Last May I had the privilege of visiting a whole slew of Jesse James history sites in the great state of Missouri. Thanks to the knowledge and generosity of my guide, Mark Lee Gardner, we hit the high spots, from the Jesse James Farm to the Jesse James Home in Saint Joe (I saw the mythical bullet hole!) and many graveyards in between.

Besides the rich history I discovered (I never knew the Santa Fe Trail started in Franklin, Missouri!), we encountered great people and great food, from fantastic BBQ in Jeff City to Boudreaux’s Louisiana Seafood and Steaks, catty-corner from the Buchanan County Courthouse in Saint Joe where Bob and Charley Ford pleaded guilty to Jesse’s murder. 

All of these great sites are available for anyone who loves history as much as you and I do. In fact, we are planning a return visit next year to celebrate the publication of my next book on The Illustrated Life & Times of Jesse James. So, stay tuned; we’re going to make this a fun road trip for the readers of True West magazine.

First stop on our tour was at the Jesse James Farm outside Kearney. Bryan Shibley (second from left), the Clay County Historic Site specialist, brought out the original ambrotype of Jesse James for me to peruse. That’s me, at left, and Mark Lee Gardner, my guide on the right.


Gary Chilcote, the director of the Patee House Museum and Jesse James Home in Saint Joseph, welcomed us with open arms.


Karalee Tearney, volunteer at the Arrow Rock Visitor Center, showed off her brochure of the installation.


Mark Lee’s sister Terri Gardner gave us the grand tour of Watkins Woolen Mill and Historic Site. The Watkins family were neighbors of the Jameses, and their correspondence often mentions the doings of the boys. The home and the mill date to before the Civil War and would have been well known to Jesse and Frank. The Watkins home was featured in several scenes in Ride With the Devil.

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