Skip to main content
Select Source:

Jesse Woodson James

Jesse Woodson James

American outlaw Jesse Woodson James (1847-1882) was a colorful bandit whose escapades made him a legendary figure of the Wild West.

Jesse James was born near Kearney, Mo., on Sept. 5, 1847, the son of a Baptist minister. Little is known about Jesse's childhood except that his father left the family in 1850 to minister to the gold prospectors in California and died soon after his arrival there. The three James children grew up on a Missouri farm with a stepfather.

As slave owners with origins in Kentucky, James's entire family were Southern sympathizers. So, during the Civil War, he joined the Confederate guerrilla band known as Quantrill's Raiders in 1863 or 1864. Returning to Missouri in 1865, Jesse and his brother Frank found that, although the Civil War was officially over, Missourians were still belligerent. In 1866 the James brothers joined forces with the Younger brothers to form an outlaw band.

For 16 years Jesse James and his gang robbed trains and banks in Missouri, Kentucky, and the midwestern states. Killings accompanied these activities, and James was hunted by the law. Of necessity, he was always on the run. His daring exploits during these years captured the imagination of the public, and all sorts of legends sprung up about him.

On April 23, 1874, occurred the one documented event in James's life: he married Zerelda, or Zee, Mimms near Kearney, Mo. In time they had two children.

The most famous bank robbery attempted by the James-Younger band was at the First National Bank of Northfield, Minn., on Sept. 7, 1876. The bank clerk, who refused to open the safe, was savagely murdered; then the gang tried to escape. In the shoot-out that followed, two of the band were killed. A posse captured the three Younger brothers. Jesse and Frank James, both wounded, escaped. After they recovered, they continued robbing and killing sporadically.

Finally the governor of Missouri offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the James brothers. At this time Jesse was living with his family in St. Joseph, Mo., under the name of Thomas Howard. Robert and Charles Ford, youthful recruits in the outlaw band, were staying for a few days with the James family. Robert had been in contact with authorities about the reward for several weeks. On April 3, 1882, when Jesse put his guns down to climb on a chair to straighten a picture, Robert Ford shot him in the back of the head and killed him. Soon after, Frank James turned himself in.

Further Reading

A conscientious effort to ferret out the facts on James is William A. Settle, Jr., Jesse James Was His Name; or, Fact and Fiction concerning the Careers of the Notorious James Brothers of Missouri (1966). It is well researched and interestingly written. Another good treatment, fairly accurate and thorough but not dealing with the legends, is Carl W. Breihan, The Complete and Authentic Life of Jesse James (1953).

Additional Sources

Brant, Marley, Outlaws: the illustrated history of the James-Younger gang, Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark Pub., 1996.

Breihan, Carl W., The escapades of Frank and Jesse James, New York: F. Fell Publishers, 1974.

Breihan, Carl W., The man who shot Jesse James, South Brunswick N.J.: A. S. Barnes, 1979.

Breihan, Carl W., Saga of Jesse James, Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1991.

Dyer, Robert, Jesse James and the Civil War in Missouri, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1994.

James, Stella F. (Stella Frances), In the shadow of Jesse James, Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: Revolver Press, 1990, 1989.

Love, Robertus, The rise and fall of Jesse James, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Newmans, Evans, The true story of the notorious Jesse James, Hicksville, N.Y.: Exposition Press, 1976. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jesse Woodson James." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Jesse Woodson James." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . (December 15, 2017).

"Jesse Woodson James." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from

James, Jesse 1989–

James, Jesse 1989–


Born September 14, 1989, in Palm Springs, CA; son of Shane (an actor) and Jaime (a laboratory technician) James. Avocational Interests: Playing the guitar, reading, soccer, boating.

Addresses: Agent—Abby Bluestone, Innovative Artists, 1505 10th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401.

Career: Actor. Appeared in commercials.

Awards, Honors: YoungStar Award, best young actor in a comedy film, Hollywood Reporter, 1998, for As Good as It Gets.


Film Appearances:

Spencer Connelly, As Good as It Gets (also known as Old Friends), TriStar, 1997.

Jeff Magruder, The Gingerbread Man, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, 1998.

Matt, Sorrow's Child (short film), Reel Images, 1998.

Michael Boone, Gods and Monsters (also known as The Father of Frankenstein), Lions Gate Films, 1998.

Jason Osborne, Message in a Bottle, Warner Bros., 1999.

Young Nello, A Dog of Flanders, Warner Bros., 1999.

Jesse Marks, Hanging Up (also known as Aufgelegt!), Columbia, 2000.

Young George, Blow, New Line Cinema, 2001.

Young Rafe, Pearl Harbor (also known as Pearl Harbour), Buena Vista, 2001.

Randolph Grady, Slap Her … She's French (also known as She Gets What She Wants and Freche Biester!), Premiere Marketing and Distribution, 2002.

Ryan Billings, Fear of the Dark, Screen Media Ventures, 2002.

Tommy Miller at the age of thirteen, The Butterfly Effect, New Line Cinema, 2004.

Billy Lutz, The Amityville Horror, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2005.

J-Dawg, The Darkroom, CFQ Films/Mindfire Entertainment, 2006.

Flyboys, Flyboy Films, c. 2006.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Dylan Donovan, "Bailey's Mistake," The Wonderful World of Disney, ABC, 2001.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

Presenter, The 14th Annual Genesis Awards, Animal Planet, 2000.

The Teen Choice Awards 2004, Fox, 2004.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Jeb Wilson, "Last of a Breed: Parts 1 & 2," Walker, Texas Ranger, CBS, 1997.

Customer, "Puppies for Sale," Chicken Soup for the Soul, PAX TV, 1998.

Wilson Geary, "Good Luck, Ruth Johnson," ER (also known as Emergency Room), NBC, 1998.

Poorboy, "The Unnatural," The X-Files, Fox, 1999.

Voice of Gola, "Chimp off the Old Block," The Wild Thornberrys (animated), Nickelodeon, 1999.

Dustin Moss, "Thoughts of You," Chicago Hope, CBS, 2000.

Ryan, "I've Got You under My Skin," Angel (also known as Angel: The Series), The WB, 2000.

Stephen, "Party Lines," Felicity, The WB, 2000.

Jake Shaw, "Celano v. Foster," Family Law, CBS, 2002.

Jared Stottlemeyer, "Mr. Monk and the Captain's Wife," Monk, USA Network, 2004.

Guest, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2004.

Appeared in episodes of other series, including Sesame Street (also known as The New Sesame Street), PBS.



Himself, The Source of Evil, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Home Entertainment, 2005.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"James, Jesse 1989–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"James, Jesse 1989–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . (December 15, 2017).

"James, Jesse 1989–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from

James, Jesse

Jesse James, 1847–82, American outlaw, b. Clay co., Mo. At the age of 15 he joined the Confederate guerrilla band led by William Quantrill and participated in the brutal and bloody civil warfare in Kansas and Missouri. In 1866, Jesse and his brother Frank became the leaders of a band of outlaws whose trail of robberies and murders led through most of the central states. At first they robbed only banks, but in 1873 they began to rob trains. The beginning of their downfall came in 1876 when, after killing two people and failing to secure any money in an attempted bank robbery at Northfield, Minn., they lost several members of the gang, including the Younger brothers, three of their most trusted followers, who were captured and imprisoned (see Younger, Cole). The James brothers escaped and were quiet until 1879, when they robbed another train. The reward offered by Gov. Thomas T. Crittenden of Missouri for the capture of the James brothers, dead or alive, tempted one of the gang, Robert Ford, who caught Jesse (then living under the name of Thomas Howard) off guard and killed him. Frank James surrendered but was twice acquitted and lived out his life peacefully and prosperously on his farm near Excelsior Springs, Mo. The melodramatic style of the exploits of the James gang attracted wide public admiration, giving rise to a number of romanticized legends, the famous song "The Ballad of Jesse James," and much popular literature.

See biographies by R. Love (1926), C. W. Breihan (1953, repr. 1970), and T. J. Stiles (2002); H. Croy, Jesse James Was My Neighbor (1949, repr. 1962); J. L. James, Jesse James and the Lost Cause (1961); W. A. Settle, Jesse James Was His Name (1966); M. L. Gardner, Shot All To Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape (2013).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"James, Jesse." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"James, Jesse." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 15, 2017).

"James, Jesse." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from

James, Jesse Woodson

James, Jesse Woodson (1847–82) US outlaw. With his brother, Frank, he fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. In 1867, they formed an outlaw band and terrorized the frontier. He was shot dead by Robert Ford, a member of his own gang, for a large reward.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"James, Jesse Woodson." World Encyclopedia. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

"James, Jesse Woodson." World Encyclopedia. . (December 15, 2017).

"James, Jesse Woodson." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from