Jesse James was a famous gunslinger who has been made into a folk hero, but he was far from it. He was a murderer who refused to work a real job and earn an honest living and instead stole from those who worked hard and earned their way.
Some movies, like American Outlaws, make him seem like a Robin Hood type of character, but the majority of his killings were innocent civilians, which included women and children.
He was a vicious criminal who killed mother's sons and wives' husbands.
Also Read: 30 Famous Outlaws of the Wild West
It is hard to feel much sympathy for a person such as him. Unlike some outlaws like Billy the Kid, there is never a killing that is justified. He and his gang would kill indiscriminately.
He was also a Confederate supporter who believed in the institution of slavery and was a devout racist. One of his robberies included dressing up as a KKK member.
January 10, 1843 - Frank James was born to Robert Sallee James and Zerelda Elizabeth Cole in Kearney, Missouri.
July 19, 1845 - Robert Reuben James is born but dies 4 days after birth.
September 5, 1847 - Jesse James is born
November 25, 1849 - Susan Lavenia James is born. At the time of her birth, her father had left to travel to California for the Gold Rush.
August 18, 1850 - His father had left for California to prospect for gold and preach to the masses. He planned to lead many souls to Jesus but instead contracted cholera and died while in California. Jesse would not remember much of his father.
September 30, 1852 - Jesse James's mother marries Benjamin Simms. Simms was a wealthy but abusive man towards his wife and her children.
January 2, 1854 - Benjamin Simms is thrown from his horse and killed. By all accounts, Simms was a cruel man, and his death came as a relief to the family as it got Frank and Jesse's mother out of a bad situation.
September 25, 1855 - Zerelda James marries for a third time. She married a doctor by the name of Reuben Samuel. Samuel was a much better fit for the family as he was laid back and treated the boys well. Within a year, he assumed legal guardianship of all the children.
December 26, 1858 - His first half-sister, Sarah Louise Samuel, is born. This would be the first of four half-siblings.
April 12, 1861 - The Confederacy fires on Fort Sumter, which ignited the Civil War. Missouri was a border state, and President Abraham Lincoln acted quickly to secure it. Despite Missouri never joining the Confederacy, it was a divided state that mustered Union and Confederate troops.
May 4, 1861 - Frank James joined the Confederate Army at 18 years of age.
August 10, 1861 - The Battle of Wilson's Creek is fought and leads to a Confederate victory. This would be the first battle that Frank James fights in. Despite the victory it did not drive Union troops out of Missouri, and soon the state would become a hotbed of guerilla warfare.
July 1862 - Frank James joins the Quantrill Raiders. The raiders would become an infamous band of guerilla fighters. However, their members, if found out, would be targeted by other groups.
May 1863 - After almost a year of running with the raiders, Frank's identity is learned, and the Union militia targets the James-Samuel farm, looking for him. When he is not found, Reuben Samuel is tortured, and Jesse James is lashed, which furthers his hatred for the Union.
May 18, 1863 - General Ulysses S. Grant captured Vicksburg and split the Confederacy in half. In Missouri, the fighting was still bloody but had little impact on the war.
July 1 - 3, 1863 - The Union defeats Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg. If he had succeeded, it could have forced Union troops back to the East and possibly allowed the Confederacy to gain more control of the West.
August 21, 1863 - The Quantrill Raiders conduct a massacre in Lawrence, Kansas. They killed 180 people, which included noncombatants such as women and children. At this time, it is possible that Jesse James participated in it, as he later bragged about it. He would have been close to 16 years of age. His official recruitment was not until April of 1864.
June - July 1864 - The violence continues when guerillas begin to target farmers who support the Union. This is a further introduction to violence to young Jesse, who was only 16 years old. Within a month, he and his brother join a bushwhacker group led by "Bloody Bill." They fail in multiple missions but still manage to get their picture taken.
July 12 - 31, 1864 - The month of July was eventful for Frank and Jesse James. They crossed the Missouri River with Bloody Bill and proceeded to wreak havoc on the population. They killed a soldier near Salisbury and then occupied Huntsville, where a civilian was killed, and $45,000 was taken from the bank. This then led to two skirmishes where they lost 6 men but killed two federal troops and then scalped them. The carnage continued on July 31 when they ransacked another town and killed civilians, burned homes, and then scalped them.
August 12, 1864 - Guerillas that the James brothers were riding with ambush 5 Union soldiers. Two days later, Jesse is seriously wounded in the chest.
August 30, 1862 - Guerillas capture the steamboat "Buffington" and kill the captain.
September 23 - 24, 1864 - The guerillas under Bloody Bill run into issues when they engage Union soldiers in Boone County, Missouri. Eleven men are killed, as well as three black civilians. The Union troops responded by shooting six captured guerillas. Anderson responds by attacking the town of Fayette but loses 13 men. 30 more are wounded in the skirmish.
September 27, 1864 - A bloody fight occurs at Centralia, Missouri, when 23 Union soldiers are returning from the Battle of Atlanta and are executed. Their Seargent is made a POW. The Union troops attack the guerillas, but they are met with disaster when 123 of the 147 Union cavalry troops are killed, including their commander, A.V.E. Johnston. Jesse James fired the shot that killed Johnston.
October 6 - 26, 1864 - The Confederacy was fading as Grant was now pushing hard on Lee, and General William Sherman was torching the Southeast. However, the men under Bloody Bill, which included the James brothers, traveled to Booneville to assimilate into the Confederate Army. They made a quick impact by terrorizing the civilians, leaving three dead, and destroying a railroad depot. They moved on to Carroll County and killed another 5 civilians but were then pursued by experienced Union troops. The Guerillas fight hard, but their leader is killed.
November 1864 - Frank and Jesse James head to Texas, where they join another group under the command of Archie Clement.
January 29, 1865 - With Frank and Jesse being identified and the Union taking complete control of Missouri, the Union begins to target those participating in guerilla warfare. Reuben and Zerelda Samuel are ordered to take their children and leave the state. They moved to Nebraska.
April 15, 1865 - John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. The James brothers rejoice as they were Lincoln haters.
May 9, 1865 - With the Famous Generals Grant and Lee meeting at Appommatox, the Civil War is officially over, and the Confederacy is dead. The country will soon head into Reconstruction. Jesse James will remain a loyal Confederate for the rest of his life, and his hatred for the Union will fuel his outlaw activity.
May 15 - 16, 1865 - Guerilla fighters were still hanging on to a hopeless cause. Jesse James is involved in a skirmish with a Union cavalry parol and is shot in the chest. He manages to make it to a field where a plowman finds him. He soon makes it home to his mother, where he will begin to rehabilitate.
February 1866 - Jesse James recovers from his wounds with the help of his first cousin and future wife, Zerelda Mimms. He immediately begins plotting his first bank robbery.
February 13, 1866 - Jesse James participates (did not lead) in the first daylight bank robbery in US History. The robbery took place in Liberty, Missouri, grossed the gang $60,000, and left an innocent civilian dead.
June 13, 1866 - Still staying loyal to the Quantrill Raiders, the bank robbers free two of their fellow raiders from the Jackson County jail.
October - November 1866 - the gang continues its reign of terror throughout Missouri when they steal $2,000 and then intimidate voters on election day. Their intimidation results in the defeat of the Republican Party candidate.
December 13, 1866 - Archie Clement, leader of the bushwhackers, is killed by state militia.
March 2, 1867 - Jesse James and his cousin Cole Younger form the James-Younger gang and rob the Judge John McClain Banking House.
May 23, 1867 - The James-Younger Gang robbed another bank in Richmond, Missouri, and killed the mayor and two lawmen.
March 20, 1868 - The gang leaves Missouri and robs a bank in Russellville, Kentucky.
December 7, 1869 - Jesse James is involved in another bank robbery and kills the cashier, Captain John Sheets because he mistook him for the man who killed Bloody Bill. This robbery would bring national attention, and Jesse would become a famous outlaw.
June 3, 1871 - The James-Younger Gang commits a bank robbery in Corydon, Iowa. The owners of the bank, The Ocobock Brothers, hire the Pinkerton National Detective Agency to track down the gang.
April 29, 1872 - The gang robs a bank in Columbia, Kentucky, and shoots a cashier who refuses to open the safe.
September 23, 1872 - The gang steals $900 from a ticket booth during the Second Annual Kansas City Industrial Exposition.
May 27, 1873 - Jesse James is involved in the robbery of the Ste Genevieve Savings Association.
July 21, 1873 - The James-Younger gang dress up as members of the Ku Klux Klan and rob a locomotive. During the robbery, the engineer of the train dies. The gang makes off with $2,337. This would be the first train robbery west of the Mississippi River.
November 24, 1873 - Despite the violence of Jesse James and his merciless killings, John Newman Edward publishes a piece in the St. Louis Dispatch titled "A Terrible Quintet," which glorified the criminals and their behavior. Jesse James is now a celebrity.
January 8, 1874 - The James-Younger gang travels to Louisiana to rob a stagecoach.
January 15, 1874 - On their way back to Missouri, the gang hits another stagecoach and walks away with $3,000.
January 31, 1874 - Jesse James and company rob a train on the Iron Mountain Railway. This causes the owners to make a call and hire the Pinkertons. The James-Younger gang was becoming much more active.
March 11 - 17, 1874 - A Pinkerton Agent named John W. Whicher is sent to investigate the gang. He is found dead in Jackson County, Missouri. Six days later, three lawmen catch up with some of the gang and engage in a gunfight. John Younger is killed in the fight. Deputy Edwin B. Daniels is also killed. This would increase the pursuit of the gang.
April 23, 1874 - Jesse James marries Zerelda Mimms.
May 1874 - While on his honeymoon, Jesse James is tracked by a reporter. During this time, the gang is credited with a robbery where they make $3,000.
August 30, 1874 - Frank and Jesse James rob another stagecoach around Lexington, Missouri.
December 8, 1874 - The gang makes a large score when robbing the Kansas Pacific Railroad. They walk away with $55,000.
January 25, 1875 - Allan Pinkerton and his agents raid Jesse James' house and throw explosives into the home with the hopes of killing the outlaw. Jesse is not there, and he instead kills his younger disabled brother and blows the arm off of his mother. The James brothers had been at the home earlier.
April 12, 1875 - A neighbor believed to have provided information to the detectives is killed. The Pinkertons decide to abandon the chase of the gang.
May 1875 - Trying to begin a new life, the James brothers move to Nashville, Tennessee. It would not last long.
August 31, 1875 - Jesse Edward James was born to Jesse and Zeralda.
September 5, 1875 - Some members of the gang rob a bank in Huntington, West Virginia.
July 7, 1876 - Another robbery occurs on the Missouri Pacific Railroad
September 1876 - The gang continues their robberies in St. Paul, Minnesota, but fails and finds themselves in much trouble as armed civilians begin firing at the gang. Two of them were killed, and the other six were wounded. They walked away with nothing.
September 21, 1876 - Things become worse for the gang when Jesse and Frank ride to the Nebraska border, but the other members are caught. One of them was killed, and the Youngers surrendered. They plead guilty to murder.
February 28, 1878 - Zeralda gives birth to twin boys, Gould and Montgomery. They would die the same day.
July 17, 1878 - Jesse James and Zeralda have a daughter, Mary Susan James.
October 8, 1879 - Jesse James builds a new gang that does not include the Youngers or his brother Frank. They rob the Chicago and Alton Railroad. This would begin another string of robberies for Jesse.
September 3, 1880 - The gang robs a stagecoach in Kentucky
October 5, 1880 - The gang robs a store in Kentucky
March 11, 1881 - The gang robs a federal paymaster and takes $5,240.
September 7, 1881 - The Rock Island Railroad is robbed, and the conductor is shot by Frank James.
December 4, 1881 - Robert Ford kills Jesse's cousin and member of the gang.
December 24, 1881 - Jesse James moves his family to St. Joseph, Missouri, and changes his identity to Tom Howard.
January 12, 1882 - Robert Ford meets with Missouri governor Thomas Crittendon to discuss a pardon if he could deliver Jesse James dead or alive. Ford agrees to the terms. Crittendon had grown tired of James' exploits across the state and was ready to rid of him.
April 3, 1882 - After breakfast, the Fords and Jameses went into the living room. Jesse James had just learned from the newspaper that his gang member, Dick Liddil, had confessed to participating in the murder of Wood Hite. He was suspicious that the Fords had not told him about this. Robert Ford later said that he believed that James had realized that they were there to betray him. Instead of confronting them, James walked across the living room and laid his revolvers on a sofa. He turned around and noticed a dusty picture above the mantle. He stood on a chair to clean it. Robert Ford drew his weapon and shot the unarmed Jesse James in the back of the head.