Area 3: West of Pleasant Hill

The area around Pleasant Hill was one of the first Cass County areas settled and was populated by families who had established substantial farms. It was the sight of much fighting and violence during the war.

The following comes from the book Caught Between Three Fires by Tom Rafiner:

Hezekian and Nancy Creedy McConnel arrived in Cass County sometime between 1856 and 1858, settling west of Pleasant Hill. Prosperous famers as the war began, they had a herd of 17 horses, 17 beef cattle, and eight milk cows.

McConnel was a staunch Unionist, but the neighborhood was strongly Confederate. By the end of 1861, they were driven out barely escaping with their livestock and lives.

By 1864, they lived near Shawnee Town in Kansas, but fared no better there. That January, Nancy and a son were attacked by Kansas soldiers from the 15th Kansas Cavalry who shot and killed their horses and livestock. Mrs. McConnel appeared before the Kansas City Provost Marshal covered in blood and mud.

January 22, 1862

Joseph and America Christopher lived about six miles west of Pleasant Hill and a mile south of the Jackson County line. Christopher was politically active and debated the issues at times, “very heatedly.” His Unionist views were not well received early in the war by his southern neighbors.

The couple put their 11 children to bed, but about 9:00 p.m. there was a loud knock at the door. One of the older sons opened the door, and a group of bushwhackers pushed into the home and began to ransack it while ordering the family to sit. Joseph Christopher asked “by what authority” the bushwhackers had entered his home. “Without a moment’s warning the command to fire was given and Mr. Christopher, shot through the temple, fell to the floor dead.” (Cass County Missouri Families, CCHS. 1976, p. 59) His wife, America, holding their three-month-old baby in her arms, stood helpless. George Christopher, leaping to his father’s defense, was shot and severely wounded. Not content with having killed Joseph, the bushwhackers completed pillaging the home and stole winter provision, clothing and the horses.

Battle of the Ravines (July 11, 1862)

Artwork by Brian Hawkins

The largest battle of the war in Cass County took place amongst the boulders and dense growth in the ravines near what is today 175th Street and State Route BB, about five miles west of Pleasant Hill.In Cass County’s largest battle, Quantrill and some 250 guerrillas fought Capt. Kehoe’s Union troops just west of Pleasant Hill near the Sorency farm. Quantrill’s men were forced to fight dismounted. The sides fought never more than 50 feet apart in high heat and humidity along the boulders of a steep, heavily wooded ravine. Quantrill escaped although wounded in the thigh. He never again gathered so many in one place until the ride to Lawrence. He also learned NOT to fight dismounted. Union casualties are buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

September 1, 1863

John and Xantippe Poyntz owned a 320 acre farm four miles southwest of Pleasant Hill. Their three bachelor sons, John, James and Cyrus, lived on the farm. James was a physician.

John Sr. owned seven slaves, and the neighborhood was heavily southern in allegiance. The area became a target for Kansas troops. John Jr. enlisted in the Confederate 6th Missouri Infantry, Co. B and fought with them the entire war.

Youngest brother Cyrus joined the Missouri State Guard in September 1861 and a year later the Confederate 16th Missouri Infantry, Co. F. He was killed in action at the Battle of Helena, July 4, 1863.

Following Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kansas troops came to the farm and arrested John, Sr. They ransacked the house and burned the front room, throwing in the Poyntz family Bible and other personal possessions. The troops took Poyntz with them.

Xantippe, her sister Caroline King, and two slaves, Maria and Josie, stood destitute and homeless. They gathered their belongings into an old oxcart and set out for Kentucky.

The troops took John and another elderly man, John Caldwell as prisoners, hauling them throughout Cass and Jackson County for ten days. Both men had served as elders in the Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church of Rev. George Miller. On Sunday, Sept. 13, 1863 the troops shot Caldwell on their way to Kansas City. They threw Poyntz in prison. Rev. Miller hear of this as he was living in Kansas City, having been driven from Pleasant Hill by southern sympathizers. Miller took immediate action to save Poyntz, even though they were on opposite sides of the conflict.

The next morning I called at headquarters and secured a permit to visit Mr. Poyntz at the prison. He was a pitiable object, reduced by exposure and sickness and pale with fear. He was willing to do anything to get out of that prison. He said that men were taken out of the prison at a late hour almost every night and never heard of again. I called on Gen. Ewing and laid the case before him and he said the only thing we can do is to banish him from the state….I got him out of prison. He was so feeble that I had to get a buggy and bring him to my house and nurse him…he was glad to be banished from Missouri.