A Lawton, Oklahoma Man Once Claimed To Be The Real Jesse James
Even if you're not familiar with the tales and stories about one of the most famous bandits in Wild West lore, it's fair to assume you're at least familiar with the name Jesse James. Especially in Southwest Oklahoma.
His SWOK shenanigans are as famous as Bonnie & Clyde's Medicine Park visits. There's even a museum of sorts in Cement dedicated to him. With ties and wild stories stretching from Anadarko to Marlow, the Wichita Mountains over to Altus, I think the stories are learned by most people at a pretty young age.
If you're not familiar, the story goes... After the Confederate States of America decisively lost the Civil War, there were so many people either in the South or Southern Sympathizers thinking they were dealt a shifty hand, many of them kept fighting for their beliefs by targeting their political rivals, targeting businesses owned and interested in by those who identified as Unionists and Republicans.
At least, that's what Wikipedia says about the early days of the infamous Jesse James.
The tales of his hooliganism are the things that make the Wild West people look upon him with a romancing type allure. Robbing banks across the Midwest, wild shoot-outs, buried treasure, and secret hideouts across the mostly unorganized Oklahoma Territory. It all supposedly came to an end when he was shot in his home by the newest recruits to his legendary gang in 1882... or did he?
History seems to stick to this story, but there have been shenanigans.
In 1948, a Lawton man named J. Frank Dalton stepped forward and suggested that he was the real, then-over-100-year-old Jesse James.
Given his surprisingly accurate facial features, steely blue eyes, and a story that actually fit the narrative of the legend, he stated that he had set up an imposter to be killed in his place as a way of resettling his life since he had grown tired of always looking over his shoulder.
The story went viral, and it's no wonder since ever the local paper took the story and drove it as hard as they could to sell papers. Some 30,000 people even showed up in town just to get a look at what they believed was the real deal, Jesse James.
It was a short little footnote in the history of Lawton, but one I hadn't known before now, and it's honestly a neat little topic to casually toss out around the dinner table.
Since I already know you're wondering and about to search the web about it... According to the official record, it was allegedly proven that Lawton's J. Frank Dalton was not Jesse James. It took DNA to prove it much later in the modern era, but it was laid to rest as merely an old man looking for a little attention long after the real James had been laid to rest... but then again, given facts in a time before our current technology are rarely 100% accurate.