In Memory Of Sisters
Susan Crawford Vandever,
Armenia Crawford Selvey
and the others who perished
in the collapse of the Union
Jail in Kansas City
The civil war before the Civil
1, 1863, after delivering a wagon-load of produce to Kansas
City where it was sold, Susan Vandever, her sister Armenia Selvey and Armenia's
nine year-old son Jeptha Selvey were quietly returning home by way of Westport
to their home near Blue Springs, Missouri, when they were quickly surrounded by Union forces, restrained and returned to Kansas City where they were to be
imprisoned - charged with aiding and abetting enemy forces; or, in other words, bringing
medicine and other necessaries to Confederate guerrillas. Actually, these
three were imprisoned in hope that their confinement would regulate
the conduct of their husbands, brothers and others who were Missouri Confederate
the Crawfords and many farm families like them who resided along Missouri's
Western border with Kansas, were merely surviving the Civil War day-by-day,
not taking sides-intensely aware that speaking what someone would take
as a disloyal word could bring them death and utter ruin to their families.
The following account of William Gregg from his manuscript, "A Little Dab
of History Without Embellishment", was a common rehearsal for the repeated
genocide practiced by Union Forces in this area and it is, without doubt,
what drove many Missouri 'Jewels' to join up with Quantrell and other guerrilla
leaders in order to avenge this type of treatment.
"...About the 18th of Feby, 1863 Col. Bill
Penick stationed a Independence whose men were part Missourians and part
Kansans sent a scout of about seventy five men sixteen miles south of Independence
to the houses of Col. Jim Saunders and Uncle Jeptha Crawford, the scout
arriving at the house of Saunders first, divided, one half going to Crawford's.
Mrs. Saunders and her daughter prepared dinner for the half staying there,
the Col. furnished feed for their horses, all went well until dinner was
over, ( mind you that the snow was fourteen inches deep with the mercury
10 degrees below zero when Col. Saunders was placed under guard, the house
burned, the women not allowed a bonnet or shawl. On leaving Saunders place,
they told the wife they were going to take Col. to Independence and make
him take the oath. On the arrival of this party at Crawford's practically
the same scenes were enacted, except they snatched a lace cap from the
head of Mrs. Crawford and they threw it in the flames of the burning building,
they also told Mrs. Crawford that the men would not be hurt. On their way
to Independence arriving at the house of James Burris, they dismounted
Crawford and Saunders and shot them to death. It was such dastardly acts as the
forgoing that caused the raid on Lawrence..."
A Cry for Revenge
the Civil War was raging throughout the land, August 13, 1863 began in
Kansas City as it was typically expected, hot and humid with the essence
for survival making the necessity to provide for oneself the usual priority.
But by days end an event was to unfold that was to become one of the most
fascinating and mysterious events of the Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas
border. On that August day, a building being used as a temporary prison
to house female prisoners who were relatives of Confederate guerrillas
and imprisoned on suspicion of aiding and abetting the Confederate cause,
had collapsed into a heap of brick, mortar and bodies. Of those killed,
one was my great great grandmother, Susan Crawford Vandever.
Thought to be a deliberate act of murder, it sealed the fate of many Union
soldiers and sympathizers. Coming at a most opportune time in his career,
it was most certainly the spark that beckoned the revenge which set forth
Quantrell's rampage through the streets of Lawrence, Kansas just eight
War on the Missouri-Kansas border began long before the first shot was
fired at Fort Sumter, that bloodless battle over a man-made island in Charleston
Harbor, SC. The trouble began with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska
Act of 1854, which allowed for the opening of
these two new territories to settlers. The issue of whether they
would enter the union as a free or slave state was to be left up to the
voters of each territory, thus repealing the of Missouri
Compromise which had outlawed slavery in the Kansas
Territory. Southern senators voting for it's passage assumed that while
Nebraska would enter the Union as a free state, Kansas would be a slave
state. Abolitionists and their emigration societies, especially The
New England Emigrant Aide Company, led by Eli Thayer, had other ideas.
These aide societies helped settlers trying to reach Kansas and by the
end of 1854, seven hundred persons aided by Thayer's company alone, had
departed Boston. At the same time, many Missourians were becoming
increasingly concerned about having a free state on their border. Throughout
the 1850's, tension developed among groups holding these political views.
Rumors ran rampant. Missourians insisted that the emigrants vote had already
been paid for by Northern Abolitionist for $100 each. Hundreds of
Northern Churches raised money to buy weapons for these emigrants. Especially
prized was the Sharp's rifle, which could fire ten rounds per minute. On
election day, 30 March 1855, thousands of Missourians, urged on by newspaper
articles spewing word that hundreds of the new Sharp's rifles had been
sent to Kansas and preparations for war were imminent, were led across
the Kansas border by David Atchison to cast their own votes for slavery.
The result was the election of pro slavery candidates and a constitution
making slavery legal. Soon, murder and kidnapings of persons known to
hold one political view by adherents of the other side became common.
Groups of Kansans formed armed mobs known as Jayhawkers,
led by James Lane,
Charles Jennison and James
Montgomery, men that were more politically ambitious than abolitionist,
raided into Missouri, stealing, burning homes and hanging or shooting those
who resisted. During the autumn of 1861, then Brigadier General James Lane,
with the authority granted by Lincoln, assembled his Jayhawkers into the
3rd, 4th and 5th Kansas Regiments. Calling themselves Red
Legs, -these pages are the property of William Pennington-a name describing the color of the leather leggings wore by it's
members, they were to perpetuate the Jayhawkers terrorist activities. Later
that year, in order to place his troops under military discipline, Charles
Jennison was commissioned a colonel and Jennison's Jayhawkers officially
became the 7th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.
the war as many sixty-two guerrilla
units and twenty-two
throughout Missouri. Primarily area citizens, these Missourians, who were
mostly pioneers from Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia, would participate
in raids of their own and then return to their normal activities.
Although they generally supported the Southern cause, the Confederate government
did not sanction their activities. Most insurrectionist were
driven by the treatment received from Union troops in the area. It was
not until December of 1861 when one such raider, William
Clarke Quantrell, formed the first organized guerrilla band in Missouri.
Once an abolitionist, but now acting foremost for himself,
he would often befriend runaway slaves and kidnap them back into Missouri,
receiving a reward for his efforts.
A Confederate Sisterhood
for any guerrilla operation to be successful, it must have the support
of the local population. Many of the guerrillas had friends and relatives
living in the area. Thus, as the situation the the area worsened, orders
were needed to counter-act this support. On January 20, 1863, military
authorities issued the following order: "All persons who shall knowingly
harbor, conceal, aid, or abet, by furnishing food, clothing, information,
protection, or any assistance whatever to any such emissary, Confederate
officer or soldier, partisan ranger, bushwhacker, robber, or thief, shall
be promptly executed."
Beginning in July
of 1863, in an effort to destroy the guerrillas' base of support, Union
troops began to arrest Kansas City area women who were suspected of gathering
information on the partisans' behalf and to detain them until arrangements
could be made to transport them out of Kansas City, where they would be
tried. Shortly afterwards the Kansas City Daily Journal of Commerce
printed an editorial supporting the effort to strike at the families of
"It is an utter impossibility to
rid the country of these pestilent outlaws, so long as their families remain...One
of the greatest difficulties the military authorities have to encounter,
is the constant information that the families of the bushwhackers give
of every movement the troops make...With the aid of these spies, dotted
all over the country and living in the perfect security, a hundred bushwhackers
may defy the efforts of five hundred solders to exterminate them."
At first the women
were imprisoned in the Union Hotel, located at the southeast corner of
Sixth and Main Streets. But, because it was considered too crowded,
they were then moved to the Mechanics Bank at Delaware and Commercial,
which, after becoming infested with rats and vermin of all kinds, was deemed
unfit for human habitation but only after the guards complained of the
stench and torture of these vermin. They eventually moved to a building
in the Metropolitan Block of McGee's
Addition known then as the The
Longhorn Tavern. General Thomas Ewing, who was
commander of the District of the Border, as this area was known and whose
headquarters were at Kansas City, without notification, took possession
of this building, proclaiming it a women's prison in late July, 1863.
This was not acknowledged by him until much later when he wrote in a letter:
"This certifies that a certain house in McGee's Addition to Kansas City,
Mo., known as 'No. 13 Metropolitan Block,' was occupied as a prison, by
my order, from some day in the latter part of July, 1863 , until the 13th
day of August last, when it fell."
At the time of
its collapse, this building housing the women prisoners was owned by the
estate of Robert Thomas who had died June 12, 1859. Thomas' daughter was
married to the Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham. Being an artist and
in need of a studio, Bingham, after conferring with a competent architect,
had the building remodeled, adding a third floor some twenty feet high
to the structure at a cost of $1800.00. After Bingham was selected treasure
for the state of Missouri, a position which became vacant after the flight
of Governor Claiborne Jackson and his cabinet to Southern Missouri, he
moved with his family to Jefferson City. The building then remained unoccupied
for a year and a half until taken over for use as a prison.
most of the women were Quantrell's trusted spies, friendships developed
over time between the woman and their guard, enough so that the Captain
of the guard eventually allowed the personal belonging of many of the women
to be retrieved from their homes and delivered to the prison. Pledging
their word not to escape, the girls were often allowed to shop at various
stores while their guard remained out of earshot of their conversations.
Without a doubt, the women were respected and treated kindly.
that the building was in peril of falling appeared before the collapse.
A store merchant on the first floor began removing his goods after noticing
cracks appearing in the ceiling and walls. Earlier that day, Lieutenant
John M. Singer of Company H, Ninth Kansas, Captain of the Provost
Guard, upon receiving a request from Frank Parker, Company C,
11th Kansas, Captain of the Guard at the prison, stating that he was becoming
increasingly uneasy about it's safety, hastily preceded to the prison and
upon arrival, immediately noticed the cracked walls and ceilings, with
mortar dust having painted the floor white. Reporting to General
Ewing, he immediately expressed his concern about the condition of the
building. Ewing sent Major Harrison Hannah, adjutant general on Ewing's
staff, to investigate Singer's findings. Upon his return, Hannah reported
that he believed the building was safe. Later that day, as the women were
served their dinner, Parker requested that Thomas Barber, a soldier in
his company, to again inspect the building. Enlisting the help of Barber,
together they began their query. By the time they had reached the third
floor the walls commenced there tardent separation from the ceiling; incipiently,
the entire building began its fall. Scarcely escaping injury themselves,
the most that they could do was warn the the women of the havoc which was
about to take place.
the building began to fall, all the prisoners, which estimates place at
about seventeen women, one boy and a guard, were on the second and third
floors. Charity Kerr, who was sick and in bed, was attended by Mollie Grindstaff
and several other girls who sat on the floor watching. Just then, the ceiling
began to crack sending debris upon the women and sensing immanent danger,
most either ran to a back balcony or climbed out windows in their attempt
to escape. Among the killed and injured in the collapse were women who
were close relatives of prominent Confederate guerrillas. At age fourteen,
sixteen and ten, sisters Josephine, Mollie and Janie Anderson were the
sisters of Bill Anderson, who soon was to earn the nickname "Bloody Bill"
while avenging Josephine's death. Arrested along with the Anderson girls
were the orphaned sisters Susan Munday, Mattie (Martha) Munday and Mrs.
Lou Munday Gray, their brother serving in Price's army and Mrs. Gray's
husband probably a guerrilla . Also imprisoned were sisters Susan (Crawford)
Vandever, having a brother, Riley Crawford, serving as Quantrell's youngest
recruit and Susan's sister, Armenia (Mina Crawford) Selvey, their husbands
away with Jo Shelby's Cavalry and who were cousins of Cole Younger; Armenia's
ten year old son Jeptha, Charity McCorkle Kerr,
wife of Quantrillian Nathan Kerr
and sister of guerrilla John McCorkle, Nannie Harris
McCorkle, whose husband, Jabez, had rode with Quantrell before his
death and whose future husband, James Lilley, was also a Quantrell man,
a Miss Hall, Alice Fay Ness, whose grand daughter was to become actress
Fay Templeton, Josie, Caroline and Sally Younger, sisters of guerrillas
Coleman and James Younger, a Mrs. Wilson, and Mollie Grindstaff, she being
with the Mundays at the time of their arrest. Four of the women,
Susan Vandever, Armenia Selvey, Josephine Anderson and Charity McCorkle
Kerr were killed immediately, one fatally injured, Mrs. Wilson, the others
injured, both physically and emotionally, their scars a reminder of the
evil known as James Lane, the 'Grim Chieftain'. Ultimately, the trauma
of the collapse would soon claim another life, that of Caroline Younger,
who would die in 1865.
In a newspaper
article, dated November 11, 1911, the sister of Nannie Harris, Eliza Harris
states: "I was a girl of eleven at the time as I remember that the Union
men sent three caskets containing my cousins to Little Blue. With the caskets
was the satchel of trinkets and dry goods that my sister and Charity had
gone to town to buy. The dead
were buried in the old Smith Cemetery near Raytown. We didn't have much
time for funerals in those days and the three were buried in one grave...A
little after the guard house fell, Order No. 11 was issued and our house
at Little Blue was burned. We went down near Glascow and my sister Nannie
walked thereafter she got away from the Union guard house-almost 100 miles.
After the guard house fell, the remaining women were taken to some hotel
and kept for a period of time." (It
is possible that the imprisoned Mrs. Wilson was serving as a Union spy,
planted by General Ewing to gather information on the guerrillas
and their supporters. This is possibly the same Mrs. Wilson that informed
Lt. Col. J. T. Buel that an attack on Independence was imminent, having
seen Colonel Upton Hayes and his men marching past her farm.)
"We could stand no more"
news of the collapse reached the families of the dead and injured, they
went wild. Crowds gathered around the ruins as the dead and wounded were
carried off. Soldiers fixed bayonets as shouts of "Murder!" intensified.
Four days later, August 18, 1863, General Ewing issuedGeneral
Order #10 which banished guerrilla families from their homes in Western
Missouri. As Quantrillian John McCorkle stated, "We could stand no
more". William Quantrell called for his band of Missouri Partisan
Rangers to assemble on the farm of Captain Perdee on Blackwater Creek,
Johnson County, Missouri. Revenge was the consensus among his Lieutenants.
During the week following the collapse along with the likes of Frank James,
Cole, James and Bob Younger and Bill Anderson, Quantrell had planned, organized
and reaped their revenge on Lawrence, Kansas, killing more than one hundred
and eighty men.
Most of the guerrillas
claimed that the prison had been undermined by Union soldiers in order
to kill their relatives, especially the Anderson sisters. The mere fact
that the one prisoner observed soldiers in abundance entering the
lower floor grocery where liquor was allowed to be sold is the only detail
presented to support it's already thin vale of authenticity and the only
circumstance she could muster. William Anderson, whose father had been
killed earlier in the war by Jayhawkers, was an ordinary soldier among
Quantrell's Rangers, a horse thief who in May of 1862, finding it necessary
to escape punishment for various crimes, fled his home at Council Grove,
Kansas with his three sisters, eventually leaving them in the care of the
Munday sisters. The death of his sister is what had turned him from a blood
thirsty murderer, into a homicidal maniac, persistent in hating all men
who supported or served the Union. Swearing to avenge her death, he counted
his victims by tying a knot in a silk scarf he wore as a necklace, which,
at the time of his death, totaled fifty-six. He also enlisted the help
of a subordinate named Archie Clements, who would butcher Anderson's prey,
braiding the bridle of Anderson's mount with human scalp. Meanwhile, the
union continue to claimed that the women were digging a tunnel to escape
after learning they were to be transported to Gratiot Prison in St. Louis
to be tried as spies and this is what had weakened the building causing
it to collapse.
who wrote the book "Quantrell and the Border Wars," had said:
"Sometime in the summer or fall of 1863 it was decided to send them to
St. Louis where better accommodations could be found for them. In some way they discovered that they
were to be sent away from Kansas City and they determined to escape if possible. They dug under the foundation
wall of the part of the building occupied by them, and in one more night they would have dug their way out and have
been free. But a windstorm came up and the building collapsed, killing a number of women and wounding others."
William Connelley, a
man who despised Quantrell, is one of the most often quoted authors of
Quantrell and the guerrilla wars-yet some conflicts of facts appear. First,
the women were imprisoned on the second and third floors of this building
bringing into question their access to the first floor or basement.
Secondly, being bordered on both sides by other buildings a windstorm,
which would be a rare site in Missouri in August, would have little effect
on that building alone and, later in his statement, he says the building
ancient, and was only two-story in height. In fact, this building was a
three story structure and built in 1857, making it only six years old.
Shortly after the collapse, several affidavits
were taken from various persons, all stating that the building was in excellent
condition before the building was occupied by United States Military Authorities
as a Military Prison for females . George Caleb Bingham, owner of the building,
filed a claim against the government demanding $5000 for damages that he
insisted were caused by the intentional undermining of the building by
troops intent on murdering the women. In an article written by Mr.
Bingham and published in the Washington Sentinel, March 9, 1878, he states:
"These females were arrested and confined under the pretext of holding
them as hostages for the good behavior oftheir brothers, husbands or relatives, who were supposed to be in sympathy
with, or actually engaged in, theConfederate cause... "Explaining as we proceed, we will state that in the lower story of the
building in which they were incarcerated, and also in the lower story of the adjoining building, occupied by
soldiers who guarded them, large girders, supported by wooden pillars, extended from the front to the extreme rear of each.
From these girders, joists firmly held together by flooring securely nailed thereon, extended into and met each other in
the dividing wall which formed a part of each building. It will thus be readily be seen that the removal
of the wooden pillars which supported the girders in either building would force it to yield to the great pressure from above the cause
the joists resting thereon, and firmly held together by flooring, to operate as a lever the entire length of this dividing
wall, with a force sufficient to cut it in two and thus effect the certain destruction of both buildings. The soldiers on guard had greatly weakened this wall by cutting large holes through the cellar portion thereof, but as it still
stood firm, they found it necessary to the most certain method of accomplishment in the diabolical work required.
Not having access to the pillars which supported the girder in the building in which the helpless females were confined,
they removed those supporting the girder in the building occupied by themselves. As soon as this was done,
as was clearly foreseen, the girder began and continued to yield, until, losing its support at each end, it suddenly gave way,
and by leverage of the joists resting upon it, cut the dividing line in two, forcing the lower portion into the cellar of the
prison and causing the super-structure thereof to fall over with a force of a mountain avalanche upon the ruins of the adjoining
buildings thus producing a scene of horror in the death groans and shrieks of mangled women, which fiends could only
contemplate without a shudder. In vain, had they, upon the first discovery of the danger, begged in piteous accents
to be released. Their earnest apparels were to hearts as callous as that of the general by whose authority they
were confined. While their prison walls were trembling, its doors remained closed, and they were allowed no hope for
release except through portals of a horrible death into that eternity where, in the great day which is to right
all wrongs, they will stand as witnesses against the human monster, who to promote his selfish aspirations,
could cruelly plan, with satanic coolness, the desolation of a large district of country and the utter ruin of its defenseless inhabitants.
That the death of these poor women crushed beneath the ruins of their prison was a deliberately planned murder, all
the facts connected therewith sufficiently established. The fact that no inquiry was instituted by General Ewing in relation to
the matter and that no soldier was arrested, tried or punished for a crime which shocks every sentiment of humanity
renders it impossible for him to escape responsibility therefrom, in death of hundreds of Union soldiers and citizens
of Missouri, as well as the brutal massacre which immediately followed in the state of Kansas. It is well known
that when the notorious Quantrell, at the head of his band of desperadoes, entered the city of Lawrence, dealing death to the
affrighted inhabitants, the appeal of his victims for quarter were answered by the fearful cries of "Remember the murdered
women of Kansas City!"
"It will be adequate"
Caleb Bingham, aside from being a successful artist and politician, also
bore and insatiable grudge against General Thomas Ewing because of his
Order Number 11, 25 August 1863, and the effect
it had on the population of western Missouri. He repeatedly urged Ewing
to rescind it but was rebuked. Bingham finally got his revenge on Ewing,
ruining him with the Democratic party in Ohio where he was running for
the United States Senate and later for the governorship of Ohio.
Upon speaking the words, "It will be adequate", Bingham laid aside the
brush of his painting, "Order Number 11",
in which General Thomas Ewing is a central figure. With it, Bingham depicts
the calamity, ruin and the pitiful living conditions of those banished
Missourians who had resided within the district which Ewing commanded.
Author and HistorianAlbert
11 was the most drastic and repressive military measures directed against
civilians by by the Union Army during the Civil War. In fact...it
stands as the harshest treatment ever imposed on United States citizens
under the plea of military necessity in our Nations History."
General Ewing and James Henry Lane would meet a fitting fate. Ewing would
be run over by a streetcar on January 21,1906 after leaving his New York
law office. J. H. Lane justifiably committed the utmost act of humiliation.
In August of 1866, he placed a pistol in his month and scattered his brains
to the winds, neither of them ever uttering even a syllable of remorseful
tribute to the inhumane acts that followed them to their graves.
So, what really
caused the collapse of the building? It is a fallacy to believe that
this building would collapse on its own. Being a modern building that had
been occupied by the women for only two weeks, and the sentiment towards
the guerrillas, their sympathizers and their sisterhood of spies can lead
to only one conclusion, that, with Senator James Lane, again, threatening
his political career, General Ewing ordered that this building be purposely
undermined by Union soldiers with the intent of killing its occupants.
Was it the spark that ignited Quantrell's cry for revenge that led to the
raid on Lawrence only a few days later? You will have to draw your
own conclusions to these questions and to what kind of man Quantrell really
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