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Not all the answers are to be found in books. See the original paper trail these people left behind in historical records and the US census at Ancestry.com.
Sources used in The Robberies chart plus recommended books on the James-Younger gang:
Settle, William A., Jr., Jesse James Was His Name, University of Nebraska Press, 1966 - Generally considered to be one of the best researched in the field, and the first serious scholarly research done. Since publication more information has been uncovered by other authors, but this could be considered the base-line work. My only complaint is that the author never makes a conclusion-he never once gives his opinion, just presents the material. Darn it, Settle did the research, he must have had some opinions or insights on who really did what.
Brant, Marley, The Outlaw Youngers: A Confederate Brotherhood, Madison Books, 1992 - A highly regarded recent addition to the field with good research and good writing. My quibbles are suggesting Cole Younger's book was all lies then using it heavily as a source. The author also didn't seem to have looked into Arthur McCoy at all despite his name coming up in numerous contemporary accounts.
Also recommended: Jesse James: The Man and the Myth by Marley Brant - expanded information and research focusing more on the James than the Youngers.
Yeatman, Ted P., Frank and Jesse James: The Story Behind the Legend, Cumberland House Publishing, Inc., 2000 - You wouldn't think there'd be room for yet another book on Jesse and Frank James but Yeatman proves how much information there was yet to find. Excellent research into many previously unexplored niches and the best account I've ever seen on Frank James and Cole Younger's later years. The author's most amazing find, in my opinion, was a newspaper account quoting Frank James admitting to having been a bank robber.
Croy, Homer, Cole Younger: Last of the Great Outlaws, University of Nebraska Press, 1956 - Completely entertaining reading from a natural story-teller. This isn't a scholarly work but is full of great stories and information. His sources tend to be as near to first-hand, and family, sources as possible but not immune to bias or error. Unlike Settle, Croy is very upfront with his opinions and conclusions. The book does include scenes and conversations that could not possibly have witnessed so there is an element of fictionalization to the book.
Younger, Thomas Coleman, The Story of Cole Younger by Himself: An Autobiography of the Missouri Guerrilla, Confederate Cavalry Officer, and Western Outlaw, original publication 1903 - Either the unvarnished truth or a blatant pack of lies. More likely it lies somewhere in between with as much gray area as Cole Younger could put in. He's probably telling the truth in his most impassioned defenses. Dubious though his accuracy, or truthfulness, is he is the ultimate primary source and so is included here. The link is to a newly published edition with notes by Marley Brant. This is a nice quality reprinting with all the original pictures plus additional ones from the Minnesota Historical Society.
Additional information from:
Edwards, John N., Noted Guerrillas or the Warfare of the Border, originally published 1877 - Rather hard to find. Totally biased and flamboyantly over-written but great reading and wonderful accounts by a man who knew the people in question. Not a reliable source for accuracy of events, but as he knew the people personally, a good source for descriptions and personal material. Edwards is generally credited with having created the outlaw-hero mythos surrounding these men. A few copies available at abebooks.com. Indexed reprint available from Blue and Gray Bookshoppe.
Edwards, John N., Shelby and His Men, originally published 1867 - Edwards was one of Shelby's men, as were a number of those in the chart below. Covers the war years. A bit hard to find though Morningside Press has done a recent reprint. A few copies available at abebooks.com (pricey)
McCorkle, John, Three Years With Quantrill, originally published 1914 - Covers the war years. Mentions Cole Younger frequently (they became brothers-in-law), Frank James occasionally. Good reading with good footnotes from a solid historian in this edition.
Leslie, Edward, E., The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and his Confederate Raiders, Da Capo Press, 1998 - A well-researched and well-written history.
Miller, George Jr., The Trial of Frank James for Murder, July 21, 1883, originally published 1898 - includes the testimony and confession of Dick Liddil, which is a primary source if it's given accurately here, and if Liddil was telling the truth, and of Clarence Hite, amongst other trial material. The author gives an historical summary at the end with participants in some of the robberies given as based on Dick Liddil's statements. The author gives William Clarke Quantrill's name as "George Quantrell", so an element of wariness as to accuracy is definitely needed. Copies available at abebooks.com.
Buel, J. W., The Border Outlaws: An Authentic and Thrilling History of the Most Noted Bandits of Ancient or Modern Times, THE YOUNGER BROTHERS, JESSE AND FRANK JAMES and THEIR COMRADES IN CRIME, originally published 1882 and The Border Bandits: An Authentic and Thrilling History of the Noted Outlaws JESSE AND FRANK JAMES and their BANDS OF HIGHWAYMEN, originally published 1880- quite good, interesting books with some excellent pictures and history. The author did travel to Stillwater prison to interview the Youngers, who told him little if anything, however there are several interesting letters written by Cole Younger included in full. There are also interviews with George Sheperd. The book also contains some contemporary newspaper accounts of various robberies. The author made an attempt to be accurate and scholarly, however a degree of inaccuracy is to be expected. Copies available at abebooks.com.
Love, Robertus, The Rise and Fall of Jesse James, originally published 1925 - a touch more story-telling than scholarly history, but good reading and some good first-hand material. The author spoke to Jim Cummins quite a few times. The author is fairly unbiased though some errors and glamorization is inevitable.
Koblas, John, The Jesse James Northfield Raid: Confessions of the Ninth Man, North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., 1999 - just a dandy book in every regard. This is a purely Minnesota-centric history of the James and Youngers unfortunate visit to Minnesota in 1876. The author begins with the story of a man who claimed that Chadwell and Stiles were two separate people and that he was "the ninth man" at the Northfield robbery. Koblas tracks the James and Youngers progress and movements across Minnesota in minute, exacting detail (yet still very good reading!) and gives credence, or not, to Stiles claim. Lots of photos and good writing.
Lemon, John Jay, The Northfield Tragedy, 1876 - having been published shortly after the Northfield robbery, this is a bit sensationalized and hasty. But the author was a journalist who interviewed the Youngers shortly after their capture, as well as others on the scene, and so has very good first-hand impressions, descriptions, and information. He seems to be reasonably even-handed in his assessments. Rare.
Triplett, Frank, The Life, Times and Treacheous Death of JESSE JAMES, originally published 1882 - error prone, as anything written right at the time, and in the haste of the Jesse James post-assassination hype, but good reading and some good information. Triplett claims the book is based on interviews with Mrs. Jesse James, "wife of the bandit," and Mrs. Zerelda Samuel, his mother. They deny that they contributed to the book yet apparently did receive royalties.
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