Jesse James is part of US folklore. Many movies have been made about him and his exploits. We visited his birthplace in July 2022. I was more interested in getting beyond the myth and learn more about him and his family. I learned that this part of northern Missouri was sympathetic to the pro-Civil War South. Many of the families in this area were southern transplants who also kept enslaved people. The James’ family was very much aligned with the Confederate South. Jesse was too young to fight in the Civil War but he and his brother were ‘bushwhackers’. These guerilla like units operated in Missouri and Kansas during the Civil War. According to some of historians, some of the early robberies after the Civil War were banks or operations aligned with Unionist sympathies. What I could not find is whether the money he stole ever was given to anyone beyond his band of robbery friends. Movies almost make him seem like he is a Robin Hood type of character.
The family is very good at telling the story. Many personal items have been preserved and passed down to tell the story of the family. Jesse’s mother was an enterprising woman. After this death he was buried in her front yard. She would sell stones for $.25 a piece. That tradition lasts to today. There is a bucket with rocks where you can drop a quarter and take a rock.