Robert Newton Ford
Cause of Death Age
Richmond, Missouri August 2009


Though he was behind the death of perhaps                               It was Ford that, in the spring of 1882,
the most famous outlaw in United States                                    killed bandit Jesse James in St. Joseph,
history, few know the name of Robert Ford.                                Missouri. He was killed himself ten years


Ford believed that he would be hailed as a                                  A self explanatory that led us to the grave
hero for ending his criminal career, but the                                 of Bob Ford. He and his brother, Charley,
circumstances of James' death led to Ford                                  were members of James' gang of thieves.
being treated with hate and disrespect.

                                       *** Interesting Facts ***

* Robert Ford, the man who shot Jesse James, was born in Ray County, Missouri on January 31, 1862. He was one of seven children had by James and Mary Ford. Called "Bob" by most people, Ford became fascinated by the adventures of outlaw Jesse James at an early age, likely reading about the criminal in one of the various forms of literature that exaggerated his exploits. In 1880, Bob Ford finally had the chance to meet his hero. He and Charley, his older brother, then began hanging around with James and his band of thieves, although they did not join his ranks at first.

* With the numbers of James' gang decreasing, Bob and Charley Ford took advantage of the opportunity and became members. Though they participated in the group's exploits, it is not believed that they played major roles in any crimes. It is likely that Bob just did little odd jobs, such as watching the horses while others committed the actual robberies. Fame-hungry Bob Ford was not content with this and desired to something big and important. He would get his wish, although it would negatively impact his life.

* The end of Jesse James actually began with the death of another member of his gang. In December of 1881, Wood Hite and Dick Liddil, two of Jesse's partners in crime, were hiding from the law at the home Martha Bolton, sister of Bob and Charley Ford. One morning, an argument erupted between Hite and Liddil, leading Hite to draw his gun. He fired several times and wounded Liddel, who then shot Hite in the arm. Bob Ford, who was nearby, took the side of his friend Liddil and took out his own firearm. Ford pulled the trigger and a bullet struck Wood Hite in the head. He died shortly thereafter, and Ford took his body and buried it in a shallow grave. Word of the incident eventually made its way to the authorities, who then arrested Ford (Dick Liddil was afraid that Jesse James would come after him for shooting Hite, James' cousin, so he turned himself in). While in captivity, he told his captors that he had access to Jesse James, which resulted in his release. A meeting was arranged between Ford and the Governor Crittenden of Missouri, who promised that, if he killed James, Ford would be pardoned of both his killing and the death of Wood Hite. He also swore to give Ford the reward money for James, which was $10,000. Ford agreed to the governor's terms and let his brother in on the scheme. On April 3rd, Bob shot James in the back of the head, ending his criminal reign.

* Bob and Charley were both indicted for killing James and pled guilty to the charges. Though they were sentenced to hang, both were pardoned by Governor Crittenden that same day. However, Bob Ford received only a fraction of the reward money he was promised. Still, he proudly went about promoting himself as Jesse James' killer. He frequently posed for photos at dime museums and also took the the stage, constantly retelling the tale of James' demise. Like President Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, Ford was shocked when most people criticized him for killing the outlaw with his family nearby. He was also called a coward for shooting James when he was unarmed and with his back turned. Ford, for obvious reasons, tended to skip that detail when he retold the story, but there was no protecting his reputation once the truth got out.

* Charley Ford, who had become paranoid that Frank James would avenge his brother by killing him, moved and changed his name several times. Ill with tuberculosis and battling a morphine addiction, he committed suicide in 1884. Meanwhile, his brother decided that touting himself as James' killer was not in his best interest. After relocating several times, Ford moved to Creede, Colorado, where he operated a saloon. In June of 1892, a fire destroyed buildings in Creede's business district, including Ford's saloon. In response he opened a tent saloon where he could run his business until a proper facility was built. On June 8th, three days after the fire occurred, a deranged man named Edward O'Kelley entered the tent saloon and excalimed, "Hello, Bob." Bob Ford's back was turned, and as he turned around to see who had greeted him, he was shot twice by O'Kelley. One of the bullets pierced Ford's neck, and he was killed instantly.

Spouse: None

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