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Down on the farm

Down on the farm
Out of the woods.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Preacher Gray & Jesse James

Dick' grandfather was a Methodist circuit rider minister. He farmed outside of Allerton,IL and was also the editor of the local paper. He was not a young man when he married Orpha Jane and started a second family. But the exciting story is that he rode with Jesse James! Ha! a connection with my family! I was intrigued but like most of the family thought the story apocryphal.
It seems that Grandpa was driving the old wagon into town one day and saw a stranger along side the road. A battered saddle rested beside him, but no horse was in evidence. Grandpa offered him a ride into town and as they went, they talked. There is no record of the conversation, either by hearsay or guesstimate, but at some point a group of men overtook them on horseback.
"You need a ride, Jesse?" one of them asked.
"Nah, I'm doing OK, Frank" the man in the wagon replied.
And that is where the family story ended.
Fast forward to the mid 1990s. Son Geoff called one night all excited. He had been watching "Biography" on the History Channel and the subject was Jesse James. In an interview the great grandson told of Jesse's being "born again" after a wagon ride with a parson on a dusty old road in Illinois.
Fall back again to a Franklin County MO story that tells of my great grandfather and a group of neighbors building a church in the hills near the farm. A stranger stopped and offered to help. He worked hard, shared a meal and was gone. No one was sure who he was, but this was Union country and there were suspicions.
When my mother was a young girl a huge cavern was discovered across the road from her grandparent's farm. In the cave were artifact from the years following the Civil War including some things that were supposed to have belonged to a notorious outlaw.
I grew up visiting that cave, known across the country as Mermac Caverns, Jesse James hideout.
The wagon ride and the church raising fit nicely...and maybe they are true.