The crime of sex trafficking , unfortunately, is a common place news item these days, you can imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this article from the September 3, 1870 Memphis Daily Appeal newspaper which tells the story of a 16-year-old girl by the name of Mary Austin of Ripley County, Missouri.
Mary stated that her family moved to Helena, Arkansas. Shortly thereafter both of her parents died (she did not elaborate how). It was at this time that she went to work for a planter by the name of Captain Beard working in the cotton fields for a year when she met a young man whose name was Dick Austin. Mary told the Daily Appeal:
“There was a young man named Dick Austin (no kin of mine) visited me then and everyone thought he was a clever young fellow, so about two months I was married to him.”
This would have made Mary Austin at 15 years of age at the time she married (which was not necessarily uncommon at the time). Mary stated that:
“He never did anything toward supporting me from the minute we were married. On the contrary I had to work for him. I worked at a Dutch boarding house for our board for a while, and afterward I went to another boarding house and worked. He left me about a week ago and went on board of a boat on the river.
A few days after leaving to work on the boat Mary’s husband Dick sent for her with news that he had secured a job for her on the boat as well. Once aboard the boat she realized her husband had taken up with another woman and that the vessel was actually a floating house of prostitution. In short, her husband had “pimped her out”.
Mary escaped by waiting for her chance , climbing down to a skiff that was tied to the stern of the boat, cutting the rope loose and drifting aimlessly downstream during which time she was nearly ran over by a steamboat, narrowly avoiding a collision, the boat’s captain swerved to one side. As soon as it was possible a boat was lowered into the river to rescue her.
You would think this would be the end of the story but when they got to Memphis the boat’s captain told Mary’s story to a man who supplied meat to the steamboats, the vendor promised to find the young lady a boarding house to stay.
Unfortunately , after arriving Mary Austin found that the “boarding house” was a front for another house of prostitution, once again, “pimped out” by someone who promised to take care of her but Mary was brave and cunning and like the boat she had been trapped on she waited for an opportunity to escape, which came when someone rang the bell at the door.
Mary Austin fought her way free and was running down the street holding her clothing when a policeman stopped her to enquire what was the matter. After hearing her story the Chief of Police ordered the arrest of Ed Smith (the man who pimped her out the second time) and as Mary Austin stated:
The Thursday May 25, 1865 edition of The Weekly Ottumwa [Iowa] Courier reported the news of General M. Jeff Thompson’s surrender and it contains information of a particular location to surrender his command.
According to the paper it appears that originally General Thompson had chosen Chalk Bluff , Arkansas to surrender his command but something occurred to change his mind. The paper reported:
“At Cape Girardeau Lt. Colonel Hines was found with 200 of the 17th Illinois Cavalry to escort the flag of truce and messengers to Chalk Bluffs. The Day after the party left the Cape 200 more men of the same regiment with a section of artillery followed the escort party. With the exception messengers and escorts were nearly eaten up by mosquitos nothing occurred worthy of note until the banks of the St. Francois River were reached and Lt. Col. Davis and Captain Bennett and the escort of cavalry encamped at Chalks Bluffs, Mo.
Another detachment of cavalry, the 7th Kansas numbering three hundred men , under command of Col. Beveridge, had gone off toward Doniphan , so as to be prepared for emergencies. They encountered no opposition but arrived in Doniphan, Ripley County, Missouri about the time messenger or flag of truce arrived at Chalk Bluffs.
Upon reaching the Bluff it was ascertained that General Thompson had gone south to meet another flag of truce from General Reynolds, commanding the Department of Arkansas.”
The paper goes on to report that the final surrender and settlement was to be made on May 25th at Wittsburg, Missouri, on the St. Francis River and at Jacksonport, Arkansas on the White River, on the 5th of June.”
It is purely speculation on this writer’s part , but I feel perhaps General Thompson’s reluctance to travel to Chalk Bluff had something to do with the 7th Kansas Cavalry waiting in Doniphan.
The 7th Kansas had plundered their way from Missouri’s western border at the beginning of the war, all the way down to southeast Missouri at war’s end and as I wrote in a “Speak Out” forum on June 14, 2011:
“When the 7th Kansas Cavalry is mentioned most people think of the depredations it committed in Western Missouri; however, the 7th Kansas was very active in Southeast Missouri as well, and every bit as vicious. Thanks to the Reynolds County Genealogy a previously unknown newspaper clip has surfaced that sheds light on how the 7th Kansas viewed Missourians (even from the eastern side of the state).
“DAILY TIMES [LEAVENWORTH, KS], March 4, 1865, p. 3, c. 1
Through the kindness of Mr. A. G. Fraker, of the 7th cavalry, we have been permitted to copy the following items from a letter written by one of the boys of the 7th, now at Patterson, Missouri. It is dated Feb. 24th. Patterson is below Pilot Knob:
“We are getting this country pretty well cleaned out. We have killed several of the most desperate characters within the past two weeks. Have had a few unsuccessful chases after rebels. Most all of the rebel families have been ordered South. We met two families on their road to Dixie on foot. Captain Bostwick is in command of the post. A big scout went out this morning. The citizens are making maple sugar.”
General Thompson might very well have felt the 7th Kansas’ presence in Doniphan, Missouri was a trap and that they were “lying in wait”. One thing is for sure, Thompson was worried for not only his men but for their family members as well.
At 8:00 am on Thursday May 11, 1865 from Liddle’s (an area near Chalk Bluff, Arkansas, Thompson penned a dispatch to Lt. Colonel C.W. Davis , U.S. Army which stated:
“Colonel: Can you inform me whether the officers and men who were surrendered by General Robert E. Lee were permitted to pass within the Confederate lines or not? My reason for making this inquiry is that many of those I am called upon to surrender will prefer to go to Texas and Louisiana to remaining in neighborhoods where private animosities will keep the community in tumult, after the military authorities are withdrawn. Some will desire to take their families. Others think that their families will be safe will be absent themselves after being paroled. This is a very important matter to many on the border of Missouri and Arkansas, and you, will therefore , please let me know your understanding of this case.
M. Jeff Thompson
Brigadier General, Commanding North Sub-District of Arkansas.”