[From The History of Monroe and Shelby Counties of Missouri 1884]

During the months of January, February and March, 1861, there was great interest manifested in public affairs by the people of the county. The prospect of war was fully discussed and many prepared for it. In  February and March, numerous secret meetings were held in the county by both Union men and secessionists. Every man's politics were known [or were thought to be] by every other man and invitations were sent out to attend these meetings only to those who were known to be "sound". Each side knew that the other side was meeting secretly and yet there was no attempt at interference.

The day after the firing on Ft. Sumpter, there was a public meeting at Hunnewell. Both sides were represented at this meeting, the sucessionists by G. Watts Hillias and the unionists by Samuel B. Hardy, Esq. of Jackson Township.

In May the secessionists met at Shelbyville for the purpose of raising a secession flag and listening to speeches from certain orators. The flag was prepared by the secession ladies of Shelbyville and was identical with that of the Confederate States.

Active promoters of the meeting were J.M. Ennis, J.B. Marmaduke, Hon. John McAfee, G.Watts Hillias and John Dickerson.

About this time a secession flag was raised near the northwest corner of the county in William Baker's dooryard. Mr. Baker then lived where the present post office called Cherry Box now is, two miles from the Knox County line. [NW Section 15 Township 5 Range 12.]

The Union men began to stir themselves. In the eastern part of the county, near Miller's Mill, they effected something like an organization and at Shelbyville Ben McCoy, a jeweler, had a company of men which he was drilling occasionally.

In the early summer of 1861 some of the prominent Union men of the county were:  Alexander McMurtry, John F. Benjamin, Matt Freeman, Joseph H. Forman, Solomon Miller, Robert Eaton, Samuel B. Hardy and Daniel Taylor. Some of the secessionists were: John McAfee, Al. McAfee, J.M. Ennis, John Jacobs, J.B. Marmaduke, John R. Gatewood, Russell W. Moss, John Dickerson and William H. Rollins.

In the latter part of July 1861, a Union meeting was held at Miller's Mill, in Tiger Fork Township, six miles east of Shelbyville. On this occasion a company of Union Home Guards was organized. It numbered 72 men and was officered by: Captain, Joseph Forman; Lieutenants, Robert Eaton and Solomon Miller; Orderly Sergeants Oliver Whitney and George Lear. It served as infantry and being an independent company, was called the Shelby County Home Guards.

The Gamble Oath

The Missouri Convention having appointed Hamilton R. Gamble, Willard P. Hall and Mordicai Oliver and reconstructed the State government, it was decreed by that body that it was the duty of all civil officers in the State to take an oath to support the provisional government. The county officials were: Representative John McAfee; John F. Benjamin, county attorney; John Dickerson, sheriff and collector; deputy sheriff James L. West; treasurer C.K. Cotton; R.A. Moffett public administrator; C.B. Johnson school commissioner; M.J. Priest, assessor; justices of the county court, James S. Pickett, Perry B. Moore and Daniel Taylor. Of these officials Mr. Dickerson, West, Priest, Johnson, Moore and Pickett refused to take the "Gamble Oath". The others took the oath and retained their places. About Christmas Day 1861, the county judges attempted to hold a court at Shelbyville without first taking the Gamble Oath. Captain Thomas G. Black was sent to prevent this. He arrested Sheriff Dickerson, James B. Marmaduke, J.M. Ennis, Dr. Coons, Rev. J.P. Noland and Charles Dines and then went to Newark and on the way took Thomas Garrison. All the prisoners were charged with disloyalty. They were taken to Palmyra, then the headquarters of Glover's regiment and after an imprisonment of seven days were released on taking the Gamble Oath.

After the battle of Kirksville, when the Federals were looking over their prisoners, it was discovered that among them were some who had previously taken the oath of allegiance to the Provisional Government of Missouri and were at large on parole and under bond. Some of them had been arrested by the Federals and had been paroled two or three times not to take up arms against the authority of the United States.

When the enrolling order of Schofield and Gamble came out, they cast away their paroles, spat on their bonds and caught up their shot-guns.  Thursday, the next day after the battle, quite a number of "oath breake", as they were called, were tried by a Federal drum head court martial, convened by McNeil......and 15 of them were convicted of violations of their paroles and sentenced to be shot.....Of the Shelby County victims all lived in the southwestern part of the County. James Christian, three miles east of Clarence, aged between 30 and 40; David and Jesse Wood were young men living west of Shelbina; Bennett Hayden lived near the present site of Lentner Station, aged 30. All were married but David Wood and all had been arrested and released on parole and bond. It was reported that Thomas Stone of Shelby County was shot at the same time.

On September 26, 1862, General Lewis Merrill shot ten prisoners at Macon City for violations of their paroles. Two of them were from Shelby County. They were Frank E. Drake and Edward Riggs. James Gentry had been sentenced but a night or so previous to the day set for his execution he escaped and got safely away. Frank E. Drake lived in the northwestern portion of the county. This became known as the Palmyra Massacre.


On Wednesday, April 2, 1862, Col. H.S. Lipscomb, of the Eleventh M.S.M. and a Capt. Wilmot, with an escort of 13 men of the same regiment, in charge of a wagon load of supplies, started from Shelbina to Shelbyville. Taking the road via Walkersville, on Salt River, about a mile below that little hamlet, Tom Stacy, with 16 of his band,bushwhacked the party, killing two militiamen, named ________Long and Thomas Herbst and a prominent and worthy citizen of the county, named Lilburn Hale.  The latter gentleman lived about three miles southeast of Shelbyville. That morning he had gone to Shelbina to mail a letter to his son, J.C. Hale, then in Pike County......Returning on horseback, he was overtaken by the military a quarter of a mile from the scene of the shooting, and was riding along with Col. Lipscomb when the murderous volley was fired. Long and Herbst were residents of the county, also, and both left families. In a short time Col. Lipscomb and some others of the escort came into Shelbyville and gave the alarm. There was the greatest indignation amount the militiamen and the Union citizens. Mr. Hale was generally respected and his murder incensed the people as much as the killing of the soldiers. The members of the party which shot them were hunted down. Killed in retaliation were: William Carnehan and James Bradley both citizens of Shelby County. Bill Carnehan lived at Walkersville and left a wife and children. Bradley lived in the northwestern part of the county.


Some time during the campaign against Porter the houses of certain Confederates in Shelby were burned by order of the military authorities, Gens. McNeil and Merrill. Old Robert Joiner, living several miles north-west of Shelbyville, in the edge of Tiger Fork Township, was accused of "keeping a rendezvous for guerrillas and murdering bushwhackers." Lieut. Wm. J. Holliday, of Co. I, Second Missouri State Militia, was sent out with a detail to burn Joiner's house, about September 5. The old pioneer carried out his orders, but he shed tears while doing so. When the house was in flames and the family were huddled about their household goods, which were piled out of doors before the torch was applied, the old man cried like a child, exclaiming, "O this war, This war!" He said to Mr. Joiner: "Take your family and go to my house and stay there as long as you please; you will be more than welcome."

Dinner was cooking when the burning party arrived. The orders were, You have half an hour to get out your things." The soldiers assisted the family in removing everything to a place of safety. There was but one man about the premises, a Mr. Cochrane, a son-in-law of Joiner's who made his home there. His wife was very ill and was borne out of doors on the lounge whereon she was lying. Harry Latimer's wife, a daughter of Joiner's was then living at her father's with her children, while her husband was out with Porter. A few days later he was captured and executed. Mr. Joiner himself was a prisoner in Shelbyville at the time.  His three sons were in the Confederate service.

Not only was Joiner's house burned, but his barn and all the outbuildings. A new sled was drawn out of the barn before the building was fired. When the fire had swept away everything the family found homes among their neighbors. Not long afterward Mr. Joiner was released on oath and bond, and returned to his family. But he had contracted a severe cold in prison and his health and spirits were broken. The next spring he died. Both Joiner and Holliday were old pioneers together and among the very first settlers. But the war made enemies everywhere and among all classes.  Capt. A.G. Priest, of Co. I, was sent to Jefferson Township to burn some house down there-"bushwhackers' nests" the militia called them. The dwellings of Carter Baker and John Maupin, below Clarence, were burned.  Carter Baker had been wounded in one of the skirmishes of Porter's raid and was lying on a bed stiff and sore when he was borne on his couch into the yard, with his "lares and penates." He cursed at the harsh policy of burning the houses of wounded men and swore at the Federals generally.  "Hush, said Capt. Priests, impressively, "you may be thankful that your life is spared.  There are men here who would kill you gladly and throw your body into the fire while your house is burning and I can hardly restrain them."


At Bragg's school house Col. Porter again disbanded his forces and it was "every man for himself and McNeil will take the hindmost." Some went east, some went south, some went west. Porter, with a considerable company, started for Lewis county. A number of horses, one of which had a U.S. saddle and accoutrements, and twenty shot-guns and muskets were abandoned and fell into the hands of the enemy. Six Confederates were killed and a number wounded during the retreat from Whaley's Mill and quite a lot of prisoners were taken.

They came up and halted at the point of the Confederate dispersion.  Gen. McNeil made his headquarters at Judge S.I. Bragg's in Shelby County [in the northeastern part of Shelby County Section 23 Township 59 Range 9], that Sunday night, remaining there until the next day. It being impossible and unprofitable to follow the Confederates any further, he came on to Philadelphia and encamped there on Monday night. Leaving Philadelphia Tuesday morning, the Federals arrived at Palmyra about noon and went into camp. Their loss was as follows: One man of the Eleventh M.S.M. came upon a squad of Confederates in the brush, was fired on and mortally wounded, dying the next day. After the pursuit had ceased, some of Porter's ambushed men fired upon an escort, killing one outright and wounding two, one mortally. When Gen. McNeil observed the piles of meal on the ground in the Confederate camp near Whaley's Mill, he declared, "That mill has ground its last grist for the rebel commissary department." by his order the mill was burned to the ground.

Among the prisoners captured by the Federals near Bragg's were two men from Shelby County, named John Holmes and Henry Latimer; The latter lived about four miles east of Bethel. The next morning by order of Gen. McNeil, they were taken into Bragg's meadow and shot to death.  Both Holmes and Latimer had been taken prisoner by the Federals and twice released on oath not to take up arms. Latimer was confined at Shelbyville on one occasion. When the enrolling order of Schofield's came out he stopped work in a hay field and joined Porter as soon as possible. Holmes went out at the same time. Both were members of Capt. Marion Whaley's company and had been at Kirksville and elsewhere.

At the time of the Whaley's Mill fight they were not present, but with a dozen or more of Whaley's company, including Capt. Whaley himself, who was wounded, had a camp on Tiger Fork, where they were hiding. The day before both Holmes and Henry "Harry" Latimer were at John Carlisle's and got some bacon. Latimer said to Carlisle, facetiously: "Well, John, the Federals have issued another order about oath-breakers.  They say they have to CATCH us before they shoot us!!"

The next day in the evening Holmes and Latimer rode out of the timber south of Bragg's on their way to join Porter, and just out on the prairie they met a squad of McNeil's regiment searching for Porter's fugitives. "Halt!" called out the Federals. The partisans hesitated, thinking the militia were Porter's men. The Federals fired a shot or two and them Holmes and Latimer dismounted and were made prisoners. They were taken up to Bragg's house where McNeil was and were recognized by some Shelby County men as having violated their paroles. At the time of his capture Latimer was riding a horse which had been taken a few nights before from Addison Lair, a Union man of Tiger Fork township. Holmes was riding a horse belonging to another Union man. Mr. Lair's horse was returned to him.  When McNeil was informed of the circumstance of the capture of the two men, he asked: "Had they arms in their hands?" Being answered in the affirmative, he returned:  "Well, they shall be shot in the morning at sunrise." They were put into a granary at Bragg's dooryard, along with a score of other prisoners and informed of their fate.  Latimer had a brother in the Federal service, in Benjamin's regiment, and he used this fact to help his case. He even said: "I was led to this thing by Porter, and if you will reprieve me I will join my brother's company." But one who knew him, said: "Ah, Harry, you can't be trusted. You know you would desert the first opportunity." And doubtless he would, for Latimer thoroughly detested the Federal cause.

That night McNeil said to Judge Bragg: "Those fellows will be shot in the morning sure; they had better escape tonight if they can." But the granary was well guarded and if the doomed men ever thought of escaping they did not attempt it. After a time Latimer nerved himself to meet his fate, but Holmes seemed horror stricken. The other prisoners, remembering the shooting of 16 of their comrades at Kirksville, were apprehensive as to their own fate.

The next morning, a little before sunrise, when it was announced to McNeil that his breakfast was ready, he took out his watch, observed the time and said to a lieutenant of the guard: "It is time those men were executed; take them out and execute them. As he was sitting at his breakfast a few minutes later, a soldier came to the door and said that the prisoners wished to see Mr. Bragg. "May I go and see them?" asked Bragg, addressing McNeil. "Certainly," replied McNeil, "do all for them you can." Bragg went out and overtook the party a few rods south of his house, on the way to the place of execution, in the meadow. The doomed men shook hands with Bragg and asked him to tell their relatives and friends of their fate. Then they passed on.

Holmes weakened in the presence of death and was pale and trembling.  Latimer was brave and defiant and went to his fate as full of courage as that other Latimer, who, hundreds of years before, was burned at the stake in England, for his Protestantism and who said to his fellow martyr, George Ridley, as they were walking to the place of the burning: "Be of good cheer, Brother Ridley! We shall light a candle this day in Old England that with God's grace shall never be put out!" Who knows but that Harry Latimer had in his veins some of the blood of Bishop Latimer.

Nearing the scene Latimer said to Holmes: "Stand up, John, stand up straight!" A few seconds later there came a crashing volley, and both men fell with the life shot out of them. The Federals had caught the oath-breakers sure enough. They were buried decently near where they fell. Seven years later their remains were taken up and reburied in the Looney graveyard near Mt. Zion.

Harry Latimer was a native of Tennessee, aged 32. He left a wife, who was a daughter of Robert Joiner, the old pioneer and five children, the youngest six months old. John Holmes was about the same age of Latimer and left a wife, the daughter of another old settler, named Turner and one child. His widow resides now in Marion County, and Mrs. Latimer lives on her husbands farm."

Kemp Glasscock, who was cow hunting, was taken prisoner with Holmes and Latimer, but was released by McNeil to go home.  A little north of Bragg's residence, in a little path that led from the woods to the well, under the hill, John Lear, one of Porter's men, from near Warren, Marion County, was killed. He was flying from the Federals along the path and was being followed. His horse stumbled and threw him. He called out, "I surrender!" A boy soldier, not more than 15 years of age, rode up and with his revolver shot him dead, the ball entering near the top of the right shoulder and coming out near the heart. They searched his pockets, drew off his boots, and after composing his limbs placed his old hat over his face and went away in the twilight, leaving the owls of the wood to hoot to each other, "A man lies dead in the road!"

The boy soldier asked for Lear's gun as a reward for what he had done, and McNeil gave it to him. Lear's body lay in that path where it fell from Sunday evening till Tuesday morning, when John Carlisle and Ed Joiner came and put it in a rude coffin and buried it in Bragg's orchard, where it still lies......

In a short time after his burial came the wife of John Lear for the body of her husband, but it could not be removed. She was a daughter of a Mr. Jacobs, of Shelby County. "I want to know for certain if it is my husband," she said. They cut out the pocket of his embroidered shirt, the work of her own hands and brought it to her. "It is my husband!" she exclaimed. Then she put a strong enclosure about the grave and went away to her home. ...............

Bill Anderson's Raid Into Shelby County

On the morning of July 27, 1864, Confederate leader Bill Anderson entered Shelbina from the south. The guerrillas dispersed through the town and made a prisoner of every male citizen that they met. They began a systematic and thorough plundering of the stores, shops and citizens. The store houses were gutted. The money drawers were robbed first and the proprietors were forced to give up their purses, pocket books and watches. Clothing, dry goods, notions, boots, ladies' goods ....... all were seized.

The citizens had been taken unawares. They were taken prisoner and forced to form a line along Maple Street south of the Depot and relieved of all money and valuables.  Although many threats were made, no one was hurt. W.A. Reid lost $550 in cash and $1,000 in goods. He saved $500 by kicking it under the counter and covering it with rubbish. J.W. Ford, druggist, lost $157 in cash and a considerable amount of goods.

The turpentine, alcohol and other inflammables used in burning the depot and cars were taken from his store. Sparks, Hill & Co., of the tobacco factory, had some tobacco on the cars which were burned. Anderson graciously allowed them to remove it and his men helped themselves.  List & Taylor and S.G. Lewis, the other leading merchants, were also robbed.

The guerrillas set both railroad depots and two cars on fire and departed going eastward. Riding on, they soon came to Lakenan Station.  Here they set the station house on fire and then marched on to the Salt River Bridge where they dismounted and set the bridge aflame. They then rode on out of the county. Only one end of the Salt River Bridge was burned off.

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