Death of the last surviving widow recalls tragic Palmyra massacre

Year 1932

The death of Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Haney in La Grange last Tuesday marked the passing of the last surviving widow of one of the ten Confederate prisoners who were executed at Palmyra on October 18, 1862 – seventy years ago. Mrs. Haney was the wife of John Y. McPheeters, having been married only a short time when he was taken prisoner by the union forces and incarcerated in the Palmyra Jail.

The seventieth anniversary of the Palmyra massacre, Tuesday ofthis week, recalls one of the most regrettable and patheticincidents of the Civil War. The names of the ten men, inscribedupon a handsome monument erected to their memory by the PalmyraConfederate Monument association on the southwest corner of thecourt house square about thirty years ago, include:

  • Capt Thos A. Sidenor, Monroe County
  • Willis T. Baker, Lewis County
  • Thomas Humston, Lewis County
  • Morgan Bixler, Lewis County
  • John Y. McPheeters, Lewis County
  • Hiram T. Smith, Lewis County
  • Herbert Hudson, Ralls County
  • John M. Wase, Ralls County
  • Marion Lair, Ralls County
  • Eleazer Lake, Scotland County

Eye-Witnessess Gone

It is hardly possible that an eyewitness to thetragedy is living today, but there are a number of elderly menand women, residents, of Palmyra and vicinity, who remember theincident.

The men who faced the firing squad — theexecution taking place at the old Palmyra fair grounds, locatedonly a short distance east of town on what is now known as theJ.W. Head farm — were prisoners in the Palmyra and HannibalJails. They were condemned to be shot by Brig. General JohnMcNeil, the order being carried out by Provost Marshal William R.Strachen, who operated in the distric of Northeast Missouri. Theorder of McNeil was given because of the disappearance of AndrewAllsman, a man about sixty years of age and a citizen of Palmyra,it was charged, entertained Union sentiments. For a brief time,Allsman had been a member of the federal forces, but by reason ofhis age he was considered too old for active service, and wasdischarged. Following his return to Palmyra, Allsman was soonsuspected of giving definite information to the militaryauthorities of certain movements of the enemy thus placing him indisfavor with the southern sympathizers.

Allsman Disappears

During the first part of October 1862, Allsmanwas taken from his home on North Main street by forces under thecommand of Col. Joseph Porter and never returned. The fact of hisdisappearance soon became known by the Union forces and thenfollowed the ultimatum of General McNeill, issued through ProvostMarshal Strachen, of which the Palmyra massacre was the result.The notice read:

Palmyra Mo., October 8, 1862. To Joseph C.Proter. Sir-Andre Allsman having been carried away from is homeby a band of persons unlawfully arraigned against the peace andgood order of the state of Missouri, and which band was underyour control, this is to notify you that, unless Andrew Allsmanis returned, unharmed to his family within ten days from date,ten men, who have belonged to your band, and unlawfully sworn byyou to carry arms against the goverment of the United States, andwho are now in custody will be shot as a meet reward for thircrimes, retraining of said Allsman of his liberty and if notreturned, of presumpltivley aiding in his murder. Your promptattention to this will save much suffering. Your, etc., W. R.Strachen, Provost Marshall General Northeast Missouri District.By order of Brigadier General commanding McNeil’s column.

Possibly Never Saw Order

Palmyra citizens at first refused to believe thatthe order was seriously intended out as the days passed andAllsman was not returned, it became apparent that theConfederates could not produce him. At the time it was said thatColonel Porter was hurrying to the south and it has always beenconsidered doubtful whether or not he had ever seen or heard ofGen. McNeil’s order.

As the days passed the town awaited the tenth daywith suppress excitement. Strong men tremble. Many remained intheir homes the excitement was running so high. In the Palmyrajail, scores of prisoners had heard of the order and their anxietmight be easily imagined. On the evening of of the ninth day,Strachen appeared at the jail and while a death – like stillnessprevailed, he called out the names of ten prisoner, five of whomwere in teh jail, the other five being confined at Hannibal.Strachen further informed them that they were to be shot the nextafternoon at 2 o’clock. According to the story that has beenhanded down through the years, the men stood motionless andsilent for a moment and then broke down and wpt, with theexception of Willis Baker, oldes of the lot, who muttered cursesagainst the men who had ordered the exection.

Remebers Caption Sidenor

Shortyly afterward the five other prisonerssentenced to death were brought from Hannibal, among them CaptainThomas A. Sidenor, a handsome young man who was to have beenmarried shortly. Captain Sidenor was known to many Palmyra andMarion county people prior to the outbreak of the war. Forseveral years he had been a visitor at the Palmyra fair,exhibiting his fine saddle and show horse. John (Nipper) Lemons,one of Palmyra’s oldest citizens, remembers Captain Sidenor well.Mr. Lemons relates that during Captain Sidenor’s visit to thefair he was a quest at the Lemons home west of Palmyra. CaptainSidenor died on the very spot where, the year before, he hadgraciously bowed to a cheeering throng filling the ampitherater,following the showing of his prize saddle horse.

Captain Sidenor, who was, a resident of Monroecounty, had been assigned to duty at the outbreak of the warunder General Price at the battle of Wilson creek. He also hadcharge of a company under Col. Porter at Kirksville, where helost heavily in killed and wounded. Following the stampede atWhaley;s mill, it was his intention to go to Illinois and whileon his way to Canton, Lewis county, disguised as a woman, he wassaptured by the federals, his incarceration in teh Hannibal jailfollowing.

Among the ten who faced the thrty fifles at thefair grounds, some were at the head of large families. Shortlybefore the hour of execution, the ten condemned men were marchedfrom teh jail under guard of seventy-five soldiers. They wereloaded into goverment wagon, each seated on his pine coffin. Theprocession moved from the jail, located one block west of thecourt house to Main street, south to the street leading east pastthe William Suter residence at the souteastern outskirts of thecity. Aquarter of a mile was yet to be traveled before the fairgrounds was reached. Marching into the arena the men were placedin a smi-circle several feet apart, each staning first at thehead of his coffin while a clergyman offered prayer. They werethen seated and blindfolded. Following the crash of the rifles,the Palmyra massacre belonged to history. One of the darkchapters of the Civil War was encated. The grounds were abandonedand a new location secured after the close of the war.

Oldest La Grange
Woman Observers
91st Birthday

Mrs. Mary Haney is only surviving widow of the Palmyra Massacre’

Baptist 75 years

Mr. Mary E. Vaughn

Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Haney, who was born near LaGrange December 5, 1839, celebrated her ninety-first birthdayhere friday. She is the oldest woman living in La Grange and isthe only surviving widow of the Palmyra Massacre. Her parents,Madison Mathew Cardwell and Hanna Stipe Cardwell, were pioneersettlers in Lewis county, coming here from Kentucky. Mr. Haneysustaind a broken hop several year ago from which she neverentirely recovered. She has been blind for the last four years,three years of this time being confined to her bed.

In addition to her afflictions, great tragedieshave come into her life, but with it all she is cheerful andpatient, always looking on the bright side of life. When she wasten years old her father met a tragic death in the Mississippi.He operated a trailor shop in La Grange for five years before hisdeath. He started to drive the road over the frozen ice of theMississippi, which was commonly used at theat time between thetowns. In the late afternoon a small dog which had accompainedhim, returned home. A search was made and his whip and hat werehound near an air hole in the ice. Nothing more was heard ofuntil his body was washed ashore at St. Louis the followingApril. It was identified by a St. Louis tailor, who had learnedthe trade from Mr. Cardwell. The bady was buried in St. Louis.

After his death the widow with her fice smallchildren moved to their farm west of La Grange, whre they livedfor seven year. They then returned to La Grange, where Mrs.Cardwell supported her family working at the tailors trade whichshe had learned from her husband. Her daughter, who is now Mrs.Haney, married John McPheeters in 1856, at the age of seventeen.They were living on a farm near Maywood during the war. In 1862,while home on a furlough, he was taken prisoner by the federalforces and sent to the Palmyra Jail. He was one of the ten menselected by John McNeil to be executed on October 18, 1862.

Unaware of what was to take place, his wife hadcome to La Grange on Friday to visit her mother and sisters. Asshe was returning home Saturday she was met with the message thather husband was to be shot that afternoon. A friend of thefamily, a Palmyra Negro, stealing through the lines, had broughteh message to her husband’s father, near Maywood. Instead ofretruning to her home newar Maywood, she rode her horse on toPalmyra, arriving there in teh night too late to see her husbandlive. An uncle of her husband who lived in Palmyra had securedthe body and prepared it for burial. Mr. Haney said “Thosewere the darkest days of my life. People think they have troublenow but they don’t know the first thing about it.”

She was left with one little girl four years old.They lived in the home of her father-in-lw until her marriage toG. W. Harney in 1870. After her marriage she lived in variousplaces, including Kirkscille, Galt and Quincy. Mr. Haney died in1900, and ws buried at Galt, Mo. Seh returned to La Grange in1902 and since that time has lived in teh same house here shelived three quarter of a century ago. Her sister, Miss MattCardwell, who is eighty-one years old live with her. A daughter,Miss Florence Haney takes care of her aged mother and aunt.

Another daughter, Mrs. Charles Winters, lives atGreat Falls Montana. One daughter, Alice McPheeters Cason died in1890.

Mrs. Haney has nine grandchildre, six greatgrandchildren and one great great grandchild. Two grandosn, Haryand Marvin Cason live in Quincy. Mrs. Haney has been a member ofthe babtist church in La Grange for Sevety five years.

Provided by Kathy Tate