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By Jack HackleyOne of my favorite family stories is of my great-grandfather selling horses to the James Gang, which I printed a few weeks ago.
Lo and behold, I got an email from Iva Dehn, which reads as follows:
“Jack, I read your column in the Excelsior Springs Standard.
I was surprised and actually pleased when I read about Jesse James and your great-grandfather’s horses. You are the first person who has a story almost identical with the story my grandfather told.
I have a great-great-grandmother who was called “Grandmother Hall.” The story goes that somehow they would receive word that horses were needed. The boys would go down and bring horses up from the pasture and put them in the corral attached to the barn.
Grandmother Hall would then have them all come inside and bar the door. She would take her silver set, place it in a basket and lower it out a window into the bushes at the back of the house. They would draw the curtain and no one was to look outside. At some point, Jesse’s gang would show up and exchange worn out horses for the fresh ones.
When the exchange was done and the gang gone, the family would “see to” the horses, feeding and working with them so they would be ready in case they would be needed for another exchange.
After a visit, there was a tobacco can sitting on a certain shelf in the barn where cash was usually found.
I always thought the story rang true because my grandfather said grandmother Hall always said she did not trust them any further than she could “throw them.”
Usually, any story about Jesse and his gang includes stating what a “gentleman” Jesse was. This is not the case with Grandmother Hall. She believed the gang was made up of men capable of just about anything and she didn’t want her family involved.
But, she was also a realist. While she made sure the exchange went quickly so the gang would leave and not cause trouble, she also never refused the cash in the tobacco can.
There has got to be more farms that did the same thing … I just never heard of anyone else until your story. Keep writing, and I’ll keep reading.”
– Iva Dehn
Jack can be reached at PO Bo 40, Oak Grove, MO 64075 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.jackremembers.com.