The Death of Jesse James


Jesse James took off his gunbelt and laid it on his bed in his home in St. Joseph, MO. He turned his back on the two Ford brothers, his guests, to pour water in the basin and wash himself. Robert Ford moved forward and shot James in the back of the head.

Thus ended the life of one of the most-infamous bank robbers in history, as reported in newspapers at the time.

Response to the Shooting

“The news spread with great rapidity, but most people received it with doubt till investigation established the fact beyond-question. Then the excitement became more and more intense, and crowds of people rushed to that quarter of the city where the shooting took place, anxious to view the body of the dead outlaw, and learn the particulars,” reported the Daily Advocate of Newark, OH.

James had lived with his wife in a small shanty in the southeast section of town for about six months. Charles Ford, a member of his gang, lived with him in the house. Robert had only arrived recently to help plan a raid.

Once James was killed, the Ford brothers gave themselves up. They were arrested and taken to the courthouse under guard.

“The Ford brothers claim that they are detectives, and that they have been on James’s track for a long time,” the newspaper reported. Others believed that the lure of the big reward for the capture or killing of James just proved too much to resist.

James’s body was prepared for burial, but not before a photo had been taken of the body.

The Funeral of Jesse James

James was buried in Kearney, MO, on April 13. “Mourning relatives, hosts of friends, officers of the law in the vicinity, and the reverend clergy, all seem to have united in paying extraordinary honors to his remains. Never before had Kearney seen so grand a funeral,” reported the Warren Ledger of Warren, PA.

Among the pall bearers were a sheriff and deputy sheriff.

Though James had been a notorious bank robber, his mother said at the grave, “My dear boy, is better off in heaven today than he would be here with us.”

“Jesse James had the funeral of a saint, thanks to the Rev. Mr. Martin and the Rev. Mr. Jones. He had led a life of comparative security, thanks to officers of the law, two of whom bore his corpse in honor to the grave after he had been assassinated through treachery. And that was the ending of a most cowardly and bloodthirsty ruffian in a civilized state in the American Union. In all the records of brigandage and murder there is no instance more astounding than this of Jesse James,” reported the Warren Ledger.