Born: May 26, 1803, Kentucky Died: April 4, 1886
Burial: Clifty Cemetery Place: Clifty, Madison County, Arkansas
If you happened upon the gravestone marked "Samuel" in the Clifty Cemetery, you might not have any idea just how much history is staring back at you. That last name, "Samuel", carries the legend and times of Jesse and Frank James! Meet the stepgrandfather of the James boys, blood grandfather of little Archie Samuel, and father of Reuben Samuel, Fielding Samuel!!
Some of you might be thinking at this moment, "Well.."STEP"grandfather...now you're just pulling straws for name recognition!"
With that, I will expand on Fielding Samuel as we go back to Clay County, Missouri and a passage from the book, "Jesse and Frank James, The Family History": "The Samuel Farm was only about one mile from the James Farm which Robert and Zerelda had acquired in Clay County in 1845. The James and Samuel families were, therefore, early Clay County neighbors, and it is likely they were acquainted." This points to the fact that Fielding and Mary knew Frank and Jesse's mother and father long before their names intertwined through marriage. The book continues.."Tired of constant questions and accusations by law officials that he was protecting his outlaw relatives, the James boys, Fielding Samuel left Missouri with his family sometime around 1875 and settled lands near the Clifty community in northwest Arkansas."
Now we get to the meat of the history beginning with the Civil War.It is a good to great bet that Fielding had visits from Missouri Union men that were trying to hunt down Frank James during the border wars. In May of 1863, Quantrill's guerrillas were thick through the area and Missouri militia thought that they could track Frank to the area, particularly the James farm, after some of Quantrill's men had ambushed members of the Union's 25th Missouri Infantry at Richfield, Mo. The Missouri militia caught up to the James farm and asked Reuben, Zerelda and Jesse where Frank was. When they didn't get the answers they liked, the militia men grabbed Reuben, tied his hands behind his back and proceeded to hang him from the limb of a tree. They hung him and let him fall, pulled him up and let him fall again several times cutting off his oxygen in the process. Zerelda was stripped to her waist and whipped. And Jesse was beaten almost senseless. From this, Reuben would be be messed up mentally and never recover.
Now, we fast forward to 1875. January and April to be precise. In January, members of the Pinkerton Detective Agency attacked the James farm with bombs and explosives. Their aim was to flush Frank and Jesse out of the home. Much to the Pinkertons discredit and undoing, the boys were not there and their stepbrother, nine year old Archie Samuel, was mortally wounded and died shortly after the incident. This is also the event that injured Zerelda's arm where she would have to have part of it amputated. In April, Jesse and Frank paid a visit to one Daniel Askew who lived close to Fielding. The brothers confronted Daniel about working with the Pinkertons and having some part in the bombing of their home. He denied having anything to do with it. He was killed where he stood during the confrontation. And Fielding and /or Mary just might have heard the shots.
Before we end this, let's touch on some of Fielding and Mary's neighbors in Liberty and Washington townships where they had lived in Clay County. In the 1850 Liberty township census was the heralded and famed lawyer, soldier and politician, Alexander Doniphan. Doniphan gained great notoriety for leading American troops in the Mexican-American war and for refusing to execute Mormon leader, Joseph Smith and some of his followers during the 1838 Mormon wars in Missouri. Right next door to Doniphan was future Missouri guerrilla colonel, John Calhoun "Coon" Thornton. The third name in the Liberty township census was the most surprising of all! Fielding and Mary's next door/farm neighbor was none other than Julius Lincoln and his family. Julius' family included George T. Lincoln who is noted on this site as one of those who served with Quantrill guerrillas. George served in the Missouri Confederacy under Col. "Coon" Thornton and is buried in the Bentonville Cemetery! He is listed on the "Served with Quantrill Guerrillas" on the LEARN page.
In the 1860 Washington township census, we find Doniphan Pence, known to history as Quantrill guerrilla, Donnie Pence. And probably the most noteworthy of all...James Cummins a.k.a. Jim Cummins, member of the James Gang and Quantrill's guerrillas, who is well documented in Jesse and Frank James history! (You can see Cummins' grave on the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site tour on the LEARN page).
Jesse and Frank held the Samuel family dear and paid no mind to the "step" tag that came with Fielding, Mary and Reuben. They were family pure and simple and they looked at it that way. It is a loss for us that we don't know the day by day and moment to moment history of Fielding's life.
And we can only imagine that Fielding's feelings and emotions ran the gamut while he was in Clay County. Having to withstand his son, Reuben's documented torture, his grandson, Archie's tragic death and large funeral and the harassment of Union soldiers and law enforcement regarding Frank and Jesse. These famous names and events of Clay County and Missouri are all SOLIDLY anchored to his life and blood. Yes, the name "Samuel" in Madison County, Arkansas carries substantial educational weight!!! If one wants to feel close to the history of Jesse James, all they have to do is visit Fielding's gravesite.