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This area includes Harrisonville and areas due south of it. Founded in 1837 as the county seat, this was one of the oldest towns in the county. The pioneer settlers brought a decidedly southern culture with them from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. When the Civil War broke out, it was the center of secessionist radicals including lawyer and politician R. L. Y. Peyton. But after the town was occupied by Union troops in July 1861, it became a Union military post under martial law until the end of the war in 1865.
Source for the following: Tom Rafiner. Caught Between Three Fires.
On April 26, 1861, the main courtroom of the courthouse above was filled. A Resolutions Committee of men from both political sides was chosen. A decidedly secessionist platform was presented. Explosive debated followed and Unionists were soon voted down. When the resolutions were brought before the general meeting, only Rev. Andrew Newgent of Austin spoke for the Union. He was soon threatened for death and fled into the night. The resolutions adopted marked Harrisonville and the county as rabidly secessionist.
The Henry W. Younger family came to Harrisonville in 1858 where he established a dry goods store and livery stable just north of the square. He and wife Bursheba had 14 children, some already married. Younger was elected mayor in 1859, and his children, including Cole, Jim, Sally, and Caroline, attended school.
When Jennison’s Jayhawks raided the Harrisonville square in July 1861, they stole every horse and wagon from Younger and loaded it full of items from his dry goods store, a loss estimated from $4,000 to $20,000.
Late fall of 1861, Cole, age 17 and Sally, age 16 attended the 16th birthday party of friend Martha Mockbee at her home on the east side of town. (the home still stands at 105 N. Price.)
The local Union military commander, Captain Irwin Walley, asked Sally Younger for a dance, which she refused. As he pressed the issue, Cole stepped in and a scuffle ensued. Cole left with Sally and when arriving home, his father Henry advised that he leave immediately. Cole went to southern Jackson County where the family had lived and still had many friends and relatives. That winter of 1862, he took up with the guerrilla band of William Quantrill.
Col. Andrew Newgent led the Cass County Home Guard from July 1861 until February 1862. Regular Union Army leaders often regarded the Home Guards more of a problem than a help. They despoiled many farms and families such as what happened to Achilles Easley.
Harrisonville jeweler L. O. Kunze enlisted to fight with the Confederates in the fall of 1861. Newgent’s men led by Irvin Walley began searching for his inventory and rumor was the Easley was storing it.
On Oct. 17, 1861, Walley arrived at Easley’s home on the north side of Harrisonville at 11 p.m. with about 30 Union troopers. They had their hats tied down to hide their faces and began to rough him up and search the house. They took animals, two shot guns, saddles, blankets and bedding. Finding no money, Walley’s men put a rope around Easley’s neck and led him to a tree and hauled him up, letting him down when he almost passed out. This process, then called “Stretching the truth out,” failed as Easley did not have Kunze’s jewelry. The thieves then left. Walley was banished from Cass County in 1862.
On Feb. 28, 1862 four companies of the Cass County Home Guards were mustered out at Harrisonville. Many soon re-enlisted in the 2nd Cavalry, Missouri State Militia.
Harrisonville and Pleasant Hill Loyalty Committees
Source: Caught Between Three Fires by Tom Rafiner. 2010.pp. 364-374
According to the rules of Order No. 11, those found loyal could find refuge in the military posts of the District of the Border, i.e. Harrisonville, Pleasant Hill, Independence, Hickman Mills, and Kansas City. But their property left behind in the countryside was confiscated or burned.
Local men headed the committees under military authority. Applicants had to find a minimum of two loyal citizens to attest to their loyalty in order to obtain a certificate. The Harrisonville men heading the committee were John Coughenour, Alexander Cannon and A. S. O’Bannon. Their records and rosters of loyal citizens are lost. All three men were prominent Unionists who played significant leadership roles in Harrisonville throughout the War.
A.S. O’Bannon – was a 51-year-old school teacher and farmer. He came to Harrisonville in 1856 from Kentucky and owned one slave He became Cass County’s representative in the State House of Representatives in Nov. 1862. As an emancipationist, he played a prominent role in the April 1863 Unionist meeting in Harrisonville.
Alexander E. Cannon – Also 51 years old, he was a County Judge when the War began. He served briefly with the Cass County Home Guards. Cannon owned three slaves. In Sept. 1863 he joined Co. K, 77th Enrolled Missouri Militia stationed at Harrisonville.
John Coughenour – was a 46-year-old dry goods merchant in 1861 who had been in Cass County for 15 years. He stayed throughout the War. He was actually the man with whom L. O. Kunze had entrusted his jewelry store inventory.
By the spring of 1863, Cass County was divided into Union bastions in the towns of Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville, while guerrillas controlled the countryside. Neither side was strong enough to gain the advantage. Citizens on both sides were distressed and destitute.
Unionist refuges squeezed into Harrisonville and felt abandoned by Federal authorities. On April 20, 1863, Unionists met to define their issues. Of the nine men leading the meeting, only John Christian had lived in Harrisonville when the War started. Four men were from Austin: Alexander Robinson, Thornton Huff, Robert A. Smiley, and Albert J. Briggs. Three lived east of Harrisonville: Henry Jerard, Alfred Doss, and A. S. O’Bannon. The last was Sheriff Reason S. Judy.
Four of the resolutions they passed addressed their feeling that the government was too lenient in dealing with rebels. Union property and interests were not being protected and returning rebels who signed loyalty oaths were allowed in military organizations. The group proposed to organize their own local protection groups and take enforcement into their own hands.
The final two resolutions supported immediate emancipation of slaves. No owner who supported the south should receive any compensation for slaves. All resolutions passed unanimously. This meeting mirrored the April 1861 meeting which had issued strong secessionist resolutions. Harrisonville had turned 180 degrees in two years. With no hint of compromise, these attitudes came from men who felt cornered, threatened and deserted. (Rafiner, p. 291)
May 1863 Black Soldiers Drill on Harrisonville Square
Black soldiers appeared for the first time in Harrisonville in May 1863. Captain John Pinger, 5th Missouri State Militia, recruited and organized a military squad composed of former slaves. On the town square, the 18 freed slaves were trained and drilled in full public view. Capt. Pinger, after the parade, “gleefully remarked that he was the first abolitionist in Missouri who had trained negroes to arms, and that it would be a good joke on him if some rebel would write to Gov. Gamble and have Pinger discharged from the service.” (Daily Journal of Commerce, June 2, 1863. P. 2, col. 2.)
Exceptional sites for in-depth information
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area | www.freedomsfrontier.org
Missouri Kansas Conflict: Civil War on the Western Border | www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org
Missouri / Kansas Border War Network | www.moksbwn.org
Civil War in Missouri | www.mocivilwar.org
Kansas State Historical Society | www.kshs.org
Books: Rafiner, Tom. Caught Between Three Fires. 2010, ExLibris http://www.casscountyorderno11.com/about-tom-rafiner.html