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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
IS THE FATHER OF THIS LAWRENCE MAN THE UNKNOWN PARTNER OF MARY ELLEN JAMES ?
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.
In his book, Desperate Measures, Ralph P. Ganis falsely claims a relationship between Frank & Jesse James and the Ku Klux Klan.
The book was debunked by reputable historians as well as by the James Preservation Trust representing the James family. His publisher, Tarheel Press, formerly fell silent and stopped fulfilling orders for the book. Now Mr. Ganis has resurfaced to sell his book again. This time in Stanly County, North Carolina. To refresh interest in his book, Ganis promotes a new falsehood. Ganis now claims he himself is related to Frank & Jesse James.
For the record, Ralph P. Ganis never has produced any documentary evidence to the James family, or to the James Preservation Trust, verifying his claim of family relationship. In his assertion, Mr. Ganis joins a long list of James family claimants, all of whom ultimately share a common destiny as shameless self-promoters and charlatans.
The following book review for Mr. Ganis’ book appeared in the James-Younger Gang Journal, Fall 2007, pp. 4-5.
BOOK REVIEW: Desperate Measures: Jesse James and the Klan Battles of Reconstructionby Ralph P. Ganis with Julie Hampton Ganis, Jerry D. Shouse, Jr. and Matthew C. Bumgartner. Tarheel Press, Hickory, North Carolina 2007 ISBN#; NONE
In spite of the title, this book as a very small amount of information about Jesse James. The book’s real focus is on the Kirk-Holden War in North Carolina during Reconstruction. Before the Civil War, W.W. Holden had been a strong advocate for secession. After the War, Holden became a Radical Republican and was appointed Governor of North Carolina. Holden ran again during the first post-war election but was not elected. A term later he was elected governor of the state. Holden’s administration was very corrupt; he was eventually impeached and removed from office.
The Union and Loyal Leagues became very strong in part of North Carolina and the local population fought back in a number of ways, through the Klan, and other like organizations. The Union/Loyal Leagues were lead by Whites from the North and they organized local Blacks and made sure they voted for Radical Republicans. Some of these Union/Loyal Leagues also encouraged barn-burning and other illegal activities by Blacks. When the white population organized activities to stop these illegal actions by Blacks, Gov. Holden declared a state of insurrection in two counties. Holden then hired one ex-Union officer named George Kirk (a thoroughly unsavoury and brutal character) to form a private army (about 1,000 strong) to retaliate against the local White population.
The authors of this book jump to conclusions that because several families from this section of North Carolina settled in or near Clay County, Missouri, the home of the James boys, that the James boys had some active role in Klan activities in North Carolina and elsewhere.
This would be exciting stuff if the authors had any real evidence to back up their suppositions. Instead, the book uses a lot of oral history and traditional tales that have been handed down through the generations instead of hard evidence. There are many statements that say things like, “It is believed,” “It is documented that,” “It is logical to assume,” “It is possible,” etc., etc. Then there is little or no documentation to back up these statements.
1. Jim Cummins (a sometime James Gang member) had a brother-in-law that rode with Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. (Forrest was widely believed to be the commander of the Klan throughout the entire South.) “This may have relevance of James connection to the Klan.” No supporting documentation is offered to show any connection with the Cummins’ brother-in-law, Gen. Forrest, of the Klan.
2. “James connections to North Carolina are highly significant and extensive.” Again, no evidence for this is presented. Early in the book, the authors mention a statement by Frank James during his trial in 1883. They quote Frank: “My intention was to go into North Carolina and remain there.”
This quote is taken from a summary of Frank’s trial in George Miller, Jr.’s book, “The Trial of Frank James.” The newspapers that reported Frank’s trial do not use this quote. Frank went to North Carolina looking for work. He did not find a job and quickly moved on. Readers are advised to remember also that Frank went to North Carolina after Jesse was killed in 1882. The authors offer no documented evidence that Frank James was anywhere in North Carolina during the Kirk-Holden War or at any other time during the Reconstruction troubles.
3. “North Carolina provided the James boys safe harbor as illustrated by the number of North Carolina families in Clay County, Missouri.” On page 15 the authors provide a list of more than 25 family names in Clay County, Missouri, that supposedly account for significant Klan connections to the James Gang during Reconstruction. I checked these family names against the 1860 census for Clay County. Several of these names do not appear on the 1860 census for Clay County. Several others of these family names have multiple listings that give the birthplaces of the parents in the family in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, etc. as well as some in North Carolina. Some of these family names even list the birthplace as another country.
4. The authors also list several names of the supposed Klansmen who fled North Carolina and went to Clay County, Missouri, during the Kirk-Holden War. I have checked these names against the genealogical extracts from the Liberty Tribune from 1868 through 1874. I found no evidence of numerous visits to Clay County by people from North Carolina during this period. In fact, several of these family names were not even listed in the index to these records. Furthermore, thousands of people left North Carolina during Reconstruction. It would not be surprising to find that some of them joined relatives in Missouri. Moving to Missouri, however, is not proof of Klan activities by those who made the move or by the James Gang.
In summary, this book makes a lot of unsupported claims and contains no new material that expands our knowledge of the James Gang. This book does not present any data that supports or proves any Klan activity by any of the James Gang in North Carolina or elsewhere.
UPDATE: April 5, 2018
FRAUDSTERS GO DEEP… After 21 years of monitoring Jesse James fraudsters, con artists, conspiracy fanatics, & alt-historians, one thing has been very clear. They never stop digging the holes they are in.
Now, Ralph P. Ganis has resurfaced again, this time with a new conspiracy theory about JFK.
No need to buy or read this book. Citing the author’s record of producing alt-history that has no basis in fact, our book reviewer for Stray Leaves won’t even review it.
We’re still waiting for an autobiography by Mr. Ganis. We look forward to his explanation of how he paid off the million dollar judgement against him that resulted from his shadow Blackwater-related activities.
Official website for the family of Frank & Jesse James – Living lives, telling the story. Knowing self.
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