Jesse James

1847 - 1882

Jesse Woodson James, an outlaw, whose exploits, both real and legendary, in bank and train robberies won him worldwide notoriety. James was born in Clay County, Missouri. At the age of 15, during the War for Southern Independence (1861-1865), James joined a band of pro-Confederate raiders led by the rebel William Clarke Quantrill. During this time, James earned a reputation for reckless daring. After the war, he organized his own gang of robbers which included his older brother Frank, and Cole, James, and Robert Younger. One of their most famous bank robbery attempts occurred in 1876 at the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. When the bank clerk refused to open the safe, the gang brutally murdered him and then tried to escape. In the shoot-out that followed, all the gang members except Jesse and Frank were killed or captured.

In 1882, while living at home with his family in Saint Joseph, Missouri, under the name of Thomas Howard, James was shot from behind by Robert Ford, a member of his own gang. Ford had been seeking the $10,000 reward offered by Governor Thomas Theodore Crittenden of Missouri for the capture of the James brothers, dead or alive. Soon after his brother's death, Frank James surrendered. The American public treated him as a hero and he was acquitted twice; he died in 1915 at his Missouri farm.