Frank James in Texas

Former bank robber Frank James lived in Dallas, Texas for a while. In an Associated Press newspaper article out of Dallas in The Indiana Gazette issue of April 26, 1957, it was reported that James’ former personal barber, an African American by the name of Johnny Dickson, had died at the age of 89. Dickson had said that James was a regular customer at his Dallas shop. A barber since the age of 14, when he started cutting hair, Dickson had to stand on a box or a stool to see the top of his customers’ heads. Dickson had come to Dallas in 1887 and began working at the Bird Cage Barber Shop. The barber shop got its name for the two caged canaries that were kept inside and sang for customers. Dickson said that Frank James would ride up to the shop on a handsome sorrel horse and just drop the reins, trusting the mount to wait for him. Dickson added that James was usually quiet and did not have much to say.

In another Associated Press article out of Dallas in The Mexia Daily News issue of July 2, 1969, various Dallas residents recounted more stories about the former outlaw. For instance, James worked for a while as a floor walker in the shoe department of a Dallas dry goods and clothing store, which we now know was Sanger Brothers. The circumstances of his hire are unknown, but though they did not serve together, the James brothers and the Sanger brothers had both served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. James is said to have moved to Dallas around 1888, thereafter dividing his time between the old James homestead in Kearny, Missouri and a farm that he owned in Oklahoma.

A local newspaperman named Oran Warden Nolen recalled living in the same neighborhood as James when Frank moved to town. Nolen added his recollection of neighborhood women helping James’ son Robert to win a subscription contest staged by the Dallas Morning News for which the prize was a scholarship to Marmaduke Military Academy in Missouri. Robert went on to serve in the United States military during the Spanish-American War.

Another Texas resident named B F. Sais told of being asked by his father to sleep on the stage of a Denison opera house that was under construction, perhaps for security. The main contractor brought in two more men late one night and told Sais to let them also sleep on the stage. Early the following morning, Sais was told to drive the pair to a nearby ferry stop on the Red River. Once they reached their drop off point, one of the men identified himself as Jesse James and the other as his brother Frank. As a token of his appreciation, Jesse gave Sais a brass spur. Sais later called on Frank after Frank moved to Dallas. Sais said that Frank remembered the event and added that this was the last time that his brother Jesse was in Texas.

There is also an unconfirmed legend that Frank or some member of his family either joined or attended a downtown church during their stay in Dallas. Another connection was the Samuell family. The father of Dr. W. W. Samuell was Hazael O. Samuell who had been raised on a farm that adjoined the James family’s property in Kentucky. Frank and his family lived peacefully in Dallas during their tenure. They eventually returned to Kearney, Missouri where Frank died.

Frank had been born in 1843 in Missouri to Rev. Robert Sallee James (a Baptist minister) and the former Zerelda Elizabeth Cole. Rev. James died of cholera while residing in California during the Gold Rush days in 1850. Rev. James and Zerelda had been the parents of Frank, Jesse, Susan Lavenia (who resided in Archer and Wichita counties in Texas) and another sister named Mary. After Rev. James died, Zerelda first married Benjamin Ashby Simms who died a few years later in 1854. Then she married Dr. Reuben Samuel (not believed to be related to the family of Hazael O. Samuell) with whom she had more children. In 1874, Frank had married the former Ann Ralston with whom he had at least one child, Robert Franklin James, born in 1877. Frank died in Kearney, Missouri in 1915 at the age of 72. Ann survived him until her own death, also in Missouri, in 1944.

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