He died this week in 1882 in St. Joseph, Missouri, shot in the back of the head by a man he thought was his friend. Two brothers, Bob and Charley Ford, engineered his death for reward money. Bob was 21 years old at the time; Charley was 24.
To say he was an interesting guy is to understate it. Just a bit. Civil War guerrilla with both Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson, train robber, stagecoach robber, prolific killer of Pinkertons and bluecoats, and the man credited with pulling off the first armed daylight American bank robbery...
They had two kids, Mary Susan (named after one of Jesse's sisters) and Jesse Edward. Junior became an attorney who practiced law in LA and Kansas City. In 1921 he played his father in a silent movie called, "Jesse James, the Outlaw." I've heard it stinks.
Something I've always found odd, though... (Interesting, anyway.) Both Jesse's wife and his mother were named Zerelda. Zerelda... How common was that? And coincidence or something more Freudian? Ah, well.
Bob and Charley Ford came to bad ends. (Go figure.) They managed to collect only $500 of the huge reward money they had been promised and ended up taking their act on the road, doing re-enactments of the murder, and charging ten cents to pose for a picture or two. Charley Ford, a morphine addict with tuberculosis, committed suicide in 1884, and brother Bob was shotgunned to death in 1892 in a tent saloon in Creede, Colorado. He's buried in Richmond Cemetery in Ray County, Missouri, not far from Bloody Bill Anderson.
Oh, yeah... Dingus. That was his nickname among close pals and associates. Guys like brother Frank and Cole Younger. Dingus. Don't ask me why. Kind of cool, though.