Kansas City, MO to St. Joseph, MO. Mr. Hawthorne and I were on our way to Lincoln, Nebraska, from Kansas City, Missouri, and after checking out my AAA trip guides, we decided to stop in St. Joseph, Missouri, along the way, and check out Jesse James' home, where he was shot and killed. Jesse James was one of the 1800's most notorious outlaws. He was a murderer, a bank robber, a train robber, and a gang leader from the state of Missouri. Come to think of it, I don't believe he was on Cape Girardeau's Missouri Hall of Fame. Jesse James was known to be responsible for these deaths.He was the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang and was already a celebrity while he was alive. After his death, he became a legendary figure of the Wild West. James and his brother Frank James were confederate guerillas during the Civil War. Both were accused of committing atrocities against Union soldiers. After the war, as gang members, they robbed trains, stagecoaches, and banks. Popular portrayals of James, showing as some type of Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, are not factually based. The James Gang's robbery gains were not used for anyone but themselves. The James brothers were most active in their gang from 1866 to 1876. Several members of their gang were captured or killed, new members were recruited, and the James Gang was under increasing scrutiny and pressure from law enforcement. On April 3, 1882, Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford, a member of the gang who was living in the James house at the time and who was hoping to collect a state reward on James' head.
Jesse James was killed in this house in St. Joseph, Missouri, April 3, 1882. At age thirty four, he'd been an outlaw almost 1/2 his life. He moved here with his wife, Zerelda Mimms James, and two small children, Jesse Edward and Mary, on Christmas Eve, 1881 and lived here 100 days. The house was located then at 1318 Lafayette Street on the hill about a block north of here. The James family rented the house from a city councilman for $14 a month and Jesse lived under the assumed name of Tom Howard.
On April 3, Jesse was in this room, the parlor, with two gang members, Bob and Charles Ford, making plans to rob the Platte City Bank the next day. Jesse noticed the needlepoint on the wall was crooked. Because it was a warm morning and the door was open, he took off his guns so neighbors wouldn't see them. Then he climbed on a chair to straighten the picture. It was the chance the Fords had been waiting to collect the $10,000 reward offered by Governor Tom Crittenden. Bang! Jesse fell to the floor dead. Only Bob fired. The bullet entered behind his right ear and some believed it came out over the left eye, leaving the legendary bullet hole. Researchers now think the bullet did not leave Jesse's head. The murder of Jesse James was a national sensation. The Ford brothers made no attempt to hide their role. Robert Ford sent a telegram to the governor to claim his reward. The Fords then surrendered to the City Marshall Craig. But instead of collecting the reward, the Fords were dismayed to find they were charged with first degree murder. In the course of a single day, the Ford brothers were indicted, pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to death by hanging. Within two hours, Governor Crittenden granted them a full pardon. The governor's quick pardon suggested he knew the brothers intended to kill, rather than capture, James. Like many who knew Jesse James, the Ford brothers believed it impractical to try to capture James and take him into custody. The somewhat scandalous implication that the governor of Missouri sanctioned this assassination and conspired to kill a private citizen startled the public and added to James' notoriety. James' mother, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole James Samuel, wrote the following epitaph for her son: In Loving Memory of my Beloved Son, Murdered by a Traitor and Coward Whose Name is not Worthy to Appear Here. (Yes, James' mother and wife were both named Zerelda. His wife was a first cousin.) The reward money offered by Governor Crittenden was actually put up by the railroads and the Chicago and Alton Railroad received a share of the reward payment. The money was paid to Gov. Crittenden, not the Ford brothers. The Ford brothers gained a certain notoriety of their own. (Click to enlarge.)
The famous outlaw, Jesse James, was responsible for the deaths of at least 16 people but sympathy did not rescue the Fords for killing him with his back turned. Within 2 years Charles Ford committed suicide and 11 years later, in 1892, Bob Ford, the "dirty little coward who laid poor Jesse in his grave," was gunned down in a bar room brawl in Creede, Colorado by Ed O'Kelly. Zerelda Amanda Mimms James. Mrs. James was left almost destitute. A sale of family possessions brought $117.65, including 75 cents for a high chair. The family dog brought the highest amount at $15. Mrs. James and her two children stayed the next two nights at nearby Patee House, called the World's Hotel at the time. Letter from Jesse's brother Frank to Governor Crittenden.
Below the needlepoint is the bullethole. Over the years people have chipped away pieces of the bullethole.
The framed gun is a 44 caliber Smith and Wesson - the same type used by 20-year old Bob Ford to kill James.
Artifacts displayed in the James Home:
Notice the above photograph of James and the one below. None of the known photos of Jesse James shows him smiling. The reason suggested was that James was missing an upper front tooth. A review of the skeletal remains showed he had lost an upper incisor at some point during his adult life. James did have many gold fillings, indicating he was willing to pay a price for the advanced dental care brought on by the use of a low-grade chewing tobacco. Worn tooth surfaces are blamed on low-grade tobacco or perhaps a lifestyle that cause him to grit is teeth a lot.
Jesse's death picture showing wound over his left eye. After his death, James' body was buried on the family farm near Kearney, Mo., where his mother could keep watch on the grave. In 1902, the body was moved to the town cemetery in Kearney. In 1995, the grave of Jesse James was exhumed. In 1995, James Starrs, professor of law and forensic sciences at George Washington University, exhumed this grave to determine if the body buried at Kearney, Mo., was indeed that of the dead outlaw. Some doubters believe James faked his own death and lived on into the 20th century. The tests concluded with a 99.7% certainty, that the body was that of Jesse James. c 113 years after his death, James was laid to rest for the third and final time October 28, 1995.