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Remains of Jesse James Exhumed
Associated Press

GRANBURY, Texas (AP) MAY 31, 2000 — Add another chapter to the legend of Jesse James.

Cemetery crewmen, acting under court orders, moved aside a hefty headstone Tuesday and dug up the remains of a man who purportedly claimed he was Jesse James. DNA tests are planned to see if he was the outlaw.

"This is certainly a historic day, a historic moment,'' said Steven Reid, an attorney for Jesse Quanah James and Charles A. James, two men who claim to be James' grandsons. "We hope it's an opportunity to provide some additional information on the life and legend of Jesse James.''

History books say James was shot in the back and killed by Bob Ford, a member of his own gang, on April 3, 1882, in St. Joseph, Mo.

But some Granbury residents insist the outlaw survived, assumed the name of J. Frank Dalton and moved to the town 25 miles southwest of Fort Worth. They claim he lived to be 104 and was buried in 1951 under the gravestone that reads "Jesse Woodson James'', which includes the inscription, "Supposedly killed in 1882.''

A University of California anthropologist will perform a DNA analysis on the remains exhumed Tuesday and compare it to the DNA of Oklahoma City lawyer Robert Jackson, a known James descendant.

The body buried under James' name in 1882 also was exhumed, in 1995. Scientists who examined those remains said later that the body was most likely that of James.

Proponents of the Dalton theory say the findings were not conclusive.

"We want to set history straight. They made a big mistake,'' said Bud Hardcastle, an Oklahoma used-car salesman and amateur historian who said years of research pointed him to the Texas grave. A Hood County judge ordered the exhumation this year.

James was among the most famous outlaws of the Old West, his exploits sensationalized in dime novels. Along with his brother Frank, James was a member of the feared Quantrill's Raiders during the Civil War. After the war, he joined up with other former Confederates to rob banks and trains.

While historical documents show that James was killed by Ford in 1882, some say James faked his death to elude authorities.

In Granbury, townspeople are said to have suspected Dalton was the outlaw and Dalton supposedly made the claim himself shortly before his death.

The late Hood County Sheriff Oran C. Baker said he examined Dalton's body at his death and "counted 32 bullet holes from his forehead to his knees.''

Elizabeth Gilliam Beckett, who operates the Jesse James Museum in Kearney, Mo., does not buy any of it. Besides the DNA testing of remains from the Missouri grave, handwriting analysis done in the 1980s also show that Dalton wasn't James, she said.

She also said the men who claim to be James' grandsons are not his direct descendants.

"We know where the real Jesse is buried, up here in Kearney,'' she said.

For now, the dispute is good for Granbury, a town of about 6,000 people.

"This is one of the many legends we have here,'' said Mary Saltarelli, a spokeswoman for the local Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We do have a lot of tourism. We have a legend that John Wilkes Booth lived here, as well.''


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