Another legal attempt started to exhume grave some believe belongs to Jesse James

Wednesday, January 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) -- An amateur historian from Oklahoma has started another legal effort to prove that 19th century outlaw Jesse James rests in Texas, not Missouri.

Undeterred by a mistake that caused the wrong man to be unearthed from his decades-old grave last year, used car dealer Bud Hardcastle of Purcell, Okla., filed a request in Hood County court to remove and conduct DNA testing on the remains of J. Frank Dalton, who claimed to be James before his death in 1951.

"I know what I'm talking about, and I'm not going to quit,"

Hardcastle said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "I set out to do this, and I'm going to do it."

Hardcastle's application was filed Jan. 19 in Granbury, where a gravestone stands above Dalton's final resting place with the words "Jesse Woodson James," and the inscription, "Supposedly killed in 1882."

County Judge Linda Steen said it may take her at least a week to decide whether to call a hearing on the matter.

"I'm going to evaluate this very, very carefully," she said.

The first court-approved exhumation, conducted last summer, attracted worldwide attention. The effort resulted in embarrassment when a misplaced headstone caused researchers to mistakenly remove the body of a one-armed man, William Henry Holland, who died in 1927.

Holland's body has been reinterred.

"We want to do the same thing we did before. Of course, we're going to move over one spot," Hardcastle said. "It wasn't our fault the tombstone was put in the wrong place."

"We'll run the DNA and see if we can find out the truth."

Many historians believe the truth has long since been settled -- that James was shot in the back of the head by Bob Ford, a member of his own gang, on April 3, 1882, in St. Joseph, Mo.

But Hardcastle, who has spent thousands of dollars in his quest to prove that Dalton is really James, is among those who believe the outlaw moved to Granbury, 25 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

They claim he lived to be 104.

Dalton is said to have promoted the belief himself. It flourished because the late Hood County Sheriff Oran C. Baker believed him.

Baker said he examined Dalton's body at his death and "counted 32 bullet holes from his forehead to his knees."

James was among the most famous outlaws of the Old West, his exploits sensationalized in dime novels. Along with his brother Frank, James was a member of the feared Quantrill's Raiders during the Civil War.

After the war, he joined up with other former Confederates to rob banks and trains.