Songs have been written about him, there was a television series in the mid-1960s, and he has been hailed as both a folklore hero and cold-blooded killer. Yet throngs of visitors travel to Kansas City every year to learn more about the infamous outlaw Jesse James, at the Jesse James Farm & Museum.
Born in 1847 in Kearny, Missouri, Jesse came of age in the midst of a tumultuous era in American history, during the extreme violence and civil unrest surrounding the Civil War in the Midwest and the Kansas-Missouri Border War between “Free State” Kansas and “Slave State” Missouri, among other significant historical events.
As he and older brother Frank grew into young men at the family log home set on 205-acres of farmland, located about 25 miles north of what is now Kansas City’s downtown, they became increasingly involved in nefarious acts. Their capers included serving with Confederate guerrilla forces during the Civil War, bank, train and stagecoach robbery, and murder, which eventually earned them the distinction as the most feared outlaws in the world.
For several decades the James home and farm was the epicentre of frequent violent events resulting in devastation of property, and in one instance, serious bodily injury to their mother and the death of their eight-year-old stepbrother.
In 1882, at the age of 34, Jesse was shot and killed by one of his own gang members in order to claim a $5,000 bounty on his head, and laid to rest on the family farm. Frank was eventually charged and acquitted of several of his crimes, and died in 1915 at the age of 72.
History Lives On
Today, visitors to the Jesse James Farm & Museum will find the world’s largest display of James family artefacts and the authentically preserved farmhouse where this notorious family lived. Together, they offer great insight into the historical and cultural environment of the day, and how James became forever etched into the social consciousness.
The visitor centre here is open daily, year-round, and in April, June and September the farm hosts Old West Revolver Shootout matches, complete with frontier clothing and costumes to immerse guests in the action.
In nearby Liberty, visitors can tour The Jesse James Bank Museum where Jesse and Frank killed a man before escaping with the loot. The bank is recognized today as the site of the first successful daylight robbery in America during peacetime. And at the 1859 Old Jail and Marshal’s Home in Independence you can peer inside the massive limestone jail cell where Frank was held for six months, and despite his outlaw prestige, treated more like a celebrity than a criminal.
Visiting Kansas City has never been easier with our partnership with Delta and daily flights across the Atlantic. Visit the Jesse James Farm & Museum next time you’re in town.
Have you been to the Jesse James Farm & Museum? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Lysa Allman-Baldwin