|Jesse, His Life and Death continued
In 1871, four men robbed the Ocobock Brothers' Bank at Corydon, Iowa, of $6,000. The men were believed to be Frank and Jesse James, with Cole Younger and Clell Miller. It was not the first time that the James brothers and been linked with members of the Younger gang as robbery suspects. Cole, James, John and Robert Younger had reportedly lived in Texas since the end of the war, however, at least John had returned in 1871 after he killed a Texas sheriff.
Also in 1871, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency were hired by the railroad and express companies to hunt down the Jameses and the Youngers. By 1874, three Pinkerton men and John Younger were dead. The hunt for the James boys escalated in January, 1875, when the night time raid of fame was made upon the James Farm and resulted in the loss of life of 9-year-old Archie,
Jesse and Frank had left the group by the time a posse caught up with the Youngers in 1876 and Charlie Pitts was killed and the Youngers were captured. Jesse and Frank escaped from Northfield without being wounded until a farmer shot at them. They were riding the same horse and the bullet entered Frank's leg and lodged in Jesse's leg. This is believed to be the bullet that was found in Jesse's original coffin in 1978.
The Youngers spent 25 years at Stillwater Penitentiary. Bob Younger died in prison of tuberculosis. Jim committed suicide when he was not allowed to marry his fiancé. Cole was later pardoned and returned to Missouri to renew his friendship with Frank. He and Frank toured the country with a wild west show and also gave lectures on how crime does not pay.
Jesse had married his cousin, Zee, on April 24, 1874, at the home of the bride's sister near Kearney. Jesse and Zee were to make their home in Nashville, Tennessee, and raise a family. In Tennessee, Jesse went by the name of J. D. Howard. They had two children, Jesse Edwards and Mary. They returned to Missouri in 1881.
From 1876 to 1882, the James boys were successful in hiding themselves and their families, with tales of their whereabouts placing them in Texas, on the Mexican border, Colorado, and almost all train robberies in Missouri were credited to the gang. Several times it was reported that either Frank or Jesse had been killed. Death finally did come for Jesse on April 3, 1882. Jesse and Zee were living in St. Joseph, Mo., at the time and Bob Ford, while at their home there, caught Jesse off guard and shot Jesse in the back of the head. His death had been reported so many times that skeptics would remain for many, many years as to his death this day and many impostors would take advantage of that disbelief.
Jesse was first buried at the family home in Kearney, and remains a site in the side yard for visitors today. In 1902, his body was moved to the Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Mo.
The wife of Jesse James Jr. wrote to Excelsior Springs Chief of Police Bill Payne in 1931 regarding a pair of guns that had been in the possession of Jesse Jr. The were described as a long-barreled cap and ball type and had belonged to her husband's father, Jesse James. The guns were in the possession of Dr. Ernest Lowrey of Excelsior Springs and she said she wanted to guns back. Upon investigation, Chief Payne discovered that Jesse Jr. had given the guns to Dr. Lowrey in partial payment for his doctor's bill, owed after a long illness. The guns, occassionally put on display for the public to see, were kept in a safe at Peck's Drug Store on Broadway. Chief Payne wired Mrs. James that, if she wanted the guns back, she might pay the doctor's bill, but Dr. Lowrey said he wouldn't part with the guns "for love or money."
Long after his death, men would claim to be Jesse James. One such imposter, Tom Howard, came to Excelsior Springs in 1932. His remarkable likeness amazed residents and he was given accomodation in the Elms Hotel while his story was investigated.
Next page | Return to top