April 19, 2021

Jesse James the Outlaw: the Smith Legend

Part 1- Four highwaymen stay overnight with a pioneer farmer

John M. Smith was an early settler in Iowa. He owned a farm in Section 36, Doyle Township, Clarke County and lived in a two room farmhouse with his wife and three children. In 1876 the land was a vast prairie and the settlers on it had only their barn lots fenced with rails. Stakes were driven in the ground marking off the corners of most of the farms. The Smith’s small house was constructed of logs hauled from the strip of timber along steams; their barn was a framework of poles, roofed with slew grass.

The people lived off the land. There were large tracts of dense timber where wild game was abundantly plentiful for their meat; in the spring, summer and fall, the forest yielded a variety of food the pioneer women gathered and put to good use. Just for picking they had wild strawberries, blackberries, wild grapes, elderberries, crabapples, wild onions, walnuts, hickory, hazel and butter nuts, and the streams were full of fish.

It was late summer a beautiful day was ending, the sun had set and shortly after twilight the Smith family were ready to retire for the night. Mother Smith had pulled out the trundle bed which during the day was kept stored away under the big bed, preparing it for the children. John was finishing his last chores and was near the stable when four horsemen rode up. Thinking they were his neighbors he jokingly asked them to get off their horses so he could see the nice saddles. The men laughed as they dismounted saying that was a good idea and to come and take a look at them.

By this time the farmer was taking a good look at not only the expensive saddles, but also at the fine horses, one of which was a beautiful sorrel with flowing yellow mane and tail. Continued in the next edition of the Osceola Sentinel Tribune.

Marie White

My name is Marie (my maiden name was Gardner) White, I have always lived in Clarke County. Married to Bob White, daughter and son in law and 2 grandchildren. Son passed away in 2017. Graduated from Clarke in 1962. I have been a member of the Historical Society since 1971.