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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

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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

Cover for Stray Leaves Daily
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Stray Leaves Daily

Stray Leaves Daily

Daily updates from the official website for the family & friends of Frank & Jesse James with stories, photos, & two searchable genealogy databases.

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2 weeks ago
Stray Leaves Daily

WELL, PULL MY TEETH! Dr. Timothy Michael Huckabee & staff wear Huckabee Dental’s own brand of dental scrubs in Southlake, TX. Dr. Tim is a 4th great-grandson of Rev. Joseph Martin James & Rhoda May, and a 3rd great-grandson of Cyrenius Wait James & Amanda Hall. That’s how his James genes from Pulaski Co KY took root in TX. Dr. Tim’s grandmother is Anna Ruth James-Wingo. With her degree in journalism, Anna later studied at Cambridge University in England. Back home, she was an officer in the Parent Teachers Association, a charter member of the Wills Point Historical Society, special correspondent to the Dallas Morning News, and was chosen Woman of the Year by the Rotary Anns in 1976. The Wills Point High School named the Wingo Library in honor of her and her husband David Stimson Wingo in 1998. Anna wrote books for her grandchildren and a legacy of memory stories for the James family titled “Roots and Wings”. Dr. Tim is also a 3rd cousin of Frank & Jesse James. When requesting services, be sure to ask him for "the outlaw discount." See MoreSee Less

3 weeks ago
Stray Leaves Daily

JESSE JAMES & JIM YOUNGER? Stray Leaves responded to this submission, saying, "Following the recent 6-year fiasco of a tintype image and its claims, wanna-be images keep on coming our way, as you surmise. They add to the hundreds already on file with the James Preservation Trust. While you may see ‘a passing resemblance,’ our experience takes us way past any such consideration. However, old tintypes are always fun to see. Thank you. See MoreSee Less

JESSE JAMES & JIM YOUNGER? Stray Leaves responded to this submission, saying, Following the recent 6-year fiasco of a tintype image and its claims, wanna-be images keep on coming our way, as you surmise. They add to the hundreds already on file with the James Preservation Trust. While you may see a passing resemblance, our experience takes us way past any such consideration. However, old tintypes are always fun to see. Thank you.
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