Jesse James: Frontier Desperado

Born today was Jesse James,
One of the Old West outlaw names.
He robbed the trains and banks becuz
That's where all the money was.*

*"I rob banks because that's where the money is" is often attributed to Willie Sutton, although he denied saying it in his latter years.

"Jesse James was born in Missouri, and along with his brother, Frank, was a Confederate guerrilla fighter during the Civil War.  After the war, the James boys joined the Younger brothers and formed the James-Younger Gang.  Together, they robbed banks, stagecoaches, and trains.  In 1869, the gang held up the Daviess County Savings Association in Gallatin, Missouri.  Jesse shot and killed a clerk, believing him to be someone else.  When he realized his terrible mistake, he began a correspondence with John Newman Edwards, editor and founder of the Kansas City Times.  Edwards had fought for the Confederacy also, and was sympathetic to the James brothers.  He ran many admiring articles about the gang and published Jesse Jame’s letters to the public, in which he declared his innocence. These articles raised his public profile and made him a kind of folk hero.  Though he was famous while alive, he became even more so in death, when he was shot in the back of the head in his own home by trusted friend Robert Ford.  His mother, Zerelda James chose this epitaph for her son : “In Loving Memory of my Beloved Son, Murdered by a Traitor and Coward Whose Name is not Worthy to Appear Here.” [Jamie Frater on

Filed under: Crime, history, The Old West

Tags: 1847-1882

Leave a comment