Residents in this area near Austin and the crossing at the South Grand River witnessed many troops movements on the roads and thus much looting, burning, and murder. Neighbors often signed up to fight for opposite sides, as did family members. It was one of the most volatile and violent areas in the county. Early in the war, local residents stepped forward to lead recruiting. The Union troops captured a 13-foot secession flag in Austin in late June 1861. The flag now resides in the Kansas State Archives in Topeka, KS. This interview tells how it ended up there.
Three significant Union leaders came from the Austin area:
Andrew G. Newgent lived in Austin and was a farmer, merchant and Baptist preacher from Indiana. At the start of the war he was a vocal and aggressive Constitutional Unionist. As a slave owner, he believed the Constitution gave him the legal right to slaves. As the only Unionist to speak at the April 26, 1861 meeting in Harrisonville, he had to fell for his life.
Hunted by southern sympathizers, Newgent recruited troops for the Union at churches and bush gatherings all along the border. He was in Austin on June 27, 1861 to help enlist four companies of the Union Cass County Home Guard. He and another Baptist preacher, Abner Deane, enrolled three companies en masse that day, mostly from that area. Newgent commanded the Austin regiment. Both his second in command, Major Abner Deane, and Captain Albert J. Briggs, Com. C were from Austin.
The Home guard had targeted local families known to sympathize with the Southern cause, and sometimes “were more trouble than they were worth” to the regular army. Thus, they were mustered out in February, 1862. Many transitioned into the 2nd Missouri State Militia. Newgent became a Lt. Colonel and led the group in pursuit of bushwhackers in western Missouri.
Abner H. Deane moved from Cass County to Kentucky in 1857. He settled in Austin, Cass County where he became an ordained Baptist minister. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Deane formed a battalion of 400 loyal Union men and became a Major with the 1st Missouri Cavalry., stationed in Kansas City.
The Missouri Radical Republicans created a strict new constitution which demanded that all office-holders, teachers, and preachers take an “Ironclad Oath” to the Union. Deane refused to sign the oath because he stated,
“I have never rebelled against any government and, therefore, do not need to take such an oath. My commission to preach comes from the Lord and not from the government.”
Because he would not sign but continued to preach, Deane was arrested and taken to the jail in Independence in spring of 1866. Hearing of this injustice, celebrated Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham visited the jail and painted two pictures of Deane behind bars.
Copies were used to demand that the oath be found unconstitutional. Deane was released from jail in June 1866. The Supreme Court found the oath unconstitutional in 1867. Deane continued to preach in Cass County and surrounding areas until his death in 1912. He was a powerful speaker and popular preacher who baptized over 3,000 people and married over 2,000 couples. The octagonal house he built in 1867 at 702 W Wall in Harrisonville still stands.
Albert Briggs was a Maine native and a 25-year-old bachelor when he was elected Captain of Company C, Cass County Home Guards when they organized on June 27, 1861 in Austin. He served the Union for the entire length of the War. After the war, he helped organize the first Austin bean Eatin in the 1880s as a way to share stories and begin the healing.
When the Home Guard dissolved, Briggs transferred to the 2nd Cavalry, Missouri State Militia as Captain of Co. C. In early 1863, Captain Briggs and the 2nd MSM patrolled the Austin neighborhood. In a skirmish with guerrillas, four bushwhackers were “captured and shot.” The newspaper report said, “Bushwhackers get into bad hands when they fall in with the Captain.” (Daily Journal of Commerce. Feb. 17, 1863. p. 3 col. 1) He returned to live out his life in the Austin area.
Early the next week, Brigg’s men fought again with bushwhackers, killing tow. Home burning followed this fight. “Nine secesh homes were burned.” (Daily Journal of Commerce. Feb. 19, 1863. p. 3, col. 1)
Southern sympathizers from the Austin area:
Jackson B. McFerrin and B. Y. Brown both lived in the Austin neighborhood. On January 1, 1862 both men met on the McFerrin farm. They had lived north of Austin for well over 10 years. The McFerrin family had been in Cass County since 1834.
Both McFerrin and Brown sympathized with the southern cause. McFerin’s son Sam was fighting with the Confederate army in Arkansas and Louisiana. Both men were shot to death in an ambush that day. Brown’s wife Rachel was left a widow with nine children. Elizabeth McFerrin, mother of six, also became a widow that day. McFerrin remained on the family farm until Order No. 11. She went to St. Clair County, secured a yoke of cattle, returned to Cass County and loaded their farm wagon with household goods and four children and escaped to St. Clair County. Later, the McFerrin house was burned to the ground. (Caught Between Three Fires. pp. 284-285.)
Austin Bean Eatin’
Beginning in 1885, the Austin, Missouri GAR Post sponsored a Campfire for veterans, families and the community. It grew from 800 the first year to over 15,000 people and soldiers of both sides who shared Civil War life, food, and stories. Thus began the healing of the old wounds which divided communities. Debbie and Clint Morgan and Jadd Pence talk about its meaning and how they are preserving local history.
George Washington Stumbaugh
Sometime between 1837 and 1840, Lawrence Stumbaugh moved to Van Buren (Cass) County with his wife and children, who may have numbered at many as eight. Stumbaugh may have originally been from Virginia, but also resided for a time in Kentucky. He died in 1849 (the same year the county name was changed to Cass).
George Washington Stumbaugh was born on September 18, 1836, in Kentucky, and was Lawrence’s second son. On October 24,1857, George married Jane Huff, the daughter of Lewis Berdine Huff, who established the second business house in Austin in that year and was reportedly the wealthiest man in Cass County. Jane, one of nine children, was bom on January 29, 1839, near Terra Haute, Indiana.
After George and Jane married, George bought a town lot in Austin and built a house and store; he was a carpenter by trade. George and Jane had three children: Catherine (Kate), born July 28, 1858; a son, Lud, born about March 1860; and a daughter, Tessie. Lud and Jessie both died in infancy.
On February 1,1862, George volunteered for duty in Harrisonville, enlisting as a private in Company F (commanded by Captain Franklin Mix), 2d Battalion, Cavalry, Missouri State Militia. The 2d States MO organized at Harrisonville and Kansas City and attached to the District of Central Missouri, Department of Missouri. On August11, 1862 Stumbaugh was on scout in his home community of Austin. While there, he was shot, apparently by Confederate guerrillas, and died within two hours of his wounds.
After the war was over, Austin experienced a period of rapid growth as veterans from both sides returned to their homes and began to concentrate on farming. In 1884 a local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic was established in Austin and named in honor of George Washington Stumbaugh.