Tag Archives: photos

John James of Alvarado & Mysteries from His Newspaper Office

This rare image of John James of Alvarado surfaced recently. John sits in the office of his newspaper, the Alvarado Daily Bulletin, among the mysteries of John’s past. The Bulletin published John’s news columns. The stories in John’s columns later were compiled and published shortly before John died on October 4, 1927. The book is, My Experience with Indians. Today John’s book is a prized collector’s item. John’s story appears in the chapter “An Independent Free Man” in my book Jesse James Soul Liberty.

Alvarado Daily Bulletin office of John James
John James of Alvarado in his newspaper office at the Alvarado Daily Bulletin

This image now resides in the photographic collections of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Thanks to the museum photo curator, John Rohrbach, I learned the provenance of the picture. The image originated in the collection of Fred M. Mazzulla, an eccentric, colorful attorney who roamed the Old West, collecting memorabilia. He especially treasured images of prostitutes, lynchings, and the KKK.

Rohrbach further stated, “The print arrived as part of a sub-group of that massive collection, that includes perhaps 100 similar gelatin silver prints of older buildings and store interiors, generally shot in IL, NB, and CO. This image is the only Texas photograph in the group.”

Quantrill gift sword
The Quantrill Sword?

Of particular interest to me, I pointed out to Rohrbach, was the sword hanging in the corner of John’s office. My chapter “An Independent Free Man” tells the story of John receiving a sword as a gift from William Wythe James, who claimed not only to be related to John, he also publicly claimed his kinship with Jesse James and his association with the Civil War guerrillas of William Clarke Quantrill. Among John’s family, the sword became known as ‘the Quantrill sword.” I mailed Rohrbach a copy of the chapter, which now is included in the image’s file at the Museum. I won’t spoil here the delight readers of my book will enjoy when they read about the disappearance of the Quantrill sword in my book and what they read here.

There’s no way the sword in this image be cane identified as “the Quantrill Sword,” but one has to ask, how would such a sword come to occupy and hold this place of display in John’s newspaper office? In the early 1920s, John would have no need of such a sword as a weapon. By that time, the sword clearly had become an historic artifact.

Old West artifact collector Fred M. Mazzulla
Fred M. Mazzulla Esq.

Fred M. Mazzulla would not have known John James of Alvarado personally. Mazzulla was born in Trinidad in 1903. He grew up in Salida, Colorado and died in 1981. He is buried in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. In a 1962 newspaper article, Mazzulla told the reporter, “I’m no stickler for historical accuracy. Sometimes it takes showmanship to make history interesting.”

Mazzulla often was accused of appropriating family photos. At a Denver bank, he once conducted an Old West photo contest, offering a $500 savings bond for the best image of the Old West. Families complained afterward they had problems getting their images returned. Some said when they eventually received their images, their treasured family photos were stamped “Mazzphoto,” indicating Mazzulla retained the original image and returned only a copy.

Walls of Fred M. Masszulla home
Home of Fred M. Mazzulla

In 1972, the Denver Post stated Mazzulla confessed to being a packrat. He stated he used to “pick up anything not nailed down.” He continued the practice even after he became a lawyer in 1930.

Those who’ve read about the disappearance of “the Quantrill sword” in Jesse James Soul Liberty will be better informed to speculate on how this image of John James of Alvarado made its way into the collections of Fred M. Mazzula, Esq.

Image claimed to be Frank and Jesse james
Claimed image of Frank & Jesse James

Formerly in the Amon Carter collection, identified together with this office image of John James of Alvarado, was an image claimed to be that of Frank and Jesse James. Ironically, this image has crossed my desk a number of times, delivered by various claimants. I informed John Rorhbach of the Amon Carter Museum, as I’ve informed the claimants, that the image most definitely is not of Frank & Jesse James. The distinction is as clear and definitive as not to need any authentication process. The museum has noted its file accordingly.

Image of two sons of John James of Alacardo
Or Sons of John James of Alvarado?

However, given the fact the image was conjoined in the Museum’s collection with the image of John James of Alvarado, this claimed image raises an interesting question. Might the two young men in the accompanying image be sons or family relations of John James of Alvarado?

Over the years, I’ve collected numerous images of the children and grandchildren of John James of Alvarado. I’ve included some of them in John’s chapter in my book. While I find no match among the photos in my possession, perhaps there are matching photos in the possession of John’s descendants. If so, I wish those descendants come forward and make it known.

The mysteries surrounding these images do not end here. Curator David Rohrbach further informed me of the provenance of the image of the two young men. He stated the image came from the collection of the noted, award winning photographer David R. Phillips of Chicago.

I know David and have communicated with him over the years. Among his photo archives are original images of Charlie Chaplin, Essanay Film Studios in Chicago, and James’ family shirttail cousins Wallace Beery and Gloria Swanson. David had informed me he also possessed some unpublished images of Frank & Jesse James, as well as their mother Zerelda. When I write my show business memoir, I’ve expected to visit David and access some of his photos for my book. David assured me he’d hold those images for my exclusive view. With my long delay, he donated the images to the Amon Carter Museum, but disappointingly they are the faces of Frank and Jesse James.

First Galley for This Bloody Ground

Loaded up a new toner cartridge, good for 2400 copies, and started printing the first galley of This Bloody Ground, Volume II of Jesse James Soul Liberty.

My beta-readers have returned their comments after they reviewed the first two-thirds of the book. I was surprised by their reaction. No severe comments, just a batch of good constructive criticism. I already can see how their comments will improve the book.

I thoroughly enjoy this part of the writing process, because the computer words finally leap onto paper to give me a preview of how the book will look, and how big it yet might grow to be.

From here, I can sit with the book in hand, and see how I will accommodate recommendations from my beta-readers and where. Then I can re-write those portions and freeze the manuscript.

After that, I’ll re-read the book again, this time to find where I want to insert all my photos and images. Volume I had 175 of them. I’m trying to keep the number down for Volume II. I want to keep printing costs down, and keep down the wholesale and retail costs for the book.

As I do all this, I’ll be completing the last third of the book and constructing all the back-matter for the end of the book. Then comes the last and most agonizing pain. I hate constructing an Index!

This book will only be a year late in its arrival to the market. But it should make 2015 another exciting year for the fans of Jesse James Soul Liberty.

Jesse James Treasure Discovered…and Returned

Who’s treasure is it? The email from the unidentified woman was insistent. “This family is part of the Jesse James family. You represent the Jesse James family. These things now are yours.”

Nothing about the woman, what she said, or what she described made any sense at all. But I’m used to dealing with that. All I could glean was that some woman died in Florida – I couldn’t get a name. Locally, she was known to be kin to Jesse James – How? I couldn’t learn that either. Now, the deceased woman’s house was being cleaned out, and her debris was flying my way.

bag of treasure

What I expected to receive was a letter envelope with, maybe, some photos. What I got instead was a shipment box. Inside was a large plastic shopping bag. The bag was loaded with studio portrait photos in their cardboard fold-out frames, piles of fading snapshots, an envelope of records and official documents, and a baby shoe.

Like most people, the deceased woman was a bad record keeper. The photos were not identified by names, but rather by relationships. “Sis’s grandkids.” Great. Who’s Sis? Who are the grandkids? Who are these people? I was reminded of occasions when asking for directions in the South. Replies contained no specific point-to-point directions by name, but only by oblique references, informed by personal memory. “Go down about two miles to the corner where the gas station used to be.”

Some of the photos bore the name of James. But none of the names was familiar. The images didn’t resemble any James I know. I searched the internet but found nothing relating to these James. So, whose Jesse James treasure was this? I was stuck with the mystery.

research files of the James Preservation Trust

The historian, genealogist, and archivist in me recognized I could not throw any of this away. This belonged to someone unknown, someone yet to be found. Meanwhile, I was stuck with it all. I stashed the collection with my files, hoping someday, someway, someone or something would appear to claim it, or direct me to its rightful heir. For about seven years, the bag and its treasure sat waiting, like so many family orphans.

Two weeks ago, I was browsing Find-a-Grave for updates and new information, just as I continually browse courthouses, libraries, and research archives for things overlooked, new references, identities familiar from my growth of knowledge, or for the latest deaths, notices, or entries. A Find-a-Grave listing appeared with references to a James, familiar from my mystery treasure.

Find-a-Grave posting

I promptly dispatched an email to Christine Cartwright, who posted the entry. “Are you related to this family, or know someone who is?”

“Hi Eric, Yes, I am a relative William Everett James. He was my great-grandfather. What kind of information do you have may I ask? Some of us are in the dark because a small part of the family doesn’t want to share pictures, docs, and stories with the rest of us…Please if you have new information I would love it…”

In further correspondence came this revelation “Yes, there has been talk that one of the great aunts had some letters from Jesse and Frank and somehow they are cousins. But no one can find this so-called letters or maybe someone is hiding them. I don’t know but it would be great to know if there is a link.”

Christine Cratwright
Christine Cartwright & Her Orphaned Family Archive

The treasure sent to me anonymously finally has found its rightful home. Returning the collection has been deeply gratifying, like so often before when orphans of the James are rediscovered, or rediscover their past, with the help of our Stray Leaves website and its SURNAMES genealogy database.

True to any genealogy quest, though, arriving at one answer always raises more questions. Is the Everett Roscoe James of Clinton County, Ohio related to the James in our SURNAMES database? Christine has solved one mystery. His real name was William Everett James, and Roscoe was his nickname. Christine’s research will continue. Is William Everett James related to the Jesse James family? Christine will continue working on that, too; as I stand by to help. Perhaps a DNA test will put the question to rest. But does that really matter? It took six years to resolve the mystery of this lost treasure of family photos. What’s another month or two to nail down a family identity? For many, it takes generations. Meanwhile, Christine and her family now have some lost treasure from their own family to study and enjoy.

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New Found Photos of Edward Perry James & Elizabeth Langford

Thanks to Elizabeth Lee “Libby” James-Brown, there are new photos to add to the family album of Libby’s 2nd great-grandfather Edward Perry James and his wife Elizabeth Langford. Libby’s 1st great-grandfather is Jack Oliver James, the husband of Dimple Hite.

This is the family portrait of the Edward Perry James family, with some of his children. Formerly, this was the only known image of Edward Perry James and his family, when they resided in the stone residence built by Perry’s father Rev. Joseph Martin James in Shopville, Kentucky. Perry was born in the stone house. At a later date, Perry would remove his family to Berea, Kentucky, where he built them a two-story home in a modest Victorian fashion.

Family of Edward Perry James
Edward Perry & Elizabeth Langford James with the youngest six of their nine children. Seated below are Rhoda May James and her sister Flora Helen James. Standing L-R are William Harvey and George W. James with Ophelia James. Missing are Perry’s three sons, Walter Andrew James who had moved to California, Harvey H. James, whose whereabouts are now unknown, and John Oliver James who had moved to Texas, but would return to the stone house for a final visit before he died.

To this we can now add the following portrait photos, one done earlier in their lives of Perry and his wife Elizabeth, and the other later.

Edward Perry James-Elizabeth Langford

From the Flat Lick Baptist Church, we also have this 1899 photo, celebrating the church’s first 100 years. In his suspenders, Edward Perry James is front and center with Elizabeth and their three daughters standing behind.

Flat Lick Baptist Church 18999

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Flat Lick Baptist Church, the 200th Anniversary

Flat Lick Baptist Church 1999
Flat Lick Baptist Church 1999 – 200th Anniversary