A Bit from History

Updated: May 17

A new Civil War display will open at the Museum April 1st. Here's a biography of one of our local citizens who lived through the war:

Lurena (Lou) Alder McCoy

Women played an important part before, during and after the Civil War. The women of Missouri City (once called Richfield) organized and held a meeting on February 18, 1861 opposing secession and for the preservation of the Union. Lou McCoy might well have been in that crowd of 100 women and marched around the voting polls that would decide the delegates to the state convention on the issue of secession for Missouri. The secession resolution failed to pass 10 days later. Support for family, neighbors and those in need were the cornerstones of Lou’s life.

Born in 1843, Lou moved with her family to Clay County in 1850. She married Moses McCoy at the age of 15 and lived on their farm outside Missouri City. Both were pro-Union until the state mandated service in the army. At that point Moses left his family to join the Confederacy and was a Captain and recruiter under General Jo Shelby. Lou later stated she never turned away any man that came to her door for food – Confederate or Union. Alone with two children, Lou continued on the farm until a night in May 1863 when Union soldiers came seeking information on her husband. They demanded information and declared to her that they hung men to get information and a woman too. At this Lou responded, “You all look brave enough to hang a woman!” This may have caught the soldiers off guard since they left without her. She began to pack for herself, her step-son and her own infant to move to her parent’s house, but before they could leave, the Union forces returned and arrested her. Taken before Captain Sessions of the militia, a man she had known before the war as neighbor and mayor of Missouri City, she was ordered taken to the arsenal at Liberty Landing to be transported to St. Joseph, Missouri. Lieutenant Grafenstein was possibly in charge of the unit that transported Lou from Missouri City to the arsenal.

The charges of March 15th were recorded as furnishing aid to the Confederacy with food, shelter and clothing to Rebel soldiers. At the time of her arrest, she had a single grey coat she had a tailor make for Joe Hart, a confederate soldier who joined the guerillas to fight. The tailor, James Moffet signed the charges against her. In St. Joseph she was held until she signed the oath of allegiance, which she had altered to delete the “ironclad” terms that specified no contact with confederates – husband or family. During her time in custody, she was allowed to roam the city and formed close ties with other Southerners there. She and a Mrs. Howard were able to aid in the escape of a Captain Burkholder who was in the hospital there being held as a spy and condemned to die. Lou never waivered in her service to the south.

Back in Missouri City, Mrs. James W. Adams who had seen Lou taken from her home, contacted her brother, Louis Vandever, who was serving under Quantrill with the information of the arrest. He in turned contacted Captain McCoy, who requested help from Quantrill to avenge his wife. McCoy and a small squad under Fernando Scott including Frank James set out for Missouri City. On May 19th they stopped short of town at the home of a Southern sympathizer who admitted he would have to inform the Union militia of their whereabouts. That suited the group for they had come for blood. Stationed on either side of the road the militia would travel, the guerrillas waited. A Union ambush of the rebels was being planned even as Captain Sessions and Lieutenant Grafenstein with 3 men of the 25th Missouri Infantry galloped into their own fate. Retribution for Lou’s arrest was swift for Sessions and Grafenstein as they were shot numerous times and killed on the site, but a survivor named Rapp while injured was taken by a local into town. While being attended for his wounds the rebels found and shot him again three more times leaving him for the second time as dead. He miraculously survived again. The “bushwackers” as they were called then “stole” tobacco, cigars and supplies from a local Southern sympathizer, B. W. Nowlin’s store. The guerrillas then headed north to Clinton County while McCoy returned to south of the river securing Lou’s release in a unique fashion.

A Provost Marshall captured by Quantrill, who normally did not take prisoners, was exchanged for Lou’s release and she returned to Missouri City. After her paroled she was arrested again for charges committed by her husband and subject to Special Orders No. 9 which banished officer’s families from Missouri to behind Confederate lines. On February 15th Lou and her family were herded by train to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. From there with thirteen other families, some from Jackson County they traveled by open wagon under a white flag for transfer to a squad of Confederate troops under the command of Bob Thompson of Clay County. Lou’s journey ended in Monticello where she remained for the rest of the war.

Moses McCoy died shortly after the war in 1868, never having lived with his family again. Lou remarried in Texas in 1869 and again in 1912. She had four more children and died in 1916 at the age of 63. She is buried in Mansfield, Texas.

Chery Carr Holtman, curator, Clay County Museum

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