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From: "John O'Brien" <>
Subject: Mrs. Zerelda MIMMS JAMES d. 13 November 1900 - Kansas City, MO
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2005 21:59:58 -0600


"The Kansas City Journal" (Missouri) Wednesday, November 14, 1900

MRS. JAMES DEAD

Widow of the Famous Outlaw Passes Away

After an illness extending over eleven months, during most of the time
of great severity, Mrs. Zerelda JAMES, widow of Jesse JAMES, died
at her home, 3402 Tracy avenue, shortly after 5 o'clock yesterday
morning. About a year ago Mrs. JAMES suffered from pneumonia and
she was not entirely recovered from this before she was taken with grip.
Complications arose and the long illness resulted. The end was not
unexpected, as she had been gradually sinking for several days, and
physicians gave no hope of her recovery. At her bedside were her son,
Jesse, and daughter, Mary, besides several old friends of the family.
Mrs. JAMES was 55 years old.

Funeral services will be held at the home this afternoon at 2:30 o'clock,
and the body will be placed in a receiving vault in Elmwood cemetery.
Later it will be taken to Kearney, in Clay county, Mo., for burial beside
the grave of Jesse JAMES.

The pallbearers will be E. F. SWINNEY, R. L. YEAGER, Frank P.
WALSH, F. C. FARR, L. S. BANKS, and T. T. CRITTENDEN, Jr.

The life of Mrs. Zerelda JAMES was closely interwoven with the wild
border struggle in Missouri and Eastern Kansas, and in her earlier
womanhood, she was intimately associated with many of the leading
characters in that drama of war. Indeed hers was a romantic
maidenhood, yet in her later life, she tried to put back the memory of
that time and in her declining days, there was always a hesitancy in
speaking of the past or to discuss her husband's exploits. She was
thoroughly domestic and never left her home unless it was absolutely
necessary, and she devoted herself solely to the care and education
of her children. Her solicitude for the welfare of her son, Jesse,
dominated her household and she was never at ease unless he was
with her. She lived in the constant fear that young Jesse would fall
into evil associations.

BORN IN KENTUCKY.

Before her marriage, Mrs. JAMES was Zerelda MIMMS. She was born
in Kentucky of old Revolutionary stock. She passed her childhood days
in the Bluegrass state, moving to Clay county as she blossomed into
womanhood. She was a quiet, unassuming girl, with a loving nature,
beauty and refinement. During the war, Clay county and this vicinity
were the scene of much bloodshed, and it was amid these stirring times
that she became attached to Jesse JAMES, the most daring of the
border Quantrells. All during these wild war times, their courtship was
carried on, the famous bandit often risking his life to see her for a few
hours. Their wooing was a most romantic one. Even at the time the
authorities were making every effort to capture him, dead or alive, and
men who professed to be his friends would have slain him, to secure
the large reward placed upon the heads of Jesse and Frank JAMES,
had they had the opportunity. Once while the future Mrs. JAMES was
in Kansas City, Jesse rode into town to see her. His presence was
discovered, and a posse was hastily organized and had it not been for
a man who is now one of Kansas City's most prominent citizens,
Bob FORD would never have had the opportunity of killing the bandit.
Jesse had left his bride-to-be and was riding south, out of the city.

He passed a man in the road and turned east toward the Blue.
Although Jesse was not aware of the fact, he had been recognized.
Hardly a minute later a band of men with shotguns drew rein and
inquired if a man on horseback has passed.

"Yes," was the reply, "he just passed over the hill," and the party
galloped on over the Brush creek hills and the much sought outlaw
rode on in safety. Shortly after the war, Mrs. JAMES nursed him
through a sick spell, after he had been badly wounded, and after that,
although they were first cousins, they decided to be married. Her
mother, who was living at the time, strongly objected, and also their
uncle, Rev. William JAMES. But she refused to be dissuaded and
insisted that Jesse was not as bad as he was pictured. So on
April 24, 1874, they went to Kearney, a little town on the Hannibal &
St. Joseph, twenty-three miles northeast of Kansas City, and were
married by Rev. William JAMES. After their marriage they went to
Texas, and in June of 1881, rented a house on Woodland, between
Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets in Kansas City, a white frame
building on the west side. They went under the name of JACKSON.

After four months they moved to East Ninth street, between Woodland
and Michigan. A month later they moved to 1017 Troost and in
November went by wagon to St. Joseph, living at 1318 Lafayette, where
Jesse was killed. In St. Joseph he was known by the name of HOWARD.

WHEN JESSE WAS SHOT.

On April 3, 1882, Jesse JAMES, while dusting a picture, was shot in
the back and killed by "Bob" FORD. Mrs. JAMES was in the kitchen
at the time and when she rushed into the front room, Jesse was lying
on the floor in a pool of blood. He tried to speak but could not and soon
died in his wife's arms. She was greatly affected by the tragedy,
accounts of which filled the papers of the entire country, but she bore
her great sorrow without a breakdown until the body of her dead husband
was ready to be lowered into the grave. Then she completely gave way
and with agonizing cries, fell across the coffin and called forth the wrath
of God against those who had killed her husband.

After the death of Jesse JAMES, the widow moved to Kansas City. She
was without money and was obliged to sell her furniture and other
personal property. Everything that could be disposed of was sold and
she started out in her lonely life with nothing but pluck and energy.
She took in sewing and worked in the households of others, earning
enough to clothe and feed her family. It was her determination through
all these trying years to rear her children to be honest and respectable
and that no taint of the heritage left them by their father should cling to
them. She was a member of the Methodist church.

Young Jesse had little opportunity for schooling and he was only 11
years old when he started out to make a living for himself and those
dependent upon him. He was a delicate boy, but he had inherited the
perseverance and energy of his mother and from the first moment that
he began to earn money, he gave it to his mother, and during all the
years that followed, he supported her and his sister, giving the latter
an education that he had been denied. He was industrious and honest
and made friends rapidly, and these friends always stuck to him.

The first position which the boy secured was that of office boy in the
real estate office of Crittenden & Phister. T. T. CRITTENDEN did not
know Jesse then, and when the applicants for the place were asked to
write their names, Mr. CRITTENDEN was much surprised when he
read the name of Jesse JAMES in a large boyish hand. Later Mr.
CRITTENDEN became very fond of the boy, and has been closely
associated with him in a business way ever since. Mr. CRITTENDEN
learned of the straitened circumstances of the JAMES family and he
advanced them money and sold them a home on time, taking the note
of Mrs. JAMES and the simple word of young JAMES that he would
pay it all back. This he did and he has furnished the home and cared
for his family out of his earnings.

AVERSION TO PHOTOGRAPHS.

One peculiarity about the JAMES family was the aversion of the
members to having photographs taken. Jesse JAMES, Sr., had but
one picture taken, and then the copies were distributed only among
very intimate friends. This was for his own protection, as detectives
all over the country were looking for him, and they were baffled time
and time again by the man whose face was unknown to them. Mrs.
JAMES was always afraid that her picture would get into the papers
in connection with some sensational story about her husband and
she never had a photograph taken. She never left her house without
wearing her widow's veil. She was remarkably quiet and was given
little to conversation with any except the immediate members of her
family. With her children she always discouraged conversation about
the father's wild life, and she tried to get away from the influence
surrounding the bandit's exploits. While others and thoughtless
people in talking to young Jesse invested the deeds of his father with
a glamour of romance, the quiet, faithful, Christian mother spoke only
of the more tranquil periods of that former life when the bandit threw
off the unconquerable spirit of restlessness for a short time and
became a loving father and a kind and indulgent husband.

The boyhood of young Jesse was one long struggle between good
and evil influences. In the world he was pointed out on the street as
the son of the greatest bandit Missouri ever had. The vicious and the
curious always wanted to shake hands with him and they never failed
to speak of his father and recount some special deed of his. From
morning until night, Jesse was never permitted to forget who or what
he was, and there was closer scrutiny of his acts than of other boys.
But when he returned to his mother, there was a different and counter-
acting influence. She talked of brighter things and read good books to
him, and he in turn read his Bible. It was the mother against the world,
and the mother lived to see her victory.


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(I have no connection with this family.)

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