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Betty Dorsett Duke Book All Smoke, No Gun

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

BOOK REVIEW:  Duke, Betty Dorsett, Jesse James: The Smoking Gun (Betty Dorsett Duke: 2011), 337 pp., soft cover, $19.

By Nancy B. Samuelson

This is the third book written by Betty Dorsett Duke in an attempt to convince the world that her great-grandfather, James L. Courtney, was really Jesse James. Like her previous books, this one is another example of half-baked ideas, lack of scholarship, and wild imagination.

Jesse James, The Smoking Gun-book

The smoking gun is a photograph that Ms. Duke bought on e-bay. She claims this photo was taken in Texas in 1875 and is the wedding photo of Frank and Annie James with friends and family, including Belle Starr. The photograph is most likely one taken in 1888 at the time Mrs. Caroline Quantrill (mother of the famed guerrilla leader) visited Missouri. Mrs. Quantrill was given a reception at Blue Springs, Missouri in May 1888. There was also an ice cream social held in her honor and she spent some time in September visiting with Mrs. Reuben Samuel, the mother of Jesse and Frank James. Woodcuts or sketches of Mrs. Quantrill appeared in the Kansas City Journal, the Kansas City Star, and other newspapers during her stay in Missouri. This same photo that Duke labels her “smoking gun” is currently displayed on quantrillsguerrillas.com and Mrs. Samuel and Mrs. Quantrill are identified as the two elderly ladies in the center of the photo.

There are other misidentified and questionable photos in the book as well. On page 280 there is a photo identified as Arkansas Tom Dalton. This man is, in fact, Roy Daugherty, alias Arkansas Tom Jones. He was a member of the Bill Doolin gang and was captured after the gun battle in Ingalls, Oklahoma Territory on September 1, 1893. On page 138 there is a supposed picture of Wood Hite, a cousin of Jesse and Frank James and a sometime member of the James gang. There has never been a published photo of Wood Hite as far as I know. Some time ago I contacted the Logan County, Kentucky Historical Society in an attempt to locate photos of the Hite family. The Society does not know of any photos of this family.  They did supply a couple of photos of some of the Hite graves. Several more of the photos in this book are very questionable as well.

Ms. Duke spends a great deal of space recounting all the problems with the Dr. James Starrs  exhumation and DNA testing of Jesse James in 1995. She has said most of this before, and many other people have questioned this as well, including this reviewer. Ms. Duke does add a new wrinkle in this book. She now says Stephen Caruso, Deputy Counselor for Clay County, Missouri in 1995, admits that the hair and tooth from the James Farm that was provided to Dr. Starrs was not what it was said to be. Caruso has allegedly stated that the hair provided was from the head of John Hartman the Director of Clay County Parks Department and the tooth was not from the James Farm. If this information is correct then the Starrs DNA testing was completely and totally faked.

Ms. Duke has a lot of other misinformation in her book. She claims there is no documented evidence that Frank and Jesse James lived in Tennessee. There was testimony in both of Frank James’ trials to the effect that he lived in Tennessee and was known as Ben Woodson while there. She states that Rev. Robert S. James reportedly died in a mining camp called Rough and Ready (since renamed Placerville) California.  Rough and Ready still exists today and Placerville is a completely different town.

A lot of people change identity here and there throughout the book. None of this is explained to the satisfaction of this reviewer. Quanah Parker becomes a good friend of the James boys and builds a house for them according to Duke. It is very odd that none of the biographies about Quanah Parker have ever mentioned this. Burk Burnett, Dan Waggoner, Billy Dixon and several other well known western characters are brought up in this book.  Duke claims most of these men were associated with her great-grandfather James L. Courtney. Evidence to support these claims is either lacking completely or very garbled.

Ms. Duke comes across as very paranoid in this book. She makes a lot of claims about the “James Establishment” putting her down because if the truth were known then the James Farm and some other museums would lose money. She also claims that some of these “James Establishment” people are making threats to harm her and her family.

In summary, this is another very bad book trying to prove that Bob Ford did not kill Jesse James in April 1882. Unless you find crackpot theories highly entertaining do not waste your money on this book.

RELATED

MURDER, and Betty Dorsett Duke

Betty demands blood from a great grandson of Jesse James

Betty’s true biological family refutes her claims

Betty claims Eric James & others are out to kill her

Stalkers of Famous & Infamous Families (posted July 28, 2010)

Dead Betty Duke Arises in Occult Rehash

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Tuesday October 19th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

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Tuesday October 19th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

☞Today in Old-West History — On today’s date 119 years ago, Sunday, October 19, 1902, notorious Old-West outlaw & fiddle player James Hardin “Uncle Jim” Younger (1848-1902) met his earthly demise at the age of 54 when he committed suicide by gunshot whilst on parole at Saint Paul, Minnesota.

☞Requiéscant In Pace, Jim Younger.

☞Jim Younger was one of the central figures of a band of the most desperate outlaws the Old West ever knew — the infamous James-Younger Gang, which was formed by Jim’s brother Cole Younger along with Frank & Jesse James.

☞Jim Younger joined the Confederate Army during the War Between the States (1861-1865) & served with Quantrill’s Raiders. In 1864, he was captured by Union troops & was imprisoned until the end of the War.

☞After the War, Younger worked on various ranches until he joined the James-Younger Gang in 1873. When his brother John was killed at Roscoe, Missouri in 1874, Jim left the gang & went out west where he worked on a ranch in San Luis Obispo, California.

☞In 1876, Jim returned to the gang, & on September 7 he participated in a bank robbery that became known as the Great Northfield Minnesota Raid. During that robbery he was shot & captured. The James brothers escaped, but Cole, Jim, & Bob Younger were shot up by a posse, arrested, & sentenced to long terms in the state penitentiary at Stillwater, Minnesota, where they were afforded celebrity status.

☞Jim Younger’s fiddle was one of the few possessions that he was allowed to have with him in prison, & he played it often. As time passed, Jim noticed that a little bird would appear most every day in the window of his jail cell. It seemed as though the bird came to listen whenever Jim played his fiddle. Jim was lonely & he befriended the bird which he named “Swipsy.” The bird would fly into the prison cell & Jim would always try to have crumbs to feed Swipsy. One day, a fellow prisoner killed the little bird just for spite. Jim then painted a picture of Swipsy on the back of his violin to remember his little feathered friend.

☞In 1898, the prison warden allowed the prisoners to throw a Christmas party at his own home, with Cole Younger portraying Santa Claus & Jim Younger playing his fiddle.

☞Paroled in 1901, Jim became engaged to his long-time lover Alix Mueller; however, because of the terms of his parole he couldn’t marry her.

☞On October 19, 1902, after a failed attempt to sell tombstones & then insurance, Jim Younger locked himself in his room, wrote a suicide note to Alix, picked up his revolver, & blew his brains out.

☞In 2013, Jim Younger’s fiddle, which was played by him at the famous 1898 Christmas party at Stillwater Prison, was sold at a Dallas, Texas auction for over $11,000.

☞The left-hand photograph depicts the image of Swipsy the Bird that Jim Younger painted on the back of his fiddle. The right-hand photograph depicts an undated studio portrait of Jim Younger.
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Tuesday October 5th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

For Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles, CA., and all his descendants, PASO ROBLES FOUNDERS’ DAY 2021. See MoreSee Less

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