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MARION HISTORICAL MUSUEM PHOTO

The not so wild west

The Wild West wasn’t always what it appeared to be.

Dressed in frontier buckskins and carrying what appeared to be an 1860 Henry, the rifle that Sioux and Cheyenne warriors used to devastate the 7th U.S. Cavalry at the Battle of Little Big Horn, Marion’s James Anderson (1862-1944) cut a dashing figure in this photo from the early 1880s.

Jim, as he was known, was a bit less dashing in real life, according to historical evidence. The most cutting he did appeared to be as head cutter for a major garment firm in Racine, Wisconsin, where he eventually relocated from Kansas.

An immigrant from Portsoy Banffshire in Scotland, he was educated in McArthur, Ohio, and came to Marion as a schoolteacher, boarding in 1884 and ’85 with Roger Gest Hannaford.

His derring-do appeared largely confined to baseball fields.

A pitcher and left fielder, he was captain of Marion’s team, on which Hannaford was right fielder, when it defeated a Lincolnville team, 35-23, before 300 spectators in Lincolnville.

Otherwise, as a frontiersman, he was not exactly the buckskin-clad type.

The Marion Scimeter newspaper, later renamed the Headlight and eventually merged into the Record, told of one of his adventures at the time:

“Clarence Kohler and James Anderson were on a piscatorial excursion the other day, and as usual ran across one of those little garter snakes,” the paper wrote. “Jim stuck a row of toothpicks around it to keep it from getting away, while Clarence came to town to get somebody to tell him how to kill the ‘serpent.’”

A clarinet player, Anderson left teaching and bought a tailor shop in Marion, which in 1888 he moved to Herington. Two years later, he married another Marion teacher, Agnes Foley. The couple had two children before relocating in 1895 to Wisconsin.

They eventually retired to Marshall, Missouri, where both died and are buried.

One possible explanation for his buckskin photo was a visit in the mid-1880s by his sister, who still lived in Scotland and probably assumed — wrongly — that most people on the Plains dressed as was depicted in the photo by the Marion photo studio of Pierson and Desmond.

The photo was found by municipal trash collectors nearly a century after it was taken.

Last modified July 4, 2019

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