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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Outlaw in Love: Frank James ~Tanya Hanson

What is it about those bad boys and the women who love them?

Everybody knows Frank James as a heartless outlaw wreaking havoc with little brother Jesse. But Alexander Franklin James gave his heart and gave it good. A man who devoured the books in his father’s library, Frank could quote Shakespeare at will. His papa Robert Sallee James, a farmer and Baptist minister, co-founded the William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. So maybe it’s not all that surprising that Frank fell for a schoolteacher, Anna Ralston, one of Missouri State College’s first female graduates.

How and when Frank met Annie was quite the mystery until his trial in 1883 when he revealed the true story of their courtship. Ten years prior in Jackson County, Missouri, Annie and a friend were playing croquet when two armed young men rode up. One, a neighbor’s son, introduced his companion under a fictitious name. The romantic encounter led to occasional meetings at neighbors’ homes.

When the stranger’s true identity was revealed  --Frank James-- Annie’s father, wealthy and well-respected businessman Samuel Ralston, forbade their association. But after Annie took a teaching post at a country school some miles away, she and Frank frequently kept company and became secretly betrothed.

After finishing the school term and returning home, Annie eloped with the “dashing, daring Frank James” in the summer of 1875. Supposedly, she’d asked her parents for permission to visit relatives in Kansas City.  Unbeknownst to them, Frank waited for Annie on the train, the elopement already arranged.

Two days after Annie’s departure for Kansas City, her parents received a brief note from her that said:

Dear Mother: I am married and going West. Annie Reynolds

Not recognizing the name Reynolds, they figured she’d run off with a gambler they’d heard about. Putting their sons on her trail, her parents learned of Annie’s marriage to the outlaw when Frank himself rode up with the news, telling the Ralstons to forgive her. Samuel, shocked and unaccustomed to being thwarted, threw Frank out. The bridegroom rode off with the threat they wouldn’t see their daughter for ten years.

He was just about right. Not until eight years later, in 1883, did Annie come again to her parents’ door, her five year old son Robert Franklin James at her side, Frank awaiting trial. 

(Five months after the murder of his brother Jesse in April 1882, Frank had given himself up to Missouri governor Crittenden, seeking peace after being hunted for 21 years.)

Annie was in the courtroom every day. Despite vigorous prosecution,, Frank was tried for only two robberies/murders and was found not guilty by both juries.

For the last thirty years of his life, Frank became respectable. He did lecture tours with former James gang comrade Cole Younger and became an AT&T telegraph operator. Upon returning to Missouri, he gave tours of the family’s Kearney farm for the masterful sum of twenty-five cents. He died an honorable man on February 18, 1915. However, to prevent his grave from being desecrated or dismantled for souvenirs, he insisted his ashes be kept in a vault until the time he and his Annie could be buried together. 

Annie stayed at the farm with her mother–in-law, Zerelda James Samuel for many years. When she died at age 91, she and her Frank were reunited at Hill Park Cemetery in Independence. 


In my latest release, Outlaw in Love, I had great fun softening a bad boy's heart and working out how a respectable woman could love him. But Teresa Avila isn't as respectable as Ahab Perkins believes...On the run from his gang, having robbed his own sister, outlaw Ahab has no place to go but good. He’d give his heart to Teresa in a single beat...if the beautiful woman in gray weren’t a...nun.

Unbeknownst, Teresa Avila is as wanted as Ahab, hiding out in disguise at a rundown mission. With a hefty price on her head. After her crimes and her evil stepfather’s abuse, she’s convinced she’s not good enough for any man, not even the outlaw she’s falling for. Enter a burned-out homestead, an abandoned little girl and a kindly sheriff...can Ahab and Teresa find love as they guide their souls out of darkness?


  1. Tanya,

    I knew some of this story about Frank James, but not the 'Annie' part. She was a determined woman in love to go up against her wealthy family and run off with an outlaw. All it takes is the love of a 'good woman' to change the bad boy's ways. (at least in our romance writing world) lol

    1. Hi Kaye, sure enough. I had fun redeeming Ahab, too...thanks for the post today!

  2. Tanya,

    One thing we find, most outlaws and 'bad' men are not as bad as we want them to be, and not always as good as others want. The story of Frank James is an inspiring one, and tailor made for the romantic. (And let's face it, we all love romance).

    Your story also rings of the 'battle' we rage within ourselves to find where we belong and make peace with our past. Wishing you the best with this story. Doris

  3. Thanks so much, Doris. I always wonder what would have happened to Jesse if he'd lived longer. He was devoted to Zee, too. But he'd been so damaged in the civil war. No excuse though. Thanks for posting today!

  4. Tanya! What a great post. I had no idea about any of this. Poor Frank. It was like he was just carried along by his devotion to Jesse. I saw something about him helping to make films in Hollywood about the James' gang train robberies, and at one point, he was a shoe salesman. Seems he really just wanted the quiet life! Your new release looks wonderful. I always just love your covers so much.

  5. Hi Cheryl, yeah, supposedly the James boys came to California, too. The Tobin James Winery claims to be a descendent. Thank you for your kind words. This story was a favorite to write. Xo

  6. I'm fascinated by this story because my grandfather, born in 1883, played music with Frank James (Frank was much much older, of course) in Missouri .....wish I had more of the story, but my gf played honkytonk (much like Scott Joplin).....I don't think it's just a "story" because my gf was a very modest man and not one prone to stretching the truth.....would love to find out though!! I'll be looking forward to your story :-) Congratulations!