Guest Author - Vance Rowe
Alexander Frank James was born in Missouri, in Clay County. He was the older brother of the infamous Jesse James and the founding member of the James – Younger gang. Frank and his brothers were confederate sympathizers as the family owned slaves. In 1862, he joined William Quantrill and his band of guerillas and wreaked havoc on Union army troops as well as against Union sympathizers and supporters of Abraham Lincoln. Probably the most infamous act perpetrated by Frank James and Quantrill’s Raiders was the attack on Lawrence, Kansas where buildings were burned to the ground and many men, women and children were killed.
After the Civil War, he formed a gang that included his brother Jesse, Bob, Cole and James Younger, Clell Miller, Charlie Pitts and Bill Chadwell. They robbed banks and trains together and were quite good at it until they tried to rob a bank in Northfield Minnesota. A bank teller was shot and killed during the robbery and the townspeople took action. Chadwell, Miller and Pitts were killed, the Youngers were wounded and captured and the James boys were wounded but managed to escape. Together the gang had robbed more than twelve banks in various states. They also robbed about seven trains and at least four stagecoaches before the Northfield Minnesota raid occurred.
Frank James decided to go into hiding after this and rented a home in Nashville, Tennessee. He and Jesse took this time to form a new gang with Robert and Charlie Ford and a man named Dick Liddell. In 1879, the gang held up the Chicago & Alton Railroad in Missouri and stole about 6,000 dollars. In 1881, the gang robbed a train in Blue Cut, Missouri. During this robbery, the conductor and a pensioner were killed and Missouri governor, ThomasCrittenden offered a ten thousand dollar reward against Jesse James. Robert Ford, a member of Frank and Jesse’s gang collected the reward by shooting Jesse James in the back of his head, killing him instantly.
Feeling that he was next, Frank James turned himself in to authorities and was acquitted of a murder charge by a jury. After this, Frank went straight and went to work on the stage as well as joining a circus. He then eventually turned the family home into a museum and charged visitors money to see Jesse’s gravesite. Frank James eventually died on the family farm in 1915.