Tag Archives: Thomas T. Crittenden

The Plot to Capture Jesse James

“The Plot to Capture Jesse James,” from Phil Stewart’s Archive, was first published on Stray Leaves in 1999. 

The Plot to Capture Jesse James

By Phil Stewart

Robert Ford, the "dirty little coward"
Robert Ford, the “dirty little coward”

Bob Ford killed Jesse James with the full knowledge and consent of Sheriff James H. Timberlake of Clay County, Police Commission Henry H. Craig of Kansas City, and the Governor of Missouri, Thomas T. Crittenden. While the James neighbors plotted to capture Jesse James, the government plotted to assassinate Jesse James.

By the fall of 1880, it was nearly impossible for Jesse and his family to justify robberies and murders on injustice and social conditions brought about by the Civil War. There was no place for roaming bands of old guerilla fighters and outlaws. Jesse was bad for business. Land prices in the outlaw’s home county were lower than in other parts of the state. Business and banking interests avoided the area, despite opportunities for growth. Jesse James was an economic liability.

John Watts Shouse, conspirator to capture Jesse James
John Watts Shouse, conspirator to capture Jesse James

A small group of Clay County citizen talked among themselves, although very quietly. Chief among them was John Watts Shouse, a veteran of the Mexican and Civil Wars, and a southerner by birth. Shouse was a no-nonsense man who had organized and commanded on of the first Confederate Home Guards. With him were other prominent citizens: John T. Pettigrew, William Dollis, William Dagley, Riley Henderson, William Wysong, and John Shouse’s younger brother James. Most of the lived in the Bethel community, which also was the home of the Ford and Cummins families, a few miles from James farm.

The neighbors made at least one attempt to convince Jesse’s mother, Zerelda, to speak to her son and convince him to surrender. The feisty, fiery, and protective Zerelda Samuel would not consider surrender. Not Jesse James! Having failed, the group shifted focus to capture Jesse and  turn him over to Sheriff Timberlake for prosecution.

Jim Cummins
Jim Cummins

During the fall of 1881, Jesse came searching for one of his old associates, Jim Cummins. Jesse believed Cummins was about to turn traitor. Jesse already had killed Ed Miller, one of his gang and a neighbor who Jesse no longer trusted.

Jesse arrived in the Bethel community during the first few days of October. Jesse soon learned that Cummins had been seen around the home of Cummins’ brother-in-law, William Ford. Bill For was also an uncle to Robert and Charles Ford. When Jesse arrived at Bill Ford’s home, he found Bill’s wife, and fifteen-year-old son, Samuel. In a scene reminiscent of the time young Jesse James himself was beaten by Union soldier in search of his brother Frank James, Jesse grabbed the teenager. He threated to kill him if he didn’t “fess up” where Jim Cummins could be found. When the boy would not, or could not, provide the information, Jesse lost his temper. Frustration got the best of him. He began slapping the boy. The slapping became a beating. When Jesse mounted to leave, young Samuel Ford was beaten and bloody.

New of the beating quickly made its way throughout the neighborhood. John Shouse and his group were fed up. Jesse once protected the farmers and resident of the area. Now he was the aggressor and torturer. Time had come to bring the others into the group to plot the outlaw’s capture. Not surprisingly, William Ford eagerly and enthusiastically joined.

Sheriff James H. Tiberlake
Sheriff James H. Tiberlake

Dick Liddil separated from Jesse following the beating. Liddil worried about being around Jesse. His boss was increasingly paranoid and irrational. Liddil believed it was only a matter of time before Jesse came after him. Although not quite ready to turn traitor against Jesse, it would not take much to push Dick Liddil to side with the neighbors.

The conspiring neighbors changed focus and makeup. Some now plotted the murder of Jesse James. Not wishing to become involved in planned murder, many of John Shouse’s group departed. Capturing Jesse was one thing, but planned assassination left their mouths bitter. John Shouse himself wanted nothing to do with it. The group was asking for war against the James gang. Shouse had a family to consider. Others soon took his place. A brother of William Ford, Elias Capline Ford known as “Cap,” quietly and cautiously joined the group. The group now comprised of a few silent citizen and several members of the Ford and Cummins families. The conspirators sought someone they could trust inside Jesse’s new gang.

In early November of 1881, William Ford contracted Sheriff James Timberlake. He informed Timberlake that a network was in place. They could inform Timberlake of the comings and goings of Jesse James. They could assist with his capture.

Timberlake was more than enthusiastic. He offered William Ford $1,000 for his assistance in capturing Jesse James. He further assured Ford no members of the group would be prosecuted if the plan resulted in the death of the outlaw.

But they needed the assistance of other agencies. Timberlake, along with Cap Ford, traveled to Kansas City and contacted Police Commissioner Henry Craig who was briefed. Commissioner Craig traveled to Jefferson City to enlist the cooperation of the Governor of Missouri, Thomas T. Crittenden. The Governor had made the subject of Missouri outlaws the main topic of his campaign. He would do whatever possible to fulfill his campaign promises. Rewards were guaranteed and pardons would be given. The plot to assassinate Jesse James was formed.

______________________________________________________________________________-

RELATED:   More from Phil Stewart’s 1999 Archive

The Plot to Assassinate Jesse James

The Gad’s Hill Train Robbery

Frank James – Scholar with a Gun

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

Aquia Church – The James Family’s First House of Worship in America

 The Aquia Church in Stafford County, Virginia, is the first known house of worship of the ancestral family of Frank and Jesse James.

Aquia Church

Located in Stafford County, this old church was established by the Anglican Church of England, which constructed the church about 1667 upon the area’s first church of Overwharton Parish, which had burned. Its brick construction of Flemish bond masonry would become a hallmark of the mansion houses constructed later by John M. James, Jesse’s grandfather, in Kentucky.

Aquia Church Historical Marker
The Aquia Church is located on Jefferson Davis Highway (US Highway 1) the church is on a tree-ringed hilltop off I-95 (Exit #143A) just south of Marine Corps Base Quantico.

The James family is first known to have arrived in the Virginia Colony sometime around 1620-1640. They arrived as Anglicans. The family became Episcopalians during the next fifty years. James family members appear in the Register of Overwharton Parish, 1723-1758.

During the fiery and impassioned ministry of Rev. John Waugh, notoriously known to history as “Parson Waugh” of Parson Waugh’s Tumult that erupted in 1688, the James fell under Waugh’s anti-Catholic preaching.

Like the James family, John Waugh (abt. 1640-abt. 1706) had emigrated from England to the Virginia Colony. Among Waugh’s descendants would appear Gen. Alexander William Doniphan (1808-1887), Waugh’s second great grandson, best known to the Jesse James family as the leader of Jesse’s uncle Drury Woodson James in the Mexican War, and the General at Santa Fe when Frank James’ father-in-law Sam Ralston first explored his own settlement in the West before finally settling in Missouri.

The Aquia Church was constructed with simplicity. No fancy wood carvings or distracting religious icons. Just solely an express and intent focus upon preaching the Word.

Parson Waugh’s Tumult was an extension of the Glorious Revolt that led to the unseating of King James II, a Catholic. As King William assumed the throne to put an end to there ever being a Catholic king ruling over England again,  the firebrand Waugh continued to preach to end royal rule over Virginia. Waugh urged his congregation to remain armed for their own defense. George Mason III (1690-1735), a third great grandfather of Thomas T. Crittenden Jr. the close friend and confidante of Jesse James’ son, lent his support and protection to Parson Waugh, to his congregation, and to the James. Ultimately, Parson Waugh was arrested, and George Mason was stripped of his command.  Construction of the Aquia Church, known today, was begun in 1751 and finished in 1757. Eighteen years later, the American Revolution began.

Robert “King” Carter (1663-1772), known as King because he was the wealthiest man in the Colony, had hired Nathaniel Hedgeman of Overwhwarton Parish as an overseer of his enslaved. Hedgeman, however, met a violent death, leaving Carter to remark about Hedgeman, “I have heard of late he hath been a very great delinquent from my business and lived a loose, rebelling life, which hath brought him to his untimely catastrophe.” King Carter was a third great grandfather of Maj. Hancock Lee who built the log cabin ordinary where Frank and Jesse’s mother was born. Carter also was a great-grandfather of General and President William Henry Harrison who led the James and the rebellious Baptist preachers of Kentucky into the War of 1812.

Aquia Church pew

Nathaniel’s eldest son, Peter Hedgeman (abt. 1700-1765), tendered his application for his father’s job, to which Carter replied, “As for entertaining his son, a wild young lad that hath no experience in the world, I can by no means think proper.” Despite Carter’s rebuff, young Peter Hedgeman rose to social and political in Overwharton Parish, serving in his lifetime as a justice, militia officer and presiding Burgess, representing Stafford County.

Peter Hedgeman also served as vestryman of Overwharton Parish. There he noted the dissention tearing apart his parishioners and threating to dismantle his church. Some, like the James, had removed themselves to St. Mark’s Parish, a congregation that was known to foment revolution. Peter Hedgeman readily acknowledged, “sundry inhabitants of Overwharton Parish complaining of the illegal, arbitrary, and oppressive proceedings of the present vestry of said Parish, and praying that the same may be dissolved.”

St. Mark's Church
St. Mark’s Church

Dissenters among the James and their in-law families associated with St. Mark’s Parish as the events of the American Revolution unfolded. At St. Mark’s, fourteen-year-old John M. James, destined to be the grandfather of Frank and Jesse James, first learned the power to disobey.

The lesson came directly from his Uncle Henry, the son of Henry Field Sr. and Esther James. John’s Uncle Henry was one of the sixteen  judges in Culpeper County who resigned their commissions, to boldly oppose King George’s Stamp Act. From Henry Field Jr., John learned that being disobedient in a civil manner could alter a person’s identity, and also change one’s course of destiny.

By the time the Revolution was in full effect, John M. James was one of the dissenters who bartered his participation in the war for the liberty of separating church from state. They became known as “the fighting Baptists.

These ancestral colonials and their associated families set the stage in their period for much of the dissention, conflict, and religious structures that attempt to influence political structures, not only in the time of Frank & Jesse James but also, in present day.

—————

Much more of this will be found in This Bloody Ground, the second volume of my Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet.