INTERESTING FACTS CONCERNING THE JAMES BROTHERS by Leota Elliott
Many years ago Thomas Jefferson Wells and his family were living on a farm near Greensburg, Missouri. This is located between Edina and Memphis, Missouri, which is now on Highway 15. Among the family of children, were a pair of little twin boys, John and Ben. One day they were watching their father and other members of the family dig up a sealed barrel of apples. These apples had been buried deep in the ground several months previously, which, prevented them from spoiling or freezing. It was an extremely cold and disagreeable day and the promise of even worse weather seemed apparent.
Suddenly the family was aware of two strange horsemen, neither of whom they had ever seen before. They had ridden up and dismounted, and looked very tired; and they were cold and no doubt hungry. Immediately, the Wells family invited them in their home to get warm and also extended an invitation for them to join the family for dinner which was nearly ready. Also, their horses were taken to the barn and fed.
In the course of conversation, the two strangers learned that the two little boys were twins. Although the same size they didn’t resemble each other too much in appearance. Upon taking their leave, one of the strangers handed each of the twins, a silver dollar. A silver dollar in those days - was an enormous sum of money for a small boy!
Later it was learned that these two men were actually Frank and Jesse James - the notorious outlaws! Further developments resulted in the near future, that all the stores close-by were robbed, with the exception of the Jeff Wells’ General Store! This was when the Wells family fully realized who had been their strange guests! Possibly the moral of this previous episode would be - “do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.”
Years later, Frank James, who had served his sentence and reformed became a streetcar motorman in Fort Smith, Arkansas. For several years, he was a celebrity, and was requested by patrons of various Fair Boards to start the popular horse races throughout the Middle West.
One day before the Fair started at Memphis, Missouri, Frank James was talking to some of the men. Among them was Ben Wells, a village blacksmith from Greensburg. Frank was reminiscing, “Many years ago, when my brother and I were in this area, I recall a family that had just opened up a hole of apples that were sealed in a barrel. They were the best danged apples my brother and I ever ate - sure tasted good, for we were hungry and froze to the bone; we enjoyed a delicious meal and that family fed our horses. We’d never laid eyes on them before or since. I recollect a pair of twin boys -”, Ben Wells interrupted, “Well sir, you’re looking at one of them right now! You gave each of us a dollar - a silver dollar!”
These James brothers, had been members of the well known outlaw gang with the Daltons. The Daltons lived in the vicinity of Bible Grove, which is near Greensburg, Missouri. Uncle Ev and Aunt Lillie Kennison, who was a sister to Ben Wells, were neighbors of the Dalton family. Some of the Dalton Boys rode with the James outlaws. None of the outlaws ever bothered Uncle Ev’s family or any of their neighbors.
Editor's Note: Here is an entry from my Livingston County Chronology for 1895.
|Frank James (brother of Jesse) is here to serve as a horse race starter and judge at the Livingston County Fair. He also charges visitors fifty cents each while serving as tour guide of the James family Farm near Kearney.|