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 Texas : Features : Columns : Bob Bowman's East Texas

Jesse James in Texas

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
The recent hit movie, “The Assassination of Jesse James,” stirred more than a passing interest in East Texas, especially in Collin, Grayson, Hood 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 Frank James.
Quantrill 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.

On 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.
Granbury Texas Cemetery tombstones
A Texas legend says Jesse James was buried under an assumed name in Granbury’s cemetery. Photo courtesy Bob Bowman
Now, to Leon County.

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 days.

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

(Bob Bowman is the author of more than 40 books on East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com.)

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Bob Bowman's "All Things Historical"

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66 stories about forgotten town in 45 counties
 
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