Debates Was Jesse James Shot to Death in 1882? Part 2

A look at the history of outlaw Jesse James who was either shot down in 1882, or lived to over 100 under the name J. Frank Dalton.

Was Jesse James Really Shot to Death in 1882?

Turilli rounded up two of Jesse's cronies, Col. James R. Davis, 108 years old and a former U.S. marshal, and John Trammell, a 111-year-old black who used to cook for the James gang. Both identified Dalton as the real Jesse James. All three celebrated Jesse's 102nd birthday on Sept. 5, 1949, at the Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Mo., where Turilli worked as general manager. Dalton, who said he had used the caverns as a hideout, revealed a secret passage that no one knew existed. Jesse James, alias J. Frank Dalton, was interviewed by scores of journalists and appeared on radio and TV as well. Writer Robert Ruark, after talking to Dalton and surviving pals for three days, came away convinced that Dalton was Jesse James. In 1950 Turilli made a standing $10,000 offer to anyone who could prove conclusively that Dalton was not Jesse James.

Turilli then located Jesse's nephew, Robert James. When told about the $10,000 offer and asked to talk to Dalton, Robert replied that he was not interested. Yet in 1938 Robert had been quick to unmask another man who falsely claimed to be Jesse James. What was Robert James covering up? asks Turilli. Further, he revealed that Dalton wrote some 20 pages on Jesse James in Crittenden's Memoirs, published in 1937 by the son of Missouri's former governor. Why Dalton? "Because no other person could have known the facts," says Turilli.

Dalton was to undergo one more test. The Police Gazette came up with copies of old Pinkerton detective agency reports which showed that Jesse James had numerous scars on his body: seven bullet wounds, a rope burn on his neck, a damaged fingertip, and more. When Dalton was taken to New York and examined by authorities, they were surprised to fined all the scars in place. There was some controversy about the fingertip; experts could not agree whether it was supposed to be missing or merely damaged. Turilli challenges anyone to show a photo of Jesse with a missing finger. He claims Jesse's fingers were intact.

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