This Day in History: April 3, 1882 by Simonov

This Day in History: April 3, 1882


3 April 2020 at 21:02:22 MDT

On April 3, 1882, American outlaw Jesse James is shot in the back of the head by Robert Ford. James was born on in Clay County, Missouri, on September 5, 1847. Early in the American Civil War, Jesse's brother Frank James joined the Confederate army as a guerrilla fighter in Quantrill's Raiders. Jesse eventually followed in his brothers footsteps by joining Frank's unit at the age of 16. Both brothers soon ended up serving under William "Bloody Bill" Anderson until Anderson's death, at which point they split up with Frank following Quantrill to Kentucky and Jesse following one of Anderson's lieutenants, Archie Clements, to Texas before returning to Missouri. After the war, Clement and some of his men continued to operate as a gang, robbing banks and harassing the new Republican government. The James brothers soon followed Clement's path and took to crime with Jesse first becoming infamous with the robbery of the Daviess County Savings Association on December 7, 1869, wherein he killed Captain John Sheets having mistaken him for the militia officer who had killed Anderson during the war. This resulted in news articles written about him, letters asserting his innocence written by John Newman Edwards, and a bounty placed on his head by Missouri governor Thomas T. Crittenden.

Frank and Jesse James soon joined with the Younger brothers (Cole, John, Jim, and Bob) and Clell Miller to form the James-Younger Gang, beginning a string of robberies from Iowa and Kansas to Texas and West Virginia. The gang robbed trains, stage coaches, banks, and even a fair. In 1874, the James-Younger Gang soon came into conflict with the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which had been hired by the Adams Express Company to stop the gang. Over the next couple of years, John Younger was killed in a shootout with the Pinkertons and Pinkerton agents raided and burned the James family farm.

In 1876, the James-Younger Gang attempted to rob the bank in Northfield, Minnesota. Following a gunfight with the town of Northfield, the only members of the gang to avoid death or capture were Frank and Jesse James. The brothers would spend 1876 to 1881 in Tennessee before returning to Missouri as authorities in Tennessee began to grow suspicious following a series of robberies in the state. Frank soon after moved to Virginia while Jesse settled down in St. Joseph, Missouri, with his family. Trusting few, Jesse James turned to Charley (with whom he had conducted raids previously) and Robert Ford to help protect his family. However, the Fords had been planning with Crittenden to arrest James for the reward money. On the morning of April 3, 1882, Jesse James stood on a chair to clean a dusty picture above the mantle. It was at this point that Robert Ford drew his revolver and shot James in the back of the head. The Fords were soon arrested and charged with first-degree murder, tried, convicted, sentenced to death by hanging, and pardoned by Governor Crittenden in the span of a single day.

On May 6, 1884, Charley Ford committed suicide following a battle with terminal tuberculosis and a morphine addiction. Robert Ford ran a saloon in Creede, Colorado, until Edward O'Kelley shot him in the throat with a shotgun on June 8, 1892, killing him. O'Kelley would be spend 9 years in prison for the act before his sentence was commuted following a 7,000 signature petition. He would eventually be killed in a fight with a police officer in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Territory, in 1904.

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