Jesse James Was My Great Uncle
From what I've been able to discern from first-hand sources, this story and those like it are, at best, exaggeration. It's true that Jesse James was known to have passed through the Joplin area at least a time or two, but there's no documentation that he ever spent any considerable amount of time here. Same goes for the Younger brothers, who, like Jesse, are sometimes reported to have been denizens of Joplin. The Youngers' half-uncle Bruce Younger did frequent the town during its early days, and Fletch Taylor (Quantrill lieutenant and the James boys' immediate commander during the Civil War) did move to Joplin during the early lead-mining days and became a leading citizen of the town. Jesse's sister was even reported in a local newspaper as having visited Taylor in Joplin. But the Younger gang and the James boys mainly spent their time (when they weren't actively on the run) farther north around Jackson County, St. Clair County, and so forth, or else in Texas.
The exaggerated stories about Jesse James's exploits in and around Joplin, though, are hardly unique. Nearly every county in the Ozarks (or the Midwest for that matter), it seems, lays claim to some connection to the notorious outlaw. And if you get to talking about family history with the people you meet, it seems that about half of them claim kinship to Jesse, as though it were some badge of honor.