Jesse James: An American Icon
Jesse Woodson James, son of Robert and Zerelda Cole James, was born on September 5, 1847. Robert and Zerelda James were both natives of Kentucky unlike Jesse. Jesse along with his siblings was born in Clay County, Missouri. James left his mark and in his own lifetime he became a legend. By studying the life of the ruthless desperado, Jesse James, we can conclude the following about his early life, the crimes he committed, and the legacy he left behind (Hartke).
Jesse had a hard childhood. He had an older brother named Alexander Franklin, or most commonly known as Frank; Robert, a brother who died as an infant; and a little sister, Susan. Jesse’s father Robert, a well-known Baptist preacher, was a slave-owning farmer. When James was about three years of age, his father left the family to make money in California by preaching to gold miners, only never to return. After Robert had passed away Jesses’ mother remarried, once to a man by the name of Benjamin Simms, the second time to a farmer and doctor by the name of Reuben Sammeul. Zerelda and her new husband were now responsible for the three children, a hundred acre farm, the cattle, and a few hundred slaves. Jesse and his brother Frank were known as “good boys” and also religious boys.Most of Clay County thought they might grow up to become preachers like their father; however, Jesse went to fight in the Civil War and those hopes vanished (Hartke). “During the Civil War the James’s home was raided by Federal Militia.” Jesse and Frank both became “Confederate Guerrillas” during the Civil War subordinate to William Clarke Quantrill. Jesse changed miraculously during the war but the year following the war is when the trouble began (Hibben 585).
“As we were riding toward the town of Liberty, Missouri, my thoughts were mixed. Although I didn’t know it at the time, we were about to create history by committing the first bank robbery (Ross 1).” In the year of 1866, Coleman Younger gang...
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