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|Writer to search for Jesse James|
Louisiana author Reggie Ann Walker-Wyatt of Shreveport will be a special visitor at the Catfish Festival on Saturday, April 12 in Winnsboro.
Walker-Wyatt, whose first novel was, "Chasing River, Trains and Jesse James," said while she's in Winnsboro she hopes to meet people with their own tales and family legends of Jesse James and James Gang member J. Frank Dalton.
"They were well known in this area, especially Dalton," she said.
Walker-Wyatt has done extensive research into the lives of outlaw legends James and Dalton. She theorizes that there were actually two men using the name "Jesse James" – the second being cousin Dalton.
"I believe there were two men operating as Jesse and they were cousins. This is how they could rob a bank in Kansas and one in Alabama the same day with both robberies being attributed to the James Gang," Walker-Wyatt stated.
She has identified men in old photos taken in the Delhi area as Dalton and possibly Cole Younger, another member of the James Gang.
Walker-Wyatt said getting people to talk about the outlaws and their time in Louisiana has been difficult at times, because some people don't want to admit they or their families had contact with the notorious crew. But she stresses the importance of documenting these kinds of stories.
"Oral history is so important. Some of the stories have not been recorded and in five or 10 years people are not going to remember or they will be gone," she said.
Walker-Wyatt said one tale she believes is true is Jesse James using the aroma of frying catfish to lure Union soldiers away from a barge down Bayou Macon while he and the gang hijacked the vessel.
"There was supposed to be gold, silver and whiskey on the barge," she said.
She said when the hungry Union solders smelled cooking catfish some of them left the barge to find out where it was and if they could get some. That left the barge basically unattended and the gang took over. Walker-Wyatt said a gunfight ensued on Bayou Macon, with the gang ultimately getting away with the barge.
"So there is a connection between Jesse James and catfish," she said.
Walker-Wyatt is preparing to publish the second book in her trilogy about the legends and truths of James and Dalton, and she wants people to share their stories with her.
"I hope by coming to the Catfish Festival some people will come forward," she said. "If it has anything to do with Jesse James, Frank Dalton or Cole Younger, I'm into it."
For more information on Walker-Wyatt, go to her Website, www.legendsandlores.com.