Tag Archives: Traveling Church

A PREVIEW of Jesse James Soul Liberty, Volume II

An interview today prompted the question, “What are you working on now?” Here’s your preview…

Baptist preacher in the colonial era

I’m finishing writing Volume II of my Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet; this volume subtitled “This Bloody Ground.”

This biographical history focuses on the grandfather of Frank & Jesse James, John M. James, a patriot of the Revolutionary War who falls in with the rabid Baptist preachers, violently persecuted by the Anglican establishment. This band of rebel, sharpshooting preachers barter their participation as minutemen of the Revolution for the promise of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. They fight pivotal battles that win the Revolution.

As adoption of independence and religious liberty is lagging, the rebel preachers exit the Old Dominion with their Traveling Church for New Canaan, the violent and uninhabited western frontier of the Cain-tuc. There, John M. James and his fellow Baptist ministers construct the socio-political, religious communities and structures that separate the independent Commonwealth of Kentucky from the Old Dominion. They win the War of 1812 to secure their own establishment, and for the future of a new frontier pastorate. Then, they migrate once more, this time into the West and Far West to ground the political environment of American religious conservatism, still so much in evidence today.

Doing so, John M. James further imprints a legacy upon his family’s progeny with the socio-political interests that not only made iconic outlaws of the James brothers, but also formed the modern American character and identity of the James family, so amply depicted in Volume I, “Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence.”

Editing Jesse James’ Soul Liberty

Jesse James Soul Liberty

It’s 17 degrees today and I’m editing my forthcoming book…until I came to this passage:

The winter of 1779-1780 was known as “the hard winter.” The ground was endlessly covered by heavy snowfall. The waters lay still and frozen as far south as Nashborough [Nashville]. Wild hogs froze to death. With no food to be found, the deer fell frozen in large numbers. Dead turkeys littered the landscape. The blood of buffalo froze in their veins, leaving fewer standing by winter’s end than in any year in memory. Capt. William Casey and his men camped with no benefit of shelter, many sleeping in the open air under frozen deer and buffalo skins, from which some never awoke. Here lay the bloody ground John M. James and Clara Nalle soon entered with their Traveling Church.

Enough of that. I’m off to Burger King.

John M. James Appears Before The Kentucky Humanities Council in Restless for Revolution

Last week I had the opportunity to perform John M. James before the Kentucky Humanities Council. John M. James is my 4th great grandfather. See the video below.

Every year the Humanties Council contracts with five performers to add to its stable of historical performances. The Council then sends out the performers around the Commonwealth throughout the year to schools, organizations, and events, dramatizing Kentucky famed characters from the Commonwealth’s storied past.

John M. James is not as famous as some of the characters the Council usually books. Mary Todd Lincoln, Henry Clay, and Daniel Boone are the type of character stars the Council prefers. Even identifying John M. James as the grandfather of Frank & Jesse James, or the 2nd great grandfather of Walmart founder Sam Walton, or as the 5th great grandfather of J. Danforth Quayle, doesn’t carry the same historical weight the Council traditionally seeks. The Council wants characters that are instantly recognizable.

My one-act, one man play focuses on John among his community of rebel Baptist preachers. They made their exodus following the Revolutionary War from Virginia and away from its religious persecution in a Traveling Church into Kentucky. The same band of revolutionary citizens and rebel preachers then went to win the War of 1812, to secure the liberty first won in the Revolution.

After a period of prosperity following the war, Kentucky fell into economic chaos as banks proliferated and predator lenders fell upon the Commonwealth with a vengeance. Currency increasingly was devalued and near worthless. On top of that, the $7 million dollar debt America owed to Napoleon for the Louisiana Purchase was approaching, and it payment was due in specie, either gold or silver. As the full force of the economic Panic of 1819 struck, John found himself nearing death, as broke as Thomas Jefferson. However, John’s revolutionary spirit wouldn’t let him die. He prepared to take on the banks by electing Andy Jackson.

DOWNLOAD your own copy of Restless for Revolution.

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Video: John M. James Speaks of Jeremiah Vardeman

This vidieo was made in 2002 at the Vardeman Family Reunion, held at the William Whitley Mansion in Lincoln County, Kentucky. John M. James appears in this video as a much younger man.

The opening of this video shows the re-dedication of the Vardeman Cemetery in Lincoln County, after the cemetery had been relocated and the historic Vardeman Cemetery was flooded by the creation of Cedar Creek Lake.