Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Nashville and Jesse James


  Most everyone has heard of the name of the notorious outlaw Jesse James. But did you know that he lived in Nashville from 1876 until March 25, 1881? This was a little over a year before he was shot by Bob Ford in the back of the head while dusting a picture in his home in St. Joseph Missouri. A daughter was born here along with a twin boy and girl who died in infancy. Jesse's brother Frank lived nearby. The brothers were here for a reason. They were hiding out from the law and they felt that they would blend in to a large city and be less visible. The brothers had led violent lives until that point. Both had been guerrilla's in the Civil War. They rode with Quantrill and "Bloody Bill Anderson". Members of these groups raped women, shot down surrendered soldiers or Unionist civillian's and sometimes scalped their victims. Jesse was nearly killed on two occasions when he was shot in the chest both times. The last time near the end of the war when he was trying to surrender. His first cousin Zerelda "Zee" Mims, who had been named after Jesse's mother, nursed him back to health. and nine years later became his wife.

  After the war in 1866 the James brothers gang started robbing banks, stagecoaches, and trains. This was their most active period until September 7, 1876 when the James-Younger gang rode into Northfield Minnesota to rob a bank. The gang was ambushed by enraged citizens who fired at them from storefronts and windows. Jesse blew a bank clerks brains out and an innocent bystander was killed. The gang barely escaped. Two gang members were killed and the rest were captured. Except for Jesse and Frank. They were the only two that were not hurt or captured. Eventually they made their way to Nashville. There they created the facade of respectable citizens. They sent for their families and Jesse went by the alias of Thomas Howard. Frank went by the name B.J. Woodson. I have read that Jesse lived in at least three places in Edgefield, which is in East Nashville. At least two places on Boscobel street and he lived the longest at 711 Fatherland St. This house still stands and is on the National Register of Historic places. The house was in deplorable condition and was scheduled for demolition in 1984 but was restored by a private owner. It was originally built in the mid 1850's.
A replica of the inside of the bank at Northfield Minnesota 

The route taken by the James brothers from Northfield to Nashville

The James Brothers and a gang member

Jesse and Frank with their wives

606 Boscobel Street - This house no longer exists

The house at 711 Fatherland Street 

  My wife Debbie grew up at 915 Boscobel St. until we married in 1968. Her father lived there until about 1989. My wife's house was only a block or two from the James house on Fatherland Street. Edgefield was the Belle Meade of the Jesse James era and as a young man I did not realize the historical significance of the neighborhood. I have a picture on our wall of her house in 1906. Frank seemed ready to settle down in Nashville but about 1879 Jesse became restless. The gang started robbing again and in 1881 the brothers returned to Missouri. On 3-April-1882 a member of Jesse's gang named Bob Ford and his brother schemed with the governor of Missouri, Thomas Crittenden. The governor led the left wing of General Rosecrans Army at Stones River. Ford agreed to kill Jesse and collect the bounty on his head. From that point on Ford was known as the" dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard". A few years later he was shot in the throat at point blank range by a man wielding a shotgun. Jesse James was seen by many of the common people as a "Robin Hood". Yet there is no evidence that he ever shared their money with anyone other than themselves and fellow gang members. Jesse was nothing but a cold blooded killer. The following is the last picture ever taken of Jesse when he worked at a cedar barrel factory in Nashville. Jesse is sitting in the center of the picture on the front row. Another gang member has his arm around his shoulder. Frank is to the right on the back row. There are five gang members in the picture besides the James brothers.
The Cedar Barrel Factory

Bob Ford - The dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard

The body of Jesse James on display


  1. Correction- the twins that died as babies were males- named Gould and Montgomery.

  2. My family is long time TN folk. My namesake moved here in the early 1900s (Veach), descended from Revolutionary War patriots who settled in Kentucky. However it was either the Hillis or Davis branch of my family that actually housed Jesse James and his gang for over a week back in the late 1800s. I'll talk to my grandfather and see if he has any more story to share. My relatives are amongst those that built Nashville and settled the surrounding area... Legend in my family is that Jesse was a decent and respectable fellow while he holed up with my family.

    1. Do you know the name of the gang member who has his arm around jesse? I believe he is my GR Granfather! I have a photo.

  3. I am born and raised in nashville and story told to me is he lived in a house owned by the hyde family on hydes ferry road in Bordeaux and house is still standing and had been remolded

  4. Brad-I just bought a house from the 1800's, South of Nashville and the story that ran with the property, was that long ago owners also hid Jesse James on their property. Can you fill me in on your family's knowledge?

  5. "Jesse was nothing but a cold blooded killer."

    That is not true... Taking a step back paints a bigger picture. The only 'Cold Blooded' killer hiding in the woodpile, is the Rothschild (controlled), Centralized Bank.