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There are many people who come to Ray County to visit the graves of famous people who are buried here.
The number-one spot for out-of-towners is the Mormon Cemetery because they want to pay their respects to the early members of the church who are buried there.
Many people think the second most visited grave is Bob Ford, the man who shot Jesse James.
But after being employed at Ray County Museum for several years, I believe Capt. Bill Anderson attracts more visitors than Bob Ford.
As you probably know by now, Anderson was known as Bloody Bill and was a Partisan Ranger who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Bob Ford was originally buried in Colorado, but was later moved to Richmond. Ford didn’t get much of a funeral, but he got more than Anderson did when he died.
Capt. Anderson was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in 1864 after he was killed during the Civil War battle at Albany in southern Ray County. It would be another 43 years and eight months before he finally got a funeral.
It was reported by the Richmond Missourian Thursday June 11, 1908. “YOUNGER HERE. Cole Younger And Jim Cummins Meet Here – The Cole Younger Carnival In Full Blast! Shows to Run All Of The Week. Under Auspicies Of The Red Men. The Cole Younger Shows, under the personal charge of Col. Lew Nichols and Cole Younger, arrived here Sunday afternoon. The seven or eight cars were loaded with tents and paraphernalia and crowded with show mysteries. Three private sleeping cars housed the show folks.
“Early Monday the tents began to “go up” around the Square and in the Stone lot. Monday night the attractions were in full blast. On Monday afternoon however, the first event of the week occurred. When the cars of the Greater Nichols Amusement Company rolled into town, and Cole Younger knew that he had reached Richmond, he helped to put into execution a resolve that he had doubtless formulated long ago – to help decorate the grave of his friend and loyal companion in arms – Capt. Bill Anderson. A remarkable coincidence was the fact that Jim Cummins, another old comrade and soldier was here. Jim Cummins was better acquainted here and managed the details of the joint tribute of respect for other days.
“Monday afternoon, the band of the amusement company struck up a funeral march and with the solemn tread bowed heads, Cole Younger, Jim Cummins, representatives of the amusement company and others made their way to the old cemetery north of town. The grave had already been beautifully decorated with flowers.
“Arriving at the old cemetery, the crowd gathered around Cole Younger while he, in a reminiscent yet with a reverent way, addressed them in a few short sentences.
“He said that as a soldier, prior to 1863, he had known and served with Capt. Bill Anderson as a solider, that he was a fearless man, standing back for nothing in the performance of his duty as he conceived it. As such, Mr. Younger said he knew and loved him. He (Mr. Younger), knew personally nothing of his work in 1864 north of the river – but that up to that time he was a conscientious man and a brave soldier.
“Mr. Younger was followed by Honorable James L. Farris, son of the late Captain J.L. Farris of the Confederate Army. He spoke for some 20 minutes, paying high tribute to the power of endurance, courage and daring of the dead soldier. In a masterly way, he drew attention to the fact that the war had not been in vain; that the conditions and circumstances of the time of Capt. Bill Anderson demanded just such a man as he; that if he went to extremes, it was because it was the inevitable and necessary result of war – which Sherman properly and aptly called ‘Hell.’
“He saw it that it was time to cover the dust of the hero with the flowers of affection and honor. To conclude, Cole Younger cleared up a misunderstanding. He made it plain that at the time of his death Capt. Bill Anderson was acting under orders direct from General Sterling Price. That he had heard for some years before he knew it. In 1866 he said that he stayed all night at the home of Governor King here in Ray County. Governor King told Mr. Younger that he recognized the handwriting of General McClain in the order found in Captain Bill Anderson’s pockets. General McClain was an Adjutant of General Price.
“In the calm light of history, the deeds done by Anderson do not meet the same sort of condemnation that the hasty judgment of a strenuous and perilous time accorded him. At the conclusion of the exercises, ‘taps’ was sounded and the company withdrew.”
“Capt. Bill Anderson was killed in November 1864 and his body brought to Richmond for burial. He was killed at a crossroads fight near Albany, about a mile and a half north of Orrick, this county.”
The rest of the article tells about the acts that were part of the carnival show. It was called “the cleanest street fair” that was ever seen in Richmond. The balloon ascension was thrilling in the extreme as Lucy May Colton, the “aeronautess” had nerve to burn when she jumped from the clouds and came down head first in a way that thrilled and chilled the old timers.
The Great Colton did a 85-foot jump from the top of a ladder in the courthouse yard and landed in a net.
The final paragraph summed it up as follows: “The Red Man managed the shows well and deserves more money than they got out of it. The wet weather and the flooded river kept business away. But the Red Man made friends with their politeness and square dealing. The Missourian expects crowds here for the remainder of the shows, which close on Saturday night.”
Bill Anderson’s didn’t get a tombstone until 1967. Donald Hale from Independence obtained a grave marker from the United States government and placed it on the grave 103 years after Anderson died.
I never walked in Anderson’s shoes, so I can’t judge his life or his death, but I’m happy that Capt. William T. Anderson finally got a tombstone and a proper funeral.
Linda Emley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.