During my growing-up years, once in a blue moon something would take me and my parents through St. Joseph, Missouri. In the early sixties, my mom and I were in that town weekly to watch the wrestling matches from our front-row seats.
We'd pass by the old Jesse James home/museum, and I remember wanting very badly to see inside. It was in a different location then; it's been moved to the grounds of the Patee House museum.
Even though my desire to visit the home had all but faded, I decided to make my childhood wish come true anyhow. Cliff says he doesn't understand what the big deal is about a "scum-sucking outlaw who was a thief and a killer". Well, I used to watch cowboy movies, and they tended to glorify Jesse; kids are impressionable, you know. Also, living in north Missouri, my parents and I often passed by banks Jesse had robbed, or the bridge under which he hid to wait for the train he was going to rob; my parents would tell me the stories, after which Daddy would burst into a song about "that dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard and laid poor Jesse in his grave", and Mother would join in. (You can listen to the song HERE.) Oh yes, Jesse was our very own.
Cliff and I have been to the other James home at Kearney, so this one was really a let-down. At Kearney, there's a guide to go through the house with you to tell you interesting facts; you're invited to ask questions.
At the "death house" in St. Joe, you give your money to a guy who is so stoned that, when he stands up, he has to hold onto the wall. He asks if you have anything smaller than a twenty (he asked this of everyone who came in while we were there).
There's nobody to answer questions. Most of the things you see in the house are replicas, although there is quite a bit of Frank James memorabilia.
This is a replica of the needlepoint wall hanging that Jesse was straightening when that dirty little coward, Robert Ford, shot him.
The famous bullet hole, made much larger by souvenir-hunters who took pieces of plaster from around it, is possibly not a bullet hole; because when they exhumed Jesse's body, there was no exit wound. Although of course the bullet could have exited through an eye socket. And Cliff says he can't imagine a bullet shot at such a close range could keep from exiting.
There's a casting of Jesse's skull showing the entry wound
And a casting of his teeth.
I really would have loved to tour the Patee house, since we were right there; but all St. Joe museums are only open for four hours on Sundays, and I wanted to have plenty of time to explore the Glore Psychiatric Museum.
If you're wanting to learn about Jesse James firsthand, I recommend the museum at Kearney over the St. Joseph location; although the $2 admission for seniors, I suppose, makes it worthwhile at this one. Just be sure and take exact change.