The Missouri Valley Special Collections Acquire an 1882 Document Dealing with the Prosecution of the Notorious James Gang
August 22, 2013
An April 1882 document in which the City Council of Kansas City praises efforts to bring members of the notorious Jesse James gang to justice has been acquired by the Kansas City Public Library.
Recently purchased at auction, the document will be housed in the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
The handwritten resolution, issued by the City Council shortly after the assassination of Jesse James, congratulates officials for their efforts to stop the James gang, which after the Civil War robbed banks and trains throughout the Midwest.
It reads in part:
"...we cordially and heartily endorse and thank Governor Crittenden, Commissioner Craig and Sheriff Timberlake for breaking up and so nearly destroying the notorious Jesse James Band of outlaws and we hereby pledge to the officers named our individual and united support in the future in any further steps they may find it necessary to take to extinguish the last vestige of Brigandage in Missouri."
In his efforts to break up the gang, Gov. Thomas Crittenden angered James' many supporters by turning to the railroad and express companies to place a bounty of $5,000 on the heads of Jesse and Frank James. He also negotiated with gang member Bob Ford, who would shoot Jesse in the back on April 3, 1882.
Such was the public outrage at the killing that Ford and his brother were in a single day tried and convicted of murder, but within hours Crittenden had issued both full pardons. This suggests that Crittenden had advance knowledge of Ford's plans and had given the "green light" for the assassination.
The City Council resolution commending Crittenden was an important expression of support for a governor dealing with tremendous public sympathy for the James boys. Indeed, by voting for the resolution it was thought that council members were placing themselves in real danger from James partisans.
The document was acquired with funds provided by the Missouri Valley Room Club. It is the first major purchase using MVR Club money.
The document is on display for a limited time in the Missouri Valley Room and coincides with Guerrillas in Our Midst, an original exhibit featuring historic photographs and drawings keyed to the Confederate irregulars who fought under William Clarke Quantrill, "Bloody Bill" Anderson, and other "bushwhacker" leaders.