Sunken Civil War cannon packs a silver lining

Randolph McDonald, a successful farmer in early Ray County, made his home close to the site of the Battle of Crooked River during the Mormon War. (Submitted photo)

By Linda Emley

I got a call at the museum and a man from Arizona asking me if I knew were the town of Corinth was in Ray County. He wanted to know more about the Civil War battle that took place in Corinth. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, so I asked where he found this story and he told me it was on page 799 of the 1881 Ray County History Book.
I pulled a copy off the shelf and looked up the story. “From there Mr. Flournoy’s company was sent to New Orleans, La., and discharged. Chartering Captain Chamber’s boat, they came up the Mississippi to St, Louis, and then Mr. Flournoy returned to Ray County by river. The company to which he belonged captured nine pieces of artillery at the Battle of Chihuahua, which were afterwards distributed to different points on the Missouri River. One of them, a nine-pound gun, was bored out and made a 12-pounder for use in the Civil War. It was called the Sacramento, from the name of the place where it was captured.
One of the ingredients in its composition was $8,000 worth of silver. It was cast in Spain more than 300 years ago. To prevent the enemy from capturing it at the Battle of Corinth, the Confederates, then its owners, dismounted and sunk it in the river, and it has never been recovered.”
After some quick research, I realized this story was talking about Corinth, Mississippi. We talked a bit, he thanked me for my time and we both went on with our day.
This is a good example that things are not always as they seem. There was no Corinth battle in Ray County, but now we have a story with Alexander Doniphan connections because he was at the Battle of Chihuahua and I want to know about these “nine pieces of artillery” they captured and the $8,000 worth of silver. But for now, this story will have to wait until another day and more details can be found.
So here I was sitting at my desk with the 1881 history book in front of me. I have been reading this book for over 25 years and after all these years you would think I would have all 818 pages memorized. Every time I open it, I find something that I have never seen before.
On this day, I found a picture of Randolph McDonald. This book does not have many pictures and Randolph’s picture is just sitting on page 8 with no story. Most of the other pictures are in the back of book with the biographical sketches and Randolph is in the front of the book with the history of Missouri. I still don’t know why his picture is on page 8, but now I know that a man named Randolph McDonald once lived in Ray County.
I found his story on page 669 with the rest of the biographical sketches. “Randolph McDonald was born in Adair County, Kentucky, Oct. 7, 1806, and received his education and attained to his majority there, working on his father’s farm. He was poor, and opportunities and advantages for young men were meager in the locality where he grew up, and at the age of twenty-eight years he determined to leave Kentucky, and seek a home across the ‘Father of Waters,’ in the rich, productive lands of Missouri.
“He settled in Ray County in the year 1835, and engaged in farming and stock-raising. By his untiring energy, strict economy, and good management he has secured for himself a competency. He has a fine, large farm of five hundred and sixty acres of prairie and woodland, handsomely improved, well irrigated, and stocked with good herds of horses, cattle, hogs, and sheep.
“Mr. McDonald was married, in the state of Kentucky, in 1828, to Miss Locky Oxford, by John Gilbert, a minister of the Baptist Church. Mrs. McDonald was born in the year 1808, in North Carolina. The issue of this union was nine children, viz: Rosannah, born March 11,1832; Mary Ann, born November 23, 1833; Jeremiah, born October 16, 1835; Elizabeth, born August 28, 1837; William G., born August 29, 1838; Eliza Jane, born April 26, 1841; Sarah E., born February 28, 1844; Jacob Randolph, born July 6, 1845; Locky Emeline, born December 26, 1846. Rosannah, Mary A., and Louisa are dead.
“Mrs. McDonald died in the month of December, 1871, and her death was deeply mourned by her family and large circle of friends and relatives. Mr. McDonald is a leading member of the Baptist Church. He has never aspired to any public office, preferring the quiet walks of private life, and devoting his attention to his farm, and to the support, careful training, and proper education of his family.
“Mr. McDonald is a practical, successful farmer and business man, a good citizen, a consistent Christian, an agreeable gentleman, and he enjoys the universal esteem and respect of the people of his community.”
This all sounded pretty normal but I did have to look up what the “Father of Waters” mentioned in this story was referring it. It’s another name for the Mississippi River.
I found a few more interesting facts about Randolph McDonald. He was an early settler of Polk Township in Ray County and built the first school house in this area.
Randolph is also mentioned in early county history because his farm was near the Oct. 25, 1838 Battle of Crooked River. “The first fight occurred on a branch of Crooked River, near Randolph McDonald’s, in the south-western part of the county, between a company of Ray County militia, numbering about 65 men, under the command of Captain Bogard, and a body of Mormons numbering about 150, commanded by Chas. W. Patton, to whom the Mormons had given the name of ‘Thunderbolt’. Bogard’s company was the advance guard of Doniphan’s command, which reached the battlefield a couple of days afterwards.”
Once again we find Alexander Doniphan in our story. He is one of those men that is a very important part of local history and also played a role in our American history.
Randolph McDonald died May 16, 1888 and is buried in the “Randolph McDonald Cemetery”. It’s located on the Ray/Caldwell county line road, east of Elmira and back in the woods on the east side of the railroad track. Per a 1979 review of this cemetery, Randolph, his wife Locky and several of his children are among the 11 people buried here.
Now I have another county cemetery that I want to visit. I know some of you are thinking that I spend too much time in old cemeteries, but they are an important part of our history. When I find the “final resting” place of one of our founding fathers, I think of it as the final chapter of their book of life.
We can’t read their next chapter, but we can pay our respects to the person that lived in our county and called it home.
We can only hope that 100 years from now someone will remember us and know we once lived in Ray County, the home of Randolph McDonald.

You can write Linda at or see her during business hours at Ray County Museum.

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