Brave Confederate officer remembered as upstanding citizen

By Linda Emley

Most towns in America have a Main Street and then there are all the other streets that are named after someone from the past. As we drive around Richmond, we seldom pay attention to the “other” streets, but when I drive around town, I see street signs and wonder who they were named after.

Many people know that Dunns Lane was once the home of George W. Dunn and Whitmer Street was named after David Whitmer and his family, but who were Shotwell, Shaw, Buchanan, Warder, Wollard, Garner and Crispin?

One of my favorite streets is Crispin. I grew up in the country and when I got married, I moved to town and lived on Crispin Street. One of my favorite spots is the Richmond Pioneer Cemetery, which is located on the corner of Crispin and Thornton streets.

Richmond had a “Crispin Coal Mine,” so the Crispin family was a well-known name around town. I pulled out the 1881 Ray County history book and found two Crispins, Silas R. and Michael Wilson. After some research, I found that they were brothers who lived in Richmond.

I also found a book titled, “Biographical and Historical Sketch of Captain William Crispin of the British Navy: Sketches of his descendants and some families of English Crispins,” by William Frost Crispin. This book used the biographical sketches from the 1881 History book and told the story of Michael and Silas Crispin, as “Brothers On Opposite Sides In Our Civil War.” His story follows:

“Michael Wilson Crispin and Captain Silas R. Crispin, the subjects of the two following sketches were brothers and both were brave soldiers, the former in the Union Army and the latter in the southern, the one having lived several years preceding the war in a slave state, while the other went from Ohio. To us a good man fighting to maintain slavery seems a paradox, yet tho they fought for different, even opposite ends, and each, no doubt, alike sincere, they did their duty as they saw it, from different standpoints and as their environment influenced them.”

“Michael Wilson Crispin was born in Ohio on Sept. 14, 1844. He was the son of Abel and Mary Ann (Wilson) Crispin. His parents died when he was 12 years old. His remaining boyhood days were spent in the home of his uncle William Crispin and on the latter’s farm. His sister, Kate, three years older, also became a member of the same household and during winters they attended the district school and were at one time pupils of the writer and their deportment was exceptionally good and their dispositions serene and cheerful, and they acquired a fair knowledge of the common English branches.

“At the breaking out of the war Michael enlisted in Company A, Second Ohio Regiment, Heavy Artillery, and we let the Richmond Conservator, his home paper, tell the story of his life from this time forward. It says: “He served his country with signal bravery and courage for three years and was in some of the heaviest engagements of the war. He was mustered out of the service at Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 23, 1865.

“Returning home after the war he resumed the peaceful pursuits of agriculture and stock-raising, in Highland County, O. On Feb. 14, 1867, he was married to Miss Eliza White of the same county. Soon after this happy event the young couple turned their faces to the West and founded a home in Ray County, Mo., where for nearly a third of a century they have been among our most honored and respected citizens. The Crispins had seven children.

“Mr. and Mrs. Crispin located their new home upon a farm nine miles northeast of Richmond, but in 1886 they moved to town where their children might have all the advantages of first-class schools. And we can say truthfully that a more affectionate family or better people never cast their lot with us. Mr. Crispin’s restless energy and keen business sagacity soon led him to embark in various lines of trade, in all of which he was signally successful. At different times he was in the banking business, and was for some time president of the Ray County Savings Bank. He was in the mercantile business and in the milling business, at one time being interested in the splendid brick mill on Lexington Street. Ever since he located in Ray County he has been a successful stock-trader and was probably better known and had dealings with more men than any other man in the county. No doubt he occasionally met with reverses, but his energy was such they were never allowed to daunt him. He was a valuable citizen and his place in the community will not soon be filled. He was a consistent member of the M. E. Church and always evinced a deep interest in educational matters and was at the time of his death an active member of the Board of Curators of Woodson Institute and contributed liberally to its construction.”

“Mr. Crispin’s death in August 1895 from the collapse of a combination folding-bed, was sad and singular. He and his wife upon retiring one Sunday evening were entrapped by the falling of the bed which had been somewhat out of repair and while his wife escaped unhurt, he was paralyzed from his shoulders down and died at 5:30 the next day. Michael Wilson and Captain Silas R., died the same year (1895), just a few months apart.

“Capt. Silas R. Crispin was born Aug. 28, 1839, in Ohio, where he grew to manhood. He moved to Lafayette County and thereafter made Missouri his home. We glean the following facts from the Richmond Conservator: “He was engaged in various kinds of business, among which were farming, trading in mules and freighting across the plains.

“In 1862 he joined the Confederate Army, and at the organization of his company was elected Second Lieutenant, Company I, Gardner’s Regiment, Shelby’s Cavalry Brigade. He participated in some 40 battles, among which were the battles of Springfield, Lone Jack, Prairie Grove, Little Rock, and Helena, and he was with Gen. Sterling Price on his last raid thru Missouri in 1864. In 1863 he was promoted to the captaincy of his company, which position he held until the close of the war, when he surrendered at Memphis, Tenn., about the middle of July, 1865.His was the last remaining, regularly organized company of the Confederate Army to surrender. At the close of the war he returned to his former labors, freighting across the plains, but in 1866 he came to Ray County and engaged in the mercantile business, and continued therein until a few months before his death which took place at his home in Richmond, at 2:20 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1st, 1895, and which fell like a pall upon the entire community.

“Capt. Crispin was a man of strong convictions and was fearless in advocating what he conceived to be right, but was, withal, liberal enough in his views to accord to his neighbors and friends the same rights that he claimed for himself. He was a whole-souled, genial, companionable gentleman, a staunch friend and kind neighbor. He braved death for what it was inevitable to those who knew history, must prove to be a ‘lost cause,’  but for all this he was loved and mourned by men who wore both the gray and the blue. In his death the community in which he had lived so many years has lost one of its best and most highly respected citizens. Captain Silas R. Crispin was married, 1st, to Lizzie Mason, of Ray County., and of their marriage one child was born, Geo. H. His wife died March 22, 1877, and on April the 9th, 1879, he was again married, this time to Mrs. Malinda Shaw, of Richmond, Mo.”

More tales of the Crispin Boys coming next week.

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