Bison Bill's Weird West  



THE SECRET LIFE OF JESSE JAMES
                  
     
Jesse James in life. Jesse James in myth. Jesse James in death--
or is it Charlie Bigelow?
History tells us that Jesse James died in 1882, shot by a former friend, Bob Ford.  Yet many believe that James faked his death, and lived for years under the name J. Frank Dalton.

Here his story--a true story of the Weird West . . .

Jesse James reportedly belonged to a secret society, The Knights of the Golden Circle.  Other members included Jefferson Davis, Bedford Forrest, and William Quantrill (leader of the Confederate guerilla outfit Quantrill's Raiders, with whom James rode).  Some believe the society was created by the notorious Albert Pike, the subject of many a Masonic conspiracy theory.

According to the book Jesse James Was One of His Names (written by Del Schrader, with Jesse James III), the American Civil War did not really end in 1865, but continued to be fought "underground" for 19 more years.  Its highly sophisticated spy network, operated by the Knights of the Golden Circle, continued for even longer and was involved in many subversive activities.  One of these was train robbery, a specialty of the James Gang, the purpose being to enrich the coffers of the Confederate underground.  As a Confederate agent, James was also involved in smuggling guns and ammunition to the Plains Indians, as well as providing training in guerilla tactics, for use against their common enemy, General George Armstrong Custer and the Union Army.

After General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomatox, a force of 2,000 Missouri cavalry and a full regiment of Confederate-led Red Bone Indians from East Texas, led by General J. O. Shelby journeyed to Mexico to join their ally, the Emperor Maximilian.  When they were later threatened by Mexican patriots under the leadership of Benito Juarez, an elite force led by William Quantrill and Jesse James was sent to rescue them.

While in Mexico, James was enlisted in an operation to smuggle Maximilian's treasure out of Mexico.  On their way north, the James force learned that Maximilian had "apparently" been executed by the Mexican patriots.  He and several others had been shot by firing squad, then loaded into carts and carried away for burial.  But the gravesite ceremony was infiltrated by Red Bone Indians, who noticed signs of life in Maximilian.  The Indians talked the Mexicans into allowing them to give him a separate burial.  Later he was nursed back to health and transported to East Texas.

According to Schrader, Maximilian changed his name to John Maxi and began living undercover in North America.  Jesse James traveled to Europe, found a double of Maximilian's wife, Charlotta, then smuggled the real Charlotta back to America, where she was reunited with her husband.  The man buried in Maximilian's grave in Vienna is a German seaman who died in a gunfight in Vera Cruz, Mexico.  "Switching bodies is a subterfuge as old as mankind," writes Schrader, "and the Golden Circle certainly had no monopoly on this practice."

For their assistance, Maximilian rewarded the Knights of the Golden Circle $12.5 million in gold, and Jesse James $5 million.

Jesse James was now a wealthy man, with enough power and influence to fake his own death--and, with the law hot on his trail, this was undoubtedly a wise move.

According to Bud Hardcastle (a Jesse James historian), the man who was killed and identified as James was Charlie Bigelow.   "Bigelow was robbing things and using Jesse's name, and that's one of the reasons they probably identified him as Jesse . . . and Bigelow was buried as Jesse James."

Supposedly, Mrs. Jesse James was in reality Mrs. Bigelow--a prostitute who had been bribed to identify the corpse as that of James.

Hardcastle states that others who identified the dead body in 1882 had ulterior motives as relatives or members of Quantrill's Raiders.  These men had all ridden with Jesse and taken an oath to protect each other. By identifying the body as Jesse James, they were setting Jesse free.

However, one member of the James gang, an illiterate black man by the name of John Trammell, left a coded message revealing the hoax.

Acording to Schrader, Trammell scratched some messages into some wet bricks.  One brick "contained an image of a Spanish dagger, the numerals 777, KGC [Knights of the Golden Circle] and JJ [Jesse James]. . . ."  The bricks, which were buried in St. Joseph Missouri, were discovered in 1966.

Jesse James began living under the name J. Frank Dalton.  (The name "Dalton" was his mother's maiden name.  The initial "J" stood for "Jesse," and "Frank" was his brother's name.)  As Chief of the Inner Sanctum of the Knights of the Golden Circle, James was one of the most powerful men in America.  Schrader writes, "The Knights had industrial as well as military spies on both sides of the Atlantic."

Among the activities of James/Dalton was the murder of John Wilkes Booth, another Confederate spy who did not die when history says he did.

After assassinating President Abraham Lincoln, Booth was smuggled by the Confederate underground to Texas, where he began living under the name John St. Helen.  In the 1870s he worked as a bartender in a saloon in Granbury, Texas, and began telling people about his past.  When the Knights of the Golden Circle found out, the decision was made to silence him.   Booth fled Granbury.

Jesse James, along with William "Wild Bill" Lincoln (a distant cousin of President Lincoln), tracked Booth to Enid, Oklahoma, where he had assumed the name David George.

In a sworn statement, "Wild Bill" Lincoln wrote:  "Our branch of the Lincoln family was never satisfied with what really happened to Booth, and I spent fourteen years of my life running down the true story.  Strangely enough, I learned it from Jesse W. james, head of the Confederate underground.  I was present at Booth's real death."

According to Lincoln, he and James crept into Booth's room and tricked him into drinking a glass of arsenic-laced lemonade.  The massive amount of arsenic consumed by Booth caused his body to mummify.  James arranged for the body to be exhibited on a national carnival tour.  The mummy's present whereabouts are unknown.

As "J. Frank Dalton," Jesse James turned his $5 million reward from Maximilian into an even greater fortune.  He invested in the Texas oil boom, and was also a backer of the Hughes Tool Company (founded by Howard Hughes' father).  He was also one of Henry Ford's early investors.

James/Dalton died at the age of 103 in Granbury, Texas.  Many people who had known the outlaw in life swore that Dalton was the real Jesse James.




P.S. from Bison Bill: “If you landed on this page by way of a Search, you will surely enjoy visiting the rest of my Weird West. Just click on the HOME link below …”

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P.P.S. from Bison Bill: “Jesse James has been portrayed by many actors in many films over the years. Below is a partial list. My personal favorites are “Jesse James” (1939) starring Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda, and “The Long Riders” starring the Keach, Carradine, and Quaid brothers …”

Bronco: Shadow Of Jesse James [VHS] VHS
James Coburn plays a nasty Jesse James in this episode that finds Bronco saved from James' wrath by Cole Younger and meeting Belle Starr. 50 min.

Days Of Jesse James (1939)/King Of The Cowboys (1943)/Roll On Texas Moon (1946) [DVD] DVD
Roy Rogers dresses up the Jesse James story with his own special fixin's, starring as a detective who infiltrates the outlaw's gang to prove their innocence in the Northfield bank caper. Then, rodeo performer Roy Rogers trades his hat for that of special government agent, doing his all for the war effort by infiltrating a ring of saboteurs holed up in a tent-show. Songs include "I'm an Old Cowhand," "Gay Rancheros" and "Red River Valley." And finally, cattlemen and sheepmen are locked in a bitter feud for grazing space.. .and it's up to Roy Rogers to prevent riot on the range. Double-R-bar derring-do with Dale Evans, "Gabby" Hayes, Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers. 190 min. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital stereo; b

Jesse James [VHS](1939) VHS
A slightly fictionalized (and romanticized) retelling of the lives of outlaw brothers Jesse (Tyrone Power) and Frank (Henry Fonda) James, the circumstances that drove them to crime and the violent end to Jesse's life. Classic Western entertainment; co-stars Randolph Scott, Nancy Kelly. 105 min.

Jesse James At Bay [DVD](1941) DVD
Roy Rogers in a rare dual role, as the famous outlaw and also as a tin-horn gambler hired to impersonate him. How did Jesse really die? With "Gabby" Hayes and Gale Storm. 60 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; biographies; featurette.

Jesse James At Bay [DVD](1941) DVD
Roy Rogers in a rare dual role, as the famous outlaw and also as a tin-horn gambler hired to impersonate him. How did Jesse really die? With "Gabby" Hayes and Gale Storm. 60 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English. Plays All Regions.

Jesse James At Bay [VHS](1941) VHS
Roy Rogers in a rare dual role, as the famous outlaw and also as a tin-horn gambler hired to impersonate him. How did Jesse really die? With "Gabby" Hayes and Gale Storm. 54 min.

Jesse James At Bay [VHS](1941) VHS
Roy Rogers in a rare dual role, as the famous outlaw and also as a tin-horn gambler hired to impersonate him. How did Jesse really die? With "Gabby" Hayes and Gale Storm. 72 min.

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter [DVD](1965) DVD
As often happens with films of this caliber, it's actually the infamous mad doctor's granddaughter who makes a monster out of Jesse's buddy and sends "Igor" after his gunslinger pal. John Lupton and Narda Onyx play the title roles in director William Beaudine's sublimely silly sagebrush shocker. 83 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English mono; audio commentary by Joe Bob Briggs; theatrical trailer; more.

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter [DVD](1965) DVD
As often happens with films of this caliber, it's actually the infamous mad doctor's granddaughter who makes a monster out of Jesse's buddy and sends "Igor" after his gunslinger pal. John Lupton and Narda Onyx play the title roles in director William Beaudine's sublimely silly sagebrush shocker. 85 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English mono. Plays All Regions.

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter [VHS](1965) VHS
As often happens with films of this caliber, it's actually the infamous mad doctor's granddaughter who makes a monster out of Jesse's buddy and sends "Igor" after his gunslinger pal. John Lupton and Narda Onyx play the title roles in director William Beaudine's sublimely silly sagebrush shocker. 83 min. NOTE: This Title Is Out Of Print; Limit One Per Customer.

Jesse James Rides Again [VHS](1947) VHS
Clayton Moore is the legendary outlaw, here trying to go straight by defending farmers against hooded terrorists, in a slam-bang Western chapterplay. Perennial serial heroine Linda Stirling and bad guy Roy Barcroft also star. 13 episodes. This tape is new. Manufacturer: Republic Pictures Home Video. NOTE: This Title Is Out Of Print; Limit One Per Customer.

Jesse James Under The Black Flag [VHS](1921) VHS
After crash-landing his plane, a young millionaire stumbles upon the residence of Jesse James, Jr. (who appears as himself and portrays his father) and the granddaughter of the legendary outlaw. After real-life author Franklin B. Coates (who also wrote and directed) lends him a book on James' crimes, he soon learns about the notorious figure's involvement in such historical events as the Civil War. With Diana Reed, Marguerite Hungerford. 69 min. Silent with music score.

Jesse James' Women [DVD](1954) DVD
While trying to evade the law, Jesse and Frank James hide out in a small town in Mississippi where the mischievous Jesse manages to get involved with four different women. Things soon heat up, and Jesse finds he must go back to Missouri as his actions begin to catch up with him. Donald "Red" Barry, Jack Buetel and Lita Baron star. 86 min.

Jesse James' Women [VHS](1954) VHS
While trying to evade the law, Jesse and Frank James hide out in a small town in Mississippi where the mischievous Jesse manages to get involved with four different women. Things soon heat up, and Jesse finds he must go back to Missouri as his actions begin to catch up with him. Donald "Red" Barry, Jack Buetel and Lita Baron star. 86 min.

The Days Of Jesse James [DVD](1939) DVD
Roy Rogers dresses up the Jesse James story with his own special fixin's, starring as a detective who infiltrates the outlaw's gang to prove their innocence in the Northfield bank caper. With "Gabby" Hayes, Donald Barry. 63 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; biographies; featurette.

The Days Of Jesse James [VHS](1939) VHS
Roy Rogers dresses up the Jesse James story with his own special fixin's, starring as a detective who infiltrates the outlaw's gang to prove their innocence in the Northfield bank caper. With "Gabby" Hayes, Donald Barry. 64 min.

The Days Of Jesse James [VHS](1939) VHS
Roy Rogers dresses up the Jesse James story with his own special fixin's, starring as a detective who infiltrates the outlaw's gang to prove their innocence in the Northfield bank caper. With "Gabby" Hayes, Donald Barry. 63 min.

The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James [DVD](1986) DVD
Country music's biggest names star in a colorful retelling of the Old West's most notorious outlaws. Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson are the bandit brothers who terrorize the frontier and fascinate the frontier ladies. Willie Nelson co-stars, along with David Allen Coe, June Carter Cash. 97 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital stereo.

The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James [VHS](1986) VHS
Country music's biggest names star in a colorful retelling of the Old West's most notorious outlaws. Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson are the bandit brothers who terrorize the frontier and fascinate the frontier ladies. Willie Nelson co-stars, along with David Allen Coe, June Carter Cash. 97 min.

The Long Riders [DVD](1980) DVD
Three of the most notorious outlaw gangs of the Wild West--the James Gang, the Younger brothers, and the Miller boys--are portrayed here by three favorite teams of Hollywood siblings--James and Stacy Keach, Dennis and Randy Quaid, and David, Keith, and Robert Carradine--in Walter Hill's evocative saga. Score by Ry Cooder. 100 min. Widescreen; Soundtracks: English mono, French, Spanish; Subtitles: Spanish, French; theatrical trailer; scene access.

The Long Riders [VHS](1980) VHS
Three of the most notorious outlaw gangs of the Wild West--the James Gang, the Younger brothers, and the Miller boys--are portrayed here by three favorite teams of Hollywood siblings--James and Stacy Keach, Dennis and Randy Quaid, and David, Keith, and Robert Carradine--in Walter Hill's evocative saga. Score by Ry Cooder. 99 min.