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

New photo proves Jesse James faked his death

Of course, it’s not up to us to prove who is in the casket, Betty Dorsett Duke has already proven who it wasn’t.  Jesse James was at his funeral but he wasn’t dead.  The funeral photo, courtesy of the Phillips Collection, provides more proof that Jesse James lived & died in Texas at the age of 97.

Jesse James attended his own funeral

For just over two decades my mother, Betty Dorsett Duke; had researched her family story in an effort to determine whether or not her great grandfather was truly the Old West outlaw, Jesse Woodson James; who faked his death and lived to the age of 97 in Blevins, Texas under the alias James Lafayette Courtney.  Several forensic photographic experts had verified that her family photos matched historically accepted photos of Jesse James, Jesse’s mother Zerelda, Jesse’s stepfather Dr. Reuben Samuel and other family members.  Evidence was found in census records, birth certificates, newspaper articles from the time, countless books and other sources including Betty’s great grandfather’s diary in which he signed his name Jesse James.  She even proved that the 1995 exhumation of the alleged grave of Jesse James in Kearney, Missouri, led by professor James Starrs; was tainted and proved nothing.

But, of all her discoveries in her search for truth, one of the discoveries that made her happiest was the photo she liked to call “the eBay photo” which clearly showed her great grandfather Jesse James sitting in his yard in Blevins, Texas next to Annie Ralston and Frank James along with several known family members and close friends standing behind them.’   It was truly an amazing find.

Recently my sister, Teresa Duke, discovered a photo that would have made our mother proud.  This photo (courtesy of The Phillips Collection) is titled:  Jesse James Funeral and it shows exactly what my mother Betty Dorsett Duke, has been saying all these years: “Jesse James attended his own funeral” and “Wood Hite (Jesse’s cousin) was the one who was killed and passed off as Jesse.”

I contacted the agent of The Phillips Collection and he was very kind and graciously gave me permission to post the photo with the provision that I list who he and his team believe some of the people in the photo are and then I will list who my family and others believe they are.  So, I will post the photo with his identities first and I will follow that with the photo listing the identities which we believe to be correct.  Below those I will go into more detail with photo comparisons so as to show why we believe as we do.
jj funeral their labels

Now for the corrected version of the photo:

our labels

Now for the comparisons:

First, I would like to point out that we believe, as do many historians; that Zerelda was 6 feet tall.  It’s been well documented.  At first glance she does appear to be shorter than those around her but if you will notice the ground on which they are standing, it appears to be sloped which is likely the result of soil heaped around the grave.  Jesse’s feet appear to be somewhere between 6 to 8 inches higher than Zerelda’s.  Jesse was over 6 feet tall (which has also been well documented).

Our team agrees with the Phillips Collection team in regards to the identities of Frank James and Zerelda James Samuel, so there’s no need in my opinion to show their comparisons at this time.  So I will get to the comparisons of the two stars of this photo:  Jesse James and Wood Hite.

For the first photo comparison I’ll start with Jesse James.

jj picture compared

Now for Wood Hite:

wood hite in casket

Notice the hair, the shape of his eyes and nose and the high forehead.  He has a beard in the funeral photo and of course, he’s younger in the photo to the left but we believe it is Wood Hite in the casket.

Of course, it’s not up to us to prove who is in the casket, Betty Dorsett Duke has already proven who it wasn’t.  Jesse James was at his funeral but he wasn’t dead.  The funeral photo, courtesy of the Phillips Collection, provides more proof that Jesse James lived & died in Texas at the age of 97.

Paper Trail Leads to Jesse James

A James family genealogist told me that the age-old mystery of Jesse James’ true fate could be solved by following his paper trail. I doubted what she said at first but have since learned she was right! In 1999 I failed to obtain a court order to exhume my paternal great-grandfather’s grave (mainly due to lack of evidence) for DNA testing to determine his true identity. He was known as James L. Courtney in Texas but according to old family stories he was really Jesse James, America’s most famous outlaw.

This article only reports a fraction of the genealogical information that made me a believer in genealogy and paper trails. Besides genealogical evidence I, with the help of others, have amassed pictorial evidence that literally shows the man known in Texas as James L. Courtney was really Jesse James. Then there’s his 1871 diary that he signed, “J. James” and “James L. Courtney”, and mentioned historically recognized members of the James Gang. There’s a preponderance of evidence that he was Jesse James, yet scientific DNA testing taken under strict chain of custody guidelines, is needed to provide the ultimate identification proof…and it is currently underway.  Read More Here:  Shelton_Connection_To_The_James_Family

© Betty Dorsett Duke 3/8/2014

Jesse W. James Timeline

Jesse W. James Timeline
Betty Dorsett Duke © Copyrighted 2011

Due to the eBay photograph of the James family providing visual proof that Jesse Woodson James got away with his own murder, the following chronicle is the most accurate one currently available. This author has relied heavily on primary source “first hand” evidence including documents, personal diaries and photographs, instead of secondary literature offering second or third hand information.

Arthur Schopenhauer’s quote has proved to be true in the case of Jesse James: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” The truth about Jesse James was first published in Texas Monthly magazine’s August 1997 issue and since that time it has been ridiculed and violently opposed, but, thanks to the recently discovered eBay photograph of the James family and the 1921 Quantrill Reunion photograph, it has now become self-evident.

1843- Alexander Franklin “Frank” James born to Rev. Robert Sallee James and Zerelda Cole in Clay County, Missouri.

-1846 31 OCT – The real James L. Courtney born in Washington, Tennessee to Stephen Courtney and Dianah D. Andruss.

-1847 5 SEP- Jesse Woodson James born to Robert Sallee James, an ordained Baptist preacher, and Zerelda Cole on the family farm in Kearney, Clay County, Missouri.

-1850 18 AUG or SEP – Rev. Robert Sallee James reportedly dies in a mining camp called Rough and Ready, (since renamed Placerville) California, and is hastily buried in an unmarked grave.

-1850- Jesse James is living with his parents, Rev. Robert Sallee James and Zerelda Cole James, in Kearney, Clay County, Missouri.

-1850- Robert Sallee James goes to the gold fields of California with a group of his parishioners.

-1850 – Wood Hite, Frank and Jesse James’ paternal first cousin, born in Logan County, Missouri to George B. Hite and Nancy G. James.

-1850 25 NOV- Susan Lavinia James born to Robert Sallee James and Zerelda Cole.

-1850 14 DEC – The real James L. Courtney, four-years-old, is not listed on census records for the household of his parents, Stephen and Dianah Courtney, in Johnson County, Missouri.

-1852 30 SEP – Zerelda Cole James marries Benjamin Simms.

-1854 2 JAN – Benjamin Simms killed in a horse accident.

-1855 25 SEP- Zerelda Cole James Simms marries Dr. Reuben Samuel.

-1858 26 DEC – Sarah Louisa Samuel, Frank and Jesse James’ half-sister, born to Dr. Reuben Samuel and Zerelda Cole James Simms Samuel.

-1860 – James L. Courtney, age 14, lives in the household of his parents Stephen and Dianah D. Andruss Courtney in Johnson County, Warrensburg, Missouri.

-1860 – Jesse W. James lives on the family farm in Clay County, Missouri.

-1861 4 MAY – Frank James joins the Confederate Army.

-1861 26 SEP – Clarence B. Hite (Wood Hite’s brother) born in Logan County, Kentucky to George B. Hite and Nancy G. James.

-1861 25 DEC – John Thomas Samuel, Frank and Jesse’s half-brother, born to Dr. Reuben Samuel and Zerelda Cole James Simms Samuel.

-1862 FALL – Frank James joins Quantrill’s Confederate Partisan Rangers (guerrillas).

-1862 17 DEC – (Union) Brigadier General Ben Loan, Missouri State, writes to [Union] General Clinton B. Fisk stating, “Messrs. Newland and Courtney are notoriously disloyal.” (Again, Stephen Courtney was the real James L. Courtney’s father.)

-1863 – Jesse James joins Quantrill’s guerrillas serving under Chief Lieutenant William T. Anderson.

-1863 27 JAN – (Union) General Ben Loan writes to [Union} Major General Samuel R. Curtis explaining his actions concerning persons claiming to be loyal Unionist, but whom were suspected of being disloyal due to buying and selling of livestock in association with Quantrill. Stephen Courtney is among the men accused of this activity.

-1863 18 JUL – Stephen Courtney is imprisoned in Myrtle Street Prison For Citizens, Confederates, Bushwhackers and Guerrillas in St. Louis, Missouri.

-1863 28 JUL – Stephen Courtney is released after he took the “O & B” (Loyalty Oath and Bond and posted a $5,000 bond.

-1863 SUMMER – A regiment of Union militia hangs Dr. Reuben Samuel causing permanent brain damage, severely beats Jesse, and roughs up his mother because they won’t reveal Frank’s whereabouts.

-1863 18 AUG – Makeshift jail in Kansas City collapses injuring and killing young girls and women related to noted Quantrill guerrillas. The females were jailed there after being arrested as spies. Some claim the building was purposely undermined.

-1863 21 AUG – Quantrill’s raid against Lawrence, Kansas.

-1863 25 AUG – (Union) General Thomas Ewing, Jr., commander of the District of the Border, with headquarters at Kansas City, issues Order No. 11.

-1863 Mid-October – Quantrill and his men, including Jesse James, cross the Red River at Colbert’s Ferry for winter camp.

-1863 18 OCT – Fannie Quantrell Samuel, Frank and Jesse James’ half-sister, born to Dr. Reuben Samuel and Zerelda Cole James Simms Samuel.

-1863 20 DEC – Stephen Courtney testifies regarding “Officers who are too hard on rebels put under arrest and their commands disabled.”

– 1864 – While with William T. Anderson’s company on the way to Howard County, Missouri, Jesse James is reportedly shot in the right lung by an old German Unionist named Heisinger.

-1864 4 JAN – Stephen Courtney signs papers necessary for his son, the real James L. Courtney, to join the Union Army at Warrensburg, Missouri as a bugler.

-1864 8 MAR – Statement from Stephen Courtney to Gen. Rosecrans relating he was arrested, brought to St. Louis, released on parole and without trial, made to give $5000 bonds, mostly illegible.

-1864 27 SEP – Jesse James kills Maj. A. V. E. Johnson at the Centralia Massacre in Centralia, Boone Co., Missouri.

– 1864 01 NOV – Stephen Courtney is arrested for purchasing stolen property from soldiers in Warrensburg, Johnson County, Missouri.

– Early 1865 – Union authorities banish the James/Samuel family from their Missouri home.

-1865 APR – The Civil War officially ends.

– 1865- Census for Miami County, Kansas lists the real James L. Courtney, age 18, born in Tennessee; 12 months service in militia and living in the household of his parents, Stephen and Dianah Courtney.

-1865 15 FEB – Jesse James is again shot through the right lung by a detachment of Federals belonging to the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry while coming in to surrender. Dr. Reuben Samuel treated him in Rulo, Nebraska.

-1865 18 April- The Drake Constitution is adopted and enforced for ten years.

drake constitution

-1865 – Post Civil War – Jesse James, Quantrill and some of their comrades, are seen in Sherman, Grayson County, Texas.

-1865 – Post Civil War – Gen. J. O. Shelby spurns the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Voluntarily exiling he and 500 of his troops, he marches through Texas following what is now known as I-35 passing through Waco, Austin, San Antonio, on their way to Mexico to join Emperor Maximilian.

– 1865 AUG – Dr. Samuel and Zerelda return to their Clay County, Missouri farm.

– After the 1865 Census – The real James L. Courtney’s parents, (not to be confused as being Jesse James and his parents), Stephen and Dianah Courtney, move from Miami County, Kansas and permanently change their surname to Haun, with the exception of Stephen who changes his full name to Andrew Jackson Haun.

– 1866 13 FEB – A group of men rob the Clay County Savings Association of Liberty, Missouri. Frank James, Jesse James, Oll Shepherd, Bud Pence, Donny Pence, Frank Gregg, James Wilkerson, Joab Perry, Bill Wilkerson, Red Monkus, and Ben Cooper are named as suspects. They later became known as The James Gang.

-1866 26 JUL – Archie Peyton Samuel, Frank and Jesse James’ half-brother, born to Dr. Reuben Samuel and Zerelda Cole James Simms Samuel.

– 1866 30 OCT – The James Gang reportedly robs the Alexander Mitchell and Co. Bank of Lexington, Missouri.

– 1867 2 MAR – The James Gang reportedly robs the Judge John McClain Banking House of Savannah, Missouri.

– 1867 22 MAY – The James Gang reportedly robs the Hughes and Wasson Bank of Richmond, Missouri.

-1868 20 MAR – The Nimrod Long Banking Company of Russellville, Kentucky is reportedly robbed by the James Gang.

-1869 7 DEC – The Daviess County Savings Bank of Gallatin, Missouri bank is reportedly robbed by the James Gang.

-1870 – Frank and Jesse James disappear from Kearney, Missouri.

– 1871- The real James L. Courtney, now known as James Haun, appears to have married Susan Elizabeth Eubanks in Illinois. On the original marriage license, which is pictured on the following page, James Taylor Haun stated that he was a native of Washington, TN…just as the man believed to be the real James L. Courtney’s Certificate of War records states.

– 1870’s – Decatur, Wise County, Texas – Frank and Jesse James camp near the Dan Waggoner ranch.

-1871 FEB – Jesse James AKA James Courtney left Chilhowie, Missouri in February 1871. He and a group of his friends head north for Iowa, and then to Nebraska before heading to Texas.

-1871 FEB – Jesse James AKA James Courtney left Chilhowie, Missouri in February 1871. He and a group of his friends ride north for Iowa, and then to Nebraska before heading to Texas.



This man may have been the real James L. Courtney – he is pictured with his wife Susan Eubanks. He was known as James L. Haun (or possibly T,) in 1880, James Haun in 1900, Taylor S. Haun in 1910 and John T. Haun in 1920 while living in the same house in Meeker, Oklahoma. Judging from all of those aliases he was definitely hiding something. Although much shorter, he bears a resemblance to Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney, which is understandable since the real James L. Courtney AKA James Haun and Jesse James were cousins.

-1871 3 JUN- Jesse James, Frank James, Cole Younger, Jim Cummins, and Clell Miller rob the Ocobock Bank in Corydon, Iowa.

– 1871 28 JUN – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney purchases a blank diary in Decatur, Wise County, Texas. He signs it “J. James”, “JWJ” and “James L. Courtney”. He also mentions cattle barons Dan Waggoner, Burk Burnett, and John and Bill Hittson.

– 1871 4 JUL – Jesse James AKA James Courtney in Ft. Worth, Texas and parts ways with some of his traveling companions.

– 1871 7 JUL – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney’s future father-in-law, Thomas Hudson Barron, an early day Texas Ranger, meets him at a prearranged place near Ft. Worth, Texas.

-1871 8 JUL – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney made camp and then cautiously moves it to another spot after dark.

– 1871 24 JUL – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney and Thomas Hudson Barron arrive at Barron’s ranch in Buttermilk (since renamed Blevins), Texas.

-1871 12 & 13 AUG – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney goes hunting with Bud Singleton, a member of the James Gang.

-1871 31 OCT – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney marries Mary “Ellen” Barron.

-1872- Clay County (Missouri) Deputy Sheriff Oscar Thomason, son of Deputy Sheriff Captain John Thomason, meets Frank and Jesse James in Texas. Jesse pays Oscar $50 for the horse he shot out from under his father sometime after the Gallatin bank robbery on Dec. 7, 1869.

-1872 28 JAN – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney enters in his diary that “Theodore Courtney AKA Theodore Haun was his “cosen” [cousin].”

-1872 4 FEB – Jesse James AKA. James L. Courtney writes in his diary “…i chilled on Saturday nite” (meaning he had fever).

– 1872 20 APR – The Bank of Columbia of Columbia, Kentucky is reportedly robbed by the James Gang.

-1872 16 AUG- Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney enters in his diary that he and Ellen’s first child was born – a daughter named Mary.

-1872 28 AUG – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney writes in his diary about his horse “Copperhead”.

-1872 26 SEP – The James Gang reportedly robs the Kansas City, Missouri Exposition ticket office.

– 1873 – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney makes no diary entries.

-1873 21 JUL – The James Gang, which includes a Robert Moore on this date, reportedly robs their first train near Adair, Iowa.

A Robert Moore is mentioned in Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney’s diary.

-1873 27 MAY- The James Gang reportedly robbed the St. Genevieve Savings Bank of St. Genevieve, Missouri.

-1874 5, 6, 7 JAN – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney is on the steamboat Emila LaBarge in Louisiana going to meet Bud. He and Jim Snodgrass spend the night at G. Fontenot’s where Bud had recently spent the night. Cole Younger’s nickname is Bud and he is in Louisiana at this time. G. Fontenot rides with the James Gang.

-1874 8 JAN – The James Gang is credited with robbing a stagecoach between Monroe and Shreveport, Louisiana.

-1874 8 JAN – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney is on a stagecoach between Monroe and Shreveport, Louisiana with Jim Cummins AKA Jim Clark AKA Jim Snodgrass. Jim Cummins is a Quantrill veteran and rides with the James Gang.

-1874 15 JAN – The James Gang reportedly robbed a stagecoach of cash and jewels near Hot Springs, Arkansas.

-1874 30 JAN – The James Gang reportedly robs a Louisiana steamboat at Port Jefferson.

-1874 30 JAN – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney is at home.

-1874 31 JAN – The James Gang reportedly robs a train at Gad’s Hill, Missouri.

-1874 22 FEB – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney enters in his diary that Bill Wilkerson is with him and the rest of the Barron family at Thomas Hudson Barron’s death bed at Mastersville, now known as Bruceville-Eddy (located close to Blevins, Texas). Bill Wilkerson rides with the James Gang.

-1874 22 MAR- Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney purchases a 160-acre tract of land from his father-in-law’s (Capt. Thomas Hudson Barron) estate paying for it with “Eight-hundred (gold) dollars.”

-1874 10 MAR – Pinkerton Detective John Whicher sent to capture Frank and Jesse James at the James farm. Before going to the farm he lodged at a boarding house in Liberty owned by W. J. Courtney, former Sheriff of Clay County, Missouri, who served the detective his last meal on earth. Det. Whicher’s body was found the next day. He was unaware that W. J. Courtney was a friend, neighbor and relative of the James/Samuel family.

-1874 MAR, APR & May – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney makes no diary entries.

– 1874 APR – Several stagecoaches are robbed between San Antonio, Texas and Austin, Texas, with at least one credited to a five member James Gang. Several of these robberies happen along the Chisholm Trail a portion of which is now called Interstate -35 (I-35).

Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney lives about seven miles east of I-35 in Blevins, Texas.

– 1874 APR – Jesse James reportedly robbed the Shady Villa Inn, (now called The Stagecoach Inn) which is located at Salado, Texas on the same portion of the I-35 corridor mentioned above.
Salado is approximately 28 miles south of where Jesse James AKA James Courtney lived in Blevins, Texas

-1874 24 APR – Jesse James purportedly marries his first cousin Zee Mimms.

-1874 18 JUL – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney mentions in his diary a man and a mule named Buck. Frank James’ nickname is “Buck”.

-1874 20 & 25 AUG – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney enters in his diary the names of two of his horses – John and Reb.

-1874 30 AUG – Second child, a girl named Louisa Ellen, born to Mr. and Mrs. Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney.

-1874 25 OCT – Jesse James AKA James Courtney mentions Little Rock, Arkansas in his diary.

– 1874 23 DEC – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney makes his last diary entry for the year.

-1875 26 JAN – Eight year-old Archie Peyton Samuel, (Frank and Jesse James’ half-brother), was killed by a Pinkerton bomb. Their mother lost the lower portion of one of her arms in this tragedy.

-1875 12 APR – Jesse James, Frank James, and Clell Miller, reportedly shoot Daniel Askew dead. Mr. Askew, a Clay County, Missouri farmer lived near the James farm and helped the Pinkerton’s by spying on the James/Samuel family.

– 1875 – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney makes no diary entries this entire year, and he did not make another entry until July 5, 1876. However, thanks to the eBay photograph of the James family, it is now known that Frank and Annie James’ wedding took place at Blevins, Texas sometime this year after his mother’s arm was amputated.

-1875 1 SEP – The James Gang reportedly robs the Huntington Bank in Huntington, West Virginia. Thompson “Tom” McDaniel, a member of the gang, is purportedly shot dead during this robbery.

-1876 5 MAR – The James Gang reportedly bury 2 million in gold in the Wichita Mountains near Lawton, Oklahoma. As a testament to those entitled to a share, they scratch their names on a copper bucket, often referred to as a brass bucket, and Frank and Jesse James bury it.

Some of the surnames etched on the bucket are mentioned in Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney’s diary including Buck (Frank James), Coal/Cole, James, Jones, Miller, Buss/Busse, and Smith.

-1876 07 SEP – The James Gang reportedly robs the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota.

– 1876 07 SEP – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney is at home in Blevins, Texas. This is his first diary entry for the month.

– 1876 – The Sheriff of Clay County, Missouri reports on a wanted poster that Frank James had knee surgery at Waco, Texas following the Northfield bank robbery. He states that Cole Younger rides with the Texas Rangers and knows men in Waco, Texas. Author Carl Breihan wrote: “When Frank James was wounded [at Northfield] they came as far as Waco by train, then Jesse put Frank in a wagon or carriage and left for the ranch.”

Jesse James AKA James Courtney lives about 20 miles south of Waco.

– 1876 6 OCT – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney enters in his diary that he saw Tom McDaniel on the road to Waco, Texas: “We seen mcdanal on the road and we went to Waco and Tom he boried (illegible) dollars.” (Tom McDaniel was a member of the James Gang.)

-1877 10 MAR – Jesse James reportedly writes a letter to an unknown person about cattle asking them to tell Sam to come to Honey Grove, Texas. One of Jesse James’ relatives, Benjamin Patrick Woodson, (a lawyer) lives in Honey Grove, Texas. He once defended a man accused of murder in the small community of Blevins, Falls County, Texas.

– 1877- Summer – Jesse James, along with his wife and son, purportedly rent a house in Humphreys County, Tennessee under the aliases of Mr. and Mrs. John Davis Howard.

-1877 2 DEC- Third child born Mr. and Mrs. Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney and Mary Ellen Barron –a daughter named Lillie Jane. This birth took place in Blevins, Texas.

– 1878 FEB – The wife of John Davis Howard gives birth to twin boys named Gould and Montgomery in Tennessee, both of whom die within days of being born.

– 1879 – Jesse James reportedly forms a new gang including Bill Ryan, Liddil, Tucker Bassham, Ed Miller, and his first cousins, Kentuckians Wood and Clarence Hite.

-1879 11 JAN- Mr. and Mrs. Jesse James fourth child, their first son, James William Courtney, commonly referred to as Willy, is born. (Willy was Eldon Courtney’s paternal great-grandfather.)

-1879 NOV – George Shepherd claims he shot Jesse James dead at Short Creek near Shoal Creek, Missouri.

-1879 MID NOV – Jesse James is reported alive and well in Texas.

-1880 – Frank and Jesse James visit their sister and brother-in-law, Susan James Parmer and Allen Parmer, in Archer City, Archer County, Texas.

– 1880 – Census records show Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney, age 33, and M. E. (Mary Ellen Barron), age 25, along their four children, still living in Blevins, Texas.

-1880- The real James L. Courtney AKA James Haun probably moves from Illinois to Chautagua Co., Kansas. By 1900 he and his family probably lived in Meeker, Lincoln Co., Oklahoma. While living in the same house in the same town he was also known as James (L. or T.) Haun, Taylor S. Haun, and John T. Haun.

-1881 7 SEP – The new James Gang reportedly robs a train a mile east of Independence, Missouri near Blue Cut.

– 1881 DEC – Wood Hite was purportedly shot dead by Bob Ford.

– 1882 MAR – Dick Liddil is at Martha Bolton’s, (Bob and Charley Ford’s sister), house in Ray County, Missouri. Wood Hite is also there.

– 1882 3 APR – Bob Ford purportedly shot Jesse James AKA Thomas “Tom” Howard dead in St. Joseph, Missouri at 1318 Lafayette Street between 8 and 9 AM. Charley Ford is present but reportedly did not fire a shot.

– 1882 3 APR – J. W. Graham photographs the reported body of Jesse James in the early afternoon… just thirty minutes after he was killed.

-1882 3 APR – Upon viewing the body Jesse James’ mother said, “Gentlemen, you have made a mistake; that is not my son.”

– 1882 3 APR – Dr. Catlett, superintendent of the mental institution at St. Joseph, and Coroner Heddens make the post mortem examination on the purported body of Jesse James.

He said the reports of the shooting were all wrong, that the ball did not exit the skull and that he had it. The ball went in sideways at one side of the corpse’s head, back of the right ear, lodged just under the skin behind the left, and that is where I found it. The skull was badly shattered due to the bullet passing through the brain.

– 1882 3 APR – Zerelda testifies at the coroner’s inquest that “Jesse was mid-way through his thirty-fifth year.” According to Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney’s tombstone in Blevins Cemetery, Blevins, Texas he was born 1846 31 OCT — the exact date his mother testified he was born.

-1882 3, APR – Zee Mimms testifies at the coroner’s inquest that her husband “neither smoked nor chewed.” She does not how old he was or which of his fingers was missing.

-1882 3 APR – A Winchester rifle Model 1873 retrieved from the house at 1318 Lafayette St., St. Joseph, Missouri has the initials “W.H.” and “T.H” etched in the metal.

-1882 4 April – Jesse James’ friends Harrison Trow, James Wilkerson, William J. Clay, C. D. Axman, and Mrs. Mattie Collins (Dick Liddil’s wife) all of Kansas City come up from the World’s Hotel to view the body, and all identify it positively as that of Jesse James.

-1882 5 APR – Fifth child born to Mr. and Mrs. Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney AKA James L. Courtney and Mary Ellen Barron in Blevins, Texas – a daughter named Ida Florence Courtney , this author’s paternal grandmother.

-1882 5 April – This is night before Jesse James was buried. The coroner receives a tip that Wood Hite body is buried on the grounds of the old Harbison farm that Bob Ford, Charley Ford, and their sister, Martha Ford Bolton, rent.

-1882 5 APR – Newspapers report that Jim Gibson, the Ford’s hired hand, disappeared about the same time Wood Hite was killed.

-1882 APR – Mr. John G. Morris, constable of Richmond, Missouri, dispatches a message to Gov. Crittenden asking what to do with Wood Hite’s body and claims the reward.

-1882 6 April – Jesse James is buried in the yard of the James farm.

-1882 6 APR – Prudence Samuel Burden, (Jesse James’ aunt who is Dr. Reuben Samuel’s half-sister), notices the body is not that of the Jesse James she knew. She asks Zerelda why she said this man was her son Jesse James, and Zerelda answers, ‘Oh, that’s a rabbit’s foot.”

-1882 6 APR – Cleburne, Texas Train Robbed.

-1882 9 APR – “The Spirit of Jesse Is Apparently Still Around – A Train Robbed In Texas: A special from Dallas to the Gazette says: The north bound train on the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe was robbed a few miles south of Cleburne at 10:00 Friday evening. At a water station called Blum six men wearing masks entered the passenger coaches. All the passengers did as ordered but a conductor entered to see what was going on and a shot was fired at him. The robber jumped off and disappeared. The amount taken was unknown but several parties gave up large amounts.”

– 1882 17 APR – Bob and Charley Ford indicted. Bob for the first degree murder of Jesse W. James and Charley for aiding and abetting. Both brothers plead guilty and are sentenced to be hanged by their necks until dead, but Gov. Crittenden quickly pardons them and they are released.

-1882 5 May – The Galveston Texas News reports, “The real Jesse James has been killed so often that the identification of the body by his mother is no positive assurance that Jesse has finally handed in his checks.”

-1883- Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney appointed as road overseer by J.W. Watkins, County Clerk of Falls County. He writes on the front of the citation, “Won’t take it”.

-1884 APR- Sixth child born to Mr. and Mrs. Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney and Mary Ellen Barron in Blevins, Texas – a son, Byron C. Courtney, commonly called “B. C.”.

-1886 14 JUL – Seventh child born to Mr. and Mrs. Jesse James AKA. James L. Courtney and Mary Ellen Courtney in Blevins, Texas – a girl named Nettie Andruss Courtney.

-1887 11 JAN – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney receives a letter from his cousin J. R. Andruss in Lamar, Missouri written on Whitsett & Andruss Livery Stable stationary.

-1891 01 APR- Jesse James AKA James Courtney is appointed Falls County Deputy Sheriff by Sheriff John W. Ward.

-1893 15 JAN – Eighth child born to Mr. and Mrs. Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney and Mary Ellen Barron in Blevins, Texas – a girl named Emma.

-1900 13 NOV – Zee Mimms dies.

-1902 29 JUL – Before the original grave bearing the name of Jesse James was exhumed a postcard arrives in Kearney, Missouri from “The Original Jesse James ”telling it like it was, “I will not be buried in Carny next Sunday. I am not dead. I was not shot by Bobie Ford. Tom Howard was shot by Bobie Ford, but I wasn’t there, so you can’t bury me.”

-1902 29 JUL – Frank James takes Zee Mimms’ body from a morgue in Kansas City where it had been stored since 1900. Her remains are interred with those of her husband under the tombstone bearing the name of Jesse James.

-1905- Frank James and his wife Annie Ralston purchase a farm north of Fletcher, Oklahoma.

-1906 – Frank starts the horse races at a Comanche Carnival in Comanche, Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Someone asks him about Jesse James and he says, “If I knew no one would molest him, I would introduce him. He is within shooting distance.”

-1906 – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney is in Durant, Oklahoma.

-1906 or 1907 – Frank James and a tall male stranger dressed like a cowboy were looking for loot they buried near Henry Yoder’s property on Cache Creek about seven miles NW of Apache, Oklahoma.


-1910 21 OCT- Mary Ellen Barron Courtney dies. She was also known as Mrs. Jesse James.

– 1911 17 FEB – Mrs. Zerelda James Samuels dies on a Frisco train before reaching Oklahoma City. She had just visited her son Frank James in Fletcher, Oklahoma.

-1912 16 NOV – Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney draws one of his numerous encoded treasure maps with known KGC symbols used to document the location of his buried treasures.

-1914 JUN- Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney draws an encoded treasure map with known KGC symbols.

-1915- Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney marries Edna Henry.

-1915 18 FEB – Frank James dies in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

– 1918 – Jesse James reportedly buries a safe full of treasure and documents near the Brazos River in Waco, Texas.

-1919- Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney marries Ollie Nelson.

-1920’s or 30’s- Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney attends a Wild West show in Belton, Texas. Part of the show features a Jesse James imposter. The Original Jesse James really enjoys the show.

-1933 5 APR – “President Roosevelt issues Executive Order No. 6102 and confiscates everybody’s gold. An individual could keep up to $100 in gold, but anything above that was illegal. Possession was punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years.”

Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney buried his gold.

-1943 14 APR – Jesse James AKA James Courtney dies at the age of 96 or 97, depending on his actual date of birth, and is reportedly buried in Blevins Cemetery at Blevins, Texas.

-1948 16 MAY- Mrs. L. J. (Lilly) “Courtney” Yarbrough, Jesse James AKA James Courtney’s daughter, writes to the Veteran’s Administration in Washington, D. C., telling them she wants the thirteen five-gallon cans of lard that her father’s third wife, (Ollie Nelson), took so she can make soap. According to the family story her father stored gold in those cans.

-1978 14 OCT – Unauthorized second exhumation of Jesse James reported grave headed by Milton Perry, the curator of the James Farm & Museum. The remains he retrieved were later encased in a Tupperware bowl and reburied in the grave.

-1979- Jesse James’ great-niece, Allen Palmer and Susan James Parmer’s granddaughter tells author Jack Loftin of Archer City, Texas that in her mother’s trunk are many letters, some of which prove that Jesse James wrote to Susan James, his sister, after his purported murder on April 3, 1882. The letters are dated and post marked Henrietta, Texas 1884.

-1991- A letter written by Allan Pinkerton to Samuel Hardwick, an attorney in Liberty, Missouri is found by Ted Yeatman in the Library of Congress proving the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s intention was to harm Frank and Jesse James’ family and their dwelling. Allan Pinkerton wrote, “Above everything destroy the house”… “burn the house down”.

-1995 15-17 JUL – Professor James E. Starrs of George Washington University exhumes the purported grave of Jesse James in Mt. Olivet Cemetery located in Kearney, Missouri for the purpose of using DNA testing to determine if the famous outlaw was really buried there.

DNA results on the fourteen or fifteen, (reports vary), retrieved from the Mt. Olivet site were expected by September 15, 1995.

-1995 15 SEP- Prof. James E. Starrs obtains a court order to exhume the original purported grave of Jesse James to retrieve a Tupperware bowl said to contain at least one of Jesse James’ teeth. He is quoted as saying “That tooth could tell the tale.”

-1995 19 JUL – Prof. James E. Starrs expresses disappointment that the tooth was not in the Tupperware bowl. However, Clay County Attorney Steven Caruso said teeth were indeed in the Tupperware bowl.

-1996 23 FEB – Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee. Prof. Starrs announces that he had “Jesse by science” – Jesse James was buried in the grave bearing his name in Kearney, Missouri just as history reports.

-1998 – This author pioneered the investigation and made the subsequent findings proving the 1995 exhumation and subsequent DNA results are tainted and proved absolutely nothing. The teeth and hair submitted to scientists are of unknown origin, and the questionable genealogical validly of the DNA references is highly questionable.

-2005 29 OCT – Retired FBI Analyst Gerald Richards determines that the face of the man in the reported death photo of Jesse James does not match the face of Jesse James in the most famous photo of him alive.

-2005 29 OCT – Katarina Babcock, a New Mexico Department of Public Safety firearms expert, proved on The Discovery Channel’s, Jesse James: Legend, Outlaw, Terrorist, October 29, 2005, that the bullet from either of the pistols Bob Ford claimed to have been the murder weapon would have left large exit wounds. She fired one shot each from a Smith & Wesson 44 and a Colt 45 into two ballistics spheres which simulate the human skull, skin and brain. As stated earlier Ford gave conflicting statements as to which gun was the actual murder weapon. He claimed he fired the fatal shot into the man he claimed was Jesse James from a distance of about six feet, with his arm outstretched cutting the distance the bullet traveled about four feet. The ballistics tests showed that either weapon fired from that distance would have left exit holes. Ms. Babcock’s findings show that something is amiss with the alleged death photos of Jesse James. According to her tests, the highly questioned corpse probably wouldn’t have had much a face left if shot in the back of the head at the close range Bob Ford testified to.

-2010 27 OCT – Dallas Hunt posts a photo of Jesse James AKA James Courtney on Greg Ellison’s Jesse James Photo Discussion Forum picturing him attending the 1921 Quantrill Reunion in Missouri.

-2010 14 NOV – Greg Ellison notifies this author via email that a photo of Jesse James AKA James Courtney pictured with Zerelda James Samuel, Frank James, and Annie Ralston is up for auction on eBay. This photo now belongs to this author and is referred to as the eBay photograph of the James Family.

-2011- Matt Hamlin told this author that Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney’s casket was removed from his grave before it was covered with dirt in 1943. He also said it was sent to another state for burial.

-2011 MAR – Stephen Caruso, Deputy Counselor of Clay County at the time of the 1995 exhumation of the purported grave of Jesse James, reveals that the 1995 DNA results are fraudulent.

-2011 APR – The eBay photo of the James family and the Quantrill Reunion photograph is featured in Wild West magazine. These photos may be viewed at:

– 2012 AUG – Michigander, Matt Hamlin, provided a true sample of Jesse W. James’ handwriting for comparison purposes to the handwriting of the man known as James L. Courtney in Texas…the two samples match. They may be viewed here:  Jesse James handwriting.

American Experience

Now here’s a nice comment from the blog of American Experience Production Assistant, Tory Starr:

“The new book The Smoking Gun, written by a woman claiming to be Jesse James’ great-granddaughter, claims that Robert Ford did not kill Jesse James. Supported with photographic proof, the book demonstrates how Jesse James pulled off one of the biggest bluffs in American history by faking his own murder in 1882, fleeing to Texas and dying there as James L. Courtney.”

Source: American Experience, 2011 Wild West Headlines

Who’s in Jesse James’ Grave?



 Trying to solve this Jesse James history mystery is reminiscent of playing Clue, the classic whodunit game where players search for clues to solve Mr. Boddy’s murder.  Bob Ford confessed to shooting Jesse James dead, but did he?  If not, who was it?  Was it Wood Hite or the hired hand Gibson? Was the body found in a grave or a well?  Did Ford even do the dirty deed? Did the murder really occur at 1318 Lafayette St. in St. Joseph, Missouri?  There are several suspects, bodies, dates, and locations to investigate.

History reports as definitive fact that Jesse James was shot dead by Bob Ford on April 3, 1882 and buried in Kearney, Missouri. But the fact is a well founded rumor began circulating the very day of the shooting claiming that Jesse James was still very much alive.  In fact, it is still circulating to this very day, and I believe it will continue to circulate until the truth of the matter is determined.

As stated earlier, most of us have heard that Bob Ford shot Jesse James dead, yet most are unaware that he also stood trial for shooting Wood Hite dead. Wood was Jesse James’ paternal first cousin, and rode with Quantrill’s Guerrillas during the Civil War.  After the war he is said to have ridden with Jesse James.  Wood was born in Logan County, Kentucky to George B. Hite and Nancy G. James, Jesse James’ paternal aunt.[1]

Wood Hite was reportedly murdered in a shootout with Dick Liddil over the distribution of the loot from one of their train robberies.  Bob Ford reportedly decided to intervene by firing a bullet into the back of Hite’s head.  Frank Triplett, author of The Life, Times and Treacherous Death of Jesse James, described Wood Hite as “a great admirer of himself, as well as of the opposite sex”.  

A special dispatch to the Kansas City Journal on April 6, 1882, the day “Jesse James” was buried, reported the following: “Coroner Richard Bohanon acting on a tip retrieved the body of Wood Hite from Bob Ford’s farm.” It is important for the reader to keep in mind that this information was reported in the newspaper on April 6, but the coroner got the tip on April 5, the night before “Jesse” was buried.

I find it more than just coincidence that the description of wounds on Wood Hite’s body are identical to the coroner’s description of the wounds on Jesse James’s reported body – both shot in the head, both had shattered skulls, and both had wounds over an eye.  However, there was one telling difference. The coroner described a slight wound on Wood’s right arm which was not described on Jesse’s right arm.  Mattie Collins, wife of Dick Liddil, said, “Dick shot three times [at Wood Hite].  One shot entered Hite’s brain, and another went through his right arm.”

As stated earlier the coroner noted a slight wound on “Wood Hite’s” right arm.  Yet he neglected to note a very revealing slight wound on the right arm of “Jesse James”.   Or did he purposely overlook it due to orders from one of the authorities involved in Jesse James’ death hoax?  There is no doubt that that there was a slight wound on “Jesse James” right arm because it is clearly visible in one of “his” reported death photos which may be viewed at:  To me, this wound tells the tale of who was passed off as Jesse James on April 3, 1882…Wood Hite.

The hired hand Gibson was employed by the Fords and reportedly disappeared about the same time Wood Hite did.  To the best of my knowledge there aren’t any known photos of Gibson dead or alive either.  No one knows for sure if he really “went the same way Hite did”, what his full name was, or anything else about him, except that he was reportedly never seen again the day after Wood Hite was shot dead.

Jesse James and Wood Hite, two cousins both reportedly shot dead by Bob Ford, both with identical wounds on their bodies, both of their bodies in the same town, and both of their bodies still unburied on April 5, 1882.  And what a “coincidence” that Wood’s body just happened to be found on April 5 — the night before “Jesse James” was reportedly buried! [2]  Pretty convenient timing to do some body switching before the funeral.  Was Wood Hite’s body displayed as being that of Jesse James’?  And then, in order for his family to take it back home to Kentucky for burial, was his body removed from the coffin, and replaced with the body of the hired hand Gibson and buried the next day as Jesse James?

Some may protest that Jesse James died just as history reports, but too much evidence has been found indicating that he did not for it to be simply denied out of pure  ignorance of the facts.

The facts of the matter are: Animal remains were found in the reported original grave of “Jesse James” located in the yard of the James family farm in Kearney, Missouri; in 1995 Professor James E. Starrs did find the reported skeletal remains of Jesse James were placed face down in the coffin before being placed in a new coffin and reinterred in Kearney, Missouri’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery in 1902.

It stands to reason that two bodies were needed to pull off Jesse James’ death hoax — one to pass off as Jesse James’ and the other to pass off as Wood Hite’s.  And there were indeed two bodies found within two days of each other — Jesse James’ on April 3, 1882 and Wood Hite’s on April 5, 1882.  From all indications Jesse James was not the man living as Thomas Howard at 1318 Lafayette Street in St. Joseph, Missouri who was shot dead by Bob Ford.  But I do believe Wood Hite was, and Gibson’s body was passed off as his body and ended up being buried as Jesse James’ body. 

As stated earlier a special dispatch from Richmond, Missouri to the Kansas City Journal reports that “Gibson”, a hired hand, “disappeared about the same time Hite was killed and is supposed by many to have gone the same way.”  The St. Joseph Herald reported on April 6, 1882: “A man by the name of Gibson has never been seen or heard from since the morning after Wood Hite’s murder.”

Why some adamantly deny that Jesse James faked his death in 1882 is beyond me.  The very individuals claiming this are well aware that he had tried it before, therefore it stands to reason that he would try it until he succeeded. The following excerpt details his first (?) attempt at faking his death:

“On November 2, 1879, “George Shepherd went to Galena, Kansas, a fledgling mining village on Short Creek three miles north of Shoal Creek, and according to the town newspaper, ‘the throng on the streets of Galena was thrown into the wildest excitement and confusion,’ as he started proclaiming to anyone who would listen that he’d just killed the notorious outlaw JESSE JAMES.

Shepherd’s tale was greeted with almost immediate doubt, and suspicion grew when a party of citizens from Galena went out to the scene of the skirmish on Sunday afternoon to look for JESSE JAMES’ body and came back shortly after dark “without any intelligence.” Lawmen from Joplin crossed the state line to aid in the investigation, and the next day, Monday, November 3, Marshal Liggett arrived from Kansas City to lead a fruitless search for the outlaws. As a bold headline in the Galena Miner playfully stated a week later, the question that faced an excited public was “Whether JESSE JAMES, the Robber Chief Lies Dead, or George Shepherd Lies Living.”  The general consensus around the Joplin-Galena area favored the latter conclusion. Jasper County Deputy Sheriff Payton, who’d gone to Short Creek on Sunday evening, told a Joplin Herald reporter the next day, “I saw Shepherd, and he said he was positive he had killed Jesse James, but for all that I do not believe he did.” [3]

*At the time of this writing, we had no photographs of Wood Hite* To the best of my knowledge there are no known historically accepted photographs of Wood Hite alive that have been published, but I believe the reported death photos of “Jesse James” are actually the death photos of Wood Hite.

According to published descriptions he and Jesse did not resemble each other with the exception that they both had blue eyes. (View the most famous photo of Jesse James alive: ) However, Wood Hite’s reported physical description does fit the description of the corpse passed off as Jesse James. The corpse found in the house at 1318 Lafayette Street, St. Joseph, Missouri, is described as being between 5’ 8” to 5’ 9″, blue eyes, dark hair, a full-face dark beard, and a slender build.

The historically accepted description of Jesse James does not fit his description from those who knew him best. His mother, older brother, aunt, and comrades described him as tall and well built with sandy-colored hair and blue eyes.[4] His mother, older brother, aunt, and comrades also later said that he did not die in 1882.  Jesse James dressed well and his most famous photograph  indicates that he had good posture with a proud bearing.

The historically accepted description of Wood Hite is as follows: Approximately 5’ 8” tall, stoop shouldered, dark hair, light blue eyes, untidy in his appearance and badly stained decayed teeth. [5]  The teeth Professor Starrs exhumed from the purported grave of Jesse James in 1995 were badly stained and decayed — as one can clearly see this finding exactly fits the description of Wood Hite’s teeth.  Dr. Mark Stoneking, one of the doctors who did the DNA testing on the reported teeth of Jesse James, wrote, “The teeth were corroded and heavily stained indicating that they belonged to a regular tobacco user.” [6]  Zee Mimms, Jesse James’ first cousin and reported wife, swore at the coroner’s inquest held shortly after Bob Ford claimed he shot Jesse dead, that her “husband didn’t smoke nor chew.”  Professor Starrs is quoted as saying “That tooth will tell the tale”, and I, for once, agree with him.  If Jesse James did not use tobacco his teeth could not have been corroded and stained from tobacco use, but Wood Hite obviously did use tobacco and his teeth reportedly were corroded and stained. Whether or not the hired hand Gibson used tobacco and had corroded and stained teeth is not known.

Nearly every news article in 1882 reporting Jesse James’ death also mentioned Wood Hite’s death – almost in the same breath. I at first believed there was only one body involved in Jesse James’ death hoax  — Wood Hite’s. My former belief was based on the striking similarities in the reported descriptions of wounds on the corpses claimed to be those of Jesse James’ and Wood Hite’s.  But, as stated earlier, I have come to believe that there were two bodies needed to pull of Jesse James’ death hoax – Wood Hite’s and the hired hand Gibson’s.  This switching bodies ruse could have easily been accomplished with individuals like Governor Crittenden and Sheriff Timberlake involved in Jesse James’ reported death.  And despite all the media attention Wood Hite’s murder received in 1882, the location of his grave is still not known, and  the same applies to Gibson.

Some claim that the following dispatch proves that Wood Hite was buried in Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, due to the following dispatch, which, in my opinion, is written tongue in cheek, and offers no definitive proof of where Wood Hite is actually buried:

 “A Disappointed Constable from the St. Louis Post – Dispatch Mr. John G. Morris, constable  of Richmond, Mo., recently took a header into the seething cauldron of enterprise and  industry which Gov. Crittenden had caused to boil and bubble in Western Missouri, and  which he returned to the surface he was accompanied by the mortal remains of Mr. Hite, one  of the train robbing gang. He dispatched the following to his excellency in the following  words and letters to wit:

‘I have the body of Wood Hite and am ready with evidence for identification. What shall I do  with it? I claim the reward.’

Mr. Hite’s body has been moldering in the grave and his soul has been a-marching for some  time past, and hence the exploit of digging him up was not as desperate as many would  believe. Gov. Crittenden shed tears of joy upon hearing of Mr. Morris’ find. But the practical  mind of the executive addressed itself at once to the situation and evolved this remarkable  telegram from its interior:

‘On account of the weather, rebury it. No reward offered for his dead body.’ — T. T.              Crittenden.

If anything was needed to show the tenderly care and engrossing motherly affection of the  governor for his good people of Missouri, this message would take the cracker. He does  not want the pure air of the state tainted with a gamey train robber, and while he is evidently  saddened at the disappointment which he must inflict upon John C. Morris, constable, he  does all he can to lighten his burden and to release him from his unhygienic watch and ward.  Mr. Morris has drawn a blank in the lottery of assignation. He has covered the wrong “stiff,”  as it were, and the governor has dealt a split on him. In the mean time if the bones of the dead  bandits are to be scratched up throughout Western Missouri, the coming legislature might  very appropriately amend the arms of the state by substituting a couple of mangy hyenas for  the two rollicking bears which now gambol over the great seal.” [7]

Another thing that smacks of a cover up is the fact that Gov. Crittenden would have notified the Hite family, if there was nothing to hide, so they could make funeral arrangements for Wood Hite’s body.  His father was still alive in Kentucky.  The governor was heavily involved in the reported death of Jesse James, and many also believe that he was involved in the 1882 conspiracy to allow Jesse James to officially kill himself in name only. Great pains seem to have been taken in the above message to make it appear that Wood Hite was not buried until after “Jesse James” was.

Some reports in 1882 claim that Wood Hite’s body was buried under a lot of rocks and dirt, yet   other reports of that time claim his body was found clearly visible in a well:

“Vic Jacobs, the man who purchased the farm where Hite was allegedly murdered, said “The farm was rented by Martha Ford Bolton, the widowed sister of Bob, Charley, and Cap Ford.

The farm of J. T. Ford, father of Martha Bolton and the Ford brothers was about a quarter of a mile southeast of Martha’s place.

Mr. Jacobs said he knew where the well is that Wood Hite was thrown in after being murdered. The house was a two-room log cabin with a furnished upstairs. The well, which is now capped, set right at the back doorstep of the house on the east.

Jacobs went on to say that at the time Hite was killed, Miller Brown’s father was the sheriff of Ray County.  Miller Brown’s father took his teenage son out to the well they found Wood Hite in. There was a large crowd for that time. Wood Hite was lying on his head and shoulders, and his feet were sticking up.” [8]

 Again, there are many indications that Robert Woodson “Wood Hite” was killed and passed off as Jesse Woodson James, but he may not be buried in the grave in Mt. Olivet Cemetery bearing Jesse James’ name as I at first believed. His family may have buried him in Kentucky, and the hired man Gibson may very well be the yet unidentified man who really lies in the grave bearing Jesse’s name.

The following article details Wood Hite’s murder and also describes the wounds on his body, which, as stated earlier, exactly match those on the purported body of Jesse James:

Wood Hite’s Corpse

Special Dispatch to the Kansas City Journal.

Richmond, Mo., April 6. — Yesterday

evening Coroner Richard Bohanon, acting on information obtained from a son of Mr. Jacobs, who lives on Dr. Morby’s farm, just east of  town, went out to the old Harbison farm, occupied by the Ford boys, and in a pasture east of the house


about three feet under the ground, covered with brush; then about two wagon loads of rock, then a lot of dirt.  It was wrapped in an old blanket, and had no clothes on it but a shirt and pair if drawers or overalls.

A slight wound was found on the right arm  and a bullet wound  on the right side of the forehead just above the eye. Beside this the left side of


as if by a blow from a rod of iron. The Jacobs boy got his information from a son of Mrs. Bolton, a sister of the Ford boys, who have been keeping house for them.  The evidence of Mrs. Bolton and her two little boys was taken yesterday evening.

Mrs. Bolton testified that the killing occurred about the first of last December, that Hite, who was only known to her as Robert Grimes, came there and had been there for two weeks when the tragedy occurred; that


occurred at breakfast time in the morning, Dick Liddil having arrived at the house between midnight and daylight that morning, and had slept in a separate room from the one occupied by Hite and the boys.  She said that she had prepared breakfast for the family, and that they had all eaten and gone out, including a hired man named Gibson, and later she had prepared breakfast for Hite and Liddil, and called them. Liddil dressed himself and came into the room prepared for breakfast; Hite came dressed, but desired to wash his face.  He approached Liddil and offered to shake hands with him, but Liddil declined.


in one corner of the room. She said her back was turned and she does not know who shot Hite, but knows that nine shots were fired, one of which took effect in Liddil’s leg, one in Hite’s head, and the others in the ceiling and walls of the room.  When Hite fell the witness ran to him and raised his head, but turned sick and had to leave the room.


was taken to an upper room and kept until night, when it was buried as described by the Ford boys.

The body was placed in a coffin, brought to Richmond and placed in the circuit court room, where it remains, the inquest having been adjourned to get  further testimony. The inquest will be finished to-morrow and the body buried.

The man Gibson, referred to as a work hand, disappeared about the same time that Hite  was killed, and is said by many supposed to have gone the same way. A thorough investigation will be  made.”

As stated earlier, many sources report that Wood Hite was murdered in December of 1881, with dates ranging from the first through the fifth, but other sources from 1882 claim that he was still alive in March of 1882.  This March 1882 date makes my theory very plausible that either Hite, the hired hand Gibson, or both of them at various times, were passed off as Jesse James:

  • On April 5, 1882 The New York Times reported: “In March, 1882, Liddil left Jesse and returned to Martha Bolton’s house in Ray County. Martha was Bob and Charlie Ford’s sister, and a niece of William Ford. Another member of Jesse’s gang was also there — Robert Woodson “Wood” Hite, Jesse’s paternal first cousin;”
  • The April 6, 1882 issue of The Omaha Bee reports the following: “The remains of Wood Hite, one of the James gang, killed in a quarrel at the house of a sister of the Ford boys, the slayers of Jesse James, was found on their farm, where they were buried last evening…;” and
  • Author Marley Brant wrote that Wood Hite was still alive in March of 1882: “In March of 1882 Liddil left Jesse and returned to Missouri, where he stayed at the Ray County farmhouse of Martha Bolton, a widow who was the sister of Charlie and Bob Ford. Wood Hite, the James’ brothers’ cousin, was also there.” (Brant, Marley, Outlaws, The Illustrated History Of the James –Younger Gang, Elliott & Clark Publishing, 1997.)

History reports that Jesse James was using the alias of Thomas Howard when Bob Ford shot him down. But a Winchester rifle Model 1873 retrieved from the house at 1318 Lafayette St., St. Joseph, Missouri on the very day Jesse James was reportedly shot, indicates that instead of Jesse James using the alias of Thomas Howard it was probably Wood Hite.  The rifle had the initials “W.H.” and “T.H.” etched in the metal. [9]  It stands to reason that these initials probably stood for Wood Hite and Thomas Howard. And if Wood Hite was using the alias of Thomas Howard, he was the man Bob Ford shot dead and passed off as Jesse James and he was also Zee Mimms’ husband, and perhaps the father of her children.  But this doesn’t necessarily mean his body was buried in the grave bearing Jesse James’ name.

As far back as 1882 there have been reports that Jesse James was living in Texas at the time of his reported death.  After his reported death on April 3, 1882 a reporter for the Journal interviewed Mr. Mimms,  brother of Zee Mimms and Jesse James’ first cousin, and he wrote: “The subject of Jesse’s reputed rancho in Texas was mentioned and Mr. Mimms only smiled at the idea, and said nothing of the kind had been in existence.” [10]

According to my family story Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney did in fact have a “rancho” in Texas, Buttermilk, Texas to be exact.  Buttermilk was later renamed Blevins, and from all indications Jesse James made it his home in 1871, and died there on April 14, 1943.  He is buried in Blevins Cemetery as James L. Courtney.


[1] Source Citation: Year: 1860; Census Place: Adairsville, Logan, Kentucky; Roll: M653_383; Page: 0; Image: 301.

[2] Good Bye Jesse James, A reprinting of six of the best news stories concerning the career and death of Jesse James, first printed in the Kansas City Daily Journal, 1882.

[3] Wild West magazine, June 2005 “Western Lore”, pages 64&65, George Shepherd ‘killed’ JESSE JAMES…at least that’s what the ex-bushwhacker and ‘gang member’ claimed. By Larry Wood.

[4] Dr. Stoneking,  The Penn Stater magazine.

[5] The University of Texas at Austin, The Life And Trial Of Frank James Eighth Day’s Trial, Tarleton Law Library:; and Encyclopedia of Western Lawmen and Outlaws by Jay Robert Nash, Sept, 1994.

[6] Jesse James AKA James L. Courtney was tall with sandy-colored hair and had blue eyes.

[7] Good Bye Jesse James, A reprinting of six of the best news stories concerning the career and death of Jesse James, first printed in the Kansas City Daily Journal, 1882.

[8] The Daily News, Richmond, Missouri.

[9] Ross, James R., I, Jesse James, Dragon Publishing Corp., 1988.

[10] Good Bye, Jesse James, Copyright 1967 The Jesse James Bank Museum, Liberty, Missouri.