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Pleasant Hill was one of the earliest communities established in Cass County. Thus, it had a well-established farming community when the border troubles broke out. It also sat on a well-traveled road. Early settlers were pre-dominantly southern, thus, it was an early secessionist stronghold. But during the War, it suffered several attacks by both sides which burned out much of the town and drove many citizens away. In June 1865, the railroad reached Pleasant Hill from Sedalia and St. Louis bringing a new economic engine to the town as it moved from the ridge down into the big Creek Valley. It also brought an influx of northern settlers and a changed demographic.
November 1860 – In the Presidential election, Lincoln received only 23 votes in Cass County. The story of D. P. Hougland who voted for Lincoln in Pleasant Hill illustrates the courage it took to cast a ballot for Lincoln.
Hougland had publicly declared he intended to vote for Lincoln. The night before the election, a note was slipped under his front door, telling him that any one casting a vote for Lincoln would be tarred and feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail.
Voting at the time was not secret as voters had to publically declare their choice. At the tailor shop window where he voted, Hougland took the paper out of his pocket with his Republican ticket. When asked, “How do you vote?” Hougland said, “There is my ticket.” The voting agent said, “It is a damned black Republican ticket.” He dropped it and stamped his foot on it.
Hougland rode off with his hand inside his vest as others howled but let him go fearing he was armed and knowing he was a good shot. His name was published in local papers, and he and his family soon were hounded out of the county and settled near Olathe.
(source, Tom Rafiner’s book Caught Between Three Fires, pp. 24 – 26.)
June 1861 - Source: Around July 4, 1861 newspaper in Wyandotte, KS
We have been shown a letter from John Blackly, written in Austin, Missouri, on Saturday, June 30th. John says he has been well ass the time and had lots of fun since he left Wyandotte. It will be remembered that he joined a company of Kansas Rangers and went off with the 2lst regiment. But John tells the story best himself, and we will make some extracts. He says:
“On Friday morning, Capt. Wood and myself went in company with two citizens of this town, to Pleasant Hill. Arriving there Capt. W. asked some men if there was a secession flag there. They said no.
The Captain took out his watch and gave them just five minutes to produce it, and in less than half the time we had one that was about fifteen feet long. The men began to skedaddle, when they were ordered back and told that the first man that undertook to leave would be shot. They all took the oath rather than be marched to camp. Were they not brave men (there were thirteen of them.) to allow four men, and only two of them armed, to come into their town, take their flag, and make them all take the oath?”
October 15, 16, 1861 On General Jim Lane’s raid throughout western Missouri in the fall of 1861, he stopped long enough in Pleasant Hill to cut down a rebel flag and threaten its citizens.
January 8, 1862 – Col. David Anthony sent a company of his 7th Kansas Cavalry to Johnson County to confront a Confederate force led by Col. Elliott. On Jan. 9th, they burned the town of Columbus to the ground. On their way to Columbus, the command stopped in Pleasant Hill on Jan. 8. This was the 7th’s third visit to Pleasant Hill. George Miller, a Pleasant Hill preacher, wrote to his parents, “Anthony….Took away $10,000 worth of stock and 55 negroes. This is the third time the Kansas troops have been in our town and carried away not less than $150,000 worth of property. The country is being ruined.” (Source Tom Rafiner’s book Caught Between Three Fires, p. 166)
May 14, 1863 – Union troops in Harrisonville and Pleasant Hill struggled to control the roads and countryside from guerrilla control. The most notable engagement in the spring of 1863 occurred south of Pleasant Hill. Lt. Thomas Wilson, Co. I, 5th MO State Militia encountered and fought a guerrilla command under Ab Cunningham who had laid an ambush with 25 men on the forage train. Lt. Wilson led 22 men into the fight. Cunningham was killed and several of his men wounded in the fight. (Daily Journal of Commerce. May 26, 1863, p. 2, col. 2)
August 10, 1863 – Pleasant Hill was attacked by bushwhackers led by Cole Younger. Without military protection, the town was open to attack. Younger led 50 guerrillas into town and burned the homes of Unionists. They returned the next day to burn more buildings. Fear ran rampant in the town.
The next day, Capt. Henry Palmer, who was escorting a supply-train from Harrisonville to Independence, passed through Pleasant Hill. Surveying the damage to Unionist homes, he set fire to homes of several known bushwhackers and two blacksmith shops. He then escorted homeless Union families to Harrisonville and Independence.
Palmer and men were attacked the next two days by 15 to 30 bushwhackers. On Aug. 14, 183, General Ewing issued orders from Kansas City and ordered two companies of the Harrisonville command be sent to Pleasant Hill. They were to serve as escorts for all union families who wished to leave the area. To do so, the troops were given permission to take teams from disloyal owners. (source Tom Rafiner’s book Caught Between Three Fires, pp. 327-328.)
September 1, 1863 A Loyalty Committee is established in Pleasant Hill in response to Order No. 11 to determine which citizens may stay in the area. (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.
Pleasant Hill’s Loyalty Committee records reveal 169 citizens applied, and 153 certificates were granted. Committee members included Andrew Allen, John W. Ward, Jerry Sloan, Mark A. Shelton, James Russell, Pauncey A. Smith, Barney Dempsey and Luke Williams, R. C. Williamson and Samuel Rucker. From the number granted, it seems apparent the disloyal, real or suspected, did not apply.
November 8, 1864 In the 1864 election in Pleasant Hill, Democrat candidate George McClellan won 79.6% of the 103 votes cast. This vote indicated that Pleasant Hill voters supported “the constitution as it is, the Union as it was. Most Democrats bitterly opposed the Emanicipation Proclamation as being abolitionist, unconstitutional and unnecessary.” The Democrat candidates for Governor and Congress also won in Pleasant Hill. (source Tom Rafiner’s book Caught Between Three Fires. pp. 435-436.)
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