When Wes went to prison in October 1878, after killing 24 known men [although Wes always claimed it was 27], Jim was left with his wife and children for the next 16 years, his partner locked away in Huntsville.
Jim was a known abuser of his wife and children. His wife, Annie Tennille Clements, was the daughter of George Tennille, one of the original settlers in the Austin settlement in Texas. Annie was a tiny woman, and some say she never reached 5-feet in height. Yet she bore Jim 11 children, with only 2 [Crawford and Nancy Ann] not reaching adulthood.
In 1894 Hardin is released from prison. But in the very next year, his bad boy ways catch up with him when John Selman, Sr. guns him down with a shot from behind in the Acme Saloon in El Paso.
Jim, who by now is working solely as a cowboy, becomes even rougher with his family. They take the brunt of his drinking when he is home from trail drives, in his cursing and beatings.
Arriving home in the spring of 1897 from a trail drive, Jim finds his wife attempting to hide the fact that one of his daughters is pregnant and unwed. The story goes that she is expecting the child of a Mexican man. At that time the stigma was comparable to a white girl and a black man having a child in the south. Jim threatens to "stomp the kid from her belly". Annie, being the fierce mother and protector, steps in between her daughter and her husband, and takes the full force of his anger as she screams for her daughter to run.
The girl does run. And she runs to Annie's brother's home, Thomas Connelly Tennille. "Tom" gathered some men folk together and they came running to the aid of his sister, Annie, whom they feared would not survive an attack of brutal force from Jim.
And here the story becomes blurred. Official reports from the legal authorities of the day say that Jim's horse was found with blood on its saddle. But Jim was nowhere to be found.
An inquest into the death, and or murder, of James Clements, was held. Annie Clements was questioned. As was her brother, Thomas. However, both answered all questions in such a manner that no charges could be brought against either for the disappearance of Jim.
Many years later, family lore states that Annie shot and killed Jim in self-defense. Her brother, Tom, arriving to her aid, assisted her in hiding the body of Jim in wash. Later, the body is presumed to have washed away with the spring floods.
However, in more recent years, a tale has been told of a young woman, a descendant, whose father used to check on Jim's grave each year to make sure it was still covered with rock. Although it was "out away from any place where no one would find it". She states she went to the grave only once as a child, and couldn't locate it today. However, she, like Annie, was married to an abusive husband at one point. Her father and uncle took her young husband out to Jim's grave to point out that in this family this is what happens to men who beat up on their wives. She states for the remainder of their 10-year marriage, he never raised another hand to her again!,
Officially, Jim died on 22 May 1897 in Dewitt County, Texas. Although authorities stated it might have been a day or even two earlier, judging by the dried blood on Jim's saddle.
Annie went on to live a long life. She finished raising her young family [her youngest was only a year old when Jim died]. Annie died on 14 October 1936 in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas, surrounded by her loving family.
Annie's 8th born child, Laura May Clements, was born 12 May 1890. And she could recall some things about her father, which she shared with her young great-grandson before she passed away in 1960. That 11 year old great-grandson, is my dear husband, John. So, I have been privileged to hear some of the stories directly from him.
The rest? Through thorough research in Texas inquest files, birth, death and marriage records. Through books on John Wesley Hardin. And even through JWH's own book, which he penned shortly after being released from prison. Wes spoke of his cousin, Jim, almost reverently. The two men admired, even loved, one another, as only cousins can.
John's great-grandmother stated that the men were not as they were portrayed to be. They were rough, to be sure, but they were also a product of their time. Killing "when it was needed". Laura May would not talk badly about her father, Jim, nor of Wes Hardin.
Such is the stuff legends are born from.