Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Outlaw and The Schoolteacher

She was a schoolteacher.  A pretty brunette who graduated from college in 1872 with a degree in literature and science.  She came from a well-respected family and she could have married well.  Yet, Ann Ralston eloped with one of the most-wanted outlaws in America.

He was not a handsome man and he shunned the publicity showered on him. Bookish, he was an avid reader and he could quote Shakespeare at will.  It was said he always had novels with him.  Even when he was busy outrunning a posse, his saddlebags contained books.   Is it any wonder Alexander Franklin James fell for a girl with a degree in literature?

The details of how Frank and Annie met and secretly courted remain elusive.  In June of 1874, Annie convinced her parents to let her go visit a relative in Kansas City.   She actually met Frank in Kansas City and went to Omaha with him where they were married.  She sent a note home to her worried parents:  Dear Mother, I am married and going West.  Annie Reynolds.  Her parents had no idea she had married the outlaw, Frank James, until much later.  When her father found out, he disowned her. 

The unlikely marriage would last for 41 years and, according to most accounts, it was a happy marriage.  Frank and Annie got along well   They lived under aliases in Texas, Nashville and Baltimore.  Their only child, Robert, was born in 1878 while they were living in the Nashville area.  After Jesse’s assassination in 1882, Frank turned himself in to the governor of Missouri and Annie wrote her husband a poem called Surrendered.   Frank’s trial earned more publicity than that of the man who killed President McKinley.  He was found not guilty of the charges against him, and he spent the rest of this life as a law-abiding citizen and loving spouse.  “No better husband ever lived,” Ann said of him.

In their later year, Annie and Frank lived on the James farm where Frank sold tours for twenty-five cents.  When he died, he wishes were to be cremated and his ashes stored in a vault until he could be buried with Annie.  She would continue to live on James farm until her death in 1944.  She was 91 when she died. 

Now, the schoolteacher and the outlaw are together again, resting peacefully beneath a simple grave marker.  Frank would have approved.

6 comments:

Melanie Dickerson said...

Interesting story! Literature and Love conquer all. :-)

Crystal said...

I enjoyed your post! Just goes to show that even the most notorious individuals can be captivated by the written word.

Katherine Bone said...

Wow! The public always hears about Jesse James's family, but I don't remember hearing about Frank's wife. She was a very courageous lady, following her heart, even though the odds were against a happy union between them. Now that's love!

Thanks for sharing this with us, Patricia! ;)

Patricia Preston said...

Kathy, I thought Frank and Annie's story was very unusual for the times. She definitely followed her heart.

Liz Fichera said...

Oh, I adore stories like this!

Patricia Preston said...

Thanks to all of you for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed Frank and Annie's story.