Jesse James Home Museum – St. Joseph, Missouri - Atlas Obscura
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St. Joseph, Missouri

Jesse James Home Museum

The house where the famed outlaw was shot by a dirty coward is now a museum to the criminal's legacy. 

This simple Missouri home went down in American history when the infamous Wild West bank robber Jesse James was gunned down inside.  Today, it holds a museum to James’ life and death inside, complete with a bullet hole in the wall that dates back to the shooting. 

After a life full of criminal activity that made Jesse James famous in his own time, the outlaw eventually attempted to settle down (at least for a while) with his family in St. Joseph, Missouri. Despite being feared and renowned as maybe the most prolific criminal in American history to that point, James was also noted as a husband and father who took great care of his family. Unfortunately, by the time they settled in their Missouri home it was too late for any kind of peace. The $10,000 reward for James’ capture was just too sweet a pot for his accomplices to ignore. Finally, on April 3, 1882, one of James’ former partners in crime, Robert Ford, put a bullet in the back of James’ head right in his own home.

When the disreputable Ford brought in James’ body to collect the reward, the authorities actually arrested him for murder. Ford would go on to die in a bar fight a few years later, remembered by few, loved by none. James, however, is still an American icon, and the former home where he was shot has become a museum to his legacy.

The museum features artifacts from the James’ life such as one of his old guns and portraits of James. More items were added in the 1990s after James was exhumed to test whether his corpse was in fact his (it was), and now James’ coffin handles and some trinkets he was buried with are also on display. Possibly most interesting is the bullet hole in the wall that dates back to James’ killing. It was originally quite small, but has grown over the years as visitors have fiddled with it.