One of the most picturesque characters in the history of American legend lived a chapter of his life in the Malad Valley.
Jesse James, alias William Cole, ventured into the sparsely populated valley in the late 1860s.
As the story goes, Jesse James, recovering in Missouri from severe wounds received as a guerilla fighter, fell in love with a young maiden and they became engaged. However, they couldn’t be married, and were engaged for nine years.
Now, during their engagement, Jesse came out west, to Malad, Idaho, where he met Susan Palmer Debuque, a widow with four young children. At that time, he was going by the name of William Cole.
They became engaged and were married on May 30, 1869. Susan became pregnant with their daughter, Alice Susan Cole by September of that same year. During the months that followed, they lived in a little log cabin approximately 4 miles west of Malad. James bought his father-in-law’s farm in partnership with Susan’s brother, Joseph Palmer Sr. Alice Cole was born on May 19, 1870.
It wasn’t long before Cole became discouraged, so he packed up and left his wife and children, probably in late 1870. William Cole wrote this lament and left it on the table for Susan at the time he left her, referring to her as “Anna”, probably short for Susanna:
GRASSHOPPERS AND CRICKETS by William Cole, Year 1870
“Things look desperate and awfully sad,
For we are just about to bury the city of Malad.
Their long melancholy faces with their sad frowns
To watch the last shovelful thrown on the town.
Then there will be weeping and wailing and nashing of teeth-
If the revelation fails to find them relief.
Oh! What a burying it would be,
It would break many a heart
Then boys from their true lovers will have to depart.
They will wander to the valley among sage brush and thickets,
And leave old Malad to the grasshoppers and crickets.
“They must throw aside lying and other deceit
For the devil may take then all in a heap.
Remember old Malad has drawn its last breath
And all we can do is to announce the great death.
For the devil has charmed them by some unknown spell
And the first thing we know we are heaped up in hell.
If the people don’t try to make some resistance
I will bid farewell and disappear in the distance.
I will unfurl my sails and hoist my banner,
And bid farewell to my own dear Anna.
For I think from our move we are the devil’s relations,
And he can’t help us by his revelations.
And all we can do is to buy our traveling ticket,
And leave old Malad to the grasshoppers and crickets.”
After her husband left her, Susan then sold her part of the farm, and she and her children moved to Nebraska to be with her parents, John and Eleanor Palmer. Pictured is the cabin built by William Cole and Susan Palmer Cole in 1868, located on the south side of Samaria Lane, west of Malad on land owned by Tom Palmer. In the year 2010, the cabin was taken down and is in the process of being relocated.