Jesse James My Father

written by Jesse James, Jr.

The First and Only True Story of His Adventures Ever Written



What follows is the text of a book published in 1899 by Jesse Edwards James, son of Jesse James and Zee Mimms James. The first half of the book is Jesse Jr.'s remembrances of his famous father, who he didn't know was the famous outlaw until after his death. He includes all he remembers plus stories told to him by his family. The second half of the book (not to be included on this website) is the story of his own problems being accused of train robbery. Copies of the complete book may be found at ABEBOOKS:

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[pictures on this page not from original text]



[this is a long chapter and has been broken up into parts]

Part II


The death of my father did not bring a cessation of train or bank robberies. This nefarious method of robbery went right on and has continued to the present time, and probably will go on, like Tennyson's brook, forever.

The death of my father created one of the greatest sensations that the West had ever known. He was killed April 3, 1882. I have clipped from the Kansas City Journal of April 4, 1882, the news account, head lines and all, of that tragedy, and here reproduce a part of it as a bit of history that will be found deeply interesting to all who have been interested enough in the story this book tells to have read this far into it:


The Notorious Outlaw and Bandit, Jesse James, Killed at St. Joseph by R. Ford, of Ray County, a Young Man But Twenty-one Years of Age. —The Deadly Weapon Used Presented to His Slayer by His Victim But a Short Time Since.—Jesse in Kansas City During the Past Year and Residing on One of the Principal Streets.—Kansas City Excited Over the Receipt of the News —Talks With People.—Life of the Dead Man.

"I've got him, sure," was the telegram that came to the city yesterday. It was meaningless to almost everybody, yet it contained news of the greatest importance. Jesse James was the person referred to, and as he was a corpse, the sender of the dispatch was confident that he had him sure.

At 9 o'clock yesterday morning Jesse James was shot dead at St. Joseph, Mo., by Robert Ford, a young man about twenty-one years of age, from Ray County. Ford, being acquainted with the James gang, recently planned the death of Jesse. This plan was concocted in this city, and was, as it has been seen, successfully carried out. His brother Charles was with him at the time of the killing, and the wife of Jesse was in the kitchen of the house in which they were living. At his death Jesse was hanging pictures. He had but a few minutes before being killed, divested himself of his coat and his revolvers. He never spoke a word after falling to the floor. The slayers gave themselves up soon after the killing, and an inquest over the remains was begun.


Special Dispatch, to the Kansas City Journal:

ST. JOSEPH, Mo., April 3.—Between eight and nine o'clock this morning Jesse James, the Missouri outlaw, before whose record the deeds of Fra Diavolo, Dick Turpin and Shinterhannes dwindled into insignificance, was killed by a boy twenty-one years old named Robt. Ford, at his temporary residence on Thirteenth and Lafayette streets, in this city. In the light of all moral reasoning the shooting was wholly unjustifiable, but the law is vindicated, and the $10,000 reward offered by the state will doubtless go to the man who had the courage to draw a revolver on the notorious outlaw when his back was turned, as in this case. There is little doubt that the killing was the result of a premeditated plan formed by Robert and Charles Ford several months ago. Charles had been an accomplice of Jesse James since the third of last November, and entirely possessed his confidence. Robert Ford, his brother, joined Jesse near Mrs. Samuels (the mother of the James boys), last Friday a week ago, and accompanied Jesse and Charles to this city Sunday, March 23.

Jesse, his wife and two children removed from Kansas City (where they had lived several months until they feared their whereabouts would be suspected) to this city, arriving here November 8, 1881, coming in a wagon and accompanied by Charles Ford. They rented a house on the corner of Lafayotte and Twenty-first streets, where they stayed two months, when they secured the house No. 1318 on Lafayette street, formerly the property of Councilman Aylesbury, paying fourteen dollars a month for it, and giving the name of Thomas Howard.

The house is a one-story cottage, painted white, with green shutters, and is romantically situated on the brow of a lofty eminence east of the city, commanding a fine view of the principal portion of the city, river and railroads, and adapted by nature for the perilous and desperate calling of Jesse James. Just east of the house is a deep, gulch-like ravine, and beyond that a broad expanse of open country backed by a belt of timber.

The house, except from the west side, can be seen for several miles. There is a large yard attached to the cottage, and a stable where Jesse had been keeping two horses, which were found there this morning.

Charles and Robert Ford have been occupying one of the rooms in the rear of the dwelling, and have secretly had an understanding to kill Jesse ever since last fall. Ever since the boys have been with Jesse they have watched for an opportunity to shoot him; but he was always so heavily armed that it was impossible to draw a weapon without James seeing it. They declare that they had no idea of taking him alive, considering the undertaking suicidal. The opportunity they had long wished for came this morning. Breakfast was over. Charlie Ford and Jesse James had been in the stable currying the horses preparatory to their night ride. On returning to the room where Robert Ford was, Jesse said: "It's an awfully hot day." He pulled off his coat and vest and tossed them on the bed. Then he said, "1 guess I'll take off my pistols for fear somebody will see them if I walk in the yard." He unbuckled the belt in which he carried two 45-calibre revolvers, one a Smith & Wesson and the other a Colt, and laid them on the bed with his coat and vest. He then picked up a dusting brush with the intention of dusting some pictures which hung on the wall. To do this he got on a chair. His back was now turned to the brothers, who silently stepped between Jesse and his revolvers. At a motion from Charlie both drew their guns, Robert was the quickest of the two, and in one motion he had the long weapon to a level with his eye, and with the muzzle not more than four feet from the back of the outlaw's head. Even in that motion, quick as thought, there was something which did not escape the acute ears of the hunted man. He made a motion as if to turn his head to ascertain the cause of that suspicious sound, but too late. A nervous pressure on the trigger, a quick flash, a sharp report and the well directed ball crashed through the outlaw's skull. There was no outcry; just a swaying of the body and it fell heavily backwards upon the carpet of the floor. The shot had been fatal and all the bullets in the chambers of Charlie's revolver still directed at Jesse's head could not more effectually have decided the fate of the greatest bandit and free booter that ever figured in the pages of a country's history.

The ball had entered the base of the skull and made its way out through the forehead, over the left eye. It had been fired out of a Colt's 45 improved pattern, silver mounted and pearl handled pistol, presented by the dead man to his slayer only a few days ago.

Mrs. James was in the kitchen when the shooting was done, separated from the room in which the bloody tragedy occurred by the dining room. She heard the shot, and dropping her household duties ran into the front room. She saw her husband lying extended on his back, his slayers, each holding his revolver in his hand, making for the fence in the rear of the house. Robert had reached the enclosure and was in the act of scaling it when she stepped to the doer and called to him: "Robert, you have done this, come back." Robert answered: "I swear to God I didn't." They then returned to where she stood. Mrs. James ran to the side of her husband and lifted up his bead. Life was not yet extinct, and when she asked him if he was hurt, it seemed to her that he wanted to say something, but could not. She tried to wash away the blood that was coursing over his face from the hole in his forehead, but it seemed to her that the blood would come faster than she could wipe it away, and in her hands Jesse James died.

Charlie Ford explained to Mrs. James that "a pistol had accidentally gone off." "Yes," said Mrs. James, "I guess it went off on purpose." Meanwhile Charlie had gone back in the house and brought out two hats, and the two boys left the house. They went to the telegraph office, sent a message to Sheriff Timberlake, of Clay County; to Police Commissioner Craig, of Kansas City; to Governor Crittenden, and other officers, and then surrendered themselves to Marshal Craig.

When the Ford boys appeared at the police station they were told by an officer that Marshal Craig and a posse of officers had gone in the direction of the James residence, and they started after them and surrendered themselves. They accompanied the officers to the house and returned in custody of the police to the marshal's headquarters, where they were furnished with dinner, and about 3 p. m. were removed to the old circuit court room where the inquest was held in the presence of an immense crowd. Mrs. James accompanied the officers to the house, having previously left her two children, aged seven and three years, a boy and a girl, at the house of a Mrs. Terrel, who had known the Jameses under their assumed, name of Howard ever since they had occupied the adjoining house. She was greatly affected by the tragedy, and the heart-rending moans and expressions of grief were sorrowful evidence of the love she bore for the dead desperado.

The report of the killing of the notorious outlaw spread like wildfire through the city, and as usual the report assumed every variety of form and color. Very few accredited the news, however, and simply laughed at the idea that Jesse James was really the dead man.

Nevertheless the excitement ran high, and when one confirming point succeeded the other, crowds of hundreds gathered at the undertaking establishment where lay the body. At the city hall, at the court house, and in fact on every street corner, the almost incredible news constituted the sole topic of conversation, to the exclusion of the barely less engrossing topic of the coming election.

Coroner Heddens was notified, and Undertaker Sidenfaden instructed to remove the body to his establishment. This was about 10 o'clock. A large crowd accompanied the coroner to the undertaker's, but only the wife and the reporters were admitted. The body lay in a remote room of the building. It had been taken out of the casket and placed upon a table. The features appeared natural, but were disfigured by the bloody hole over the left eye. The body was neatly and cleanly dressed; in fact, nothing in the appearance of the remains indicated the desperate career of the man or the many bloody scenes of which he had been the hero. The large, cavernous eyes were closed as in a calm slumber. Only the lower part of the face, the square cheek bones, the stout, prominent chin covered with a soft, sandy beard, and the thin, firmly closed lips, in a measure betrayed the determined will and iron courage of the dead man. A further inspection of the body revealed two large bullet wounds on the right side of the breast, within three inches of the nipple, a bullet wound in the leg and the absence of the tip of the middle finger of the left hand.


The news of the killing of the famous outlaw created such an excitement on the streets of Kansas City as has not existed since the assassination of President Garfield. Everybody was talking of it yesterday afternoon, and it was frequently heard that it was "decidedly too thin." People would not believe it, and it is probable that when the patrons of the Journal read the account of it this morning that many of them will be unable to realize that the famous bandit, whose name is better known in Missouri than that of any statesman in America, has ended his eventful career. Groups gathered on the street corners to discuss the matter, and even the all absorbing question of city politics was abandoned to ask "who killed him?" "when did it happen?" etc. The most ignorant as well as the wisest of the citizens were interested in the matter, and every representative of the press, as well as the members of the police force, were besieged with anxious inquiries. Occasionally a man is seen who denounces the deed as cowardly, and the wish was heard to be expressed that the man who did the killing might hang. At the station there was a crowd all the afternoon anxious to hear the very latest news. Mayor Frink and a crowd of the clerks and city officials were engaged in an animated discussion of the affair. Said the mayor: "I fully believe that he is dead this time."

The Kansas City Times on this day printed the following description of Jesse James:

Jesse James was about 5 feet 11 inches in height, of a rather solid, firm and compact build, yet rather on the slender type. His hair was black, not overly long; blue eyes, well shaded with dark lashes, and the entire lower portion of the face was covered by a full growth of dark brown or sun browned whiskers, which are not long and shaggy, but are trimmed and bear evidence of careful attention. His complexion was fair, and he was not sunburnt to any considerable extent, as the reader is generally led to suppose. He was neatly clad in a business suit of cassimere, of dark brown substance, which fit him very neatly. He wore a shirt of spotless whiteness, with collar and cravat, and looked more the picture of a staid and substantial business man than the outlaw and desperado that he was.

The widow of Jesse James was a neat and rather prepossessing lady, and bears the stamp of having been well brought up and surrounded by influences of a better and of a holier character than the reader would at first suppose. She is rather slender, fair of face, light hair, blue eyes, with high forehead and marks of intelligence very strikingly apparent. The two children, a little boy and girl, were neat and intelligent, and seemed to grieve much over the deed which had in one short moment deprived them of a father's love and protection.

The Kansas City Times of April 7, 1882, published the following account of the funeral of Jesse James:

Special to the Kansas City Times.

KEARNEY, April 6.—Yesterday was a holiday at Kearney near which is the home of Mrs. Samuels, mother of the noted Jesse James. Kearney is a town of between four hundred and five hundred inhabitants, situated on the Hannibal and St. Joe railway, twenty-four miles from Kansas City. At an early hour from all directions came people on the trains, on horseback and in vehicles, anxious to gaze upon the remains of the dead bandit. The metallic casket containing the body was taken to the Kearney house upon its arrival at 2:45 a. m.. It was placed upon chairs in the office, and during the forenoon and a portion of the afternoon was surrounded by friends, relatives and strangers anxiously peering into the pallid features. No one who claimed to know him in life doubted that the remains were those of Jesse James. Photographs of the deceased in possession of the Times correspondent, were compared with the corpse, and admitted by many of his friends to be genuine. No ill will was engendered or if any existed those possessing. it were careful not to let their passions get the better of them. It seemed to be understood by everyone that the solemnity of the occasion demanded that everything be done decently and in order.


Long before noon the town was full of people. The funeral procession started for the Baptist church, in which Jesse was converted in 1866. The edifice was filled, and for many there was standing room only. The pall bearers were J. D. Ford. Deputy Marshal J. T. Reed, Charles Scott, James Henderson and William Bond. There was another, a sixth pall bearer, a rather mysterious character, whom none of the other five seemed to know. He seemed to have charge of the cortege and directed the movements, but neither his fellow pallbearers nor the bystanders knew who he was. He was a stout and well preserved man, of perhaps forty years, and seemed to understand what he was about, but no one could say who he was or where he came from.

The relatives, consisting of Mrs. Samuels, Mrs. James and two children, Mr. and Mrs. Luther W. James, Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Mimms, were seated beside the coffin, placed in front of the altar. The services were opened by singing the hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Rev. R. H. Jones, of Lathrop, read a passage of Scripture from Job, commencing, "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble." Also the fourth and fifth verses of the 39th Psalm, beginning, "Lord, make me to know mine end." He offered up a touching and pathetic prayer for the grief stricken mother, wife and children, asked the Lord to make their bereavement a blessing to them, by leading them to a true knowledge of himself.


Rev. J. M. P. Martin, pastor of the church, as an introduction to his discourse said: We all understand that we cannot change the state of the dead. Again, it would be useless for me to bring any new information before this congregation respecting the life and character of the deceased.

The text which I have chosen to-day is the 24th chapter of Matthew, 44th verse: "Therefore be ye ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh." First, I wish to call special attention to the certainty of the coming of Christ to each of us. There is a certainty of a grave before each of us. We cannot jump over it or pass it by. God's word is written on His tablets for our instruction and guidance. It takes it for granted that there is a certainty of death. It is constantly warning us of this solemn fact. We talk of death to others, and dwell upon its terrors and are stricken down with grief when it lays its hand upon those we love, but seem unwilling to regard its certainty to ourselves. The truth 1 wish you to take home with you to-day is that Christ is sure to come to each of us. In the second place, Christ is sure to come at such an hour as we think not. He comes like a thief in the night. As the thief comes when we are least expecting it, so Christ comes. Whatever the past has been, we all have our idle dreams of the future. We all in our imagination have fancy pictures, and are apt to forget the evils that are likely to befall us. If we could at all learn a lesson from the past, we would not expect the future as our fancy paints it. Though we are assured that others shall die and not live, we feel for ourselves we shall live and not die. Shall we not set about for a future which is as real as life is real? Our expectation then of the lengthening out of our lives will not keep away the coming of the Son of Man. Let us remember that He comes as a thief in the night, and not delay our preparations. But it seems idle to try to get men to make preparation for what seems imaginary.

We will not entertain the factas it is. It is necessary for us to prepare to meet our God. If men are so careful to prepare for things that pertain to this life, how much more important is it to prepare for things that pertain to the life to come? If we accept Christ our account will be acceptable to our Lord. How would we feel if God should come and we should be compelled to stand before Him unprepared? As I said before, we cannot change the past life or condition of the dead. I ask you to take your eyes off from that coffin; I ask you to take your eyes off from the open grave and look higher. Let us not forget our duties and responsibilities in life. A true prophet is not without honor save in his own land, and those who point the way to righteousness are often unheeded. Notwithstanding the many unheeded warnings, yet God is constantly reminding us and calling us to Him. At the same time that He points us to the grave and tells us to look into it, He says to us it is not all of death to die, not all of life to live. But we need not die spiritually. All we need do is to look and live. Yet we turn away, and turn away until our hearts become hard as stone. He asks us to turn to Him and promises us everlasting life. What more could He say? Let us see that we make ready and stand ready when He calls to us.

Before the coffin is taken from the house, I have been asked to make one or two requests. As John Samuels is very low on account of the shock caused by the death of his brother, and as the grave is very near the house, Mrs. Samuels asks that those who are here will not go out to the house. It is feared that the excitement of seeing so many persons present will injure him. It is therefore requested that none but the friends and relatives go to the grave.

My father was buried in a corner of the beautiful yard that surrounds my grandmother's home, the house in which he was born. The grave is beneath a giant coffee bean tree, and it is covered by flowers that are tended by his mother. A monument of white marble marks the grave.


This ends the first half of "Jesse James, My Father" by Jesse James Jr. He continues the second half of the book with his own story of being accused of a train robbery in 1898. He was acquitted. Copies of the complete book can be found at Just click "go" to see listings.

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return to Chapter 1: Things I Remember of My Father

return to Chapter 2: The Death of Jesse James

return to Chapter 3 - The James Family & Chapter 4 - The Border Wars

return to Chapter 5 - Jesse James as a Guerrilla

return to Chapter 6 - Closing Days of the Border Warfare

return to Chapter 7 - After the War

return to Chapter 8: Outlawed and Hunted, pt 1



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