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The Plot to Capture Jesse James

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

“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 threatened 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. Timberlake

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.

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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

 

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Tuesday July 27th, 2021
Stray Leaves

WHY DID STRAY LEAVES REMOVE THIS COMMENT FROM STRAY LEAVES’ YOUTUBE CHANNEL?

"how comes then,that a slave from the james family,back to jesse james,funeral.who was devoted to jesse.was also by the side of j.frank dalton,who claimed to be jesse james?And also senator clark,really the founder of LA! and jesse and frank,photo evidence of high degree freemasons.Jesse was not killed by bob ford.after the alleged killing of jesse,years later,frank was known to have visited bob ford, who had a saloon near a gold rush route. The jesse body that was photographed,and later buried,that was not jesse.It was charlie bigelow,who had infiltrated the james gang,and was a pinkerton informer,because two older bigelows,sit in graves side by side,and both graves show exact same death date. no-body really knows, but the ages on the grave stones of the 2 bigelows could have been charlies uncle and his father. And maybe killed by the james gang. the DNA evidence in the 80s was doubtful.others were buried buried in the same area,they did not find jesse james body,or grave. all they found was a tooth! I suspect jesse james junior,is the son of charlie bigelow. I dont know who this man is but jesse held a position of power in the US,years after he is dead.And had a hand in the assasination of lincoln, and maybe later US presidents,jesse was not a banker, but paid cash for big railroads,and copper mines,as william c.clark.US senator,and was one of the richest and most powerful men, in the US.J frank dalton told a few months before he died, everything, Dont believe? J for jesse, frank for his brother. Dalton for his mothers maiden name. but jesse james mother was not named Dalton. it was j.frank daltons cryptic clue.his mothers maiden name was cole,but she was adopted by another family,dalton. and its really the same as when jesse was so they say killed.jesse laid his gun down on the table,and bob ford shot him in the head from behind,All his friends knew jesse was not dead.Because jesse always put his guns on when he woke up,all who knew him would know jesse is not dead. so it was someone with the name hines,who went to pay his taxes,and was investigated,and found to actualy be jesse evans, a member of the james gang. who finally told jesse and billy the kid were still alive. jesse i think 12 years older than billy. you can see a picture on line of j frank dalton( as an old man) with brushy bill roberts,who admitted to be billy the kid,had his own story as one of the rough riders,and he is listed in theodore roosevelts rough riders. there is a photo a year or two before dalton died,and you can see his friend billy, and his child hood friend a black slave from his family there too.older than jesse.could it just be a co-incidence,that jesse james mother was attacked and had her arm or hand blown off,in attempts to find jesse,and later in the 1940s,investigations were made into the william c.clarke family,and one of the family screamed because old grandmother clarke,by then dead.Also had the same arm missing? jesse faked his own death twice,as jesse and as william c.clarke. his daughter when he was william c.clarke,became a recluse.she had married a man,but when her father died(jesse), it his rumoured after his death as william c.clarke,he came back after some time and told his daughter the truth,he was jesse james. clarke a rich man who lived in high society,was jesse james.she could not accept it,divorced her husband,and became a recluse. the assasination of lincoln by john wilkes booth was a conspiracy of those who still were true to the south. jesse and frank involved. Lincoln was was shot,but seriously injured,too weak to move him so far,so he was taken to the closest boarding house. And to an empty but rented room. to die. the room was though already rented. the name on the room, was william clark. wilkes booth killed after escaping but not. a soldier was set up to be killed in his place. john wilkes booth was also a freemason. wilkes booth died in 1901,as he had become a drunk and a liability,who could expose the truth,As to who controlled america at that time. jesse arranged a meeting and shot john wilkes booth.to protect the brotherhood. "
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That's impossible to read for a whole bunch of reasons.

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Saturday July 24th, 2021
Stray Leaves

MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THEIR COUSINS, let alone stay in touch with them. Frank & Jesse James have more than 70,000 actual cousins documented in Stray Leaves’ "Genealogy Search" database. Most living people who appear in the database as their cousins don’t even know they are related to Frank & Jesse. But here’s an important cousin clue. If someone strenuously or vociferously claims to be related to Frank & Jesse James, the likelihood is, they are not. Happy National Cousin’s Day, cousins! See MoreSee Less

MOST PEOPLE DONT KNOW THEIR COUSINS, let alone stay in touch with them. Frank & Jesse James have more than 70,000 actual cousins documented in Stray Leaves Genealogy Search database. Most living people who appear in the database as their cousins dont even know they are related to Frank & Jesse. But heres an important cousin clue. If someone strenuously or vociferously claims to be related to Frank & Jesse James, the likelihood is, they are not. Happy National Cousin’s Day, cousins!
Sunday July 18th, 2021
Stray Leaves

DO YOU KNOW THIS LOCATION? Cole Younger was an occasional visitor here. But Cole’s host was not named Warden.Every day is a great day to come to the Warden’s House, but today we have balloons! 🎈⭐️ Tours every Thursday-Sunday at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Come see us! See MoreSee Less

DO YOU KNOW THIS LOCATION? Cole Younger was an occasional visitor here. But Coles host was not named Warden.
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