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Literally…The Latest James Family Dirt

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

“You want to see our new tombstone?” Barbara Lemaster James proudly invited me. The question echoed like a question from long ago, “You want to watch our home movies?” Back then, no one ever wanted to watch anyone’s home movies or learn about the family dirt, let alone inspect their pre-bought tombstone before they died.

Already I was biting my tongue, thinking of a million jokes. I restrained myself, though, severely reminding myself that I am the genealogist and historian in the family. There might be implications here I may need to know. Get serious, Eric. “Of course,” I replied. “Let’s go.”

Raymond Edward James displays his family story in Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence

Barbara’s husband, Raymond Edward James, had a rough time this past year.

Cousin, Mark New, who’s a funeral director, suggested they select a plot among their James cousins, now buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery in Science Hill, Kentucky. Mark also maintains the expanding cemetery that once was part of his Grandmother Adams’ family farm.

When we all gathered at our annual family outing over the weekend, Barbara issued me her invitation.

I could have guessed some irrepressible James family dark humor would cut loose.

Raymond & Barbara LeMaster James

With Mark’s guidance, Raymond and Barbara had put some considerable thought into their selection. Unlike the plentiful black tombstones, which I found among numerous James all across the country, Raymond and Barbara selected a Confederate gray with dignified black engraving. Around two wedding rings linking their separate burial locations, they engraved their wedding date.

Each side was flanked by a receptacle. “What goes in there,” I asked.

“Yellow roses in mine,” Barbara quickly replied.

“And in Raymond’s?”

“Ice cream,” Raymond interjected. Ice cream, it is, I noted.

On the backside of their tombstone, Barbara and Raymond thoughtfully had engraved the names of their children, even those of Barbara’s by her earlier marriage.

“See,” Raymond pointed. “There’s the genealogy. Right there.” Raymond looked for my reaction. “Well, Eric, you’re not going to be around here forever!” he added.

Any sense of decorum, if any existed at all, now was broken. “Have you both lied down here before,” I asked. “There doesn’t seem to be enough length.”

Barbara snapped, “Oh yeah. We fit.”

Then came Barbara’s zinger. “And look, Eric. You can have this space, right next door.” I was stunned. Literally, stunned. To urge me further, Barbara tried closing the deal. “And there’s room further down the row, for all your Facebook friends.”

We paraded around the tombstones of the other James family buried there. Ivadean James caught my eye. The one and only time I met and talked with her was about a year before she died.

Ivadean never knew what happened to her father, Mack Henry James. He abandoned her family when she was a child. But Ivadean did get to know what happened to Mack before I did. My research found him about a year after Ivadean died, too late to tell her myself, except to share our mutual discovery in prayer.

For the first time, I noted, too, that Ivadean’s estranged husband, Gid Elliott, had died the day after she died, but in a different hospital. Things like that leave you wanting to know a story never told.

Tombstone of Gid & Ivadean James Elliott

“Tombstones are important,” I said. They are good places to visit, and the best places to tell stories. No one seems to hold back when standing before a tombstone.

“What do you want on your tombstone,” Raymond’s daughter asked me.

“Easy,” I answered. “I want an electronic chip embedded in my stone. You dial a radio frequency and you can hear me personally greet you. “Hi, how are you? Nice of you to drop by. Did I ever tell you the story about…?”

“Yeah,” Raymond’s daughter shouted enthusiastically. “Let’s party!” I was assured I’d have my chip, on the condition I signed up for a party plot.

When we returned to the farmhouse, Mark had the tractor fired up with the hay wagon hitched behind. Every year, Mark drives a hayride full of kids up to the cemetery hill. They visit with their dead relatives, and tell stories.

Back at our table, I asked, “Is this one of those things where, if you get two others to sign up for a plot, you get your plot for free?” With that, we were off and running.

“Look at Mark,” someone said. “Come on, kids. Sign up now. Those old folks back there got theirs. You saw them come back. They’re trying to get others into yours.” From there, the jokes ran on and on.

I still expect to see Raymond and Barbara at next year’s annual gathering. And God forbid, if not…we’ll bring yellow roses, or ice cream, and plenty of stories.

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Stray Leaves Daily

Stray Leaves Daily

Daily updates from the family of Frank & Jesse James with stories, photos, & two searchable genealog

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5 days ago
Stray Leaves Daily

FIND-A-GRAVE BLUNDERS LEAVE JAMES FAMILY HOWLING . . . Can you spot the errata in this Find a Grave post for the grandfather of Frank & Jesse James? The most glaring deception is the photograph!

History tells us the photograph was invented about the time John M. James was dying. Neither history, nor the administrator of this posting, Charlotte Raley McConaha, can tell us is how photographic technology made its way from France to the distant American frontier to take a photo of John M. James, months before his demise.

Another imprecise miscalculation in this post is the attribution of the middle name “Martin” to John M. James. The name never has been proved by evidence. To guess the name is unreliable and wrong.
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FIND-A-GRAVE BLUNDERS LEAVE JAMES FAMILY HOWLING . . . Can you spot the errata in this Find a Grave post for the grandfather of Frank & Jesse James? The most glaring deception is the photograph!

History tells us the photograph was invented about the time John M. James was dying. Neither history, nor the administrator of this posting, Charlotte Raley McConaha, can tell us is how photographic technology made its way from France to the distant American frontier to take a photo of John M. James, months before his demise.

Another imprecise miscalculation in this post is the attribution of the middle name “Martin” to John M. James. The name never has been proved by evidence. To guess the name is unreliable and wrong.
1 week ago
Stray Leaves Daily

JAMES-YOUNGER GANG TO CLOSE . . . Sad news as Danny Urban, former President of the J-Y Gang, posted to Facebook that the organization is about to disband. Here’s the statement: "It is a sad year for us in the Gang. Since I originally posted this, we have lost members due to death. We are down to around 30, but the Board has decided to shut the Gang down at the end of the year. Donate all of our monies to Non-Profits around the country that are history related in the areas that the real Gang had robbed, etc. Two of our members will be taking over the website and they plan on keeping it going." The photo below is of yours truly in 2002 at the family reunion with some great-grandchildren of Jesse James. The 2017 logo is from the last meeting of the Gang that I helped to organize. See MoreSee Less

JAMES-YOUNGER GANG TO CLOSE . . . Sad news as Danny Urban, former President of the J-Y Gang, posted to Facebook that the organization is about to disband. Heres the statement: It is a sad year for us in the Gang.  Since I originally posted this, we have lost members due to death.  We are down to around 30, but the Board has decided to shut the Gang down at the end of the year.  Donate all of our monies to Non-Profits around the country that are history related in the areas that the real Gang had robbed, etc.  Two of our members will be taking over the website and they plan on keeping it going. The photo below is of yours truly in 2002 at the family reunion with some great-grandchildren of Jesse James. The 2017 logo is from the last meeting of the Gang that I helped to organize.
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