Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Schoolteacher and The Outlaw

She was a schoolteacher.  A pretty brunette who graduated from college in 1872 with a degree in literature and science.  She came from a well-respected family and she could have married well.  Yet, Ann Ralston eloped with one of the most-wanted outlaws in America.

He was not a handsome man and he shunned the publicity showered on him. Bookish, he was an avid reader and he could quote Shakespeare at will.  It was said he always had novels with him.  Even when he was busy outrunning a posse, his saddlebags contained books.   Is it any wonder Alexander Franklin James fell for a girl with a degree in literature?

The details of how Frank and Annie met and secretly courted remain elusive.  In June of 1874, Annie convinced her parents to let her go visit a relative in Kansas City.   She actually met Frank in Kansas City and went to Omaha with him where they were married.  She sent a note home to her worried parents:  Dear Mother, I am married and going West.  Annie Reynolds.  Her parents had no idea she had married the outlaw, Frank James, until much later.  When her father found out, he disowned her. 

The unlikely marriage would last for 41 years and, according to most accounts, it was a happy marriage.  Frank and Annie got along well   They lived under aliases in Texas, Nashville and Baltimore.  Their only child, Robert, was born in 1878 while they were living in the Nashville area.  After Jesse’s assassination in 1882, Frank turned himself in to the governor of Missouri and Annie wrote her husband a poem called Surrendered.   Frank’s trial earned more publicity than that of the man who killed President McKinley.  He was found not guilty of the charges against him, and he spent the rest of this life as a law-abiding citizen and loving spouse.  “No better husband ever lived,” Ann said of him.

In their later year, Annie and Frank lived on the James farm where Frank sold tours for twenty-five cents.  When he died, he wishes were to be cremated and his ashes stored in a vault until he could be buried with Annie.  She would continue to live on James farm until her death in 1944.  She was 91 when she died. 

Now, the schoolteacher and the outlaw are together again, resting peacefully beneath a simple grave marker.  Frank would have approved.

Patricia Preston


Claire Robyns said...

Love rules... It's lovely to see a true life love story that defies convention and ends happily ever after

Taryn Kincaid said...

When I was first reading this, I was picturing Katherine Ross as Etta Place and Robert Redford as Sundance and I was thinking, Robert Redford not a handsome man? What planet are you on?

Then I segued into the Brad Pitt gets assassinaed as Jesse James movie, which I found unutterably dreary.

This is a lovely tidbit. I especially like the goodbye note Annie left for her mother, and how she signs it with her full name! Amazing to think that they were together 44 years!

Wendy Soliman said...

How lovely! So rare to find such a real life love match. Thanks for sharing.

Patricia Preston said...

Glad you enjoyed it. I always thought it was so unusual. Especially with her being as well-educated as she was, which was rare at the time, and she marries an outlaw.

Stevie Carroll said...

That's a great story, and one I don't think I'd heard before.