After his death, Jesse was packed on ice and taken by train to Kearney, where he was displayed and viewed by hundreds of friends, admirers, and curiosity seekers. Later he was buried on the family farm in a plot near the house so that Zerelda could keep an eye out for trespassers or souvenir hunters. His tombstone read:
In Loving Memory of My Beloved Son,
Murdered by a Traitor and Coward whose name is not worthy to appear here.
Initially, Ford was charged with murdering both Wood Hite and Jesse James, but true to his word Governor Crittenden pardoned him while he stood trial for the murder. As to the money, he received only a fraction of the reward. Returning to their hometown of Richmond, Missouri, Bob, and Charles were not greeted kindly and residents found the killing of Jesse James so distasteful that they made life unbearable for the two brothers.
Charles Ford fled Richmond when he heard that Frank James was searching for them to kill them in revenge for his brother’s death. Charles kept running from town to town for the next two years, changing his name several times. He finally committed suicide in 1884.
In the meantime, Bob Ford was capitalizing on his betrayal of Jesse James, taking to the stage, appearing in an act entitled Outlaws of Missouri.
Night after night, Ford retold his story, carefully omitting that he had shot James in the back. But, this charade was short lived as he was greeted with catcalls, jeers, hoots and challenges. Ford later took off to Las Vegas, New Mexico and then Creede, Colorado, where he was shot down in his own saloon on June 8, 1892.
During their 15-year crime spree, the James-Younger Gang committed 26 holdups making off with more than $200,000 and killed at least seventeen men.
On October 4, 1882, Frank James surrendered to Missouri Governor Thomas Crittendon. The 39-year-old bandit marched into the governor’s office and took off his gun belt, placing it before Crittenden and saying: “Governor Crittenden, I want to hand over to you that which no living man except myself has been permitted to touch since 1861.” Frank was tired of the outlaw life – of being hunted for over twenty years, of living in a saddle, of knowing no peace.
Universal sympathy for Frank James and his family was exhibited by the public. After a number of long trials, Frank was acquitted on all counts. Returning home to the James Farm, he took up a number of peaceful pursuits, working as a horse trainer and a racetrack starter.
Jesse’s mother, Zerelda, allowed tourists to view the grave of her son for 25 cents and sold rocks from his grave. Legend has it that when the rock supply ran low, she simply restocked from the river. She also gave paid tours of the farm shortly after Jesse’s death, a practice that was continued by Frank in later years.
Zee James, who had suffered from deep depression after her husband’s death, died in 1900.
Later, when Zerelda could no longer live alone, her son’s body was moved to the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Missouri and placed next to his wife on July 29, 1902. Frank James was present at the re-burial of his brother.
In 1903 Frank James appeared in a small Wild West show with his friend Cole Younger, who had been released from prison in 1901.
On February 10, 1911, Zerelda Samuel, after visiting Frank and Annie at their home in Oklahoma, suffered a heart attack on the train back to Kearney at the age of 86. She is buried at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery next to sons Jesse and Archie, husband Reuben, and daughter-in-law Zee.
Frank James, at the age of 72, died from natural causes at the James Farm on February 18, 1915. His wife Annie Ralston James spent her widowhood at the farm.