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.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Julia Martin, Rebel Spy?

Twenty-two-year-old Julia Martin, a resident of northern Henry County, Missouri, was arrested on August 20, 1864, for feeding, harboring, and giving information to bushwhackers. She’d first come under Federal scrutiny after a letter she wrote in late May to a Southern-sympathizing girlfriend, Sena Bell, fell into the hands of Union authorities. Julia began the letter with mundane topics like the weather but quickly turned to other matters. She had learned that Sena’s “dear dear friend,” Thomas Cramer, was not dead as she and Sena had feared, and she also told Sena that a company of Missouri partisans had just “got in from Rebeldom.”
“I do hope,” Julia continued, “they will come in, one to every bush, and kill every devil of militia that they can catch. I do wish some of them would give Clinton a call.” Clinton, the seat of Henry County, was occupied by Federal soldiers at the time of Julia’s letter. After gaining possession of the incriminating letter, the assistant provost marshal at Clinton began gathering additional evidence to use against Miss Martin. Jonathan Eshew, a fifty-four-year-old resident of Clinton, testified that it was “the impression of the loyal citizens” that Julia Martin had been carrying dispatches to bushwhackers ever since the outbreak of the war. Eshew said that sometimes, when he was not home, Julia would pass his house and threaten his family with taunts that she was going to get the bushwhackers to drive off the family’s horses.
Bernard Greenlee told Williams he knew Julia Martin to be a Rebel, and he cited the time she and two bushwhackers had come to his father’s house in the fall of 1862. While Julia and one of the men hung back about three hundred yards from the house, the other man came to the Greenlee barn and stole a horse.
Twenty-one-year-old Jonathan Brown swore that Julia was a “notorious rebel” who, during the year 1862, had led bushwhackers to several Union men’s homes so that the men could be “robbed of everything in their houses and of their horses.” Brown also said that Julia acted as a courier for the guerrillas and that he had known her to “ride day and night carrying messages.”
William Weaver, a hotel proprietor in Clinton and a captain in the local Enrolled Missouri Militia, said that at different times when he was scouting through the countryside he had met Julia Martin “traveling unusual fast and her excuse was not sufficient for doing so.” Weaver said he knew several men Julia had mentioned in her letter to be notorious guerrillas.
Garrett Freeman, captain in a local home guard unit, said he’d led a scouting party to Julia’s stepfather’s house in the fall of 1862 and that, while there, he heard Julia threaten to have two sisters of Union proclivity “taken to the brush by the bushwhackers.” Like Weaver, Freeman said he knew some of the men mentioned in Julia’s letter were bushwhackers.
The testimony of George Murray followed the pattern of the other witnesses. He had frequently seen Julia out on the high prairie on horseback letting her horse graze, but he was “of the impression from her actions that she was standing picket for the bushwhackers.”
Julia was arrested and taken to Warrensburg, where she was subsequently interrogated. She said she knew Tom Cramer by sight but knew nothing about him. She claimed that she’d never helped bushwhackers. Asked about the incident in which she supposedly aided two bushwhackers in the theft of a horse from Mr. Greenlee, Julia said she was merely out one morning looking for a bridle she had lost the evening before when she met two men near the Greenlee place. One of them rode up to her and asked her what she was doing. He then accused her of being a spy and demanded to know where she lived. When she told him, he told her to go home, and she obeyed and had nothing more to do with the man. Asked about the incident in which she reportedly threatened to have the two young women of loyal sentiments taken to the brush, she admitted making such a statement but said she did so only because their brother had come to her house and started accusing her of complicity in the theft of the Greenlee horse and otherwise abusing her and that she replied in anger. Julia admitted she was a Rebel sympathizer, but she said she did not approve of bushwhacking.
Julia was held initially for trial by military commission, but, because some of the evidence against her was shaky, she was instead required to leave Missouri, banished to the free states north and east of Springfield, Illinois.
Exactly where Julia Martin went during her exile is not known, but she returned home at the end of the war and got married in Henry County.
Condensed from a chapter in my Bushwhacker Belles book.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Rebel Jackson Women

Last time I wrote about the lynching of Mindu Cowahgee in Marshall, Missouri, in 1900. This week, I’m staying in Saline County but going all the way back to the Civil War.
On or about August 26, 1863, Lieutenant William D. Blair led a scout through Saline County in search of guerrilla leader Bill Jackson, son of former Missouri governor Claiborne F. Jackson. As Blair passed the Mary Jackson residence in the neighborhood of Saline City, a black woman near the doorway beckoned him, and he stopped to see what she wanted. The woman told the Federal officer that Bill Jackson was in the woods nearby with four men and that Mary Jackson and her family (no relation to Bill) had fed the bushwhackers earlier the same day. While Blair was still talking to the servant woman, one of Mary Jackson’s daughters, twenty-six-year old Betty, came outside and ordered the woman away, proclaiming, according to Blair’s later testimony, that no one who would report on her friends was going to stay around her.
Blair and his scouting party promptly rode to the woods and found signs that a band of men had recently been there. Convinced that the informant had told the truth, Blair set off after the guerrillas.
Unable to overtake the bushwhackers, the Federals returned to the Jackson home the same afternoon. Confronting Mary Jackson, Blair demanded to know whether she had fed Bill Jackson’s gang earlier in the day. She admitted she had, but she stressed she had declined to feed the men at her house and had, instead, sent them to the woods.
Betty Jackson’s sister Sue admitted that she and another sister had delivered the victuals to Bill Jackson in the woods. According to Blair, Sue also stated that Bill Jackson and his men were her friends and she was not ashamed of taking food to them. Betty Jackson confirmed that she was the one who had run off the black woman earlier in the day. Betty also reportedly told Blair that Bill Jackson and his guerrillas were her friends.
The three women were arrested on August 27 and taken to Marshall. Several days later they were transferred to Jefferson City, where they were paroled on September 14 under the condition that they report when called. The next day, orders were issued that the Jackson women should be tried by military commission at Marshall.
Mary Jackson’s trial began on October 6 with Lieutenant Blair as the main prosecution witness. Mary admitted she fed Bill Jackson’s men but said she did so only because he threatened her. She introduced her hired hand as a defense witness, who said he heard Mary tell Bill Jackson and his men to leave when they first came to her house but that Jackson refused to leave until she fed them. Despite her protestations of innocence, Mary Jackson was convicted of feeding and harboring guerrillas after a two-hour trial.
The trial of her daughter Betty, charged with uttering disloyal sentiments, began immediately afterwards with Lieutenant Blair again as the chief prosecution witness. Betty offered no defense except a written statement in which she pled helpless womanhood. It read, “Her being a lady, and unaccustomed to being held responsible for anything she might say, she did not really know what was loyal or disloyal.” Like her mother, Betty pleaded for leniency and expressed a willingness to take the oath of allegiance, but she, too, was convicted.
Charged with feeding and harboring bushwhackers as well as uttering disloyal language, Sue was tried after her older sister. Sue did not deny making statements to Blair and his men that might have been construed as disloyal, but she claimed she did so only because his men used insulting language toward her. Blair rebutted her claim, saying he was the only soldier to whom she talked. Sue acknowledged carrying food to Jackson but only because she was compelled to do so. She denied ever harboring bushwhackers and said she had no recollection of saying Jackson and his gang were her friends. Claiming to be only fourteen years old, when she was at least eighteen or nineteen, she, like her mother and her sister, closed with a plea for leniency. Faring no better than they, she was convicted on both charges against her.
All three women were sentenced to be banished from the state, but the sentences were later reduced. Mrs. Jackson was required to give bond as security for her “future good conduct” and to take an oath of allegiance, while her daughters were required only to take oaths.
This story is condensed from a chapter in my Bushwhacker Belles book. Main source: Trial transcript of Mary, Sue, and Betty Jackson, National Archives.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Lynching of Mindu Cowahgee

Mindu Cowahgee had no way of knowing the trouble he was getting into when he broke into two stores in Marshall, Missouri, on the night of March 30, 1900. The Marshall Republican reported a few days later that the burglar took a total of about $45 in merchandise from the two stores, but Cowahgee ended up paying a much dearer price for the pilfered goods.
He was arrested the next day after a former employer spotted cuts and bruises he’d gotten from breaking a plate glass window in one of the stores and crawling through it to gain access. He was lodged in the Saline County jail.
Less than a month later, on Thursday evening April 26, as Sheriff Joseph Wilson was herding the inmates into their cells for the night, Cowahgee and a black prisoner named John Smith threw Wilson to the floor and took his revolver. Wilson called to his family to bolt the door, and the sheriff’s wife, Elizabeth, appeared on the front steps to try to block the men’s exit. Cowahgee, carrying the sheriff’s revolver, fired the weapon at her. The bullet struck her in the upper left arm, and he and Smith dashed past her to make their escape through the streets of Marshall.
Posses, spurred by a $300 reward, went out in pursuit of the escapees, and their descriptions were sent to law officers in surrounding towns. Cowahgee, supposedly a former convict, was variously described as a “Negro,” an “Indian,” and a “Hindoo,” suggesting that he might have been a dark-complexioned native of India.
Cowahgee was recaptured the next evening southeast of Marshall, brought back to town, and lodged in the city jail late Friday night. With his apprehension, the chase after Smith was virtually abandoned.
Aroused by the fact that doctors had been forced to amputate Mrs. Wilson’s arm, citizens clogged the streets early Saturday morning whispering of mob violence, and Cowahgee was moved to the county jail, which was considered a more secure facility. Sheriff Wilson urged the crowd to let the law take its course and convinced them to disperse.
Many thought the danger of mob action had passed, but shortly after dark, a mob again started forming at the jail, blocking all the roads and sidewalks that led to the calaboose. A prominent citizen addressed the crowd, urging them not to take the law into their own hands, and the sheriff once again appealed to the festering mob, asking them to disband for the sake of his wife’s safety. He pointed out that of all offended parties, he and his family had the most reason to want retribution but that it was his and his wife’s wish that the law be followed.
The sheriff’s appeal quieted the crowd only briefly. Soon, several men from one section of the mob leaped over a fence surrounding the jail, and they were quickly followed by others. Had strong action such as firing above the heads of the mob been taken at this moment, opined the editor of the Marshall Republican, the vigilantes might have been turned back, but the sheriff had told his deputies to hold their fire, supposedly because he was concerned that the sounds of gunfire might disturb his recuperating wife. “Affection for wife has proven stronger than sense of duty,” the newspaperman lamented.
The vigilantes surged in around the jail with the sheriff and several of his deputies retiring before the advancing horde to the interior. The officers inside the building at first refused the mob’s demand to give up the keys, but when someone outside produced a sledgehammer and started pounding the door, the keys were turned over.
The mob thronged inside and found the shackled Cowahgee in the corridor of the jail. Dragging the prisoner outside, the vigilantes were met with cries of Hang him!” and “To the square!”
Those in the crowd nearest Cowahgee kicked and prodded him, struck him with their fists, or slashed at him with knives as he was dragged by a circuitous route to the southeast corner of the courthouse square, where a large tree stood with a big branch protruding to the northwest. But no one had a rope.
While someone in the mob went to fetch one, two prominent citizens used the delay to address the crowd in a last-ditch effort to forestall the lynching, but their words had little effect. “The spirit of the masses seemed woefully lacking in any feeling of humanity,” said the Republican editor.
Realizing his fate, Cowahgee asked time to say a prayer. He asked God to forgive his sins and “those who sought his blood.” But his prayer had little effect on the unruly mob. “All pleading was in vain,” said the Republican. “Passion ruled above reason, mob tyranny above law, vengeance above mercy.”
When a rope was brought to the scene, it was tossed over the tree limb, the noose was adjusted around Cowahgee’s neck, and his arms were pinioned to his body. At 11:20 p.m. on April 28, 1900, his body was hoisted into the air before 2,000 gaping spectators.
The body was cut down at 12:10 Sunday morning, and a coroner’s jury was impaneled almost immediately. The inquest determined, predictably enough, that Mindu Cowahgee “came to his death at the hands of a mob unknown to the jury.” The body was removed to an undertaker’s office right after the inquest and buried after daybreak in a potter’s field at the county farm.
The Republican editor begged to differ with the verdict of the coroner’s inquest. The lynching was a travesty of justice and an affront to civilization, and it was made doubly so because the assault on Mrs. Wilson was not a crime for which anyone would normally receive the death penalty. The jury’s negligence of duty in reaching its verdict only compounded the tragedy. The mob was undisguised and all faces clearly visible beneath the glare of the street lights; yet the jury claimed not to know the identity of any of the lawbreakers.
The post above is condensed from a chapter in my Yanked Into Eternity book.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Vigilante Justice on the Missouri-Arkansas Border

On the night of December 18, 1893, just south of the Missouri state line in Baxter County, Arkansas, several unknown assassins opened fire on prominent stockman Hunter Wilson and his wife as they sat by the fireside in their home. Wilson fell dead, and his wife was seriously wounded. The killers made off with about $1,500 from a trunk, where Wilson had stored it after a recent cattle transaction.
Despite her wounds, Mrs. Wilson managed to drag herself across the ground to a neighbor’s house and give an alarm. Law officers were summoned to the scene, and bloodhounds were brought in to track the villains.
William Walter McAnish was soon arrested as a suspect in the case. His preliminary examination in early January 1894, however, did not produce enough evidence to formally charge him for the crime, and he was shortly afterward released.
Then, on February 25, the wife of Anderson Carter implicated her husband and her son, Bart, in the heinous deed. Bart immediately confessed, saying that his father and Bud Montgomery, alias Jasper Newton, were the main culprits and that he had been forced to participate.
All three men were arrested, but on February 27 Bart Carter was paroled so that he could take law officers to the spot where the ill-gotten money was hidden. That evening, while Bart was still away from the jail, a large body of vigilantes assembled in Mountain Home in an orderly fashion for the express purpose of lynching the two older men. They overpowered the jailer and guards, took their guns, and demanded the keys. The state representative from Baxter County made a speech trying to dissuade the mob from its purpose, and other officials spoke as well. But to no avail.
After listening in “sullen silence” to the speeches, the vigilantes procured the keys to the jail, unlocked the doors, and commenced shooting into the cells where Carter and Montgomery were housed. After about twenty shots rang out, there was a temporary lull. Carter was found to be dead, but Montgomery was still alive and asking for water. The request was granted, but as soon as Montgomery finished drinking, the gang opened fire on him again, riddling his body with bullets. Both men died protesting their innocence.
The mob declined to take the men out and hang them, reportedly because they thought the sheriff and his posse would be more likely to interfere in such a scenario.
In the aftermath of the lynching, it was reported that Anderson Carter had supposedly killed a man previously in Texas County, Missouri, and that Bud Montgomery (i.e. Jasper Newton) was wanted in Clay County for a crime committed fifteen years earlier.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Another Bushwhacker Belle: The Charming Mollie Goggin

I've changed the name of this blog from "Ozarks History" to "Missouri and Ozarks History," because, although I started out writing mainly about the Ozarks, I've been writing more and more in recent years about the whole state of Missouri. The person I'm going to write about today, however, actually was from the Ozarks, if you define the Ozarks as extending north all the way to the Missouri River in the eastern part of the state, as most geographers and geologists do.
On March 16, 1864, a bushwhacker named Murray was captured by Union authorities near Pisgah in Cooper County while wearing a Rebel patch with the phrase “Victory or Death” and the name “Mollie Goggin” inscribed on it, and he was imprisoned at Tipton in neighboring Moniteau County. About a month later, Miss Goggin, an eighteen-year-old young lady from the Pisgah community was interviewed at Tipton by Lieutenant Franklin Swap, assistant provost marshal, about the embroidered patch. Admitting that she made the badge, the sassy Miss Goggin became defiant, saying she was a Rebel and always had been. She said she had aided Rebels and would continue to do so, that she never had and never would take an oath of allegiance, and that she would consider it a pleasure to be sent south.
Mollie was allowed to go home, but Swap reported the girl’s statements to district headquarters at Warrensburg, and she was soon arrested and brought to Jefferson City for trial by military commission. Tried on June 20, she was found guilty of “uttering disloyal sentiments.”
The next day, June 21, she was released on parole in the town of Jefferson City to await the promulgation of her sentence, and for the next couple of months, Mollie had the run of the town. Despite having obtained her temporary release on a promise of loyalty, Mollie proved unrepentant in her Southern sympathies and was not bashful about expressing them, all the while continuing to beguile the Union officers with her charm and good looks, and her continued presence in the town of Jefferson City became a growing nuisance to Union authorities there.
On August 20, Lieutenant Swap wrote to district headquarters earnestly recommending that Miss Goggin be forwarded to St. Louis for confinement. Swap said that Mollie had “persisted in her sympathies for the enemies of the government” but that there was no suitable place in Jefferson City to incarcerate her. He added that Mollie took “particular pains to display in public the colors of the Southern Confederacy and refuses all advice to be more consistent in her conversation and dress.”
About the same time as Sapp's complaint, a federal detective who'd recently visited Jeff City, wrote to department headquarters at St. Louis denouncing the favorable treatment Miss Goggin was receiving. The detective said he “was astonished to find her the object of attention of a party of six or eight Federal officers" who were staying in the same building where Mollie was living. “She is handsome and fascinating in appearance,” the detective continued, “which is the only way I can account for her being treated in the way she is by all the officers, all of whom pet her very much.”
Mollie was finally sent to St. Louis in late August and a month later was sentenced to be confined in the Alton Military Prison in Alton, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River. However, the authorities who pronounced the sentence probably did not count on the power of Mollie’s feminine charm to alter its terms, but that’s what happened. After her arrival at Alton, the mesmerizing Mollie quickly had the Union officials at the prison fawning over her the same way the officers back in Jefferson City had. Mary Pitman, a woman who was confined at the Alton facility for two and half weeks in late November, later complained of the favorable treatment Mollie and another young woman received from prison inspector Lieutenant L.W. Danforth and other Union officers. Pitman said that Danforth was in Mollie's room almost every night until pretty late and would also go up to her room the first thing each morning. “Miss Goggins had everything she wanted in the way of food and delicacies” by Danforth’s orders, according to Pitman.
Although Danforth spent time with both young women, according to Pitman, “but Miss Goggins was his favorite. One time Ms. Pitman saw Danforth with his arm around Mollie and his head on her shoulder but most of the time he shut the door when he went to her room. Pittman said she heard the lieutenant say that he thought Miss Goggin was in prison unjustly and that he did not believe in putting women in prison anyway.
In early 1865, several officers of the Alton prison (Danforth not being one of them), petitioned department headquarters for the release of Mollie Goggin because she was only seventeen, “a mere child in appearance and manner,” and that they felt she had been imprisoned long enough. (Mollie was actually eighteen.) They added that since her incarceration at Alton, she had won the esteem and respect of all the officers there by her uniformly good and ladylike conduct. The prison officials said Mollie “little thought when she said she was a Rebel that she would be taken from home and imprisoned for it, because she declares that she is not a Rebel and only said so to be ‘contrary.’”
In mid-January, the men's petition was granted and Mollie released immediately “in consideration of her youth and good behavior” and contingent upon her “loyalty and good conduct in the future.” What happened to Mollie after her release has not been determined.
The story above is condensed from my book about the "bushwhacker belles" of Missouri, women who got in trouble with Union authorities for helping the Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. Not all of them were treated alike, and as this story shows, how good looking and charming they were was one of the factors affecting their treatment.

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