KANSAS CITY STAR, FEB 11, 1911.
They sat on the veranda of the queer little rambling James homestead near Excelsior Springs one summer's day a year ago, Mrs. Zerelda Samuels and a visitor. He was a young man--the visitor--one who had been lured over the hills from the pleasure resort by the stories of this mother of bandits and by a curiosity to see the woman. He had seen the sign at the gate; he had paid his twenty-five cents to hear the stereotyped story of the happenings in the life of the James Boys, and after it was over, he had lingered to chat just a little while longer, to talk of some of the things that were not included with the admission price. Usually Mrs. Samuels didn't "take to" visitors. She declared that this one had had "good raisin'" and that he was filled with "the true blood of the South." That with Mrs. Zerelda Samuels was the strongest possible declaration of friendship, and it was that, perhaps, that gave the visitor the courage to ask somewhat personal questions. "Mrs. Samuels," he said, "why do you do it?" "Do what?", came in the strong voice of the woman who sat in the big wicker rocker. "Why run a sort of summer amusement park--and sell your heartaches. That's all it is--you're simply making a living from your heartaches." "And haven't I a right to?" the mother of the bandits asked. "Haven't I had enough trouble to dull me to them? Indeed I have. But I haven't let them crush me--they've just dried up my tears, that's all. "You see, mine has been a mighty hard life. This country was young and wild when Mr. James and I came out here when we were first married. The country looks a bit wild around here yet. It was a whole lot worse when we first came. But we worked hard. And we fought Indians once or twice. We lived in that old log cabin you can see just around the corner of the new house. That's where Jesse James was born. "Well, things went along all right for awhile. Then Mr. James began to think of the West and gold. I didn't want him to go; I didn't want him to leave me all alone out here in the wilderness with the boys. They were small then. Jesse, I believe, was just about 5 years old. But Mr. James would go. "I remember just as well--just as well if it were yesterday. Mr. James and I came out to the porch and he kissed me goodbye. Then he started out to the stile to mount his horse. As he walked down the yard little Jesse come out of the house and ran after him. He caught his dad just as they reached the stile, and clinging to him, he cried and begged of him not to go. I was crying too, I guess. "Finally it was all over, and Jesse and I stood on the porch, watching my husband as far as we could see him, when little Jesse turned to me, 'Mammy,' he said, 'Mammy, I just know wa'rn ever going to see pappy again.' "I tried to be brave. A year went by. Then came the news that my husband had died of fever on the plains without medical aid, without me near him--he had been dead two months when I got the letter. "That's one tragedy, isn't it? But that wasn't all that came to me. After I married Doctor Samuels and our little boy, Archie, was born, the war came. Soldiers ransacked our place and stole our food. Then one night a hand grenade was thrown through the window. It killed Archie. It tore off this arm--and no doctor was near. "The night it happened I sat up all night, with a cord tied around the place where the grenade had torn off my arm, grieving for my little boy and waiting while the boys sought a doctor. It was forty-eight hours before he came, forty-eight hours of suffering. Is it any wonder sometimes that my voice gets hard? "There was more to the war. The Union men thought Doctor Samuels knew something. They came to the house one night and told him that they wanted to see him. Then they took him down in the orchard and after a while I heard him pleading. Then there came silence. "I hurried down to the orchard. The soldiers--they called themselves that--had hanged my husband. I hurried for a knife. I cut the rope, dragged him to the house and revived him. But he was never fully recovered. There had been too much torture that night for him. His mind gave way. They took him to an asylum, and there he died. "The boys had grown up. They were in the war just like anybody else would have been who saw the right of things. And because they fought and fought hard, the detectives after the war began to blame things on them. That's why they hounded them and said they were bandits and robbers. My boys never did a wrong thing in their lives. Why, they even had Jesse charged with stealing a man's watch down South, when he proved absolutely that he didn't take it. And Frank--well, they let Frank go just because he beat everything they tried to trump up on him. "Then they killed my boy Jesse, the best boy that ever loved a mother. I remember the night he got killed up there in St. Joe. I thought of everything that night, and there was more hate in me than ever could be expressed. I had been able to bear the other things. I didn't know whether or not I could bear this--but I did." There came a defiant smile to Mrs. Samuel's face as she left the porch and led the way around the house to what had been a grave under a great tree. "He's not here anymore," she said, "we had his body taken up to the cemetery at Kearney. But I still keep this little place green and pretty with flowers, and I sit out here under the tree lots of times, hour after hour trying to fool myself into thinking that Jesse's just sleeping there and that I'm staying around to be near him when he wakes." The body of Mrs. Zerelda Samuels, who died yesterday on a train twenty miles from Oklahoma City, passed through Kansas City on the way to Kearney, Mo., this morning, accompanied by a daughter-in-law, Mrs. Frank James, who was making the trip with her at the time of her death. "Although mother had been in ill health for some time, her death came quite without warning," Mrs. James said when she stopped at the Union Depot early this morning. "She had been in the best of spirits for several days before we started, very happy at the thought of seeing her old home again. She died at 3 o' clock yesterday afternoon. Very suddenly. I think the immediate cause was heart disease." Mrs. Frank James was joined here by Jesse James, Jr., John Samuels of Excelsior Springs, a son of Mrs. Samuels, and Joseph Hall, a son-in-law, at whose home in Kearney the funeral will be. The arrangements had not yet been finished this morning, but the funeral probably will be tomorrow afternoon, if the relatives arrive in time. Frank James is expected to reach Kansas City tonight. Burial will be at Kearney Cemetery.
Linda Snyder, KCMO