The crook has finally been caught on the Hook. Here is his full story as told by the Public Domain book “Life and Adventures for Frank and Jesse James.
The Rev. Robert James, the father of Frank and Jesse, was a native of Kentucky. His parents were quiet, respectable people, belonging to the middle class of society. Their desire was to raise up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Being themselves persons of intelligence and culture, far above the average of their neighbors in those days, the parents of Rev. Robert James resolved to give him as good an education as the facilities accessible to them would permit. Accordingly, Robert was early placed in a neighboring school, and made such progress as to gladden the hearts of his parents, and call forth auguries of future distinction from the friends and neighbors of the family. 12Robert James was a moral, studious youth, much given to reflection on subjects of a religious character. Before he had attained his eighteenth year, he had made an open profession of faith in the Christian religion, and united himself with a Baptist church, of which his parents were members. After passing through the various grades of an academic course, young James entered as a student of Georgetown College, Kentucky. Resolving to follow the profession of a minister, he commenced the study of Theology, was licensed to preach, and began his ministry in his twentieth year. Even then he was regarded as a youth of decided culture and more than ordinary ability.
While yet a young man, Rev. Mr. James decided to remove to the then new State of Missouri. He settled on a farm in Clay county, and commenced in earnest the onerous duties of a pioneer preacher. His labors were not unrewarded. He soon had the satisfaction of garnering the harvest of his sowing. A congregation was gathered and a church organized in Clay county, called New Hope, which is still in existence. For some years the Rev. Mr. James ministered to the people who had been gathered by his exertions, with great acceptance. Nor were his labors confined to the spiritual welfare of the people of New Hope. He visited many distant churches, and preached with great acceptance in many places.
Old citizens of Clay county still entertain pleasant recollections of the earnest, God-fearing pastor, who 13went about only to do good, by cheering the despondent, consoling the sorrowful, assisting the needy, upholding the weak, confirming the hesitating, and pointing the way of salvation to the penitent. Everywhere, in that region of country, he was held in the very highest esteem. So the years of his early manhood passed away while he was engaged in the commendable effort to better the condition, by purifying the moral nature of his friends and neighbors.
In 1850, following in the footsteps of hundreds of others, Rev. Robert James bade adieu to his family, friends and neighbors, and set out for “the golden land” of California, on a prospecting tour. We do not know what motives actuated him in making this move, nor is it pertinent to this relation. He went away, and was destined to return no more. Not long after his arrival in California, whither he had been preceded by a brother, Rev. Mr. James was stricken by a mortal disease which terminated his life in a short time. Far away from home, where the tall sequoias rear their lofty branches above the plain, on a gentle slope which catches the last beams of the setting sun, they laid the minister to rest, in a soil unhallowed by the dust of kinsmen, in a grave unbedewed by the tears of loved ones left behind.
When yet a young man, Rev. Mr. James was united in marriage to Miss Zerelda Cole, a native of Scott county, Kentucky. Mrs. James is a lady of great determination of mind, and a masculine force 14of character. Those who knew the couple in the old days seem to think that the minister and his wife were an ill-assorted pair. He was gentle and amiable, while, on the contrary, his wife was strong in passion, and of a very bitter, unrelenting temper—traits of character prominently developed in her sons, Frank and Jesse. It is said that the home-life of the minister was not as smooth as it might have been, had he been united with a companion of a less passionate and exacting temper. With his domestic life, however, we have nothing to do, except in so far as the home influences thrown around his children gave direction to their character, and tinged their mental disposition. Whatever home-cares he might have had, the public has little cause to inquire now. He went down to death with a stainless name long years before his sons entered upon a career of crime, and made their names a terror to those who care to obey the dictates of justice, love and mercy.