m. 28 Dec 1841
Facts and Events
Caddo County, Oklahoma, 1910 census:
All the following is taken from a series of articles in The Kansas City Times of 19 Feb 1915 which obviously had been prepared in advance of his death and which ran the same day as his obituary.
HOW HE BECAME A BANDIT.
Frank James and his mother, too, always did say he was driven to be an outlaw. It is certain that both Frank and Jesse James, his brother, were driven to join the Quantrell guerrillas, who raided Lawrence, Kas., and which was the most terrible band of shooting and killing rough riders that ever existed anywhere.
The mother of Frank James told the writer of this, not long before she died, the story of how her two boys were persecuted and hounded by Federal soldiers and sympathizers until, in fear for their lives, they had to run away from home. This part of Missouri was then "The Red Border." There were bands of Federal soldiers riding this way and that, harrying sympathizers with the Southern cause, shooting and hanging all who took part in aiding the soldiers of the Confederacy. Aiding them were the "Home Guards," composed of Federal sympathizers who had not gone to war.
The James farm was in Clay County, a few miles east of Kearney, and a few miles west of Excelsior Springs. The elder James was a preacher who moved with his wife and boys from Kentucky and settled there. He died and his widow married Doctor Samuels.
Samuels and his wife and the two James boys were intense in their sympathy for the Southern cause, and this was well known in the community, where there were many Unionists. One day a company of Federals went to the Samuels farm and hanged Doctor Samuels until he was nearly dead and prodded the two James boys, Frank and Jesse, with bayonets until blood soaked their clothing. Later those outrages were repeated, and, driven to desperation, Frank went from home.
At that time Quantrell, the raider, was camped near Independence, and Frank went to him, and was welcomed. A few months later Jesse joined the band too.
They became the two most daring raiders of the band. Their hearts were filled with hate of the Northern cause and its soldiers and friends, and they slew and reeked in blood. They lived only to kill and to avenge. They learned how to ride a horse at full speed, the bridle in their teeth, a revolver in each hand, which was the way of the guerrillas. They learned to shoot from the back of a galloping horse and never miss the mark. Their lives were spent in the brush, hiding, or riding on long raids at night to be early in the morning at the massacre of some band of Federals. They hunted and were hunted. They knew no fear. They had great adventures and narrow escapes. They did daring things. They laughed at death and rode into the very face of it, screaming the Quantrell yell, which froze the blood of those that heard it.
The story of their adventures in this wild time has never been written, nor never will.
It is known that Frank James was in the Lawrence raid and that there he was ferocious and merciless as a mad wolf. He was in the Centralia massacre, too. He was in a thousand mad raids in which quarter was not given and was never accepted.
Frank James was with Quantrell when he [Quantrill, that is] died in Kentucky.
Then came the surrender of Lee and peace. Frank and Jesse James returned to their home in Missouri. They always contended that they were driven by persecution into the career of outlawry that made them notorious as no other bandits have ever been. But others of the Quantrell band who returned had no such trouble in settling down.
More than likely it is nearer the truth to say that after their years of exciting adventure as rough riders, accustomed to know no law but that of the pistol, used to take by force whatever they needed, in love with the wild, roving life, they found existence on a farm too tame and monotonous.
They needed money. They robbed a bank in Liberty, got $70,000 and escaped with it. That outlawed them. Thereafter there was no rest for them. When that money was gone they robbed and got more. They were ingenious as they were unafraid. They invented the daylight bank robbery, the riding into town at midday, revolvers cracking, the old rebel screech of guerrilla days rending the air, the halt at the bank door, one man to hold the horses, two or three to stand in front and shoot at every head that showed, two to go in the bank and scoop the treasure into sacks. And then the mad ride out and away.
They invented the train robbery. A silent, lonely spot at night, a red lantern waving across the track, the train slowly grinding to full stop, then the wild, demoniacal screaming of masked men in the darkness, and the fusillade of revolver shots while one man guards the engineer and two overawe the express messenger, rob his safe and away again, to melt into the blackness of the night.
Their training in night riding and night hiding, in sleeping anywhere, in knowing how to make cover through a whole day for men and horses in a patch of hazel brush, learned in the guerrilla days, made escape easy for them.
For seventeen years they rode and robbed, and sometimes killed. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars their loot amounted to no one will ever know.
WHEN FRANK JAMES GAVE UP.
The James boys robbed from the Mississippi to the Rio Grande, and no one could catch them.
But in the late seventies the lines were tightening about them all the time. The country was filling up. It became more difficult to escape, to hide. Big rewards offered by states and corporations bred treachery in their camps.
It was this that brought the death of Jesse James , shot down from behind by the Ford boys, in his own home in St. Joseph, in sight of his wife and two children, for a reward of $50,000 offered by the state of Missouri. So many robberies within the state by a band of her own, had made Missouri infamous. It injured business. Travelers were afraid to pass this way. Hence the big reward; the treachery, the death of Jesse James.
Frank James told the writer of this that long before the death of his brother, Jesse, he, Frank, had given up out-lawry, foreseeing the end that was sure to be, and that then he was living peacefully in a Southern state, with his wife and family, under an assumed name.
Frank denied that he was at the robbery of the train at Winston, Mo., one night in July, 1879, when the conductor, William Westfall, and John McMillen were killed by the bandits.
But Frank was under suspicion of having been there and a grand jury had named him in an indictment for the murder. He was a fugitive from justice.
The system of train robbery invented by him was yet being practiced and for each one Frank was blamed. He decided to surrender and take his chances.
T. T. Crittenden was governor of Missouri. October 6, 1882, Frank James, accompanied by a few faithful friends, went to the office of the governor in Jefferson City. What occurred is described as follows in Leonard’s History of Missouri:
Maj. John N. Edwards advanced to the governor, shook hands with him and in an easy, matter-of –fact way introduced "My friend, Mr. Frank James." They took one another by the hand, the chief magistrate and the brigand, and then the unlooked-for visitor unbuttoned his coat and, unbuckling his belt, handed it, with the pistol in it, to the governor as a token of surrender and delivery.
"Governor Crittenden," he said, as he proffered the butt of the revolver -- a .44 caliber Remington -- which had been presented, muzzle foremost, on many a critical occasion, and made to do its part in many a fierce combat, "I want to hand over to you that which no man living, except myself, has ever been permitted to touch since 1861, and to say that I am your prisoner. I have taken all the cartridges out of the weapon and you can handle it with safety."
Governor Crittenden took the revolver by its butt and, turning to the company in the room, who had not understood what was going on, said: "Gentlemen, this is Frank James, and I take pleasure in introducing him to you."
There was a look of surprise at the announcement, and then the party came forward and, one by one, shook hands with the outlaw.
"I came to Missouri last week," he said, addressing the party. "I have come in the hope that you, gentlemen, will let me prove that I am not nearly so bad a man as I have been represented. I have come back to Missouri to try and regain a home and standing among her people. I have been outside her laws for twenty-one years. I have been hunted like a wild animal from one state to another. I have known no home. I have slept in all sorts of places; here today, there tomorrow. I have been charged with nearly every crime committed either in Missouri or her neighboring states. I have been taught to suspect my dearest and nearest friend of treachery, and where’s the end to be?
"I am tired of this life of night riding and day hiding; of constant listening for footfalls, cracking twigs, rustling leaves and creaking doors; tired of the saddle, the revolver and the cartridge belt. The one desire of my life is to regain the citizenship which I lost in the dark days, when, in Western Missouri, every man’s hand was against his neighbor, and to prove that I am not unworthy of it by submitting to the most rigid tests that the law may require."
Frank was taken to Independence, lodged in jail and in due time tried for the murder of Westfall, the train conductor, in the court in Gallatin, Mo., and acquitted.
It was a famous trial. John F. Philips, afterward United States judge, now a practicing lawyer in this city, defended James. William Wallace, now a lawyer in this city and widely known as prohibition candidate for governor in several elections, prosecuted James.
"LIVING IT DOWN"
After his acquittal Frank James went to St. Louis to live and for several years was doorkeeper of the Standard Theater there. He was acting in that capacity some ten years ago, when the writer of this, accompanied by a publisher of books, went to see him to try and induce him to agree to the publication of a book about his life and adventures.
"I promised the governor of Missouri when I surrendered that I would never write a book about myself or permit it to be done if I could prevent it. I am going to keep that promise," said Frank.
The publisher tried to get his consent, offered to pay him an enormous sum in cash outright, but Frank said:
"Gentlemen, if you should give me a million dollars in gold, I would not do it. I have got a lot to live down, and I can’t help do that by writing books about myself." And that was the end of it.
Frank James never wrote a word of his adventures and would not be interviewed about them.
He was living in rather poor circumstances at the time the publisher made that offer to him, and $10,000 would have been a fortune to him, but it did not even tempt him to break his promise.
He did add to his income by acting as starter at horse races in county fairs in many places in the Southwest, and for a brief period he appeared with Cole Younger in a tent show, but he gave that up when he found that he was expected to pose as an actor in a border drama.
After the death of his mother, Mrs. Samuel, a few years ago, Frank James inherited the farm near Kearney, and he went there to live quietly.
He was a quiet, unassuming man, of irreproachable habits and character in his later years. He was devoted to his family, never drank, talked little, and kept in the background. There was much that was pathetic and impelling of sympathy in him as he went quietly about his way, with one deep aim always uppermost -- the yearning, as he expressed it to the governor when he surrendered, "to regain the citizenship which I lost in the dark days, to prove that I am not unworthy of it."
Surely he did prove that, and no matter what he may have been and what he may have done in what he called the "dark days," no one will deny him the honor that is due him for his striving to make amends.