John Hunter Ferguson, Missouri Volunteer

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John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
John Hunter Ferguson was born in Dumfries, Scotland, on Christmas Day, December 25, 1838. His family emigrated to America when he was 14 years of age, but tragedy accompanied the move. His father, William, died during the voyage, and was buried at sea. Young John and his mother went to live with her Hunter relatives in St. Louis.

On May 10, 1861, he was a witness to most of the Camp Jackson affair, in which Gen. Nathaniel Lyon’s largely German “Missouri Volunteers” captured a rebel force which was planning to attack the St. Louis U.S. arsenal, and then fired into a civilian mob who tried to rescue them. Ferguson said One time in an interview that "If had not been for the loyal German regiments, I believe St. Louis would have been captured by General Jackson and his Confederate forces.” A few months later, the now 21-year-old John moved to Miller County, Missouri, and began work on a farm just west of Iberia. He would reside in that town for the remainder of his life.

Early in 1862, John Ferguson joined Col. J. W. McClurg’s “Osage Regiment,” an irregular unit armed, we are told, “with pistols, knives, rifles, shot guns and any other weapon obtainable.” That fall, on October 15, 1862, he enlisted in Co. M of the 3rd Regiment Missouri Cavalry Volunteers. He served in that outfit until the close of the war.

On June 4, while a member of the Osage Regiment, he found time to marry Dorcas Cansada Shelton, also of Miller County. They were married by Rev. Abraham Castleman, who was captain of a Confederate troop during the war. One of the stories often repeated in the Ferguson family tells how, in order to get Rev. Castleman to come and marry them, John had to ride 15 or 20 miles to get him and then accompany him back home because Rev. Castleman was afraid of the "bushwackers" roaming the area who might be seeking him out.

John and Dorcas Ferguson, ca. 1920s​

Dorcas’ family was originally from Tennessee, and had strongly pro-Confederate sympathies -- her uncle William Rankin Wright, was an officer in the local State Guard unit. Another of those family stories tells of a visit John made to Dorcas some time later in 1862. She was living with her parents, who, as soon as they saw him approach, went to Uncle William, and told him to come and get the Yankee. To avoid capture, John hid out in what is still known as the Ferguson Cave, while Dorcas slipped out at night to bring him food, which she would lower into the cave from above by rope. John and Dorcas Ferguson would be the parents of 14 children.

John Hunter Ferguson survived the war, and was discharged in New Orleans in the summer of 1865. He lived to a ripe old age and became a very prominent figure in Miller County and the city of Iberia, active in religious, political and community affairs. He served as Justice of the Peace for over 45 years and was known by everyone as "Squire" John. For many years he was post commander of Iberia’s Miles Carroll Post No. 111 of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was instrumental in keeping the Post in active service. He very seldom missed one of the encampments, both state & national, and over the years he filled most all stations in the highly honored organization. In 1928, he served as Commander of the G. A. R. Department of Missouri.

An undated, unattributed photo of Squire John Hunter Ferguson, with a group of youngsters.
Each wears the same lapel pin -- SUVCW, perhaps? Ferguson was the last
ACW veteran in Miller County.
At the age of 95, on July 17, 1934, Squire John Ferguson took part in the Second Annual Missouri Aerocade: as twenty-four aircraft took off from St. Joseph, carrying some 100 passengers on a three-day, thousand mile circuit of the state.

aerocade1 - Edited.png

The Aerocade touched down in Koshkonong, Springfield, Carthage, and Nevada; in Marshall and Brookfield the following day, before winding up in Mexico, Mo. It must have been quite the thrill for the old veteran.

Four years later, he also attended, at the age of 99 years, the Last Reunion of the Blue and Gray at Gettysburg with his son Frank (his name is misspelled “Fercusin” on the published attendance list). That same year, 1938, he retired as Justice of the Peace.

On January 20, 1940, at his home in Iberia, Mo., John Hunter Ferguson passed away, aged 101 years and 25 days. A Missouri SUVCW memorial concludes:

"There are many folks today who remember him so vividly and still reminiscence of those long-ago days when he could be seen on the streets of Iberia with his snow-white hair and long, white beard, much like a patriarch of old. There are many descendants of Squire John Ferguson who still live in central Missouri in the counties of Miller, Pulaski and Camden as well as those who have moved all over America."​

His Find-a-grave page.
SUVCW Memorial is attached:


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