The James log cabin farmhouse, built in 1822, has witnessed many generations of James family history. It was to this isolated cabin that the Reverend Robert James brought his young wife Zerelda and infant son Frank in 1845. This is where Jesse was born in 1847, and years later, Union soldiers seeking the whereabouts of Frank James, beat Jesse and tortured his stepfather Dr. Reuben Samuel by repeatedly hanging him from a tree in the front yard.
In 1875, a Pinkerton bomb killed their half-brother Archie and severed Zerelda’ s right arm. Zerelda began giving tours of the birthplace after her son, Jesse died. Frank continued the tradition charging 50 cents for tours. His son, Robert also gave tours and after he passed Jesse’s grandsons kept the house open to the public until it was sold to Clay County in 1978. By the next summer, tourists were passing through the boyhood home of Frank and Jesse James. Today the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The legend continues today from the friendly and knowledgeable staff. The Jesse James Birthplace has welcomed visitors from all over the world who come to “Live the Legend and Learn the History” of the two most famous American outlaws–Frank and Jesse.
Jesse James, son of a Baptist minister, was born at the family home in Kearney, Missouri, in 1847. Barely 16, he followed his older brother, Frank, into the Civil War. While Frank was a member of Quantrill’s guerillas, Jesse rode with Bloody Bill Anderson. When the war ended, Jesse returned home and joined other former Confederate guerillas in a life of outlawry. Jesse’s boldness and flamboyance as a bank and train robber, combined with sensational publicity from newspapers and dime novels, soon made him a legend.
A tour through the restored home will take visitors back to where the legend began. Visitors begin their tour with a twenty minute film that recaps the history of Frank and Jesse James and the border wars between Missouri and Kansas. The museum displays the world’s largest collection of James family artifacts. Jesse’s boots and Frank’s surrender letter are on display. Guests then follow the paved winding trail to the farmhouse and walk along the creek where, as young boys, Frank and Jesse spent much of their time playing. In the yard of the family home is Jesse’s original burial site, the place where his mother once sold souvenir rocks from his grave for twenty five cents.
21216 Jesse James Farm Rd
Kearney, MO 64060
National Register of Historic Places
AC / Heating
Bus / RV Parking
Wheel Chair Accessible
Visitor Information Center