Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Permilla Stephens

The story of Permilla Stephens is illustrative of how people suffered during the Civil War. She and her husband, John A. Stephens, were Union citizens living in Springfield at the time of the war. During Zagonyi's charge in the fall of 1861, Mr. Stephens, who was a schoolmaster by profession, watched the action west of town (near the present-day 1700 block of West Mt. Vernon Street) from an upstairs room on the public square. Afterwards, he started home on foot and was shot and killed by a Union soldier, who was helping to clear the streets of Rebels, when Mr. Stephens, as he approached the front gate of his yard, did not immediately heed the soldier's call to halt.
Then during the Battle of Springfield in January of 1863, several rental homes that Mrs. Stephens owned in the south part of town and which provided her only source of income, were purposely burned by the Federals in order to give the defenders a clearer view of the attacking Confederates.
Permilla Stephens was not immediately compensated for the loss. Left bereft of any means of support, she also encountered difficulty when she applied later in the year to Federal authorities for relief in the form of food and clothing for her kids and herself.
Although Mrs. Stephens was finally approved for aid, her experience could have easily turned her against the Union, one might think. Instead, she continued to support the Union and, after the war, became Springfield's first postmistress.

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