Women of the Kansas City Prison Collapse, Aug 13, 1863

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
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Boonville, MO.
d7599b782a8406ad36fe56605c921452.jpg


This thread is an extension to my previous thread, "The Very Sad Tail of a Guerrilla's Wife." Two areas of interest that developed from that thread concerned the jail collapse, (the subject of this post), and the loss of the Davis- Smith Cemetery where some of the women who died in the collapse were buried, (a subject of a later post).

The above picture is supposedly that of the "Longhorn Tavern," built originally as a two story building in the mid 1850's by Robert Thomas. I say "supposedly" because as I understand the story, there was another building that shared a common wall with the tavern building, and I don't see that second building in the picture. When Mr. Thomas died in June of 1859, the building was inherited by his daughter, who was married to Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham. After taking ownership of the building, Bingham soon hired an architect, and for the cost of $1800, added a third story to serve as his artist studio.

At the time of the collapse, 17 women and 1 boy, were housed on the second and third floors. Their still exists controversy as to what caused the building's collapse, and rather than get involved in that, (see this article for more on the controversy-->http://civilwar150.kansascity.com/articles/darryls-jail-story-612/ ), I would like to give a list and a little background information of the women involved in the collapse.

Josephine Anderson was approx. 18 years old and was killed in the collapse. Her sisters, Mary (Molly) 16, was crippled for life, while Martha (Mattie) 13 suffered two broken legs. These ladies were the sisters of Wm. (Bloody Bill) Anderson, who had a few weeks prior to their capture, placed his sisters in the household of a Mrs. Lou Mundy Gray. Mrs. Gray's husband served under Wm. Anderson. Living with Mrs. Gray was her two orphaned (twin?) sisters, Susan and Mattie (Martha) Mundy both 21. The Mundy women had a brother serving in the CSA army under Prices' command. Also living in the household was Mollie Grindstaff, who's brother also rode with Anderson. One of the women living in the house (but not the Anderson girls), either purchased or was accused of stealing a large amount of cloth for the supposed purpose of making guerrilla shirts. When the Union troopers discovered a large amount of cloth and shirts at the home of Mrs. Gray, all of the women were arrested, with the exception of Martha (Mattie) Anderson, who they considered as being too young to arrest. But since she had no where to go, she accompanied her sisters to prison.

Also Killed were two of the Crawford sisters, Susan Crawford Vandever, 28, and Armenia Crawford Selvey, 25. Both women had husbands who served under Gen. Joseph O. Shelby. It was determined that the sisters had purchased too much medicine for their families personal use, so accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy they were arrested. With them at their time of arrest was Armenia Selveys' 9 year old son Jabez, who was also imprisoned with his mother and aunt. The Crawford sisters' father, Jeptha Crawford, had been murdered in front of his wife Elizabeth (Betsy) and his family and his farm burnt to the ground in January, 1863. Elizabeth (Betsy) Crawford was left destitute by the killing of her husband and the burning of her house and farm, so she had to break her family up and place her children with various friends and relatives. To have been found to be giving aid to Elizabeth by taking care of one of her children would have subject the caretaker to arrest, and the possible burning of their home. So in the spring of 1863, Elizabeth, after learning that Quantrill was camped nearby, took her four oldest sons and gave them to Quantrill, telling him to "make soldiers of them." The three oldest sons soon left Quantrill and joined the confederate army. But the youngest son, Riley, at 13 years of age, was too young to join the army, so he became one of the youngest member of Quantrills' command. Riley's mother didn't "give up" her four oldest sons by taking them to Quantrill; she gave them to the only men left in her family capable of taking care of them. Her maiden name was Harris, and riding with Quantrill was her nephews, Thomas Harris, the McCorkles, and Youngers and several in-laws; the only male relatives she had left.

Another of the women who was killed was Charity McCorkle Kerr, 32. Charity's husband, Nathan Kerr, and her two brothers, John and Jabez McCorkle, all rode with Quantrill. She was arrested along with her sister-in-law "Nannie" Harris McCorkle, the subject of the "Guerrilla's Wife" post, for possibly giving aid and comfort to the enemy for the load of flour they were carrying in their wagon.

Also in the jail collapse were three of the married Younger sisters; Mary Josephine Younger Jarrett, 23, Caroline Younger Clayton, 21, and Sarah Ann Younger Duncan, 17. I couldn't find the reason for their arrest, but Mary Josephine's husband, John Jarrett and her brother, Cole were well known Quantrill members, perhaps that was enough.

Three other women were in the jail and involved in the collapse, but not much is known about them, to whom they were related, or why the were arrested; A "Miss Hall," a Alice Fey Ness, (or Van Ness), and a "Mrs Wilson." It was thought that Mrs. Wilson may have been a spy and was imprisoned with the other women to provide the Federals with information. She died shortly after the collapse from her injuries.

I'll leave up to you readers if you think the picture is that of the "Longhorn Tavern." I got the picture from Pinterest, but it's clear from the picture where the image originated, (maybe a somewhat biased site?). My main reason for posting this is to add names to the 17 women who were involved in the jail collapse and to show their close relationship to each other, and to members of Quantrill's command. Four women died in the collapse, one died shortly thereafter, all suffered injuries, some for the rest of their life.
 

mofederal

Major
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Location
Southeast Missouri
It is easy to forget at that time in the war in Missouri not much of an excuse was needed to arrest someone. By someone I mean any male or female suspected of aiding the Confederacy, or the enemy. This is the time of the "Little Gods" the Union Army's Provost Marshalls who pretty much did as they pleased, arresting and holding people for no real reason other than they could. There are numerous instances of abuse of the system and the people involved, both men and women. The Palmyra Massacre is an extreme example, execution of men as a means to provide an example for the people of that area in Northeast Missouri. A town where it's Provost Marshall used his office to abuse a woman, who was seeking to save her husband from execution. She did at a cost.
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
I have thought for a long time that some of the charges against these women were trumped up. I have no doubt that they did smuggle pistol caps, medicines and other necessities for their brothers and husbands at times. I'm certain they cooked, sewed for them, exchanged horses with them, and so on. I think the real idea was to try to interrupt the supply network as much as possible, and also to use the captivity of the women as leverage against the guerrillas. If I'm accurate about my second guess, it would have been a stupid blunder even without the collapse of the building.
 

Booner

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Location
Boonville, MO.
.... I think the real idea was to try to interrupt the supply network as much as possible, and also to use the captivity of the women as leverage against the guerrillas. If I'm accurate about my second guess, it would have been a stupid blunder even without the collapse of the building.

Someday, when I have time I want to investigate a theory of mine regarding the Union occupation of Mo. and how the feds first handled their problems with those of Southern leanings; namely killing off the heads of the households. Give it a thought.
 

Bee

Captain
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
and also to use the captivity of the women as leverage against the guerrillas. If I'm accurate about my second guess, it would have been a stupid blunder even without the collapse of the building.

During the Boer War, this tactic was used effectively. The womenfolk and children were placed in concentration camps where they suffered mightily. (I can provide sources if necessary, using a tablet makes it a bit more cumbersome)
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Thanks for this, so valuable albeit tough to read. ' What happened ' in that war - and I'm sorry, it was all so different it seems an entirely separate war from the ' ACW ' in history books- can never be discussed without the whole thing devolving into " That never happened " or refusal to believe it was just barbaric out there. That Union sympathizers suffered dreadfully too makes it a worse discussion. Point being, this stuff happened.

Have clippings somewhere, from an era paper if you're interested, ( sorry on the off thread ) quite a few women trailing into Texas , wives of Quantrill's officers who must have gotten away. This thread sure explains why a trip like that was undertaken. They were in rough shape, one child dying en route. It is simply crazy to me what was done to families. Yes, goodness- horrific things happened in Confederate raids. How anyone decided the answer was just to devolve entirely into savagery, and it was tolerated, is beyond comprehension.
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
George Caleb Bingham self-portrait.
Thanks, Mike. This artist is obviously very closely connected to the thread topic because his wife inherited the building. Bingham had a very interesting history. He grew up right here in my home neighborhood and many of his genre paintings depict events all around this area of Missouri. He was a strong unionist, but a bitter opponent of Gen. Ewing when it came to Order Number 11. He is tangent to many of our discussions here on civilwartalk. Thanks for allowing everyone to see him.
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2021
I am a newcomer so please be gentle. I am researching the collapse for a historical fiction that I am preparing on the guerrilla warfare in Missouri and Kansas. I have seen references to an adjacent building that was used as a guard house. I do not see one in the photo.

Also, I ran across the name of Venitia Colford Page as a possible prisoner.

I think Alice Van Ness was arrested under suspicion of being a spy. She had returned to Kansas City after visiting family friends, the Torrey family, in Paola Kansas where they owned a well-known hotel and tavern. Colonel Harry Torrey, one-time regimental officer in the Ohio Militia back in the 1840s, was known to be a long-time friend of Quantrill and his establishment was known as a place where Southern sympathizers would frequent. Alice's father had owned a wholesale liquor business in St. Joseph before he died in 1861 leaving her without family. It was a case of guilt through association?
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
I am a newcomer so please be gentle. I am researching the collapse for a historical fiction that I am preparing on the guerrilla warfare in Missouri and Kansas. I have seen references to an adjacent building that was used as a guard house. I do not see one in the photo.

Also, I ran across the name of Venitia Colford Page as a possible prisoner.

I think Alice Van Ness was arrested under suspicion of being a spy. She had returned to Kansas City after visiting family friends, the Torrey family, in Paola Kansas where they owned a well-known hotel and tavern. Colonel Harry Torrey, one-time regimental officer in the Ohio Militia back in the 1840s, was known to be a long-time friend of Quantrill and his establishment was known as a place where Southern sympathizers would frequent. Alice's father had owned a wholesale liquor business in St. Joseph before he died in 1861 leaving her without family. It was a case of guilt through association?
First, Welcome to CWT! I would think that if you're a writer you might find a wealth of information from this site. There's a large number of well-informed people who post here.

Second, those of us who have interest in the Missouri guerrilla activities can tell you that trying to research the subject, as well as trying to discern fact from fiction is a challenge, and unfortunately, the success rate is not very high. The K.C. jail collapse is a good example. No one knows for sure how many women were in the building at it's time of collapse, and a controversy remains as to what lead to the collapse. What is known is that the majority of the women placed in the building were somehow related to members who rode with Quantrill, and he used the collapse to sway the members of his command to attack Lawrence, KS. The women who were placed in the building had recently been removed from a local hotel that had been used as a woman's prison, and the sanitary conditions of that place had deteriorated so badly that the guards had refused to enter the building.

I have checked my data base for the names of Page and Van Ness but didn't come up with a match. There was a man with the surname of Ness who at one time rode with Quantrill. It could be that these women were married and they had brothers who rode with the guerrilla's, therefore there would not be a surname match. To answer your direct question of "guilt by association," yes, that's entirely possible, as is 'guilty until proven innocent.'' I think it's very hard for us to imagine how terrible the war was on those living in Missouri. Missouri lost 1/3 of her population during the war. There were more Provost actions taken against the citizens of the state than all other provost actions in other states combined. Here in the town I live in, a young women was imprisoned for a number of months simply because a stranger saw her wearing a dress that they thought it's color meant she was a southern sympathizer. Many of the men who were Kansas Jayhawkers were displaced Union men from Missouri who were forced to leave the state by the Bushwhackers. So there were a lot of "scores' that needed to be settled, and the war give them an opportunity to do so.
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2021
Thanks for your feedback. It is hard to try to "follow the facts" but fun at the same time. If I do take literary license in my writing, it is my interpretation of conversations between the characters (a lot of them reported after the fact and years later or second or third hand) while following the actual events as best as I can.. Thanks again!
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2021
Alice Van Ness is very interesting . She became a very well known actress under the stage name of Alice Vane. She married another actor and troupe leader John Templeton and toured throughout the US. Her daughter, Fay Templeton, was a major star on Broadway with George M Cohan.
 
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