412 Missouri Historical Review
THE JAMES BOYS AND MISSOURI POLITICS
BY WILLIAM A. SETTLE, JR,1
The history of Missouri between 1866 and 1884 is colored
with accounts of the activities of Frank and Jesse James,
outlaws of world-wide fame. For sixteen years after the
first robbery they were accused of, the James brothers went
unapprehended. Even in the end, Jesse was killed for reward
money under circumstances which cast a shadow upon
several State officials. Frank voluntarily surrendered a
few months later when all efforts had failed to bring about
his capture. His acquittal in a trial at Gallatin, Missouri,
marked the climax of his evasion of the law.
It was only natural that the inability of Missouri officers
to capture the outlaws, the questionable methods which
brought an end to the career of outlawry, and Frank's final
release would have their repercussions on the politics of the
Bank robberies from 1866 to 1874 which the James boys
were thought to be involved in occurred at Liberty, Lexington,
Savannah, Richmond, Gallatin, and Ste. Genevieve in Missouri; at Russellville and Columbia in Kentucky; and at
Corydon, Iowa. In addition they were accused of holding up
the cashier of the Kansas City fair association and of train
robberies near Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Gads Hill, Missouri.
Several of these robberies were accompanied with killings.2
The robbery at Gads Hill came on the night of January 31,
1874.3 On March 23 Governor Silas Woodson sent a special
message to the State legislature asking for an appropriation
to employ secret service men for the capture of the James
1william a. settle, jr., a native of Wayne county, Missouri, is a graduate
assistant and student in the department of history at the University of Missouri. He received a B.S. degree in education from the Southeast Missouri
State teachers college in 1938 and an M.A. degree from the University of
Missouri in 1941. From September 1936 to May 1941, he taught social studies
and English in the Greenville, Missouri, high school.
The present article is based on his master's thesis Frank and Jesse James
and Missouri Politics.
2Love, Robertus, The Rise and Fall of Jesse James, pp. 59-136.
3Liberty Tribune, February 6, 1874, p. 1.