Vastine Little Encounters Jesse James

Julia Permelia Windle Little and husband Vastine Stickley Little were photographed in the later years of their life.

The picture used with this story was shared with me by Joe H. Copeland of Livingston. The couple in the photograph, Vastine Stickley Little and wife Julia Permelia Windle Little, are his great-grandparents on his mother’s side of the family. The photographer for this picture is unknown, but the quality of that person’s work is very unusual for the time period. Even though it’s a black and white photograph, it’s quite obvious that Julia Windle Little’s eyes were a strikingly beautiful shade of blue. Some research done for me by Catherine Gunter has this to say about the Littles.

Vastine Stickley Little’s father, John Little, was born in Jonesville, TN. His mother, Elizabeth Barker Little’s birthplace was in Lee County, Virginia. Vastine’s name was given to him in honor of a prominent merchant and one of the earliest settlers in Lee County, Virginia, a man by the name of Vastine Stickley. In addition to their son, Vastine, John Little and wife Elizabeth Barker Little had five other children whose names were Samuel H. Little; Emily D. Little (Carl French Ledbetter’s great-grandmother); William D. Little; Frances Vivan Little; and Napoleon Bonoparte Little.

Julia Permelia Windle was the daughter of Robert Sevier Windle and wife Amanda Fitzgerald Harris Windle. Robert Sevier Windle, a grandson of Governor John Sevier, is listed as having a home in Irons Creek of Clay County, TN. Counting their daughter, Julia, Robert Sevier Windle and wife, Amanda, had a total of 11 children whose names were John Sparks Windle; William Washington Windle; Joel Perry Windle; Alfred Lafayette Windle; Susan Joanna Windle; Joseph Harris Windle; John Sevier Windle; Mary Catherine Windle; Robert Sevier Jr. Windle; and Amanda Fitzgerald Windle. Robert Sevier Windle was an practicing attorney in 1835 when the county seat was moved from Monroe to Livingston. He was postmaster at Livingston around 1839, and served as State Senator for this area in the early 1870s. Both Robert Sevier Windle and wife, Amanda, were buried alongside his mother, Joanna Goad Windle, in the front yard of the Joseph H. Windle home in the Monroe area. At that time the home was dismantled in the early 1990s, it was the oldest known structure in Overton County, having being built around 1815.

Vastine Stickley Little and Julia Permelia Windle Little were married on November 3, 1870 in Overton County, TN. Eleven children were born to the couple, two of which died as infants or young children. The names of the other nine children were: William Perry Little; Flossie May Little (Joe Copeland’s grandmother); Mary Frances Little; Oscar Denton Little; Joseph Windle Little; Amanda Elizabeth Little; Emma Joanna Little; Robert Henry Little(father of Mabel Little Mullins); Lucy Hite Lee Little (who grew up to become the wife of R.D. Reed).

Robert Henry Little, one of the children of Vastine Stickley Little and wife Julia Permelia Windle Little, is the father of Mrs. Mabel Little Mullins of Livingston.  Photo courtsey of Joe H. Copeland.

Mabel Little Mullins grew up to become the wife of the late Ray Mullins.  She is the granddaughter of Vastine Stickley Little and wife Julia Permelia Windle Little.

Census records show the Vastine Stickley Little’s occupation was "sculpture in marble" which meant he made tombstones. Records also indicate that he at one time also served as deputy sheriff of Overton County, and according to a story handed down through the family, while serving as a deputy, Vastine had an encounter with the notorious Jesse James and his gang. The story goes that after robbing several banks in Kentucky, Jesse decided he and his outlaw friends needed to hide out for a while. They ended up in Overton County, and in their search for somewhere to lay low, they discovered a secluded farm house owned by a widow lady. Jesse offered to pay room and board if he and his friends could stay there for a while, to which widow agreed. However, she went on to explain that she was experiencing some financial difficulties, and was expecting the sheriff to show up any day to foreclose on her property. Jesse inquired about the amount of money she owed, and when she told him how much it was, he gave her the money to pay the debt, but instructed her to wait and pay the sheriff when he came to collect. Sure enough, it wasn’t long until someone showed up to collect, but that person was not the sheriff. There is no way to know for sure, but it may have been that the sheriff didn’t relish the idea of forcing a little ole widow lady from her home and instead, gave that job to his deputy, Vastine Little. When Vastine arrived at the widow’s home and explained what he was there for, she joyfully handed over the amount of money owed on her property. He gave her a receipt showing the debt was paid in full, and then left to return to Livingston. However, he didn’t get far until he encountered Jesse James along his gang who promptly robbed the deputy of the money he came to collect from the widow. There is no doubt this was a day in the life Vastine Little that he never forgot. This may also be one of the reasons Jesse James was sometimes thought of as not being really as bad as he was made out to be.

In the early 1920's, both Vastine and Julia’s health began to fail, and only one of the children still remained at home. Julia passed away two days after her celebrating her 73rd birthday on March 22, 1925, and was buried in the Monroe Cemetery in Overton County. After Julia’s death in 1925, Vastine continued to live with his daughter, Amanda, until his death in December 9, 1931, at the age of 82 when he was buried beside his beloved wife of 55 years.