Reprinted from Dorsey Dreams The Dorsey Family Newsletter,
January - March 1984, Vol. II, No. 2, Page 70 - 74, Lois Colette Dorsey Bennington, editor.

Family Members of Special Interest

Without commenting on the lives that Frank and Jesse James lived, and to what motivated them to lead the kind of lives they led, I include their family in this Volume because they were descended from the DORSEY line.

B. 10 January 1843, Kearney (Clay) Missouri
M. June of 1874 to Annie Ralston, daughter of Samuel Ralston at Omaha, Nebraska
D. 18 February 1915, Kearney (Clay) Missouri

FAMILY HISTORY: Frank James was seven years of age at the time his father Rev. Robert Sallee James died in California. He grew up in Kearney, Missouri.

During the War of the Rebellion (Civil War) Frank joined William Quantrill's Southern Guerrillas. He participated in the guerrilla raid on Lawrence, Kansas. Frank James was referred to as "Buck" by his fellow guerrillas. Because of his activities with this band of guerrillas, the James home came under the surveillance of the militia. In time his younger brother Jesse, joined the William Quantrill band.

The battle in this area of Kansas and Missouri, was an embittered one, the Middle Border between north and south. Families divided in their loyalties, between north and south. The James boys reputation in their loyalty to Quantrill became wide spread, finally their step-father, Dr. Samuel and their mother Zerelda, were forced to move. This happened after a company of militia had come to their farm and abused Dr. Samuel to obtain information about his step-sons. Zerelda and Dr. Samuel moved to Nebraska.

At the close of the Civil War, Frank and Jesse returned to their home in Kearney, to find it vacant. Federal troops were searching for them, and although regular Southern troops were pardoned, guerrillas were considered to be outlaws, if found they were shot. It was in 1865 amnesty for guerrillas were given. Under a white flag of truce, Frank and Jesse with some other guerrillas, including Cole Younger, rode into Lexington, Mo. to surrender. A company of federal troops fired on them, and Jesse was severely wounded in the chest. He managed to escape to the near-by brush, and was found later by a farmer who helped him travel to his family in Nebraska. Jesse was taken to the farm home of John, Mimms, relative of his mother Zerelda. This was Jesse's first meeting with his cousin Zerelda Mimms, whom he later married. The family then returned to Kearney, following the recovery of Jesse.

Frank and Jesse farmed their home land, most probably with a great deal of fear. Their reasons for the beginning of a life of crime, will never be known or fully understood.
Frank was married to Annie Ralston of Jackson County, Missouri. They were parents of one son, Robert Franklin James, b. 6 February 1878.

NOTE: The following pages of our DORSEY relationship to JESSE AND FRANK JAMES, are reproduced from Vol. I DARCY-DORSEY FAMILY, "GRANDPARENTS ARE GREAT." by Lois Colette Dorsey Bennington, 1982, due to many requests from subscribers of "Dorsey Dreams."

After his brother's death in April of 1882, Frank James surrendered to Gov. Crittenden on 5 October 1882. His guns had not been out of his possession since 1864. The people of Missouri looked upon Frank James as "hero, in the war for the Confederacy," Frank James was acquitted in his trial by the state. At the time of this trial he was 40 years of age.

Frank James lived to be 72 years of age. He and Cole Younger had a Wild West Show, but most of these years he spent on a small farm in Oklahoma, however he died at the JAMES farm where he was born.

B. 5 September 1847, Kearney (Clay) Missouri
M. Zerelda Mimms (Zee) on 14 August 1867, at Kearney, Missouri
(Zerelda was his first cousin, niece to his mother, and her namesake)
D. 3 April 1882, St. Joseph, Missouri
(Assassinated by Bob Ford)

FAMILY HISTORY: So much folklore surrounds the life of Jesse James. He was a hero to the people of Missouri, especially the ones who shared his feelings about the southern causes He was a modern day "Robin Hood" to many, and still maintains this image. More facts, conjecture and fables have been written about Jesse James, than any other outlaw in history.

Born on his parents farm in Kearney, Missouri, he was but a lad of three when his father, Rev. Robert James, died when on a trip to the gold-fields of California.

He grew up as a religious boy, having been baptized in his fathers church at Kearney. He was known to be kind to many, who needed someone to understand. Most probably a very sensitive young man, then somehow this sensitivity turned to callousness.

His brother Frank was with the Quantrill Guerrillas and most probably because of a very strong southern devotion, Jesse James joined and served with "Bloodthirsty Bill" Anderson in the summer and fall of 1864. Jesse was of stocky build, clean shaven with blue eyes. At this time he was 17 years of age. Anderson was known to comment that: "He is the keenest and cleanest fighter in my command."

Most probably his experience as a guerrilla fighter, helped him become an expert in his execution of his life as an outlaw. They were trained to be fast on horseback. and fast with a gun, and knowing their hide-outs in advance.

Jesse married his first cousin Zerelda (Zee) Mimms in 1874. They had met just after the Civil War, when his mother and step-father were at their home in Missouri.

During the years following the Civil War, and until his death in 1882 Jesse James, and his brother Frank, along with his gang of outlaws, committed many crimes, The gang members included, the Younger brothers, Cole, Bob and James; James and John White, Payne Jones, Richard Burns; Isacc Flannery, Andrew McQuire, Thomas Little, William Chadwell, Clell Miller, Bob Moore, Bud McDaniels, Charlie Pitts, Dick Lidell, Tucker Basham, Ed Miller, Bill Ryan, Charlie Ford and others. Because of their robberies on trains and banks, the bankers of several states called in what was called, "The Pinkerton Men."

Note: The Pinkerton Men were a National Detective Agency. They were hired in 1871 to search out the James gang. They used daring and unconventional methods. Because of the poor and unreconstructed Confederates of the border states, who hated the Pinkerton tactics, they balked the capture of the JAMES brothers at every turn. This was one of the few failures of Allan Pinkerton, owner of the Agency.

During the time the "Pinkerton Men" were searching out the James brothers, they staged a raid at the home of their mother at Kearney. On January 26, 1875, several Pinkerton detectives and some local lawmen (who had a tip the James brothers were there) tossed an explosive device through the window of their farm house. The right arm of Jesse and Frank's mother was all but severed, requiring amputation. Their little half-brother, son of Zerelda and Dr. Samuel Archie Peyton Samuel was killed, he was nine years of age. There was an inquiry into his death, but no legal action was recorded.

Through the years Zee and Jesse lived in many different places. Jesse used the alias of "HOWARD."

Note: The compiler feels that although historians through the years have never commented on why Jesse used the name of "HOWARD," it was most probably because of the Howard surname in his ancestry, through his mother Zerelda Cole.

Jesse and Zee were parents of four children, two of them survived, as follows; (1) Jessie Edward, b. 31 December 1875, d. 27 Mar 1951 in California; (2) Gould, (twin) b. 1877 d. infant; (3) Montgomery, (twin) b. 1877 d. infant ; (4) Mary, b. 17 July 1879.

Bob and Charles Ford had been planning for months to kill Jesse James for the reward offered. (The brothers thought to have been in contact with Governor Thomas Crittenden). Jesse and Zee, with their children, were living at St. Joseph, Missouri, since November of 1881. Jesse was using the name of Thomas Howard, Bob, Charles and Jesse were sitting around the table, having been served breakfast by Zee. Jesse had removed his guns, and laid them on a chair. He noticed a picture on the wall that needed dusting, turned his back to dust and straighten the picture, it was at this moment, Bob Ford aimed and shot Jesse James in the back. It has been recorded that Zee ran into the room and cradled her husband in her arms.

It was from Bob Ford's account of the shooting, that the circumstances became known. Robert and Charles Ford attended the coroner's inquest, and gave the details surrounding the shooting,

Charlie and Bob Ford sent a telegram to Governor Crittenden telling him they had killed Jesse, then surrendering to the authorities of St. Joseph, Missouri. The St. Joseph grand jury found them guilty of murder in the first degree, and were sentenced to hang, but the very same day, Governor Crittenden granted them a full pardon.

The funeral service for Jesse James was conducted at the little Baptist church in Kearney, Missouri that his father had founded. He was buried on the Samuel farm, his epitaph reading:

Jesse W. James
Died April 3, 1882
Aged 34 years, 6 months, 28 days
Murdered by a traitor and a coward whose name is not worthy to appear here.

Charles Ford committed suicide, and Bob Ford was shot and killed by Edward O'Kelley, in Colorado.

The lives of Frank and Jesse James are over, but as years have gone by, Jesse has become a legend in American culture. They lived In a time of rural America, when rugged individualism was common. Our American Frontier was a wild and unruly place where men like Frank and Jesse James could flourish in their criminal pursuits. As Americans, we can ever be grateful, that the vast majority of pioneers who founded the great American West, were good and law abiding people.


The picture above is from a postcard I purchased while traveling in South Dakota. It was published as OLD WEST COLLECTORS SERIES, by Kustom Quality, PO Box 3459, El Paso, TX 79923.

The picture description reads as follows: Jesse James 1847 - 1882 Bank, Stage, Train Bandit. A member of the Quantrill Raiders in the Civil War. Jesse and his brother Frank formed a gang with the Youngers after the war. In 17 years, his gang robbed more than a quarter of a million dollars. Jesse was shot in the back by Bob Ford for the reward.

Click here for some of Jesse's Ancestry

Please note - I have not made a study of the James family - the content here is really all I have. - Donna

Webmaster: Donna Younkin Logan
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