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 Jesse James

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Jesse James

Western Outlaw. He was born Jesse Woodson James in Kearney, Missouri to Baptist minister Reverend Robert and Zerelda James and the younger brother of James. His father heeding a calling left for California with the intent of preaching to gold miners but contracted cholera and died. He is buried in an unmarked lost grave in Placerville. By the time Jesse was eight, his mother had remarried twice more. From the third marriage, he gained two stepbrothers and two stepsisters. As a youth, he was churchgoer, baptized at the Kearney Baptist Church and sang in the choir wanting to emulate his father and become a Baptist preacher. Jesse had very little formal education but was skilled with horses and a natural leader. When but fifteen, he followed his brother James into the ranks of Quantrill's Raiders. After the war ended, he attempted to surrender at Lexington, Missouri and gain amnesty along with his brother Frank, Cole Younger and others but a gun battle ensured. The remnants of the "Raiders" were forced to hide out in the woods. With no means of livelihood, the James-Younger gang came into being. For the next fifteen years they robbed banks and when security made that difficult, they turned to stagecoaches and trains. After the failed disastrous attempt to rob the bank in Northfield, Minnesota, many of the gang member were wounded and captured, However, Jesse slipped away and lived quietly in St. Joseph Missouri under an assumed name. Two of his gang members were tempted by a reward for his capture dead or alive. They went to his house and while his back was turned, Robert Ford shot him one time in the back of the head. His mother had him buried in the front yard of the James Farm with an imposing monument with a inscription condemning the assassin. The house in St Joseph where Jesse met his death is preserved and is the epitome of morbidity. Here you can see the bullet hole made as it passed thought the skull of Jesse. The structure is filled with James memorabilia. The house was actually moved here after being saved from the jaws of demolition. Now more has been added. Artifacts from the controversial exhumation of 1995. A bullet from his right lung stemming from an old civil War injury, the tie tack he was wearing when first buried and fragments of wood, the handles and the glass fragments from the coffin front piece grace a glass cabinet. Jesse James boyhood home today remains relatively secluded in the countryside near the small town of Kearney. After Zerelda's third and very successful marriage to her neighbor a country doctor, the two farms became one and was very prosperous with several slaves doing most of the work. After the death of her son, a defiant mother sat on the front porch giving tours of the house and selling stones from the grave and supposed pistols owned by her famous son. It was here Union soldiers harassed the family known as confederate sympathizers and attacked Zerelda and tried to hang her third husband. The incident defined young Jessie's determination to join the Confederate army. It was here Pinkerton detectives threw an incendiary bomb into the residence killing a younger step brother and maiming Zerelda. After her death and Jesse's wife, his body was moved from the farm to the family plot in Mount Olivet Cemetery Kearney and interred beside her. Frank James in his old age kept up the tours by charging 50 cents until his death. Clay County purchased the rundown property and after two restorations, 75 percent of the original material remains. It contains original furnishings. The James home is perhaps one of the most authentic birthplace sites in America today. Now, the Clay County government at the Jesse James Farm and Museum is still selling pebbles for 25 cents along with shirts, books and toys. The Jesse James Bank Museum, formerly the Clay County Savings Assoc., located on the historic square in Liberty, Missouri, was the site of the nation's first successful daylight peacetime bank robbery on February 13, 1866, when the James-Younger gang robbed the bank of $60,000 in cash, gold and negotiable instruments. During their getaway, they shot and killed an innocent bystander, 17-year old college student, George C. Wymore, who was standing across the street.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 539
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Jesse James (5 Sep 1847–3 Apr 1882), Find A Grave Memorial no. 539, citing Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kearney, Clay County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .