June 8, 2023
The isolation on a farm can sometimes be unsettling to city folk. The remoteness can be both a blessing and a curse. And so it was for the widow James and her family in May of 1863, when Union militia (not uniformed troops but neighbors and locals joined together to capture partisan guerrillas and remove and eradicate what they saw as traitors and slave holders).
These Union militia men had it on multiple good accounts that Frank James was riding with a group of partisan bushwhackers who had been raiding and killing in the area. They descended on the James farm and accosted a young Jesse (age 15), who was working in the field with one of the family slaves. By one account, they beat him up and brought him back to the farm house where they questioned Jesse's step-father Rueben Samuel, who claimed ignorance about Frank's whereabouts. One of the militia men produced a rope and threw one end over a tree branch and the men hoisted Samuel into the air while his wife, Zerelda screamed bloody murder at them. Broken by the trauma, Samuel gave up the location of Frank and his cohorts, who were, in fact a short distance to the north of the farm playing poker on a blanket divvying up their stolen plunder. Armed with the location, the Union Militiamen quickly attacked and killed two rebels and then, in a running fight, engaged them again, and killed three more.
Daily Whip Out: "Jesse James Teenager"
Of course, the James family was guilty as hell, but wronged all the same.
The Dye Is Cast
In short, this incident turned Jesse Woodson James from a partisan bystander to an active guerrilla and it is a change that scarred and branded him until his death almost twenty years later.
Daily Whip Out:
"The Doomed Bushwhacker"
Ironically, and certainly a coincidence, today is Bushwhacker Days in Nevada, Missouri (yes, the town in Missouri is named Nevada). Here is a link to how it all began.
An Uneasy Peace
After the war, things went halfway back to normal. Unfortunately for the populace of Missouri, the other half of the equation took a long time to heal.
The Hall of Famous Missourians
In the Missouri state capitol building at Jefferson City there is on display a series of busts that depict prominent Missourians honored for their achievements and contributions to the state. Of course President Harry Truman is prominent among the 44 or so, busts. Also, Emmett Kelly (famous clown) is in there, as is Rush Limbaugh (same), Walt Disney, Mark Twain, Stan Musial and Laura Ingalls Wilder. But, there is no bust of Jesse James. In fact, the only mention of Jesse and his infamous crew in the entire state capitol rotunda is this timeline entry on a wall panel of one of the side room displays.
A Lonely Mention In A Massive Setting
According to my guide, Mark Lee Gardner, this is partly because Jesse gave the state a stigma it took a long time to live down.
The Robber State
A few men, Governor Crittendon among them, decided to clean up the "robber state" stigma that lingered after the war. It took them a while but they accomplished their goal.
For a time, Saint Joe had the highest per capita income in the United States. The residents cashed in on their position in the country the jumping off point, the shipping point to the booming West.
Why Is Missouri Called The "Show Me" State?
There are several supposed reasons, all of them seem a tad thin to me.
One claim states that Missouri miners who worked in Leadville, Colorado during that state's miner strike in the early 1900s needed a lot of instruction. The result was conversations that started with statements like, "That man is from Missouri — you'll have to show him."
In that context it is not the most flattering of state slogans. This one makes a little more sense, although some believe the congressman was merely adding to the first anecdote.
“I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”
—Missouri Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, referring to another congressional speaker who he did not concur with, in 1899