Steve Wilson

I am an avid reader, but with limited scope. I don’t read any contemporary novels and don’t know most of the names I see on various Top Ten Books lists. I am a fan of mysteries, though, but usually limit myself to Conan Doyle, Christie, Stout and others of ancient past, but I do know a couple contemporary mystery writers I enjoy.

But pleasure reading comes second to, for want of a better term, educational reading. Educational can be entertaining to some, and I am one. For this type of reading I usually stick to history and biography. Now, about the immune system and Jesse James.

That was an odd segue, so I’ll explain. We hear a lot about our immune systems nowadays because there is a rather tricky virus running loose on the planet that is giving scientists one heck of a time as it sickens and kills people from every curve of the Earth. What amazes me is stories of earlier generations and what they endured physically but overcame with strong immune systems.

Jesse Woodson James is probably the most famous, or infamous, of all the Western outlaws. His reign of banditry lasted for some 17 years, from the end of the Civil War until he was murdered in 1882. At age 16, while riding with pro-Confederate bushwhackers in Missouri, he attempted to steal a saddle from a farmhouse and was shot through the right breast area, the bullet passing through part of the lung and lodging in his back near his spinal column. With nothing more than clean water and some home herbal remedies, he was back in the saddle in 32 days.

The biography I just finished is recent and included 43 pages of chapter notes, which references modern studies on the immune systems of early pioneers and settlers showing this story about Mr. James is not anecdotal. He was one tough cookie. And so were those around him.

Attempting to flush out Frank and Jesse James, the Pinkerton Agency attacked the Samuels’ farmhouse (Jessie’s father died when he was 3 years old, his mother, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole James Simms Samuel, married twice more) by tossing a railroad smoke device through a window, the device was swept into the fireplace by one of the six people in the house, none of whom were Frank or Jesse, and it exploded.

A 15-year-old stepbrother was killed, Mrs. Samuels’ right arm was shattered and within an hour of the blast was amputated just below the elbow. This was done without anesthesia, pain killers or penicillin. Eight hours later she was giving an interview to a newspaper reporter cursing the enemies of her sons. What kind of immune system leads to that type of recovery and endurance? A strong one, built by consuming food, water and air all free of chemicals and toxins, and a life of near constant labor. Zerelda lived to be 86 years old.

Second cousins to the James’ were the Younger brothers, three of whom rode with Frank and Jesse as the James-Younger gang until captured in a failed bank robbery in 1876; one committed suicide in prison, two were released after 20-plus years of incarceration. Coleman Younger died in 1916 at 72 years old with 16 lead bullets still in his body. Never was in a hospital in his life, never received a single modern antibiotic or pain reducer. Talk about immune systems.


The old Greenfield Hotel is still in business. It sits on the northwest corner of Oak Avenue and Eighth Street, where it has sat since it was built in the early days of Clark Colony. It was built by a couple fellows from San Dimas named J. G. Yeoman and J. A. Brock, it was named the Pettitt Building then. Mr. Yeoman operated a hardware store and warehouse in the building and had a unique system in place for receiving and shipping goods.

Because the town was the only town in the Valley without a railhead or depot, one had to travel to either Soledad or King City to board or ship and receive goods. Mr. Yeoman had a tall flagpole attached to the top of the two-story building and a telescope in the southern facing top window; with use of a Southern Pacific train schedule he would peer through his scope and see if the train was stopping at Metz, if so he hitched his wagon to the team and went to pick up his goods.

When needing to ship goods, he put up a flag atop his tall pole and the train engineer would see it and stop and wait for Mr. Yeoman to wagon over. In 1916, the William Page family opened the building as a hotel and restaurant; it was purchased by Elmer Padgett in 1944 and renamed The Greenfield Hotel.


I attended a couple nice gatherings recently, one an evening of dance performances by the ladies of South County’s famed Monterey County Dance Theatre, a Monterey County Dance Foundation fundraising event. The other a City of King-sponsored National Night Out event held at the firehouse and city hall lawn. Both were just great, but I really do fear we will see a curtailing of these events if the unvaccinated of our county continue to become Delta carriers, which is happening as I write this. Let’s hope I’m wrong.


Just to be telling stories, I can tell you that regarding the above column I lived in the Greenfield Hotel 50 years ago, and 57 years ago I toured the house where Jesse James was shot dead.


Now, how many figured out this column’s headline? I betcha nobody younger than 65 years can decipher it; and probably not many that age and over. (OK, OK. A younger version of me would leave you folks hangin’, but I’m older now and mellower: a 1964 hit song by British rock band The Dave Clark Five was called “Bits and Pieces,” and that is all ya got in this column.)

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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