Jesse James, son of a Baptist minister, was born at the family home in Kearney, in 1847. Barely 16, he followed his older brother, Frank, into the Civil War. While Frank was a member of Quantrill’s guerillas, Jesse rode with Bloody Bill Anderson. When the war ended, Jesse returned home and joined other former Confederate guerillas in a life of outlawry.
Jesse’s boldness and flamboyance as a bank and train robber, combined with sensational publicity from newspapers and dime novels, soon made his a household name. A tour on the grounds of the restored home will take visitors back to where the legend began. Before walking the trail to the farmhouse, a 20-minute movie recaps the history of Frank and Jesse James and exploits of the outlaws. The museum displays the world’s largest collection of James family artifacts. Jesse’s boots and Frank’s surrender letter tend to captivate visitors.
Guests then follow the paved winding trail to the farmhouse and walk along the creek where, as young boys, Frank and Jesse spent much of their time playing. In the yard of the family home is Jesse’s original burial site, the place where his mother once sold souvenir rocks from his grave for 25 cents. Upon completion of the tour, guests can browse the museum’s gift shop. A wide variety of books relating to the period are available as well as T-shirts, coffee mugs, and many other souvenirs.