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Solomon had married Harriet Louisa Gregg in the second week of January Her first child was born in , her second two years following, the same spring she and Solomon started west, which means she must have been nursing the baby on the boat trip up the Missouri. Remembered for her imperturbable disposition, no less than her abundant red hair, Harriet Louisa was not known to have complained or lost heart then or at any time afterward, whatever happened.
Her last pregnancy was in , but the baby did not survive. Nearly forty, she was well past middle age by the standards of the day, yet still short of midpoint in what was to be an extremely long, eventful life.
Exactly when Solomon went west on the first of his wagon-train expeditions, leaving Harriet Louisa in charge of everything, is not clear. It is known only that he went several times prior to the Civil War, beginning as early perhaps as , the momentous year of the Mexican War and the trek of the Mormons out of Illinois to the Great Salt Lake not to mention the year of Anderson Truman's arrival in Independence.
Such undertakings were epic in scale, in any event. The customary overland train was made up of forty to eighty giant canvas-covered freight wagons, each requiring six yoke of oxen or mules and two drivers. A single wagon and team stretched 90 to feet. And since the practice under way was to keep the wagons about feet apart, some trains would be strung across the prairie for as far as three miles.
To keep his bearings, Solomon carried a brass telescope, like a sea captain. Solomon, who at census time now listed himself as a freighter, appears to have done quite well. Ten years later, he was worth ten times that. He is said to have owned as much as 5, acres, fancy, blooded horses, and there was real silver on the table. Because the Santa Fe Trail first headed south out of Independence, before swinging west across the Blue River, it passed within only a few miles of the Young farm.
Solomon would depart in the spring. Large and full-bearded, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, he must have been something to see as he pushed off, as his family saw him and remembered him -- a man "who could do pretty much anything he set his mind to. It took him a year and he lost five hundred cattle on the way, but he made it, through every kind of weather and hardship, across half the continent. At Sacramento he traded the surviving herd for a ranch of 40, acres.
But this, as the story goes, he was forced to sell to cover the debts of a partner. A man made good on his debts, a man stood by his friends. And a world-beating talker had a tale to tell his children, and they theirs. Another year, , Solomon took forty wagons to Utah, with goods and salt pork for the Army, and his arrival at Salt Lake caused a stir: The wagons were coupled together in pairs [noted the August 16, , edition of the Deseret News], one behind the other, each pair having on board about sixty hundred pounds and drawn by six pairs of oxen Young is of the opinion that the couple of two wagons together in that manner is the most economical way of freighting to this Territory Young's cattle look remarkably well, and, as we are informed, he did not lose a single ox by accident or otherwise during the trip.
When the officer in charge at Salt Lake refused for some reason to receive the goods, Solomon met with Brigham Young, who, though no relation, was a fellow Mason and agreed to take the whole shipment if Solomon would extend him credit. The bargain worked out to the satisfaction of both. Meantime, Solomon also did a thriving trade in outfitting and advising emigrants bound for Oregon or Santa Fe, who now, every year, numbered in the thousands.
But by and , the years of the California Gold Rush and the greatest traffic through Independence, the little town's time in the sun was nearly over. For the same human tide brought virulent cholera. In the spring of ten people died at the Noland House within a single day. In cholera struck again. In , with no rain from June to November, crops failed all over the county. Scarlet fever, pneumonia, and cholera were epidemic the next several years.
In the spring of the Youngs themselves lost a child, nine-year-old Elizabeth, who died of causes unrecorded. And all the while across the line in Kansas, the old issue of slavery was building to a terrible storm that was to affect the lives and outlook of nearly everyone in Jackson County for a very long time to come. II To many in western Missouri the Civil War commenced not in with the attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, but in , when Congress passed the fateful Kansas-Nebraska Act, leaving to the residents of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska the decision of whether to allow slavery.
Missouri had. Now the old Missouri Compromise line was gone. The new bill, designed to ease tension, had exactly the opposite effect.
What compounded the problem was the disproportionate size of the slave population along Missouri's western border -- where possibly fifty thousand slaves were held, which was nearly half the slaves in all Missouri.
In Jackson County alone there were more than three thousand, and their owners, whatever their feeling for the Union, dreaded the prospect of free territory so close, to which a slave might escape, or from which could come armed bands of slave liberators. Elsewhere in the nation Kansas was seen as the issue that would settle things. Seward of New York in a speech in Washington, " We will engage in competition for the virgin soil of Kansas, and God give the victory to the side that is stronger in numbers as it is in right.
In response, more Free-Soilers poured in from the East, a new kind of emigrant traffic from which struggling little Kansas City began to benefit. When armed pro-slavery ruffians, later to be known as "bushwhackers," tried to close passage on the Missouri by terrorizing the riverboats, the Free-Soilers merely crossed overland through Iowa.
Time obviously was running out. On May 22, , hard-riding Missouri "Border Ruffians" shot up the town of Lawrence, Kansas, an abolitionist stronghold. Two days afterward, a strange, wild-looking old man named John Brown, a new Kansas settler, decided the moment had come to "regulate matters. There they took five pro-slavery Kansas men and boys, none of whom had anything to do with the raid on Lawrence, and chopped them to pieces -- "as declared by Almighty God," said John Brown. No sooner had the Free-Soilers gained control in Kansas in the next round of elections than Kansas riders came charging over the line into Missouri to take their turn at murder and arson.
For years before the Civil War began in the East, this terrible Border War -- civil war in every dreadful sense of the term -- raged all up and down the Missouri-Kansas line and continued until the surrender at Appomattox. It was like some horrible chapter out of the Middle Ages, with gangs of brigand horsemen roaming the land. They could appear out of nowhere any time, led often by men who were no better than young thugs, some possibly deranged, like the bantam-sized "Doc" Jennison, whose outlaw Kansans were called Jayhawkers or Red Legs for their red leather leggings , or the Missouri guerrilla "Bloody Bill" Anderson, who liked to mutilate his victims.
It was a war of plunder, ambush, and unceasing revenge. Nobody was safe. Defenseless towns were burned. Osceola, Missouri, and Shawneetown, Kansas, were all but wiped from the map.
Neither then nor later did the rest of the country realize the extent of the horrors. Nor was it ever generally understood that most Missourians remained loyal to the Union -- including slaveholders like Solomon Young and Anderson Truman -- or that most Missourians bore no resemblance to the infamous bushwhackers. The popular picture of all western Missourians as gun-slinging, whiskey-swilling riffraff was grossly inaccurate -- as inaccurate as the idea that every Kansan was a transplanted, upright New England abolitionist.
Atrocities were committed on both sides, and it was innocent civilians who suffered most.
As one Kansan later said, "The Devil came to the border, liked it, and decided to stay awhile. Later, he was brutally murdered, which led his hot-blooded son Coleman, or Cole, to join up with the celebrated Missouri guerrilla chief, William Quantrill.
A Jackson County physician named Lee was gunned down in cold blood because his sons had joined the Confederate Army.
John Hagan, a farmer, was stopped by Union cavalry while out for a Sunday drive with his family. Ordered to get down from the wagon, he was led into the woods and shot through the head for no known reason.
Christopher Mann, the prolific old Kentucky pioneer who had the ability of holding his breath for a minute and a half, was made to stand by at gunpoint and watch his farm burned by Missouri guerrillas. In a second battle two years later, another Confederate victory, fierce block-to-block fighting raged back and forth across town for two days.
The worst atrocity, the unpardonable Lawrence Massacre, was committed by Quantrill, a brave, ingenious, wretched man who was continuously in and out of Jackson County, hiding in the heavy brush of the winding Blue River bottoms.
To most slaveholders Quantrill was a hero and in memory, in after years in Jackson County, he would acquire a romantic glow, an aura like that of no other figure of the war, as if he had been the very soul of Old South gallantry in service of the Cause.
In reality, he came from Ohio. Nor had he ever shown any southern sympathies or convictions, until the killing began. Most of the town was still asleep. His orders were to kill every man big enough to carry a gun and to burn the town.
When it was over, at least men and boys had been murdered.
The day was clear and still and smoke from the inferno, rising in tremendous black columns, could be seen from miles away. Like many others in Jackson County, Solomon and Harriet Louisa had a personal tie to the bushwackers. Their third child, Sarah Ann, had married a man named James J.
Chiles, a highly unsavory character known as Jim Crow Chiles. He was the dark side of frontier life, a future skeleton for the Young-Truman family closet. Jim Crow, whose nickname was said to have been bestowed in boyhood for his exuberant performance of a popular dance called the "Jim Crow Set," belonged to one of the original pioneer families in the county, and large landholders, which initially stood him well with the Youngs.
But in , Jim Crow had killed a man in the bar at the Noland House, a stranger who had done no more than remark on his table manners. Another man who traveled with Jim Crow to Santa Fe shortly afterward remembered him as often good-natured, even jovial, "but subject to violent fits of anger, and when angry, a very dangerous man.
She was sixteen. Jim Crow, a "dashing fellow," was notable for his dark eyes and "powerful, symmetrical build. He was an active participant, for example, in the capture of Union Captain Daniel H. In this pitiless onrush of history, the Youngs, too, were caught in the middle no less than anyone along the border, and their stories of what happened, of all that was taken and destroyed, would be told repeatedly, some events merging in memory with others as time passed, some details being dropped or made a touch more vivid than the truth perhaps, depending on who was telling the story to whom and when.
Whether, for example, the fanatical "Grim Chieftain of Kansas," Jim Lane, struck the Young farm the summer of , two years before the Lawrence Massacre, as Lane headed through Missouri to burn Osceola, or whether it was earlier, just after the war officially began in the spring of , is a matter of some confusion.
But there is no doubt that he came or that Solomon was somewhere far afield on one of his expeditions. Solomon may have reasoned that since he was an avowed Union man his family would be safe. Will Young, the oldest son, was also absent -- Will had joined the Confederate Army -- which left Harriet Louisa alone with the children. In a theater of war characterized by strange, terrifying human apparitions, James Henry Lane may have been the strangest, most terrifying of all.
Tall, gaunt, always wildly disheveled even in uniform, he had a sallow hatchet face, atrociously bad teeth, and a voice with a raspy, unearthly sound. He was also a brilliant orator and a rampant political opportunist. As an overnight, fire-eating Republican he had been elected as one of the first two senators from the new state of Kansas.
Arriving in Washington on the eve of the war, he organized a Frontier Guard to protect Abraham Lincoln and for a few nights he and his men actually bivouacked in the East Room of the Executive Mansion.
In Missouri he was known as a "freedom" soldier, meaning he would free you of anything he could lay his hands on -- food, forage, money, silk dresses, the family silver, even a piano on occasion. Everybody knew about Jim Lane. He was as feared and reviled on the Missouri side of the-tine as was Quantrill in Kansas. For Harriet Louisa there could have been no mistaking who it was in Union blue riding up the road.
In the formal claim she filed in , more than thirty-five years after the war, it is recorded that Union forces under five different officers came to the farm on five different occasions, beginning with General Lane in May Lane and his Kansans proceeded to shoot four hundred Hampshire hogs, then cut out only the hams, leaving the rest to rot. Harriet Louisa was ordered to bake biscuits, which she did "until her hands blistered.
Others, "out of sheer cussedness," blasted away at her hens. But, to determine the whereabouts of Solomon Young, the Kansans took the "man of the place," fifteen-year-old Harrison, looped a rope about his neck, threw the other end over a tree, and said they would hang him if he didn't tell where his father was hiding.
Harrison, according to the story, told the truth, saying Solomon had gone west with a wagon train. They tightened the rope, "stretching his neck," and asked - again.
Harrison answered as before. Then, suddenly, bored with their game, the men let him go. Hay barns were set ablaze. Lane and the rest rode off, taking the hams, biscuits, feather beds, and the family silver. According to Harriet Louisa's formal claim, however, it was a Colonel Burris, not Lane, who made off with 1, pounds of bacon in October of , as well as 65 tons of hay, bushels of corn, 44 head of hogs, 2 horses one with bridle and saddle , 1 "lot of beds and bedding," 7 wagons, and 30, fence rails.
A General Sturgis was also responsible for taking head of cattle and a Captain Axaline for 13, fence rails, 1, bushels of corn, and 6, "rations. Interestingly, no family silver is listed. Nor is there any reference to buildings destroyed. Yet the theft of the family silver by Old Jim Lane would be talked of repeatedly in after years, and Martha Ellen Young, who was nine at the time, would one day describe for a New York Times writer how she and her mother, their faces blackened with the soot and ash that rained down from the burning barns, stood in the yard watching the hated blue soldiers ride away.
Though possibly no silver ever was taken, certainly it might have been, and if no buildings were actually destroyed on the Young farm, the little girl may well have been witness to other farms going up in flames m' "the burnt country. The stories were what mattered as they were passed along, not the formal claim. From such times and memories, as was said, a family "got solid" in its feelings.
But nothing that happened in western Missouri during the course of the war left such a legacy, of bitterness as the infamous Union measure known as General Order No. Estimating that two thirds of the outlying Missouri populace were either "kin to the guerrillas" like the Youngs or "actively and heartily engaged in feeding, clothing, and sustaining them" like the Slaughter family, near neighbors of the Youngs on Blue Ridge , the Union commander at Kansas City, Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, decided to deny the guerrillas their base of supply by depopulating the entire area.
The order was issued August 25, All civilians in Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties, except those living within a mile of Union posts at Kansas City, Independence, Hickman's Mills, Pleasant Hill, and Harrisonville, were to "remove from their present places of residence" within fifteen days.
If they could prove their loyalty to the Union to the satisfaction of the post commander, they could remain in those towns or cross over into Kansas. If not, they must leave Missouri. All grain and hay found in the district after the deadline was to be destroyed. Twenty thousand people were driven from their homes. The country was depopulated in a matter of weeks, as Union cavalry helped themselves to whatever of value was left behind, then put a torch to buildings and crops.
A desolated country and men and women and children, some of them almost naked. Some on foot and some in old wagons. Oh God. At the Young farm, the policy appears to have been carried out to the letter, despite the fact that Solomon had signed a loyalty oath more than a year before. The family was permitted to take away one wag of possessions.
Little Martha Ellen would remember trudging northward on a hot, dusty road behind the swaying wagon, headed for "bitter exile" in Kansas City.
Anderson Truman, meantime, had fared far better. He too had signed a loyalty oath. He wanted only "the Union as it was," like the rest of the Trumans back in Kentucky.
But earlier Anderson and his family had moved across the Missouri to Platte County, which, close as it was, the war hardly touched. An increasingly religious man, he wished no part in violence, He hated Catholics, but little else apparently, and he kept to his land and labors, living simply and almost without incident. Once, after dark, the slave Hannah heard screams and a commotion of horses at the adjoining farm. Everyone assumed the Red Legs had arrived and Grandmother Holmes, then in her eighties, fled with the youngest Truman children to hide in a cornfield.
The Red Legs proved to be a detachment of Confederate cavalry who had come to press a neighbor's sons into service. This was as close as the war ever came to the Trumans. The children numbered five, three girls, Margaret, Emma, and Mary, and two boys, William and John, neither of whom was old enough to fight in the war.
When it was all over in April , Anderson loaded his five slaves -- Hannah, Marge, and their three daughters -- into a big farm wagon with a month's supply of food and drove them to Leavenworth, Kansas, the place they had chosen to begin their freedom. When he returned to Leavenworth some years later to learn what had become of them, nobody knew. The wounds of nearly nine years of war in Missouri were a long time healing.
While most veterans of the defeated Confederate Army took up life as best they could, married, and settled down, others found it impossible to return to anything like the old ways. Not impossible. But simply as a description I think we have to say that it must be difficult, otherwise we would find it easier to know why we are not doing very well. I treat statistical work a little cautiously but when "The World Christian Encyclopedia" shows a massive flight of Christian faith out of the West, that certainly comports with what I think I have observed from my little corner of the church-world.
Today, in the West, there is a crisis in believing and behaving. Being a pessimist simply means that in one's disposition one is inclined to think that things are bad, going to the dogs, going downhill, and so forth.
My analysis may suggest that picture, but, I would argue, it has nothing to do with my disposition and everything to do with the difficulty Christian faith has in sustaining itself here in the modernized West.
Then as to capitalism and consumerism. I don't think it is correct to equate them. Capitalism is the system which makes consumerism possible. Indeed, it makes consumerism likely, but not inevitable. I also believe that capitalism is the hope, humanly speaking, for the Third World where I work each summer in Africa.