The following article was published in a recent edition of The Tennessean, one of Nashville's daily newspapers. Photos were included but this GenForum does not allow them to be cut and pasted in to a post. Two of the properties mentioned belonged to my husband's family at the time. Have fun reading! Colleen Taylor Lebanon, Tennessee
Jesse, Frank James spent a quiet time in Davidson County
This yellow concrete house in the Bordeaux area, seen here about 1946, was said to have housed outlaw brothers Jesse and Frank James and their families in the late 1870s-early 1880s. The residence, on a knoll along West Hamilton Road east of Clarksville Pike, was known as the Felix Smith Place. It was demolished in 1977.
Somewhere I read that the famous outlaws Frank and Jesse James had lived in Nashville at one point in their ''careers.'' Could you verify that and mention where they lived exactly? — Mike Mangrum, Franklin.
Several sites in and around Nashville are linked to the notorious brothers whose bank and train robberies have grown into outlaw legends, long capturing the imaginations of Americans.
Even an official Davidson County historical marker at 4411 Whites Creek Pike commemorates the James boys' exploits:
''In this building, then a combination saloon and grocery, W.W. Earthman, magistrate and ex-constable of Davidson County, arrested Bill Ryan, alias Tom Hill, ruthless and indiscreet member of the gang, members of which were in hiding in the neighborhood, March 26, 1881. Frank and Jesse James, meeting nearby, decamped early the next morning.''
It was Ryan's arrest that apparently undermined a year or more of solitude by Frank and Jesse James in the Whites Creek area. The brothers, under the aliases ''Ben Woodson'' and ''Tom Howard,'' plus their wives and small children had shared a hilltop house there with bachelor farmer Felix Smith.
They helped Smith with farm chores and even brought along ''fine race horses,'' frequently keeping one saddled for a quick getaway, and a prized cow. Jesse James was said to travel frequently. His daughter, Mary, was born at the home in 1879. His son was 3 when they moved in.
''It was with real regret that Smith and the neighbors saw the James families bundle their trunks and beds and stoves into their wagons and drive down the steep hillsides and out to the plains of Missouri,'' Tennessean historical writer Louise Davis wrote in a 1946 newspaper article.
Bill Ryan got a 25-year prison sentence.
After his return to Missouri, Jesse James was shot and killed by one of his own men who wanted the reward money.
Frank James surrendered and was tried in 1884 in Huntsville, Ala., for the 1881 robbery of a public works paymaster of $5,200 at Muscle Shoals. He was acquitted and went on to live a quiet life for the next three decades.
Among the other Nashville venues linked to the outlaws, all in east Nashville:
606 Boscobel St. — Described as the first Nashville home of Jesse James and his wife, Zee, and the 1875 birthplace of their son. No longer standing.
711 Fatherland St. — Said to be the last Tennessee home of Jesse.
814 Fatherland St. — Described as the last home of Frank. No longer standing.
903 Woodland St. — Mentioned as a home of Jesse in early 1881 and still standing.
The James brothers' escapades, real and imagined, have thoroughly saturated the popular culture since not too many years after their affiliation with the Confederate guerrilla raiders of William Quantrill during the Civil War.
Nearly three dozen movies inspired by the brothers began with a 1908 silent film and included two in 1939, one with Roy Rogers and the other starring Henry Fonda as Frank and Tyrone Power as Jesse.
More recently, the 1986 TV film The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James featured Johnny Cash as Frank, Kris Kristofferson as Jesse and the late June Carter Cash as their mother.
Kathy Bates was Ma James in the 2001 American Outlaws, with Colin Farrell as Jesse.
Next week: A former grade school at the Vanderbilt University campus stirs memories.