In the Dec 13, 2009, story by Oklahoman reporter Ken Raymond, titled “HUNTERS TRAIL JESSE JAMES’ GOLD“, he tells of the treasure hunters and searches for the loot supposedly hidden by the James gang.
He also mentions that Jesse’s brother Frank settled down near Fletcher, OK, to have easy access in his search for their ill-gotten gains.
A search of The Oklahoman’s archives finds a story from The Oklahoman, July 25, 1909, that reported:
“Frank James, formerly member of the famous James brothers, who committed numerous depredations in Missouri and terrorized citizens throughout the middle west, is certainly a man of his word. Soon after Jesse James was killed and Frank James surrendered to the governor of Missouri, the chief executive promised him his pardon, providing he, Frank, would live a “quiet and peaceful life.” Frank promised to follow out the governor’s instructions, which he has done.”
James and his wife moved to a farm near Fletcher in southwestern Oklahoma in 1906. There, they raised corn and chickens on 100 acres of land.
The 1909 article continues:
“Mr. and Mrs. James attend church and social gatherings in Fletcher, and Mr. James is ranked as one of the foremost men in that part of Oklahoma.
A great many people stop at Fletcher to visit the once noted outlaw. They are always tendered a cordial welcome and asked to remain as long as they like, providing they do not get too inquisitive in regard to Mr. James past life. Mr. James seldom refers to his reckless Missouri days and he is very sensitive towards publicity. One of the principal reasons why he moved to the farm was to evade so much newspaper notoriety and the ever curious public.”
In 1911, Frank James’ mother, Zerelda Samuel, died on a train near Oklahoma City en route from Fletcher to Kansas City to visit her grandson. Shortly after her death, Frank and his wife moved from Oklahoma, eventually returning to his farm at Excelsior Springs, Mo.
This story from The Oklahoman on Feb. 19, 1915, the day after Frank James died in Missouri, gives a slightly different picture of the man.
Frank James, who died at Excelsior Springs, Mo., lived on a farm one and a half miles north of Fletcher, from the fall of 1906 until his mother died in Oklahoma City three years ago. The farm here is still in James’ name. Following the death of his mother , who was a Mrs. Samuels, he returned to his farm here and remained through the following winter, since which time the farm has been tenanted.
The farm is in what is known as the Little Pasture, and was sold to James for $3,500. While on the farm he did most of his own farm work, and his wife lived her with him. While his mother was en route from Fletcher to Missouri she died on the Frisco train as it was entering Oklahoma City. She was accompanied by Mrs. Frank James.
James, during his residence near here, mingled but little with the public, and so far as known never referred to his outlaw career.
E.W. Dilling, cashier of the Fletcher State bank, and one of the few local citizens with whom James was inclined to talk, say that James was a good bank patron, courteous at all times, and anxious to be of material aid to those less fortunately situated so far as financial conditions were concerned.
Although James lived for several years within one and a half miles of Fletcher he seldom came to town, and seemed to shun the gaze of the curious.
Perhaps this quote from an Aug. 14, 1932, story from The Oklahoman about treasure hunters looking for lost fortunes in Keechi Hills in southwest Oklahoma offers an explanation for James settling in Oklahoma:
“Skeptics may hoot at the idea that the James gang ever had at one time more money than they could haul around with them, but skeptics can’t disprove the fact that Frank James acquired the farm north of Fletcher, Okla., and continued to own it till his death. “Why would Frank James in his old age, buy a farm in the new country of Oklahoma, or anywhere else, except his dear Clay or Jackson county, Mo., unless to look for buried bandit loot?” is the question that treasure hunters in the Keechi hills ask of those inclined to doubt.”