|Cause of Death
The fabled gunslinger Jesse James is buried James' long career as an outlaw came to an
in the town of Kearney, Missouri, where he end when he was killed by a member of his
spent a large portion of his life. own gang in 1882.
This is Jesse James' original grave, That is where James' body remained until
located at his childhood home in 1902, when it was relocated a few miles
Kearney. The inscription states away to Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
that he was "murdered by a traitor
and a coward whose name is not
worthy to appear here."
*** Interesting Facts ***
* Jesse James, born in 1847, was young at the time the Civil War erupted in 1861 and stayed at home instead of fighting. On the other hand, his older brother, Frank, fought alongside Captain William Quantrill, one of the most ruthless Confederate guerillas in the entire conflict. In May of 1863, looking for Quantrill and his soldiers, Union troops went to the James family's farm. Jesse, who had been out in the fields, was beaten by the group. His stepfather was also injured by the soldiers, who even strung the man up from a tree, although he did not die from the incident. After the ordeal, Jesse chose to join his brother under Quantrill, but the captain felt that Jesse was too young and would not accept him. Instead, the youth fought under the infamous "Bloody Bill" Anderson. It was with Anderson that Jesse committed a particularly nefarious act: He and his fellow guerrillas stopped a train and robbed its passengers. They then slaughtered twenty-two of the twenty-three unarmed Union soldiers riding the train on furlough. One trooper was set aside and taken hostage, but all of the others were shot at by the guerrillas. Those who here not killed by the spray of bullets had their skulls crushed in by James and his comrades.
* In 1866, having already gotten a taste of thievery, Jesse James turned to a life of crime. His first bank robbery, supposedly, took place in Liberty, Missouri that February, though there is no absolute proof that Jesse was a participant. Along with his brother Frank, their cousins (Bob, Cole, and Jim Younger), and several other recruits, Jesse robbed only a small amount of banks each year in an attempt to maintain a low profile. Despite this, the James-Younger Gang developed legend status in the West. After several years of thievery, the outlaws began to rob trains as well. Hardship struck the group in 1876 during an attempted bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota. The eight gang members were foiled in their attempt and were forced to flee. In the debacle, the Youngers were injured and two other bandits were killed. Fleeing, the Youngers were captured a few days later and another one of their peers was killed. Only the two James brothers, who had split off from the rest of the group previously, escaped the law. After laying low for a few years, Jesse replenished the numbers of the gang and took up crime again.
* During their reign of terror, Jesse James and his fellow gang members became the most notorious group of criminals in all of America. The bandits robbed at least twenty trains and banks and were responsible for countless murders. They were the most successful outlaws of the Wild West, and the money they stole was totaled at approximately $200,000. Many times the law tried, and many times the law failed, to bring in Jesse and Frank James. Locals who sympathized with the former guerrillas often covered for the James brothers, making capturing the pair even more difficult. Eventually, the governor of Missouri promised a reward for the robbers, dead or alive. The governor convinced railroad companies to put up $10,000 for the fund, as he was unable to use state funds. In early 1882, the politician secretly met with a member of Jesse's gang, Bob Ford. The governor promised, if he killed Jesse James, that Ford would be pardoned of both James' death and a prior murder, in addition to the reward money. Ford agreed to the deal.
* While eating breakfast together on April 3, 1882, Jesse, Bob Ford, and his brother Charley (also a gang member) discussed the details of an upcoming bank robbery. Following the meal, James and the Ford brothers began to prepare for their departure. As they did this, Jesse remarked that he was going to remove his sidearms, lest the neighbors spot him with them on. The famed outlaw then proceeded to lay down his holsters on a nearby couch, leaving him unarmed. Turning around, James noticed that a picture on the wall was covered in dust. As he spoke his final words, the outlaw pulled up a chair and stood on it to clean the picture, which read "In God We Trust." Just then, when James' back was turned, both Fords drew their pistols. Only Bob fired. Struck in the head, Jesse James fell to the floor, his notorious career finished.
* Following James' murder at the hands of Bob Ford, his body was handed over to the authorities and then returned to his mother. Zerelda James had her son buried on the family farm in a spot that was viewable from her bedroom window. Despite this, tourists ended up desecrating Jesse's grave, chipping away at his stone and taking pieces for souvenirs. Realizing that she could use this opportunity to gain a profit, the bandit's mother began charging people to take tours of her house. Once the tour reached her son's burial site, Zerelda James offered her visitors an alternative. Instead of destroying Jesse's tombstone by chipping away at it, they could purchase one of the numerous stones on top of his grave for twenty-five cents. When all of the stones were removed from James' resting place and sold to tourists, Zerelda James would carry a bucket down to the creek, scoop up some more, and pour them over her son's grave.
Spouse: Zerelda Mimms James * (1845-1900)
Last words: "That picture's awful dusty."
* Jesse James married his own cousin, Zerelda Mimms, in 1874. Zerelda was named after her aunt, who was Jesse's mother.