Missouri and Ozarks History

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

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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, December 30, 2013

The Murder of Vernon County Sheriff Joseph Bailey

A lot of notorious incidents happened in Missouri during the years after the Civil War. Many of them arose from resentment left over from the war or were at least related to the war in some way. One post-Civil War incident in southwest Missouri that I was not aware of until recently is the murder on March 26, 1867, of Joseph Bailey, the sheriff of Vernon County. Even though Bailey had been a general in the Union Army and the young men accused of his murder had reportedly been Confederate bushwhackers, the incident was apparently not directly related to the Civil War, or if so, the connection is not known.
Bailey was an engineer during the war who gained recognition for saving the Union's Army of the Gulf from almost certain capture and/or defeat on the Red River in the spring of 1864. A lieutenant-colonel at the time, Bailey was shortly afterwards promoted to colonel. Toward the end of the war, he was nominated for promotion to brigadier general, but the nomination expired without Senate confirmation. He was again nominated for brigadier general after the war was over and he had already left the service, and the promotion was confirmed to date from November of 1864.
In October of 1865, Bailey moved to Vernon County, and he was elected sheriff the following year. On March 25, 1867, he received a complaint that two brothers living northwest of Nevada, Perry and Lewis Pixley, had stolen a hog from a neighbor, and he went out to arrest the pair the next day. The brothers went with the sheriff freely at first, and he allowed them to keep their weapons. Part way back to Nevada, however, the desperate duo assassinated the sheriff and made their getaway. A $3,000 reward was offered locally for the capture of the pair, and the Missouri governor issued a proclamation offering another $300. The proclamation contained descriptions of the wanted men. Lewis Pixley was listed as about 25 or 26 years old, about 5' 11" and about 180 pounds. His brother was listed as about 22 years of age, about 5'10" and about 175 pounds. Both had light hair.
The Pixleys, who were never captured, were the sons of Plummer Pixley of Chariton County, Missouri. Plummer had been killed near the family home toward the end of the Civil War, but General Bailey had no connection to the murder, or at least none that anyone is apparently aware of. As far as the Pixleys having been Confederate bushwhackers, a Captain Pixley was a member of the Missouri State Guard in 1861, and this person could have been the older brother. In any case, the Pixley brothers were probably related to the captain, even if he was not one of them, because the captain is known to have come from the same general area where Plummer Pixley lived and Pixley is an uncommon name. There is no evidence that I am aware of, however, that Captain Pixley went on to become a notorious bushwhacker, as the brothers reputedly did.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Disbandment of the Regulators

I wrote briefly about the Regulators of Greene County, Missouri, on this blog approximately four years ago. The subject also constitutes a chapter in my book entitled Ozarks Gunfights and Other Notorious Incidents. Centered around Walnut Grove, the Honest Man's League, as the Regulators were officially known, was a vigilante group whose avowed purpose was to combat an outbreak of lawlessness that the civil authorities seemed unable to contain. During the spring and early summer of 1866, the group lynched three or four men suspected of crimes, and the outbreak of lawlessness quickly subsided.
I mentioned in my previous post about the Regulators that they held a mass meeting in northwest Greene County on July 28, 1866, but that they dissolved shortly afterwards because they had been so effective in stemming the tide of crime. Apparently, however, as I recently discovered, the group was not formally disbanded until the following spring.
On April 6, 1867, the Regulators held a meeting at Cave Spring in northwest Greene County in which the group essentially announced that it would no longer be active, because it had already "effected an important object in favor of the honest community." The group resolved that it would now "resort to 'the first law of nature' only in cases of extreme necessity." Another resolution was adopted that said, since the civil authorities had recently shown a determination to bring criminals to justice, the Regulators would fully support those authorities. The group requested that the proceedings of their meeting be published in both Springfield newspapers, the Leader and the Patriot.
Those attending the meeting included L.P. Downing, S.G. Appleby, John R. Earnest, John Evans, James Boston, R.C. Julian, Wesley Wadlow, S. Mason, Thomas Yeakley, James Callison, George W. Sloan, Jacob Longayer, Secretary T.W. Coltrane, and President John Small.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Emily Newell Blair

Perhaps you've never heard of Emily Newell Blair before. I was only vaguely aware of her myself until I started doing a little research on her, and what little awareness of her I had before that was due entirely to the fact that she was born in Joplin, where I live, and grew up in nearby Carthage. She is someone that I feel I should have known more about already, though, because she was one of the more famous and accomplished women ever to come out of southwest Missouri.
Her father, James P. Newell, was a lawyer who moved to Joplin in 1874 and invested in the lead-mining boom that had recently gotten underway there. Emily was born in 1877. Her father was elected as the county recorder of deeds in 1883, and the family moved to the county seat of Carthage, where Emily was an outstanding student at Carthage High School, graduating in 1894. She attended Goucher College and the University of Missouri before returning to Carthage to take care of her ailing father.
In 1900, she married Harry Wallace Blair at Carthage. He became a lawyer, and Emily became active in the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association. After World War I broke out, her husband went into the military, and Emily became active in the Missouri Woman's Committee of the Council of Defense. Later she worked for the Council of National Defense in Washington, DC.
In 1920, Emily helped found the League of Women Voters, and in 1922 helped found and became president of the Women's National Democratic Club. While still president of this organization, she also became the first woman to hold a prominent position in the Democratic Party, becoming national vice chairman. She campaigned for Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and they became friends. Mrs. Blair was also friends with other powerful figures in the party, such as Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, and she and her husband were among the social elite of Washington, DC.
In addition, she served as editor of Good Housekeeping from 1925 to 1934. In 1944, Emily retired from active political and social life after suffering a stroke. She died in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC, in 1951.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Missouri State Guard Again

One last entry about the Missouri State Guard and then I'll move on to a different subject. I need to correct a couple of things I said in my post of November 28 about the pay of Missouri State Guard soldiers during the Civil War.
First, I said that I didn't know how the pay of MSG soldiers compared to that of U.S. soldiers or Confederate soldiers. Apparently, the answer is that MSG soldiers and U.S. soldiers were paid exactly the same. When the Missouri State Guard was created in 1861, its laws specified that soldiers would receive the same pay as soldiers of corresponding rank in the U.S. Army.
Secondly, I said that the clothes of State Guard soldiers were not paid for. That is only partly true, because I have discovered that they were given a clothing allowance of $3.00 per month. Only if the cost of the clothes they had been issued exceeded the total of their monthly allowances were they charged for their clothing upon discharge as I had previously stated. In light of this new information, being required to pay $3.50 for a pair of woolen pants, for example, doesn't seem so bad.
Discharged soldiers were also given a travel allowance at the rate of twenty miles a day and twenty cents a day. I assume that meant, for example, if they had to travel forty miles to get home and it took them two days to get there, they were paid forty cents, but if it took them three days to get there, they were still paid only forty cents; and if they had to travel less than twenty miles, they apparently weren't paid at all.
During November and December of 1861, many of the entries in the Missouri State Guard Letter and Order Book pertained to the anticipated transfer of General Price, commanding the State Guard, and many of his soldiers out of the State Guard and into the Confederate Army. One entry, for instance, instructed officers and soldiers who had claims for expenses incurred in waging war against the United States to prepare those claims so that they could be submitted to the Confederate government for payment when the transfer was finalized, in accordance with the terms of the treaty that Governor Jackson's Missouri state government in exile and the CSA had lately entered into perfecting Missouri's admission to the Confederacy. An interesting entry on December 2 stated that a separate camp was to be established for those soldiers who were going to enter the Confederate Army. Thus those soldiers were removed from the ones who were to remain in the State Guard or who were going to be discharged.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Civil War Punishment

Last time I wrote about the pay received by soldiers in the Missouri State Guard, as recorded in its Letter and Order Book. The same source also has a couple of interesting items illustrating how soldiers who committed crimes and misdeeds were punished.
In early November of 1861, the Guard held a court martial near Pineville for two soldiers, both of whom had been accused of stealing and deserting the army in Newton County a couple of weeks earlier. One of them, Rufus Walbridge, was found guilty and sentenced to receive fifty lashes on the morning of November 9 and dishonorably discharged. The sentence read as follows: "His back will be stripped, he will be tied by the hands to a tree where 50 lashes will be inflicted upon his bare back, well laid on with a raw hide or hickory, and will there receive a dishonorable discharge and be escorted beyond the limits of the camp and then turned loose." No doubt, had the same crimes occurred during battle, particularly the desertion, Rufus would have received an even more severe punishment--probably execution. The other soldier, Conrad Leibricht, was found not guilty, released from confinement, and returned to his company.
On December 4, another court martial was held on the Sac River near Osceola. Timothy Martin, a citizen of Hickory County, was accused of premeditatedly killing Jacob Kirtemeyer in Hickory County on or about July 31, 1861. He was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged in the town of Osceola on December 6, 1861 between ten and eleven o'clock in the morning. Apparently, however, the sentence was overturned or Martin escaped, because he was still living in Hickory County at the time of the 1870 census. He was ten years older than he was at the time of the 1860 census, when he was 23. Also, I think the actual name of his victim was Jacob Kirkhart, not Jacob Kirtemeyer. Jacob Kirkhart is the only person with a name even close to Jacob Kirtemeyer living anywhere near Hickory County in 1860. And Jacob Kirkhart seems to be missing from the 1870 census (probably because he was dead).

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