Granddaughter of Jesse James Donates Boots
Neosho Daily News, August 11, 1988

    HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. - The last surviving granddaughter of outlaw Jesse James has given away some priceless family heirlooms, including guns and a pair of handmade boots James wore as he was shot to death in April 1882.

    The artifacts went on display recently at the Jesse James Museum at the James Farm historic site near Kearney, Mo.  The museum and family farm, now owned by Clay County, are about 30 miles northeast of Kansas City.
  
    Ethel Rose Owens, 80, said Wednesday that her father, Jesse Edward James, was just 7 years old when his notorious father was killed in St. Joseph, Mo., by Robert Ford, a newcomer to the James gang.

    "He was in the next room," said Mrs. Owens.  "He ran into the next room and saw his father lying there all bloody...I think my father never got over that."

    The artifacts, which include Jesse James' Winchester rifle, a shotgun and pistol, have been closely guarded by the James family for generations, Mrs. Owens said.

    "Neither he nor his father wanted these things to go to make a sideshow," she said.  Also included in the donation were Jesse James' spurs, wallet and coin purse, his horse bridle and a boot-polishing brush.

    She was persuaded to donate the heirlooms last year during a trip to the family farm with her nephew, Orange County Superior Court Judge James Ross.
  
    The boots, Mrs. Owens added, were quite new at the time of Jesse James' death.

    "We just treated them like old furniture," she said.  "We just kept them in any old closet we could put them in."

    The family's bitterness toward curiosity seekers was well-documented in the years following Jesse James' death, said Milton Perry, the Clay County curator of historic sites.

    James' widow told a newspaper she would never sell anything that belonged to the outlaw, saying "You can offer me a $1,000," - "which was a lot of money at the time," said Perry, interviewed by telephone from his home in Kansas City.

    An old newspaper picture was of help in authenticating the rifle, Perry said.

    Mrs. Owens, who grew up in Kansas City, said she moved to Los Angeles with her parents and three sisters in 1926.

    And though she has remained mostly silent about her connection to her grandfather, she said it has never been much of a problem for the family.

    "People just accepted us all those years.  There were never any problems at school, or anything like that," she recalled.

    Mrs. Owens and others said they were particularly amused at the irony upon learning that the Pinkerton security agency volunteered to stand guard at the museum Friday, the first night the James' artifacts went on display.

    "They were more successful at guarding, I think, than they were at catching Frank and Jesse James," Perry said.