographer who took the iconic image of the dead Dalton Gang body lineup following the robbery. Clark’s son, Ray H. Clark known as Champ, also appears in the body lineup photo. Champ Clark is peering over his hand through the fence, as his father took the historic photo.

Historic photo, taken by Coffeyville photographer W.H. Clark of the dead Dalton Gang, following the Coffeyville Bank robbery. The photographer’s son Champ is seen peering through the fence above.

 

Later, W.H. Clark purchased Bob Dalton’s gun from Dalton’s estate. The gun was used in the robbery. Clark’s son, Ray H. “Champ” Clark, inherited the pistol on his father’s passing. Champ then bequeathed the gun to his step-son Richard H. McGregor, whose widow put the gun up for auction in 2005 with proceeds to be donated to charity.


Exploring State Representative A.J. James in the Old Kentucky State Capitol

I’ve sat in this legislative chamber of the Old State Capitol in Kentucky a couple of times before. In honor of President’s Day this year, the Kentucky General Assembly did the same.

Usually, I was alone as I tried to imagine the chamber filled with legislators. Among them was Andrew Jackson “A.J.” James who was a state representative from 1855 to 1857. There would be observers in the balcony then. The chamber was smokey, crowded, and loud, even when someone was speaking. Stateliness was not a requirement in the antebellum era.

Democrats from Pulaski County nominated their favorite son A.J. James in 1875 to succeed Gov. Preston Leslie. Under Leslie, A.J. served as Kentucky’s Attorney General. He also had been Secretary of State under Gov. Beriah Magoffin and mayor of Frankfort. Ultimately, A.J. lost the nomination to James McCreary. Family lore says A.J’s wife didn’t want A.J. to run. Instead, McCreary was elected Governor of Kentucky. By then, I believe, A.J. was ready to walk away from political life. He withdrew to become President of Farmer’s Bank of Frankfort.

Kentucky State Legislators of 1909, revisited in the Old State Capitol by Kentucky legislators of 2019

Louisville International Airport to be Renamed for Our James Cousin, Muhammad Ali

Recent research by Stray Leaves established that Muhammad Ali is a 2nd cousin, 3 generations removed of Frank & Jesse James. Ali also has a second line of supporting kinship to the James brothers through Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali has been Louisville’s favorite son for a long time. He is widely honored. Renaming Louisville International Airport for Ali could not be a more appropriate honor. Muhammad Ali is one of Louisville’s finest exports.


Land Patents of This Bloody Ground

Readers of This Bloody Ground, the forthcoming Vol. II of the Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet, will get a heavy dose of source data about the Kentucky frontier life of Jesse & Frank James’ grandfather, John M. James. Early Land Patents of Kentucky were culled extensively in preparation for the book. This voluminous research took more than a decade. These patents will give you an idea of the sources that were consulted. These are sources that have gone ignored for too long by the traditional historians of the Jesse James story. This is one reason why This Bloody Ground will be a ground-breaking history of its own when it is published. Get ready to have your preconceptions of Jesse James rattled when you read this history that has never been researched, written, or told.


Stefon From SNL Was a No-Show for My Book Talk

Circling twice around McQuixote Books & Coffee before spotting it, I was convinced,  Stefon from Saturday Night Live would show up to review my book talk and signing. I did not expect Stefon to be a no-show.

The Portland Arts District of Louisville, Kentucky is precisely the kind of environment to turn Stefon giddy – an old manufacturing and warehouse district; surrounded by decrepit homes in need of preservation, reconstruction, or demolition; surprises around every corner; and not a sign in sight to tell you where to go or what to do.

Here’s where “it” happens. Bring imagination. Something will come of it.

I thrived in this kind of place when I was a boy. A district just like this lay between my home in the projects and the stench of the Chicago Stockyards. Among derelict castles of industrial commerce long gone, Kenny Grail and I imagined ourselves as medieval warriors, battling demons of destruction. Our creative innocence slayed dragons that darkened every corner. We became heroes of our imagination. Today, Chicago is revitalizing our abandoned playground with art galleries, trendy coffee houses, and performance spaces, as is Portland’s district.

My host at McQuixote was Trevor DeCuir, one of its three owners. In no time at all, we were talking Ecuadorian coffee beans, business, books, and art. Mmmmm. Was it the coffee that was making me feel rather youthful?

Once around age 11 or 12, I left Chicago with the only possession I thought worth taking – my typewriter. I was headed for Greenwich Village in New York to become a Beat writer like Jack Kerouac. I was going to read my poems in basement coffee houses and live off the brew. I never got the chance, though. A young kid from Minnesota kept showing up with his guitar. He sang his poems. They never let Bobby Zimmerman off the stage. I never got on.

Finally now, at McQuixote Books & Coffee, my time was here and now. Like back then, my set up was simple. I was ready to talk about my writing and listen to the finger snaps of appreciation. And where are you now, Bobby? You’re secluded in your house in Malibu, releasing old tapes from your basement. I’m here in Portland, sipping coffee, waiting for Stefon, about to talk about my book in front of a live audience. Take that, Bob Dylan!

Having arrived an hour early, Trevor invited me to have a look around. Beyond the book & coffee shop, I discovered a warren of artist studios. I peaked in some windows. A lot going on.

A child whizzed past me on a scooter. I followed the child and heard the voice of an artist, at work, talking to their creation.

The child whizzed past me again, leading me down a small gallery into a large gallery space. Art was hanging everywhere. I stopped at each one, taking it all in. The quality of the art was good, if not exceptional. Everything was affordable.

A wall mural caught my eye, reminding me of my acting days, when a photographer posed me beside a wall mural in California at Venice Beach. Graffiti art has come a long way since. The murals here, you can step inside of them, it seemed.

In the theater space, I met Tim Faulkner. I told him his place reminded me of when I used to work at Andy Warhol’s weekend nightclub, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Tim’s space is a catch-all for all types of events, too, from performances to weddings. A film crew was outside, working on a documentary, like Andy used to do with his camera while Lou Reed, Nico, and Velvet Underground droned under my strobe light. The adorable child on the scooter whizzed by again.

Back in the coffee shop, my audience assembled. We didn’t wait for Stefon to arrive. This was not going to be a sterile book lecture. Like a couple of book talks I’ve had in private homes, we all sat around casually. I began talking, but soon all of us dissolved into conversation, following the flow of everyone’s interest with my material.

Author Eric F. James with Jack Francis

At times, I found myself more interested in the theatrical work Jack Francis from my audience was doing with the young people of Louisville. He was taken enough by the show business types from the Jesse James family, enough to take home a book.

Stefon was a no-show, but I was thrilled when Trevor posted on McQuixote’s Facebook page, “Eric F. James was a treat to have at the shop and we’ll be hosting him again soon, to be sure!” I can’t wait to return. I left some authorgraphed books behind for anyone who missed our event.

I may be as old as Don Quixote, but I found no one at Portland’s McQuixote Books & Coffee tilting at windmills. For anyone with a future in their eyes, this is a place to do and be.

Do you read me, Stefon?

Eric F. James at the Louisville Genealogical Society Book Fair – 2014

Here are some afterthoughts following my book signing at the Louisville Genealogy Society Book Fair on Oct. 18, 2014.

This was the first book signing where three people told me they had bought my book elsewhere and already had read it or they were reading it now. Putting aside my salesmanship, always at the ready, we then relaxed into some discussion. The questioning became pretty serious.

Daniel Braxton, president of  the Bullitt County (KY) Genealogical Society took this fine picture of me tending my lemonade stand at the book fair. His exhibit was directly to the right of mine. We discussed my doing a talk in Bullitt County in the upcoming year. I’m already looking forward to it.

A pretty young lady then approached me, asking if I knew Jim Sames. “Of course, I do,” I replied. The late Jim Sames will appear in the preface to Jesse James Soul Liberty, Volume II. Jim is a James family relative. He and his family occupied the Black Horse Inn in Midway, Kentucky, where Jesse & Frank’s mother was born. He lived in the historic ordinary for 40 years and restored it in 1995. The young lady then told me she was leaving to get her father. Soon after, the young lady reappeared with her father in tow. Her father had gone to school with Jim Sames, and their family farm backed up to the Sames property in Versailles. I told him Jim won’t appear in my family history book series until Volume II. He purchased Volume I anyway.

The gentleman who installed this store of impressive historic maps came from Fort Wayne, Indiana. His display of maps, all available for purchase, was quite exceptional. What grabbed my interest in particular were his maps of Lithuania, My mother’s family came from Lithuania. His maps actually showed Lithuania’s historic connection to Prussia, which always confounded me when I was researching my Lithuanian heritage. It was a real eye opener to view those old maps.

His Indiana maps also displayed the progression over time of the dissection of the old Northwest Territory into the counties of Indiana. I informed him of my particular interest in the map showing Newton County, Indiana, founded by my second great grandfather Joseph McAlister James, aka Joseph McJames.

My day began at 5 am because I had a to drive from my home in Danville for two hours to Louisville. I realized on days like these I tend to rely on fast food to sustain me. I don’t always get to eat healthy food as I sign books and tend to my lemonade stand. However, the Louisville Genealogical Society made my noontime a nourishing and refreshing surprise. The wholesome lunch they provided was terrific. Whoever catered the food is exceptional. At too many events, nourishment just doesn’t work out so well. My day  ended early at 7:30 pm when I fell into bed.

Tonight, I finally get to dig into my swag bag of freebies.