I have never found anything particularly interesting when looking back over my family tree. Most of the clan on my dad’s side were dirt farmers or cowboys. One was a rustler who reportedly was hanged down around Dodge City.
Those on my mother’s side were railroad people. Her father was noteworthy for his sudden death when his locomotive exploded while pulling the steep grade from Utah to Evanston, Wyo. An uncle, so I was told, died while coupling. No, not that kind of coupling. He, too, was a railroad man and got caught between the couplings when the train cars bucked.
The most noteworthy not-too-long-ago maternal ancestor is one of my mother’s cousins. She, Erle Galbraith, was a stunningly beautiful woman who was the best my family can claim as famous; she was the fourth of the great entertainer Al Jolson’s collection of wives. We found an old publicity photo of Erle and Al.
When my paternal Granddad Edward was a young man, he worked as a cop in St. Louis, walking a beat downtown. Cops in those days generally knew all the folks along their beats and Granddad was no exception. Among his acquaintances was Alexander Franklin James, the doorman and ticket-taker of a burlesque theater. Alexander was one of the most famous outlaws this country has ever known. Few knew him as Alexander, however. They knew him as Frank. Frank James, that is, brother and fellow gunslinger of the notorious Jesse James.
Although the murderous Jesse was the most famous of their gang of bank-and-train-robbing marauders, Frank was the smartest. Frank did not turn his back on a “dirty little coward,” who laid poor Jesse in his grave.
Instead, Frank turned himself in to Missouri authorities, was twice tried and acquitted by sympathetic jurors, and lived a free man until dying of natural causes in 1915 at age 72.
Since learning of this many years ago, I have always been a fan of Jesse James books and songs, such as this ballad sung by Bruce Springsteen.
There are plenty of books on the subject. Check Amazon.com for Jesse James stuff by Hansen, Triplett or Stiles and numerous others.
So that’s about it. I think it rather sad the tastiest fruit on my family tree is that someone met someone famous, or perhaps infamous. Oh well. Onward and upward. And tell 23andme that I won’t be subscribing.