EXTERMINATED BY THE AWFUL BUSHWHACKERS
By S. C. Turnbo
Among a number of accounts of destructions of life by the guerrillas of southern Missouri during the dark dismal days of the bloody war between the states none have impressed me more than the following narratives as given me in some letters written me by Mr. John D. Row of Arlington, Washington. The account is contained in three letters written by him to the writer. One is dated August 25, 1906, another is dated May 19, 1907, and the other September 16, 1907. The narratives in the three letters are combined together.
Mr. Row written that his fathers name was Jacob Johnson Row. His mothers name was Julia Ann (nee Winter) Row. "Father was born in 1826. Mother was born in 1828. They had seven children born to them, the names are Samuel Hamilton, born in 1850, John David (myself), born in 1851, Mary Elizabeth, born 1853, William Jesse born 1954, Benjamin Franklin Winter, born 1856, Jacob Johnson born 1859, Abraham Lincoln, born in 1861. My sister married Rowley H. Lewellen but she is a widow now. In the year 1857 my father and mother moved from the state of Indiana into Missouri and located in St. Clair County one mile northeast of Chalk Level Post Office and about 9 miles northwest of Oceola, the county seat of St. Clair. When the war broke out my father sympathized with the union but owing to a chronic complaint that he was affected with he was not able to enlist in the federal army. He was outspoken in defense of the stars and stripes and often expressed that he loved his country and his God. These expressions in regard to his love for the union caused a certain element in the lower strata of humanity to seek his life, after the war was in progress a few months. He had some neighbors that were noble men, men whose politics were all out of harmony with fathers, who often saved him from the assassins hand. I will here give the names of three of them. Their homesteads adjoined that of fathers. Dr. Wm. M. Cox, Doctor Garnette and Thomas Dark, and having been duely warned by his friends that he would have to look out for himself, he left home and went to Kansas, 60 miles west of where we lived. My mother learned afterward that he went to a mans house in Kansas who had moved from near our house a couple of years before the war come up. When he got there he found three other men there who lived near our home in Missouri who had left home for the same reason father had. These men were two brothers named Boots and another, named Christian Hoover. They and my father remained near 6 weeks in Kansas. The U. S. mail was discontinued in that part of the country and they could not hear from their families. In the presence of the woman of the house where they were boarding, they laid their plans how they would manage to make their way back home to their families. Father owned a fine riding mare and had ridden her to Kansas. The other three men had walked. When they had arranged their plans "Chris" Hoover was to ride fathers mare home and the other two men and father were to go in a skift down the Osage River and thus make their way home. Hoover lived 4 miles beyond our house. He was to leave the mare at our house, report to mother how father was coming, and walk on home. This he never done. I presume that Mr. Hoover was honest in his intentions when he entered into the contract as stated above; but it is very likely that the great adversary of all that is good, true and beautiful in men, met with him as he rode along his lonely way in the darkness of the night, and by the time he had arrived near our house, near day light, his mind was filled with a very strong desire to possess that mare. A day or so after this my mother told me and my brother, Samuel, to yoke four of our oxen and hitch them to the wagon and we loaded in part of our effects into the wagon and mother and we children started to Kansas to hunt for father. This was in 1862 and I was in my llth year. I was the second oldest child and Samuel the oldest was not quite 12. When we arrived in Kansas we learned the facts as I have stated. After waiting and making all the inquiries we could about father for several weeks mother and we children boarded a freight train and went to Indiana where father and mother use to live. We stayed there until the fall of 1869 when we left Indiana and went back to our old home in St. Clair County, Missouri. We arrived at our old home on a Tuesday. On the following Sunday mother left me with the smaller children while she and the larger ones went to see some of her ante bellum neighbors. While she was absent an old man and lady come to our house to see mother on some business and before they left he told me the following story. He had come to that country in 1866 and bought a farm my father had owned and sold before the war began. A land agent took him and showed the land to him and while they were riding over the land looking at it the agent told him that a man by the name of Row had entered that land and bought it from the government, that after the war had come on Mr. Row went to Kansas and there fell in with some of his neighbors, one of which rode his mare home and made up a gang of guerrillas and went and waylaid him and two other men that were with him in a skift. The agent did not tell him who rode the mare home. The days, months and years kept coming and going until the year 1895. Mother and her family had left Missouri. Some were in Sumner County, Kansas, while I was in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma. My oldest brother, Samuel H. Row, made a trip back to St. Clair County, Missouri. while there he met one of fathers old friends, Doctor Garrette, who give him the following account. The doctor said that he had been on a horseback trip Into Dade and Cedar Counties, Missouri, on business. The weather was cold and he stopped at a country store to warm his feet. While doing so he heard several war stories told by several men who were sitting in the store house. One was the account of the killing of my father. The man who told it said that he was one of the participants. There were six of them and had camped on the bank of the Osage River near Rockville in Vernon County, Missouri, and after staying there four days father and the other two men come along in the skift. They were on the far side of the river rowing downstream. It was near meal time and the men on the bank had a meal Just ready to eat. They hailed the men in the skift, made friends with them and invited them to stop and get something to eat. At first they declined the invitation but after some more friendly persuasions, they rowed their boat across the river to where the men were. As the boat touched the shore the 6 men on the bank some 20 feet from the edge of the water showed evidence of not being friends and made ready with their guns, the three men in the skift rose to their feet at once with their weapons, an army musket, a double barrel shotgun and a navy revolver, In their hands. The guerrillas fired first and of course had to fire down the bank at the occupants in the skift. But neither one of the men in the boat was disabled if hit. They now fired up the bank at the bandits and killed three of them. They had emptied their guns and before they could reload them the guerrillas fired again and killed the two men with father and they dropped into the river and their bodies sank from view. My father being defenseless leaped into the river and swam to the opposite shore without apparently getting hit from the firing of the other three men at him. But when he reached the bank and had got out of the water and was trying to climb up the bank one of the remaining three guerrillas of the name of Ben Looney fired across the river at him and he plunged into the river and was seen no more by them. They supposed the shot either killed him, or disabled him so he drowned." Mr. Row says that his father may have been missed and jumped back into the water to avoid other shots and dived and swam and got away. "It would be natural" wrote he, "that as soon as his assailants saw him fall into the water and sink, they would turn their attention to their dead comrades." Mr. Row thinks that his father being in great trouble of mind on account of the Civil War and being afraid that his wife and children would be deprived of food and wearing apparel was partly deranged when his companions were killed and that when he plunged into the water after swimming across the river and believing that he escaped and become entirely deranged and wandered off and bases his belief from some dreams of his widowed sister, Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Lewellen. Here is how Mr. Row wrote.
"The days and months and years kept passing on and last year I got a letter from my sister which I will quote from. She is mothers third oldest child and was at Kansas City when she wrote the letter." "You know I was near 8 years old when the war come up.
I remember plainly the last time I seen our father. He was standing with one foot in the stirrup talking to mother, and was ready to go to Kansas. Well, when we lived in Indiana, I do not believe there was more than two months at a time all the time we lived there but what I dreamed of him, and it was always almost the same. He was dressed like I remember before going away, in a striped jacket and plain dark pants, and in his shirt sleeves. He was every time I seen him in my dream, standing on the double tree of a wagon, an old like wagon. The end of the wagon tongue rested on the ground, and he had his right hand up shading his eyes and looking off, away off, and seemed all the time to be wearied and perplexed. I was always so sorry. Mother was always standing by me, and I would look at father then at mother but neither spoke, and mother did not seem to see him and he would always be looking toward us not at us but over us. Then after I and Rowly Lewellen were married and out two little girls were born to us and while we lived in the little log house on our stepfathers place in St. Clair County, Missouri, I still had them dreams and it seemed like I must go and hunt the place. When we lived in Clinton, Henry County, Missouri, I read in a Little Rock, Arkansas, paper about a man dieing there in the suberbs of Little Rock that had lived in a wagon ever since the war. He never told his name nor where he had lived; but was always looking away off as If in a dream. The paper stated that he had on homemade clothes that he had worn for years. I have never dreamed of father since I read that account." Mr. Row goes on to say that he received the letter from his sister on the 26 of July, 1906, and that one day in the following month of August he received another letter from his sister and quotes the following from it.
"Dear Brother John, Yours of July 17 at hand. I was glad to hear from you, and also glad for what you wrote about our father. Although you know we have heard some of the same before, but about Chris Hoover killing father, I never heard that. I understood that Ben Looney did kill him. Ben Looney did live down somewhere close to the Osage River but lived in Appleton City when we lived near Chalklevel. Chris Hoover I think it was that told mother that Ben Looney fired the shot that caused him to fall back into the water. I have all my life since the war felt like we ought to hunt for father, but you know how it was with us, we did not know what to do."
Springfield-Greene County Library