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:

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=4467782

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

http://forums.delphiforums.com/Zeke1/messages?msg=926.13

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:

http://forums.delphiforums.com/Zeke1/messages?msg=926.26 http://forums.delphiforums.com/Zeke1/messages?msg=926.24

More information about the Brosley, Cass Co., MO robberies – courtesy of Daniel Duke. National Republican article: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86053573/1873-12-12/ed-1/seq-1/;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): http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87052128/1873-12-12/ed-1/seq-2/;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.