Famous Lasts The Last Holdup by Jesse James Part 2

About the famous last holdup by Jesse James, history and biography of the outlaw.

THE LAST HOLDUP BY JESSE JAMES

Jesse and Frank went into hiding back among their kin. Two more train holdups ensued before the Blue Cut job, which began when the gang blocked the railroad tracks with a rock. When the train appeared, they flagged it down with a lantern covered by a piece of red flannel. They forced the express messenger to open his safe, then went through the car robbing the passengers with their usual exaggerated courtesy. On previous occasions, Jesse had been known to interrupt a holdup to introduce members of his gang formally. During this search, the boys found a bottle of wine and some cake, and they refreshed themselves as they collected watches and wallets. With a typically humorous touch, Jesse asked the brakeman whether the 50 cent in his pocket was all he had. When the brakeman said yes, Jesse handed him a dollar, saying, "This is the principal and interest on your money." Before leaving, Jesse insisted on shaking hands with the train's crew.

Eight months later, after Missouri's Gov. Thomas Crittenden persuaded the railroads to put $10,000 on the outlaw's head, Jesse James was dead. Bob Ford shot him three times in the back, at his ranch-house hideout in St. Joseph, Mo., as he stood on a chair straightening a picture of Stonewall Jackson. Ford had been afraid Jesse would discover that Ford and his brother Charlie had killed Jesse's cousin, Wood Hite, in a fight over a woman. Ford was also looking for revenge, believing Jesse had tortured one of his relatives to get information about an informer.

There was enormous publicity concerning Jesse's death. Between 1901 and 1848, a whole succession of "real" Jesse Jameses appeared. (See "Was Jesse James Really Shot to Death in 1882?" in Chap. 9.) Many people profited out of Jesse's murder, including Bob Ford. Ford toured in a play called How I Killed Jesse James and later opened a saloon, where a rival had him shot to death in 1892.

Among the real survivors was Frank James, who surrendered, was tried for murder, and was acquitted. For a time he toured the country lecturing on the evils of crime. But he ended up with a gun in his hand--as a starter at racetracks and county fairs. Another survivor was Cole Younger, who died in 1916 at the age of 72, with 17 bullets still scattered throughout his bulky frame.

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