Jesse James Research

The Jesse James Birthplace Museum houses two small research libraries, and both are open to the public by appointment only.

Call 816-736-8500

Harold Dellinger Memorial Library

Quick Facts

  • December 28, 1841

    Robert James and Zerelda Cole marry

  • January 10, 1843

    Frank James born at Thomason farm

  • July 19, 1845

    Robert R. James born, dies a month later

  • October 1845

    Robert James purchases farm

  • September 5, 1847

    Jesse Woodson James born

  • November 25, 1849

    Susan Lavenia James born

  • August 18, 1850

    Reverend Robert James dies in California

  • September 30, 1852

    Zerelda marries second husband Benjamin Simms

  • September 25, 1855

    Zerelda marries third husband Dr. Reuben Samuel

  • December 26, 1858

    Sarah (Sallie) Louisa Samuel born

  • May 4, 1861

    Frank joins the Confederate army

  • December 25, 1861

    John Thomas Samuel born

  • April 1862

    Frank swears loyalty to the Union and posts $1000 bond

  • Fall 1862

    Frank joins Quantrill’s guerrillas

  • May 1863

    Federal militia hangs Dr. Samuel, beats Jesse, manhandles Zerelda

  • August 21, 1863

    Raid on Lawrence, Kansas

  • October 18, 1863

    Fannie Quantrill Samuel born

  • Spring 1864

    Jesse joins the guerrillas

  • August 1864

    Jesse wounded

  • September 27, 1864

    Centralia massacre

  • January 29, 1865

    James-Samuel family exiled to Nebraska

  • May 15, 1865

    Jesse shot in chest by soldier with the Third Wisconsin Cavalry

  • May 21, 1865

    Jesse surrenders near Lexington, Missouri

  • July 26, 1865

    Frank surrenders at Samuel’s Depot, Kentucky

  • February 13, 1866

    Clay County Savings Association robbery

  • July 26, 1866

    Archie Payton Samuel born

  • June 1867

    Jesse seeks treatment for chest wound from Dr. Paul Eve in Nashville, Tennessee

  • 1868

    Frank and Jesse travel to California

  • April 24, 1874

    Jesse marries first-cousin Zerelda (Zee) Amanda Mimms at her sister’s home in Kearney

  • June 1874

    Frank elopes with Anna Ralston of Independence, Missouri

  • January 26, 1875

    Pinkerton detectives raid James farm; eight-year old Archie dies, Zerelda permanently maimed

  • August 31, 1875

    Jesse Edwards James born

  • 1878

    Twins Gould and Montgomery die shortly after birth

  • February 6, 1878

    Robert “Bob” Franklin James born

  • June 17, 1879

    Mary Susan James born

  • April 3, 1882

    Bob Ford assassinates Jesse at house in St. Joseph, Missouri

  • April 6, 1882

    Jesse’s funeral and burial

  • October 5, 1882

    Frank surrenders to Missouri Governor Thomas Crittenden

  • August 1883

    Frank’s trial and subsequent acquittal for the Winston train robbery begins in Gallatin, Missouri

  • April 1884

    Frank’s trial and acquittal for robbery and murder of Federal paymaster at Muscle Shoals, Alabama held Huntsville, Alabama

  • 1885

    Frank sells shoes in Nevada, Missouri

  • 1888-1892

    Frank works for Mittenthal Clothing Company in Dallas, Texas

  • March 3, 1889

    Susan James Parmer dies in Texas

  • 1892-1894

    Frank tends horses for Shep Williams in Texas, Louisiana, and New Jersey

  • 1894-1901

    Frank works as doorman at burlesque house in St. Louis

  • November 13, 1900

    Zee James dies in Kansas City

  • June 29, 1902

    Jesse’s body moved from farm to Mt. Olivet cemetery

  • 1901-1905

    Frank performs in plays The Fatal Scar and Across the Desert

  • 1903

    Frank and Cole Younger travel with the James-Younger Wild West Show

  • March 1, 1908

    Dr. Reuben Samuel dies

  • 1908-1911

    Frank and Annie living in Fletcher, Oklahoma

  • February 10, 1911

    Zerelda James Samuel dies

  • 1911-1915

    Frank and Annie move to the farm

  • February 18, 1915

    Frank James dies

  • September 15, 1915

    Sallie Samuel Nicholson dies

  • May 30, 1922

    Fannie Quantrill Samuel dies

  • March 15, 1932

    John T. Samuel dies

  • October 11, 1935

    Mary James Barr dies

  • June 1944

    House is modernized with electricity

  • July 6, 1944

    Anna Ralston James dies

  • March 26, 1951

    Jesse Edwards James dies

  • November 18, 1959

    Robert Franklin James dies

  • March 1978

    Clay County purchases James farm from Jesse’s grandsons

  • October 14, 1978

    Jesse’s original burial site excavated

  • 1980

    1822 cabin restored

  • 1984

    1893 Eastlake Cottage addition restored

  • 1994

    New roof, logs and clapboard siding added to 1822 cabin

  • July 17-19, 1995

    Jesse James exhumation

  • October 28, 1995

    Jesse James funeral and reburial in Mt. Olivet cemetery

  • Spring 2004

    1822 cabin bedroom restored


Gather as much information as you can about your ancestors, and then take a look at the James family tree below to search for your ancestors. Are you really related to Jesse James??

Paternal Great-Grandparents[i]

            William James (1754-1805)

believed born in Pembrokeshire, Wales (Please see note.)

settled near Lickinghole Creek, Goochland County, Virginia

married Mary Hines, July 15, 1774



Nancy Ann


William, Jr.




Paternal Grandparents[ii]

            John James (1775-1827)

born in Goochland County, Virginia

settled along Big Whippoorwill Creek, Logan County, Kentucky in 1811

Baptist preacher and farmer[iii]

married Mary “Polly” Poor, March 26, 1807




John R.


Robert Sallee

Nancy Gardner

Thomas Martin

Drury Woodson

Mary Elizabeth

Maternal Great-Great-Grandparents

            Richard Cole, Sr. (1729-1814)[iv]

born in Pennsylvania

settled near Midway, Woodford County, Kentucky

American Revolutionary War Veteran[v]

farmer and owner of Cole’s Bad Inn[vi]

married Ann Hubbard in 1762; Emsey Margaret James in 1795



Richard, Jr.






Alsey Alice[vii]



Maternal Great-Grandparents

            Richard Cole, Jr. (1763-1839)[viii]

born in Culpepper County, Virginia[ix]

farmer and owner of Black Horse Tavern

Woodford County constable

married Sally Yates


William Yates

Mary “Polly”






Maternal Grandparents

            James Cole (1804-1827)[x]

married Sallie Lindsay 1822


Zerelda Elizabeth

Jesse Richard



            Robert Salle James (1818-1850)

born Logan County, Kentucky July 17, 1818

Baptist minister

graduate Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky

married Zerelda Elizabeth Cole December 28, 1841

died August 1850

            Zerelda Elizabeth Cole[xi]

born Woodford County, Kentucky January 29, 1825

died February 10, 1911


Alexander Franklin


Jesse Woodson

Susan Lavenia

[i] Phillip W. Steele, Jesse and Frank James: The Family History (Gretna: Pelican Publishing, 2003), 23-24.  Please note Steele does not cite primary sources, therefore William James’ place of birth is unclear.  The commonality of the name William James, does not allow for a clear line to Frank and Jesse.  A search of James Family pedigrees traced to Frank and Jesse lists three different Williams, each having a son named John.  Birth dates and places for those “Williams” include (1) William James born in Wales 1638, (2) William James born in Wales 1692, and (3) William James born in Gloucestershire, England 1754.  Steele’s section on the Tennessee branch of the James family, page 89-90, suggests the William James born in 1692 is the plausible James lineage.  Goochland County, Virginia tax records list William James for the years 1789 and 1802; however he does not appear on 1790 census records, but this census is incomplete.  A search of American Revolutionary soldiers reveals William James as a very common name among soldiers from Virginia and Pennsylvania.

[ii]Steele, 24, 27-29.

[iii] W. Terry Martin, “Rev. Robert Salle James or Baptists, Books, and Bandits,” James Farm Journal, v8, no. 3: 3.

[iv] Steele, 39-40.

[v] Cole served as a private and is buried in the Cole Family Cemetery in Versailles, Kentucky. National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca. 1775-2006.

[vi] The Last Will of Richard Cole, Sr. Woodford Will Book D, page 275. Although the will does not state Cole’s occupation, it does reveal his financial worth and estate distribution.

[vii] Alice Cole married Anthony Lindsay in 1788.  Their daughter Sallie Lindsay married James Cole in 1822.

[viii] Steele, 41.

[ix] Heritage Consulting. The Millennium File. Salt Lake City, Utah.

[x] Steele, 41-42.

[xi] Steele, 42.

[xii] Family Bible records birth, death, and marriage dates for the James and Samuel families. Permanent Collection, James Farm and Museum, Kearney, Missouri.

Jesse James Impostors

Jesse James Impostors

After Jesse’s death there were at least 26 men who claimed to be Jesse James.  The most well known of these impostors was J. Frank Dalton who claimed to be 103 years old when he died in 1951.  In the 1930’s J. Frank Dalton claimed to be the last of Quantrill’s guerrillas and that he had known Frank and Jesse.  He even claimed to be a pallbearer at Jesse’s funeral.

In the 1940’s Rudy Turilli of Meramec Caverns in Missouri promoted J. Frank Dalton as Jesse James.  According to Dalton’s story a man by the name of Charles Bigelow was killed in his place so that he could lead a normal life.  After leaving his old life behind, he claimed he attended law school and medical school and was a flying ace in World War I as well. 

In 1970 Rudy Turilli offered $10,000 to anyone that could prove J. Frank Dalton wasn’t Jesse James.  Jesse’s daughter-in-law, Stella James, took him up on the offer and won the case.

At the time of Jesse’s death, his body was viewed by thousands of people, enemies and law officials as well as friends.  Not one person voiced a doubt that the deceased was Jesse James. 

Granbury, Texas, exhumed a body, believed by folks in Granbury, Texas, to be that of Jesse James, however, the wrong body was exhumed and nothing further has been done.

Betty Duke of Texas writes a book about her great-grandfather, James Courtney who she believed to be Jesse James.

In the spring of 2003, another Jesse James claimant in Kansas appears.  A Jesse James Museum opens.  In May of 2003 Jeremiah James was exhumed, believed to be Jesse James.  After DNA tests proved him not to be Jesse the museum in Wichita closes immediately.

Dating Your Old Photos


Researching the James family is very interesting, even more so if you think you have a photo of Jesse and Frank James or one of the James family members. The Jesse James Birthplace gets this question on a weekly basis along with copies of the photos visitors are trying to identify.

Here are several suggestions regarding researching your photo.

  1. Try and date your photo by three different methods
    1. Hairstyles
    2. Clothing
    3. Type of photographic paper the picture is printed on
  2. Does your photo have a frame that can be dated?
  3. Do you live near an art museum? If so, contact the curator and they can assist you with dating your photo.
  4. Is there some type of identifying mark in or on the photo, such as a street sign or the photographer’s name? If so you can possibly research where and when the photo was taken.
  5. Provenance of your photo is going to be of the utmost importance.

Then think logically. We know Jesse was born in Clay County, Missouri, on September 5, 1847, and Frank in 1843. Look at the subjects in your photo. How old do they look to be? Do the dates jive? An excellent book to assist you with your research is Dressed for the Photographer by Joan Severa. This book can help you date photos from the 1840s-1900.

For example, a photo was recently posted by a visitor to this facebook page as being James family members. It was easily determined that the subjects in the photo were not James family members. We determined this based on who the visitor thinks the subjects were in the photo by their birth and death dates, looked at the clothing styles and quickly figured out it was not James family members.

For instance, a subject in a photo was born in 1863 and looks to be about 10 years old in the photo, however, the clothing styles are early 1890s. So the subject should be early 30s and not a young girl. It didn’t jive.

Another example, a subject in the photo was born in 1849. The clothing style is definitely 1890s; however, we know this family member passed away in 1889 so we know it is not a family member. This happens many times with photos that are thought to be Jesse James. When you look closely at the photo you can see that the clothing or an identifying mark in the photo is clearly after Jesse’s death in 1882.

Please research your photos closely before paying for something you THINK might be Jesse James. Jesse James was a wanted man. Why would a wanted man have his picture taken? Frank on the other hand, lived to be an old man and greeted guests at the James family farm and often had his photo taken. The same holds true for Zerelda, Frank and Jesse’s mother, as she gave tours at the farm after Jesse’s death. Many visitors posed with her in the yard of the farm.

Preserving Family Documents

Even professional conservators with comfortable budgets find it challenging to preserve some historic documents. But taking a few simple and inexpensive precautions will go a long way toward saving your family’s important papers for the enjoyment of future generations.

  1. Store documents at room temperature or slightly below. Humidity between 45 and 55 percent is best. Store documents away from extreme heat and dampness, such as in basements, attics and against outside walls. If the temperature and humidity feels good to you, it’s probably good enough for your documents.
  2. Avoid displaying important documents for long periods of time in fluorescent light or in direct sunlight. Ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn in people also encourage the physical breakdown of paper and ink. Fluorescent light produces a bluer light than incandescent bulbs, and the blue end of the visible light spectrum is more damaging to documents. The best solution is to store important documents in the dark.
  3. Avoid folding and unfolding important documents. Folding weakens paper fibers. Ideally, large documents should be stored flat in acid free containers. Use care when unfolding or unrolling documents to avoid breaking or tearing them.
  4. Newspapers are inherently unstable because they contain unpurified wood pulp that causes discoloration and eventual disintegration. If newspapers or clippings are more important for the information they contain than as artifacts, photocopy them. The photocopies will outlive the newsprint. In any case, store newspaper separately from other less acidic documents.
  5. Do not use paper clips, staples, or rubber bands on important documents. Do not glue, tape or laminate them. Metal fasteners can rust. Rubber bands lose their elasticity and adhere to paper. Both glue and tape hasten paper deterioration. Glue is also a favored meal for various kinds of insects. Lamination may or may not be harmful to documents, but is almost always irreversible.