The ABCs of Lowell History: J is for Jesse James

The ABCs of Lowell History is back for another round. This popular series explores a wide variety of topics in Lowell area history in weekly online articles.

Thank you to our advertisers.

J is for Jesse James

Was Jesse James ever in Lowell? Did he hide out here in the winter of 1878-79? Consider this article printed in the February 20, 1936, issue of the Lowell Ledger.

“Jesse James, Notorious Outlaw, Once Sojourned Here, Says an Old Legend
By Gerald M. Henry

Rhine’s hotel stood a little south and west of the site of the hotel in later years known as the Riverside in Segwun. It consisted of a downstairs bar and upper floor devoted to lodgings. The ruined foundations are still in evidence.

To this hostelry there journeyed, in the winter of 1878 -79, a southern gentleman, “Colonel Thomas Howard”, late of the Confederate army. Colonel Howard had a cold blue eye, and an unnaturally calm manner, even when the quartet at the bar burst into the lusty popular ballad, “Turn over the keys, for I am Jesse James.”

During his three months’ stay at the Rhine house, Colonel Howard visited the Lowell business district twice to make minor purchases. He played a good hand of euchre and pedro and, since none of the Lowell boys tried to ring in a stacked deck, the winter passed quietly enough. It was said that Colonel Howard first heard of Lowell’s attractions through Rob Nelson, who later was in charge of the engine room at the Lowell Cutter Company.

Former Riverside hotel near the site of the Rhine house

His local friends heard no more of Colonel Howard until he was shot by a faithless friend, Bob Ford, in St. Joseph, MO, on September 3, 1882. “Colonel Howard”, had been the alias of Jesse James, legendary outlaw, and his killing, so far as the newspapers were concerned dwarfed the assassination of President Garfield the year preceding. The double identity of the bandit was celebrated in doggerel stigmatizing Ford as: “The dirty little coward, that shot Mr. Howard, and laid Jesse James in his grave”.

That Jesse James actually made Lowell his hideout under the circumstances just given, is a legend persistent and able-bodied enough to have survived more than fifty years. There are several older residents who believe there are good grounds for the legend.

Dillinger’s lurid career spanned a little more than a year. Former police Chief Ab. Carroll has said that, at the height of the furor, an average of six sincere persons called Grand Rapids headquarters nightly and declared they had just seen John Dillinger.

In contrast, Jesse James wandered around, a fugitive, part of the time with $10,000 on his head, for more than ten years. The mass of legend and tradition which grew up and his name is truly formidable. One by one his biographers gave up trying to winnow the true from the false. No history of his life even pretends to be accurate as to detail.

So, you can take the Rhine Hotel story or leave it, according to taste. It might easily have been so, and it might not. If it isn’t true, it ought to be.”

The author of this article, Gerald McCarty Henry was the son of Myron Henry and Bessie McCarty Henry. He was an attorney and served as a Kent County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, but he also worked for a time as a correspondent with the Lowell Ledger. What is the decision of the reader? Did Henry write a convincing report? Was Lowell Michigan one of the many hiding places of Jesse James?

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.