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The legend of Jesse James

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The picture Jesse James gave to his family. SUBMITTED
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April 3rd marked the 90th year since the famous outlaw Jesse James was killed by fellow gang member, Bob Ford. He killed James for the reward money, which had gotten so high it was hard for him to resist shooting Jesse James.

Local resident Pat Meguiar is a double third cousin three times removed of Jesse James through the Meguiar family. He remembers sitting at his grandfather Maynard Meguiar's knee listening to him tell family stories of Jesse James.

Meguiar remembers is the story of the Jesse James Gang robbing a bank in Russellville, Ky., and coming through the Portland area to visit family, while on the run. He traveled to the area by way of the old Gallatin/Russellville Road.

The Story of Logan County (1962) written by Edward Coffman includes one version of the getaway from the bank robbery in Russellville, Ky. He wrote the following: "The gang was tracked a short distance out the Gallatin Road. Some reports indicate that the robbers turned into the wooded and hilly country between the Gallatin Road and the Bowling Green Road, and there spent the night. A day or two later they were reported to have crossed the L. & N. railroad at Mitchellville, Tennessee."

Meguiar remembers his grandfather telling him that James spent the day with his family after robbing the Russellville Bank. His grandfather told him the family lived in the Lake Springs community (near the Tennessee Welcome Station on I-65). As the story continues, James gave his grandmother Mariah Martin Meguiar a picture of himself before he rode off in a hurry.

The picture of James that the family has is actually an ambrotype; an image on glass. According to Meguiar this type of photograph was used for a period of approximately 10 years, but in rural areas it went beyond that 10-year range.

As the story unfolds, many people believed that James was never captured because he was expected to look like the image on a picture that was not actually a picture of him.

Pictures of James dead body favor the picture left with the family. A close look at the eye brows and the stubby fingers support the family's belief that they have the true picture. James had very light clear blue eyes which is an unusual eye color. A picture of James's brother Frank shows a strong family resemblance to the picture of James that the family owns.

The picture that members of the family have today has been authenticated.

Fact or legend - what do you believe? Did Jesse James use a fake portrait to avoid being captured?

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