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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Log Cabin in Cass County Uncovers a Promising Link to the Civil War and Order No. 11

Nightfall had overcome the prairie the sweltering evening of August 21st, 1863; few sounds echoed in the darkness in the middle of the night. They had avoided the manhunt by taking high prairies and divides between Bull Creek and the Marias des Cygnes River. They had turned into the timber, and in the darkness, had escaped into the night. Quantrill and his men continued to creep with solidarity southbound.

They needed to get back into safer territory. They needed to cross into Missouri.

Senator James H. Lane, a notorious Jayhawker and Union general, emerged after narrowly escaping the attack in Lawrence. Through the burning cinders and ashes of the town of 2,000, Lane looked for reinforcements in order to chase the murderers. Knowing very well that he was one of Quantrill’s targets, the unpredictable senator rallied farmers to grab fresh horses and follow the guerrillas.  Lane had no intention of letting Quantrill get away this time.

The Lawrence Massacre, August 21st, 1863
Meanwhile, in Leavenworth, Ks., Gen. Thomas Ewing, Jr., the man in charge of the District of the Border, was oblivious to the goings-on just southwest in Lawrence. Ewing was absent from his headquarters at the Pacific House Hotel in Kansas City when two couriers were sent to alert him of the Lawrence Massacre. But it wasn’t long before the dreadful news crossed in front of him. By 1:00 in the afternoon, Gen. Ewing left Leavenworth and headed south to seek out the slayers.

Gen. Ewing did not have fate on his side. He was delayed at the Kansas River at De Soto, Ks. because they couldn’t find boats to cross the waters. Hours crept by as Ewing was left restless and exhausted. As he was caught in wait on the river, Quantrill quietly continued on his route to safety.

Sen. James H. Lane (1814-1866)
Hunger and thirst overcame Quantrill’s men as their horses struggled to keep moving forward. The high from the morning’s successful attack of Lawrence had soon worn off as federal troops trailed the men as they fled Lawrence south. They, too, were exhausted from the chase of just shy of 50 miles. As men were alerted along the way, some stationed themselves on the state line in hopes of catching the guerrillas before they could sneak across the invisible line.

Some were, in fact, captured and killed. But the big fish was still out there.

The raiders, after killing close to 200 men and boys in what would be coined the Lawrence Massacre, slipped somewhat silently into Missouri in Cass Co. and closely watched at a fork of the Grand River as federal troops continued their manhunt.

By daylight the next day, the famished guerrillas halted to take a quick meal in small prairie surrounded by trees. Before they could feast, a warning came that troops were nearby. There was no choice; Quantrill and his men had to proceed. A small skirmish with troops ensued, yet, as always seemed to be true, Quantrill and most of his men fled through the forest to freedom.

Gen. Ewing, dangerously affected by the delay in De Soto, didn’t arrive to the Missouri border where Quantrill crossed until after dark on the 22nd- hours and hours after Quantrill hopped into his familiar territory where friends were aplenty.

Sen. Lane lost his search of Quantrill, yet his rage was not adrift. He had plenty of time, fatigue the enemy, to fester over the intense hatred he had for these guerrillas. Gen. Ewing and Sen. Lane met near the place where Quantrill and his men were known to stop four miles east of the Missouri-Kansas border. Lane, an incredible extemporaneous speaker, spat his frustrations at Gen. Ewing and demanded something drastic be done.

If Ewing wasn’t going to do anything, Lane and his Jayhawkers certainly would.


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William Quantrill (1837-1865)
When Don Peters, former executive director of Cass Co. Historical Society received a phone call in December 2014 that a log cabin was hidden underneath an abandoned house north of Freeman, Mo., he jumped at the chance to save it. And now, just shy of three years later, Peters is convinced this cabin is much more than just a lovely piece of pioneer history. He believes that it could be where two central infamous figures in the Kansas-Missouri Civil War conflict stayed and discussed Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence and one of the most controversial orders during the Civil War.

And if he’s right, this little log cabin would be a significant rediscovered piece of Civil War history for the ages.

A man had recently bought 80 acres of land north of Freeman, Mo. Before the new owner was to bulldoze the structures on it, he knew it was best to contact the experts about what he believed was underneath the abandoned house on the land.

A log cabin enthusiast, Peters was perfect for this new project. He had already successfully saved three other cabins in Missouri, but a cabin surviving the Border Wars and Civil War was an anomaly. As any good historian would do, he dug deep into the records to learn more about the history of the land and the family attached to it. 

Alfred G. Sloan's first land patent from 1845
And Mr. Peters has a very interesting case.

“Albert Sloan cleared the land and built this log cabin,” Peters explained. From its construction, Peters believes the cabin to be built in the late 1830s or early 1840s.

The first landowner was Alfred G. Sloan, born around 1805 in Barron Co., Ky. He married his first wife, Elizabeth Standiford in Indiana, and by the 1830s, Sloan and at least one of his brothers settled in what is now Cass Co. (then called VanBuren Co.).

Accounts from the Sloan descendants are recorded in the history of Cass Co. Family lore indicates that when Alfred rode into Pleasant Hill on a black pony with his wife, he met a Native American. Alfred wished to find land with plenty of water sources, and the old Indian led them to land north of Freeman, Mo. where the South Grand River's forks spidered on the land. In thanks, Alfred turned over his black pony to the old Indian.

He patented 240 acres of prime real estate in 1845. As with many early settlers of the western portion of Missouri, it is likely that Alfred Sloan was a “squatter,” meaning he had settled on the land well before he had purchased it from the government. The 1840 census shows that Alfred had already moved to Cass. Co. earlier, showing that the construction of the cabin was, in fact, by the late 1830s.

After all, a family of eight had to have a place to sleep.

Alfred’s brother-in-law, Hiram Boone Standiford, founder of Stanton, Ks., was a member of the Territorial Legislature before Kansas was a state. In E.W. Robinson’s History of Miami County, he wrote of Standiford: “He was a leader to be trusted, a friend warm and steadfast. . . In public life, he was an uncompromising Free-state man. . . He had been an anti-slavery member of the Missouri Legislature.”

Alfred G. Sloan and Serepta White. Courtesy
of the Sloan-Tribby descendants.
On December 7th, 1855, H.B. Standiford left his farm in Miami Co. and traveled to Lecompton to attend a special session of the legislature. On January 2nd, 1858, the 38-year-old passed away and his body was brought to Stanton for burial.

This connection to the very beginnings of the fight for abolishment of slavery is significant. Alfred G. Sloan seems to have sided with his in-law’s family.

Earlier in 1845, the same year Alfred patented his acreage in Cass Co., his wife passed away. He then married Serepta White and had nine more children, bringing his offspring total to 15. By this time, tensions in the area ran high due to frequent raids by Kansas free staters and the Missouri bushwhackers.

The nearest town was Morristown, now erased from the landscape and was one mile northwest of current-day Freeman, Mo. By the 1850s, Morristown had a general store and later a flour mill.

In September 1861, a skirmish, known as the Battle of Morristown, occurred on the streets of the small town. Morristown was overtaken by Union forces. They used this town for a winter camp and would search for supplies from neighbors.

The troops had no problem taking from the neighbors- especially from secessionists that were allies of Quantrill and the bushwhackers.

The town, by 1862, had been ransacked and only five buildings stood. Nearby Harrisonville had been taken and occupied by the Union.
Part of Plate 161 from the Military Atlas of the Civil War. The red star marks the location of Morristown.

This type of tyranny on the border was all-too-common. Families, such as the Sloan’s, stayed put for a time in hopes that the warfare would calm down. The nearest town- what they had most likely considered their hometown- had been nearly ruined.

The house before the removal began. 
To be clear, Alfred Sloan’s loyalties were not popular, even as Cass Co.’s towns were occupied by the Union. With the border towns under continuous fire and overtaken by Confederate sympathizers in the area, it is likely that Alfred Sloan, a staunch Unionist, decided it was time to abandon his farm and his log cabin. Records clearly indicate that he sought refuge in Miami Co., Ks.

Don Peters’ excitement mounted as he kept uncovering substantial evidence on this preserved piece of Missouri history. He surveyed the site and began to gingerly tear away the more modern frame house. With every board that was torn carefully away from the yellow paneling that covered it, a perfectly in-tact log cabin emerged.

Cabin hidden under that more modern structure begins to be revealed.
Courtesy of Lonnie Peters
The two story, 18x20 two room cabin showed no modifications. Although the floor and roof were gone, Don was able to piece together a pretty good idea of what the original, simple structure looked in the days of the Border Wars. The door and window frames remained along with the original rafters hewed from cottonwood.

“Whatever wood they had available is what they would have used,” Don explained.

As he examined the structure, he noted some interesting anomalies. “There were no bullet holes in it, and I could find no evidence of fire damage,” Peters noted.
 The side of the cabin.
Courtesy of Lonnie Peters

During this time in Missouri-Kansas Border War history, it is quite uncommon to find a structure this old completely unharmed by warfare. Tom Rafiner, historian and author of two books, Cinders and Silence and Caught Between Three Fires, explained, "A number of cabins that survived in the area during the Civil War were used by Union companies as stations. The houses that did survive outside of the Pleasant Hill or Harrisonville military posts were used by counting parties or patrols sent out. They grabbed a hold of a cabin to use."

Union soldiers cooking in camp. 
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
In a book published on the history of Cass Co., it notes an important event that may have led to Alfred and his family moving to Miami Co. for the remainder of the war. It reads, “During the Civil War the ‘Kansas Bushwhackers’ came over the border burning and stealing. They came to the Sloan place, but the family hid in the small basement of the log cabin and they did not find them.”

Well, most cabins from this era didn’t have basements. When Don neared the foundation of the old home, his eyes widened and a smile followed as the base of the structure saw light for the first time in over a century. There it was. A small, 10 to 11-foot cellar with a small opening- with walls almost six inches thick.

There’s nothing like physical corroboration of paper records found.

Oh, but those records had a lot more to show that this cabin could possibly have served as a significant piece of Civil War history after Alfred and his family fled to Miami Co.

Capt. J.A. Pike
William Clarke Quantrill and his men were after revenge. The collapse of Union Prison, killing women and children, was the final straw. His men crept into Kansas through the southeast corner of Johnson County and escaped back into Missouri after the massacre less than a mile away from where he had entered. According to an account by Captain Joshua A. Pike, 9th Kansas Calvary, “Quantrill passed out of Kansas, after sacking Lawrence by passing down another fork of Grand River.  This branch flows east through section twenty-two (22), townships fifteen (15), range twenty-five (25).  It crosses the State line in the northeast quarter (N. E. 1/4) of said section less than half a mile south of line between Johnson and Miami counties. . . He came in through the southeast section of land in Johnson County and went out through the northeast section in Miami county--and on the adjoining quarters of those sections.”

This is no more than five miles northeast of Alfred Sloan’s cabin and implies that Quantrill entered Missouri just west of where Cleveland, Mo. is today.

Exhausted and famished, the bushwhackers then stopped to get something to eat after dawn on August 22, 1863, less than 24 hours after sacking Lawrence. In Quantrill and the Border Wars by William E. Connelley, published in 1910, the author states, “The main body of the guerillas was then four miles from the state line in Missouri, at the head of a branch of the Grand River.”


When Don discovered this information, his heart raced at the possibilities. As the history books indicate, the federal troops were hot on their tails, thus they abandoned their resting point and disappeared into the brush.

“How many log cabins could have been close to this location? They were few and far between, especially after the Border Wars and the fighting during the Civil War,” Don declared.

To put this into perspective, only 1,312 people lived in all of Dolan Township in Cass Co., Mo. in 1860. Many had fled at the outbreak of war- including the Sloan family- so this number is likely high. Tensions locally were further ignited by constant invasions of border ruffians.

Sen. Lane’s stewed in his fury as he crossed into Missouri. He recognized that personally catching up to Quantrill’s raiders was out of the cards, yet his hope remained that troops would be able to corner them in the brush.

Sen. James H. Lane
Gen. Thomas Ewing also had chased Quantrill’s route down into Cass Co. and arrived after his delay of boats in De Soto on the evening of the 22nd of August. Quantrill had last been seen at “a head of the branch at the Grand River” earlier that morning.

As troops gathered behind Gen. Ewing, Sen. Lane and his small group approached. In Quantrill and the Border Wars, it reads, “General Ewing and Senator James H. Lane met at the point where Quantrill had stopped first after crossing back into Missouri.”

This information certainly peaked Don Peters’ interest. When he looked at the maps and compared the location of where Quantrill had stopped and where the Sloan-Tribby cabin stood- perfectly unharmed- he wondered.

Further documentation in Forty-Six Years in the Army by Maj. James M. Schofield shows that at this fiery meeting, “General Ewing and General James H. Lane met at Morristown and spent the night together.”

Dr. Jeremy Neely, professor of history at Missouri State University and author of The Border Between Them: Violence and Reconciliation on the Kansas-Missouri Border stated, “After the Lawrence massacre, Lane and other furious Kansans, many of whom blamed Ewing for failing to stop Quantrill's raid, threatened a retaliatory raid across the state line.  Ewing, meanwhile, had supported increasingly forceful policies against the households whom he suspected of aiding pro-Confederate guerrillas.”

And it is suggested in several credible, documented sources that these two men spent the night together in a cabin.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing, Jr. (1829-1896)
Is it possible this cabin is the place where two central figures of the fight along the border met?

Sen. Lane was famously known for his persuasive speeches and outspokenness. Gen. Ewing, more cautious and reserved, had been stewing over how to squash out the bushwhackers along the border. Sen. Lane, in this meeting in a cabin near Morristown, insisted that if something was not done soon, he would go to Washington and have him removed from his position.

In Connelley’s book, he described this meeting of Ewing and Lane. His information came from Col. Elijah F. Rogers, a member of the Missouri militia who had heard it from Lt. William Mowdry. He wrote, “Lane agreed to make no complaint if Ewing would issue the order, which had been under consideration for some time, depopulating portions of some of the border counties of Missouri. Ewing agreed to do it, and they went to a cabin near-by.”

Let’s just consider that there weren’t subdivisions of cabins in 1863. There were very few buildings left standing after the Border Wars and during the Civil War. And as Don pointed out, this cabin was left with no damage. And it’s near Morristown- within a mile. It’s not far from the branch of the Grand River four miles from the state line.

In fact, when I drew a circle and analyzed the maps myself, Don proved to be right. This cabin would meet the description perfectly. When you further consider that Alfred Sloan’s brother-in-law was involved in the Territorial Legislature and the cabin was unharmed, the preponderance of the evidence shows that this is cabin could be where Ewing and Lane met.

This map from 1877 showcases the cabin. It sat just over four miles east of the Kansas-Missouri border.
I asked Tom Rafiner, one of the most well-known writers and historians of the early history of Cass Co., about this possibility. "Don makes a compelling case. Ewing and Lane's meeting place is definitely in that area. There is a reasonable chance that this is the place."

The prospect of this perfectly in-tact log cabin being where Ewing and Lane met has historians talking. Is there a smoking gun that could prove or disprove this theory?

“How many log cabins could possibly have been standing at this point? This cabin- the Sloan-Tribby cabin- was. That, we certainly know,” Peters persisted.

The order in which Gen. Ewing and Sen. Lane discussed on the 22nd of August came to fruition when Ewing rode north to Kansas City and sat down at the Pacific House Hotel. Three days later, he signed Gen. Order No. 11, one of the most controversial orders placed on civilians during the Civil War.

In part, the order states:

All persons living in Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties, Missouri, and in that part of Vernon included in this district, except those living within one mile of the limits of Independence, Hickman's Mills, Pleasant Hill, and Harrisonville, and except those in that part of Kaw Township, Jackson County, north of Brush Creek and west of Big Blue, are hereby ordered to remove from their present places of residence within fifteen days from the date hereof.

George Caleb Bingham's "Order No. 11" painting, completed at his studio in Independence, Mo. in 1865-1870
After the order was enforced, the area became known as “The Burnt District” due to the fact that it was a no-man’s land after the evacuation. Houses were burned to the ground after they were looted for their goods. There are very few surviving structures pre-Civil War in the Kansas City metropolitan area due to Ewing’s decision to depopulate the area after the Lawrence Massacre.

Lane kept to his word; he rode back into Kansas and defended Gen. Ewing.

The resounding effects of Order No. 11 can be read in full by clicking here: Everything Ablaze on the Western Border: Ewing's Order No. 11.

The Sloan-Tribby house in early 1900s. Courtesy of the
Sloan-Tribby descendants
As the history books tell us, the Civil War ended in 1865. Alfred Sloan moved back to Cass Co. after the dust settled. Imagine his surprise when he found his cabin safe, especially when most of his neighbors returned to nothing but ashes. Alfred built an addition with a sloped roof on the west side of the house and a room was added to the east side.

For whatever the reason, Alfred and his wife decided to return to Kansas where he died in Paola in 1893. His second wife, Serepta, died in 1909 in Oregon. His daughter from his second marriage, Katie Tribby (1860-1952), took over his beloved farmstead with her husband, Mark, where it remained in the family for many years. Around 1900, the Tribby’s added a second floor to the western addition. A wrap-around porch in the Victorian gingerbread style completed this updated look and completely masked the plain log cabin.

One of the carefully numbered logs 
It stayed that way until December 2014, and plans to allow thousands of visitors to see and explore the Sloan-Tribby cabin are well underway. The cabin was donated to Belton Parks and Recreation in 2017 and will proudly be featured.

Shane DeWald, Parks Director for Belton Parks jumped at the chance to have the Sloan-Tribby cabin as a part of their facilities. “We took it to the Park Board, and everyone rallied around it,” DeWald stated.

A few presentations are in the works to further raise money and awareness of this incredible piece of Missouri history. Hopes are to have the cabin up and ready for visitors by June 2018.

Today, the cabin sits protected in a warehouse, each board carefully numbered and waiting for reconstruction at Belton’s Memorial Park.


A 1900s croquet match outside the Sloan-Tribby house.
Courtesy of the Sloan-Tribby descendants.




They will need around $70,000 and donated materials in order to restore this cabin. DeWald is working now to get the foundation underway at Belton Memorial Park, where the cabin will be raised near the arboretum. The Chamber of Commerce is working on fundraising efforts.

Historians still are waiting for the “smoking gun” in order to definitively state whether this cabin is, in fact, where Ewing and Lane had their meeting after the Lawrence Massacre.  
 
 "To be able to definitively say it's the cabin where they met, we need to find a letter or further documentation possibly mentioning the family that lived in the cabin and its connection... Someone will have to devote time and effort to uncovering more that may still be out there," historian Tom Rafiner stated.

Even if it’s “just” a log cabin, it holds importance because it was one of the very few on the western border that survived the Border Wars and the Civil War.

Don Peters is waiting for someone to prove him wrong about his assumptions of the significance of this cabin. Don proclaimed with excitement and a twinkle in his eye, “If this is what I think it is- and all my research shows true -this cabin is the Appomattox of the West.”

The plans at Belton Memorial Park includes featuring the Sloan-Tribby reconstructed cabin.
Courtesy of Shane DeWald, Belton Parks and Recreation
Maybe the evidence is in an attic, tucked away in a journal of a Civil War soldier. Perhaps the piece to connect this cabin is still out there to be found.

Belton Parks and Recreation is looking for donations, including lighting/electrical, stonework, cabin assembly, heavy equipment, walkway stones, landscaping, surveillance cameras, fencing, roofing, windows, doors, and various other pieces to bring this piece of history back to life. If you are or know someone who could help, please contact Belton Parks at https://www.beltonparks.org or email Diane Euston (the writer) at thefamilygenies@gmail.com.

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