"Jesse Woodson James" (September 5, 1847–April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw, the most famous member of the James-Younger gang. Since his death, Jesse James has become a figure of folklore.
Jesse James was born in Centerville, Missouri (later renamed Kearney). His father, Robert James, was a farmer and Baptist minister from Kentucky who helped found William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri and later died in California. He and his wife, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole, together had Jesse's brothers Robert Jr., Alexander Franklin, John Thomas, and his sister Susan Lavenia. Zerelda later married again, first to a wealthy man who soon died, then to a timid doctor named Reuben Samuel, who moved into the James home. In the tumultuous years leading up to the American Civil War, Zerelda and Reuben acquired a total of seven slaves and grew tobacco on their well-appointed farm. Together they had Archie Peyton Samuel, John Thomas, Fannie Quantrell and Sarah Loiusa (sometimes Sarah Ellen.) Sarah later married a man named John C. Harmon. They had a few children together.