Audrain County, Missouri
THE BROWN FARM MASSACRE
From “THE FULTON GAZETTE” April 27, 1914
(This is the story of the massacre of seven Callaway County boys in the barn lot of Hamilton Brown, four and one-half miles northwest of Hatton, on November 4, 1864, by a band of militiamen under the command of Major James C. Bay, of Wellsville. From the stories of survivors and others with whom the author has talked and corresponded, it is believed that what is here printed is an accurate account of the blackest incident in the history of Callaway County.
While gathering the material and writing the story the thought often came to the writer that possibly it would be better to let the account of the tragedy go unwritten, so that the horror of it would not be revived, but the other view – the belief that the facts should be presented fully and accurately because of their historical importance has prevailed.
Because of its length, it is necessary to divide the story into two parts. The first half follows, and the second half will appear next week. – O.B.)
General Sterling Price’s army was on its ill-starred raid into Missouri in the autumn of 1864. The fight at Pilot Knob had been so costly to the Confederate forces as to cause the plan to seize St. Louis to be abandoned. Then, when the army was before Jefferson City, the Federals seemed so formidable that the planned attack on the seat of the state government was given up. Passing south of Jefferson City, Price moved westward to California, and there turned north to Boonville, which had been captured by Shelby.
One of the purposes of the Price raid was to get recruits for the Confederate service, and at Boonville William R. Terry (now a resident of Fulton and a former member of the county court), a private in Captain George Brooks’ company E of Parsons’ regiment, and Frank F. Turley, a cavalry trooper under General Joe Selby, were directed to come to Callaway county, where they had been reared, to enlist new men. With the assistance of Robert Boyd, of Boydsville, a civilian, they quickly got together more than two hundred men or, better, boys, for very few of the recruits were twenty-one years old.
Late in October Terry, Turley and Boyd, and the men they had enlisted, started to join Price, who was then in the southwestern part of the state, retreating before Pleasanton after the battle at Independence. The rendevous of the recruits was Millersburg, from which place they began a march across Boone county to Glasgow, where they hoped to be able to cross the Missouri river. Passing north of Columbia and avoiding the main travelled roads as much as possible, the recruits reached the western part of Boone county before nightfall.
Up to that time the expedition had been more or less of a boyish frolic. Judge Terry says there were less than two dozen firearms in the company, due to the fact that the militiamen who had infested Callaway county almost from the beginning of the war, had confiscated practically every gun in the county. In a haphazard sort of way camp was established the first night on a hillside. Without military training, without arms, without uniforms, without tents, without stores, without even a realization of the seriousness of civil war, the camp the men made was a crude affair. In camp the men insisted on building fires and doing other things dangerous to their safety, so, to protect them, a military organization was quickly formed. The election resulted in the choosing of Terry as captain, Turley as first lieutenant Boyd as second lieutenant, and the late James T. Miller, of this city, as third lieutenant.
The march to Glasgow was resumed the next day, and Turley, with five or six men, was sent ahead of the main body to reconnoiter. Four or five miles from Glasgow, Turley saw Union troops approaching and immediately sent a courier back to inform Terry of the nearness of the enemy and to advise him to take care of his men. Terry halted his company, formed the men in battle line, and waited for the Federals to approach, hoping to frighten the enemy by the size of his force. Turley also halted and in a short time the advance guard from the Federals came up with him. A parley followed and one of the Federals inquired of Turley, “Who are you?” Instantly one of Turley’s men rose in his saddle stirrups and exclaimed, “Bill Anderson, by G__!”
The identity of the soldier who answered the question has been lost, but his reply saved the Callaway boys. The name of Anderson was dreaded by every Federal soldier and militiaman in Missouri, for just a few weeks before, on September 27, Anderson had perpetrated the Centralia massacre on the farm of Colonel Milton Singleton, who afterward moved to Callaway county and lived one mile northwest of Fulton. The exclamation of Turley’s young soldier caused the Federal advance guard to turn and run precipitately, after which the Confederates lost no time in getting away. “It was the luckiest thing that could have happened to us,” Judge Terry says, “for we could not have made any kind of successful resistance.”
Finding that they could not cross the river, the Callaway boys turned back, purposing to join Colonel Caleb Dorsey (a Pike county man), of Shelby’s command, who was in Audrain county with several hundred men. On the night of November 3, 1864, they camped on Four Mile creek, about one fourth mile west of what is now Walnut Grove school house, while Colonel Dorsey and several hundred men were in camp a mile or two north of them. It was during this night that the memorable snow fell. The snow was heavy and covered the ground to a depth of nearly a foot, while it weighted down the leaves and branches of trees almost to the breaking point.
When Dorsey heard of the presence of the Confederate recruits near him, he sent word for the captain to report to him. “I went to Dorsey’s camp,” Judge Terry says, “and we talked about crossing the Missouri River in this county. He sent me and two or three picked men from his own force to cross the river and that night we rode to Cote Sans Dessein, where we made a deal with a foreigner who lived there to use two skiffs he had sunk in the river. We returned to north Callaway the morning of the fourth of November and because of the heavy snow, had to ride in the public road which caused much uneasiness, because we knew there were lots of Federals in the county.”
The camp on Four Mile creek was like the one on the hillside in Boone county. As a matter of fact, it was nothing more than a place where the men fed their horses and laid on the ground to sleep. Many of the men, however, spent the night under shelter at the neighboring farms, but those who slept in the open, under the snow, saw they never had a better night’s sleep and never slept more warmly..
Í was one of the men who spent the night in camp,” the Rev. Noah W. Bedsworth, of Cedar City, says. “The next morning, after breakfast, a lot of us were sitting around in camp, when our pickets were run in by Major Bay’s Wellsville militia. Our men mounted their horses hastily and started north, with a bunch of about ten in the lead, among whom were the seven that were killed. I was a member of another bunch of about ten that followed the first crowd, while a third squad separated from us. Our squad was led by Lieutenant Dial (Dock) Barnes of Boone county, who belonged to Shelby’s command, and who had been sent home from Price’s army to enlist recruits. When we came to a place where we thought we could make a stand, we turned out of the road and stopped. The militiamen passed us and continued their pursuit of the other men and we heard the shots fired at the Brown farm that caused the death of our comrades. ”Two of the part that was in the lead are living. One is Judge G.H. Trigg, now a member of the county court of Callaway county, and the other is James Ed Bradley, who lived near Miller’s Creek Methodist church in west Callaway, In the chase Judge Trigg was knocked from his horse by a limb of a tree and fell into the snow, where he stayed until Bay’s men passed him. He thinks some of the militiamen must have seen him but were too intent on overtaking the others to stop to kill him. Mr. Bradley was with those who were run into the Brown horse lot and killed, and so far as is known, if the only person now living who witnessed the massacre.
“It was murder, downright murder,” Mr. Bradley says. “Our men were not armed and were just shot down. We were driven into a corner of the Brown lot – the barn on one side and the fence on the other. The militiamen made us dismount and Bay gave orders to his men to kill us as soon as we could be lined up. I looked right up in the face of Bay and said, ‘You are not going to kill a boy like me, are you?’ He looked me in the eye and told me to get on my horse and stay back with the captain of his company.
“The guns of the militiamen were not loaded when they ran us down,” Mr. Bradley tells, and the men who murdered our men had to load up before they could do their work. No special persons were detailed to do the shooting and the murders were committed by men who walked up voluntarily to do it. I was told to look at the shooting and that it would be a ‘warning to me’. I remember it all just as clearly as if it were being enacted before me this minute,” Mr. Bradley says. “I will never be able to forget it.”
The men who were killed were :James Polk Selby, orderly sergeant of the company, Joseph Adair, Charles Sinclair, John R. Davis, George Allen, Alfred A. Kemp and William Key. All were Callaway boys and all were under 22 years old. Selby was a member of the Selby family of west Callaway and an uncle of S.S. and J.P. McClanahan, of this county. Davis was an uncle of W. Lee Davis of Herford. Allen was related to the well-known family of northwest Callaway. Kemp was a brother of Mrs. W.S. May, southeast of Carrington. Key was a cousin of Kemp’s.
Selby’s body was buried at Prairie Chapel graveyard, west of Earl. The bodies of Adair, Sinclair, and Davis were buried in one grave at Millersburg, while the bodies of Allen, Kemp and Key were buried in the Pleasant Grove graveyard at Hatton, where a monument bought with money raised by public subscription by the late Benjamin Wood, was erected and dedicated in 1910. O. W. Moss, who lives near Earl, though some younger than Adair, Sinclair and Davis, was their schoolmate and attended their burial. After they were murdered, Mr Moss says, their bodies were taken to the home of John Adair, father of one of the young men who were killed, and their parents agreed that inasmuch as they had been friends in life and were killed together, they should remain together in death and be buried in the same grave.
The young men who were killed were practically unarmed. One story has it that there was not a firearm of any kind in the crowd, while another which is believed to be of Federal origin, says one of the men had a small caliber revolver.
The shooting took place in the horse lot of Hamilton Brown (C.H. Brown), father of J. Shan Brown of Audrain county. The Brown farm is owned now by Baxter Guthrie, whose wife was a daughter of Mr. Brown, and is located on the Callaway side of the county line road, four and one-half miles northwest of Hatton. One of the witnesses of the massacre was Miss Mary A. (Molly) Brown, now dead, another daughter of the owner of the farm. After the close of the war she married Thompson Fry, now a resident of Auxvasse, who was a soldier in the Confederate army.
“My wife, then Miss Brown, was standing at a window in her home and saw the Confederate boys riding across a field toward the barn lot,” Mr. Fry says. Then she saw the militiamen after them and she turned to her mother and said, “I’m going out there and try to save those boys.” She ran to the lot and, meeting Bay at the gate, pleaded with him not to kill the boys. When he refused, she begged him to spare Bradley, who was only 16 years old. That request was granted. My wife recognized the Callaway boys when she saw them riding up. She knew Polk Selby as well as she did me, and just the Sunday before he was killed he called on her at her home.”
“After the shooting,” Mr. Fry tells, “Bay and some of his men rode up to the Brown dwelling and asked for the man of the house. Mrs. Brown met them and told them she did not know where he was. ‘Tell him when he comes back, to give those men decent burial,’ he said, and then rode away.“ Mr. Fry says that Hook Gay, of Boone county, was with the men who were killed, and that he urged them to ride through the Brown lot into the county line road and make a dash for the Cedar Creek hills. They thought it better policy to surrender, however, and lost their lives, while Gay acted on his own advice and escaped. Mr. Bradley had no recollection of Gay being in the party, but Mr. Bedsworth says Gay was with the men who were in camp and he is convinced in his own mind that Mr. Fry has the story straight.
Bay’s force comprised about 150 men, Mr. Bradley says. After the killing they went to Concord, where they spent the night in the Presbyterian church. The next day they went to Williamsburg, where another night was spent in a church building, and the third day they returned to Wellsville. After their arrival at Wellsville, Mr. Bradley was sent to Mexico, where he was kept a prisoner until about Christmas time, when he was released.
(To be concluded next week)