Frank James (1843 – 1915)
Alexander Franklin James was the older brother of Jesse James. He was born January 10, 1843, to Robert and Zerelda James. Frank, like the rest of his family, was a Confederate sympathizer. He joined a unit of Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson’s Home Guard on May 4, 1861, and fought at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek under General Sterling Price. Because he came down with measles and was left behind, Frank was captured by Union forces. After taking the oath of allegiance to the United States, he was allowed to go home. Afterwards, Frank joined the infamous guerilla raiders William Clarke Quantrill and William “Bloody Bill” Anderson and participated in various assaults on Union troops.
After the Civil War, Frank James returned to the family farm in Clay County. He was an avid reader and enjoyed the works of William Shakespeare. By 1869, however, the James brothers were involved in a series of bank robberies and murders. For the next decade, Frank lived the life of an outlaw, alternating between committing crimes and falling out of sight.
Following a failed bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota, on September 7, 1876, the James brothers settled in Nashville, Tennessee, where they lived under false names. Frank called himself “B. J. Woodson.” He lived with his wife, Ann Ralston, and son, Robert, and took up raising hogs and racing horses. By this point, Frank wanted to lead a respectable life and put his criminal past behind him. He was pressured by Jesse, however, to commit more robberies.
Frank finally turned himself in to Governor Thomas T. Crittenden in Jefferson City, Missouri, six months after Jesse was killed. He was tried for crimes in Missouri and Alabama, but was found not guilty. He spent the rest of his life working menial jobs and struggling with his past. Frank returned to the Clay County family farm after his mother’s death in 1911. He died there on February 18, 1915.