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1882 - April 3 - Jesse James is murdered

One of America's most famous criminals, Jesse James, is shot to death by fellow gang member Bob Ford, who betrayed James for reward money. For 16 years, Jesse and his brother, Frank, committed robberies and murders throughout the Midwest. Detective magazines and pulp novels glamorized the James gang, turning them into mythical Robin Hoods who were driven to crime by unethical landowners and bankers. In reality, Jesse James was a ruthless killer who stole only for himself.

At St. Joseph, Mo., the great outlaw, Jesse James, was shot and killed by Robert Ford, of Richmond, Ray county. Ford found Jesse off his guard in a room ant Thirteenth and Lafayette streets, and deliberately shot him though the head, killing him instantly.

The Belleville Telescope
Belleville, Kansas
April 13, 1882

Additional Particulars of the Tragedy.
With a Sketch of the Life of the Dreaded Banditti.

Kansas City, Mo., April 3. - The death of Jesse James the great Missouri bandit, is now beyond question a fact. Governor Crittenden arrived here this morning, and says positively that it is he, and that his death is the result of an understanding between the authorities and "Bob" Ford, who killed him, and Dick Little who surrendered to Sheriff Timberlake at the same time Ford did.

The inquest was conducted at St. Joseph at noon to-day. Mrs. Samuels, mother of Jesse James; his wife, Dick Little and Sheriff Timberlake identified the body, and during the proceedings Mrs. James and Mrs. Samuels made a highly sensation scene, attacking Dick Little and calling all manner of curses down upon him for having conspired to betray his leader.

The coroner's jury returned a verdict of murder in the first degree against Ford, and the authorities of Buchanan county refused to give him up.

The body of Jesse James will probably be taken to the old farm near Kearney, Clayton county, for burial.

The confirmation of James' death has created a profound sensation throughout Western Missouri, and farmers near this place and Independence who have not been in either place for years, rode into town this morning in the rain to investigate the rumors. Some denounce Ford as an assassin, whose only objective was blood-money, while others excuse him upon the grounds of expediency.

The Governor will not go to St. Joseph, but will return to Jefferson City to-night where some steps will be taken to protect Ford, who is thought to be in danger from the friends of the dead robber. All "cracker neck" was up on horse-back this morning, and some threats of vengeance are said to have been made against the lives of Ford and Little.

The Hannibal and St. Joe Railroad Company have tendered courtesies to Mrs. James and her mother-in-law.

Frank James was born in Scott county, Kentucky, in 1841. Jesse was born in Clay county Missouri, in 1845. The Rev. Robert James, the father of these boys, came from Kentucky. He was a minister of no small renown, of the Baptist denomination. He was what is known in that body as a thorough-going uncompromising close communist. There were besides these two boys, two daughters. The elder of the girls just reached the threshold of womanhood when she passed away. The remaining daughter, Susan, went to live in Nebraska and there became the wife of Mr. L. Parmer. They made their permanent home in Sherman, Texas. Frank was an infant in arms when Mr. and Mrs. James removed from Kentucky to Clay county, Mo.; so that all the young life of these embryo bandits is associated with the Baptist parsonage of New Hope church. One would hardly have expected that such a home would have been a cradle for such relentless, bloodthirsty men. The father went to California in 1850, and died there, and the widow married a Dr. Samuels of Mo.

The boys, Frank and Jesse, at an early age began to reveal those elements of character that, fully developed, have made their names at once the curse and shame of Missouri. Of the milk of human kindness they had none. They seem to have drunk in from their earliest days only bitterness and malice and all evil. While they were quite young the quarreled and fought like demons. They hated with the hatred of the most remorseless cruelty. The laughter of innocent youth seldom broke from their lips; but, instead, oaths and curses, and bitter threats mingled with gross profanity. From their eyes broke no kindly beams, but there flashed the fires of ungovernable hate. They had no pleasant playmates. They wanted none. Their whole disposition was to bully and abuse and domineer; and sometimes they carried this spirit to a shameful degree. One instance will serve as an illustration: When Frank was 13 and Jesse barely 11, one of the boys near the farm, himself 13, was unfortunate enough to give these young fiends some offence. The brothers waited their time for vengeance. At last it came, the boys met in a large, lonely forest. The boy Smithers, who had incurred the ill-will of the Jameses was not equal to do battle with both the brothers, so they succeeded in administering a most merciless castigation. But this did not appease their anger. It was the spring time, and the streams of Missouri were rich and full. Frank and Jesse procured thongs of bark and tied and bound the hands of young Smithers and threw him a dozen times, bruised and bleeding as he was, into a deep pond. He begged and pleaded that they would desist. But he pleaded in vain. The more he suffered the more they were delighted. At last growing tired of this method of torment the young fiends, after extorting all sorts of apologies from the half-drowned boy, finished their day's sport by tying him hand and foot to a great tree, and leaving him to whatsoever chances fate might bring. It was early morning when this inhuman scene transpired. It was not until sundown that some chance passer-by released poor Smithers, more dead than alive from his painful captivity. The poor lad was thrown into a fever from which he did not recover for many weeks. Thus, before the elder of these boys had well get into his teens, the cruel murderous spirit was manifest.

A favorite pastime with these boys was to torture dumb animals. Cutting off the ears and tails of dogs and cats, and the wings of birds, was a cherished practice, and the pitiful cries of the dumb, suffering things was a sort of music they delighted in. Everything that gave pain gave them pleasure. A little fellow living near the farm, a namesake of the elder boy, had a little pet dog, a rat-and-tan, called Fan. For some reason or other this lad had managed to offend the young tyrants, and so, to get even with him, they caught the dog and buried it alive. Such was the character of their childhood.

Frank and Jesse James were members of Qunatrell's infamous band of rebel guerrillas and were noted, even among that company of bloodthirsty devils, as bad men. Since the war they have with the Younger brothers led a band of outlaws in the perpetration of the boldest and most successful series of bank, express and train robberies ever accomplished. The have, inf act, been the terror of everybody west of the Mississippi and the ruination of what little reputation the state of Missouri once possessed as a decent sort of a country to emigrate to. It is altogether probable that Missouri is the only state in the Union which would have so long tolerated the presence - indeed the rule - of these cut throats. The story of the career of the James brothers might fill volumes. The record of their principal crimes is as follows:

Liberty, Mo., bank robbery - several men murdered.
Russville, Ky., bank robber - $100,000 secured, one person killed.
Robbery and fatal fight at Battle Mountain, Cal.
Gallatin bank robbery.
Raid at Columbia, Ky., murder of Mr. Martin.
Robbery of the Corydon, Iowa bank, $40,000 captured.
The great robbery of the cash-box at the Kansas City fair.
Wreck of a C. R. I. & P. train.
Stage robberies in Missouri.
The Gadshil train wreck.
Murder of John W. Wicher, the Pinkerton detective.
The terrible fight at Dr. Samuel's residence.
The San Antonio stage robbery.
The Mucncie train robbery - $55,000 cash secured.
Huntington bank, Va., robbery, $10,000 secured, several men killed.
Lamine bridge train robbery, $17,000 secured.
The Northfield, Minn., Union bank robbery.
Big Spring express robbery, $62,000 secured.
The Glendale, Mo., train robbery, $30,000 secured.
The Chicago & Alton train robbery.

The above comprises only the notable crimes perpetrated by the James brothers and their gang. The number of small robberies committed by them is almost innumerable. while scores of person, if not hundred, have been murdered by them in cold blood.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern
Oshkosh, Wisconsin
April 5, 1882

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