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 twelve nonfiction books, two novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Murder and Mayhem in Missouri; The Siege of Lexington, Missouri: the Battle of the Hemp Bales; and A Concise Encyclopedia of the Ozarks.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

More on Lucy Vance

After posting the entry last time about the rape of Lucy Vance during the Civil War, I did a little more research on Lucy and came up with some additional information that I thought readers might find interesting as a follow-up to the previous post. Apparently she was a strong, pioneer woman, as last week's story would attest. Not every woman who was raped by Union soldiers would have had the strength and spunk to file a complaint about it to Union authorities.
Lucy was born in 1840 to J.S. and Martha (Noe) Huddlestone in Greene County, Missouri, near the James River bridge. The family moved to Taney County shortly afterwards and was living in Linn Township of Taney at the time of the 1850 census. Lucy's older brother was a merchant at Forsyth in the years just prior to the Civil War. Lucy married Calvin Vance around 1858, and at the time of the 1860 census, the couple was living in Ozark, Missouri, with a one-year-old-boy named John and an infant daughter named Viola who was less than a year old. Viola was probably the child who was in the house with Lucy when she was raped.
Calvin Vance apparently left home at or shortly after the outset of the Civil War, but whether he joined the Confederacy or the Union or simply took to the bush as a guerrilla is not known. In October of 1864, over a year and a half after his wife was raped by the Federal soldier, Calvin did join the Union Army at Springfield, but that doesn't necessarily mean he didn't also serve in the Confederacy early in the war. Switching sides late in the war, especially Southerners switching to the North as the tide turned toward the Union, was not unusual. Regardless, at some point near the beginning of the war, with her husband away from home, Lucy moved back to Taney County to be near her relatives, and it was during her sojourn in Taney County that she was violated by the brutish Union soldier.
Apparently, Calvin did not hold his wife's rape against her, which, of course, is only right, but some men might have. That's unfortunately probably still the case today. It's certainly still the case in many Middle Eastern countries. At any rate, Calvin and Lucy were living near Quincy, Missouri, in Fristoe Township of Benton County at the time of the 1870 census. They had two additional kids, younger siblings of John and Viola.
By the time of the 1880 census, the Vances were living in Sugar Loaf Township of Boone County, Arkansas, and they were still there twenty years later. Sometime around the turn of the twentieth century, Silas Turnbo, a folklorist and storyteller who gathered stories from early-day settlers in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, interviewed Lucy about an incident involving a woman who lived on Bear Creek ten miles north of Forsyth when Lucy was growing up in Taney County. When Lucy was about twelve years old, the woman, the wife of Hiram Collier, killed a bear one day after she and her nearly grown daughter went out into their cornfield and, out of curiosity, looked into an abandoned cabin that sat in the middle of the cornfield. According to Lucy's story, they were surprised to see a bear perched on a ceiling joist. The bear was unalarmed, and Mrs. Collier and her daughter slipped out. The daughter ran back to the family's home and brought back a rifle. Mrs. Collier calmly loaded the weapon, stepped into the cabin, and shot the bear dead with a single shot. So, I guess Lucy wasn't the only strong, pioneer woman around in those days.
By 1910, Lucy was a widow and was living with her grandson in Sugar Loaf Township. She herself apparently died sometime before 1920.
Turnbo published some of his stories in two volumes printed in 1904 and 1907 but not nearly all of them. The entire collection is held at the Springfield-Greene County Library and is available on the library's website.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Civil War Rape

One of the tragedies of war is the mistreatment of women by conquering or occupying soldiers, and the Civil War, of course, was no exception. A case in point is the rape of twenty-three-year-old Lucy Vance, wife of Calvin Vance, in Taney County, Missouri, in late January of 1863.
On Tuesday evening, the 19th, three Federal soldiers came to Mrs. Vance's home and came inside uninvited. They asked about the whereabouts of her husband, and she told them he was in Arkansas. (He might well have been in the Confederate Army or in the bush as a guerrilla, but Mrs. Vance, of course, did not say so in her deposition about her ordeal a few days later.) The soldiers also asked about forage for their horses, and she told them she did not have any or know where any was. After a while two of the men left and went to a neighboring house to look for forage. Pretty soon, two different Union soldiers came into the house but stayed only a short while.
The man who had been there all along told Mrs. Vance he was from Iowa. Pacing back and forth across the floor, he looked out the door periodically and told Mrs. Vance he was looking for his company. Then, he began trying to get friendly with her, but she told him she wished he would leave and go next door to Mrs. Watson's and tell Mrs. Williams to come over and stay with her. It was nine o'clock, and she said was afraid to stay overnight alone. Instead of going next door, though, the man started trying to talk Mrs. Vance into having sexual intercourse with him. She told him no and ordered him out of the house. Instead of leaving, he apologized for having insulted her and offered her thirty dollars, which the woman apparently and, if so, understandably considered even more of an insult. She again refused and tried to get out of the house, but the man blocked the doorway.
Mrs. Vance then sat down with her baby in her lap, and when the man advanced toward her threateningly, she yelled. He told her, if she did not quit hollering, he would kill her. Then he pushed the child off her lap, put his arms around her waist, and picked her up. Carrying her to the nearby bed, he threw her on it and started choking her when she continued to cry out. As her cries subsided, he released her throat and put a hand over her mouth to muffle her sobs. "While in this condition on the bed," Mrs. Vance concluded in her deposition a few days later, "he had sexual intercourse with me."
As soon as the man left, Mrs. Vance went next door to Mrs. Watson's, and when she went back the next morning, she found that everything in her house had been carried off.
A week later, January 26, Mrs. Vance gave a statement to Federal authorities at Forsyth relating her nightmare. She described her assailant as a heavyset man about 5'11" tall with blue eyes, light complexion and hair, and short whiskers. He had a fat, round face with small eyes and a high forehead. He wore a blue Federal cap and overcoat. Despite the woman's relatively thorough description of her rapist, the man apparently was never apprehended or charged and probably never even identified.
Sources: Union provost marshals' papers and 1860 U.S. census.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Drake Constitution Again

I've written previously about the Drake Constitution that was passed in Missouri at the very end of the Civil War. Named after Charles Drake, its chief proponent in the legislature, it forbade anyone who had ever fought against the U.S. or openly sympathized with the South during the Civil War from voting or holding critical positions such as lawyer, teacher, and preacher without first taking an oath of allegiance to the U.S. Many unrepentant Rebels, of course, were unable in good conscience or unwilling to take such an oath, and it is hard to overestimate the level of resentment the law engendered among them. As I have stated previously on this blog, the Drake Constitution even led, indirectly at least, to a number of violent clashes in Missouri between ex-Union men and ex-Confederate men during the years immediately after the war.
The subject of the Drake Constitution was so controversial that it is hard to read more than a few issues of any Missouri newspaper published in the years immediately after the war without the subject appearing. This is especially the case if the editors of the particular newspaper you are reading happened to have held Southern sympathies. A case in point is the Jefferson City People's Tribune. I was browsing through issues of this newspaper from 1868 recently, and practically every issue had an article railing against the Radicals and/or the Drake Constitution they had passed at the end of the war. For instance, in one such article in the August 5 issue, the editor attacked Missouri governor Fletcher for a statement he had made at a recent Radical Congressional Convention declaring that every man "primia facia is not a voter and must satisfy the registrars that he is a qualified voter." In other words, the editor opined, every man who applies to vote is assumed to be a criminal until he can prove otherwise. "This is a strange declaration of law to proceed from the mouth of the Governor of a great state," continued the editor, since the whole history of democratic criminal justice was built on the premise that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
"Doubtless the Governor thinks that inasmuch as very many persons presume him guilty of criminal complicity in many villainies that have been perpetrated in this State," the fiery editor went on, "that it would be well for him to declare the whole people of the State subject to a like presumption against them of criminal conduct." The newspaperman concluded that the fable of the fox that got his tail cut off in a steel trap and then endeavored to have all the other foxes agree to have their tails cut off, too, in order that he not appear abnormal was a good illustration of "his Excellency's deplorable situation."
This is just a small sample of the type of anti-Drake Constitution vitriol that was prevalent in Missouri among Southern sympathizers in the years after the Civil War. Indeed, the article I cited above was just one of several anti-Radical and anti-Drake Constitution columns that appeared in the August 5th issue of the People's Tribune.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Murder of Sheriff John W. Polk

Late Thursday afternoon, May 25, 1905, a young man named William Spaugh entered Rascher's restaurant in Ironton, Missouri, and started bedeviling some of the customers by throwing peanut shells at them and so forth. He then caught one of the customers, William Edgar, by the leg, pulled him from his seat, and started dancing around the floor taunting Edgar and trying to get him to dance, too. After Edgar reclaimed his seat, Spaugh told him (Edgar) that the more he looked at his face, the more he hated it and struck him in the eye, inflicting a cut. He again jerked Edgar by the foot, pulling him to the floor. Here Rascher interceded and put Spaugh out of the restaurant.
Spaugh went to his home in Ironton, and the Iron County sheriff, John W. Polk, informed of the outrages on Edgar, went to the Spaugh home to arrest the assailant. William Spaugh was sitting on the front porch with his younger brother, Arthur, and another young man, William Brown, when Polk arrived. William Spaugh, according to Brown's later testimony, announced to the other two young men that the sheriff was there to arrest him, and Arthur got up and went inside the house. At the gate leading into the front yard, Polk hollered to William Spaugh that he needed to see him and for Spaugh to come to the fence. Spaugh demanded to know whether the sheriff had a warrant, and when Polk admitted he didn't, Spaugh got up and followed his brother inside.
Sheriff Polk then went inside the gate, stepped onto the front porch, opened the door to the house, and started to walk across the threshold when four or five shots rang out. One of them was a shotgun blast that reportedly blew a hole in Polk's side big enough to stick a fist in. Polk was also shot with a ball to the heart and one to the head, and he was given yet another wound with some sort of sharp instrument, apparently after he had already fallen dead to the floor.
The Spaugh brothers left the premises immediately after the shooting, and search parties sent out in pursuit of them finally brought them to bay, with the help of bloodhounds, at an isolated cabin in Madison County about five days later. After a gun battle that lasted several minutes, the two fugitives finally surrendered and were arrested and charged with murder. Their mother had previously been arrested, and she also was charged with murder for allegedly urging her sons to resist Sheriff Polk.
In early July, a mob broke into the Iron County jail where the brothers were being held, tied up the newly appointed sheriff, and shot the brothers several times in their legs. By order of the Missouri governor, the Spaughs were then transferred to St. Louis for safekeeping while awaiting trial.
The three Spaughs were scheduled for trial in late 1905 in Reynolds County on a change of venue from Iron County. William Spaugh was tried, convicted of first degree murder, and sentenced to hang. Arthur's trial and his mother's trial were postponed until the following summer. In mid-1906 Arthur was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 55 years in prison, and the mother was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to ten years in prison.
All three convictions were appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, but the verdicts were upheld in each case. However, the mother was later granted a new trial and was acquitted upon retrial. Also, William Spaugh's death sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
In 1913, when William Spaugh was dying of tuberculosis, Arthur tried to take the blame for the killings in order to secure a parole for William so that he might die at home, but the request was denied and William Spaugh died in prison in mid-1913. Arthur also later died in prison of tuberculosis after serving just a few years.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sarcoxie War

Last time I wrote about the so-called Osage War that occurred in southwest Missouri during the winter of 1836-1837 when some Greene County militia drove a party of Osage Indians out of the state without bloodshed and with only minimal protestations from the Indians. Another bloodless confrontation between white settlers and Indians, called the Sarcoxie War, occurred in southwest Missouri only a few months later, in the summer of 1837.

During frontier days, white settlers were always on guard that the "savages" might go on the warpath, and the least provocation would get the settlers up in arms. In June of 1837, a Seneca Indian visited a settler in that part of Polk County that later became Dade County and, according to Holcombe's 1883 History of Greene County, wanted to "trade 'squaws' with him." The settler knocked the Indian down and drove him off his premises, but the next day a shot was fired at the settler as he worked in his field. An alarm was given, and the Polk County militia was called out to drive the Seneca Indians out of the state.

Shortly after the Polk County militia had accomplished its purpose, however, a large group of Osage Indians were reported to be "acting suspiciously" in the Sarcoxie area, and they were suspected of having stolen some horses and other property of white settlers in the area. In response to the report, the entire southwest Missouri militia was called out to meet the supposed threat. The Indians were located near Sarcoxie and escorted back across the state line without incident. There was "little negotiating and parleying," and the Osages gave their solemn promise not to return without permission. They said they had no evil intent, had only come into Missouri to hunt and fish, and didn't know anything about any stolen horses or other goods taken from white settlers.

Holcombe summed up the so-called Sarcoxie War by saying that it was "a very nice sort of war, being one in which no human blood was shed or any serious casualties suffered. The reports of the outbreak were greatly exaggerated from the start. The Indians had done nothing, and doubtless intended doing nothing to harm the settlers, and all of the alarm and uneasiness, the mustering, the arming, and the marching, were for nothing."

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Osage War

The so-called Osage War was a bloodless confrontation between Osage Indians and a company of Greene County (Missouri) militia under Colonel Charles Yancey in the winter of 1836-1837. The Osage had been removed to reservations in Kansas and Indian Territory through a series of treaties in the early 1800s, but some of them persisted in drifting back into their former homeland. Their presence in southwest Missouri, according to R.I. Holcombe's 1883 History of Greene County, was "distasteful to the settlers," and Governor Lilburn Boggs ordered them removed.
Yancey, who was also presiding judge of the county court, decided to go out and negotiate personally with the Indians and only call out his troops if it should prove necessary. Two other men, Chesley Cannefax and Henry Fulbright, accompanied him on his mission. Taking along a young black man, who had been raised among the Delaware and spoke several Indian dialects, as an interpreter, the trio set out to the south and southwest of Springfield and, after a couple of days travel, met a party of Osage Indians mounted on ponies near Flat Creek in what later became Stone County. Yancey was dressed in full military regalia, with plumes and epaulets, and the white men hoped that his "imposing appearance" would make a favorable impression on "the display-loving savages." The Indians were impressed enough to let out a shrill yell and gallop away without speaking a word.
Their fear somewhat aroused by the reaction of the Indians, the white men followed uneasily and soon came upon an Indian camp of about 100 men and an equal number of women and children. Apparently assuming Yancey was some sort of "great chief," the Indians met the white men with beads and other Indian finery as tokens of their goodwill, and the Osage chief, Nawpawiter, sat down with Yancey and his party to talk. Newpawiter agreed to remove from the area but asked, because of the inclement weather and the condition of some of his people, that he not have to do so until the weather got better. Yancey granted the request, issuing a written permission for the Indians to stay where they were for a few days until the weather improved, and then he and his small party continued on their way, looking for other Indians in the region.
About 35 miles south Springfield in Barry County, Yancey and his men came upon a large assemblage of Indians that they thought might be a war council, as one brave reportedly rode out brandishing a tomahawk and making indecent gestures toward the white men. Although Yancey and Fulbright thought they could parley with the Indians as they had done with Newpawiter and induce them to leave, Cannefax argued for a stronger course of action. His advice finally prevailed, and the white men returned to Springfield to call out the militia.
More than a hundred men were soon armed and mounted, and the militia met the Indians again in present-day Christian County, on the Finley River. The Indians greatly outnumbered the whites, but they were poorly armed, mainly with just bows and arrows. The Indians retreated, and Yancey pursued them to the west side of the James River, where the two sides drew up facing each other. The Indians at first refused Yancey's demand that they give up their arms and remove across the state line, but they soon acquiesced, although a few young braves continued to grumble as they laid down their weapons. According to Holcombe, some of the white men "behaved very rudely" toward the Indian women, but Yancey supposedly put a quick stop to the misbehavior. Over the next couple of days, which were bitterly cold, the militia escorted the Indians to the state line, where they were admonished not to come back into Missouri.
When the militia got back to Springfield, they found the townspeople almost in a panic because of rumors they had heard that a general Indian uprising had begun. No hostilities ensued, however, and thus ended the so-called Osage War.
As a footnote to this story, it might be interesting to mention that later in 1837 Judge Yancey killed a man on the square in Springfield. The first person to be put on trial for murder in Greene County, he was acquitted and later was appointed a circuit judge.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Belle Starr's 35-Mile Dash

According to legend, sixteen-year-old Myra Maybelle Shirley (later known as Belle Starr) was out on a scout from Carthage on behalf of her brother Bud and his guerrilla buddies in early 1862 when she was captured at Newtonia on February 3, which happened to be her sixteenth birthday, by Major Edwin Eno, who was stationed there in command of Union forces, and held in the Ritchey mansion because Eno had sent out a detachment in pursuit of Bud Shirley and his guerrilla band and he knew that Myra would warn her brother if she were not detained. Personally guarded by Eno, Myra paced the floor cursing and ranting against the major or pounded out songs on the piano to release her pent up emotions, but he merely laughed at her anger and frustration, further incensing the young woman and finally driving her to tears.
After a suitable elapse of time, Eno became satisfied that his men had an ample head start on Myra and that he could safely release her. She rushed through the door, cut several switches from a cherry bush to use as riding whips, and sprang into the saddle of her trusty steed. Plying the cherry switches with vigor, she sped away and, a short distance from the house, left the road and cut across fields, leaping over ditches and fences and making a bee line for Carthage thirty-five miles away aboard her speedy horse. Major Eno pulled out his field glass and climbed to an upper room of the Ritchey mansion to watch as Myra raced away like the wind. "I'll be damned," he said with a hint of admiration. "If she doesn't reach Carthage ahead of my troopers, I'm a fool."
Sure enough, Myra reached her hometown in time to warn her brother of the Federal troops sent out to capture him, and when the soldiers reached Carthage shortly afterwards, she was there to greet them and inform them with a smirk that Bud Shirley and his men had left town half an hour ago and were probably in Lawrence County by now.
The problem with this story is that it almost certainly didn't happen. The legend was first propagated by S.W. Harman in his book Hell on the Border, published in 1898, almost ten years after Belle Starr's death. The story, as related by Harman, was full of errors. Myra Shirley would have turned fourteen in 1862, not sixteen, and in addition the idea that the incident supposedly happened on her birthday seems like a bit of romantic nonsense. Harman misspelled the major's name as Enos instead of Eno and misspelled the name of Mathew Ritchey as Ritchery. Also, Eno was not stationed at Newtonia until 1863. These factual errors, the fantastic notion of a fifteen or sixteen-year-old girl off on a scout by herself 35 miles from home, and the fact that the story was not heard of until almost ten years after Belle's death make one suspect that the whole incident was probably manufactured or at least highly fictionalized to embellish the infamous reputation she had gained long after she had left Carthage.
A different version of the legend holds that Myra was not detained by Eno but instead came to the Ritchey home of her own accord as a spy to try to gather information for her brother and his guerrilla friends. Mr. Ritchey, a strong Union man, knew the Shirley family and did not like them, but out of courtesy he admitted the girl and let her spend the night. While she was there, Myra made herself very agreeable and entertained her hosts and the other guests, including Major Eno, by playing the piano. The next morning, having obtained vital information about Union forces in Newtonia, Myra cut some cherry switches and rode off side-saddle toward Carthage, but she had ridden only a couple of miles when Confederate forces launched a surprise attack on the Union troops at Newtonia. The cutting of the switches had been a signal that the place was vulnerable to attack.
While this second version of Belle's visit to Newtonia is somewhat more believable than the first, it, too, probably has very little basis in fact.

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