Augustus Baker…his death changed history

The Civil War did not start on 12 April 1861. It started many years before with the debate over slavery and divided many citizens of the United States. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was designed to settle the dispute with Missouri entering the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state. The Homestead Act of 1862 was primarily responsible for the settlement of the west. But prior to that, in 1856, heads of families were allowed to enter 160 acres as a homestead from transferable government grants to veterans. By the end of 1857, nearly all grants were gone in Vernon County. ¹ The act of making Kansas a territory, in 1858, essentially repealed the Missouri Compromise. The border between Kansas and Missouri became a place of war with pro-slavery Bushwhackers in Missouri and the free-soil Jayhawkers warring with each other prior to the Civil war and lasting several years after. This is the environment that Augustus Baker and his family navigated.

Baker, Augustus, Land Patent Purchase from George Hamilton, 10 Dec 1859_Page_1

Deed for one of the many properties Augustus Baker owned

Augustus Baker immigrated to the United States from Germany but nothing is known of his family origins.² His was born on 21 April 1827. At the age of twenty-one, he married Rebecca Pryor on 1 March 1849. They had three daughters, Emma Ann who was born about 1852, Mary Elizabeth who was born in 1854, and Laura Rebecca who was born in 1859. Their fourth daughter, Adaline, was born in 1862 and died in 1864 after the death of Augustus.

Over the course of his short life, Augustus amassed a little more than five-hundred and seventy-six acres of land in Bates County later to be Vernon County. The majority of the land was in township thirty-six, range thirty-three, sections thirty and thirty-one. A portion of this land would later be inherited by his daughter Mary Elizabeth Baker. In addition, he purchased four hundred and forty acres of land in Bourbon County, Kansas. Several of these tracts of land that he purchased were land grants given to veterans of the War of 1812 for their service. Many times veterans had no interest in moving west and instead sold their land grant to others. In total Augustus owned a little more than one-thousand and sixteen acres of land, some of which were purchased during the Civil War. He was an optimistic and opportunistic man.

In 1858, Ben Riggins, contracted Charles Goodlander to build a 16 x 20, two-story frame business building on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Bigler (now Market) Street in Fort Scott, Kansas.³ Sometime after, and possibly as early as September 1859, Augustus and Riggins formed a mercantile partnership, Riggins & Baker.


A Receipts from Riggins & Baker Mercantile Store

On 23 September 1861, a few months after the start of the Civil War, Riggins wrote to Augustus from Shawnee, Kansas. Because of the turmoil in the county, he traded some of his lands in Bourbon for a house in Shawnee. He never expected to move back to Fort Scott and asked Augustus to sell the building and settle up as best as he could. He and Augustus owed substantial amounts of money on accounts and others owed them a lot of money as well. Commerce at the time was done on credit and the good name of the individuals who had transactions with each other. The difficulties of the war made it almost impossible to do business. Riggins told Augustus that he would not pay out his last dollar toward his debts leaving his family to suffer. Shawnee would later be burned by Quantrill’s Raiders and Riggins and his family was forced to move to Kansas City.

“Guerilla warfare erupted on an unprecedented scale in 1862. Though nominally Union-held, much of Missouri remained a vast no-mans land tenuously controlled by small military outposts. The very conditions that created the need for more troops left many able-bodied potential fighting men unwilling to leave their homes and families for volunteer service elsewhere.”⁴ Needless to say life in Bourbon and Vernon Counties went from bad to worse causing martial law to be enacted in Missouri in August of that year.

In early 1863 Augustus was still running the Riggins & Baker Mercantile Store in Fort Scott. He and Ben Riggins continued to correspond with each other as creditors pressed them for money.

The Federal forces “occupying” Missouri, under martial law, were spread too thin to maintain regular law and order, let alone effectively suppress the Guerilla movement, characterized by military law experts as “rising of the people.” Seeking to tighten their hold on the state, they attempted to organize in each county a pro-Union militia, technically a state force but in practice a Federal force.⁵

It was under this backdrop that Augustus, along with about fifty others, attended a meeting of male citizens in Nevada for the purpose of organizing a company of enrolled militia under the leadership of Colonel Marvin’s 60th regiment. Augustus, a well-respected man, was chosen over C. C. Frizell, a citizen of the county who had served with the Cedar County militia. Frizell had been on a few raids with Kansas troops and had a bad reputation. Many were concerned that he would use his position to take land from people and feather his own nest. Frizell took his defeat very poorly.

The Baker’s lived on Ball Town Road, west of Nevada, Missouri. On the evening of 6 May 1863, about 7:30 pm and while Augustus was out, two men approached their home. When Rebecca answered the door, they said they were Federals from Butler County and asked for some supper. Rebecca invited them in. When Augustus came home, he recognized the men and extended his hand to Frizell to shake. Frizell refused to shake hands with him. At that point, both men drew their pistols and demanded his arms and his money. Augustus stated his money was in Fort Scott. Rebecca had some money, about three or four dollars in silver and one and a half-dollar in paper money and offered to get it. One of the men went with Rebecca to their second floor where he took rifle molds, boxes of caps and bullets, and Augustus’ pocketbook. After they came downstairs Rebecca went to stand next to Augustus and put her hand on his shoulder. At that point, the tallest man stepped forward and shot Augustus in his head. Later at the trial of his murderers, Rebecca testified that the man who pulled the trigger was Frizell.⁶

The incidents that occurred after the trial led to the burning of Nevada, Missouri. On 24 May 1863, men from Frizell’s pro-Union St. Clair and Cedar County companies were returning home after testifying at his trial. They were recognized as Federals and attacked by Bushwhackers led by Captain Marchbanks and Captain Hill. During the attack two of the pro-Union men were killed. When word of the Bushwhacker attack reached the St. Clair and Cedar militia, cries of vengeance were made.

On 26 May 1863, Captain Anderson Morton led a hundred well-armed men from the Cedar and St. Clair Militia on a raid into Vernon County. They failed to find the Bushwhackers and systematically burned every building in Vernon. Citizens were told, “We are going to burn this house. Get your things out in twenty minutes. If you want help, we will help you, but the house must be burned. This damned Rebel den shall be destroyed.” ⁷ On Tuesday, 27 May 1863, C. C. Frizell was found guilty and hanged for his crime. John Upton, his accomplice, became a fugitive of the law and it is unknown if he was ever caught.

In 1865, Ben Riggins was still trying to get the accounts of the Riggins & Baker enterprise squared away. In November of the same year, Rebecca relinquished her right to administer the estate of her husband in favor of R. W. McNeil, Public Administrator. She signed an undated receipt which reads: Received from R. W. McNeil, Public Administrator having charge of the Estate of Augustus Baker deceased one bin of corn inventoried and appraised at the sum of two hundred ($200.) It being what the law allows me as the widow of the deceased. In December she bought 5 cows, 4 steers, 4 heifers, calves, and 1 two-horse plow for $264.50. Back then the widow was allowed to keep some of the estate of her husband. Everything else was inventoried and sold. Anything within the inventory that she wanted she had to buy like everyone else. Some of the lands purchased by Augustus were sold to pay taxes and raise cash for the family.

Baker, Augustus, Headstone

Augustus Baker’s Headstone

Augustus Baker is buried along a creek branch in view of where his homestead stood in Richards Township. The Coleman Cemetery grew up around his gravesite. We were there several years ago and found the cemetery in the woods next to the creek. It was shady and dry. Many of the headstones were broken or fallen over. Fortunately, Augustus’ headstone was still in good shape.

In 2004-5, a great-grandson of Augustus, William C. Coleman, attempted to have his remains disinterred and buried in the National Cemetery. The request was denied as military records indicated that Augustus was not, by current standards, eligible for burial in the National Cemetery as he had not been officially mustered into the military prior to his death.

Rebecca was left to raise their daughters and suffer the loss of two-year-old Adaline a year after Augustus died. She would marry Samuel L. Shackelford in 1866 and would bear him two sons, John and Augustus. She died of malaria at the age of fifty-five. She is likely buried in an unmarked grave next to Augustus and Adaline. In 2006, a stone was erected to mark her grave in Coleman Cemetery without knowing for sure that is where she is buried.

Augustus Baker (1827-1863) m. Rebecca Pryor (1830-1885)

Emma Ann Baker (Abt. 1852-?)
Mary Elizabeth Baker (1854-1940)
Laura Rebecca Baker (1859-1932)
Adaline Baker (1862-1864)



¹From the website,
²William C. Coleman, Search for Augustus C. Baker (1827-1863) & Rebecca (Pryor) Baker (1830-1885) Among the Jayhawkers and the Bushwhackers (Self-published)
³Ralph Richards, The Forts of Fort Scott and the Fateful Borderland (Kansas City, MO, Lowell Press, 1949 and reprint 1976) P. 155
⁴Mark Lause, A Brief History of the Enrolled Missouri Militia, (Can no longer be found at this web address.)
⁵Patrick Brophy, Fire and Sword, A Missouri County in the Civil War (Nevada, Missouri Bushwacker Books, 2008) P. 147.
⁶Ibid, P. 146.
⁷1887 History of Vernon County, Missouri, P. 312-314.




Happy Birthday Mom…Remembering the Small Things

My mom, Bonnie Lee Schwegler Lane would have been ninety-one today. Like most moms, she had a tremendous impact on my life. But it is the little things I remember most about her.

Schwegler, Bonnie (l) Betty (r), 1943

Mom, left, and her twin sister Betty about 1943.

I get my love of reading from her. When I was four or five she would read stories from our beautifully illustrated book Grimms Fairy Tales. Today the stories are considered too graphic for young children but I loved them. I remember the story Snow-White and Rose-Red, two sisters living in the woods with their widowed mother. One winter night they let a bear come into their house. Night after night the bear comes and stays overnight until spring when he says he has to go away to guard his treasure against a wicked dwarf. That summer the girls encounter the dwarf who is always in trouble and each time they rescue him from his travails. And each time the dwarf is ungrateful for their help. Then one day they come upon the bear who is about to kill the dwarf. The dwarf pleads for his life to no avail. The dwarf is killed and the bear turns into a handsome prince. The dwarf had put a spell on the bear when he stole some of the princes’ jewels. Snow-White marries the prince and Rose-Red marries the brother of the prince.

While the details of the story are fuzzy in my mind, I remember curling up on the bed with my mom in the middle and my brother on the other side of her. Despite the hard work she did, she had beautiful nails. I would run my little finger over her nail, back and forth, feeling the beautiful oval. Not too far into the story, my brother would squirm, being too young to appreciate the beautiful story unfolding before us. It would take several days to finish the book. She read many books to us, curled up in that bed, over the next several years. These are memories I cherish.

Mom died at the age of seventy-five leaving many moments in time for me and my brothers to remember.

Henry J. Williams

Williams, Henry, Photograph 2

Henry J. Williams

Henry J. Williams was the first-born son of William Jefferson Williams and Elizabeth (Stubblefield) Williams. The second of eleven children, he was born on 5 June 1840, most likely in the area that is known today as Crawford Township, Osage County. Compared to his larger-than-life father, Henry kept a low profile.

When Henry was twenty-one he was married by a Justice of the Peace to Syrena Simpson. They married on 16 June 1861 two months after the Civil War had begun. Their first child Elizabeth was born seven months later.
Henry and Syrena began their married life in a time when the citizens of the state were bitterly divided in their allegiances to the North or the South. Battles took place throughout Missouri. In Osage County, inhabitants were more likely to encounter skirmishes rather than battles. Because of that, men in Osage County were more likely to join the Enrolled Missouri Militia (E.M.M.) rather than the Union forces. Often they enlisted for short periods of time over the course of the war. Their responsibilities included guarding bridges and places of strategic importance.

Williams, Henry, Civil War Draft Registration Record

Henry’s Civil War Draft Registration Record, Line 4

Henry was one of those who was called into service. He joined the 9th Provisional E.M.M., Company A, on 17 March 1863 and was ordered into service the same day. His company commander was his father William Jefferson Williams. Henry was listed as the company Bugler. He was discharged from service on 31 December 1863.

A month before Henry was ordered into service his second daughter Mary was born on 2 February 1863. His third daughter Cynthia was born in October 1865, a few months after the war ended. Their first son, John Michael, was born in October 1867. Their next child, Virginia was born in 1869. The next five children, Nathaniel, Benjamin, William, Joseph, and Kate were born between 1872 and 1883. Henry and Syrena had a total of ten children.

In 1870, Henry had quite a bit of land. He owned three-hundred and thirty-six acres. He owned horses, milk cows, sheep, and swine. That year sixty pounds of wool was taken from the sheep and sixty pounds of butter were made from the milk of the cows. He grew Indian corn, oats, peas, beans, and Irish potatoes on sixteen acres of land.
Henry continued to farm well into the 1880s and 1890s. But his farming days may have been over in 1891. Syrena’s Civil War pension application, filed in 1917, showed that Henry was an invalid on 30 November 1891. Shortly after, in 1892, Henry sold a considerable amount of land to his brother William M. Williams. By 1900, Henry and Syrena were living in Dry Creek Township in Maries County with their oldest daughter Elizabeth and son John Michael. In 1900 they were living in Dry Creek by themselves.

Williams, Henry, Death Certificate cropped

Henry’s Death Certificate

Henry was stricken with pneumonia at the age of seventy-six and suffered with it for eighteen days. He died on 9 April 1917. According to his doctor, the contributing factor to his death was La Grippe, or otherwise known as the Spanish Flu. The Spanish Flu epidemic didn’t begin in the U.S. until 1918 but apparently Henry had it before it became a pandemic in the U.S. Henry is buried in Francis Cemetery in Osage County next to his father William Jefferson Williams. Henry’s obituary read:

Henry Williams Dies

Henry Williams, a son of the late Jeff Williams, died at his home at Freeburg Monday of last week and was buried in the Francis cemetery near Byron. Reverend Affalter officiating.

Mr. Williams lived for many years near Cooper Hill until about 20 years ago when he moved to a farm near Dixon. He disposed of that farm a few years ago and moved to Freeburg where he resided until his death. He was a whole souled, jovial man, and a good and upright citizen. He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Cyrene Williams, formerly Simpson and a number of children.


Minnie Mae Perry and Putting the Bits and Pieces of Memories Together

Lane, Minnie Mae Perry

A Poor Picture of Minnie Mae in Later Years

Childhood memories float in our minds like ethereal pictures of bits and pieces of our experiences…bits and pieces that may or may not accurately reflect the true happenings of the moment. Such is my memory or lack of memory of my great-grandmother Minnie Mae Perry. 

Minnie Mae Perry was the mother of my grandfather, William (Will) Everett Lane. Her parents, Joseph Calvin Perry and Irene Reville/Revels were from Martin County, North Carolina. They migrated to Crockett County, Tennessee sometime around 1868. Minnie Mae, the fourteenth and last child of Joseph and Irene was born on 26 February 1875 in Maury City, Crockett County.  

Joseph only had two sons. All the remaining children were girls. In 1880, Joseph was farming the land with the help of his girls who ranged in age from nine to twenty. Minnie Mae, at the age of five, was too young to help. Unfortunately the 1890 census records were lost in a fire so we have no record of Minnie during that time-frame. Most likely she followed in the footsteps of her sisters in helping on the family farm until she married or until Joseph died sometime before 1890. 

Minnie Mae and my great-grandfather, Edgar Lane married in Crockett County on 20 July 1894. Minnie was nineteen, and a cradle robber, as Edgar was only fifteen. On 13 June 1895, my grandfather, Will was born. 

It could not have been a happy marriage. Edgar was known to be a gambler and it’s calculated that sometime around 1898 he disappeared. He may have walked away from gambling debts and family responsibilities too heavy for his young age of nineteen. It was possible back then to disappear and start a new life somewhere else. Or, as some family members believe, he came to a premature end due to his unsavory life style. However the cause, he was gone from Minnie and Will’s lives forever.

In those days, family helped to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. Fortunately Minnie’s mother Irene lived across the river in Gayoso Township located in Pemiscot County, Missouri. She was living with her son John, her widowed daughter Mary Mullins and Mary’s son Lloyd. Most likely Minnie and Will moved in with her extended family after Edgar’s disappearance as they are shown living with the family in the 1900 census. Minnie helped John with the farming and Mary helped with the domestic work.

Cosey, Sam picture with mules

Sam Cosey and Charley Bowers, 1901

The next year Minnie married Samuel Cosey on 3 August 1901 in Lake County, Tennessee. Sometime before or after their marriage, Sam and his neighbor, Charley Bowers, took a break from pulling logs to have their picture taken. The picture was subsequently published years later in an unknown newspaper and, fortunately, the clipping was saved by the Lane family.

Minnie and Sam added to their family when their daughter Gladys was born in 1902 and son Raymond was born in 1907. The entire family was living in Gayoso in 1910 including Minnie’s mother Irene and brother, John. John had changed his profession from farming to carpentry. Perhaps this is where my grandfather Will, fourteen at the time, learned his profession. 

Through the 1920s and 1930s the Cosey’s lived in Little Prairie, Pemiscot County. In 1939 Minnie lost Will to a bus accident with a Grey Hound bus in Caruthersville. The accident was on one of the major thoroughfares of this small town. Perhaps the reminder of the loss of her son each time she passed by this place was too much to bear for in 1940 she and Sam moved to Rombauer located in Butler County, Missouri.  

When I was about five or six I recall visiting “some people” who had mules. I believed that they lived in either Tennessee or Arkansas. I recall a rustic fence with mules inside. There were several older people standing around with my mother, father, brother, and me. My father, laughing, climbed over the fence and jumped on the back of one of the mules. He was immediately bucked off. When he got up, he was still laughing, a little sheepishly though, and climbed back over the fence. This picture of my dad being bucked off the mule is as clear today as it was back then. 

Cosey, Sam portrait

Sam Cosey

The reality of this memory is we visited my great-grandma Minnie and step-grandpa Sam. I didn’t even know Minnie existed until I started my genealogy quest a few years back. We were in Rombauer, Missouri not Arkansas or Tennessee. And Sam was known for his mules. I imagine he got a kick out of my dad trying his hand at riding one of his prize mules.

Sam Cosey died at the age of seventy-five in November of 1954.This was probably a year or so after our visit.  Just a little more than four months after Sam was buried, their son Raymond died of peritonitis of the gallbladder. This was a sad time for Minnie. Minnie lived another nine years joining Sam on 13 December 1963. Both are buried in Maple Cemetery in Caruthersville.  

Through interviews with cousins I was able to put the people and places together to form the accurate accounting of this wonderful memory.  Like all of us, I have a lots of bits and pieces of memories floating around in this old brain of mine. However, this was a reminder to me that I have to check, and re-check those bits and pieces to make sure I relate them as they really were.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

Lane, Talmadge and Schwegler, Bonnie Marriage Picture

Newly Weds, Tom and Bonnie Lane

Happy Anniversary to my Mom and Dad. Today would have been their seventy-first wedding anniversary. They didn’t make it to their fiftieth wedding anniversary either because my dad died when they had been married forty-six years.

Talmadge “Tom” Hollis Lane came from the small town of Caruthersville, in the flat delta in the bootheel of Missouri. He moved to the St. Louis area in the early 1940s where he took a job cutting shoes by hand. He was to continue at this craft until he retired later in life.

Bonnie Lee Schwegler was born in Maries County, Missouri near Vienna. Being of Swiss descent, her family lived in this area where many Swiss and Germans settled. The high, rolling hills reminded the immigrants of their homeland. By the time she was three her family had moved to St. Louis. The depression loomed and no doubt there were more opportunities to make a living in St. Louis.

Mom came from a large family of thirteen children. They had plenty to eat but with so many children, necessities like clothing and shoes were in short supply. She dropped out of high school when she was in her sophomore year. Mom simply got tired of washing out clothes everyday and having shoes that were falling apart. It’s ironic that she went from having shoes that were falling apart to working for a shoe factory. She began working at Johansen Brothers Shoe factory, located in downtown St. Louis, in 1946.

Dad had a very sketchy track-record when it came to women. He married Nima Tanner in 1936. This marriage produced my two half-sisters, Cleo and Kay. This marriage ended in 1945. He married again in April of 1946 only to have his wife, Mildred Foster, die a tragic death during an operation on the first of July. On the 17th of  August, a month and a half later, mom and dad were married by a justice of the peace at the St. Louis County Courthouse. Why they married so quickly after Mildred died is a mystery to me. He was a handsome man and perhaps offered a way out of her situation at home.

wedding-1335649_640Dad died on 22 January 1993; she followed nine years later on 29 June 2002. When mom died her thin gold ring was worn down to a band the thickness of a piece of spaghetti. It reminded me of their long, rocky marriage that had worn them down during the years. But there is no doubt in my mind that they loved each other despite the trials and tribulations they put each other through. Today, and every August 17th, I remember them and honor them for giving life to me and my brothers. Through thick and thin, and good and bad, they hung on until the end.

Mary Elizabeth Baker…Tough, Resilient, Pioneer Woman

Baker, Mary E. Redone

Mary Elizabeth Baker, About 1900

Mary Elizabeth Baker (Mollie) was born on 28 Dec 1854 as the old year was quickly ticking toward the new. The second of four girls, she was born to Augustus Baker and Rebecca [Pryor] Baker in Vernon County, Missouri. She was born in an uneasy time, a time when slavery was a burning issue. And the Baker family lived in Missouri close to the Missouri/Kansas border, an area where pro-slavery sentiments were strong. To say the area was a tinderbox waiting to explode is an understatement. And explode it did affecting everyone who lived along the border.

Augustus Baker, Mollie’s father and an immigrant from Germany, most likely had anti-slavery sentiments. He was a well-respected man in his community which led to his being elected as captain of a small federal militia in Nevada, Missouri in March of 1863. Not two months later he was murdered, while his wife stood by his side, at the hands of John Frizzell, the one he defeated in the election in March. The whole incident will be described in my story about Augustus Baker.

Rebecca Baker was left a widow with four girls to raise. Emma Ann was eleven, Mollie was nine, and Laura Rebecca was four. Baby Adeline was a year old; nine months after her father’s death Adeline would also die. It was a sad time for the family.

It’s unclear just how well off the family was after the death of Augustus. He had several pieces of property and was a partner in Baker & Riggins. People bought and sold on credit in those days and there were many claims from those whom he owed money and those who owed money to him. There is no doubt that the disruption to the economic system during the Civil War made it difficult to settle his estate.

On 2 January 1866, the family dynamics changed when Rebecca married Samuel Shackelford. Sam had a son, John, who was born in 1860. Augustus Shackelford was born to the couple in 1867. As mentioned in my story about Thomas Bunn Ferguson, he was working for the Shackelford’s as a farm hand in 1870 in Richland Township, Vernon County, Missouri. He was twenty-six and Mollie was sixteen. They were married that year on 23 October 1870. Rebecca deeded part of the land homesteaded by Augustus to each of her daughters as they married. Mollie and Tom lived in a log house on her portion of this land.

By 1875, Mary and Thomas were living in the Fort Scott area. Adeline was three and Mary was pregnant with Walter who was born in May. Their farm and estate were valued at $3,000.00. Considering how the Civil War in that area almost brought commerce to a stand-still, the Ferguson’s would have been considered more successful than the average farmer. In May, at the time when Walter was born, vast swarms of grasshoppers, or Rocky Mountain locusts, descended upon the eastern part of Kansas and western Missouri. They covered the earth devouring wheat and young corn. The land the Ferguson’s owned in Richland Township had one of the largest infestations of locusts in Missouri. If they were farming on their land in Richland there is no doubt that their entire crops would have been lost. By June the swarms were gone and most farmers had time to replant their crops.¹

Locust, Public Domain from

Multiply This By Millions and You Have a Mess²

I can’t imagine what it would have been like having a new baby and dealing with locusts. Besides the crops, wells would have to be covered. The attempt to save the vegetable garden by placing a cloth over the plants would fail as the cloth would have been devoured. Even clothes could have been eaten off one’s back if one ventured outside. The sound would have been unbearable not to mention locusts everywhere one stepped. It must have been a terrible thing to experience.

Over the next several years the family continued to grow. Sophia was born in 1877, Thomas Carroll was born in 1880, and their last child, Samuel Bunn, was born on 27 February 1883. Tragedy struck the family later that year when Thomas died on 30 December 1883. He was thirty-nine. Mollie was a widow at twenty-nine with five children under the age of eleven.

To the rescue came James Ferguson. James was the brother of Thomas Bunn and uncle to Mollie’s children. She is shown living with him and the children in the 1885 Kansas census. The older children were attending school, she was keeping house, and James was farming. James most likely played a huge role in helping Mollie raise the children and keeping her farm afloat. He was single and would remain so throughout his life. He had land of his own and when he died in 1920 the bulk of his estate went to Mollie’s children.

Unfortunately, the 1890 U.S. census was destroyed so we have no idea of Mollie’s situation between 1885 and 1895. However, by 1895 the family is still in Kansas, the boys are older and are helping forty-year-old Mollie with the farm. Sophia is helping with the housework. Adeline has married and left home. Mollie has several parcels of land in Vernon County which she bought and sold during this time period. Walter, Tom, and Samuel are still helping Mollie with the farming in 1900. Sophia has married and left home.

Baker, Mary E.

Mollie Later in Life

All good things must come to an end, unfortunately. Each of the boys married between 1901 and 1906. Most likely they wanted to start families of their own and set their own course in life. Mollie never remarried and like most widows of that time, they often wound up living with their children. This is born out by records from 1910 in Sedalia, Missouri that show Mollie living with Thomas, Lola and their children, Mildred, Clyde, and Dorothy. She is still living with Thomas’ family in Webster Groves, Missouri in 1920. Two more children, Russel, and Mary have been born.

According to her death certificate, Mollie moved to Grass Valley, Nevada County, California about 1930 to live with her son Walter and his wife Hattie. Hattie died in 1931. She and Walter had no children so life was probably much calmer for Mollie who was seventy-five. When the 1940 census was taken in March, Mollie was living with Walter, and her widowed daughter, Rebecca Clary. Also living in the area was her daughter Sophia Emmerson.

Baker, Mary E. Death Certificate

Mollie’s Death Certificate

On the 21st of May, 1940, the life of this tough, courageous pioneer woman ended from a cerebral hemorrhage. She was eighty-five years of age. She had seen her father die at the age of nine, endured the trials and tribulations caused by the factious sides of Kansas and Missouri during the Civil War, lost her husband at the age of twenty-nine, and had somehow managed to raise five healthy children who went on to lead successful lives.

Baker, Mary E. HeadstoneMollie’s funeral was held on the 24th of May at the W. R. Jefford and Son Chapel in Grass Valley, California. She is buried in East Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Sacramento, California.

My husband’s Baker Line:

Augustus Baker m. Rebecca Pryor
Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” Baker m. Thomas Carrol Ferguson
Thomas Carrol Ferguson m. Lola Devin Pope
Russel Ferguson m. Mary Eizabeth Parry


¹Patrick Brophy, Three Hundred Years, Historical Highlights of Nevada and Vernon
County Missouri (Boulder, Colorado). Donna G. Logan, DGL Info Write, 1993), p. 198.

²Locust, in the Public Domain from

Thomas Bunn Ferguson…Orphan

Ferguson, Thomas Bunn Children #2

Thomas Bunn’s wife Mollie (left) and children Thomas Carrol, Rebecca Adeline, and Sophia Ferguson.

There were three orphans…so goes the Ferguson family lore. The Fergusons came from North Carolina. The story between North Carolina and Missouri was lost. When family members became interested in the genealogy of the family, Grandma Ferguson, Lola, was in her eighties. She knew that Thomas Bunn Ferguson was one of the three orphaned children and their parents had come from North Carolina. Thomas Bunn was the father of her husband, Thomas Carrol Ferguson. It was assumed that the family lived in Fort Scott, Kansas but that led to a dead end.

Fast forward to today and we know that Thomas Bunn Ferguson was born on 28 February 1844 in Cass County, Missouri to Russel Ferguson and Sarah [Miller] Ferguson. Thomas was one of four children. Jackson (Jack) was born in 1842, Martha was born in 1847, and James C. was born in 1851. The family lived in Cass County, close to other Ferguson relatives who lived in Johnson County. The Ferguson clan had migrated from Tennessee to that area as early as 1821.

After the death of their parents in 1854, the three orphans were scattered among their Miller relatives in Vernon County about eighty miles south of Cass County. It’s interesting that none of them went to live with their Ferguson relatives that were close by. They lived with their Uncle Jacob Miller for a year as evidenced by a receipt turned in to the probate court for their upkeep. After that James went to live with his aunt, Margaret and uncle, William Miller. Martha went to live with her aunt, Elizabeth [Miller], and uncle, Jackson Beard. Thomas went to live with his uncle, Jacob Miller who was also the executor of Russel’s estate.

James and Martha were still living with their aunts and uncles when the 1860 census was taken, but Thomas was nowhere to be found. Then, in 1870, he is found living in Richland Township, Vernon County, Missouri with the Shackelford family. Rebecca was the widow of Augustus Baker and had married Samuel Shackelford after Augustus was killed by Bushwackers in 1863. Rebecca was the mother of Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Baker.  Thomas was working as a farm hand for the Shackelfords. In the fall of that year, Mollie became the wife of Thomas on 23 October 1870. He was twenty-six and she was sixteen.

When Rebecca’s daughters married she deeded to them a part of the land homesteaded by their father, Augustus Baker. Thomas and Mollie lived in a log house on her portion of the land. This is in section thirty-one in Richland Township in Missouri. The land abutted the border between Missouri and Kansas. Mollie owned this land well into the 1900s. Many in Vernon County knew this land as the “Old Ferguson Farm.” According to Grandma Ferguson, it is on this land where the family lived the entire time the children were growing up.

Platbook Vernon County, 1903

From the State Historical Society of Missouri, Vernon County Plat Map, Page 26

However, the Ferguson’s also owned one-hundred and sixty acres in section fourteen located in Scott Township, Bourbon County, Kansas across the state line. Records show that the Fergusons sold a portion of their land in Missouri to J. H. Densmore on 28 March 1874. According to census record of 1875 and thereafter, the family lived in Scott Township in Kansas.

Within ten years, three lively children were born. Their first child, Rebecca Adeline was born in 1872. Walter Augustus followed in 1875, and Sophia in 1877. At the time of the 1880 census, taken on 3 June 1880, Thomas was listed as having the mumps. Hopefully he was over the mumps as a little more than one month later Thomas Carrol was born. The final child, Samuel Bunn, was born in 1883.

The family has often wondered where the middle name Bunn came from. There were no Bunn’s enumerated in any of the census records for Vernon County in Missouri or Bourbon County in Kansas. There was, however, a Bunn family who lived close to the Ferguson family in Cass County where Thomas’ mother and father lived. Perhaps this Bunn family was somehow related to Sarah’s Miller family. Perhaps more research can help to identify the connection between the Bunn’s and Ferguson’s.

Ferguson, Thomas B. Headstone

Grave Marker for Thomas B. Ferguson

Thomas Bunn Ferguson died on 30 December 1883 at the age of thirty-nine. Mollie was left a widow with a nine-month old baby and four children ranging in ages from three to eleven years old. My husband’s grandfather, Thomas Carrol, was three at the time. It’s safe to say that he remembered very little of his father. While the children weren’t orphans, they did lose their father at a young age like their father Thomas did.

Mollie continued to live on the farm in Kansas with her growing children. It is here that Thomas Carroll Ferguson and Lola Pope grew up in close proximity of each other which would eventually lead to their marriage. Thomas Bunn Ferguson is buried in the Coleman Cemetery in Richards, Vernon County next to his grandson Glenny, son of Thomas Carrol.


My husband’s Ferguson line:

Moses Ferguson m. Elizabeth Cox

Russel Ferguson m. Sarah Miller

Thomas Bunn Ferguson m. Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Baker

Thomas Carrol Ferguson m. Lola Pope

Russel Carrol Ferguson m. Mary Elizabeth Parry

Lost to the Civil War: James Madison Pope and Zachariah Pope

Memorial Day is the day of remembrance. Remembrance of family members lost to war. At the end of 1862, the Pope family of Macon County, Illinois lost two of their beloved sons. The patriarch of the family, Dempsey Pope, died in 1853 and thus was spared the heartache of losing two sons. Left were the widows: Sarah Edwards Pope, the mother of the two boys; Louisa Taylor Pope, the wife of James Madison Pope; and Emily Nisewaner Pope, the wife of Zachariah Pope.

James and Zachariah enlisted in Co. E., 115th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Union Army on 13 August 1862. Zachariah was mustered into service as a private on 30 September 1862 at Camp Butler in Springfield, Illinois. James was mustered into service as a sergeant on 13 September 1882.

Pope, Zachariah Picture_2

Zachariah Pope

The first to die was Zachariah Pope. He died on 11 November 1862 of typhoid fever. He died in a hospital in Lexington, Fayette County, Illinois. He was thirty-two years old and the father of five children. He is buried in the Pope Cemetery in Blue Mound, Macon County, Illinois.

Next to die was James Pope. He died on 31 Dec 1862 in a regimental hospital in Danville, Kentucky. Conflicting documents show he died of measles or cardiac obstruction. He was thirty-eight and the father of eight children. He is buried in Halls Cemetery, also known as Waltz Cemetery, in Blue Mound.

Pope, James Madison

Headstone James M. Pope

Neither saw battle instead dying of disease. It is estimated that 620,000 people died in the Civil War. “For every three soldiers killed in battle, five more died of disease.”¹ They missed the carnage of war but sadly gave their lives for a cause for which they never saw the conclusion.

Please take a moment to remember all who gave their lives for our country as we remember my husband’s great-great grandfather, James Madison Pope, and his great-great uncle, Zachariah Pope today, on this day of remembrance.


This is my husband’s Pope family line:

James Madison Pope, great-grandfather
William David Pope, great-grandfather
Lola Devin Pope, grandmother
Russell C. Ferguson, father

¹From the Civil War Trust,

Remembering Vernon Everett Lane on Memorial Day

It all started with Decoration Day. On May 5, 1868 Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared May 30th as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers.¹  At the first remembrance, at Arlington National Cemetery, small flags were placed upon the graves of the fallen. Over the years the day has morphed into Memorial Day, a national holiday, and has expanded to include all who died in American wars.

Today is Memorial Day and a good time to reflect on the holiday. As time goes by more and more of our World War II veterans have passed away. All of my mother’s brothers who served have been gone for several years, as have the relatives of my husband who served in the war. These families were lucky; all of their loved ones returned. Perhaps with mental scars, but at least they returned with bodies intact.

Lane, Vernon, Navy

Vernon Everett Lane

My Uncle Vernon was not so lucky. He lost his life in the Pacific Ocean. I wrote about Vernon in a previous blog. I knew Vernon had two sons, Bill and Dick. Several years ago Bill surprised me when he came to my mother’s funeral. I had never met him and I was extremely touched by his attendance. He gave me his phone number and I promised to call him. Family responsibilities and a demanding job got in the way and I never contacted him. Prior to Christmas 2015, when I was addressing Christmas cards, I came upon Bill’s phone number and decided to call him. This phone number had been sitting in my address book for fourteen years. Against all odds, Bill still had the same phone number. We met again and this time he brought his genealogist brother Dick with him. It was a great reunion talking about his father and our Lane family. At a subsequent meeting, Dick brought along the medical records from my Uncle Vernon which told the rest of the story.

Uncle Vernon was red-haired, brown-eyed, and twenty-five when he was inducted into the Navy as an apprentice seaman on April 7, 1944. He was five feet, six inches tall and weighed one hundred and forty-one pounds. He was employed as a primer assembly machine adjuster by a company in St. Louis that manufactured small arms. Within a week of induction, Vernon was sent to the U.S. National Training Station in Farragut, Idaho to receive training.

During World War II, the U.S. government didn’t mess around. By mid-July Vernon was transferred to the U.S. Naval Receiving station in Adak, Alaska and on July 22, 1944 he joined the USS Kimberly. On March 1, 1945 he was promoted from Navy Seaman to Seaman 2nd class.

Vernon was good at writing letters to his loved ones at home. Several of his letters to my grandmother, Ruberta, were found in her purse after her death (see Maw’s Purse). After reading these letters I wondered if Vernon had a feeling that he wouldn’t survive the war because he always reassured my grandmother that he would be alright. Or perhaps, because my grandmother had lost her husband William Everett Lane in 1939, her anxiety came through in her letters to Vernon and he was trying to help ease her fears.

During the last week of March 1945, the U.S.S. Kimberly was taking part of “Operation Iceberg.” The purpose was to take Kerama Retto, an island about twenty miles from Okinawa. The U.S. Navy wanted to establish a naval seaplane base and sheltered anchorage prior to the invasion of Okinawa. On March 26th, the U.S.S. Kimberly was proceeding to her picket station off Kerama Retto.²

Operation_Iceberg_-_Kerama_Retto_-_1945The navy had surprised the Japanese but they were able to send out two Japanese D3A airplanes used as carrier-based bombers and dive-bombers, in other words Kamikaze. The Kimberly’s lookouts saw the planes and opened fire turning the planes away. The planes veered off but then headed toward the USS Kimberly again.³ You can imagine the noise and the sound as the guns blasted away at the approaching planes. Eventually one of the planes went out of control and fell vertically on the ship. From accounts of the intensity of the explosion, it was indicated that there was a bomb onboard the plane.

Call it bad luck, or just doing his job, Vernon was in the area of the explosion. From the medical records we know that he received burns to his face, neck, arms, chest, and legs suffering 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 75% of his body. Within four hours he was transferred to the USS Rixey, a casualty evacuation transport ship. His care was crude compared to the care burn victims receive today, but the best he could receive at the time. He must have been in terrible pain and hopefully the morphine he was given helped to alleviate that pain. For four days he was in shock, was restless and irrational, and had an increasing temperature. Despite the effort of the naval doctors, Vernon lost his battle at 8:38 am on March 30th. He was buried at sea at latitude 26° 14’ North, Longitude 127° 11’ East at 4:30 that afternoon. A headstone at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis County commemorates his death. Records indicate fifty-seven men were seriously wounded, four died from that attack, and Vernon was one of them.

Lane, Vernon E, Western Union Telegraph

A sad day when this telegram arrived.

A letter from the ship Chaplain, Lindley E. Cook, was sent to Vernon’s wife Evelyn the day he died. The chaplain reported he didn’t suffer too much because he was unconscious most of the time. He kept repeating her name. Who knows how long it took for Evelyn to receive the word. My grandma learned of Vernon’s death via a telegram advising her Vernon had died and was buried at sea with full military honors. Evelyn later received a letter from the Secretary of Navy authorizing the Purple Heart to be posthumously awarded to Vernon.

On 3 May, 1945, an article in The Sikeston (Mo.) Herald listed Vernon as one of the fourteen men from the southeast Missouri area that were killed in combat. I can’t imagine the heart-break again that Evelyn and my grandmother must have gone through if they saw the name of their loved one in the newspaper. Somehow that would make it all too final.

According to Wikipedia over 291,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat during World War II. Bill and Dick’s dad, and my Uncle, was one of those 291,000 people. So while you enjoy your time-off, please remember those who gave their lives to free the world of tyranny so many years ago. ⁴

¹ Memorial Day History. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, : accessed 24 May 2017.

² Picture – By Beans, Bullets and Black Oil by Admiral Worrall Reed Carter, USN – HyperWar, Public Domain,

³ Excerpted from USS Kimberly, (DD-521), Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia ,

⁴ Excerpted from World War II casualties, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, : accessed 24 May 2017.

Turtle Cookies


Turtle Cookies, Forground

Cookies are a mainstay of Christmas. We bake them for family and share with neighbors and friends. We leave a plate of delicious cookies for Santa to nibble on as he fills stockings and places presents under our tree. The aroma of baking cookies fills our home and elicits memories of Christmases past.

We are a melting pot of ethnic groups that have brought their customs and favorite recipes to our country including their cookie recipes. When I was a child my mother baked the usual chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies. But her favorites to make were turtle cookies. These maple flavored treats with pecans and chocolate icing were made in the shape of turtles. Years ago I made these cookies and decided that they were too troublesome to make. Being a good wife my sister-in-law makes these cookies for my brother every year. A recent conversation with her inspired me to try my hand at making the turtle cookies again. Success!! They turned out as I remembered them.

I have often wondered where this cookie recipe came from. Through the years I have become more proficient in the art of baking and every year try a new cookie recipe. I buy magazines with cookie recipes, save the food section of local newspapers whenever they feature cookies, and have a cook book with one thousand cookie recipes. I have never come across the recipe for turtle cookies in any of these resources.

My maternal great-grandfather came from Switzerland. Could this recipe be Swiss? The recipe is listed below in hopes that someone out there can help me.  Have you ever seen this recipe? Are turtle cookies part of your heritage? If so please let me know. If not, give them a try. They are yummy!

TURTLE COOKIES (Makes about two dozen)

 ½ cup of butter (one stick)

½ cup brown sugar

1 egg yolk (save the whites)

¼ tsp. vanilla

¼ tsp. maple extract

1 ½ cups sifted flour (you really need to sift the flour)

¼ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven at 350°. Grease cookie sheets.

Cream butter and add brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, vanilla, and maple extract. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together. Gradually add to the butter mixture. Chill dough for one hour. To form the turtles use one pecan for the head and two pecans for the legs. Roll dough into small balls using a teaspoon or small scoop. Lightly beat egg whites. Dip each ball into the egg whites and place on the pecans shaping the ball like a turtle. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely and ice with your favorite chocolate icing.