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Read Chapter Previews – Jesse James Soul Liberty

               Think you know Jesse James ?                  Wait until you meet his family

Read chapter previews of Jesse James Soul Liberty now

Authorized historical biography of the family of Frank & Jesse James. The first of five volumes, drawn from primary family sources. Includes family photos, letters, documents, memoirs, interviews, genealogy, with source citations, notes, bibliography, & index.

Published in the USA by Cashel Cadence House, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8957469-0-2. Hardcover, $36.95

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“Eric James knows more about the Jesse James family  than anyone in America.”

– Charles Broomfield, former Clay County (MO) Commissioner, responsible for the transfer of James Farm in Kearney, Missouri from the Jesse James family to Clay County.

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REVIEW: James-Younger Gang Journal

REVIEW: Wild West History Association

Most longtime outlaw-lawman aficionados have probably read a number of books about Jesse and Frank James. Those books probably included Background of a Bandit by Joan M. Beamis and William E. Pullen and Jesse and Frank James: The Family History by Phillip W. Steele. Chances are you think you know a lot about the family of America’s most famous bandits. However, if you think this– think again– you have seen only the tip of the iceberg.

Jesse James fanatics are going to be delighted with all the new material and serious historians are going to wonder how they have missed so much for so long…

In summary, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I did not want to put the book down. It reads a lot like the family sagas written by Howard Fast and John Jakes. However, this is all fact, not fiction.

If you have any interest in the James gang and their history this book is a “must read”.  And do not skip the notes; there is a wealth of material to be found in the notes and the bibliography is a gold mine. Four more volumes of James family history are to follow this book. I eagerly anticipate all of them.

REVIEW: Western Writers Association of America

The extended family of the James outlaws has unjustly been ignored by historians. The abundance of the accomplishments of the James family is more than enough to mitigate any stigma attached because of the outlaws. This family has led the way for social justice in many fields. They have been leaders in law, business, church, education and the arts…

The research and writing is outstanding and there is awealth of photos. There are excellent notes, bibliography and family charts. The book is very highly recommended.

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Order your PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED copy HERE.

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Available also at LOCAL BOOKSTORES & LIBRARIES.    If they don’t stock the book, ask them to order a copy for you through       Ingram Distribution.

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2015 Year In Review & 2016 Crystal Ball

Stray Leaves favicon
Favicon for Stray Leaves

The year 2015 presented significant challenges for our Stray Leaves website and our blog Leaves of Gas. Despite those challenges,  the statistics show that more visits generated more hits, more page views, and more file downloads than in previous years. Now we look into our crystal ball for 2016.

Right now, our 2016 crystal ball shows us a future for Stray Leaves that is both clouded and bright. If difficulties can be overcome by more investment and website improvement, the probability exists that Stray Leaves and Leaves of Gas will progress to become a better research resource and a more influential source of information as it approaches its 20th anniversary in 2018.

THE 2015 BOTTOM LINE

  • Number of annual visits:  477,092
  • Number of annual hits:  9,764,670 or 9.8 million plus
  • Number of annual page views:  7,155,636 or 7.1 million plus
  • Number of annual file downloads:  7,231,751 or 7.2 million plus

IT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER

stats-ericjames.org SL Stats 02-12 2015

The year 2015 began with a recovery from a hack to Leaves of Gas that occurred in November of 2014. Recovery of the blog took three months.

The devastation from the hack proved a blessing in disguise. As Google downgraded Leaves of Gas in public searches as a hacked website, Google also quickly identified the posts and pages that were affected by the hack. Google’s identification made it easy to recapture the blog posts from our backup archive. With the removal by Google of the designation of hacked website, all might have seemed restored to normal.  However, Google presented another challenge for Leaves of Gas.

In an effort to present quality content at the top of Google searches, Google changed its algorithms. Anticipating that mobile applications are poised to overtake desktop applications, as more and more people access the web via tablet or smartphone, Google announced that it would give priority in search strings to websites that are mobile responsive and which produce content of high quality. To keep the priority status Stray Leaves earned over so many years, Stray Leaves and Leaves of Gas had to adapt to the new requirement from Google to become mobile friendly.

2015 IMPROVEMENTS

Being mobile friendly means changing everything about Stray Leaves and Leaves of Gas .and its presentation. Given the gigantic size of our website and blog, the prospect could take years. The first alteration was to meet Google’s requirement for a “landing page.”

Welcome swf-Stray Leaves
Old landing page for Stray Leaves. Now a WELCOME page.

Our WELCOME page that was created five years ago no longer was viable to Google as a landing page. Steve Jobs intended to kill flash websites, by rendering them no longer accessible on smartphone or on tablets. Our WELCOME section was constructed on a flash platform. Now our WELCOME page sits in semi-retirement as a link on the menu for Leaves of Gas. Those who still access the web via laptop or desktop can still access the old WELCOME page. At the front door of our website now is our new landing page which is Google compliant.

Landing Page-Stray Leaves
New Landing page for Stray Leaves

Our changeover from flash to mobile friendly landing page cost us valuable web traffic.  For almost three months, visits to Stray Leaves fell by almost half over 2014 statistics. To return to par required more improvements.

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Stray Leaves famous SURNAMES genealogy database

Our SURNAMES genealogy research database has always been a premiere attraction of our website. Since its inception in 1997, the 55,000+ web pages that make up the database have been a magnet for genealogists and for researchers looking into much more than the genealogy of the James family alone.

But our database was built on a 1997 software platform. That software is no longer supported by its creator. The old platform inadequately serves Google’s standard of today for a mobile-friendly presentation. Not yet finding a suitable substitute, the existing software was re-coded to improve screen visibility for mobile devices. Still lingering is the need to find another new platform for the database altogether. That is a project for 2016.

A HIT BY ANY OTHER NAME IS ANOTHER HACK

By summer and into the fall of 2015, our website and blog began to recapture lost audience and its priority standing in Google searches. At the beginning of October, however, the arrival of the detestable Bob Ford/Jesse James Photo Hoax shot our statistics into the stratosphere. We were poised for a ceiling breakthrough. But a follow-up story on the hoax cabal brought everything to a crash. Leaves of Gas was hacked again. This hack appeared to emanate from Houston, Texas, the home of the hoaxers.

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The upgraded Leaves of Gas theme with improved drop down menu, search, and email capabilioty

This time, repair to Leaves of Gas took about thirty days. Using a security backup file of the entire blog installed after the previous hack, the entire blog was restored. Then, security was doubled. Within ten days, stats were restored to pre-hack level. Since then, stats have continued on an upward trajectory.

2016 CRYSTAL BALL – MORE IMPROVEMENT IS REQUIRED

Our crystal ball for 2016 tells us, the oldest section of Stray Leaves still is in need of a very challenging makeover. The CONTENTS and JESSE JAMES pages, together with their ARCHIVED CONTENT and NEW FOUND LINES subpages, must still be transcribed, remounted, and presented again in a new mobile friendly theme. Another year may be required to achieve this.

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Screenshot of Jesse James Soul Liberty website

Further complicating needed improvement to the Stray Leaves and Leaves of Gas website and blog is the additional need to revamp the website for Jesse James Soul Liberty. Funding that could easily have continued to support our website and blog has been directed to research, promotion, and publications for producing our epic five-volume history of the Jesse James family. Our present book website is not recognized by Google as being mobile-friendly. This, too, needs to change. Our entire book website needs to be republished for both ease of use and ease of customer purchase of our family history books and related souvenirs to come.

Left waiting on the horizon remains our plans for the Joan Beamis Studio for film, video, and podcast production, and for continuing Jesse James Family and Gang reunions, highlighting and celebrating the unique contributions to society by slected members of the James family.

Meanwhile, the cost of making the required improvements, plus the need for added security, up-to-date software, editorial applications, design, storage  and other services, arise from the former hobby level of Stray Leaves to a new level of professionalism. Time has come to recognize that Stray Leaves and Leaves of Gas must have financial underwriting to support this new professional level of service and to continue as an effective research resource.

YOUR OPINION MATTERS

Can your crystal ball see the future of Stray Leaves and Leaves of Gas?Our options for badly needed support and underwriting are limited.

  1. Should our website and blog accept advertisements?
  2. Should patronage or corporate sponsorship be sought?
  3. Should the SURNAMES database be put on a paid subscription basis?
  4. Should Leaves of Gas become a paid membership site?
  5. Or, should our website and blog continue to sustain free use solely through the support of user and visitor donations?

SEND ME AN EMAIL. Let me know your thoughts.

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Review – Frank and Jesse James “Friends and Family”

Book Review: Frank and Jesse James “Friends and Family” by Freda Cruse Hardison. Morris Publishing, Kearney, Nebraska, 2015. 381 pp. ISBN 978-0-9842111-2-8. $29.00. Paperback. Photos. No end notes, bibliography or index.

Reviewed by Nancy B. Samuelson

Publication of this review is shared by Stray Leaves, the James-Younger Gang Journal, and the Wild West History Association.

This book is billed as a historical novel told in the voice of Alexander Franklin James. However, the book  has none of the attributes of a novel and it is certainly not historically accurate. The book is poorly organized, rambling and incoherent.

Frank and Jesse James "Friends and Family"The author seems to have little knowledge of well-known historical facts about the Civil War and some well-known personalities of the era. She states that Senator Stephen Douglas was famous for the Missouri Compromise. Stephen Douglas was born 1813 and the Missouri Compromise took place in 1820. Douglas did, however, play a major role in the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. General Nathan Bedford Forrest is given credit for establishing the Knights of the Golden Circle but that organization was founded by a man named George Bickley. Union General Grenville Dodge becomes Greenville Dodge. The Union prison that collapsed killing and injuring the sisters of Bloody Bill Anderson and other female relatives of Quantrill guerrillas is placed in Lawrence, Kansas. (It was in Kansas City, Missouri.)There are numerous errors of this sort throughout the book.

Military rank structure appears to be foreign territory to the author. Men are one rank on one page and on the next page they are another rank. In one instance a captain is commanding a colonel. And on occasion John Thrailkill is identified as both a colonel and a major at the same time. (He was a major.) The military abbreviations for rank are used in a rather bizarre fashion. In one place ferries were of Maj. importance, in another instance something was a Maj. task for Union troops. Then strangest of all, the military rank is used as a name as follows: Alexander Maj’s is the manager for Russell, Maj. and Waddell, the freighting firm.

Fred Cruse Hardison, author of Frank and Jesse James "Freinds and Family" and fake Jesse James image
Author Freda Cruse Hardison standing next to a cutout of a fake image of Jesse James. The image was debunked as fake by the great-grandson of Jesse James, Judge James R. Ross.

There is a lot of dubious genealogy throughout the book. One egregious example of this is the claim that William “Wild Bill” Thomason, step-uncle of the James boys, was the grandfather of Bill and Jim Anderson. It is also stated that “Wild Bill” taught the James and Anderson boys, together, to shoot, ride and practice other martial skills. A quick check of the census records shows this to be fiction. The 1850 census for the Anderson family show them in Randolph County, Missouri and W. Tomason (sometimes spelled Tomasson) and his wife Mahala are living with the William Anderson family. The Tomason couple is undoubtedly the grandparents of Bill and Jim Anderson.  Both William Anderson, father of Bill and Jim, and W. Tomason list their occupation as hatters (they make hats).  In 1850 William Thomason, the step-uncle of the James boys,  is 62 years old and is living in Liberty Township in Clay County, Missouri. The Anderson family moved to Iowa for a short time, back to Randolph County, Missouri, then to what is now Lyon, County Kansas. A brief look at the map of Missouri and Kansas should quickly quell any notion that the Anderson and James boys visited frequently and learned to ride and shoot together.

There are a number of photographs in the book and many of them dubious, including the one on the front cover of the book. Several of the photos are from the Emory Cantey Collection and a number of serious scholars and photo collectors have questioned the validity of this entire collection. Several photos offer no source and are also very dubious. Only the photos from the Missouri Valley Special Collection, Kansas City Public Library should be considered as valid.

This book is poorly written, historically inaccurate, and tedious to read. It is also overpriced for a paperback. Save your money for something more worthwhile.

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EDITOR’S COMMENT:  Author Freda Cruse Hardison is part of the cabal that promoted the Bob Ford/Jesse James photo hoax, previously noted HERE.  Hardison employed this book as her authoritative collateral to piggyback on the fake photo hoax and identity theft perpetrated by Sandy Mills, Lois Gibson, Dylan Baddour, the Houston Chronicle, and others.

Book Review – Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol.I

BOOK REVIEW:  Jesse James, Soul Liberty. Volume I. By Eric F. James. Published by Cashel Cadence House, Danville KY. 2012. 411 pages, $36.95, reviewed by Bobbi King of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, June 23, 2013. Reprinted here by permission.

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Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter-Dick Eastman

             “Mr. James has conquered the Everest                             of writing a family history genealogy book                                         that is interesting enough                                 for the rest of us to want to read.”

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Eric F. James was asked to take on the task of researching and writing the story of the James family, specifically the many members of the family who merited fair consideration distinct from the myth and legend of the notorious outlaw brothers Frank and Jesse.

Mr. James succeeds in acquainting us with a family of characters who do deserve to be featured apart from the tarnished brothers. The book’s subtitle, “Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence” offers a not-so-subtle hint on the family’s take on their historical connection. Apparently, the more well-informed members of the family vigorously sought to put the kibosh on any kinship to Frank and Jesse James when naïve queries arose.

Mr. James introduces the family:

“In the emerging democracy of colonial Virginia, the early Kentucky frontier, and throughout the American heartland, the James were renowned as community builders, public office holders, ministers of faith, financiers, educators, writers, and poets. From these roots shot Frank and Jesse James.

“Following the Civil War, Frank and Jesse James eclipsed the family’s destiny. War may have splintered the family ideologically, but Frank and Jesse James disjoined the family’s compass and direction, casting a longer and darker shadow on the James family, like no other.

“Like their royal ancestors of old when beset by crisis, the James family turned suspicious and distrustful of its own. The larger James family kept apart from one another, holding in muted reverence what relic of itself that it could. The line of Frank and Jesse James was left isolated, unsupported and abandoned.”

Goaded by family in-laws, the Jesse James family withdrew into a citadel of its own. Their ostracism was enforced by every other family line of the James.

Bobbi king
Bobbi King

Mr. James’ book locates the various families’ residences, describes their personal occupations, details relationships and kinship to one another (a six-generation descendant chart is included), chronicles their military service, catalogs their movements about the regions, and quotes a good deal of material from their letters and journals, which always evokes a personality, a spirit, a temperament.

Mr. James’ research appears to be extensive across a wide variety of sources, with references at the end of the book that contain explanatory tidbits adding even more to the story. The photographs and illustrations, even those blurred by age and decomposition, are vivid and well produced, summoning up their subjects and places.

Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I
Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence, by Eric F. James

Mr. James, along with Judge James R. Ross, a great-grandson of Jesse James, is a co-founder of the James Preservation Trust. He writes and publishes on the official website of the James family, and is without a doubt the family cheerleader.

His writing is strong, perhaps a bit hyperbolic for my taste, but this is a good book for fans of Western history who want to know the real story. His research supports a claim to authenticity, and his writing keeps us reading.

Mr. James has conquered the Everest of writing a family history genealogy book that is interesting enough for the rest of us to want to read.

Book Review – Sustainable Genealogy by Richard Hite

Richard Hite, author
Richard Hite

Legendary families often can prove troublesome. That’s what Richard Hite found out when he confronted his family genealogy as a presumed descendant of Hans Jost Heydt, well-known to the Jesse James family as the progenitor of their cousins, Wood & Tuck Hite, and the Hite brothers’ father, George Burns Hite, who married the outlaw brothers’ aunt, Nancy Gardner James.

 

book-Sustainable GenealogyThe unique subtitle of Richard’s book Sustainable Genealogy reads as: “Separating Fact from Fiction in Family Legends.” Legendary families come with all the baggage possessed by families not so famous. Every family is burdened with family lore, genealogy, and stories that should be scrutinized by every generation, especially if one’s intention is to produce an exact and true genealogy of family history. The information handed down by one’s own family may not be correct. The Jesse James family certainly has wrestled with this problem for over 130 years.

Genealogy today is big business. The marketing of genealogical services tricks novices and professionals alike into believing one’s family genealogy will be produced with a simple subscription and a few clicks of a computer keyboard. That’s a deception. Many times commercial genealogy is as riddled with errors as one’s own family lore. Likewise, the genealogy one buys needs as much scrutiny and correction as the genealogy one inherits.

As an archivist for the Rhode Island State Archives, Richard Hite wasn’t going to fall into that trap. Like every serious genealogist, Hite knew that due diligence is the only means for achieving bullet proof results. In Hite’s experience, Hite quickly grasped that every exciting discovery leads to more discoveries that are just as exciting. And every disappointing error, that is proved to be error, raises the possibility of other wrong information that needs to be investigated, studied, and not overlooked.

Along Richard Hite’s path of discovery, Hite developed an extraordinary bag of tricks for verifying inaccurate information, that he now shares in his book. For each commonly encountered problem, Hite offers his unique solution. For uncommon problems, Hite offers uncommon solutions. Hite’s skills could become the envy of any private investigator. Genealogists will continue to use this book as a reference source when confronted by difficult brick walls.

– ERIC F. JAMES

Sustainable Genealogy: Separating Fact from Fiction in Family Legends
By Richard Hite (Genealogical Publishing Inc. 2013) 110 pp. soft cover, $18.95
ISBN: 9780806319827

 

Amazon Highlights “Incorrect Facts” Discrepancy

Amazon.com seized upon the discrepancy between a 2-star review and a 5-star review for Jesse James Soul Liberty as written by two Amazon customers. A third Amazon customer asked the same question of the writer of “Incorrect facts” that I did. Below is my personal reaction to the issue, that also was posted to Amazon’s observation of discrepancy.

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Some might expect an author to become argumentative about criticism like this. I will not bite the hand that fed me.

On the day after Virginia J. Church posted her criticism here, I emailed her as follows:

“Hi Virginia, I was shocked to read your Amazon review of my book, copied here…I would have thought if you had any disagreement with the facts as written that you would have presented them to me directly, so they could be corrected promptly. I certainly don’t mind any critique of presentation, ideas, typos, etc. but to criticize facts as you did is devastating to a history book and its prospects for being read.

“This book is built upon facts. I have worked very hard and very diligently to be both accurate and correct. I respectfully request that you provide a list of each and every fact with which you take issue. I will make every effort to correct it.” – To this, I have received no response.

I also sent the same invitation to Virginia’s daughter, the author and publisher Jacqueline Church Simonds, who had posted a favorable supportive review of my book here but then deleted it following her mother’s review.  I have received no response from her either.

I posted my assessment of this issue on the James family’s official blog Leaves of Gas. I acknowledged the following to its community of James family, book readers, and subscribers.

“I was pleased to have the cooperation of my Amazon critic, Virginia J. Church. In our written interviews, she provided valuable history about her part of the James family. She also provided photographs not seen before. Researching her content independently afterward, most everything she offered checked out as true. What could not be verified was left out of the book. Our relationship, I thought, was cordial, constructive, and friendly. I take pride in the James family who participated in my book, and the relationships with them that have resulted.”

Two days before Virginia posted her comment, I accepted the Milton F. Perry Award for this book, in which I shared the award with those members of the James family who contributed so generously to the book. This also included Virginia Church. My acceptance was shared with them on Leaves of Gas also. Anyone can read it.

Whatever criticism Virginia or her daughter may have about me is irrelevant. What is relevant is the facts of their family history. My invitation to Virginia and her daughter remains open. However, if they are indifferent to the invitation or give no response, it can only be assumed that their concern is not sufficiently meaningful enough to call for being any more accurately depicted. If they allow the history to stand as written, it is their determination.

As I’ve stated publicly, the James family made this book. It is their words, their interviews, their memoirs, etc. that documents their history.  I’ve been privileged to compile this ground- breaking history, give it context, and offer analysis. Someday my interviews with Virginia Church and others in the book will make their way into a public archive, available to anyone. Meanwhile, readers may contact me directly through our various websites. I stand ever ready to discuss whatever questions or criticisms comes the way of this book.