Friday, November 24, 2017

Clay County Archives

and Historical Library

Liberty, Missouri

Preserving the Past for the Present


Alexander William Doniphan

Alexander William Doniphan


By Judge R. Kenneth Elliott (ret.)


Alexander DoniphanBorn on July 8,1808, near Augusta, Mason County, Kentucky, Alexander William Doniphan was the youngest of 10 children. His father died when he was about 5 years old, having been a teacher and friend of Daniel Boone. Alexander was born about 1 year before Abraham Lincoln, who was also born in Kentucky. Both Alexander and Abraham grew to be 6’4" tall. Both of Alexander’s grandparents participated in the American Revolution. Graduating from Augusta College at Bracken, KY at the age of 18, Alexander studied law in the office of Martin Marshall, a kinsman of the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Alexander studied the classics, histories and then the law.

In 1829, at the age of 21 years, the new lawyer made his way up the Missouri River to Lexington where he began his law practice. In 1833, he moved to Liberty, MO and began a 30 year practice of law. Doniphan never prosecuted cases, but was always a defense lawyer. He was a mighty orator with a commanding presence and persuasive manner. He served in the State Legislature and was a staunch Whig and an admirer and supporter of Henry Clay.

During this period, Liberty was the outpost of civilization, and being near to Ft. Leavenworth, it served as the social, educational and cultural center of the area. Doniphan married a daughter of Col. John Thornton and from this marriage, two sons were born and both met untimely accidental deaths in their 16th year.

Doniphan was commander of a local militia unit and was credited for saving the life of Joseph Smith who was the leader of the Latter Day Saints Church (Mormons) at Far West, when he informed the General who had been ordered by the Missouri Governor to exterminate the Mormons, that if the General did kill these Mormons, Doniphan promised the General that he would see that the General would be prosecuted in the Courts for Murder. The General decided not to exterminate the Mormons. Doniphan represented the Mormons in Court proceedings and in other matters when they were in Missouri.

Read more: Alexander William Doniphan

From Green to Governor

 From Green to Governor

by Lyn Allison Yeager

0002-183-a0In 1832, a young man named Peter Burnett wore "a suit of jeans" with "elbows out." He later wrote that he knew the glances people gave toward him, and the winks they exchanged, that they considered him "green." That boy never knew that a century later jeans, cut to scraggly shorts or worn long with the knees out, would be stylish with teenagers.

Peter had an interesting pioneer life, part of it in Clay County, Missouri, and he felt it worthy of record. His book, Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer preserves in his picturesque experiences those historic times.

Read more: From Green to Governor

Some Civil War Humor


Some Civil War humor
from the Cleveland, Ohio Civil War Round Table


"The dying soldier (might have been a North or South man) was asked, ‘Have you made peace with the Lord and renounced the Devil?’ His reply was, ‘I have made peace with the Lord, but I’m in no position to antagonize anybody.’"

Tanner's Wheel

TannersWheelTrivia:  This large round gear-toothed stone on the lawn of the Clay County Archives building in Liberty, Missouri is:

  1. an old mill stone used to make flour
  2. an old mill stone used to tan leather
  3. an instrument of torture for people who don’t rewind their microfilms.

    Read more: Tanner's Wheel

The Life and Times of Jesse James

The Life and Times of Jesse James (exerpt)

by Milton Perry


0001-0967-aThe James Farm

The log cabin portion of the James home is over 160 years old. It was purchased in 1845 by the Rev. Robert Sallee James and his wife, Zerelda. Jesse James was born here on September 5, 1847, and was buried here April 6, 1882. The Victorian cottage that is the front portion of the house was built in 1893. The house has been a tourist attraction since 1882, and is visited by thousands of persons annually.

After the death of Zerelda Samuel in 1911, Frank James inherited the farm and lived here with his wife Anna and son, Robert. Frank died here in 1915, his widow in 1944. "Bob" James ran the Farm, and built a small golf course on it. After his death it came into the hands of the sons of Mary Barr, Jesse’s daughter. The Barrs sold it with all the original furnishings to Clay County in 1978 to be operated as an historic site.

The log cabin was restored in 1978-79 and the cottage portion in 1984.

The Farm is operated by the Division of Historic Sites of the Clay County Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites.

Read more: The Life and Times of Jesse James