The “Pinks” and Jesse James

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetHappy day after Memorial Day to all.  I’m out in California celebrating the high school graduation of one of my granddaughters, so I decided to rerun one of my very favorite blogs that I wrote long before I became a P&P Filly.  I hope you enjoy it!

In 1852, celebrated Chicago hero and former Deputy Sheriff, Allan Pinkerton, founded the first detective agency in the United States. Hated and feared by criminals, the Pinkerton Agency eventually became known as the “Pinks,” enjoying a colorful history, which included averting a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln on the way to his inauguration.

During the Civil War, Pinkerton had a flourishing career as head of the pinkerton_logoAmerican Secret Service. Adamantly opposed to slavery, he worked for the Union Army to trap southern spies. With his law enforcement agency, he garnered great success. His slogan “We Never Sleep” was painted on his door, along with a huge, black and white eye, resulting in the origin of the term “private eye”.

Said to have a third sense, Allan Pinkerton had an uncanny ability to allanpinkertonidentify guilty parties long before police investigators came up with a suspect. Although some thought he had mystic powers, he proclaimed it nothing but experience because he researched the habits and practices of not only specific criminals on the lam, but of the criminal mind in general.

By the late 1860’s his sons, William and Robert, joined him and opened branch offices in several cities. Predecessors to the modern day FBI, the agency focused on swindlers, confidence men, and other no-gooders plaguing the big cities and little towns of America. Their field agents clipped newspaper articles and pictures, organizing them in categories. By the 1870’s, they had the largest collection of mug shots in the world and became a data base of criminal activity, leading to the FBI identification system used today.

jesse2As the New Frontier spread west, so did the “Pinks”, chasing outlaws like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and “Black Jack” Ketcham, but it was the infamous outlaw Jesse James who, for a short time, created scandal and bad publicity for Pinkerton.

Until 1875, the agency held a stellar reputation that even some outlaws admired. But not the James brothers; Jesse, in particular, had an intense dislike for Allan Pinkerton. For years, the renegade managed to outwit the lawman. “Old Man Allan” knew if he continued widening his network of men hunting Jesse and kept pressure on him, the cocky, wanted man would eventually panic and do something stupid.

On January 5th, two members of the James family were innocently attacked by a Pinkerton-led posse. Believing Jesse was hiding inside, the men surrounded a cabin near Kearney, Missouri. When he didn’t surrender, an iron torch was tossed inside. Jesse James’ mother was maimed and his handicapped stepbrother killed.

At this point, fact and fiction collide. Some scholars believe this sparked jesse1Jesse James’ path of retaliation, taking him to Chicago for only one reason…to kill Allan Pinkerton. As the story goes, for weeks the outlaw roamed the city’s streets with a loaded gun. Inside was a bullet with the name “Pinkerton” on it. But the famous detective never knew James was in town. Being frustrated and unable to get Pinkerton at the right time and right place, James returned home. This tale has never been substantiated.

For certain, the incident involving James’ family strengthened the outlaw’s position of being viewed by some as a modern-day Robin Hood fighting the wealthy Yankee bankers and rail men tooth and toenail. Well into the 1870’s many Missourians were still riled that, in their opinion, the North had won the war. The “Pinks” were considered the tools of the tycoons. The atrocities against the gang’s family only fueled support for them. Allan Pinkerton staunchly denied that one of his agents tossed the torch and patiently waited his turn to take Jesse into custody.

As history would have it, the gang eventually got overconfident, made pinkagentsmistakes, and lead by Jesse ventured from their beloved south to hold up a bank in Northfield, Minnesota. They found a less sympathetic public, meeting with savage resistance. Because the Pinkertons had sent information in advance that the James Gang, which by then included three of the renegade Younger brothers, was heading north, the town’s citizens were prepared. Caught in a hellish barrage of bullets, the outlaw band withered. Several of the gang were captured. Wounded and bloody, Jesse and Frank escaped, but it was the beginning of the end for them.

On April 3, 1882, after another robbery and with a bounty on his head, one of Jesse’s own gang shot him. Two years, after writing eighteen books, Allan Pinkerton died in his Chicago mansion.

I’ve been asked why I decided my hero in “Ropin’ the Wind” in our anthology Give Me a Cowboy released in 2009 would be a Pinkerton Agent. I wanted a different kind of law enforcer. When you read a western historical romance you are pretty much guaranteed there will be somewhere a mystical, reputable Texas Ranger or a tough-as-leather-strop sheriff. You expect one, just like horses and sagebrush. I wanted someone unique; thus, out of my imagination and research surfaced a citified, undercover Pinkerton Agent with a Texas background. It was so much fun to once again partner with one of the founding fillies of Petticoats and Pistols, Linda Broday, along with Jodi Thomas and the late DeWanna Pace to write the anthology, “Give Me a Cowboy.”

I have to admit a Texas Ranger turns my head, even a modern day one. That’s why I cast my “Pink’s” Achilles ‘ heel a rebel-rousing, retired Texas Ranger. There’s just something about a fearless Ranger that ladies love, but I was sure happy how different my hero, Morgan Payne, turned out in “Give Me a Cowboy”.

What kind of cowboy turns your head and wiggles into your heart?


To one lucky reader who leaves a comment today, I will

send you a Bath and Body Works Gift Certificate

or you  can choose one of my eBooks at

Watch for “Out of a Texas Night” coming in the fall.  It’s the second in the

Kasota Springs Contemporary Series and follows some of the families

from “Give Me a Cowboy” several generations later.


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31 thoughts on “The “Pinks” and Jesse James”

  1. I pretty much love any cowboy…jeans, western shirt, cowboy hat (Stetson or Charlie One Horse). A man who walks with swagger and knows who he is. A badge on his chest is good too.

    Thank you for the giveaway! Please toss my name in.

    Cindy W.

    • Hi Cindy. I’m like you about the qualities required for the perfect cowboy! Stetson is mandatory and of course a badge makes him extra special. The Kasota Springs Contemporary series that I’m contracted for (working on Book 2 and 3) have the main characters as modern day Sheriff’s and detective in the small town. You’re name is in the hat for tonight’s drawing. Blessing to you, too. Phyliss

    • Hi Janine, I couldn’t say it better myself! Whether they wear boots that are dirty and yucky with a working shirt on or custom made boots with a suit and Stetson … they are sexy as heck. Thanks for dropping by Miss Janine. Hugs from Texas via California, P

    • Hi Cathy, I love rodeos and we have several each year in Amarillo. I love the bull riding in particular. As a matter of fact, I’m going to the Santa Maria Rodeo later this week with my youngest granddaughter’s class. Thanks for stopping by, Cathy. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi Debra G, thanks for stopping by. I also love law enforcement heroes in any form! I think you all will enjoy “Out of a Texas Night” because it’s got mystery and modern day law enforcement heros. Hugs, Phyliss

  2. Phyliss, what a great post! I love anything about Jesse James, and I learned so much about the Pinkertons right now. Thanks. I strangely think one of my favorite heroes is a reformed outlaw. Go figure. Hugs…xo

    • Oh Tanya, you are right about the reformed hero. I love them too. Hey, I’m going to be out here until July 1st, so let’s plan to get together somewhere in between our towns. I love the Pinkerton’s and of course Jesse James is so intriguing. Hope to see you soon. XOXO P

    • Hi Susan P. Oh how I love the Rangers … now and then! Of course Texas isn’t the only state that have Rangers (I believe Arizona has had them for years, too), but when we talk about the Rangers of course we think of the Texas Rangers. Fellow Filly, Linda Broday, and I have been to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. We even have one of the anthologies in the Pop Culture reading exhibit. I said have, but I haven’t been there recently to see if it’s still there.

      Thanks for reading my blog and comments. Have a great day. Phyliss

  3. Congratulations to your grand daughter on her high school graduation.
    A cowboy in tight fittin jeans, a slow draw and manners that make me want to take him home to meet mama turns my head.

    • Thanks, Deanne, for the kind comment. We are proud of her. Oh yeah, tight fittin’ jean are a necessity and good manners is a must. Hope you have a great day. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Colleen, thanks for the congrats, we’re proud of her. Next year is going to be interesting because we’ll have the next granddaughter graduate in California, and another granddaughter graduate from college in Texasc and go off to med school. Can you tell I’m proud of my grandkids? LOL

      I’m with you a cowboy of any age and make up who is a true cowboy, not a drug store cowboy, takes my breath away. Hugs and I hope you have a great day, Colleen.

  4. Thank you for the interesting write up about Jesse James and the Pinkertons. I like reading books that include Texas Rangers in them and I like cowboys of all types.

    • Hi Mary B. Good to see that you stopped by and left a comment. I’m like you … I just like cowboys and books about them period. Hope you had a great holiday and have a fantastic week. Hugs, Phyliss

  5. Cowboys are my heroes. They are principled and have great strength of character. Love the jeans and the cowboy boots.

    • Hi Anne…all of my heroes are cowboys (and our military and their families). I also love the boots, too; and there’s nothing like a pair of tight fitting jeans. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi Ruth, you are so right about “cowboys rule”. I also grew up watching Westerns and late at night my hubby still does. Have a great week. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Pearl, I couldn’t agree more. A cowboy still opens a door for a woman and a handshake is as good or even better than a written agreement. Take care of yourself. Hugs, Phyliss

  6. I have always been enamoured with cowboys and the lure of the West. They represent everything that I believe in. Strong values and a man who is sincere and genuine.

  7. Elaina, thanks for stopping by. There sure isn’t anything false about a true cowboy and they are sincere with values going back generations (many of them). I hope you have a great week. Hugs, Phyliss

  8. Love cowboys…. particularly if they look like Anson Mount in Hell on Wheels or Sam Elliott in any western.

  9. Congratulations on your granddaughter’s graduation!!!! And thanks for the history of Jesse and the Pinkerton.:-)

    My love of cowboys has a much to do with the cowboy work ethic and mentality as with their jeans and boots. 😉

  10. Phyliss, I di not realize how the Pinkerton agency started and that it was the precursor in many ways to the FBI.
    I hope you had a lovely trip and enjoyed your granddaughter’s graduation.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the historical anthologies and they are firmly on my keeper shelf. It looks like I need to reread at least those that include the stories of Kasota Springs and then catch up on your contemporary stories set there.

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