Tag Archives: St. James Hotel

2017 JAMES-YOUNGER GANG – Diary of a Preview Tour

What Happened in Missouri began in Kentucky

Dan Pence at Spring Hill Cemetery, Harrodsburg, Ky.
Dan Pence, President of the James-Younger Gang, views the plot for the Confederate dead in Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

TOUR DIARY – DAY ONE

April 19, 2017 – Dan Pence and Tom Nall, president and past president of the International James-Younger Gang Inc., will arrive at the 200-year-old Hemp House here in Danville today. Then for three days, we will tour Kentucky and preview historic sites in preparation for the speaking events and tours that are scheduled for the 2017 annual conference in Georgetown come September.

Dan Pence-Tom Nall-Harrodsburg cemetery
Dan Pence & Tom Nall, president & past president of the James-Younger Gang, tour the Confederate cemetery at Hoordsburg, Kentucky

Today, we will begin at Constitution Square. We will talk about the enduring relationship between John M. James, Frank & Jesse’s grandfather, with Judge Harry Innes, his clerk & later Justice Thomas Todd, & Benjamin Sebastian of the Spanish Conspiracy. We will also address what role John M. James may have had in the ten Danville Conventions and how the Spanish Conspiracy led to his ruin.

Next, we will retrace the ride of Frank James, the Younger & Pence brothers with William Clark Quantrill when they rode through Danville in 1864 on a mission to “visit” President Lincoln.

At the family plot of the close Confederate ally of Frank James, John Pendleton “Black Jack” Chinn. Dan Pence stands beside the tombstone of Black Jack’s grandmother, Sarah White Stull Hardin-Chinn. Her husband Christopher Columbus Chinn is the namesake of Kit Chinn who traveled the racetrack circuit with Frank James in his retirement years. Black Jack rests behind Dan Pence among two rows of his Chinn and Morgan families.

We will tour their escape route from Danville to Perryville and up to Sally Van Arsdall’s farm outside Harrodsburg. There, Maj. James Bridgewater, whose wife was a Pence, caught up with the band and attacked them in the middle of a cold January night. Four of the band was killed. Previously, the James-Younger Gang Journal published my account of this event, “Why, Maj. Bridgewater?”

We will then tour Oakland Church cemetery where Quantrill ordered their fallen men to be buried. We also will visit Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, where Frank James and Black Jack Chinn exhumed their slain from Oakland Church Cemetery and re-interred them in the Confederate plot at Spring Hill around 1898.

Nearby the family plot of Black Jack Chinn, Dan Pence tours the family plot of Franklin Pierce “Frank” James. In Harrodsburg, Frank James was the cashier of the Mercer County National Bank. Black Jack Chinn sat on its board of directors. Frank was twice elected Sheriff of Mercer County, and also was elected State Auditor. He halted construction of the new Kentucky State Capitol when the legislature failed to appropriate sufficient funding.

Returning to Danville, we will visit Bellevue Cemetery and the grave site of the grandparents of Clell Miller, Henry Logan Thurmond & Mary Kenley-Thurmond. Clell Miller was one of the James-Younger Gang. He was killed in the Northfield Bank robbery.

We will round off today’s tour in Danville with visits to Weisiger Park next to the Boyle County courthouse where Joseph McAlister James, aka Joseph McJames, operated the St. James Hotel. We also will stop by the parking lot on Third St. backing up to the Boyle County jail where Joseph McJames owned and operated James Hall, Danville’s first and original theater, and convention center.

In the coming two more days, we plan to tour in Woodford and Scott Counties.

DAY TWO  on TOUR 

Tombstone of Thomas Evans James, brother of Franklin Pierce “Frank” James. T.E. James operated the oldest dry goods firm in Harrodsburg – Hansford, James, & Co. His partner Smith Hansford rode with John Hunt Morgan, David Hunt James, & Richard Skinner James, both of whom were captured and sent to Camp Douglas Union Prison Camp in Chicago.

April 20, 2017 – Yesterday, after a full day of touring numerous historic sites relating to the pioneer settlement of John M. James in Kentucky and his pioneer families of Pence, Nalle, Vardiman, & Sallee, we ended our tour at Bellevue Cemetery in Danville.

Standing before the graves of Clell Miller’s grandparents, I received the ultimate compliment from Dan Pence. Turning to me, Dan said, “My grandfather would have loved to have known you.”

Tombstone Rev. Jesse Heah
Behind the tombstone of Thomas Evans James, Tom Nall spotted the tombstone of Rev. Jesse Head.  Rev. Head married President Abraham Lincoln’s parents, Thomas & Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

Dan’s grandfather is Samuel Anderson Pence, the author of I Knew Frank…I Wish I had Known Jesse. This book and its companion book Quantrill’s Guerillas 1861-1865 compiles Pence’s lifetime accumulation of history, stories, facts, and data relating to Pence’s personal relationship with the social communities and family of Frank & Jesse James. Dan edited and published his grandfather’s book posthumously. So much of Dan’s book is new and previously unpublished history. I have used this book often in my own research and writing.

Jesse Head plaque
Tombstone plaque for Rev. Jesse Head. “Rev. Jesse Head, Jan. 28, 1768-March 22, 1842. Preacher-Editor-Patriot. He married June 12, 1806, Thomas Lincoln & Nancy Hanks, parents of Abraham Lincoln. Jane Ramsey Head, April 10, 1768-August 30, 1851. Married Jesse Head January 9, 1789 and nobly shared with him the privations and triumphs of the life of a pioneer preacher.”
Jesse Head
Rev. Jesse Head 1768-1842 who married Abraham Lincoln’s parents

I was thrilled to think Dan thought so kindly about my research and writing. Dan’s generous compliment could not have thrilled me more.

Today, we continue our tour in Georgetown and Midway and the historic site related to the James family there.

DAY THREE on TOUR

April 21, 2017 – So far, very few complications have arisen regarding our programming for the September conference. Everything is working out well and in some cases better than first thought. This conference is going to be great!

However, while conducting our tour, revelations have occurred to us which surprised us. There really is no reason why the three of us, all raised in the upper Midwest, should find ourselves bound together by Jesse James. Yet, here we are.

Yesterday, Dan revealed his story “You have to go to Kentucky.”

Dan Pence-TomNall-Barbara Nall-Perryville Confederate Memorial
Dan Pence, Tom & Barbara Nall tour Perryville Battlefield and its memorial to the Confederate dead.

As a trained chemist, grown up In Michigan, Dan knew nothing of his connections to Jesse James. Not until Dan’s son brought home a book one day about Jesse James and Dan began to look at his grandfather’s box of memorabilia, did Dan begin to follow his path of spiritual discovery.

Dan Pence, Tom & Barbara Nall tour Logan’s Fort, a first stop for any migrant coming to Kentucky from Virginia in the early 1780s, including Frank and Jesse James’ grandfather, John M. James.

Following the neglected leads left to him, Dan began his journey. Dan’s door of discovery opened when a near stranger instructed him “You have to go to Kentucky. When Dan did, like me Dan discovered the unexpected.

In the Kentucky corporate offices of Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Dan met with Bill Samuel. Bill showed Dan Bill’s own neglected box of family memorabilia. Among the artifacts in Bill’s box were photos of Dan’s grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather.

Ever since then Dan has been on his own personal tour to discover what meaning Jesse James holds for him. Even on this preview tour of historic sites in Kentucky and after publishings his grandfather’s books, Dan is still learning more.

James-Younger Gang-2017 Conference logo

The three of us boys from the upper Midwest agree. We are traveling a curious path of divinity. We fully expect more revelations to come. Come to Kentucky, and you can, too. Join us and tour with us at the 2017 annual conference of the James-Younger Gang.

The Ghost of Jesse James is in Selma, Alabama – Believe it, or NOT!

Celebrity attachment to an American outlaw is good for business. Since his assassination, countless newspapers and businesses have capitalized on the icon of Jesse Woodson James. Like most advertising and promotion, though, what passes as fact is more often than not lies, distortions, or simply fraud.

Today’s event of lies and fraudulent branding comes from Kelly Kazek, in an article Kazek wrote on al.com, a website for three Alabama newspapers.

Kelly Kazak
Kelly Kazek

Writing about “Haunting Tales from Ghost Town Tours,” Kazek featured the St. James Hotel in Selma, Alabama.  The journalist wrote, “In 1881, Frank and Jesse James and members of their gang took a vacation from robbing and killing and vacationed at The Brantly, according to the hotel website.” The Brantly today is Selma’s historic St. James Hotel.

A review of the website for the St. James Hotel confirms what the hotel claims. “Following the war, Benjamin Sterling Turner operated the hotel; the first African-American ever elected to the United States Congress and is reputed to have hosted the legendary outlaw brothers Frank and Jesse James in 1881.”

screenshot

If true, this would be welcome new history to the Jesse James genre, on many levels. What exactly was the relationship of Turner to the notorious outlaws? To what purpose were Frank and Jesse associating with an elected member of the United States Congress? We know nothing about Benjamin Sterling Turner that links him to Frank and Jesse James. But we do know where Frank and Jesse were in 1881. The story offered by Kazek and the St. James Hotel don’t add up.

Wishing to confront the St. James Hotel with the known and recognized factual record, we emailed Kelly Kazek, asking how long her story would stay on the internet. Her tart email response was, “As long as there is an internet.”  Really?

Kazek also asked what claims we believed were false. She didn’t wait for our response, however, before our email response was blocked as spam. Fine enough, Kazek can be notified of our reply below or via Facebook.

failed email delivery

Kazek had added to her story of the St. James that the ghost of Jesse James stalks the old hotel in “cowboy clothes” with a girlfriend named Lucinda and Jesse’s dog which “accompanied the James gang.”

We stated in reply to Kazek’s question, “There was no James Gang after 1876 when the Younger brothers were captured, convicted, and imprisoned. Jesse James lived in Nebraska and St. Joe, Missouri in the period the hotel claims. Jesse James never was a cowboy. He was first a partisan combatant of the Civil War, and after, though arguably, a criminal. No evidence has ever been produced linking Jesse James to any woman other than his wife. He was a devoted husband and father.”

Straying from historical fact is expected among journalists with no claim to history. But Kelley Kazek is the author of The Hidden History of Auburn (AL.) and several other history books. You expect factual reporting from such an author. Then again, Kelly Kazek disappeared on us as quickly as her ghost of Jesse James.

St. James Hotel
Jesse James reported the hotel reeked of Southern pretension – Believe it, or not!