By Linda Emley
My grandmother, Mildred Kell Schooler, was born March 22, 1907. For many years, I would take off work on her birthday and we would do something special. Sometimes we just went to Lexington and ate KFC, but we always had fun.
My “Mama” went to heaven a few years ago, but I still take her birthday off and do something fun. Last year, I got to teach a class on Ray County at a genealogical conference in Kansas City. I was trying to think of something to do this year because I knew it would be hard to top last year.
A few months ago, I was invited to Bates County for their Order #11 memorial placque dedication and I was happy to hear it was going to be March 22.
Butler is about 100 miles south of Richmond, so I got up early for my two- hour drive. The day started at the Bates County Museum with a 10 a.m. program. I got there a little late and didn’t know what to expect, but I was nicely surprised when Peggy Buhr, the museum director, recognized me when I came in the door.
We had talked on Facebook and it felt like we were old friends. She asked where Capt. Anderson was, so I exited out the back door and retrieved my “flat man” out of the car. Soon after returned with Bloody Bill. Peggy announced that we had a surprise guest and she asked if I’d like to introduce the captain.
After traveling with him for a few months, I have finally figured out that I am Capt.Anderson’s driver and now introduced myself as such.
After lunch, we went to the courthouse and several people told the story about Order #11 before we went outside to unveil the new bronze placque.
I’m not a expert on Order #11, so I enjoyed hearing so many personal stories that made it all seem real. When I left Butler Saturday night, I had a whole different appreciation about what really happened there in 1863. Every person was removed from Bates County and all buildings were burned. This was done by the Union Army so no one could support the guerilla fighting that was taking place on the Kansas and Missouri border. Two years later, the war was over and only around 40 percent of the people returned. They had to start over and rebuild their homes and their lives.
Some Bates County records were saved and one county ledger had two blank pages that represented their lost years. The families that did return, had to pay three years’ back taxes before they could start their new lives.
One story I really enjoyed was about the Bates County “Stray Animal Ledger.” There were not a lot of fences and livestock would sometimes end up in the wrong fields. If you found an animal on your property, you would contact the justice of the peace and he would get two local men to testify that you had reported the stray animals. You could go ahead and use the animal until some one came to claim them.
By putting it down on paper, you would not be arrested as a thief. These documents were used to try to recreate an index of some of the people who were in Bates County at the time. It also gave details about the stray animal’s breed and markings. I’m now on a mission to see if Ray County had a “Stray Animal Ledger” because I would love to read a book like this about our county.
As I was standing in the Bates County courtyard, I felt like I was back in Ray County because they have a WWI doughboy statue that looks like the one we have in our county. There may be a connection because I was told that several were made in Butler and sent to other counties.
On my trip home, I kept thinking about how I would have felt if Ray County had been burned to the ground like Bates County. My thoughts soon drifted back to my grandmother because she always told me how terrible to was to lose everything you own in a fire. She had lived thorough two fires and lost many treasures. She was always telling about something she had when she was young and would describe it in great detail but when I would ask if she still had it, she would always say, “No. I guess I lost it in the fire.” I truly can not imagine what it would be like to watch your home burn and know you had lost everything. I’m so thankful that Ray County was spared during the American Civil War.
Write Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.