Interview with Bollinger County Resident Denny Cato

Denny Cato was hired as a maintenance supervisor for the City of Marble Hill, (a rural community in Bollinger County, Missouri) on October 1, 2014. According to Cato his duties included maintaining the City’s streets, water lines and other infrastructure.

The operator of a gravel business before taking the job Cato stated that at the time he was hired, he occasionally used personal equipment from that business in order to carry out his duties, noting that he provided the City with 200 loads of gravel.

Cato was employed by the City from October 1, 2014- September 11, 2020 after accusations of “consuming or possessing alcohol” on the job, an accusation he denied. Initially suspended for two weeks (pending an investigation in the matter), he was allowed to return to work after no evidence could be obtained to verify the claim. Shortly thereafter he was terminated from his position.

The following video interview was conducted with Mr. Cato at his residence on July 21, 2022. In it, Cato shares the story of his nearly six-year relationship with the City, personal struggles he endured and what he feels were the real reasons his employment was terminated.

Because this story involves a sitting elected official along with the elected official’s wife (who is currently running for office) I feel it is timely and of great interest to the public. It should also be noted that since the upcoming primary election is for candidates running for county-wide offices, all residents of Bollinger County, Missouri are eligible to vote in it.

In addition to the 29 minute long video interview with Mr. Cato, I have uploaded documents provided by him. Of particular interest is one document which contains a hand-written note by Marble Hill Mayor Trey Wiginton which states, “Nobody signed a statement that Denny bought alcohol on the job. Denny is allowed to return to work and will receive pay for the two weeks of suspension. Pension and insurance will not be affected. 9/08/2020- Trey Wiginton.”

When asked if he felt there were other reasons for his termination of employment Cato noted that he never received any disciplinary action until President of the Bollinger County Chamber of Commerce Becky Wiginton (who is Marble Hill Mayor Trey Wiginton’s wife) wanted Cato to run water and sewer lines to a caboose located in Railroad Park (ostensibly so it could be used as an office for the Chamber of Commerce). Cato said he refused on the grounds that he considered the caboose a historic landmark. Below is his story in video and pictures. I leave it up to those who view them to make up their own minds.

Infraction Denny Cato received 12/ 20/2020 for saying the term “bullshit” on a two-way radio
Letter from the City of Marble Hill with hand-written note from Mayor Trey Wignton stating that allegations against Cato could not be proven and that Cato may return to work.
Disciplinary letter written by City of Marble Hill Administrator Mike Johnson stating that he and Denny Cato had “words” on 9-10-2020 about his prior write-ups (note document was not signed by Cato).

Notes from closed session city council meeting on 09/11/2020 (obtained via a Sunshine Law request) in which the Board of Alderman voted to terminate Denny Cato’s employment.
A letter dated September 30, 2020 from Marble Hill City Attorney Richard Whiffen demanding that Denny Cato stop entering non-public City property or interfering with City employees under threat of arrest. Cato maintains that he had not entered non-public City property or interfered with any City employees since his termination of employment on 09/11/2020.

Colonel Jeffers Captures Dallas (Marble Hill)

23 Aug 1862, Sat The Perryville Weekly Union (Perryville, Missouri) Newspapers.com

The August 23, 1862 edition of the Perryville Weekly Union reports that Colonel Jeffers (of the 8th Missouri Cavalry, CSA ) entered Dallas with around sixty men and surrounded several homes in which members of the Union state militia were encamped. The paper also reported that all were released on oath except their commander Captain Green, who was taken prisoner. The Perryville Weekly Union labeled Jeffers (who they incorrectly referred to as Jefferies) as a “notorious” rebel (which is also incorrect). Colonel Jeffers was an officer in the regular Confederate army and conducted himself honorably both during and after the war.

It was not uncommon for newspapers at the time to label Confederates as “rebels”, “guerrillas” or “bushwhackers.” Of course, any paper who did not utilize this practice ran the risk of being closed down under orders of the Lincoln administration. An example of this can also be found in the same edition of the Perryville Weekly Union which printed the following:

“The St. Genevieve Plaindealers:

This secession paper, published at St. Genevieve, Mo., has been oppressed by the federal authorities. Charles A. Weber Esq., our Provost Marshall, took possession of the office Friday last.”

Illinois Invades Bollinger County

From the January 18, 1862 issue of the Daily Missouri Republican

One of the problems faced by Missourians who cast their lot with the South is the fact that they faced far more than German immigrants loyal to Lincoln. If that was their only foe they might have been more successful in defending the state from what they perceived as heavy handed tactics to keep Missouri in the Union by federal authorities. Missourians would have to defend themselves from invasion from the neighboring states of Kansas, Illinois and Iowa with a large portion of Wisconsin troops who would later be sent here.

By January, 1861 Illinois troops found there way to Bollinger County. As the January 18, 1861 issue of St. Louis’s Daily Missouri Republican reported:

“Major Rault, with Illinois Cavalry yesterday, made a forced march on the town of Dallas, Bollinger County, Mo., at this point under orders from Col. Ross, Seventeenth Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, commanding post. They returned last night, capturing twenty-three prisoners, among them Captain Day, Quartermaster, First Battalion Independent Rangers, and also a Mr. Tate, nephew of Honorable J.W. Noel. All of them were members of Thompson’s army.”

Carpenter’s Court Martial

From the Daily Missouri Republican, November 17, 1863

The November 17, 1863 Daily Missouri Republican (St. Louis, Missouri) reported of court-martial proceedings against Captain John Carpenter, Company C, 2cd Arkansas Volunteers (Union). It appears that Captain Carpenter was briefly stationed in Bollinger County, Missouri and feared an attack by Confederate forces. In his haste the paper states that he burned “government bacon and pork” to prevent it from falling into the hands of Confederate forces. That attack never materialized and Captain Carpenter soon found himself in Cape Girardeau, Missouri charged with cowardice and gross neglect of duty. On the charge of cowardice, he was found not guilty, he was however, found guilty of gross neglect of duty, sentenced to make good on the loss, forfeiture of pay and dismissed from service.

According to information found at the National Park Service’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors website, the 2cd Arkansas Union Volunteers was formed in Helena, Arkansas and Pilot Knob, Missouri. Below is the history of this unit provided by their website:

UNION ARKANSAS VOLUNTEERS

2nd Regiment, Arkansas Cavalry

OVERVIEW:Organized at Helena, Ark., and Pilot Knob, Mo., July 1862. Attached to Helena, Ark., District of the Southwest Missouri, Dept. Missouri, to December, 1862. 2nd Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division, District Eastern Arkansas, to January, 1863. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division, 13th Army Corps, Dept. Tennessee, to April 1863. 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, District of Eastern Arkansas, Dept. Tennessee, to May, 1863. District of the Southwest Missouri, Dept. Missouri, to October, 1864. 3rd Brigade, Cavalry Division, Dept. Missouri, to January, 1865. Unattached Cavalry, District West Tennessee, to February, 1865. 1st Brigade, Cavalry Division, District West Tennessee, to August, 1865.

SERVICE:Duty at Helena, Ark., till April, 1863. At Fayetteville, Ark., till July 1863, and at Cassville, Mo., till September, 1864. (Co. “B” at Benton Barracks, Mo., June, 1863. At Cape Girardeau, Mo., July, 1863. Scout from Cape Girardeau to the Ash Hills and Poplar Bluff, Mo., August 9-18. Skirmish, Ash Hills, August 13. Expedition from Cape Girardeau to Pocahantas, Ark., August 18-26. Skirmishes, Pocahontas, August 22-23.) Elm Springs July 30. Near Fayette August 23 (Detachment). Jenny Lind September 1. Crawford County November 25. Barronsville, Searcy County, December 26. Waldron December 29. King’s River January 10, 1864. Operations against Guerrillas in Northwest Arkansas, in Newton, Searcy, Izzard and Carroll Counties, January 16-February 15. Lewisburg January 17. Clear Creek and Tomahawk January 22. Bailey’s or Crooked Creek January 23 (Co. “C”). Crooked Creek February 5. Tomahaw Gap February 9. Expedition from Rolling Prairie to Batesville February 19-April 4. Scouts from Yellville to Buffalo River March 13-26. Oil Trough Bottom March 24 (Detachment). Near White River March 25. Constant scouting and skirmishing with Guerillas. Scouts from Bellefonte March 29-April 1. Whiteley’s Mills April 5. Piney Mountain April 6. Osage Branch King’s River April 16 (Co. “A”). Limestone Valley April 17. King’s River April 19. Near mouth of Richland Creek May 3 and 5. Scout in Northern Arkansas May 17-22 (Co. “M”). Scout from Cassville to Cross Hollows June 9-14 and June 20-24. Near Maysville July 20. Operations in Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas August 15-24. Scout from Ozark, Mo., to Dubuque Crossing and Sugar Loaf Prairie August 23-26 (Detachment). Expedition from Cassville, Mo., to Fayetteville, Ark., August 23-28 (Detachment). Gerald Mountain and Mud Town August 24. Operations against Price August 29-December 2. Moreau Creek, Jefferson City, October 7. Russellville October 9. California October 9. Near Booneville October 11-12. Fort Smith, Ark., October 14 (Detachment). Dover October 20. Little Blue October 21. Independence, Big Blue and State Line October 22. Big Blue and Westport October 23. Little Osage, Mine Creek, Marais des Cygnes, October 25. Engagement on the Marmiton, or Battle of Charlot, October 25. Newtonia October 28. Upshaw’s Farm October 29. Expedition from Springfield, Mo., to Fort Smith, Ark., November 5-16. Near Cincinnati, Ark., November 6. Scout from Springfield to Huntsville and Yellville November 11-21. Ordered to Memphis, Tenn., January, 1865. Duty there and in District of West Tennessee till August. Mustered out August 20, 1865.

Botched Attack in Bollinger County

21 Nov 1862, Fri The Perryville Weekly Union (Perryville, Missouri) Newspapers.com

The November 21, 1862 edition of the Perryville Weekly Union newspaper carried the story of a Captain Johnson, who resided in Bollinger County, Missouri and was attacked at his home by a Emanuel Grounds, who was accompanied by 14- 15 men.

The attack went badly for Grounds and his men when Captain Johnson met them at the door of his home. Grounds fired his weapon, missing Johnson. Johnson’s weapon found its mark when he returned fire, striking Grounds in the heart and killing him instantly, at which time the rest of Ground’s party scattered, leaving behind horses (one of which was stolen from Judge Conrad) , a mule and other supplies.

The Perryville Union described Grounds as a “Rebel Chief” and the men who accompanied him as “Hell Hounds” and “Guerrilla Thieves.”

A quick research of Emanuel Grounds military status reveals that he was a member of the 8th Missouri Confederate Cavalry Company A, commanded by William Jeffers of Jackson, Missouri. Oddly enough, records do not show Grounds rank when he joined the 8th Missouri Cavalry, CSA. Nor did it show his rank when he left.

Did Grounds, leave the 8th Missouri CSA and strike out on his own like so many Missouri Southerners did as the war progressed?

The Perryville Weekly Union did not provide the first name of Captain Johnson, which makes it difficult to positively identify him or what unit he served under. Searching the U.S. Park Service Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database I did find a Captain J.J.P. Johnson of the 1’st U.S. Reserves / Homeguard but when I click on the link for the history of the unit the website simply states “no information available for this unit.”

Remembering Arcadia

I recently discovered a treasure trove of articles I had written dating back to 2003 which documented efforts to combat what many of us felt was a grave injustice to Missouri history by the Governor of Missouri at the time.

On January 15, 2003 the Washington Post published an article reporting that [then] Missouri Governor Bob Holden had ordered Confederate flags removed at historic sites located at Higginsville and Pilot Knob, Missouri. Of course no politician wakes up one morning and is plagued by thoughts of flags flying at historic sites. It just so happened that Governor Holden’s good friend ,Congressman Richard Gephardt, was running for president and suggested that the flags needed to be removed. The Washington Post reported:

“State officials took down Confederate flags at two historic sites today after Democratic presidential hopeful Richard A. Gephardt said they shouldn’t be flown anywhere.

Confederate battle flags were removed at the Confederate Memorial Historic Site and the Fort Davidson Historic Site, said Sue Holst, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The flags will still be displayed inside the sites’ visitor centers.

Over the weekend, Gephardt said: “My own personal feeling is that the Confederate flag no longer has a place flying any time, anywhere in our great nation.”

Mary Still, spokeswoman for Gov. Bob Holden (D), said she called Natural Resources Director Steve Mahfood after reading a news report about Gephardt’s statement.

“I told Steve it seemed to me it wouldn’t be appropriate to have it flying on a flagpole, but that I didn’t know all of their considerations, and I left it in his lap,” Still said. The Missouri leader of a Confederate heritage organization said politicians were trying to erase state history.

“They take our tax money and then they turn around and try to destroy our heritage,” said Gene Dressel, state commander of Sons of Confederate Veterans.”

Later that year I would come up with the idea of placing Confederate flags on private property for those who wanted to fly them. If the Governor took two flags down, we would put hundreds up in their place. We chose the Arcadia Valley in Missouri’s Eastern Ozarks as our first location and I began to reach out to local business owners in the area about our idea. It was not long before I made some very good contacts and began to organize like minded individuals to help in the effort.

By July 5, 2003 we met in Arcadia to kick off the event. Below is a summary of the events that transpired that day:

Return to Arcadia:

The Kick Off of the Missouri Flag Campaign

By: Clint E. Lacy

This past Saturday July 5th, 2003 will be a day that I will never forget as long as I live. On Memorial Day this past May I went to the Arcadia Valley and for the first time saw the empty flag pole where the Second National Confederate flag once flew, at the Fort Davidson Historic Site. It was then and there that I decided I must do something to combat the Missouri politicians plan to implement their politically correct agenda in our state.

U.S. Representative Richard Gephardt from Democrat from Missouri started this whole fiasco in January 2003 while campaigning in South Carolina. Missouri Governor Bob Holden also a Democrat fulfilled his wishes by removing a Confederate battle flag at the Higginsville, Mo. Confederate cemetery, and another Second National Confederate Flag at the Fort Davidson State Historic Site in Pilot Knob, Missouri. Those who were expecting Missouri’s Republicans to combat this were soon disappointed when Republican Senators Bond and Talent publicly stated that they supported the Governor’s decision to remove the flags.

It was through my writing that I met my good friends the Warren Family of Bridgeport, Illinois, and Frank Carlton, chairman of the Missouri League of the South. I told Frank of my flag campaign idea and he was immediately on board and making phone calls and raising support for our cause. Terry Warren was equally supportive and gave me invaluable advice and also raised much support for our cause. Through Frank I met Richard Gibbs also of the League of the South, whom I have also become a very good friend with. And last but not least Jamie and Cody Wiles, owners of the Arcadia Cafe who got the other businesses on board.

The Arcadia was our rendezvous point for the Warren’s, the Gibb’s and the Lacy’s Saturday. Cody also introduced us to some new friends as well. One of the was Ron Warren and his wife Sandy. Ron used to be involved in the Friends of Fort Davidson organization but resigned because he was asked not to speak out about the controversy. He is a very principled man and continues to teach about Southern Heritage. The other was Mrs. Polly Hollie who is a member of the Arcadia Historical Society.

Terry Warren presented Illinois Sons of Confederate veteran’s award to Cody and her husband Jamie in recognition of the help they have contributed to our Flag Campaign. We all then loaded up and drove to Ironton to present Mr. Jerry Turner with a Second National Confederate flag to display at his antique shop. Mr. Turner was happy to see us and very supportive of our efforts. We got out Richard’s tools and hung the flagpole and holder for Mr. Turner. We then thanked him and bid him adieu.

We then set off for our third stop of the day, Baylee Jo’s Southern BBQ. The owner’s name is Chris Sullinger. Chris named his business after his daughter Baylee. He too is upset with the Governor’s decision to remove the Confederate flags in Missouri. He told me that he was a flight attendant for years and had met people from all around the world.

“There’s not a racist bone in my body”, Mr. Sullinger told me. He then added, “ I teach my daughter to treat people, as you would want to be treated”. It is at this point I must add that this seems to be the general feeling of most of the residents in the Arcadia Valley.

Most feel that the Governor had no right to rewrite history for the sake of political gain. I talked some more to Mr. Sullinger and found that he is not only supporting the Missouri Flag Campaign for his own heritage but also for Baylee Jo. Mr. Sullinger informed me that Baylee’s ancestors on her mother’s side of the family were all Southerners from Mississippi. “Men fought and died for this flag”, Mr. Sullinger added. He also expressed his opinion that they should be honored by flying the Confederate flag in the area’s that they fought and died.

All of us had an enjoyable visit with Chris Sullinger. We mounted his Second National on a tree that is on his property clearly visible from Missouri Hwy 21. We thanked him and he thanked us and we loaded up again.

This time Mrs. Hollie wanted to show us a Lutheran Church that had been built prior to the War Between the States and also served as a Union hospital during and after the Battle of Pilot Knob, Missouri. She opened the doors with the original key to the church. “Ms. Polly”, as we called her took us on a trip back in time as she told us of the history of the church and showed us the old school room upstairs and the backroom of the church that still has the bloodstain of Union soldiers on the floor. Sadly she is facing her own preservation problems. The Lutheran Church does not want to preserve the site and she has received little help from the other Lutheran Church in town. So if you’re ever in Arcadia please look up Ms. Polly and take the tour of the church, and also if you have it, donate a little money to preserve this piece of history.

After the tour of the church, we went to the Arcadia Cafe for lunch. Jamie and Cody were swamped so we found out there would be a bit of a wait. “Ms. Polly” invited us all to tour her home to pass some time. “It’s just a couple of blocks away”, “Ms. Polly” told us. So we all started to follow her home (Terry very wisely went back for the van so we wouldn’t have to walk back.)

Ms. Polly’s property was beautiful, again a step back in time. She told the women and children that she had a collection of over 4,000 dolls. And as if a mind reader she brought me the key to her husband’s shop and told us to go check out his car collection. After a while we decided to try the Arcadia again. Terry took the women and children in the van as Richard and I started back on foot.

We talked about how friendly the people of Arcadia and the surrounding communities were. It was amazing how hospitable they and how they all respected history as we did. Especially “Ms. Polly”, who told me after posing for a picture while hanging Jerry Turner’s flag, “ Son, make sure you take your hat off next time”.

Terry then showed up as Richard and I were walking and talking. He pulled up to the curb so we could get in. “we didn’t expect you to come back for us”, I said. To which Terry replied, “ A good commander always takes care of the women and children first, but he never forgets his men!”. Terry Warren is certainly a man of his word.

Back at the Arcadia we ordered our meal and before we ate, Richard asked if we minded if he said a prayer, to which there were no objections. He prayed for our meal and our cause and thanked God for this special day of fellowship.

We started to eat and unwind thinking the day was winding down when we saw Chris Sullinger, the owner of Baylee Joes BBQ , pull up outside the Arcadia Cafe and run in excitedly. We were fearful that he might have found trouble by hanging up his new Second National flag, but it was quite the opposite.

“Your never going to believe this”, Chris exclaimed. “Jimmy VanZant cousin of the famous Ronnie and Johnny VanZant of Lynyrd Skynyrd fame had driven by and saw it flying. He stopped in and told Chris he had been looking for a Second National Confederate flag but had not been able to find one. He asked Chris if he could have his and Chris asked us if we’d mind if he gave it to Jimmie.

“Nope, not at all”, I replied. We agreed it would be no trouble at all to get Chris another flag.

Chris told us that before Jimmy stopped by he had already received several positive comments and thank you’s for flying it.

“Jimmy is giving a concert at Lesterville tonight for about 2000 people”, Chris said. He then went on to say

“Clint he wants you to write a speech so he could tell the crowd about the Missouri flag campaign!”.

I asked “Ms. Polly for a piece of paper and wrote the speech. Chris also said that Jimmy VanZant had also found out that he played drums and invited him to the concert to play on the song “Sweet Home Alabama”.

Terry looked at me and said, “It’s out of your hands and in God’s hands now Clint”

“I can’t believe this” I said, while looking at everyone.

“It could only happen in Arcadia”, Ms. Polly replied.

To which I answered, “I believe you’re right Ms. Polly”.

Slavery & Stereotypes in Confederate Arkansas

Charlie Rigger, talking about harsh treatment of slaves by Union soldiers in Arkansas.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I have had many irons in the fire but today some Facebook memories popped up in my notifications and I thought they were worth sharing. A result of some research I had been doing a few years back, the information dealt with the harsh treatment of slaves by Union soldiers in Confederate Arkansas. Most of us were taught that the Civil War (War of Northern Aggression, War Between the States etc) was a noble endeavor to free the slaves from bondage in the South. However, a review of the facts reveals that Northern attitudes toward race did not reflect the humanitarian propaganda being distributed from Washington, D.C.

From The Slave Narratives, Volume 2, Part 6, page 40. Interview with former slave Charlie Rigger talking about treatment they received from the Yankees:

“I recollect the soldiers come by in July, 1863 or 1864 and back in December. I heard talk so long ‘fore they got there , I knowed who they was. They took my oldest brother. He didn’t want to go. We never heard from him. He never came back. My white master hid out. He didn’t go to war. One son went and came back. It was the Yankees made my oldest brother go. The first crowd in July swapped their wore-out scrub stock for our good stock. The second crowd cleaned them out, took our hogs. Miss Betty had died ‘fore they come in July. That second crowd come in December. They cleaned out everything to eat and wear. They set the house ‘fire several times with paper and coal oil (kerosene). It went out every time. One told the captain. He come up behind. It went out every time. He said, “Let’s move on.” They left it clean and bare. We didn’t like them.”

From the Slave Narratives, Arkansas, Vol. 2 pg. 33. Interview with former slave Shepherd Rhone, Pine Bluff , Arkansas:

“I know when the Yankees come I run from em. When peace declared, the Yankees come all through our house and took everything they could get ahold of to eat. The only reason the Yankees whipped the South is they starved em.”

From the Arkansas Slave Narratives, interview with former slave Josephine Ann Barnett of Devalls Bluff , Arkansas:

“The slaves hated the Yankees. They treated them mean. They was having a big time. They didn’t like the slaves. They steal from the slaves too. Some poor folks didn’t have slaves.”

Clint Lacy– is author of Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition

Happy Missouri Secession Day!

On October 28, 1861 the Missouri legislature convened at the Masonic Hall in Neosho, Missouri and passed an ordinance of secession, abolishing its ties with the Union. A month later the state was admitted into the newly formed Confederacy.

After the Missouri State Guard secured victories at Wilson’s Creek (near Springfield, Missouri) in August, 1861 and Lexington, Missouri in September, 1861, the Missouri Legislature met at the Masonic Hall in Neosho, Missouri on October 28, 1861 to debate the subject of secession from the Union.

With the attempt at maintaining a neutral stance in regard to the war having failed and the legally elected legislature being forced out of the state capital at Jefferson City by the threat of the Union army, Missouri’s elected officials had but little choice to cast its lot with the Confederacy. As I noted in my book “Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition”:

“The Missouri legislature met in Neosho and passed an ordinance of secession in October , 1861 and was admitted into the Confederacy in Nov. 1861 (though they never controlled the state again).

It has been written in the history books that the secession was not legal because there was not a quorum in the Missouri House or Senate present. According to Col. Moore, this was not the case:

“The Legislature passed an act of secession. In every particular it complied with the forms of law. It was called together in extraordinary session by the proclamation of the governor. There was a quorum of each house present. The governor sent to the two houses his message recommending, among other things, the passage of an act dissolving all political connection between the State of Missouri and the United States of America. The ordinance was passed strictly in accordance with law and parliamentary usage, was signed by the presiding officers of the two houses, attested by John T. Crisp, secretary of the senate, and Thomas M. Murray, clerk of the house, and approved by Claiborne F. Jackson, governor of the State. The legislature also elected members of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate government, among whom were Gen. John B. Clark, who was succeeded in his military command by Col. Edwin W. Price, a son of Gen. Sterling Price, and Gen. Thomas A. Harris, who was succeeded in his military command by Col. Martin E. Green.”

Missouri would forever be known as “The 12th Star of the Confederacy.”

After the Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas on March 7-8, 1862, the Union effectively controlled Missouri leaving mostly partisan factions to resist the occupation forces.

The Missouri government would find itself in exile and it’s new capital would be located in Marshall, Texas for the remainder of the war.

Photo Essay: Pilgrimage to Pulliam’s

A headstone to 12 unknown Confederate soldiers killed at Pulliam’s farm on December 25, 1863 in Ripley County, Missouri (c) 2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC

On Saturday October 23, 2021 I accompanied members of the Stoddard Rangers Camp #2290, Missouri Sons of Confederate Veterans and members of the John Crawford Smith Camp #2302, Arkansas Sons of Confederate Veterans, on a visit to Pulliam’s farm, site of the 1863 Christmas Massacre in Ripley County, Missouri.

Researching this event inspired me to write my book “Blood in the Ozarks”:

“Deep in the Ozarks of Southeast Missouri a battle still raises about a massacre committed on Christmas Day, 1863 in Ripley County, Missouri by members of the 3’rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry led by Major James Wilson. While naysayers state that the “massacre” was nothing more than a rescue mission to free Union troops captured days before by Colonel Timothy Reeves and his 15th Missouri Cavalry, CSA, local historical documents, newspaper articles and military records prove bias on their part, painting a picture of a government cover up and the needless slaughter of men, women and children along with Confederate soldiers on the holiest day of the year.”

We rendezvoused at the boat ramp on the Current River in Doniphan, Missouri where we proceeded to visit the Old Doniphan Cemetery. Our caravan then traveled 17 miles southwest of the town to Pulliam’s farm, the site of the massacre.

The landowner was kind enough to allow us on to the property where we found him cleaning fence rows. He was a candid, honest, no nonsense man who informed us he had grown up in the area.

We found him to be very knowledgeable about the history that transpired there. When we told him we all felt a very heavy feeling in the air when we entered the property, he stated that those who died there on Christmas day, 1863 would always be with us as long as we remembered them. It was hallowed ground and we were privileged to have been allowed to walk upon it.

Current River, Doniphan, Missouri (c) 2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
(c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
(c) 2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
Doniphan, Missouri (c) 2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
Our caravan waiting for permission to explore the property. The road overlooked the valley where Pulliam’s farm is located. (c) 2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
Site of Pulliam’s farm, where the massacre of Confederate soldiers and their families took place. (c) 2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
Looking southwest on the old Doniphan, Missouri to Warm Springs, Arkansas road. Major Wilson’s Union cavalry surprised Timothy Reeves’ 15th Missouri Cavalry, CSA and their families during a Christmas celebration in 1863. Wilson entered the farm from the northeast. (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
Pulliam’s Spring. Pulliam’s farm had several springs located on the property and was bordered by a creek, that combined with the fact that it was located in a secluded valley made it the ideal location for Colonel Reeves’ regimental camp. (c) 2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
Mike Sisco the property owner, a very honest, hospitable and knowledgeable host. Allowing us to explore the property was a privilege that we did not take lightly. (c)2021 Corey Dees Photography.
From left to right: Alan Jones, Paul Arnold, Clint Lacy, Dalton Bilderback, Steve Reece, Jim Arnold, Mark Locke. (c) 2021 Corey Dees Photography.

From the Foothills to the Delta: Spending a Day On the Rock Island

(c) 2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC

I had the opportunity to take part in a “speeder” run on the newly reborn Rock Island railroad from Swan Lake to Clarksdale, Mississippi recently. “Speeders” are track inspection vehicles from the days of old and running these pieces of history has become a niche hobby over the years. Before I get into the events of the day I need to share a bit of history.

From Wikipedia:

“The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (CRI&P RW, sometimes called Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway)[1] (reporting marks CRIPRIROCK) was an American Class I railroad. It was also known as the Rock Island Line, or, in its final years, The Rock.

At the end of 1970, it operated 7,183 miles of road on 10,669 miles of track; that year it reported 20,557 million ton-miles of revenue freight and 118 million passenger-miles.

Eventually bad management and a bad economy took it’s toll on the once great railroad and by the early 1980’s it ceased to exist but thanks to the vision of Mississippi businessman Robert Riley (who bought the rights and licensing to the railroad’s name) the Rock Island name and legacy has been reborn and is undergoing a renaissance of sorts, this time however, it is deep in the heart of Mississippi on a stretch of road once owned and operated by the Illinois Central.

In 2017 Riley took over operations of the Mississippi Delta Railroad. Information found on the Rock Island Rail website states:

“The Mississippi Delta Railroad (reporting mark: MSDR) is based in Sumner, Mississippi and operates a total of 85 miles of track in the northwest corner of the state. MSDR interchanges with Canadian National Railway, a Class I Railroad company, at Swan Lake, MS. The MSDR has two expansive yards located in Clarksdale, MS as well as numerous sidings and auxiliary tracks for car storage. The Mississippi Delta’s principle commodities include: scrap, paper, polystyrene, PVC, fertilizer, cotton, grains, and other agricultural products. “

My friend Shawn and I left the Southeast Missouri Ozarks on Friday October 8th, 2021 at 5:00 pm and arrived at Clarksdale, Mississippi 4 1/2 hours later. After spending the night in Clarksdale, we drove to Sumner the next morning and hitched a ride with some “speeder” owners.

(C)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
A caravan of “speeder” cars prepares to depart Sumner, Mississippi on the morning of October 9, 2021 (c)2021 Clint Lacy/ Foothills Media LLC
Map of the Rock Island Railroad from Clarksdale to Swan Lake, Mississippi. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org)

Leaving Sumner, we traveled to Swan Lake where “The Rock” interchanges with the Canadian National railroad. At Swan Lake the caravan of “speeders” turned their cars around and headed back to Sumner, passing through Webb where an old railroad depot still stands.

Train depot, Webb, Mississippi. (c) 2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC

Doubling back through Sumner, the group headed to Tutwiler where it stopped for lunch and then continued north towards Clarksdale.

A cotton field waiting to be picked at Tutwiler, Mississippi. (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC

After taking a break at Tutwiler we fired up the “speeders” and were once again heading north passing through Dublin, Mattson and Claremont before stopping at a rather unique location outside of Clarksdale called The Shack Up Inn for another break.

The Shack Up Inn is located on the once thriving Hopson Plantation three miles from the historic “crossroads” of highways 49 and 61 in the heart of blues country. Sharecropper’s shacks and grain bins have been converted into comfortable cottages and the site boasts its own blues bar and lounge.

The Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, Mississippi. (c)2021 Clint Lacy/ Foothills Media LLC
The Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, Mississippi (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
The Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, Mississippi. (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
The Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, Mississippi. (c) 2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
The Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, Mississippi. (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
The caravan stopped in front of The Shack Up Inn for a brief break before proceeding to Clarksdale. (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC

After taking a break (and some pictures) at The Shack Up Inn our caravan left for Rock Island Rail’s expansive rail yard at Clarksdale, where we would once again, turn the “speeders” around for our 20- mile return trip to Sumner.

Speeding through the rail yards at Clarksdale, Mississippi
A haze settles over the railroad on our return trip to Sumner, a result of the ongoing cotton harvest that was taking place at the time of our trip. (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC

We arrived at Sumner at around 5:00 pm after spending a full day on the rails. I had the fortune of hitching a ride on an open air “speeder” and it can only be described as riding a Harley Davidson on rails. As much fun as it was, I was tired.

The rest of the afternoon was spent loading up the “speeders” and visiting with my new found friends. After the visit, we all said our goodbyes and left with smiling faces. Thank you to to Robert and Gwen Riley for allowing this event to take place and accompanying us. Also thanks to Louis and Caleb for allowing me to hitch a ride with them.

Soon Shawn and I pointed my car north. As much as I enjoyed the road trip, there really is no place like home. I was glad to get back to the foothills.

More pictures from the “speeder” run and Sumner, Mississippi…

Me posing next to the open air “speeder” I hitched a ride on. (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
My friend ( and railroad historian ) Shawn Friedrich. (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
Courthouse, Sumner, Mississippi. (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC
Town square, Sumner, Mississippi. (c)2021 Clint Lacy / Foothills Media LLC

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