At the beginning of the Civil War in April, 1861, the only town of any size in this area was High Blue, in the far northwest corner. The area was sparsely populated, but sitting on the Kansas state line and near the Military Road, lots of troop movements passed through.
Belton did not exist as a town until after the war when the railroad came to the area in 1872.
Men who lived in the High Blue area organized into a secret Blue Lodge to protect their farms and property from raiding Kansans in the Border War prior to the Civil War. Men from the High Blue area of NW Cass County enrolled Sept. 1861 as Co. F, 10th Cavalry, 8th Division under Gen Rains, Missouri State Guard. Local historian, Jay Roberts, is holding a flag indicating battles the group fought in.
The following events took place in this area during the Civil War (source of map and information is Tom Rafiner’s book, Caught Between Three Fires).
July 26, 1861 – The Joseph Gilmore 180-acre farm sat just inside the Jackson County line and on the Harrisonville Road. Even though Gilmore owned five slaves, he and his wife Eunice supported the Union throughout the war.
In July, both sides were actively recruiting in Cass County, and the Union attempted to take control and tensions ran high. Col. William Weer commanded Home Guard troops in the area and Kansas troops of Kansas jayhawker troops under Charles R. Jennison.
On July 26 the troops raised the Union flag in Harrisonville and plundered the businesses and moved northwest.
The next day, July 27, the troops stopped at the Gilmore farm to divide their spoils. While on the farm, troops stole three horses, a huge quantity of corn, burned 167 cords of wood and many fence rails, according to a war claim.
The Gilmores also lost horses to Kansas troops in 1862. The Gilmores were visiting friends in Jackson County and left their wagon hitched to a post outside. Passing soldiers took the horses out of their wagon harnesses and left. When the Gilmores exited the house, they found their wagon, horseless, where whey had left it.
September, 1862 – Following Quantrill’s raid on the Kansas town of Olathe September 6 and 7, 1862, the guerrillas fled east into Cass County. Lt. Col. John T. Burris immediately left Ft. Leavenworth to pursue the raiders.
Nathan E. Harrelson owned slightly more than 6,000 acres in Cass County in 1860 and additional land in Jackson County, MO and Miami County, KS. He was one, if not the, largest landowner in western Missouri. As an entrepreneur, he prospered supplying miners in the California Gold Rush, traded on the Santa Fe Trail and owned mercantiles in Jackson County and Pleasant Hill.
His wife, Maleta West, was the sister of Cass County Unionist leader Elias P. West. Although Harrelson owned 12 slaves, he supported the Union.
Early on the morning of September 10, 25 members of Burris’ cavalry, camped on the Gilmore farm, and rode over to the Harrelson farm to demand breakfast. While eating, another group of 25 appeared to “ask for breakfast.” The newcomers were Quantrill’s men who attacked the Union troops. Union reinforcements from the Gilmore farm soon arrived with Burris and set the guerrillas to flee. After Burris chased Quantrill and his men, he returned to the Gilmore farm. In searching the farm, they found some of the loot from the Olathe raid hidden in a bushy hollow on the farm. The commanding officer jumped to the conclusion that the farm was a rendezvous point for Quantrill and ordered the farm leveled. All buildings were burned, the entire corn crop was taken along with all mules and horses.
Harrelson moved the family to Colorado early the next year. for the remainder of the war.
June 1863 – Thomas Trickle, Sr. farmed in this area. He was killed while working in the fields in 1863, and the guilty parties remain unknown. His son, Thomas Trickle, Jr. fought with the Union 9th Kansas Cavalry.
October 27, 1864 – Following the Confederate Army’s defeat at the Battle of Westport, the troops retreated south along the Military Road which ran along the western border of this area. Federal troops crossed along the Harrisonville and Military Roads throughout the month.