Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, 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 sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Maria McKeehan, Another Bushwhacker Belle

Sometime in the fall of 1863, Union authorities in Johnson County, Missouri, arrested several young men, supposed to be members of what was called the Knob Noster Independent Company, as bushwhackers and as suspects in the murder of a man named William Dillingham. Twenty-four-year-old Maria McKeehan (spelled Mariah in Union records) was arrested near the same time for aiding and abetting them.
In December of 1863, Dr. James M. Mitchell of Knob Noster gave a statement to Union authorities against Maria. Presumably he was compelled to do so, since he himself was a Southern sympathizer.
Dr. Mitchell said that on the 9th of August, he was called to the home of Catherine Hart, Maria's married sister, located in the Bristle Ridge neighborhood about six miles southwest of Knob Noster, because a family named Jones who was staying there had a sick child. While Dr. Mitchell was at the Hart residence, Maria, whose parents lived about two miles east of Knob Noster but who was then staying with her sister, asked Dr. Mitchell for a bottle of medicine for her sick brother, who was in the bush with the bushwhackers. Maria informed the doctor that she had been to the bushwhackers' camp that very morning and that the guerrillas told her that they had killed Dillingham earlier the same morning about two miles from her sister's home. (Dillingham was indeed killed on the morning of August 9 at his home near Bristle Ridge and his body was found "shot into holes" about 30 yards from his house.)
Maria further stated that she regularly fed the bushwhackers and aided them with medicine and information. She told Dr. Mitchell that she had heard one of the bushwhackers, Sam Whitley, threaten to kill him (i.e. Dr. Mitchell) because he would not come into the bush to administer to the bushwhackers' medical needs, and she told the doctor which road to take back to Knob Noster to avoid the guerrillas. Dr. Mitchell said the reason he thought Maria had helped him was that he had been kind to her aged father and had been the family doctor for a number of years.
A Union official noted on Mitchell's deposition that the doctor was a truthful man, even though he was "secesh."
Apparently little more ever happened in Maria McKeehan's case, as I have been unable to find any record of her having been shipped to St. Louis for banishment or trial as many women arrested during the Civil War for helping Missouri's guerrillas were. And that's why I did not include her in my Bushwhacker Belles book published earlier this year.


Blogger A.P. Hill said...

Keep them coming Larry....always entertaining.

September 4, 2016 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Thanks, A.P., I'll try.

September 5, 2016 at 3:01 PM  

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