Zerelda Cole James is best known as the mother of Frank and Jesse James. The boys’ father Robert died when he went to California in 1850. Two years later, she married a wealthy farmer named Benjamin Simms—and that proved to be a disaster. Simms reportedly hated the boys and was cruel to them. Jesse was five; Frank was nine. Zerelda found that intolerable, so she soon separated from Simms. She was in the process of filing for divorce when her estranged husband died after a fall from a horse in 1854.