Jesse James Cabin Restoration

Malad Valley, Southeast Idaho

In 1869 my great great aunt Susan Palmer married a man named William Cole who turned out to be the infamous outlaw Jesse James, and they lived in a one room cabin on the Palmer Ranch.

Our goal is to restore the cabin to what it would have looked like in 1869, creating an old-west, historical  landmark and museum that will be free and open to the general public. 

ALL DONATIONS ARE TAX-FREE. This fundraiser is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit and your donation can be deducted from your taxes.  Donations of $250 or more will get your name on our "Outlaws" donors' plaque and any donations of material or labor will get your name on our "Accomplices" plaque to be located beside the cabin.


It is spring 1869 and Susan Palmer Dubuque (recently widowed) has arrived in the Malad Valley in Southeastern Idaho.  The Palmer Family, led by Joseph Palmer Sr., had arrived there the year before in 1868 and traded one team of ox and a cart to a trapper for property along the Little Malad Valley. 

Susan quickly catches the eye of a man named William Cole living and working just across the Little Malad River. On May 30th, 1869, Susan and William marry. 

(Above) The marriage record reads, "William Cole & Susan (Palmer) Dubuque. This is to certify that R.G. Evans Justice of the Peace for Deep Creek Precinct, Oneida County [not legible] did on the 30th day of May AD 1869 join in lawful wedlock Will Cole and Susan (Palmer) Dubuque with their mutual consent in the presence of Joseph Palmer and Betsey Moore." Signed by R.G. Evans Justice of the Peace and recorded July 13th AD 1869 by R.B. White, County Recorder. 

Then, three months later on August 20th, 1869, Susan returns to the county clerk office and files a statement saying the man she actually married was Jesse Woodson James.  

(Above) It reads, "Office of County Clerk, Malad City, August 20th 1869, Territory of Idaho, County of Oneida. This is to certify that the Undersigned Justice of the Peace of Said County did on the 30th day of May AD 1869 join in lawful wedlock Jesse Woodson James and Susan Palmer (Dubuque) with their mutual consent in the presence of Joseph Palmer and Betsy Moore, witnesses."  Signed by R.G. Evans, Justice of the Peace. 

Was it really Jesse James?

Jesse's whereabouts for most of the year of 1869 are unknown.  We believe he was here in Malad and, so far, there has been nothing to contradict this.  Here is a timeline agreed upon by experts for 1[phone redacted]: 

   (1) March 30, 1868 -Jesse and the James-Younger   Gang steal approximately $14,000 from the Nimrod Long Banking Co. of Russellville, Kentucky
   (2) December 7,  1869 - Jesse and Frank attack the Davies County Savings Bank of Gallatin, Missouri, and Jesse shoots John W. Sheets, who dies. 

There is a gap of time from March 1868 to December 1869 - a year and a half - where Jesse could have been anywhere.  Additionally, following the Kentucky robbery in 1868, he would have had money and likely the urge to travel looking for a place to disappear.  What better place than Malad City, Idaho?   

Skeptics will tell you Jesse never traveled this far west. But consider this important historical event that would forever change the United States and draw tourists from around the world:   The First Transcontinental Railroad was completed on May 10, 1869 and opened for through traffic not more than 30 miles southeast of Malad City, Idaho, and the Palmer ranch. 

(Above) The First Transcontinental Railroad is completed on May 10, 1869.

A huge celebration took place and the ceremonial golden spike was driven completing the First Transcontinental Railroad.  Jesse could have been drawn to the celebration just like the thousands of other tourists who came.  A  train ran north from there to Malad City on its way to the mines of Montana, providing frequent and easy access to Malad. 

The marriage to Susan Palmer took place 20 days later meaning that it was  entirely possible for Jesse to be in Malad City marrying Susan the summer of 1869. 

Jesse's Alias "William Cole"

It is commonly believed that Jesse did in fact use the alias "William Cole".  I propose he created the name from two people who seemed to have had the most impact on his life, his hero - William Quantrill - who was a confederate supporter that lead guerrilla attacks against northern troops, and his beloved mother - Zerelda Elizabeth Cole. From that you can get the name "William Cole." 

Descendants of Jesse's from Missouri have confirmed that Jesse used the name "William Cole" and was married to multiple women in his lifetime including Susan Palmer Dubuque of Malad City, Idaho. (See below)

1790078_1496367[phone redacted]_funddescription.
And a book entitled "Jesse James Was One of His Names" written by Del Schrader with Jesse James III,  has this to say: 

1790078_1496368[phone redacted]_funddescription.


Susan was also an interesting character.  She was born in England and served in Queen Victoria's court as a lady in waiting.  In America she married a man name Octave Dubuque and together with their 4 children followed the path laid by Brigham Young west to Utah.  Unfortunately, Dubuque died when they reached Utah from either drowning or sickness caused by nearly drowning.  After his death, Susan came north to Malad and joined the Palmer family. 


What you get for donating:

Besides knowing you helped save a unique piece of history, we have a gift for all donors! Remember, that we are a nonprofit and all donations are tax free.

You might not know it but Jesse James was a poet! We all know Jesse wrote letters that were published in newspapers of the time in his attempt to exonerate himself and his friends.   It appears that he was also gifted with verse!  In the summer of 1869 the Malad Valley and all of the farm crops were dessimated by an infestation of mormon crickets.  Jesse was apparently also struck by the crickets.  In our Palmer family records, we have a poem purportedly penned by William Cole (Jesse James) entitled "Grasshoppers and Crickets."  The legend goes that Susan returned to the cabin to find this poem stabbed through with a knife into the table...and Jesse was gone. 

As a simple gift and special thank you, everyone who donates will receive a copy of his poem!

OUTLAW LEVEL - Those who donate $250 or more or will be designated "Outlaws", and their names will be added to the donor plaque located at the cabin.

ACCOMPLICE LEVEL - Everyone who donates supplies or labor will be designated "Accomplices" and their names will also be added to the donor plaque located at the cabin.



1790078_1419789[phone redacted]_funddescription.Above: Front of cabin, facing east, Circa1985.  The cabin is approximatley19 feet long by 15 feet wide.

1790078_1413446[phone redacted]_funddescription.Above: Southeast corner of the cabin, Circa 1990.

1790078_1419789[phone redacted]_funddescription.Above: Southwest corner of the cabin.  Notice the small window in the center of the west wall, Circa 1990.

(Revised 6/1/2018)

          -Concrete Forms
          -Concrete & Labor
          -Misc tools & supplies

          -3 Floor support logs
          -Floor "joist" logs 
          -Rough plank flooring
          -Replacement logs 
          -Chinking Type "S" Cement
          -Screws, sealer, bolts
          -Misc tools & supplies

          -Plywood water resistant sheets
          -Felt roof protection
          -Cedar shingles & sheathing
          -Flashing, fasteners, & misc supplies

          -Door (3ft x 6ft) & hardware
          -Three Windows: one medium (2ft x 3ft),
            two small "lookouts" (2ft by 15in)
          -Nails, screws & misc supplies
          - Rough pine logs & cedar tree posts fence
             (up the driveway, along edge of hill & parking)
          -Hitching post
          -Water well
          -Gravel for walking paths

          -Rustic Furniture: Table & 2 chairs, bed, shelves
          -Cast-iron Stove & clay smoke chimney

          -Power underground
          -Security alarm system with cameras
$1,500 | SIGNAGE
          -Color brochures & cards
          -Donors plaque
          -On-site informative signage
          -Road sign: "Welcome to the Big Bend Ranch -
            Home of the Jesse James Cabin"

Subtotal = $8,500  



TOTAL = $10,000

Thanks so much for your time.  If you have any information that you would like to share regarding Jesse James, Susan Palmer, or the Malad Valley circa 1869, or if you have questions, please send me a message by clicking on the mail icon at the top of this page.

Support local history! We need your help to save this pece of "Wild West" history!

"May your horse never tire and your gun always shoot straight."

Ernest Palmer


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Ernest W Palmer 
Malad City, ID
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