BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Ted P. Yeatman,
author of "Frank and Jesse James: The
Story Behind the Legend," where did
you get an idea for this kind of a book?
Mr. TED YEATMAN (Author, "Frank and
Jesse James: The Story Behind the
Legend"): Oh, gosh. That came about
while I was living in Nashville,
Tennessee, back in the mid-1970s. And back about 1975, I
decided for just the heck of it, I was going to, for a year, try
to track down everything I could on the James brothers when
they were living in Tennessee. They lived there for about four
years from 1877 to 1881. And I kept finding more and more
new material, and I just couldn't quite put the subject down.
And about 20 years later, I picked up and got a book contract
and started work on the book. And the end product is what
you've got there.
LAMB: In 1995, you say Jesse James was exhumed.
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes.
Mr. YEATMAN: They wanted to do some forensic testing, DNA
testing. Professor James Stars and other forensic
scientists--they got an exhumation order from the Clay
County court because there was no--no record of an autopsy
having been performed. And the only way they could do this
was if there was no autopsy of record, and the person had
met their end through means that was somewhat violent, you
might say. And this was approached more or less as a regular
forensic crime examination, just like you would have in--in a
LAMB: Where's Clay County?
Mr. YEATMAN: Clay County is right on the edge of Kansas
City. As a matter of fact, I think part of Kansas City is in Clay
LAMB: Where is Jesse James buried?
Mr. YEATMAN: Jesse is buried up at Kearney, Missouri, in Mt.
Olivet Cemetary in Kearney, Missouri, which is just, oh, maybe
about I'd say maybe 15, 20 miles outside of Kansas City.
LAMB: Were you around the cemetery when the exhumation
Mr. YEATMAN: No, I wasn't able to make it over there, but I
did a good bit of the re--research--the historical research
that they used for finding out certain things. In other words,
they were trying to see if there were any wounds that Jesse
had had earlier in his life that might be visible, say, on the
bones or something like that. Or in--in one case, there
actually was an autopsy, and they cut the top of the skull
off, and there were newspaper accounts of it. But again,
there were no official records of this, so they were...
LAMB: When did he die?
Mr. YEATMAN: 1882--April 3rd, 1882.
LAMB: How old was he?
Mr. YEATMAN: Gosh, he was born in 1830--1847--1832, he
LAMB: Thirty-five, 36?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah, something around that.
LAMB: What did they find in the autopsy, or when they--when
they dug him up?
Mr. YEATMAN: Dug him up--they weren't even sure that they
were going to get him up. The remains had decomposed in
certain areas there. And what they were looking for
specifically was DNA evidence, but they were also trying to
look for evidence of the--the bullet hole in the skull and things
of that nature, so maybe they could tell something about the
caliber of the weapon that was used to kill him.
LAMB: Who killed him?
Mr. YEATMAN: Bob Ford.
LAMB: Under what circumstances?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, gosh. That one is--is--is a hard one. Bob
had ingratiated himself more or less into the gang in the latter
part of 1881, early 1882. But he was acting more or less for
the--the law enforcement people in the Kansas City area and
had met with Governor Crittenden. And he was providing
information about Jesse's whereabouts, and they were
possibly going to either bring him in somewhere or other or--or
as what happened in this case, Jesse was straightening a
picture or dusting a picture by various accounts. It's--it's not
really sure what...
LAMB: Wait, wait. Which one is Jesse James?
Mr. YEATMAN: Jesse is the fellow that's standing on the--on
the cover there in the suit. And Frank is the one in the
LAMB: Who's older?
Mr. YEATMAN: Frank was older. He was born 1843.
LAMB: And was Frank there when Jesse James was killed?
Mr. YEATMAN: No. Frank was, in fact, over in Lynchburg,
Virginia, at the time.
LAMB: So you were starting to say that Bob Ford was there
and he was hanging a picture and...
Mr. YEATMAN: And pulled a pistol on Jesse, who had laid his
guns down on the bed and fired a shot and that was it. And
they put the body up for public viewing after they had taken
it to the funeral home. They had a number of photographs
that they took of the body. I have at least one of them, in
fact, in the book. And--but there was this constant thing that
would happen every few years where somebody would come
forward, say, about after the turn of the century and claim
that he was the secretly surviving Jess--Jesse James. And
there would be some kind of a big furor in the press over this.
And it went on really until the last claimant--well, even
beyond the last claimant. Actually, there are people
that--that are--are claiming now that their ancestor in Texas,
who died sometime I guess back in the '40s, was--was Jesse.
But there was--the--the last living claimant there that
actually claimed to be Jesse died in 1951.
LAMB: Well, you know, if you ask most people, I think--I'm
guessing--who Frank James is, they'd look at you with a blank
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah.
LAMB: And if you ask them who Jesse James is, they'd all say
`Oh, the famous outlaw.'
Mr. YEATMAN: Right.
LAMB: But Frank James lived a much longer life. When did he
Mr. YEATMAN: Frank died in February of 1915. And actually,
and--my own personal impression is that Frank had a much
more interesting life than--than Jesse did.
LAMB: Why is the Je--Jesse James legend so much more
Mr. YEATMAN: Well, it--it goes back to a lot of folklore motifs
that you've got there. Of course, Jesse has the alliterative
name which sounds good in print. And in songs like "The Ballad
of Jesse James"--that sort of thing, and the other thing is
they--you'll notice this with--with all legendary outlaws that
achieve immortality, be it Robin Hood, Billy the
Kid--whatever--they're all killed by someone they trust. In the
Robin Hood legend, it's Prioresse that Robin Hood trusts. Billy
the Kid, it's Pat Garrett, one of his former buddies. In this
case, it's Bob Ford, one of the members of the gang. So it's all
LAMB: Why was the governor interested in killing him?
Mr. YEATMAN: Well, the--as a matter of fact, that's--that's a
side point there. I'm not sure that he was interested in killing
him. The reward actually was for bringing him in. But in this
case, Bob just went ahead and pulled the trigger there. I--I
think he figured that `If I don't shoot him now, that's one
opportunity blown, and I--that we won't be able to get him in,
and this fellow will probably come back and shoot me.'
So at any rate, why did Governor Crittenden want--want to
get Jesse? Jesse had been on a train robbing spree and
Crittenden had campaigned for governor of Missouri on a--a
campaign platform that included eliminating all of this outlawry
that was going on in the state. And it was getting big news
headlines all across the country. You could see it in The New
York Times, the Chicago papers. It had become a big political
football in both Missouri and on a national level, and
Crittenden was a Democratic governor who was--and the
Democratic Party was sometimes being accused of--of taking
a lenient attitude towards this. And so one of his platforms
was `OK, we're going to eliminate the outlawry.' And he
managed to get funding from some of the railroads to put up a
huge reward. And this, I think, was the big factor
of--whereas, these folks might have figured, `Well, you know,
I'm not sure about doing it,' when in point of fact, they
wo--we could make, in--in one shot possibly, the amount of
money that they would pull off of a major robbery in reward.
And you have to figure that, I think--What was it?--it was
something like $5,000 or $10,000 they were offering for Jesse.
You have to figure that that's several times that in current
LAMB: You point out in your book that they had si--si--the
brothers had 16 years of outlawry.
Mr. YEATMAN: Right.
LAMB: You worked on this book for 25 years.
Mr. YEATMAN: Right.
Mr. YEATMAN: It's fascinating story.
LAMB: Where were you--where are you from originally?
Mr. YEATMAN: From Nashville, Tennessee. And this was how I
got into it. There was a lot of material in and around
Nashville--oral history, stories that had been taken down and
newspaper accounts, starting right after Jesse was killed, in
fact. And the whole four-year period that they were there
had--had really been unexplored. Everybody that had written
on the James story up to about that time was--well, as a
matter of fact, I think most of the authors were from Missouri.
And they had explored all of the sources that were in--west
of the Mississippi, but they never had come and done much in
the eastern area. So I figured, well, this is something that
really needs to be explored because they spent a significant
period of time in the--in the eastern United States.
Frank, like I said, was in Lynchburg at the time that Jesse was
killed and probably spent at least six months there.
LAMB: What were you doing when you first started looking at
all this? What was your profession?
Mr. YEATMAN: I was at that time still in college. I was a
Mr. YEATMAN: George Peabody College in Nashville,
Tennessee. It's now part of Vanderbilt University.
LAMB: Why did you want to be a librarian?
Mr. YEATMAN: I like to do research. And I--I found that I was
rather good at it. And, well, here's the book. But I later ended
up getting a job over in Missouri. This was another thing that
put me closer to some of the source materials that were over
there, and I kept looking into this. As a matter of fact, we
had one woman that worked in the library system that I was
in who was--was--I think her--her grandfather had been in
Gads Hill, Missouri, at the time that the train was held up
LAMB: You start your book with Gads Hill.
Mr. YEATMAN: Right. Right.
Mr. YEATMAN: This was the first train robbery that Jesse
pulled in Missouri. And it is kind of illustrative of the typical
train robbery that they would have. It was--it was one that
was rather colorful because Jesse, at the end of the robbery,
left a press release to be telegraphed into the St. Louis
LAMB: What year was this?
Mr. YEATMAN: 1874. January of 1874.
LAMB: You have a picture in your book of Jesse James and--I
have to find it first--in 1874. What--by the way, there are
many photos in here that have--have not been seen before?
Mr. YEATMAN: Quite a few, actually. Yeah, there are a
number of photos that have--that are being re--reproduced
there for the first time. That one is one, though, that has
been shot a number of times. That's--that's a rather common
one. The one on the other page, though, that shows Frank
James' wife--both of those pictures are--are published there
for the first time.
LAMB: The picture we're looking at with Fra--which one is
Frank James' wife? The one on the far left?
Mr. YEATMAN: This one there.
LAMB: And who are the other three people in the picture?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, those are her brothers and sisters. This
was kind of like a family photo that was taken in the 1890s
after Frank had surrendered.
LAMB: Which one of the two brothers was the oldest?
Mr. YEATMAN: Frank James.
LAMB: By how much?
Mr. YEATMAN: Mmm, I'd say--What was it?--it was about four
or five years.
LAMB: Let's see, Jesse James was born in 1847 and his
brother was born in 1843, according to your book.
Mr. YEATMAN: Right.
LAMB: So there's four years' difference.
Mr. YEATMAN: Right.
LAMB: And where were they born?
Mr. YEATMAN: They were born in the Kearney, Missouri, area.
I think Frank was not born at the actual farm, but
Frank--Jesse was born at the--what's now the James Farm,
which is a historic site out at Kearney. It's owned by the
LAMB: What were their parents doing?
Mr. YEATMAN: Frank and Jesse's father was a Baptist
minister. As a matter of fact, he was one of the founders of
William Jewell College in liberty, Missouri. It's not the type of
family background that you would normally figure for a--an
LAMB: This is the father here?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes. And he was--had quite a reputation as an
evangelist in Missouri. He went out to California during the
gold rush and was in one of the mining camps there just a few
weeks and came down ill and died. And that was pretty much
it as far as--as--as a matter of fact, a number of people
speculated what would have happened if he had possibly
LAMB: What happened after he died?
Mr. YEATMAN: The widow James, Zerelda Cole-James,
remarried a fellow named Benjamin Simms. And Simms
wa--and--and the boys apparently didn't get along too well.
And they ended up being divorced which was something that
was rather unusual for that day and age. She later remarried
Dr. Rubin Samuels. And the relationship with--with Samuels
continued on until his death. He died about--I guess, it was
about 1908, and she died about 1910.
LAMB: You've got a picture of her in here.
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes, that's her giving a spiel for some tourists
by Jesse's old grave. She would sell pebbles off of the grave
to tourists for a quarter apiece. And the story goes that when
she ran a little low on pebbles, she'd send a boy down to the
creek bed and get a bucket full and bring them back up there
and replenish the stock, so to speak.
LAMB: When I read your book, I found that--you said that
other than George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, more has
been written about the James brothers?
Mr. YEATMAN: What--what that is about the Jameses is
historic sites that have been saved as a result of--of
connection with historic figures. There have probably been
more sites for a connection with Jesse James than for any
other person, behind George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
LAMB: Have you been to them all?
Mr. YEATMAN: No.
LAMB: How many have you been to?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, gosh. I've been to probably, oh, maybe
about a dozen or more.
LAMB: What's some of the most memorable ones?
Mr. YEATMAN: The James farm at Kearney, Missouri, and the
house where Jesse was killed. But there's some--some that I
found around Nashville that were rather memorable, also. As a
matter of fact, I managed to get to those, in a couple of
cases, before the wrecking ball got there. And in one case,
we ended up saving one house before it was demolished. It
was actually a demolition order that had been given out
for--for the house, but it was in a historic neighborhood, and
it had to go through a zoning appeals process there. And in
the meantime, the people in the neighborhood got behind it,
and they were able to find a buyer who was willing to put up
the money and restore the house. And it's there today. As a
matter of fact, it won a restoration award by the Metro
Historical Society for the work done.
LAMB: How many movies have been made about Jesse James?
Mr. YEATMAN: Probably about 32, 33--something in that area.
As a matter of fact, there's one that's supposed to be coming
out in August. So I'm bracing myself for another onslaught
there, I guess.
LAMB: Why so many?
Mr. YEATMAN: Beats me, actually. None of them have actually
been too historical. I guess it--it gives a chance for the script
writers to kind of play with the story there a little bit. And
there has been some kind of popularity to it. It's--Jesse is
sometimes called America's Robin Hood. So you have these
plots that involve Jesse and the railroad and robbing the rich
banker to pay the widow's mortgage--that kind of thing.
LAMB: Was he a Robin Hood?
Mr. YEATMAN: It's kind of hard to say. I think he was probably
about as--as generous as--as--as anybody. As a matter of
fact, there's--there's a fellow that's doing some research on
this right now into the widow story. And it's very possible that
there was at least, in one case, a widow who may have had
something contributed to by Jesse. But we're still in--in the
process of doing some research on that.
LAMB: Where does the legend come from?
Mr. YEATMAN: The legend? Which legend?
LAMB: Yeah. You say the story behind the legend.
Mr. YEATMAN: The legend comes from the media. A lot of it
comes from the early histories. There were histories of the
gang that were being published even while they were robbing
trains. There were--in fact, there was--there was one I wish
they'd use this as an illustration in the book. There was an ad
in one of the St. Louis newspapers for--What was it?--the
Border Outlaws or "The Border Bandits" or something like
that--by Clarence Buel. And one of the hooks for the sale of
the book was this new train robbery that had occurred
outside of Kansas City. So they were hooking into that and
they would publish this at different editions. And as each new
robbery occurred, they would publish an update to it.
And afterwards, you had a slew of dime novels that were
these cheap pap--they were about the size of, say, Time or
Newsweek magazine. But they would have the content of
a--kind of like a mod--modern paperbook western, although
they were even a little less than that. And the--I'd say
the--the ancestor of the dime novel would be some 1950's
television series, as on the Old West, where they'd have
one--one stock character in there that would go through a
series of adventures. Buffalo Bill, Jr., is one that pops to
mind--where they would have this one--one character there
and he would be dealing with these other famous people in
the Old West that maybe have a Wild Bill Hickock or Jesse
James, or whatever. And they--they'd go through, you know,
however many adventures they could dream up, basically. And
the name was alliterative. And the--the--the Robin Hood
image was--was brought out very often. So you had this
myth and this mystique that developed over the years.
LAMB: How did you talk a publisher into this book?
Mr. YEATMAN: That came right a little bit after I had
discovered the Pinkerton Letters. Alan Pinkerton was a
detective in charge of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. And
he kept a book that had copies of--they called them press
books. They were blotted off copies of all of his old letters.
And one of the key ingredients of the James story is the raid
on the James farm in 1875--January of 1875, where the
detectives came in and tried to catch Jesse and supposedly
threw this bombshell into the house there. And there was a
debate going on for over a century as to what the story was
there. And lo and behold, I turned up a cache of these
letters. If Pinkerton had been thinking clearly, I think he
probably would have put these through a shredder. But the...
LAMB: There's a picture here of...
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah. That's Alan Pinkerton as a younger man.
And the picture beside it is of the grave of one of his
detectives who was killed by the Jameses right after the Gads
Hill robbery. And this put him in a very vengeful mood, and
one of the other detectives had been was killed while trying
to apprehend the Younger brothers. And so according to some
of the letters that I turned up, it appears that Pinkerton
intended to burn the house down there and had gotten
certain flammable liquids or solids or whatever--some kind of
an exp--pyrotechnic device that he was going to throw into
the house there. And I remember one of the--the quotes
in--in one of the letters was "above all else, burn the house
LAMB: Now which house is this?
Mr. YEATMAN: This was the James farm--the old cabin out
in--in Kearney. It's just about three miles outside of Kearney,
Missouri. And it appears--this--this--this scene appears in a
number of movies where they--they actually throw a bomb,
as it was, and it blows up and Ma Samuels, the--the--the
mother of the James boys--ends up being killed decades
before she actually was killed. And it--it's an ingredient of the
legend, but this actually showed that the Pinkertons
were--this was a little bit more than accident, I guess you
LAMB: Is this the same Pinkerton name that we see
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes.
LAMB: ...that does security?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah.
LAMB: And you say in your book that he did some work for
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah, yeah. He did some work as a
counterespionage agent in the Washington and Virginia area
during the early part of the war when McClellan was in
charge. I don't know how well he did the work; that's
sometimes hotly debated there. But...
LAMB: This is the same General McClellan that ran against Abe
Lincoln in 1864?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes.
LAMB: Was--was Pinkerton political?
Mr. YEATMAN: Probably was to have gotten away with some
of things that he did. As a matter of fact, one of the letters
that I have in the book is where he is--is pleading with the
governor of Illinois not to allow the extradition of any of his
men to Missouri because there were murder indictments that
were issued out of the Clay County court for the raid. One of
the half brothers of the James boys, Archie Payton Samuels,
was killed in the raid when this device that they had was
pushed into the--the fireplace there and blew up. And...
LAMB: In those 16 years, did the--Frank and Jesse James ride
together all the time?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, for a good portion of it. After Frank James
settled in Nashville and Jesse settled in Nashville, they came
to kind of a parting of the ways. Frank was starting to settle
down and he had found employment with a lumber company in
Nashville. And I think he was trying to get out of the business
LAMB: How many--did they kill people?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, yeah.
LAMB: How many, do you know? From what your research...
Mr. YEATMAN: Jesse may have killed as many as six or eight,
and that's just kind of a guess. The bulk of the killing that was
done was probably during the Civil War period. And we'll never
know how many of those there were. But I think there may
have been something like six or eight that Jesse's credited
LAMB: So what was their first year that they got involved in
any kind of activity? Did they fight in the Civil War?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes. They were out in Missouri with the
guerrilla groups that were under Quantrill and Bloody Bill
LAMB: Who was Quantrill?
Mr. YEATMAN: Quantrill was a guerrilla leader out in the
Kansas City-Independence area, and the fellow underneath
LAMB: Is this Quantrill right here?
Mr. YEATMAN: Quantrill's there, and then they've got another
picture of Anderson later, in death.
LAMB: Is he dead here?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah. They had him posed for that just to be
sure that there weren't any legends that sprung up around
him, although I think there were some people that later
claimed to be Anderson. But the--the guerrillas were operating
along the Kansas-Missouri border, and then later in central
Missouri, and then over in Kentucky. They later--some of
them ended up under Quantrill in the area around Bardstown,
LAMB: So they fl--16 years marauding, stealing, killing.
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, let's see. The--the a--the first actual
robbery that was pinned on the James brothers was the
Gallatin, Missouri, robbery. They robbed a bank in December of
1869. This is the first one that they actually have some
reason to feel that--that they were in, although there--there
is some evidence that Frank James may have been involved in
another bank robbery in 1866 outside of Li--well, in Liberty,
Missouri. As a matter of fact, they call it the Jesse James
Bank Museum. It's still there today and you could go in, see
the bank vault and the counter and everything pretty much
as it was back at the time of the robbery, and...
LAMB: Did they do it--rob a special way?
Mr. YEATMAN: They just more or less came in, rode into town.
I think there were about a dozen or so people. Some of them
went into the bank. Some of them more or less hung around
out in the streets to keep an eye on things, and the folks in
the bank--one of them hopped over the--the counter there,
had a--a flour sack and more or less said, `Fill 'er up,' and
they took, I think--What was it? It was something like about
$60,000 worth of money and negotiable securities, and maybe
even some non-negotiable securities in there, also. They were
fencing these--they--they found some of the bonds as far
away as Cincinnati, at least.
LAMB: How much of this was going on back then? How many
other gangs were there besides these two?
Mr. YEATMAN: At that time, there was probably--I don't
know. The one that pops in--into mind is the Reno gang out
of Indiana, around Seymour, Indiana, and they were more or
less wiped out in--I guess it was about 1868, or '69 there.
They were actually the--the--the first people that are
credited with having pulled a--a tr--train robbery.
LAMB: Is this your first book?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes.
LAMB: And it's published by Cumberland House.
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes.
LAMB: Where are they?
Mr. YEATMAN: They're in Nashville.
LAMB: And you say the Pinkerton letters would--really got
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes.
LAMB: What else got their attention? And was it hard to sell
them on doing this book?
Mr. YEATMAN: Actually, it was not going through Cumberland
House at the time. The--as a matter of fact, thi--thi--this
thing had quite an odyssey there. It was originally contracted
to Rutledge Hill Press, and Rutledge was, little did I
know--well, they--they had published a number of other
books--What was it? I can't think of them right offhand. But it
was wa--one of these gift books. They had a number of
cookbooks and historical books. They did the thing for
the--What was it?--the History Channel series on--"Civil War
Journal" and some other things. But in this case, they were
interested in doing this, and I turned in the manuscript about
five years later and got a telephone call one day and they
said they couldn't pay me the second half of my advance.
Turned out they had run into his--financial reef. They ended
up ultimately being absorbed by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
And as part of a deal with one of the--one of the people that
had been a partner in Rutledge at the time that the contract
went through had left the company and set up another
company, and in connection with--with some debts that were
owed there, I was kind of traded like a football or a baseball
player, and so were a few of the other authors there and this
ended up being published by Cumberland House.
LAMB: Now how does your book fit into all the books that
have been written? What's so special about this that you
couldn't get in any other book?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, basically what I do is take all of the new
research that's come in from about 1966, right on up until,
well, just about the beginning of 2000. I--I turned in the--the
chapter, the--the final revisions there in January of--of last
year, and prior to that, the best book was probably--and
actually it still is a very good book. I--I--I'd say my book is
actually supplemental to Dr. William Settle's book, "Jesse
James Was His Name," which was published by the University
of Missouri and the University of Nebraska Press.
LAMB: Th--are there a lot of James followers out there?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah, a surprising number. Surprising number.
LAMB: Do they meet every year? Is there a club?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah, yeah. They have Friends of the James
Farm and another group, the James-Younger Gang, and they
meet out in the Kansas City area. And there's--the--the
James-Younger group is supposed to be meeting in San
Angelo, Texas, sometime this fall, I think.
LAMB: Who's--who are the Youngers, and how many of them
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, let's see. There was Bob, Jim, John,
Cole--there were about four.
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah, the--Cole, yeah.
LAMB: And where were they in this whole business?
Mr. YEATMAN: They were over in the--Oh, where would it be?
They were from, originally, another county over, Cass County
LAMB: Son of a--sons of a judge.
Mr. YEATMAN: Right. Henry Washington Younger was a
county judge over in Cass County, and he was a Unionist, and
oddly enough, he ended up being murdered by Union militia
during the war. It--it got incredibly complex, incredibly bloody.
It was more or less like Bosnia over there, and Cole was--had
joined up with--with Quantrill and served with him for a while,
and then later got in and got a regular commission in the
Confederate army as a captain.
But he came back and they had--a number of these folks had
problems settling down. They--there were--Cole claimed that
he was having problems with--with Union sympathizers that
were persecuting him and so forth. Whether that's the case
is--is somewhat debatable, but robbing banks was a very
quick way of getting cash in those days, and the Confederate
veterans of the guerrillas very often were a little bit shy of
that right after the war.
LAMB: So you say that there were six, eight murders by the
James brothers over that time. How about Frank James, did he
kill anybody that you know of?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, yes, a number of them. As a matter of
fact, he probably killed the bank teller at Northfield, although
that was kind of hushed up for--I don't know, several
decades, right up--up until after his death.
LAMB: Northfield, what state?
Mr. YEATMAN: Northfield, Minnesota.
LAMB: How important was that robbery?
Mr. YEATMAN: That pretty much spelled the end of the
James-Younger gang. The Youngers were captured right after
the robbery at Northfield. It was a badly bungled robbery.
They tried to get in the vault. The teller claimed that there
was a time lock on there, and there's some question whether
he was bluffing them there, but they didn't bother to check.
And they assumed, I guess, that--that it was locked. And
then in the meantime, the townspeople heard that the bank
was being robbed and were out in the streets with shotguns
and old Civil War carbines and anything that would shoot,
basically, and they just barely managed to get out of town
alive. And right after that, they had several thousand folks
after them combing the state in posses. It was one of the
biggest manhunts, I think, Minnesota's ever had, before or
since. And the Youngers were captured, I guess it was about
two or three weeks after the robbery, and the Jameses
somehow managed to give the posses the slip, get on across
to just about where the Dakota line is and then slip down into
South Dakota and Iowa, and then somewhere down in that
area they--they managed to get back to Missouri, apparently.
LAMB: As an aside, you say that Frank James was a Democrat
but changed to be a Republican?
Mr. YEATMAN: Right.
LAMB: Why? And what...
Mr. YEATMAN: He adm--he admired Teddy Roosevelt.
LAMB: This was in his late years.
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah. He--he--he thought Teddy Roosevelt
was a man of action and he personally admired Roosevelt.
LAMB: The legendary 1912 story of the shooting of Roosevelt
in Milwaukee is in your book.
Mr. YEATMAN: Right.
Mr. YEATMAN: Because Frank offered to raise a bodyguard of
100 men to protect Roosevelt, and he sent a telegram off to
Roosevelt's aide offering this, and the fellow--this was his
secretary, the fellow that had--had tackled the would-be
assassin there, and I think he was probably thinking, `Oh, my
gosh, how are we going to deal with this?' Because in one
way, it was kind of a--it was a possible plus, but at the same
hand, it was also a possible minus that you've got this fellow
that is noted as--as a--a bandit and an outlaw thre--saying
that he's going to raise a--a group of bodyguards here. So he
kind of sidestepped it and said, `Well, Mr. Roosevelt is--is not
planning on doing any campaigning further here, but we want
to thank you, and he wants to say that he's feeling as hearty
as a bull moose.' And Frank was such a supporter of the Bull
Moose Party there, in fact, that he used to call the livestock
in at his farm by yelling as loud as he could--`Bull moose!' And
LAMB: Did Je--did Jesse James ever go to jail?
Mr. YEATMAN: There is a possibility that he may have been,
just for maybe a few--about an hour or so, maybe, held in jail
at Liberty, Missouri.
LAMB: Was he ever tried?
Mr. YEATMAN: No.
LAMB: And he died at age 35, 36.
Mr. YEATMAN: Right.
LAMB: But Frank James, about--was he ever tried?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, he went through
several trials, at least two full trials that I know of.
LAMB: What happened to him?
Mr. YEATMAN: He was a--acquitted in both cases. One of
them was for the Winston bank robbery, and--not the bank
robbery. It was a--it was a train robbery, Winston train
robbery, which was one of the last things that the gang did.
And they--it was kind of vague as to whether Frank had--had
been there, at least they were able to prove that he might
not have been. I think it was--it was basically a matter of
reasonable doubt. Whether he actually was or not, that may
be another story, but he was able to beat the rap there.
And in the case of the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, payroll
robbery, I think he was actually in Nashville at the time the
robbery occurred, and there was some pretty good evidence
to indicate that. I went over the depositions, and it looked
like they had a rather weak case there.
LAMB: During this time that you did this book, over 25 years,
how did you support yourself?
Mr. YEATMAN: Worked as a librarian at first, and then for a
number of years I was looking after two elderly parents. And
I--literally, I was absorbed with dealing with that, but
whenever I had some free time, I'd go out and do some
research on this. Then I've done historical research on the
side for a number of other people that are--that are authors.
LAMB: Where do you live today?
Mr. YEATMAN: College Park, Maryland.
LAMB: And where have you lived--how long have you lived
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, I've lived there for about a couple of
LAMB: And before that did you move out of Nashville, go
anywhere else in your whole career?
Mr. YEATMAN: I lived in Hagerstown, Maryland, for a few
LAMB: And what was your reason for moving to the East
Coast af--out of Nashville?
Mr. YEATMAN: I had relatives over here and it put me in close
proximity to the National Archives and the Library of Congress.
I just wanted to move over here.
LAMB: Now this book, in your own life, how important is it?
Mr. YEATMAN: It's--it's a major milestone, I'd say. Yeah.
It's--it's something I really wanted to do, and I feel that it
was worth it. It ended up as runner-up for the best Western
biography in the Western Writers of America Spur Award. It
may not have taken the top prize, but I feel that it--it's
something, and I feel that I've also managed to shed a little
bit more light on this particular subject here.
LAMB: What can we learn from this story?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, well, there are a lot of things, as a matter
of fact. It--it shows the effect of media on celebrity, for one
thing. I think in the current day and age, if you had something
like this, the--the media slant would definitely be very
different than it was back then. But it also shows the--the
influence of politics on what was going on at that point in
time out in Missouri.
LAMB: In what way?
Mr. YEATMAN: Out in Missouri. It became a very politically
charged case, and rather intricate. The Democrats were
accused of not taking sufficient action in the matter of--of
the James brothers running around Missouri, and trying to
apprehend them and so forth. And this ultimately came down
to Governor Crittenden and--and the--the reward and so
But they did a rather ineffective job of--of hunting them down
for the first, oh, decade or so, at least, and it was only after
Crittenden got in and--and posted the--the rewards and some
of the--Jesse, at this point in time, was--he had made
some--some very bad blunders. He had apparently killed one
of the members of the gang, and this didn't go down too well
with some of the other people, although he didn't come out
and--and apparently advertise this. As a matter of fact, I
think that gang killing had something to do with Bob Ford
plugging Jesse there.
There's a fellow that--named Ed Miller that had taken part in
one of the holdups outside of Kansas City. It was a--the--the
fabled Glendale train and the ballad which was--`Friday night,
the moon was bright when they robbed the Glendale train.
And the conductor on his knees delivered up the keys to the
outlaws Frank and Jesse James.' And this was celebrated in
the--in the ballad. And--but it did--it didn't go down too well
with some of the people, as it started to--to leak out, and I
think this was at least in the back of Bob Ford's mind when he
pulled the trigger.
LAMB: Did--was he ever convicted of anything?
Mr. YEATMAN: Bob Ford actually, believe it or not, after he
shot Jesse, was tried for murder and was convicted and
sentenced to hang, and Governor Crittenden telegraphed a
pardon in just like that. So this shows kind of how things were
going there. Jesse had not actually been brought in formally
and charged. They'd never served the papers or anything on
him. There was a--a large percentage of the population that
thought maybe he was not guilty of any of this, that he was
being persecuted by the Republicans who were using this for
political gain. This is what I mean by--by how this became
politicized over there.
LAMB: So in the late years--and there's this chapter you
have, Outlaws of the Sawdust Trail.
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes.
LAMB: What's that chapter about?
Mr. YEATMAN: That's about Frank's career in show business,
and that started--I guess it was about 1901. Frank had tried
running for the--What was it?--the door-keeper of the
Missouri Legislature, and he had been thwarted in this.
LAMB: And they were--Democrats were in control.
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes.
LAMB: And he was a Republican?
Mr. YEATMAN: Well, he wasn't a Republican at this point. He
was a Democrat. As a matter of fact, that had something to
do with why he--he switched parties. But he felt that he
had--had lived an exemplary life and so forth after all of this
business and that he was entitled to be shown
some--something for--for all of this. So when he was passed
over for this position, he decided to go and join a--a traveling
theatrical troupe and was in a--a number of melodramas that
were put on in the Midwest, and even--well, at least as far
east as Pennsylvania, as--as far as I know, and then as far
west as maybe Montana or Idaho.
LAMB: Who is John Newman Edwards?
Mr. YEATMAN: John Newman Edwards is the fellow who is
often credited with being the creator of the James legend,
and he was a newspaper editor. He was editor of the Sedalia
Democrat and the St. Louis Dispatch and several other
newspapers. But he is the one that issued a number of florid
editorials defending Jesse James and saying that he was being
persecuted and all of these robberies, however, he--he was
careful to delineate, were--were being pulled by someone who
was very clever and very theatrical and so forth. So he--he
would--he tended to--to kind of blink at--at what was going
on there. And he later had a good bit to do with Frank James.
When he later came in and surrendered, he was brought in by
Edwards, who had a lot to do with the negotiation there
between the Missouri authorities and--and Frank. And he also
apparently had a lot to do with some of the wire-pulling in
the--the trials there at le...
LAMB: Where--where did Frank live out his life? And he died
when he was like 72?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah. He died at the James farm, but he--he
lived several other places. He lived in Nevada, Missouri, for
about a year or two, I guess. Sold shoes over there.
LAMB: This is after he'd had this history of crime?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah. And then he went down to work as a
salesman in a--a department store in Dallas, Texas.
LAMB: Did people know who he was?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, yeah. They were using him as a draw. This
was--this was one of the things, the--the--the--the fact
that you had Frank James working in your store there would
bring in just crowds of people there. So he ends up, I
think--What was it?--he was working as a race starter for a
number of years. As a matter of fact, I think he--he did that
right on up until close to the time of his death, and was--as
a--a doorman in a St. Louis burlesque house for many years.
LAMB: Did he have any money when he died?
Mr. YEATMAN: Apparently he did. He was apparently making
some big money there for a while when he was going on
LAMB: Who is your favorite character in all of these?
Mr. YEATMAN: I'm trying to think. I'd guess that it would
be--it would probably be Frank James. He--he was the most
interesting one to--to do the research on, because I never
could figure what I was going to turn up next on him.
LAMB: Here's a picture of him near the end of his life.
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah. That's with the fabled `Kodaks Bared'
sign, and that has an interesting story to it. The--the thing
was, he was--he was running the James Farm as a tourist
attraction then. And the sign as it was painted said `Kodaks
LAMB: Be up there in the--in the left-hand corner.
Mr. YEATMAN: Yeah. And what would happen was tourists
would come in there and say, `Hey, you've got your--your
sign painted wrong there.' And he said, `I bet you $5 I've got
it right.' And the people would--would figure `Well, I've got an
easy five bucks coming to me here.' So they would say,
`You're on.' And he said, `Let's go on out there and look at
it.' Frank had penciled in the other `R' in `bared.' You couldn't
see it if you weren't looking real closely, and he'd win the bet
invariably. And some people said that he was kind of carrying
on the hold-up business in another--'nother guise with
the--with the tourist trap there that he ran. But that's the
story behind that picture.
LAMB: Who was Jesse James married to? Did he have children?
Mr. YEATMAN: Yes. Jesse was married to Zee Mimms, who
was actually his first cousin, and they had--What was
it?--several children. Those are the two that survived.
LAMB: Jesse and Susan?
Mr. YEATMAN: No, this--yeah, Jesse Jr. and--and Susan. And
Jesse Jr.--both the--the Barr and the James family, the--they
have descendants to this day that are living--the--the
Barr--the descendants of Susan, there's at least one that I
know of that lives out in the Kansas City area.
LAMB: What impact did the name Jesse James have on Junior?
Mr. YEATMAN: Oh, he lived the rest of his life more or less in
the shadow of his father. He was accused of having taken
part in a train robbery when he was in his teens, and it looks
like there was some pretty flimsy evidence there, but they
figured well, they were going to pin it on him. And he ended
up going to law school and was actually an attorney for a
number of years. And I think he was more or less trying to live
all of this down, but at the same time, he couldn't quite get
to the point where he accepted that his father was really the
outlaw that he was.
And he invested very heavily in a set of movies, "Jesse James
Under the Black Flag" and "Jesse James the Outlaw," and they
didn't do too well financially. And he went over the edge
afterwards and had a nervous breakdown as a result of this,
and he never did get quite over it there. It was a--a major
disaster in his life.
LAMB: Who was Frank married to?
Mr. YEATMAN: Frank--you showed the picture there at one
point. This was Annie Ralston. Now that's--that's an
interesting story. She was a--a s--schoolteacher in one of
these little one-room schoolhouses in a place called Little
Santa Fe, Missouri, which was just south of present-day
Kansas City. Matter of fact, it may even be in the city limits
of Kansas City at this time. That picture at the bottom is of
her when she was about 16. And she was married to--I--I
mean, she was the daughter of a fairly well-to-do farmer
outside of Independence, Missouri, Sam Ralston, who's
actually Irish, and had come over from Ireland. And she eloped
with Frank and her parents didn't realize--all they knew is that
she had eloped with someone and they couldn't figure out
who it was.
And one day about a year later--I guess this was about 1875
or thereabouts, the--one of--one of Jesse's relatives in
Kansas City came up and said, `Oh, by the way, your--your
son--your--your--your daughter just married my--my cousin
here, Frank.' And it just kind of put these people through the
floor, and particularly so when the sheriff's posse started
making regular appearances at the house there. Whenever
there'd be a--a holdup, they'd be--the members of the posse
looking out as to the premises there, and this just infuriated
the father-in-law. And the--the story goes that Frank
wouldn't get down off of his horse when he first met his
father-in-law after they had--had gotten married. He came
back to the Independence area. But he--he
would--supposedly wouldn't get down off of his horse. I think
he was afraid the old man was going to beat him up or
LAMB: We're out of time. I need to ask you, are you going to
write another book?
Mr. YEATMAN: Probably.
Mr. YEATMAN: Well, it might have something to do with the
Jameses, but I'm--I'm looking at something else, maybe,
possibly having to do with the Old West.
LAMB: We're out of time. Our guest has been Ted P. Yeatman,
and this is what the book looks like. "Frank and Jesse James:
The Story Behind the Legend." Thank you very much.
Mr. YEATMAN: Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2001. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.