Now Jesse James doesn’t play a role in my story, Her Lonely Heart, but there are outlaws and shooting, not to mention the role of young men determined to be pony express riders.
Jesse James was only fifteen when he joined a guerrilla band led by William Quantrill. Many pony express riders were younger by a year or two.
The Quantrill gang terrorized Kansas and Missouri during the Civil War. After the war, Jesse, his brother Frank, and brothers Cole, James, and Robert Younger moved to armed robbery. During the next 16 years, the gang became America’s most notorious outlaws. In 1976 the Younger brothers were captured. The James brothers escaped and didn’t rob another train until 1880, the same year a reward was posted wanting the James brothers dead or alive. Gang member Robert Ford decided the bounty was worth more than loyalty and shot Jesse James in the back.
On the morning of April 3, 1882, while planning one last robbery with Bob and Charles Ford that would net him enough money to settle down permanently, Jesse reportedly stood in a chair to straighten a crooked picture on the wall.
Bob Ford shot Jesse James in the back of the head just below his right ear. His children and wife, Zerelda, ran into the room, but it was too late. Jesse James was dead at 34 years of age.
There has been speculation since he died that his death was staged and that he lived the rest of his days in peace under an assumed name. In 1947, a 102 year old man named J. Frank Dalton claimed to be Jesse James. His claim was never verified and DNA testing on the supposed grave of Jesse James has been inconclusive.
In Her Lonely Heart, there is a change of lifestyle, not by a killer, but by a bitter man set in his ways. I hope you enjoy this trip back into history, not only from this post, but from reading Pony Express Brides.