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    Awating trial for murder, Frank James writes to his wife predicting a swift acquittal

    Frank James Autograph Letter Signed "Frank". Frank James Autograph Letter Signed "Frank". One page, 5.75" x 8.75", [Gallatin, Missouri] "Wednesday A.M." December 19, 1883. A letter written in pencil to his wife, Annie Ralston James (1853-1944), concerning his upcoming trial for murder and armed robbery and his hopes for a swift acquittal. Evenly toned, some creasing, weak paper professionally backed for preservation.

    In full: "I hope you read my letter today. I am waiting very impatiently to hear from Judge [H.C.S.] Goodman. Should he decide in our favor I hope I will have the pleasure of spending the holidays with my dear one. I would enjoy a breathing spell about this time and to be with you once more. I feel as I would forget my long suffering. You would be delighted to see me and I imagine so any way. Surely Judge G will dispose of my case one way or the other day. Let it come. I am anxious so Good bye until the morrow."

    On October 4, 1882, five months after the Ford Brothers killed his brother Jesse James in St. Joseph, Missouri, Frank James arrived in Jefferson City to surrender himself to Governor Thomas T. Crittenden. Gambling that in exchange for his cooperation, the governor would not extradite him to Minnesota to stand trial for the infamous Northfield robbery he staged with his brother Jesse, Frank chose to stand trial for several murders and robberies that occurred Missouri, including one incident which resulted in the murder of Frank McMillian, s stone quarry laborer.

    In the ensuing trial, the state sought to prove that Frank was seen near the scene of the crime, masquerading under the name of Woodson, and that he had fatally shot McMillan. However, they had to contend with a formidable witness, Confederate General and peerless rebel cavalry leader, Joseph O. Shelby, who was known for his sincerity and earnest convictions. The James boys had, at various times, served under William Clarke Quantrill, the notorious guerilla, who operated under Shelby's command. The James boys therefore fought and campaigned for Shelby on several occasions. In addition, there was a special reason he felt close to the boys. At the Battle of Lonejack, Shelby's body servant, a faithful Negro named Billy Hunter, was captured by the Yankees and it was the James boys who recovered him for Shelby. When he was called to the stand, Shelby testified at the time of the train robbery, he met Jesse James, Dick Liddil and Bill Ryan at his home in the South. The General's testimony held tremendous weight with the people and created a sensation resulting in Frank's acquittal on February 11, 1884.

    Following the acquittal, which was greeted with great surprise in the press, James was brought before a federal judge for an extradition hearing concerning his involvement in the March 1881 robbery of a United States Army Corps of Engineers paymaster in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. (New York Tribune, Feb. 12, 1884, p. 1) A federal jury in Huntsville, Alabama pronounced him not guilty for the Muscle Shoals robbery on April 25, but James was promptly re-arrested by a Missouri sheriff for yet another train robbery. Incidentally, an officer from Minnesota was also on hand with an extradition request (Huntsville [Alabama] Gazette, April 26, 1884, p. 3). James returned to Missouri where he awaited trial in Cooper County. After several continuances, the case came to trial in February 1885 when the case was dismissed. (At about the same time, Minnesota dropped its efforts to try James.)

    Following the dismissal, James led a relatively quiet life working in a variety of jobs including stints as a doorman, livestock trader, and telegraph operator. In 1903, Frank James, with former James Gang member Cole Younger, staged "The Great Cole Younger and Frank James Historical Wild West Show." The show proved unsuccessful and the pair left the show before the year was out. Frank died in 1915, never having been convicted of a crime.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2018
    25th-26th Saturday-Sunday
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