Jesse James and the Widow

A Missouri Folktale

One day, as Jesse James and his gang were riding through Missouri, they saw a farmhouse and stopped to ask for something to eat. A widow lived there with three small children. She didn’t have much in the house, but shared with them what she had.

It was while they were eating lunch that Jesse James noticed that something was bothering this generous widow. He questioned her about it, and she broke down and told him her story. The mortgage was due on the house that very day, and since her husband had died, she did not have the money to pay it. Her landlord was not a generous man, and was sure to put her children and herself out on the street.

"How much money do you need to pay the mortgage?" Jesse asked the widow.

"Fifteen hundred dollars," the widow sobbed.

Jesse James took out his money bag, counted out $1500 dollars and presented it to the widow.

"I can’t take this," she protested, but Jesse James insisted she use the money to pay off the mortgage.

"Just make sure you get a receipt," he warned her, and she promised that she would. Then he got a description of the man, and left with his gang.

Jesse James and his gang waited in the woods near the house until the man had collected his money from the widow. Then they rode out onto the road and stole their money back from the landlord.