Follow In The Footsteps Of Jesse James

By: Mark Scriven

Movie tourism has been growing in popularity for decades and the USA is a prime destination as so many global cinematic blockbusters are made there. Movies have the power to bring characters from the past alive again in glorious Technicolor and this rekindles interest in the places and people.

Following the release of the 'Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford', starring Brad Pitt, interest in the iconic outlaw has reached a new high. If you have a yen to learn more about Jesse James, after seeing the movie, and to sort out some of the fact from the fiction that has grown around his life and times, visit Missouri and follow in the footsteps of this infamous gunslinger, who later died by the hand of an associate. Most sites are located within 50 miles of Kansas City.

Not withstanding that the movie was shot in Alberta, Canada, James hailed from Kearney, Missouri. His notoriety began in February 1866, when he and his gang, which included his brother Frank, stole $60,000 from a bank in the town of Liberty.

Today the same building houses the Jesse James Bank Museum - here you can see period furnishings, look into the original bank vault, and read an account of that fateful day's action. For 15 years the James gang traveled throughout the U.S. robbing trains and banks.

At the Jesse James Farm and Museum, in Kearney, you can visit his old home. An audio-visual presentation recaps the exploits of Jesse James and his gang of outlaws, and there is a large collection James family artifacts on display, including Jesse's boots and spurs. His original burial place is also at the farm. Near the farmhouse is the childhood swimming hole where Jesse and brother Frank spent many a hot day. Mount Olivet Cemetery, also in Kearney, is James' final resting place, after his remains were moved there in 1902, to lie beside those of his wife Zerelda.

Winston's Historic Depot Museum, once home to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Depot, is where the Jessie James gang's Great Train Robbery took place in 1881. The displays relate railroad and local history, as well as James gang lore.

Finally, at Independence, Missouri is the two-story Jail, Marshal's Home And Museum, dating from 1859. Jesse James' brother, Frank, spent time here, and in fact was acquitted by a sympathetic jury when tried for bank and train robbery.

The Patee House Museum in St. Joseph, was once known as World's Hotel, a luxury hotel that served travellers as the railroad pushed westward to St. Joseph and the starting point of the Pony Express. Today, the extensive museum has an 1854 Buffalo Salon, and exhibits of western art, antique toys, and other western memorabilia.

You should also visit the nearby Jesse James Museum Home, where the outlaw was shot and killed by Robert Ford in 1882. Interesting displays include mementos from Jesse's grave when he was exhumed in 1995, and a bullet hole in the wall reputed to be from an unsuccessful attempt on his life.

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