By Linda Emley
Last September I had a meeting with a lady from Salt Lake City and she told me that her ancestor, Moses Easterly Lard, had lived in Ray County. After she finished telling me about Moses, I knew this was a story that I had to share.
Moses started his life in Bedford County, Tenn. on Oct. 29, 1818 and finished his life in Lexington, Ken. around midnight on June 17, 1880. He had a fascinating 61 years on this earth and touched the lives of many people. Please allow me to introduce you to the life and times of Moses Easterly Lard.
Moses’ father, Leaven, moved the family to Ray County around 1829 in hopes of securing land to make a new start for his family.
Leaven soon became ill with scourge and smallpox and died. He left a wife and six children with little means of support, so life was not easy for young Moses. It’s said that the “school of adversity” made Moses an independent and courageous man.
Moses married Mary Ann Riffe on March 15, 1842 in Richmond. A few years later, Moses met a man that changed his life. Gen. Alexander W. Doniphan and Moses became friends and Doniphan could tell that Moses was a man of good character. Doniphan made it possible for Moses to attend Bethany College in West Virginia.
With his wife Mary and two small children, Moses moved there and three years later, he graduated with a Master of Arts degree. Moses was even chosen by his own class as the valedictorian.
Ten years later, Doniphan’s son, Alexander Jr., attended Bethany College but his fate was not as good as Moses Lard’s. Doniphan’s last surviving son drowned in a swollen river on May 11, 1858 while going to school in West Virginia. Alexander Doniphan was not a man that let his personal trials affect his love of life. He assisted numerous others with their education over the years, so many generations ultimately benefited from his generosity.
Moses didn’t use his Master of Arts degree, but he did become one of the most prolific ministers and writers of the Church of Christ. He is known for his numerous writings including “Lard’s Commentary on Romans”.
I wondered if Moses ever came back to Ray County, and I found the answer on page 328 of the 1881 Ray County History book: “CHRISTIAN CHURCH, AT SOUTH POINT. This church was organized at a school house, then situated two miles east of South Point, in Camden township, in April, 1840, with the following original members, viz: Jacob Warinner, Thomas Blair, John Riffe, Willis Warriner, George Blair, William Brockman, Joseph E. Brockman, Polly Warriner, Eliza J. New, and Mary Brockman. In 1854 the congregation erected a very handsome frame building for divine worship, at South Point. The building cost one thousand dollars, and was dedicated to the service of Almighty God in September of the same year of its erection, by Elder Moses E. Lard, a graduate of Bethany College, Virginia — an institution then under the supervision of Alexander Campbell, the founder of the Christian Reformed Church, and one of the greatest theologians of any age. Elder Lard was one of the most eminent divines of his day. He was a brilliant, forcible, and impressive speaker, as well as a cogent and elegant writer. He married a lady who lived in Richmond, Ray County, subsequently moved to Kentucky, and died a few years ago, at his home in Lexington, that state, mourned by the church throughout the United States.”
Moses’ daughter, Virginia Juliet, married Silas Woodson on Dec 27, 1866. She was his third wife and they were the parents of three children, Mary Alice, Silas Salmon, and Virginia Lard. Silas Woodson is a name that you may remember from the history books because he was the governor of Missouri from 1873-75.
Silas was Missouri’s first postwar Democratic governor and was famous for issuing a $2,000 reward for the Iron Mountain robbers. The normal reward was $300, so this was a very serious offer.
So now we need to know why the Iron Mountain robbery such a big deal. On January 31, 1874 a train was robbed at Gads Hill on the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad north of Piedmont. The train had departed the Iron Mountain’s Plum Street Depot at 9:30 a.m. The James Gang robbed the train because they had been advised that Allen Pinkerton was a passenger. Another reason they wanted to rob this train was because it was full of rich passengers.
According to one passenger, the gang got $10,000 but Pinkerton was not one of the passengers. There are several versions of this story that claim Silas Woodson was related to Frank and Jesse Woodson James, but he did not seem to give them any extra favors because of their possible kinship.
Now back to Moses Easterly Lard. We know that he died in Lexington, Ken. around midnight on June 17, 1880, but there is still one more Missouri connection.
Moses’ final words were, “There is not a cloud between me and my Heavenly Father.” On June 22, Dr. W.H. Hopson preached the funeral of his friend. Hopson and Lard had many years before agreed that whoever died first would perform the funeral for the other. Lard was laid to rest in a vault in Lexington while arrangements were made to move him to his final resting place in St. Joseph.
A memorial service was held in St. Joseph on June 24 and his second funeral was held on July 25. A horse-drawn hearse took him to Mt. Mora Cemetery and the final prayers were offered for Moses Easterly Lard five weeks after his death.
His wife Mary Ann Riffe Lard died in 1882 and was buried next to Moses. Their son-in-law, Silas Woodson, died in 1896 and their daughter, Virginia Lard Woodson, died in 1907. Silas and Virginia are both buried at the Mount Mara Cemetery in St. Joseph with Moses and Mary.
On April 3, 1882, a few months before Mary Lard died, a man named Mr. Howard was shot in St. Joseph by Bob Ford. Former Governor Silas Woodson had lived to see Jesse laid in his grave.
Alexander Franklin “Frank” James out lived them all and died in 1915. Frank James was the last man standing and I don’t think he ever forgot his kinfolk, Gov. Silas Woodson.
Over the years Frank used a number of different aliases, some of which were Mr. Woods, B. J. Woodson and my favorite, “Silas Woodson”. I wonder what the real Silas Woodson thought when he found out Frank was using his name.
Moses Easterly Lard was a man that lived a life full of many different chapters and once again we see how everyone was connected because they passed through this great county that we call Ray.
You can write Linda at rayc...@aol.com, visit her during business hours at Ray County Museum or catch her perusing old newspapers in the genealogy room at Ray County Library.