Jesse W. James Handwriting Comparisons

Pictured below are three pages from my great-grandfather’s original 1871 diary, which; along with the signature photo and Jesse James family photo, are now part of my copyrighted (C) Betty Dorsett Duke Collection. Jesse James signed his diary “J. James” and “James L. Courtney”. Jesse W. James was his real name and James L. Courtney was his alias.

He wrote the entire diary in pencil, just as he did in a six page letter he wrote to Dr. Reuben Samuel, his step-father. I wasn’t aware of this letter until Michigander, Matt Hamlin, sent the following link to me:

The letter, along with its complete transcription, may also be viewed at this site:

Both Jesse James and Dr. Reuben Samuel are pictured in the eBay photo of the James and Jackson families (with friends)

James Family in Blevins, Texas
Jesse James with family and friends in Blevins, Texas

Matt Hamlin pointed out that the T’s in both samples are identical. The same applies for some of the other letters of the alphabet. While reading his diary I noticed that he sometimes made his J’s fancy like this:

Jesse James signature
Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney signed his 1871 diary “J. James”.

And other times he made his J’s plain – like he did in his signature on the Christie’s letter pictured on the right below. The slant, writing style, and spelling is also the same in both handwriting samples.

Jesse James' Journal and Christies
A page from Jesse W. James AKA James L. Courtney’s original 1871 diary (June 28, 29, & 30) is on the left, and the last page of the six page letter signed Jesse W. James, which was auctioned by Christies for $175, 000, is on the right.

Transcription follows:
June 1871
28 Wensday for book .50
for wagon grease .25
29 Thirsday morning
for milk .25
at Decatur in camp back of the tin shop and remained there all day and in the evening went ahunting with H Pratt and Edward Sunderland and the tavern keep, and I killed a deer.
30 Friday morning in camp back of the tin shop and rized up for to start south

for corn 1/2 lb .75
for caps for gun .75”

Jesse James' Journal and Christies sample 2
Another page from Jesse W. James AKA James L. Courtney’s original 1871 diary is pictured on the left. The last page of the letter auctioned by Christies is on the right.

Transcription follows:

“James L. Courtney

his book bought June 28/ 1871

at Decatur Texas price 50 cts

if the oner should be found ded his uncle lives in cass co mo. his address is as folows E. L. Andrass Brosley po cass co mo if the oner should be found dead the person he [maybe who?] finds this will please rite immediately to E. L. Andruss Brosley po cass co mo”

Jesse James' Journal and Christies sample 3
Another page (cropped) from Jesse W. James AKA James L. Courtney’s original 1871 diary (scanned in black and white) pictured top left.

The same last page of the letter signed Jesse W. James letter (auctioned by Christie’s) is pictured again top right for comparison purposes. Another excerpt from a letter signed Jesse W. James is pictured on the right below. Compare the way Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney wrote the word “to”, (the first word in the third line from the top), is almost exactly like he wrote it in the letter. Also check out the W’s, H’s, and T’s. There are examples of my great-grandfather underlining words on other pages of his diary:

Transcription of letter on bottom right:

“do & if we were free men we would do all in our power to put it down [illegible] Allen of Liberty made similar remarks about us to [illegible] [illegible] a few days ago to but he will probably regret it. if you value your life you had better retract your slander” Jesse W. James”

Transcription of the diary page pictured top left above:

“W. M. Roberts branded on the left hip B to [two?] marks [?] [illegible] [illegible] to under half crop and the other under cut [?] in the rite & and [illegible] half crop in the left. John Hitson & Bill [John & Bill Hittson] Palapinto co & Teresa [?]”

For more information on E. L. Andruss and a robbery attributed to the James Gang in Coldwater, Brosley County, Missouri click on the following links:

More information about the Brosley, Cass Co., MO robberies – courtesy of Daniel Duke. National Republican article:;words=county+Cass+Missouri?date1=1873&rows=20&searchType=basic&state=&date2=1873&proxtext=cass+county+missouri&y=15&x=15&dateFilterType=yearRange&index=1 The State Journal article (Jefferson City, MO):;words=county+Cass+Missouri?date1=1873&rows=20&searchType=basic&state=&date2=1873&proxtext=cass+county+missouri&y=15&x=15&dateFilterType=yearRange&index=2

Clyde C. Barrow/Barron (of Bonnie & Clyde fame) also had a Blevins, Falls Co., Texas connection:

According to a great genealogist (who wishes to remain anonymous) Clyde C. Barrow also had a Blevins, Texas connection. According to her, Clyde’s grandmother was Mahala Ann Barron. The reader may recall that my paternal great-great-grandfather was Thomas Hudson Barron of Blevins, Texas.

Laura Anderson Way did the following family tree for me but another genealogist previously made all the connections referred to in this post – their respective research confirms the other’s findings:

Mahala Barron was married to William Wilson Walker and their daughter, Cumi Walker, was the mother of Clyde Chesnut Barrow. Mahala Ann Barron is the daughter of Samuel B Barron and Phoebe Barber. Samuel B. Barron was born in 1808 in Georgia and Thomas Hudson Barron was born 1796 in Kentucky. Thomas Hudson Barron family can be found in Charles County, Maryland and tie into the Lindsey family. Mahala Barron has family ties to the Lindsey family and many of the family names associated with those of Thomas Hudson Barron.

History of Barron Family: John Barron came from Ireland. In this family were Thomas & Teresa. John Barron lived near Elizabeth Town, KY and married Sarah Tweedell of VA. John Barron was a farmer. In this union were Joseph, Benjamin, Matthew, Martha, Mary, Harrison, Jinken Rogers, Thomas, Susan, David & Miles. They moved from KY to Sangamon Co., IL, later moving to Astoria, Fulton Co., IL. and Falls County, Texas:

Jesse James’ Lindsay/Lindsey family (his maternal grandmother was a Lindsay/Lindsey) as well as the Barron’s Lindsay/Lindsey family were in Charles Co., Maryland at the same time [which points to the fact that they were the same family]. The James and Barron (also known as Barns and Barrow, Barber / Barbee, Wilson/ Walker) families connect to one another.

Please check out the information on all the URL’s contained herein:

Quick Comment on Quantrill in Texas

 I was doing a little reading about Sophia Porter (colorful character, lady and Confederate spy) from the Red River area and how one of her four husbands; George Butts, a Confederate conscription officer; was shot and killed outside Sherman, TX.  This murder was blamed on Quantrill’s men.  Some accounts blame Fletch Taylor, others just say Quantrill men or man etc.  General McCullough tried to arrest Quantrill and his men for it and they escaped into Indian Territory out of McCulloch’s jurisdiction.

Supposedly Fletch confessed, escaped to Anderson’s camp and claimed Quantrill ordered him to kill Butts.

One account said that McCulloch wasn’t a good man like his elder brother, Benjamin McCulloch and lived comfortably throughout the war on Confederate rations.  

This is from a letter written by W.L. Potter to W.W. Scott which is also quoted in the book ‘Quantrill and the Border Wars’:

“Gen Henry McCullough The Feather Bed General of the Northern Sub District of Texas.  A Brother of the Gallant Ben McCulloch and a General Who had nothing to Recommend him but the name of his Gallant Brother who fell in leading a charge of Texas cavalry at the Pea Ridge.  Battle also known as the Elk Horn Battle Field.”  

“col Martin, Stated that he had no Jurisdiction in the Indian Territory Neither had McCullough.  and that he had no authority to follow him any farther.  and With his Regiment went back to Bonham & along With Gen McCullough feasted on confederate Rations Until the collapse of the so called confederate States of America in April 1865.”

“When McCullough & his staff with several Ambulances well filled with the Most Valuable confederate supplies, took the road through Dallas to his home in Southern or in central Texas What became of him after that I never heard.”

Grayson County; an illustrated history of Grayson County, Texas.

After reading that statement I thought, if true then it sounds as if McCulloch was making a profit off supplies meant for soldiers.  I would imagine Quantrill, Anderson and the others didn’t like what they were seeing and directed some frontier justice towards Mr. Butts ?

All the Quantrill and Anderson bashers find it easy to just chalk it up to unruly killers who just rode around killing and stealing whenever the mood struck them.    I don’t believe Quantrill, Anderson or their men were unruly killers but in regards to Mr. Butts and McCulloch, could they have been skimming off the top and lining their pockets?  When the late Mr. Butt’s widow, Sophia left the Red River country; she went to stay with friends in Waco, Texas.  One account says she took what sounds like quite a bit of gold along with her.  From the book ‘Legendary Ladies of Texas’:

“One day she loaded a small fortune in gold coins into buckets, poured hot tar over them, strung the buckets under her wagon and headed south.  When she reached Waco, two hundred miles south of her plantation, she stopped.”

Now in all fairness to Sophia Porter, her previous husband was a former politician and Indian agent who it is said, used his position to increase his wealth.  So the gold that Sophia took with her to Waco could have come from there as well.  

One more piece of unflattering information in regards to Henry McCullough comes from the Texas State Historical Association:

“After the Civil War he [McCullough] remained in the limelight. In 1874 he assisted the newly elected governor, Richard Coke, in removing Edmund J. Davis from the executive offices. Early in 1876, as a reward for his years of service, McCulloch was given the superintendency of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum (later the Texas School for the Deaf ).  Here his lax and inept administration brought about a legislative investigation that made him resign his position in 1879. He was married to Jane Isabella Ashby in 1840. He died on March 12, 1895, in Seguin, and was buried in San Geronimo Cemetery.”

My point in this?  I got mad reading all the self-appointed experts constantly berating the guerrillas and just wondered what the other side of the coin might look like.  I have no proof but then neither do they and a person could use the info I pieced together to build a strong theory or case against McCullough and Butts for all the unlawfulness and in doing so, clear Quantrill’s Guerrillas of the wrong doings in that part of Texas during the Civil War.

Truth vs Tradition

Truth is based on fact and fact is oftentimes the enemy of tradition; or at least the enemy of those who make money off that tradition. Such is the case with the truth about Jesse James. Author, Betty Dorsett Duke has spent well over a decade amassing facts and evidence proving that Jesse James faked his death in 1882 and was not shot in the back of the head by Bob Ford. The traditionalists stick to their same old story, claiming that Jesse James was shot in the back of the head by Bob Ford. When faced with undeniable proof the traditionalists go about their business as if nothing ever happened. It is a perfect example of a false story that makes money for a few people who falsely claim to be authorities in regards to Jesse James. They build their little careers around this money making machine and literally threaten and harass anyone who dares produce facts which threaten their enterprise. Visit to read about the various threats these people like to make. 

Like most people who claim to be the experts yet have no proof to back up their story, they remind me of a late summer rain cloud that grows dark, blows a lot of wind and makes a lot of noise but never produces a single drop of rain. 

Every bit of evidence offered as proof by these so-called historians has been refuted and proven to be either completely wrong or seriously flawed. If a person tries to approach them in a civil manner, they quickly turn it to accusations and threats. And then there’s the spokesperson for the James Farm and Museum in Clay County, Missouri. Her only reply when questioned by the media or anyone else interested in the truth is that, attendance has picked up at the Museum and the 1995 exhumation was conclusive. When reminded that the exhumation has been proven wrong and debunked she brushes that off and quickly steps around it. I also find it amusing that she chooses to point at attendance rising. Does she place tourist dollars above truth? 

It is very obvious that any facts that go against their story is highly irritating to them. They’ve put a lot of time, money and effort into trying to make people think their story is true yet all they’ve managed to prove is that they are all hat and no cattle. 

Facts are facts and the truth about Jesse James is that he didn’t die in 1882. He relocated to Texas where he lived under the alias of James L. Courtney and died in 1943 at the age of 97. 

For those interested in the truth regarding Jesse James, just pick up a copy of one of Betty Dorsett Duke’s most recent books from Amazon or any other bookstore and enjoy!   


Think you know the story of Jesse James?

Many people see or hear the name Jesse James and think they know the story. Most of us have heard the age old lie (which Jesse needed people to believe), but if you want to know the truth check out the authors website here …

Jesse James in Texas

And to find out more about her latest book, click the photo below

Jesse James - The Smoking Gun

William Quantrill and his men: Setting the record straight

Over the years I’ve seen quite a few people who should know better, try to claim that Quantrill and his men were not a legitimate part of the Confederate forces. I came across this some time back and wanted to share it with you.

“February 9, 1864, Bonham, Tex.,
Brigadier General H. E. McCulloch to Brigadier General H. P. Bee
Bonham, Tex., February 9, 1864,
Brig. Gen. H. P. BEE,
Commanding Division on Coast:
GENERAL: Captain Quantrill has been ordered to the coast and will send report to General Magruder. His company could not have been moved to that point if I had not promised to use my influence to keep them in the independent partisan service to which he is entitled by his commission from the President. I have written to General Magruder and asked him to continue them in that service on the coast, and have advised Quantrill to ask for service west of Corpus Christi, where I think he will do us great good.
There is no doubt about their being true Southern men, and, no odds what happens, will fight only on our side. They have been bad behaved in some instances, but have not been guilty of a fourth of what has been charged against them. They are in a country filled with the very worst character of men, numbers of whom are hid in the brush and come out at night and rob and steal; and there are plenty of enemies to the country who would have been glad to get up a conflict by telling bad tales upon them besides those that were true, and I really think the people are to a great extent unnecessarily uneasy about them…..”

This was signed by,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Northern Sub-District.

Read More here:

April 3, 1882 Jesse James’ Greatest Hoax by Betty Dorsett Duke

Rabbits Foot

I wrote the following Introduction for my second book, The Truth About Jesse James (2007). At that time the eBay photo of the James and Jackson families hadn’t surfaced. Step back in time with me and you’ll see just how much progress has been made towards revealing Jesse James’ true fate:


What if the traditional history of Jesse James was not all true, and there was a clever twist where he escaped and lived to a peaceful and ripe old age? What if others close to him followed suit? Some have considered such proposals as utterly preposterous, while others have opened their minds to seriously consider the growing and undeniable alternative evidences. This book adventure will first critique the commonly accepted history, and then to for a fascinating conclusion. Each reader will then have to decide for his or her self if Jesse James was wise enough to fake his death, or did he just wait for the inevitable? As you consider the possibilities, ask yourself what would you have done given his limited choices.

Jesse James’ legendary status began in his own time and still attracts world-wide fascination – it will never die. He has been referred to as America’s Robin Hood, a robbin’ hood, an outlaw, a patriot and a terrorist. Perhaps he was all of these things but the word terrorist is often misused to abuse one’s enemies. The debate will never end because one man’s Robin Hood or patriot is another man’s terrorist.

The traditional story of Jesse James’ death goes that Jesse James was living as Thomas Howard with his wife and first cousin, Zee Mimms, along with their two children, Jesse Edwards James and Mary James, at 1318 Lafayette Street in St. Joseph, Missouri. On April 3, 1882 he removed his guns, stepped onto a chair to dust a picture with his back to his house guests, Bob and Charley Ford, blissfully unaware that they had conspired with Missouri Governor Thomas T. Crittenden to kill him for reward money. Hearing the click of a pistol being cocked, Jesse began turning his head towards the ominous sound just as Bob fired a ball that tore through his brain.

Even if the age-old rumor is true that Bob Ford did not shoot Jesse James dead , he deserves credit for sending Jesse’s legendary status soaring through the annals of history that fateful day. A song was even written about the dirty deed done to some poor yet unidentified soul, because contrary to what you may have heard DNA testing has not yet proved who lies in the grave bearing Jesse Woodson James’ name:

It was Robert Ford, that dirty little coward
I wonder how he does feel
For he ate of Jesse’s bread and he slept in Jesse’s bed
Then laid poor Jesse in his grave.
Poor Jesse had a wife to mourn for his life
Three children, they were brave;
But that dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.

Tabloid journalism was alive and well in Jesse James’ day and operating in the same way, just sensationalizing a complete fabrication of untruths. This certainly holds true with Professor James E. Starrs’ 1995 exhumation and subsequent DNA testing of Jesse James’ purported grave. The DNA results are highly touted as proving with science that Jesse died and is buried just as history reports, but the truth of the matter is that they proved absolutely nothing.

No one knows the complete true story of Jesse James. Much of the historical version of his life and death is based on hearsay from the very individuals who were trying to protect him. However, legitimate DNA testing can determine if he’s buried in that questioned grave in Kearney, Missouri, but until this happens the traditional version of his death is based on nothing but folk lore. If Jesse did not die as history reports the domino effect begins — Zee Mimms was not his wife; Jesse Edwards James was not his son; Mary James was not his daughter, and so on down the line. Most “experts” believe Jesse James died just as history reports, but they cannot definitively prove that he did without valid DNA results. There are enough dissenters to make it an intriguing idea, and if anyone could have pulled it off it would have been Jesse James.

Jesse James eluded capture for over twenty years, so he was certainly capable of pulling off his biggest heist ever by getting away with his own murder. The historical fact is that in 1879 he tried faking his death at Short Creek, so why wouldn’t he try it again in 1882 and succeed?

I’ve spent the last twelve years trailing Jesse James searching for evidences leading to his true burial place, because once it’s found his true descendants will be revealed. The search ended in Blevins, Texas. From all indications Jesse James is buried under the tombstone bearing the name of James L. Courtney.

For as long as I can remember I’ve heard family stories that claim Jesse James was my great-grandfather. The story goes that he assumed the name of James L. Courtney, hightailed it to in 1871 and lived to tell his great-grandchildren about his amazing exploits.

Does Jesse James’ blood really run through my veins? How many supposed experts have ridden down the wrong trail? I want to know the truth about my great-grandfather. I researched every known fact, I rode, hell-bent, into wild uncharted territories, ambushed by hired guns at every turn. Some from the past, and some aimed today – truth is a tough journey.

So saddle up! Together we’ll retrace Jesse’s discovery trail as I have replaced the fiction often told with the fact

The afterlife of Jesse James by Roy Bragg

BLEVINS — On a serene hilltop in this quiet Central Texas farming community, one of the fundamental tenets of American history is under attack.

For decades, Southerners have disagreed on Jesse James’ place in the nation’s collective memory. And now, decades after his death, there’s disagreement on his final resting place.

Read more:

So … Who’s Telling The Truth about Jesse James’ DNA Results?

So…Who’s Telling The Truth about Jesse James’ DNA Results?
By Betty Dorsett Duke

There are conflicting reports as to who’s telling the truth about Jesse James’ DNA results. One way to decide who’s telling the truth is to determine who has the most to gain by agreeing with Professor James E. Starrs’ 1995 findings even though they have been found to be flawed.

Stephen Caruso, deputy county counselor for Clay County at the time of the 1995 exhumation and DNA testing of the reported grave of Jesse James, told the Kearney Courier (Clay County, Missouri) the whole thing was “phony.” “They tried to do DNA testing on remains that weren’t Jesse James,” Caruso said. He claims that someone lost Jesse’s hair that was to be tested, but then it suddenly turned up. He also claims someone submitted their own hair in place of the lost hair.

Yet when the James Farm & Museum is asked about the DNA results they claim they were conclusive. What gives? Who are we to believe?

Here’s some facts about the exhumation and DNA results that may help the reader decide who’s telling the truth:

 Stephen Caruso represented the James Farm & Museum during the exhumation and DNA testing;

 The validity of the two men Professor Starrs chose as mitochondrial (mtDNA) reference sources is highly questionable. He (Starrs) admittedly lied about not being able to exhume Jesse James’ mother to use her mtDNA sequence to compare against the mtDNA sequence of remains that allegedly originated from the exhumed grave. (Starrs, A Voice For The Dead, 2005);

 The origin of the teeth and hair reported to have been retrieved from the grave bearing Jesse James’ name which was used for DNA testing is highly questionable due to no chain of custody (;

 Gene Gentrup wrote, “Starrs credited a tooth retrieved from the James Farm & Museum as being key to his probe. I worked as associate editor for The Kearney Courier during the exhumation of Jesse James and subsequent DNA tests. I wrote the article in the newspaper’s ‘Special Collectors’ edition in which Professor James E. Starrs said a tooth collected from the James Farm Museum provided the necessary mitochondrial DNA needed to prove that ‘with a reasonable degree of certainty’ the remains buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney are indeed Jesse James. I never heard that any of the teeth found among the remains exhumed from Mt. Olivet carried sufficient DNA for the purposes of Professor Starrs’ investigation. Likewise, Starrs expressed his disappointment that no teeth were found in the “Tupperware bowl” unearthed from Jesse’s original grave at the family farm. I did write in a later story that Starrs credited the tooth from the James Farm Museum as being key to his probe. I never thought to ask about the contradiction. So what about the tooth that Starrs used for mtDNA testing? From where did it come? I hope this is helpful. I am now editor of The Southern Platte Press newspaper in Parkville, Mo.”

 After five years had passed from the announcement of the DNA results and still no published final report, Dr. Anne C. Stone, Dr. Mark Stoneking and Professor James E. Starrs, finally relented to pressure from inquiring minds and published it. However, instead of providing legitimate scientific answers they issued a very unscientific challenge asserting that DNA testing did not prove the exhumed remains were those of Jesse James, but they think they did so it’s up to all doubters to prove them wrong:

“Do the mtDNA results prove that the exhumed remains are those of Jesse James? The answer to this question must be no, as there is always the possibility (however remote) that the remains are from a different maternal relative of RJ [Robert Jackson] and MN [Mark Nikkel], or from an unrelated person with the same mtDNA sequence. However, it should be emphasized that the mtDNA results are in complete agreement with the other scientific investigations of the exhumed remains: there is no scientific basis whatsoever for doubting that the exhumed remains are those of Jesse James. The burden of proof now shifts to those who, for whatever reason, choose to still doubt the identification. The mtDNA results reported herein provide a standard which other claimants to the legacy of Jesse James must satisfy.” (Dr. Anne C. Stone, Dr. Mark Stoneking, and Professor James E. Starrs, Mitochondrial DNA [mtDNA] analysis of the presumptive remains of Jesse James.)

So, dear reader, who do you think is telling the truth?

Source: aka