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Jesse James

Jesse James
Jesse james portrait.jpg
Jesse James c. 1882
Born Jesse Woodson James
(1847-09-05)September 5, 1847
Kearney, Missouri, United States
Died April 3, 1882(1882-04-03) (aged 34)
St. Joseph, Missouri, United States
39°45′28″N 94°50′39″W / 39.757813°N 94.844087°W / 39.757813; -94.844087 (Site of fatal shot killing Jesse James)
Nationality United States
Confederate States of America
Occupation Criminal
Years active 1866–1882
Known for Bank and train robberies
Spouse(s) Zerelda Mimms
Children Jesse E. James, Mary James Barr
Parent(s) Robert S. James, Zerelda Cole James

Jesse Woodson James (September 5, 1847 – April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw, guerrilla, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer from the "Little Dixie" area of western Missouri. He was the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. Jesse and his brother Frank James were Confederate guerrillas or bushwhackers during the Civil War. They were accused of participating in atrocities committed against Union soldiers, including the Centralia Massacre. After the war, as members of various gangs of outlaws, they robbed banks, stagecoaches, and trains.

The James brothers were most active as members of their own gang from about 1866 until 1876, when as a result of their attempted robbery of a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, several members of the gang were captured or killed. They continued in crime for several years, recruiting new members, but were under increasing pressure from law enforcement. On April 3, 1882, Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford, a young member of his gang who hoped to collect a reward on James' head. Already a celebrity in life, James became a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death.

  • James Farm in Kearney, Missouri: In 1974 Clay County, Missouri, bought it. The county operates the site as a house museum and historic site. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, with a boundary increase in 1978.
  • Jesse James Home Museum: The house where Jesse James was killed in south St. Joseph was moved in 1939 to the Belt Highway on St. Joseph's east side to attract tourists. In 1977 it was moved to its current location, near Patee House, which was the headquarters of the Pony Express. The house is owned and operated by the Pony Express Historical Association.
  • The Jesse James Bank Museum, on the square in Liberty, Missouri, is the site of the first daylight bank robbery in peacetime. The museum is managed by Clay County along with the James Farm Home and Museum outside of Kearney.
  • First National Bank of Northfield: The Northfield Historical Society in Northfield, Minnesota, has restored the building that housed the First National Bank, the scene of the 1876 raid.
  • Heaton Bowman Funeral Home, 36th Street and Frederick Avenue, St. Joseph, Missouri. The funeral home's predecessor conducted the original autopsy and funeral for Jesse James. A room in the back holds the log book and other documentation.
  • The Jesse James Tavern is located in Asdee, County Kerry, Ireland. It has been claimed that James' ancestors were from that area of Ireland. But documented evidence suggests that on his father's side, Jesse was a third-generation American of English descent.
  • The actor Lee Van Cleef played Jesse James in a 1954 episode of Jim Davis's syndicated television series, Stories of the Century, the first western series to win an Emmy Award.
  • In an episode of The Twilight Zone, "Showdown with Rance McGrew", Jesse James (played by Arch Johnson) confronts McGrew, an actor who stars in a TV western, about the shabby way he and other historical outlaws are portrayed on the program. The episode was written by Rod Serling, and originally aired on February 2, 1962, during The Twilight Zone's third season.
  • The ABC series The Legend of Jesse James aired during the 1965–1966 television season, with Christopher Jones as Jesse, Allen Case as Frank James, Ann Doran as Zerelda Cole James Samuel, Robert J. Wilke as Marshal Sam Corbett, and John Milford as Cole Younger.
  • In the episode of The Brady Bunch titled "Bobby's Hero" (aired February 2, 1973), Bobby Brady, much to his parents' dismay, has idolized the exploits of Jesse James (played in a dream sequence by Gordon Devol), leading them to try to dissuade him, including tracking down a descendant of one of James' victims to talk to Bobby.
  • In the episode of Little House on the Prairie titled "The Aftermath" (aired November 7, 1977), Jesse (Dennis Rucker) and Frank James (John Bennett Perry) took refuge in Walnut Grove after a failed robbery attempt.
  • In an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard titled "Go West, Young Dukes" (aired November 16, 1984), a flashback to 1872 shows the main characters' great-grandparents dealing with the James brothers, with Paul Koslo as Jesse and Nick Benedict as Frank.
  • In the American Western series The Young Riders (1989–1992), Jesse James is portrayed by actor Christopher Pettiet. He appeared in 17 episodes.
  • In Episode 33 of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction in a segment titled "Mysterious Strangers" aired in (2002), a story is told about two men in 1870 who take refuge on a rainy night in an old widow's house. While there they find out that she is about to lose her home to foreclosure. The strangers disappear in the night, leaving her $900 to give to the banker, only to rob the banker of their own money after he retrieved it from the woman the next morning. The strangers, at the end of the story, turn out to be Frank and Jesse James. Beyond Belief purports that the story is documented and true.
  • An episode of Deadliest Warrior which aired on (2010) on "Spike TV" features the Jesse James gang vs. the Al Capone gang. The main weapons used by Jesse James was the Colt .45, the Pistol Whip, the Winchester rifle, and the Bowie Knife. The Jesse James gang came out victorious in the simulated match.
  • In the series premiere of the TV show Pinkertons, the main characters, William Pinkerton and Kate Warne, along with Allen Pinkerton, are contracted to put a stop to railroad money being stolen. A young man involved with the culprits is revealed to be a young Jesse James, who reluctantly flees when the leader tells him to run after a gunfight.
  • In an episode of Timeless titled "The Murder of Jesse James" (aired January 23, 2017), Jesse James is saved from being killed by the Fords but is eventually killed by one of the main protagonists.
  • Dyer, Robert. "Jesse James and the Civil War in Missouri,"University of Missouri Press, 1994
  • Hobsbawm, Eric J. Bandits, Pantheon, 1981
  • Koblas, John J. Faithful Unto Death, Northfield Historical Society Press, 2001
  • Thelen, David. Paths of Resistance: Tradition and Dignity in Industrializing Missouri, Oxford University Press, 1986
  • Wellman, Paul I. A Dynasty of Western Outlaws. Doubleday, 1961; 1986.
  • White, Richard. "Outlaw Gangs of the Middle Border: American Social Bandits," Western Historical Quarterly 12, no. 4 (October 1981)


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