recent hit movie, “The Assassination of Jesse James,” stirred
more than a passing interest in East
Texas, especially in Collin,
and Leon counties.
In 1863, during the Civil War, William
Clark Quantrill led his guerillas from Missouri to winter quarters
in north East Texas. Among the men who rode with him were Jesse and
camped northeast of Sherman
in Grayson County,
and Jesse developed an affinity for the town, and later spent his
honeymoon there, using money taken in a Missouri train robbery.
The James boys also stayed in McKinney,
the county seat of Collin
County, and circulated freely among the townspeople. They were
looked upon not as outlaws,
but as Confederate heroes.
One incident in McKinney
helped endeared the James boys with local people.
|When the federal
government sent its agents to buy mules
from East Texas, farmers
who had to sell their mules
to feed their families. Some 400 mules were bought and penned in McKinney.
One night, the James boys took down the fence and freed all 400 of
the mules. Many of them wandered
home to their previous owners.
April 3, 1882, Robert Ford and his brother Charley entered the home
of Tom Howard, an alias used by Jesse James, at St. Joseph, Missouri.
As Jesse stood on a chair to clean a picture, Ford shot him in the
head, killing him instantly.
But in Texas, a long-standing legend
says that Jesse didn’t die in Missouri, but faked his death, moved
to Texas, and died in Granbury,
the county seat of Hood
County, when he was 104.
Texas legend says Jesse James was buried under an assumed name in
Photo courtesy Bob Bowman
| Now, to Leon
According to local history, a old man known as J. Frank Dalton registered
at the Sullivan Hotel in Centerville,
the county seat, in the 1940s.
Author Clovis Herring wrote that “there are still some people who
remember that the old man “looked like an older version of Jesse James”
as he and a friend looked for Jesse’s buried treasure from his outlaw
In 1951, Dalton and his friend appeared together in Granbury,
Texas, where Dalton died and was buried in the Granbury Cemetery.
According to reports, Dalton or James’ body of 104 years had all the
scars Jesse James had accumulated during the days when he was riding
with William Quantrill during the Civil War and as an outlaw with
Frank following the war.
Herring later wrote: “I have looked up all the evidence and my theory
is that the old man who signed the register at the Sullivan Hotel
was, in fact, the infamous Jesse James.”
Bob Bowman's East Texas
May 17, 2009 Column.
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers