Birthday: July 21, 1845
Died At Age: 55
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Zerelda Amanda Mimms
Born in: Logan, Kentucky
Famous as: Jesse James' Wife
Spouse/Ex-: Jesse James (m. 1874–1882)
father: Pastor John Wilson Mimms
mother: Mary James Mimms
children: Jesse E. James
Died on: November 13, 1900
Zerelda Mimms was the wife of American robber and leader of ‘James–Younger Gang,’ Jesse James. He had gained national fame as the leader of one of the most infamous 19th-century gangs. Mimms knew James even before their wedding as her mother was James’ paternal aunt. Though Mimms had maintained a low profile after getting married to her first cousin James, she was thrust into the limelight after her husband’s murder which became a national sensation. Mimms suffered severe depression after her husband’s death. Though her family suffered emotionally and financially, she refused offers from writers and publishers who urged her to share details of her husband’s life. After her death, she was portrayed in many American Western films including the 1949 Samuel Fuller-directed movie ‘I Shot Jesse James.’
Childhood & Early Life
Zerelda Amanda Mimms was born on July 21, 1845, in Logan, Kentucky, USA. She was one of twelve children born to Mary James Mimms and Pastor John Wilson Mimms. She was named after her mother’s sister-in-law Zerelda Cole.
Zee, as she was fondly called, knew Jesse James right from the beginning as he was Zerelda Cole’s son. In the summer of 1864, Jesse suffered a serious chest wound. He was subsequently taken to his Uncle John Wilson Mimms’ boardinghouse in Harlem near Kansas City where he was nursed by Zerelda Mimms.
When he was 17 years old, James suffered another life-threatening chest wound and was once again nursed by Zerelda Mimms. Meanwhile, the cousins had fallen in love with each other. They were in relationship for nine years before tying the knot on April 24, 1874, in Kearney, Missouri.
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Marriage & Motherhood
Mimms married James when the operations of the ‘James-Younger Gang’ were at its peak. Just before their wedding, ‘Pinkerton National Detective Agency’ was given the responsibility of stopping the gang. Hence, Mimms’ marriage was marred by anxious moments right from the very beginning.
On August 31, 1875, Mimms gave birth to her first child, a son named Jesse Edward ‘Tim’ James. In 1876, members of ‘James-Younger Gang’ were captured, which prompted James to move his family to Saint Joseph, Missouri.
Mimms settled down in Saint Joseph along with her husband and child. On February 28, 1878, she gave birth to her twins, Montgomery and Gould James. However, her twins died in infancy. On June 17, 1879, she gave birth to her daughter Mary Susan James.
Meanwhile, $10,000 bounty was announced on James’ head. Mimms tried hard to persuade her husband to give up robbery. He agreed to her plea, but told her that he would change his ways after one last bank robbery in Missouri.
On April 3, 1882, James’ trusted accomplices Charles Wilson Ford and Robert Ford (Ford brothers) visited him at his home. Robert, who was promised a reward and amnesty for his previous crimes by the governor, shot James at the back of his head. Another reason for his action was the bounty that was announced on James’ head.
Mimms and her children, who were in the kitchen, came running into the living room to find James lying in a pool of blood. Mimms tried her best to stop the blood, but to no avail. The news of James’ murder spread like wildfire and it soon became a national sensation.
Life After Jamesï¿½
Soon after his death, James’ valuables were put up for auction to pay his creditors. Mimms and her children started suffering financially and were forced to live with her brother in Kansas City. Her son Jesse Edward James started working at a young age to support his mother and sister.
Mimms suffered from depression after her husband’s demise. She started wearing black-colored clothes and refused to socialize. Despite her family’s financial woes, she rejected offers from various publication houses to share details of her husband’s life. In spite of being surrounded by family members, Mimms suffered emotionally for the rest of her life.
She passed away on November 13, 1900 in Kansas City, Missouri. Her mortal remains were buried at ‘Mount Olivet Cemetery’ in Kearney. Eighteen months later, James’ body was moved from his family farm and was laid next to Mimms’ grave.
In Popular Culture
After his death, Jesse James became a legendary figure in the Wild West. His story inspired many artworks and films. Zerelda Amanda Mimms was portrayed by famous actresses in each of those films.
In the 1921 silent film ‘Jesse James as the Outlaw,’ Mimms was portrayed by actress Marguerite Hungerford. Marguerite was also seen playing Mimms in the film’s sequel titled ‘Jesse James Under the Black Flag.’
Actress Nora Lane played Zerelda Mimms in the 1927 American silent western film ‘Jesse James.’ Directed by Lloyd Ingraham, the film starred popular actor Fred Thomson as Jesse James.
In 1939, Nancy Kelly played Zerelda Mimms in the Henry King-directed western film ‘Jesse James.’ The film was made at a lavish budget of $1.6 million. In 1949, Barbara Woodell played Mimms in ‘I Shot Jesse James.’
In 1953, Mimms was once again portrayed by Barbara Woodell in the American Ansco Color Western film, ‘The Great Jesse James Raid.’ In 1957, Hope Elise Ross Lange played Mimms in ‘The True Story of Jesse James.’ Starring Robert Wagner and Jeffrey Hunter in important roles, the film was adapted from Henry King’s 1939 film.
In 1980, Savannah Smith Boucher was roped in to play Zerelda Mimms in the Walter Hill-directed American western film ‘The Long Riders.’ Fifteen years later, Mimms was played by actress Maria Pitillo in the 1995 biographical western film ‘Frank and Jesse.’
In 2001, actress Alison Elizabeth Larter played Mimms in the Les Mayfield-directed film ‘American Outlaws.’ In the 2007 revisionist Western film ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,’ Mary-Louise Parker played Zerelda Mimms. Directed by Andrew Dominik, the film premiered at the 64th ‘Venice International Film Festival.’