Childhood & Early Life
Born Alexander Franklin James on January 10, 1843 at Kearney, Missouri, to Baptist minister Reverend Robert Sallee James and his wife, Frank James was the oldest of three siblings including Jesse Woodson James and Susan Lavenia James.
Following the death of his father and stepfather Benjamin Simms, his mother married a third time to Dr. Reuben Samuel in 1855 when Frank was 13 years old
As a child, he showed interest in his late father's sizable library, especially the works of William Shakespeare. Census records show that James attended school regularly, and he reportedly wanted to become a teacher.
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In 1861, he joined the Confederate Home Guard unit of Centerville, Missouri. He was captured by Union soldiers the following year and forced to take oath not to reenlist in the Confederate army.
In1863, he joined the Quantrill's guerrillas fighters who supported the Confederate army during the American Civil war. Other members of the gang included younger brother Jessie James, Cole Younger and James Younger.
In 1863, Union soldiers roughed up his mother, and almost hanged her husband to death, and beat up Jesse for not giving them the location of Quantrill's guerrillas.
In August, 1863, the Quantrill Raiders committed one of the worst atrocities of the Civil War when it attacked the town of Lawrence and killed 150 inhabitants and set fire to over 180 buildings.
With the end of Civil War, the James brothers became outlaws. They established a gang that included Bob Younger, Cole Younger, James Younger, Bill Chadwell, Clell Miller and Charlie Pitts.
In 1866, along with Cole Younger, John Jarrette, George and Oliver Sheppard, and Little Arch Clements, he robbed a bank at Liberty, Missouri, of Yankee money which resulted in the killing of a citizen.
Over the next few years the brothers took part in twelve bank robberies, seven train robberies, four stage-coach robberies and various other criminal acts which resulted in at least eleven citizens getting killed.
In 1873, they robbed their first train, the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad at Adair, Iowa, hoping to get the $75,000 dollars in gold but the money was not on the train.
After escaping from Minnesota, in 1877, he began living with wife Annie on rented accommodation near Nashville, Tennessee, under assumed names. Hoping to give up the outlaw life, he started a family.
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Jesse James moved his family to St. Joseph where he passed himself off as a cattle buyer. Eventually, a gang member killed Jesse in April 1882 and in return was pardoned by the governor.
Frank was in Lynchburg, Virginia, at the time of Jesse's death. In May 1882, he decided to surrender with the help of friend and newspaper man John Newman Edwards directly to the governor.
Many of the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. With regard to the Winston train robbery, his accomplice Dick Liddil identified him as being a robber and killer of the passenger.
In 1883, he was acquitted of participating in the Winston train robbery and of murdering McMillan after the defense pointed out that Liddil himself was a robber and not to be trusted.
He attempted to make a living working on the stage and in the circus. He also turned the family farm into a museum and charged visitors 30 cents to see his brother’s grave.
In 1876, the gang attempted to rob the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota, and killed the cashier. Members of the town opened fire wounding Frank who escaped and went into hiding.
In1881, the brothers with Wood, Clarence Hite, and Dick Liddil, robbed a Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad owned train at Winston, Missouri, of $650 and passenger Frank McMillan was shot dead by Frank.
Personal Life & Legacy
Frank James married Annie Ralston and their only child Robert Franklin James was born in 1878 in Nashville.
Frank died at his family home in Kearney following a heart attack.
This outlaw was celebrated in many movies - the earliest being, Jesse James, in 1939 in which Henry Fonda portrayed Frank and also in the sequel, The Return of Frank James, the following year.
In 1980, country singer Johnny Cash portrayed Frank James in the album, The Legend of Jesse James, and played Frank in the film The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James, six years later.
The outlaw brothers stole gold what is equivalent to 1 billion dollars today, gave some in charity while the rest of that loot is buried all over Missouri, never recovered by the federal authorities.
This outlaw declared once, "If there is ever another war in the country, it will be between capital and labor. I mean between greed and manhood.”