Frank James was the older brother of Jesse James and a member of the James-Younger Gang of outlaws that was famous for their exploits in the old American west.
He was born Alexander Franklin James on January 10, 1843 in Kearney Missouri to an eighteen year old Zerelda James. His father was a young Baptist preacher named Robert James, and he eventually came to have three younger siblings and four younger half-siblings. His most famous sibling was of course the legendary Jesse James.
Frank's father Robert left the family farm in 1850 on a mission to go out to California and preach the gospel to the thousands and thousands of gold miners who had gathered there. Sadly Robert's mission didn't work out quite the way he had planned, and he died soon after his arrival from cholera. His now twenty-five year old wife Zerelda was left with the family farm and three children, but no way to support them.
So Zerelda married the closest fellow she could, her neighbor Benjamin Simms. This marriage wasn't all that happy, largely because of the fact that Benjamin couldn't stand Frank and Jesse and had a habit of beating them. Zerelda filed for divorce a year and a half later, but Ben died in a freak horse accident before the proceedings could ever be completed.
Young Zerelda wasted no time at all in getting married again, this time she managed to land herself a doctor. Dr. Rueben Samuel was his name and they stayed together until Zerelda's death in 1911. They were said to be quite fond of each other and they had four children together, and while they were married Reuben also impregnated one of their slaves and they raised that child as well.
Frank's earliest ambitions were to be a school teacher, which was traditionally a female occupation in those days. His late father had left behind a good sized library and Frank was particularly fond of William Shakespeare. But he never really learned anything about teaching, but he and his brother Jesse did learn a whole lot about riding and shooting, as their stepfather Reuben was an expert at both.
In 1861 an eighteen year old Frank James joined the Missouri State Guard to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Missouri was split in the war and actually had two separate governments, one Confederate and one Union. Both of Frank's parents had been slave owners since before he was born, so his choice of allegiance was obviously the Confederacy.
Frank's unit had several outstanding successes at The Battle of Wilson Creek at the Battle of Lexington. Frank returned home soon after that with an unspecified ailment (likely a gunshot wound). Upon returning home he was arrested by a group of Union supporters. He managed to get his freedom by signing a statement pledging his allegiance to the Union. But his statement was a lie. Soon after he joined the Missouri Partisan Rangers of William Clark Quantrill, and fought the Union using Guerilla war tactics.
After the Civil War was over Frank participated in the well documented James-Younger Gang for many years. After Jesse's death in 1882 Frank was tried for his crimes and found to be innocent. Afterwards he lived a long and varied life as a farmer, shoe salesman, circus employee and race track promoter. He finally died in 1915 at the age of seventy two.