New research changes the long-accepted story of how Jesse James cashed in his chips.
We pride ourselves on telling the true stories of the historical West, and if you read “Classic Gunfights” in the last issue (January 2023), you know we told the long-accepted narrative about how Jesse James read in his morning newspaper (April 3, 1882) about a gang member—Dick Liddil—ratting out the gang, which led to the Ford brothers killing Jesse before he killed them.
Well, it turns out, part of that is not true.
Michelle Pollard, a researcher and fan of the Jesse James story, tracked down all the newspaper accounts of the Liddil surrender and turning on the gang, and learned that by April 3, it was old news; she could find no story about it in the April 3rd newspapers. This led us to reexamine the entire account, and we thought it a good idea to ask our friend and Jesse James biographer, Mark Lee Gardner, to revisit Jesse’s assassination and the weirdness surrounding it (page 22).
Ms. Pollard, who lives in Hailsham, Sussex, in England tells us she grew up watching Westerns with her “mum,” who loves Clint Eastwood. Michelle tells us, “In 2002, I had the opportunity to visit Missouri and did so thinking that would be the final part of the journey, but my interest just intensified, and here I am! Been back eight times! Never get tired of learning more about him and the events going on around him. Never tire of making new friends or going on road trips with firm friends and sharing what we find. Love it!”
A Tight-Knit Community of Researchers Break the Story
Here is Ms. Pollard’s account of how she broke the story: “I live in the UK, so I began by asking fellow English Westerner, Robert J. Wybrow, if he had seen the newspaper. He said he had not. I then posed the same question to my essential U.S. friends, all amazing researchers: Linda Gay Mathis, Liz Murphy, Chuck Rabas and the late Paul Saeli. None had seen, or could find, the relevant newspaper article, and all set about finding out why. I remember spending hours in the records offices of St. Joe and Kansas City during a visit to Missouri, finding articles about Liddil’s surrender but all a week before I’d thought they’d be!”