One of the most beloved characters that people have known over time is Robin Hood. To some, he was a hero, yet to others he was a criminal. In American history, there was a man who stood out in much the same way, and his name was Jesse James.
Jesse James was born on September 5, 1847 in Missouri. His father was a Baptist minister, but his mother Zee (Zerelda) was the rock of his life. When Jesse was still young, his father left to go and pan for gold in California. He died of a fever soon after, leaving behind his wife and two sons, Frank and Jesse. Zee stayed and managed the farm but needed a man's strength. A short marriage to James Sims didn't work out, but her marriage to Dr. Reuben Samuel did.
Kansas and Missouri were soon the center of controversy. Many of the original settlers were from southern slave-owning families. They wanted things to stay as they were, while neighbors wanted change. It wasn't long before blood was shed in Missouri and Kansas between neighbors and towns.
When the war was declared against the South, a noted marauder formed his own guerilla unit, Quantrill's Raiders. Frank James, the eldest son, rode off to join him while Jesse had to remain at home. Two years later a group of Union soldiers came to burn the farm. Jesse tried to stop them and was nearly beaten to death. When he recovered, he joined the raiders as well. He was sixteen years old.