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 fourteen nonfiction books, two novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are A Concise Encyclopedia of the Ozarks, Bushwhacker Belles, and Wicked Women of Missouri.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Murder of Lewis Litterell

On the night of November 29, 1862, two men called at the home of 48-year-old Lewis Litterell in Pulaski County, Missouri. Lewis's wife, Mahala, went to the door, and according to her later statement, one of the men wanted to know who lived there. When she told him "Lewis Litterell," the man asked whether he was a Union man, and she said he was. The man said he and his partner were taking a message to Waynesville and needed Litterell to pilot them. When Mahala replied that her husband was sick, the man who had been talking turned to his partner and told him to hold his horse. The first man dismounted and went into the house to "talk to the old man," as Mahala phrased it. The unknown man asked Litterell, since he was unable to travel, whether he knew anyone else who might pilot them, and Litterell mentioned a neighbor named Robertson. The two night-time callers then left.
Presently, they reappeared, however, and one of the men again went into the house while the other held his horse. The intruder pointed a pistol at Litterell and ordered him to get up out of his bed and be "damn quick" about it. He told Litterell to get the best horse he could and pilot him and his partner to Waynesville.
That was the last time Mahala Litterell saw her husband alive. His dead body was returned to her a couple of days later, and at or near the same time, Larkin "Lark" Salsman of neighboring Camden County, was brought to her house in the custody of the local Enrolled Missouri Militia as a suspect in Litterell's murder. Lark told Mrs. Litterell that it was his brother, John Salsman, and Pete Cuswell who had taken her husband away.
On December 9, when Mahala Litterell and her deceased husband's sister-in-law, Cynthia Litterell, traveled to Waynesville to give statements to Union authorities there about the kidnapping of Lewis Litterell, Mahala said she believed the men who took her husband away to be Lark Salsman and Pete Cuswell. Cynthia's testimony essentially agreed with Mahala's except that Cynthia said Lark Salsman, the man brought to the Litterell house by the EMM, did not look like either of the two men who took Lewis Litterell away.
Lieutentant Thomas Thomas, assistant provost marshal at Waynesville, forwarded the women's statements to Rolla the same day he took them, and he also reported that Lark Salsman had already been killed by the EMM before the Litterell women gave their statements. Whether he was shot while trying to escape or was the victim of summary justice is not known. Thomas also added that John Salsman and Pete Cuswell were yet at large.
Authorities at Rolla, upon reviewing the paperwork forwarded by Thomas, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to assign guilt, and presumably no further proceedings in the case took place.
Source: Union Provost Marshal's Papers, Relating to Two or More Citizens, Missouri State Archives microfilm roll number 1591.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Rebel Ancestors??

I recently found in provost marshals papers a letter written on September 23, 1864, by Major J.B. Kaiser, commanding the Union post at Waynesville, Missouri, to Brigadier-General John McNeil, commanding the Rolla district, in which Kaiser identifies a number of citizens of Pulaski and Texas counties who had supposedly been aiding and harboring bushwhackers and "also conveying news to them by every opportunity they can get."
Among the people on the list accused of harboring bushwhackers was John Morgan, who was reported as living seven miles south of the Waynesville post. This was my great great grandmother's brother. In fact, the location Kaiser mentions, seven miles south of Waynesville is still the location of the Morgan farm, which has been in the family since about 1829, I believe.
Another person listed was the "Widow Tippet...where the Rebels make frequent visits for the purpose of gathering information." Mrs. Tippet was identified as living near Widow Adams, who lived west of Waynesville and was considered "a strong Rebel sympathizer." The Widow Tippet was John Morgan's sister and my great great grandmother. She had previously been married to my great great grandfather, Robert Wood. After Wood died, she remarried a man named Tippet, but he, too, died prior to the Civil War.
What I found particularly interesting was that I also found a letter written a few months earlier in April of 1864 by a prominent Union man named Ellis of Pulaski County to Colonel J.P. Sanderson, provost marshal general of the Department of the Missouri headquartered in St. Louis, in which Ellis identifies other men of Pulaski who can be trusted as honest and reliable Union men. One of the men Ellis mentioned was John Morgan.
This just goes to show how difficult it is for researchers to determine whether a Missouri ancestor (or any other person in Missouri) was actually loyal or not during the Civil War. Sometimes people were falsely reported as disloyal simply because a neighbor held a personal grudge against them, or else they were reported as disloyal on very scant evidence. On the other hand, sometimes people of suspect loyalty were reported as loyal because the person doing the reporting was of dubious loyalty himself. If Union authorities had a hard time knowing for sure who was loyal and who was not, how are researchers to know for sure 150 years later?
What I do know is that my great grandfather, Mrs. Tippet's son, joined the local Union militia near the tail end of the war when he was about 19 or 20 years old. Of course, by then many people who had previously nursed Southern sympathies had seen the writing on the wall and had shifted their loyalties, at least outwardly. I also know that two older sons of Mrs. Tippet, my great grandfather's brothers, were Confederate soldiers. So, as I say, the evidence is conflicting.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hobbs Kerry Again

I've commented previously on the fact that 19th century newspapermen often offered wry commentary on the subject they were reporting on. I recently ran onto another good example from the August 17, 1876 edition of the Neosho Times. Hobbs Kerry, who had grown up in nearby Granby, had recently been arrested for helping the James-Younger gang hold up a train near Otterville in Cooper County, Missouri, and after his arrest he had named the other members of the gang. The Neosho newspaperman reported that, Kerry, who had recently been recruited to the gang by veteran members Charlie Pitts and Bill Chadwell, had "squealed, and his squealing will probably result in breaking up the band. But in squealing Hobbs forfeited all chance of securing a policy in any well-regulated life insurance company."
The next week, the same newspaper reported that the impression was gaining ground that Kerry confession, as far as implicating the Youngers and the James boys in the crime, was untrue. Such an impression did, in fact, gain ground during the weeks after Kerry's arrest. Many people did not believe his story. The Times reported that, according to Kerry's own admission, he had never met the Youngers or the James brothers until he accompanied Pitts and Chadwell to Jackson County a week or so before the July 7 train robbery, and the newspaper suggested that perhaps Kerry had merely been told that his partners were the James and Younger brothers in order to boost his confidence in carrying out the crime. The Neosho newspaperman questioned whether Cole Younger, who had "long head in crooked work," would have taken on a raw recruit for an important job on the mere word of Pitts and Chadwell. An alternative, the reporter suggested, was that Kerry had deliberately lied in order to deflect suspicion away from his actual sidekicks.
The fact was, as it turned out, Kerry was not lying at all and was not operating under any false impressions as to the identity of his partners. Apparently he was more concerned with trying to shorten his prison stay than with purchasing life insurance.
My book Ozark Gunfights and Other Notorious Incidents contains a chapter about Hobbs Kerry, and I've also written previously about him on this blog, back in November of 2008.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Robbery of Treadway's Store

On November 18, 1863, a gang of bushwhackers robbed E.E. Treadway's store in Brighton, Missouri, of about $1,500 in goods and another $50 in cash. The next day, the gang was intercepted and attacked in Stone County by a detachment of militia under a Lieutenant Pierce. One of the bushwhackers, William Fulbright of Greene County, was killed, and about $500 worth of the goods stolen from Treadway's store was recovered. The rest of the bandits escaped to continue their marauding existence.
A few months later, however, a number of men suspected of having participated in the robbery were apparently taken into custody by the provost marshal at Springfield, and the provost marshal wrote to Treadway asking for details of the crime. Treadway responded on March 4, 1864, identifying all nine men, including Fulbright, who had participated in the robbery. Others named by Treadway were Charles Nichols of Polk County, William Simon of Polk, T.L. Brown of Cedar, Lemke Hearn of Cedar, a man named Sears of Barton County, John Holcomb of Greene County, and two other men, White and Hicks, who were also from Greene County. Treadway said he had learned the names of the men from Lemke Hearn, while Hearn was imprisoned at Springfield. (It's not clear whether Treadway was a prisoner, too, or merely visited Hearn at the prison.) Treadway also mentioned the names of several men that he knew were not involved in the robbery because they were either at the store with him or in prison at the time of the robbery. Apparently these men were among the ones the provost marshal had arrested as possible suspects in the crime.
Treadway concluded his letter to the provost marshal by saying, "Any other information you may need at my command I cheerfully give to have the villains punished."

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