William Jefferson Williams…Not Your Average Man

Williams, William J, and Stubblefield, Rebecca A.

William Jefferson Williams and Elizabeth (Stubblefield) Williams

People could say that William Jefferson Williams was a scalawag, litigious, and complex man. Yet he was hardworking and a family man. William Jefferson Williams left a large footprint on this earth and there are many, many records to prove this.

Jeff Williams, as he was sometimes called and the name used in this bio, was born 12 December 1818 in the area where Franklin County, Tennessee is today. He was born to Philip Williams and Catherine (Miller) Williams. Philip had volunteered for the first Seminole War and arrived home in time for the birth of his third son, Jeff. They lived in a time when settlers continued to move into Indian lands creating a constant threat to the settlers. The Seminole Wars were the result of the West Florida boundary dispute the United States had with Spain. The U.S. also accused Spain of harboring run-away-slaves and not restraining the Indians in West Florida from raiding the U.S. In the 1830s men still talked about the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The Second Seminole War (1835-42) resulted from efforts to move the Seminoles to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).¹

In 1837, U.S. leaders put out a call for volunteers to help with the cause. Jeff and his brothers were at an age when the idea of military action was exciting. In October of 1837, Jeff Williams, along with his brothers Hardy and Jacob Marion, enlisted to fight in Captain Snodgrass’s Company I, North Alabama Mounted Volunteers, from Jackson County, Alabama and commanded by Company Commander A. J. Jacobway. There was such a tremendous response to the call for action that more volunteers than needed signed up. Recruits guarded areas already under control because so many signed up for duty, including the volunteers from Captain Snodgrass’s mounted Alabama volunteers. Enlisted regular troops did the actual fighting as recruits were generally undisciplined. Most likely disappointed at their inaction, the brothers sought a discharge from the Mounted Volunteers at Fort Mitchell, Georgia after serving seven months of volunteer duty.²

Williams, William J, Land Patent, No. 6674, 9 Jan 1854_Page_1

Land Grant Given to Jeff Williams for his Service in the Second Seminole War

The Williams family land lay in the rolling foothills of the Sequatchie Mountains. To the east, in the distance, the grey silhouette of the mountains could be seen. It was in these rolling hills that Jeff asked Elizabeth Stubblefield to marry him.

Williams, William J, to Stubblefield, Elizabeth, Marriage Record, 2

Jeff and Elizabeth’s Marriage Record

They married on 1 June 1838.³ He was nineteen and she was fifteen. Shortly thereafter Elizabeth became pregnant with their first child Catherine.

Another life-altering event occurred that changed their lives forever. Jeff and Elizabeth decided to travel west to Missouri with friends and family members. Saying goodbye to loved ones, maybe never to see them again, was extremely hard as would the difficult trip traveling by wagon train five hundred and twenty-five miles to their destination. For Elizabeth, it would have been even harder as she was pregnant. Catherine was born on 23 June 1839 in Gasconade County, Missouri. The birth of her brother Henry followed a year later on 5 June 1840. The year 1842 brought good and bad news; the good news is their third son John was born. But sadly they received communication that Jeff’s father Philip had died.

Through the years Jeff Williams was in and out of court. Several times he was the plaintiff, meaning he was suing someone for a grievance. And many times he was on the receiving end of the complaint as the defendant. James Page sued him in 1843 for causes unknown. This case lasted for more than two years and ended when both sides agreed to dismiss the case and pay for their own court costs.

Who knows what was going on in Jeff’s mind when he assaulted John Owens in May of 1846? The grand jury of Osage County was impaneled on 5 May 1846 and found that there was sufficient cause to charge Jeff with felonious assault. In those days court proceedings took place every quarter which caused legal proceedings to last over a period of time. Jeff’s case went to trial on 13 Apr 1847 and over the course of several years, the truth about the assault was revealed. Jeff had assaulted John Owens with a stick three feet long, two inches in diameter, and weighing four pounds. He hit Owens on the head, back, arms, and shoulders leaving cuts and bruises. This trial ended in 1842 when Jeff was found guilty of the assault and ordered to pay a fine of one hundred dollars and spend three months in jail.

Two more children, Nathaniel and Cynthia were born to the couple in 1848 and 1849 respectively. The 1850 agricultural census showed that Jeff owned 20 acres of land. Many families the size of the Williams family had more land to sustain their needs. He owned two horses, one mule, seven cows, five sheep, and thirty hogs. And he raised Indian corn and Irish potatoes. The sheep provided six pounds of wool and the cows provided one hundred pounds of butter. The sale of products and livestock was probably enough to feed the family well and evidently there was enough of an excess over the years to allow Jeff to buy forty more acres of land in 1851.

Before his assault trial ended, Jeff Williams was also called into court by Hugh Wilson in 1851. Wilson testified that on or about 3 May 1850, Jeff Williams sold him his claim on the government of the United States that he received for his service as a volunteer in Captain Augustus Rainey’s company which was mustered in the services of the United States in 1846. The court record indicated that Jeff Williams had volunteered for Captain Rainey’s Company, Third Missouri Volunteers, enrolled in Van Buren, Missouri, and mustered in at Fort Leavenworth. Over the course of two years, testimony was taken and the case was dismissed on 25 April 1853. However, Jeff Williams was ordered to pay the court costs.

Williams, William J, Osage County Historical Society, Loose Files, File 156, Doc. 19 (3) - Copy

Indictment for Running His Horse Through Linn, MO

And while all of this was going on in his life, perhaps to let off steam, Jeff Williams ran his horse through the town of Linn, Missouri on 26 October 1852. The State of Missouri charged him for “wrongfully and unlawfully running his horse upon a public road and highway so as to interrupt traveling therein, and to put to fright the horses and other animals, by them rode or driven.” Jeff threw himself upon the mercy of the court and pleaded guilty. His court fine was $5.00 and he was remanded to the custody of the sheriff until the fine was paid.

Despite all the drama in his life, Jeff continued to farm. The year 1854 produced a flurry of buying and selling of land ending with Jeff owning about one hundred and sixty-two acres. That year Benjamin Franklin was born to the couple.

On 9 November 1855, Jeff Williams attended a get-together at the home belonging to James Owens for the purpose of moving rails. The rails were on land next to the Owens home. This land had been cleared by the Owens family but claimed by Runge [first name unknown] and Charles Kuhagen. Jeff’s simple act of charity would ensnare him in a burglary and assault trial that would last two years and provide hundreds of pages of testimony from people who were involved.

The day began when a group of men and women arrived in order to help move rails. The idea was abandoned and the group began drinking. Fred Crider produced a fiddle and dancing commenced. While everyone was dancing a fight took place that involved several men who were accused of assaulting Helmuth Gens, Charles Kuhagen, and Runge. Apparently, the Owens family had cleared a parcel of land and before they went to the courthouse to file a claim on the land Kuhagen and Runge made the claim on the land. This created a great deal of resentment toward these men, and Helmuth Gens, Kuhagen’s brother-in-law.

Williams, William J, Osage County Circuit Court, Book B, Page 234 - Copy_Page_1

The Jury Found Fred Crider and Jeff Williams Not Guilty

During the trial, Helmuth Gens testified that on the 9th of November Jesse Owens, Lansford Shockley, Jonathan Stubblefield, Nathaniel Stubblefield, Frederick Crider, Jeff Williams, James Owens, John Griffith, and others had broken into and entered his home. The group of men was armed with sticks, clubs, knives, guns, axes, and an iron wedge. Runge and Kuhagen were accosted and received cuts and bruises. One of the men had drawn up a note payable to James Owens for one hundred dollars and forced Gens to sign it. It was this action that caused Helmuth Gens to go to the authorities which resulted in all of the charges being issues. Finally, at the end of 1857, the case ended with Jeff Williams and others being acquitted of the charges against them. Nathaniel Stubblefield and Jesse Owens were found guilty of assault.

In the middle of the trial, in November 1856, Robert was born. Two years later in 1858, Martha their last child was born. Over nineteen years, Elizabeth would bear eleven children and lose two of them, Charles and Robert.

Two years later, Jeff was ensnared in another court case with William Haley. On 10 December 1859, the constable of Osage County was ordered to serve a writ to William Haley in a judgment obtained by William Campbell. The writ was executed on 6 January 1860 by then deputy constable, Jeff Williams. When the writ was presented to him, Haley stated he would pay Campbell but would not pay Jeff Williams a commission for his part in serving the writ. In those days much of the legal administrative costs were paid by fees assessed for carrying out legal activities. When Haley refused to pay Jeff, Jeff seized a dark brown horse belonging to Haley and sold the horse. That was when Haley took him to court. A jury found Jeff not guilty and assessed Haley $59.90 in court costs over and above what he owed Campbell and Jeff. In 1873 Jeff took William Haley to court. It appears that Haley had not paid what he owed Jeff. The prosecuting attorney refused to take up the case and referred Jeff to the State of Missouri legal system if he wanted to recoup his money. No further documents were found in the case.

The Civil War was well underway when the following decree was issued by Lt. Col. Williams of A Company, 28th Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia on 9 August 1862:
“All the Enrolled Militia (E.M.M.) within this Sub-District (composed of the counties of Cole, Osage, Miller north of the Osage River and Maries west of the Gasconade River) are hereby summoned and called into active service and will assemble without delay in Jefferson City. The militia duly enrolled and not yet organized into companies will immediately upon their arrival at this post be organized into companies of not less than sixty-seven nor more than one hundred men. Parts of companies will be consolidated. The militia when organized into companies will be subsisted, their horses foraged, and transportation taken when needed from Rebels of all shades and Union men when necessary giving the latter receipts for what is taken which will be claimed against the State of Missouri. All who do not now enroll and organize for the defense of the State will be regarded and treated as traitors and hereafter can claim no protection from the Federal Government.”⁴

Jeff enlisted as the captain of Company C. On 29 August the company was called into service. The primary responsibility of the E.M.M. during the Civil War was to guard railroad bridges and other strategic resources to aid the war effort. Jeff’s company was called to action several times including 30 September 1862 when he was ordered to “concentrate all your available force at St. Aubert Station P. R. R. immediately. Let each man take three days rations.”⁵

Next year, in 1863, Jeff was captain of Company A of the 9th Provisional Regiment. His son Henry was the bugler of the Company. They were enrolled and called into service on 17 March and discharged on 31 December. Both were allowed to return to their homes, continue farming, and take part in the lives of their spouse and children for the remainder of the war. In 1864, Jeff’s oldest daughter Catherine and her husband Fred Crider sold their land to Jeff and moved to Texas.

The Civil War did not diminish Jeff’s financial stability. In 1870 the agriculture census showed him owning 150 acres of improved land and 183 acres of unimproved land. He owned seven horses, twelve mules, seven cows, two oxen, thirty sheep, and four hogs. He was growing winter wheat, Indian corn, oats, peas, beans, and Irish potatoes. From the sheep, twenty-four pounds of wool were produced and the cows produced eighty pounds of butter. Fifty gallons of molasses were also produced. No doubt it took every member of the family who could help, along with hired help, to keep this farm going. Unfortunately, their son Charles was sickly and died at the age of twenty the next year on 30 June 1871. He is buried next to Jeff in Francis Cemetery.

In 1880 all of Jeff’s children had left home with the exception of his son William and William’s wife Sephronia. The 1880 agricultural census showed William as owning the land. The number of acres of land they owned had decreased by eighty-three. They still owned horses, mules, cows, and hogs added chickens and got rid of their oxen and sheep. They grew Indian corn, oats, wheat, Sorghum, and Irish potatoes. And some lands were set aside for an apple orchard. The family made extra money through the sale of cattle and wood they cut from their timber. Life appeared to be good.

Williams, William J, Headstone Picture 2

William Jefferson Williams’ Headstone

Jeff Williams committed suicide on 11 December 1885. What had changed between 1880, when it appeared that he was doing well financially, and 1885 when he took his life? Most likely the recession that occurred in the U.S. between 1882 and 1885 caused his financial well-being to decline. And the final settlement for his estate bears that out. At the time of the final settlement, after the sale of items in his estate and outstanding bills were accounted the estate was in the arrears of $73.66 leaving Elizabeth with no money.

Family lore says he took his life because he was upset that he couldn’t buy his grandsons the hats that they wanted. The truth is he was in desperate financial trouble.

Jeff Williams is buried in Francis Cemetery in Osage County. His sons Henry, Charles, and Robert are buried near-by. It is unknown where Elizabeth is buried.

Jeff Williams led an interesting life having volunteered for military service in the Seminole War, the Mexican War, and the Civil War. He traveled from Tennessee to Missouri and saw things many of his generation never saw. He used the court system to his advantage and sometimes that worked against him. He was a rabble-rouser yet appeared to be a man of principle and hard-work. It’s a shame he ended his life in a tragic way, at his own hands. No doubt he is one of our family’s most fascinating characters.


¹https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminole_Wars

²Dan’s World, Williams (http://drw.50webs.com/will.html : accessed 1 Sep 2014), Philip Williams Family History

³2013; Ancestry.com, Tennessee, State Marriages, 1780-2002 (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 27 Oct 2013); William J. Williams to Elizabeth A. Stubblefield

⁴Records of Events 28th Enrolled Militia of Osage County, Missouri, http://www.osagecounty.org/civilwar/emm/28emm.html

⁵Ibid.

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.

Receipt

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)

 

Sources

¹From the website, http://www.history.com/topics/missouri-compromise
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, http://www.geocities.com/CollegePrk/Quad/6460/CW/WMM/WMMhist.html. (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 pixabay.com

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

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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 pixabay.com