Tag Archives: school

Frank James – Scholar with a Gun

From Phil Stewart’s Archive, first published on Stray Leaves in 1999. 

Frank James – Scholar with a Gun

By Phil Stewart

Frank James received more education as a young man than did most rural Missouri farm boys of the 1850s and 60s. The James farm was just a mile from Somersette school. Frank attended regularly…almost enthusiastically…until he was eighteen years old.

Frank James
Frank James

In addition to “The Three Rs,” Frank developed a love for classic literature. He would sit for hours with the works of Shakespeare and other famous writers of the time. His father, the Rev. Robert Sallee James, had been a scholarly man himself. Frank had his father’s collection of books readily available. Frank’s love for literature would remain with him throughout the dark years of the Civil War, and even through the outlaw years to come.

Many researchers believe that Frank James desired to further his education by attending William Jewell College in nearby Liberty. There is no doubt Frank had the intellectual capacity. His acceptance into the college was a given. His father had been a major influence in the founding of the school, and had been a member of the first Board of Trustees. Any such plans were dashed, though, with the coming of the Civil War. Frank James was 18 years old in 1861, and like most young men, left home to serve “the cause.”

Henry IV
Henry IV, Tomb Effigy, Canterbury Cathedral

The blood, death, and brutality of the border war could not extinguish the love Frank James had for reading, knowledge, and for classic works of literature. They became his passion. It is difficult to imagine one member of Quantrill’s Raiders sitting around a campfire reading anything, let alone reading English literature like Frank.

If Frank desired to further his education, the circumstance had changed. Like most schools of the area, William Jewell College closed shortly after the opening shots of the war. The college would not reopen for nearly three years. Frank still had his father’s library. Shakespeare had become his favorite works. He read and reread the plays until he could snap out a quote for almost any situation. During the war, Frank and been tabbed with the nickname “Buck.” “Professor” might have been more appropriate afterward.

If more education was out of the question, Frank certainly could put Shakespeare to work on behalf of the James Gang…which is exactly what he did at Gad’s Hill, Missouri. Frank James lifted the script of Shakespeare’s HENRY IV for a train robbery, during which Frank performed Shakespeare for a captive audience.

Henry IV-Pt 1

ANALYSIS by Drew Fracher

So, what about this play?

Although called HENRY IV, I believe that this is the story and journey of his son Hal, the Prince of Wales, who will go on to become Henry V.

Here we have a young man who knows in his heart that he will inherit a huge job…and who is trying his best to have some fun before the fact. I realize that much of what Hal I doing is not avoiding responsibility, but trying to learn as much as possible about the job to come. Trying to experience the society that he will eventually be in charge of from all levels, figuring out what fairness and justice are all about, who you can trust and what realis is important in his own world. A journey all of us must go through.

Hal clings to his life and friends in the tavern as substitutes for the things that are lacking in his relationship with his father. Hal and his dad are having trouble communicating. We witness Hal’s coming of age, his growth to manhood and an acceptance of huge responsibility, all the steps on his rocky road.

The good news is that he not only survives, but flourishes. There are no true villains or heroes here, only different sorts of people trying their best to figure out how to make it in the world. That is perhaps what I like best, that no one is clearly in the right and politics is politics, then and now.

DREW FRACHER,  Director, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, 1999

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COMMENTARY by Eric F. James

As a former actor myself, I perceive Frank James as Prince Hal…an eldest son, a carefree and boisterous youth, distinguished in war, a “wild prince” given to audacity and rebellion.

Henry IV expelled and banished his son, Hal. Did Frank James spiritually experience a similar disapproval by his deceased father?

Frank James was 27 years old at the time of the Gad’s Hill train robbery. His performance from HENRY IV in the middle of the robbery intentionally may have been foreshadowing his expected retirement.

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RELATED:   More from Phil Stewart’s 1999 Archive

The Plot to Capture Jesse James

The Plot to Assassinate Jesse James

The Gad’s Hill Train Robbery

School Time for Jesse James – Part I

School Time for Jesse James – Part II

Jesse James & Half-Brother Perry Samuel

Jesse James Family – Slaves & Servants

Robert Sallee James – Father of Jesse James

Jesse James Myths & Facts

Stray Leaves Diary of John James of Alvarado – 2

2nd Installment of “Stray Leaves” from my diary

John James of Alvarado, Texas
John James of Alvarado, Texas

In my last I told you about our moving about up to the time I came to Texas. Now I will go back and tell some other things connected with my life in Illinois, for it was there the greatest epoch in my life and history occurred, when we lived there it was a new and sparsely settled country and not very much society schools and preaching until after the war.

Just before I was 16, I professed religion and joined the “New Light” church and from that time I became an active Sunday school and church worker, and I now see that was the very best thing that could have happened.

While Father was gone to the war I grew out from under his rule and influence so that when he came home I felt in me a feeling of rebellion against him and was never willing for him to boss me as I called it, so in the summer after I was 16 I left home “ran away” after night I went to another county about 30 miles from home taking only one extra shirt and my testament that I loved so well. I hired to a man to herd cattle, so did not have much to do but put in all my spare time reading my Testament.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 3
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 3

I planned to get myself plenty of clothes and then go to school for I wanted to get an education I wanted that above everything else, of course I loved my dear mother and the children, wanted to see them and went home in the fall on a visit intending to go back to Philo, Illinois, where a man had offered to board me and send me to school for my work of nights and mornings. But Father begged me to stay at home and promised me an education, so I stayed on account of our financial condition and father’s feebleness (from hardships and exposure in the war) I never got to go to school any more, I had never went to school but nine weeks and that was to Uncle Henry… (illegible writing)…by a chip fire light until I ruined my eyes that had been afflicted with granulated lids from the time I was 5 yrs. old (our first year in Illinois), but I stayed with my Father and learned to love him again and done all I could for him but read and studied all the time I could.

I loved that Sunday School and prayer meeting and debating societies and sing schools and became active in all that work and I loved the girls too and had several precious sweet hearts ” that I hated most of to Leave” when we came to Texas, but I learned to write by writing back to several of them for over a year after I came here.

During the summer (our first summer here) after I was 18, the neighbors fixed up an old log house with split log seats and plank on pegs in the wall for a writing desk and put me in as teacher over about a dozen children, but my school was a success from the start. It gave me the chance to study and I would study every evening after school was out every lesson that was to come up the next day so I kept ahead of my school. I taught four schools at that place and my salary grew from about $20.00 up to $75.00 per month and at the end of the 4th school I had carried my advanced classes up into such high branches as higher arithmetic, algebra, physical geography, philosophy and Astronomy and Book keeping.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 4
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 4

I had not only taught a good school, but had educated myself during the two years or four schools that I taught there so I kept on teaching for 18 years, the last three years a mission teacher to the Indians where I learned to love the Indians and learned their language and can talk it yet, though it has now been 15 years since I quit teaching.

The 3rd year, after coming to Texas in September after I was 20, in April I married into one of the very best families in this country or state, I would teach in the winter and wake crops in the spring, teach again in the summer. Father had moved to Wise County, 50 miles north of here. I also moved up there and went to teaching and farming as I did here where my wife and baby child died the same week in I had joined the Baptist Church in spring 1873 and up there in Wise County in 1878.

I was licensed to preach and was ordained soon after, so I mixed preaching with teaching and farming. I had 4 motherless children that my dear Mother was taking care of so I married again in fall 1879. I now have eleven children living and thirteen grandchildren.

While I was among the Indians I a Missionary preacher, teacher, and doctor would have stayed there had it not been for my family, I did not want to raise up my children and have them marry off in that country. So in spring of 1883 I moved back to Johnson County to the same neighborhood we first came to 33 years ago and where I first began teaching, Some of my first pupils are living here yet and most of them Grandfathers and Grandmothers and when I think of it, it makes me feel old, but I am only 51 next month, have not a grey hair in my head.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 5
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 5

In politics, I am a Democrat but in politics religion and everything else I am very liberal and kind to those who differ with me in their views. I believe there is good in all creeds and in all nations of the Earth and believe God’s people do wrong in keeping up separate denominational creeds instead of trying to live together in Love and Unity. I began to preach that kind of doctrine about twelve years ago. Of course, that did not suit Baptists. They took my credentials away from me; but I am glad of it, and have never regretted it. From that day until this I have been an independent free man and preach and teach what I believe and hold myself accountable to no man or set of men but God only.

While a mere boy reading the Bible, I began to believe in the Mighty Power of the mind. I felt that I had some mysterious secret power but did not know how to use it. I believed a correct understanding of this secret mental or Spiritual power would make plain many of the mysterious things spoken of in the Apostles and of the similar things among the different nations of the earth, all the way down from that time until now. There were my feeling and thoughts back to 30 or 40 years ago and I have lived up to those4 very things demonstrated.

I have learned how to recognize and use that secret power that I felt swelling up in my very being when I was but a mere child from a mere boy. I have always desired to be able to heal the sick. Now I have witnessed hundreds of them getting well under my treatments and; yet it is not I that do it, but it is done by God-given power that I have learned how to use.

The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 6
The Stray Leaves diary of John James of Alvarado, Texas, page 6

All my youthful desires for knowledge and for power was my earnest prayer, and God has answered them not as I expected but more fully than I had ever dared hope for and above all I have a better understanding of the great doctrines of the Bible and have a more vital and intelligent conception of God’s love and serve him better than I could ever have done by following human creeds.

I have had many strange and wonderful experiences through life much that was dark and mysterious at the time but all is plain now. As I look back along the journey of my past life, I can now see how God in his mercy and wisdom was leading me. I seem to have come to the great Fountain of Wisdom and day by day Wonderful Knowledge of the here to fore hidden mysteries of the world and of life are coming to me. Praise the Lord, O my Soul. Amen.

JOHN JAMES    March 8, 1903