One unavoidable thing about dying is, you never know who’s going to come along later and become your cousin. Consider Frank & Jesse James.
The Academy Awards weren’t invented yet when the outlaw brothers were alive. They wouldn’t have a clue about how important and celebrated you could be once you owned a coveted gold plated statuette.
So Frank & Jesse James couldn’t possibly appreciate how cool it is be a cousin to Academy Award winning actress, Sissy Spacek.
Looking at it another way, no one can say just how Sissy Spacek might react if she knew she actually is a distant cousin to America’s iconic outlaws, Frank & Jesse James.
One thing is for sure. Sissy certainly would be stunned to learn that she has over 20,000 kinfolk that she shares with the outlaws and their James family. You can download her kinship report for free fromStray Leaves.
If this kind of serendipity tickles you, consider this. Sissy Spacek won her Academy Award for portraying Loretta Lynn in the film The Coal Miner’s Daughter. Loretta Lynn’s ancestral cabin home in Butcher Hollar is just a short distance from Waverly, Tennessee, where Jesse first buried his infant twin boys Gould & Montgomery James.
If we all could stick around a little bit longer, we all could be meeting some very interesting new cousins.
At 94, Darrell L. Cave is still connected to the family of Frank and Jesse James. As was his 4th great grandfather, Rev. William Cave, back in the 18th Century.
Uncle Billy Cave, as he was called then, was exiled from Colonial Virginia as a rebel preacher. Among other rebel preachers who were known to “shove a text of scripture down your throat,” Uncle Billy entered Kentucky in a Traveling Church, together with Jesse and Frank’s grandfather, John M. James. When the Cave and James families moved on to Missouri, Uncle Billy’s grandson Uriah Cave donated land in Kearney to establish the Mt. Olivet Church.
In 2004, Darrell Cave personally dug the final resting place in Mt. Olivet’s cemetery for Jesse’s twin children, Gould and Montgomery James. Laying the twins to rest beside their parents was Jesse’s great grandson, Judge James R. Ross. Assisting the Judge was Eric James of the James Preservation Trust, who had exhumed the twins’ remains in Waverly, Tennessee, and brought them to Missouri.
In his eulogy over the twins’ grave, Judge Ross recognized the fulfillment of a promise he had made to Jesse’s son. “Today, we reunite Gould and Montgomery James with their parents. We know they are with their parents in heaven. In bringing them here, I am fulfilling a promise I made 50 years ago to their son, Jesse Jr. I am glad to have fulfilled this promise. May God grant them eternal rest.”
From the start, the re-internment of Jesse’s twins had been fraught with numerous difficulties. Darrell Cave, who had been a long time sextant of Mt. Olivet Cemetery, had his own issues about the event. Darrell was mindful of the circus atmosphere that previously surrounded the exhumation of Jesse James in his cemetery in 1995. He was not about to let another circus happen again. The hurdles Darrell Cave set up required persuasion.
As cemetery sextant, Darrell first denied the re-internment altogether. Following numerous conversations with Judge Ross, Darrell was persuaded to finally allow the wishes of Jesse’s wife Zee for reunion with her children to be fulfilled.
But Darrell had his caveats. No press would be permitted. Agreement came readily. Then Darrell insisted no cameras be present. Eric James laughed, reminding Darrell of the famous picture of Frank James standing before the gates of James Farm where a posted sign read, “No Kodaks!” Eric argued there had to be a documentary record, since historical personages were involved and the event itself was historic by nature. Darrell relented. Then Darrell insisted only one person could be in attendance. Eric and the Judge rebutted, stating the event required at least one principal and one witness. Before they provided the legal argument for why, Darrell agreed. Darrell only would allow Judge Ross and Eric James to attend.
On the day of re-internment, Eric James met Darrell Cave in person for the first time. Eric was struck by something he could only define as spiritual.
Recalling his arrival for the dis-internment of Jesse’s twins in Tennessee, Eric met the grave diggers in Waverly for the first time. One introduced himself as Robert Shadowen. Immediately Eric asked Robert for the name of his grandfather. When Robert told him, Eric said, “You’re kin to the James.” Robert denied it. Using his laptop, Eric showed Robert how Robert’s ancestral French Chaudoin family, sometimes pronounced Shadowen in America, was linked to the Mimms family, and through the Mimms to their James cousins.
In Kearney, when Darrell Cave introduced himself, his Cave surname struck a similar chord with Eric. Then Eric inquired of Darrell, “Cave family of colonial Virginia?”
Darrell responded, “Yep.”
Eric pressed, “Came into Kentucky with the Traveling Church?”
Again, Darrell responded “Yep.”
Eric pressed further, “Are you descended from Uriah Cave?”
Darrel answered, “He’s my second great grandfather.”
Eric explained his excitement to Darrel Cave. Eric pointed additionally to the fact that the dis-internment in Tennessee was assisted by Ann Yager Hamlin, a descendant in the Samuels family who also are related to the James through the outlaws’ stepfather Reuben Samuels. Hamlin represented Humphreys County as its official court witness to the exhumation. Ann Yeager Hamlin, Robert Shadowen, and now Darrell Cave had not been assembled through any conscious preplanning. Such an outcome could only be defined in the context of a spiritual event. Clearly, hands from on high were also assisting.
Back in Kentucky, Eric went to the files of The James Preservation Trust. Eric had been working on a donated archive from Mike Albright, a James relative of the Cole family from Nebraska. Eric sent a picture from the file to Darrell Cave of some Cole family children in Nebraska. A boy at the left the end of the picture was identified as “Darrell Cave.” Eric inquired of Darrell if he knew the identity of the boy Darrell Cave in the photo. Darrell responded, saying “That’s me.” Darrell then explained that, following harvest time, the Cave family usually traveled and visited with cousins. In this case, Darrell was visiting his Cole family cousins in Nebraska, who also are cousins of the James.
In 2010, the Kearney Chamber of Commerce recognized Darrel Cave and his family for their contributions to the City of Kearney.
RHODA MAY (1806-1889) is the stalwart spouse of the “talented, but erratic” Rev. Joseph Martin James (1791-1848).
Rhoda withstood all transgressions, indignities, & social ostracism that her husband created with admirable Teutonic stoicism.
When acute alcoholism took Joe’s life at age fifty-seven, Rhoda became a forty-two year old widow, left alone to raise nine children.
For the next forty-one years of her life, Rhoda May James resolutely carried the social burden of her husband’s disgrace. She watched as the Civil War divided her children and tore apart her family. She never remarried.
Thanks to Gwen Smith-Gershwin, who is a fourth great granddaughter of Rev. Joseph Martin James & Martha McAlister, Joe’s first wife, this tintype image of Rhoda May now can be appreciated.
The original tintype was handed down in the family through Rhoda Alice Owens-Cole-Dowell, Rhoda May’s granddaughter & namesake.
Prior to the contribution of this tintype image to The James Preservation Trust, the only known image of Rhoda May was a framed oval colored photograph. This colored image still hangs in the home of Nelva Anne Herrin, a great granddaughter of Joe Martin & Rhoda May James. Nelva Anne’s contemporary home, built by her father Lem Garland Herrin, sits opposite the decayed ruin of the home built & occupied by her great grandparents Joseph Allen Herrin & Susan Harriet James on the original settlement lands of John M. James at Shopville in Pulaski County, Kentucky. Susan Harriet James is a daughter of Joe Martin James & Rhoda May.
SOME CHILDREN OF RHODA MAY-JAMES
EDWARD PERRY JAMES (1847-1931) was only a year old when his father died. He grew up in his father’s stone house in Shopville, married Elizabeth Langford, & raised a family of nine children in the same house. His youngest child, he named Rhoda May James, after his beloved mother. Progressively selling off his land holdings in Shopville, he removed his family to a new home he built in Berea, Kentucky, where he died.
SUSAN HARRIET JAMES (1843-1920) was five years old when Joseph Martin James died. She was thirty years old when she married Joseph Allen Herrin, a Union veteran of the Civil War.
In a diary Herrin kept during the war, he noted the wounding of Susan Harriet’s brother, Andrew James.
Herrin was returned from the war for almost a decade, when he and Susan Harriet married in the home of Rhoda May.
On the land of Susan Harriet’s grandfather, John M. James, in Shopville, the couple built themselves a new home. The home remained occupied by her descendants until about 1947, when the couple’s grandson, Lem Garland Herrin, built his bride, Thelma Hayes, a new home directly opposite the lane of the old home.
MARY HARRIET JAMES (1842-1935), nicknamed Mary Jane, was age ten when her father died. Left alone with Rhoda May to defend the family home during the Battle of Mill Springs, she successfully retained hold of the single horse they owned against marauding soldiers, by claiming half her family fought on one side while the other half fought on the other. Shortly after the war, she married Union veteran Daniel J. Owens, who had been imprisoned during the conflict. She was mother to ten children. At age ninety, she flew in an airplane for the first time. Flying over five states, she sang “Glory, Glory Halleluiah” and exited the airplane singing “Nearer My God to Thee.”
Rev. MARTIN NALL JAMES (1833-1911) was fifteen when Joe Martin James died. He became a Baptist preacher, but not one like his father. At twenty-five he married Susannah Elizabeth Matthews. The couple elected themselves Baptist missionaries & migrated into Missouri. During the war, he fought on the Confederate side. The couple bore eight children.
CYRENIUS WAITE JAMES (1831-1911) was age seventeen at the time of his father’s death He was Rhoda’s second eldest child. Cy bore witness to much of the abuse suffered by his mother. He and his other siblings also suffered the social stigma brought upon their family by their father’s bigamous third marriage to the youthful Permelia Estepp. Though his half-siblings with Permelia lived in plain view across Flat Lick Creek, the two families remained completely estranged from each other. Cy fought for the Union in the war and was taken prisoner. In prison in Georgia, he awoke to a nightmare of his daughter dying, at the same time she choked to death on some corn In Illinois. Prior to the war he removed his family there. Afterward, he walked them to Texas, where his descendants live today. No picture of Cy is known to exist. His daughter, Rhoda Ann James, named for his mother and shown here, operated his bank in Rhone, Texas.
A NEPHEW OF RHODA MAY-JAMES
JOHN SMITH MAY (1835-Aft. 1891) was a farmer and a teacher before the Civil War started. Shortly after joining the Confederate Army he was captured & imprisoned in Ohio. After the Battle of Chancellorsville, he was exchanged. He joined John Hunt Morgan in Sparta, Tennessee, but was captured later again with Morgan, David Hunt James, & Richard Skinner James. He was secondly incarcerated at Camp Douglas in Chicago, but later sent to Virginia. He surrendered with Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Afterwards he returned to Kentucky to resume teaching. By Elizabeth McQueary he had ten children and by Sallie Thurmond two more. In Pulaski County, he became Superintendent of Schools, the Court Clerk for the county, and was elected to the lower house of the Kentucky State Legislature. He and Rhoda May-James died within a few years of one another.
Official website for the family of Frank & Jesse James – Living lives, telling the story. Knowing self.
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