Tag Archives: My Experience with Indians

John James of Alvarado & Mysteries from His Newspaper Office

This rare image of John James of Alvarado surfaced recently. John sits in the office of his newspaper, the Alvarado Daily Bulletin, among the mysteries of John’s past. The Bulletin published John’s news columns. The stories in John’s columns later were compiled and published shortly before John died on October 4, 1927. The book is, My Experience with Indians. Today John’s book is a prized collector’s item. John’s story appears in the chapter “An Independent Free Man” in my book Jesse James Soul Liberty.

Alvarado Daily Bulletin office of John James
John James of Alvarado in his newspaper office at the Alvarado Daily Bulletin

This image now resides in the photographic collections of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Thanks to the museum photo curator, John Rohrbach, I learned the provenance of the picture. The image originated in the collection of Fred M. Mazzulla, an eccentric, colorful attorney who roamed the Old West, collecting memorabilia. He especially treasured images of prostitutes, lynchings, and the KKK.

Rohrbach further stated, “The print arrived as part of a sub-group of that massive collection, that includes perhaps 100 similar gelatin silver prints of older buildings and store interiors, generally shot in IL, NB, and CO. This image is the only Texas photograph in the group.”

Quantrill gift sword
The Quantrill Sword?

Of particular interest to me, I pointed out to Rohrbach, was the sword hanging in the corner of John’s office. My chapter “An Independent Free Man” tells the story of John receiving a sword as a gift from William Wythe James, who claimed not only to be related to John, he also publicly claimed his kinship with Jesse James and his association with the Civil War guerrillas of William Clarke Quantrill. Among John’s family, the sword became known as ‘the Quantrill sword.” I mailed Rohrbach a copy of the chapter, which now is included in the image’s file at the Museum. I won’t spoil here the delight readers of my book will enjoy when they read about the disappearance of the Quantrill sword in my book and what they read here.

There’s no way the sword in this image be cane identified as “the Quantrill Sword,” but one has to ask, how would such a sword come to occupy and hold this place of display in John’s newspaper office? In the early 1920s, John would have no need of such a sword as a weapon. By that time, the sword clearly had become an historic artifact.

Old West artifact collector Fred M. Mazzulla
Fred M. Mazzulla Esq.

Fred M. Mazzulla would not have known John James of Alvarado personally. Mazzulla was born in Trinidad in 1903. He grew up in Salida, Colorado and died in 1981. He is buried in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. In a 1962 newspaper article, Mazzulla told the reporter, “I’m no stickler for historical accuracy. Sometimes it takes showmanship to make history interesting.”

Mazzulla often was accused of appropriating family photos. At a Denver bank, he once conducted an Old West photo contest, offering a $500 savings bond for the best image of the Old West. Families complained afterward they had problems getting their images returned. Some said when they eventually received their images, their treasured family photos were stamped “Mazzphoto,” indicating Mazzulla retained the original image and returned only a copy.

Walls of Fred M. Masszulla home
Home of Fred M. Mazzulla

In 1972, the Denver Post stated Mazzulla confessed to being a packrat. He stated he used to “pick up anything not nailed down.” He continued the practice even after he became a lawyer in 1930.

Those who’ve read about the disappearance of “the Quantrill sword” in Jesse James Soul Liberty will be better informed to speculate on how this image of John James of Alvarado made its way into the collections of Fred M. Mazzula, Esq.

Image claimed to be Frank and Jesse james
Claimed image of Frank & Jesse James

Formerly in the Amon Carter collection, identified together with this office image of John James of Alvarado, was an image claimed to be that of Frank and Jesse James. Ironically, this image has crossed my desk a number of times, delivered by various claimants. I informed John Rorhbach of the Amon Carter Museum, as I’ve informed the claimants, that the image most definitely is not of Frank & Jesse James. The distinction is as clear and definitive as not to need any authentication process. The museum has noted its file accordingly.

Image of two sons of John James of Alacardo
Or Sons of John James of Alvarado?

However, given the fact the image was conjoined in the Museum’s collection with the image of John James of Alvarado, this claimed image raises an interesting question. Might the two young men in the accompanying image be sons or family relations of John James of Alvarado?

Over the years, I’ve collected numerous images of the children and grandchildren of John James of Alvarado. I’ve included some of them in John’s chapter in my book. While I find no match among the photos in my possession, perhaps there are matching photos in the possession of John’s descendants. If so, I wish those descendants come forward and make it known.

The mysteries surrounding these images do not end here. Curator David Rohrbach further informed me of the provenance of the image of the two young men. He stated the image came from the collection of the noted, award winning photographer David R. Phillips of Chicago.

I know David and have communicated with him over the years. Among his photo archives are original images of Charlie Chaplin, Essanay Film Studios in Chicago, and James’ family shirttail cousins Wallace Beery and Gloria Swanson. David had informed me he also possessed some unpublished images of Frank & Jesse James, as well as their mother Zerelda. When I write my show business memoir, I’ve expected to visit David and access some of his photos for my book. David assured me he’d hold those images for my exclusive view. With my long delay, he donated the images to the Amon Carter Museum, but disappointingly they are the faces of Frank and Jesse James.

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Wednesday June 16th, 2021
Stray Leaves

As a 6-year-old boy, Jesse Edwards James Jr. was a witness to the murder of his father, Jesse James. The event impinged on his life forever after. His unruly childhood was brought to heel by both family and community, which included the Crittenden family of Gov. Thomas T Crittenden. It was the family friend Gov. Crittenden who put the bounty on Jesse James that resulted in his killing. Law school and a job in the Crittenden law office directed Jesse Jr. into his future as a lawyer. He did alright until he was solicited into producing a movie about his father. After collecting production money from family, friends, and business associates, the movie flopped. Jesse Jr. assumed responsibility, but he never could never repay the money lost. Severe depression overcame Jesse Jr. He required hospitalization, and then institutionalization. Equilibrium escaped him every living day. He died at age 50 in the care of his loving wife Stella and his four daughters. His grandson Jim Ross, whom he raised with his daughters, became a lawyer and judge. See MoreSee Less

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He has his mother's nose.

That was cool but creepy at the same time. Last photo looked like there was no one home. You can see the change in his eyes.

Monday June 14th, 2021
Stray Leaves

HAPPY 30TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY to the 2nd great-grandson of Jesse James, David James Ross, and his wife Jessica Lemoine Esq. David & Jessica appear here at their 20th anniversary in Jamaica, and more recently in 2018 supporting their adopted family, the Los Angeles Kings ice hockey team. See MoreSee Less

HAPPY 30TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY to the 2nd great-grandson of Jesse James, David James Ross, and his wife Jessica Lemoine Esq. David & Jessica appear here at their 20th anniversary in Jamaica, and more recently in 2018 supporting their adopted family, the Los Angeles Kings ice hockey team.Image attachment
Friday June 11th, 2021
Stray Leaves

ZEE MIMMS JAMES AUTHENTIC PHOTOS ANIMATED . . . Zee was named after Jesse’s mother, Zerelda Cole. Zee and Jesse were first cousins. John M. James was grandfather to them both. Despite the strong family tie, most of the family disapproved of their marriage. Their uncle, Rev. William James a Methodist minister and himself a black sheep among the James, married Zee and Jesse. Zee bore Jesse five children. Two lived to adulthood. A set of twins died soon after birth. A fifth child was miscarried. Zee died at age 55 of neurasthenia, a condition characterized by lassitude, fatigue, headache, and irritability, associated chiefly with emotional disturbance.
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Impressive

Eerily Amazing 😳 Thank You

Wednesday June 9th, 2021
Stray Leaves

BOB FORD AUTHENTIC PHOTOS ANIMATED . . . Yesterday, June 8, 2021, was the 129th anniversary of the murder of Robert Newton Ford by Ed O’Kelley in Creede, Colorado. The murder was the retribution of Bob Ford’s assassination of Jesse James on April 3, 1882. History recalls Ford as "that dirty little coward." See MoreSee Less

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