Select James Miscellany

Here are some James stories and accounts over the years:

James in Newport, Isle of Wight

The James family of Newport on the Isle of Wight was sturdily Protestant in Elizabethan times and could boast three James of prominence at that time: 
  • Dr. John James, who was the Queen’s physician
  • Dr. Thomas James, who was born in 1571 and said to have been the son of Marian exiles.  He was an eminent scholar and in 1602 became the first librarian of the Bodleian Library in Oxford.  
  • and his cousin Richard James who represented Newport in Parliament from 1597 to 1604.

James in Grosmont, Monmouthshire

The James family of Grosmont in Monmouthshire near the Herefordshire border dates back to the 17th century.  Solicitors' records referred to a Philip James and a William James having lands in Grosmont in 1688 and a Thomas James having tenancy of a house there in 1714.

The house itself was a very old one, some of it having been apparently built in the early part of the 16th century. Over the door was the date 1673 and on the door-frame of the stable 1671.

These James held Town Farm in Grosmont from the early 1700’s until its sale in 1860.

Phillip Morgan's 2008 book A Grosmont Miscellany recounted one interesting James family titbit.  Elizabeth James of this family had been married to John Croft, but they had no children.  When she died in 1796 she initially left all her estate to her servant Eleanor Jones.  She later wrote a codicil leaving sums of money to relatives and friends.  The honest Eleanor discovered and revealed this codicil.

William James the Welsh Ploughboy Made Good

William James was born in Pembrokeshire in the summer of 1720 to a poor Welsh miller.  He ran away to sea in 1732 and by the age of 18, was commanding a ship in the West Indies under Captain Hawke.  It was during this period that he was captured by the Spanish and when released, drifted at sea until being captured again in Cuba. 

In 1747, at the age of 27, he joined the East India Company and was appointed Commander of Marine Forces to protect its trading ships. He sailed his gunship the Protector to fight the Arab pirates on their island fortress off the west coast of India.  He was ultimately successful in his attack because he had earlier taken soundings of the rocky coastline and was able to get close to the island using shallow boats. 

In 1759, still only 39, he returned to England a rich man.  He purchased the Park Farm estate at Eltham in 1774 and was awarded a baronetcy in 1778.  Fame and riches he had a-plenty.  But on the day of his daughter’s wedding in 1783 he suffered a stroke and died

Early James in America

John James
1623 Wales (Caernarvon)
1690 Stafford co, Virginia
William James
1639 unknown
1697 Newport, Rhode Island
James James
1650 Wales (Pembroke)
1708 Chester co, Pennsylvania
David James
1669 Wales (Radnor)
1739 Chester co, Pennsylvania
John James
1670 Wales (Pembroke)
1749 Montgomery co, Pennsylvania
Howell James        
1684 Wales (Monmouth)       
1717 New Castle co, Delaware

The James Family of Bucks County, Pennsylvania

The James family of Bucks county was of Welsh origin, being descended from John and Elizabeth James who with their family left their village in Pembrokeshire for America in 1711.  They were Welsh Baptists and the vanguard of a Baptist colony who eight years later would organize themselves into a church known as the Montgomery Baptist church in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania.  The James family were members of this church for many years. 

Their son William, born in Wales about 1692, appears to have been their favorite son.  He moved to New Britain in Bucks county and died there in 1778.  His was the forebear of most of the James family who settled there.  Isaiah James of his family was a prominent member of the Bucks county Assembly in the 1830’s.

William James and His Rebellious Son Henry

William James, Scots Irish, had come to Albany, New York penniless and in 1795 opened a dry goods store there.  His roving eye soon saw business opportunities elsewhere.  He made a fortune speculating in land along the newly opened Erie Canal and a second fortune by exploiting a new method of extracting salt.  He died in 1832 a very rich man, some say the second richest man of his time after John Jacob Astor.

His son Henry James or HJ was the fifth of a generation of eleven children which abstained from business in what he called a “rupture with my grandfather's tradition and attitude.”  He rebelled against the moralistic prescriptions of his father’s stern Presbyterian faith and was forced to contest a punitive last will and testament in order to obtain his share of the estate.  HJ also suffered in his youth a serious accident which resulted in the amputation of his leg below the knee.

HJ used his inheritance to follow his calling as a peripatetic Swedenborgian philosopher and social controversialist.  A friend of notables such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Carlyle, he was always on the move - between Albany and Manhattan and Albany, between America and Europe, and through a succession of eccentric family homes.  These included homes in Newport, Cambridge, and Manhattan in America and more homes in Paris, London, Geneva, Boulogne, and Bonn in Europe. 
HJ had five illustrious children by his wife Mary:

  • William James (WJ), the psychologist and philosopher
  • Henry James (HJ) the writer
  • Garth Wilkinson James (known as Wilky)  
  • Robertson James (or Bob)
  • and Alice James (AJ) the diarist.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford in an ambush on April 3, 1882 at St. Joseph in Buchanan county, Missouri. 

Jesse, Frank and everyone around them knew that time had run out.  As the inevitable drew closer, everyone was left to grapple with their own self.  In the most clear, spare and simple images, Jesse can be seen with his family, with his cousins, and with his assassins.  Jesse grew more lonely and alone.  His star was burning out like a comet and everyone was going down with him. 

Brad Pitt played Jesse James in this movie.  He stripped away the myth.  He stripped away the legend and the lore.  He stripped away the western and all its gratuitous violence.  What he left us with was the man himself, Jesse James.

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