Jesse James, played by Christopher Pettiet, gave a brief look at the young life of the legendary outlaw and what his beginnings could have been like. Even though this view is highly fictionalized, it still gave a good feel to the show and added a little bit to who the riders met and what was to be in their future after the end of the series.
After being left with a man referred to as "The Doc", Jesse waited for his brother Frank to return for him. When The Doc was murdered, Jesse wandered into Rock Creek hoping to track down the murderers. At first he assumed that Jimmy was one of the killers and took a shot at him. When Lou found Jesse, she decided to give him some help and brought him back to the station where he decided to stay until he found his brother. Teaspoon and Jimmy took a special interest in Jesse and decided to help him out as well. After this, Jesse became a regular on the show. (although many still wonder why)
The main plot around Jesse concerns his loyalty between his new friends and his brother who is constantly pushing him in the wrong direction. Usually each encounter ends with Jesse returning to the station, but in the end, he finally goes with Frank and the real life of Jesse James begins.
In the last episode, Jesse is faced once again with his dilemma between right from wrong and the riders and Frank. With the oncoming war, he feels the need to stand up for the South, even though his friendship with Noah is jeopardized. When Noah is killed during an attack on a group of raiders by the Army, Jesse feels responsible because Frank was at the hideout and Jesse let Frank know about the planned attack without realizing it. Jesse has much trouble dealing with it because Noah was his friend. Now Jesse comes to the final decision that he must go with Frank for good because too much has happened and there isn't any way to mend the past. After showing up at Noah's funeral, Jesse knows for certain that his life with Frank is the only option he has left, so he leaves, but only after he knows that Teaspoon has forgiven him.
And so begins the legendary life of one of the most famous outlaws, Jesse James.
The part of a young Jesse James was played by a young man called Christopher Pettiet. You may also have seen him in the films Point Break (1991) or Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead (1991). Or you may have caught one of his TV guest appearances on such show as "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "SeaQuest DSV", "Picket Fences", or in "Touched By An Angel". He also had bit parts in "Doogie Howser" and "Empty Nest". Christopher has also been in three TV movies, "Danger Island", "Fatal Exposure" and "The Dreamer of Oz".
Christopher had a role in Boys with Wynona Ryder and Lukas Haas. You can also find him in Carried Away (1996), Relentless IV: Ashes to Ashes (1994), and The Goodbye Bird (1993).
Over the years, Christopher has been seen in a few things. In 1997, he appeared in Against The Law. One of Chris's last roles, however was Dean in MTV's "Undressed".
Christopher was born on February 12, 1976 in Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately, Christopher passed away on April 12, 2000 from a drug overdose. Chris will be greatly missed, and remembered as on of the 90's most promising young actors.
For more information on Christopher Pettiet, please visit IMDB.com.
Jesse Woodson James was one of the most famous and infamous outlaws in the American West, indeed, American History.
He was born on September 5, 1847 in the village of Centerville, Missouri, near what is now the town of Kearney. His family consisted of his Baptist minister father, who died after falling ill on a trip west to California when Jesse was three years old; his mother Zerelda Cole James, a staunch Confederate supporter and slave owner, his brother Frank, who was five years old his senior and with whom he would embark on his life of crime; and a younger sister, Susan. Mrs. James later remarried to Dr. Reuben Samuels in 1855.
Frank James fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War with the vicious guerillas, Quantrill's Raiders, under the command of Capt. William Clarke Quantrill. Frank was a participant in Quantrill's bloody massacre of the town of Lawrenceville, Kansas.
In the summer of 1863 Jesse was living on the family farm in Clay county, Missouri when the family was visited by Union soldiers who were looking for information on Confederate guerilla bands and Southern sympathizers. When the James family told them nothing, Jesse was badly beaten in the field where he was working. His stepfather was hung.
This event led Jesse to try to join his brother Frank in the Quantrill's Raiders but Capt. Quantrill turned him away because he believed that at 16, Jesse just wasn't old enough. Another guerilla leader, 'Bloody Bill' Anderson wasn't so particular and allowed Jesse to join his band where Jesse was to become one of the participants in a notoriously vicious attack on Union soldiers.
Just outside Centralia, Missouri, Anderson and his men stopped a passenger train carrying a group of Union soldiers on furlough. They ordered everyone off the train and separated the civilians from the military. Once this was done they opened fire on the soldiers brutally murdering more that twenty men. Though only 16, Jesse was cool and seemingly unbothered by what had been done.
After the war, Jesse tried to surrender to Union forces and was promptly shot and seriously wounded. He would later claim that it was this event that led him into his life of crime. He said the Union's refusal to allow him to surrender also prevented him from returning to a normal life because they would always think of him as the enemy.
Upon returning to the family farm in 1865, both Jesse and his brother Frank were forced into taking an oath of loyalty to the Union. Within a year of the end of the war, Frank James along with a group of 10-12 men, committed their first robbery. It was a daylight robbery of the bank in Liberty, Missouri on February 13, 1866. The take was $60,000 in gold and silver coins, paper money and government securities. Jesse planned the robbery but did not participate in it. This arrangement didn't last for long and for the next fifteen years Jesse and Frank James, the three Younger brother of Bob, Cole and Jim, and sometimes other men, continued to rob. They held up not only banks, but also stagecoaches, stores, individuals, and trains.
On April 2, 1874 Jesse married his longtime sweetheart and first cousin Zerelda Mims. A few months later, brother Frank married Annie Ralston over her parent's fervent objections.
A short time later the brothers and their wives moved to Galveston, Texas then five months later they moved again, this time to Nashville, Tennessee. Jesse took on the assumed name of Thomas Howard.
On December 31, 1875 Jesse's son, Jesse Edward James, Jr. was born. His daughter Mary Jane was born in July of 1879. Frank's only child, Robert Franklin James was born on February 8, 1878. By all accounts, the James brothers were devoted husbands and fathers.
During the mid-1870's the U.S. government hired the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency to track the James Gang and arrest them. The Pinkerton Detectives thought they had the James boys trapped inside the Clay county farmhouse and ordered the inhabitants out of the house. When no one came out an explosive device was thrown through a window. When it exploded, the James' nine-year-old stepbrother was killed and their mother lost an arm. Jesse and Frank weren't there.
Public outcry denouncing the Pinkerton's and their attack on an innocent woman and child was widespread. Public support for the James Gang increased dramatically.
By 1877, Frank was ready to retire but it is said that Jesse had become intoxicated by the attention and excitement of their life and living on the run. 1877 dealt a serious blow to the gang when all three Younger brothers were injured and captured after a botched bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota. After that the brothers found honest work and lived quietly for almost three years.
In 1879, the James brothers packed up their families again and moved them to Kansas City, Missouri. A new gang was formed and the robberies resumed.
In 1881, Jesse moved to St. Joseph, Missouri and into a house he rented, as Thomas Howard, from a local government official.
By 1882, the rewards being offered for Jesse James dead or alive totaled more than $10,000, most of it offered by the state of Missouri. This is said to be the reason why on April 3, 1882, Robert Ford, a one time James Gang member, murdered Jesse James in his home.
According to reports, Robert Ford and his brother Charles were staying at the James home. After breakfast, approximately 9am, the men retired to the front room of the house to further plan what would be their next robbery. Jesse James uncharacteristically removed his gun belt, laid it on the bed and turned his back on the Fords to either straighten a picture on the wall or wash up (reports vary). Robert Ford shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly.
Later, when the murder of Jesse James was being investigated, the Ford brothers claimed they were detectives who had been on Jesse James' trail for a long time. It was suggested by others that they were hired to commit murder by someone else. One theory says they were hired by Kansas City, Missouri Police Commissioner Craig. Neither claim has been proven.
The Ford brothers went on to collect the reward money on Jesse James' head.
Frank Alexander James was twice arrested, the first time just three months after his brother's death when he surrendered to the governor of Missouri. He was acquitted of crimes he committed with his brother. He went straight after that, taking work as a bellman, a doorman, a salesman of shoes and clothing. He ended up a farmer living mostly off the legend of his brother and their exploits by going on the lecture circuit. He and his mother also sold tours and photos of the Clay county farm.
Until his death he continued to claim, as he and his brother always had claimed, that they had entered their life of crime because the persecution they suffered gave them no choice. Frank died at the age of 72 and was buried in the family plot of Kearney, Missouri.
At the time of his death, Jesse James was 34 years old.