(Deb) I’m Deb Bisel, your co-host for Around Kansas. Welcome and if you tuned in last week, you saw this same house behind me, the Rice-Tremonti home in Raytown, Missouri and we had way too much history to get it all in one show, so we’ve got a lot more in store for you today. Please stay with us. I think you’ll enjoy this.
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(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. I’m Deb Bisel, you co-host, and I’m very happy to be joined by a figure from a little bit of the past, Mr. Coleman Younger. Cole, it’s good to have you with us. (Male) Darling, you ain’t got to call me Coleman. You can just call me Cole. (Deb) I’ll call him Cole. Cole, it’s my understand you’re an outlaw and we don’t normally interview people with that kind of reputation on this show, but I feel like in your case, there were some redeeming circumstances behind your becoming an outlaw. (Male) Well, you know, a lot of folks say that we were outlaws. Now I’ll only say that I robbed one bank and that was up to Minnesota and we got caught, so that shows youngins that crime doesn’t pay. (Deb) It certainly does. (Male) We’ve been accused of a lot of things and when the folks accused us enough, we figured we might as well try our hand at it and when we did, we got caught. (Deb) Now, Cole, you grew up in a really good family. (Male) I did, yes ma’am. (Deb) And, so tell me about your dad. What did you do? (Male) My dad was Henry Washington Younger. He was a businessman and politician. He owned ground in Jackson County, Missouri and also a large amount of land in Cash County Missouri. He was a State Legislator. He’d been a judge and he was the first Mayor of Harrisonville, Missouri. (Deb) And what happened to him? (Male) He was murdered by some of Earl Wally’s men coming home from Kansas City. I’d been in an altercation with Wally at a dance at Tremonti Farm shortly before that. My father had sent me to the farm up near Estrada, what the folks call it today Lee Summit, and on the way home from Kansas City on the old Kansas City-Harrisonville road, what they call Prospect Avenue today, he was killed and when he was killed, that’s when I went and joined up with Charlie Quantrill. (Deb) Now that was Quantrill? (Male) Well I’m sure all the folks
in Kansas are pretty familiar with Charlie. Quantrill was the leader of the Partisan Rangers in Missouri, in the western part of Missouri, and I was a young man and my daddy had been murdered and I figured I’d get me some revenge, so I went and joined up with Charlie Quantrill because he was the only one here fighting. (Deb) Now you did go with Quantrill to Lawrence right? (Male) I went to Lawrence, yes, ma’am. (Deb) Did you kill anybody in Lawrence? (Male) No, ma’am, I did not. I was there. I ain’t gonna say what we done there was wrong. It wasn’t anything that wasn’t done in Missouri a hundred times over. It was knife to the hill, as they say. You know as you get older, you realize that you can forgive, but I don’t reckon folks will ever forget. (Deb) Right. (Male) And a lot of things have been said and done about Charlie, Oh, I know about Charlie Quantrill or Charlie Heart, whatever you want to call him, is when he said, Let’s go get them, he was in the front. He was not telling them fellows, You boys go get them. He was a leader and he knew how to lead men and we done some work, but, you know, the war’s over and I won’t forget it. I lost my pa and several relatives.
(Deb) So after the way, you said that you would be able to forget if not, you know, totally forgive or maybe you could forgive and not totally forget, but after the war was over, why didn’t you just go back to being a farmer or a businessman? You’re smart guys, so why couldn’t you do that? (Male) You have to remember that because of the constitution in Missouri, the radical republicans instituted a constitution called the Gray Constitution and that’s the fellow who helped write it and as being an ex-Confederate or an ex-Partisan Ranger, I couldn’t hold a public office, I couldn’t preach in a church, I couldn’t teach school, none of that, so there wasn’t much left to me. I was in the cattle business, but a lot of folks still weren’t over the war and were looking to get even and there were a lot of boys murdered and strung up and accused of robbing things and run out of the country or killed and such was a case with the Youngers and a good friend of mine named Frank James was the same way. (Deb) Well tell me about Frank James. Let’s talk about your relationship. (Male) My first recollection of Frank James is John Jurette who was my brother-in-law who helped me beat Charlie, come into a barn over in the crack neck neighborhood which is over on the Blue River kind of between Kansas City and Independence there and he brought in this tall, skinny fellow with great big ears and I tell folks he had ears the size of an elephant just to kind of get his goat and he was a real quiet, sullen kind of fellow and he’d been in the State Guard and he was run out and he went to Charlie, just like a lot of boys done, so he come in and we just hit it off and we became friends and we’ve been friends ever since and a lot of folks claim that Frank was at Northville with us and I won’t say that he was. I say that it was a fellow by the name of Thompson, Ben Howard no Tom Howard and Ben Wood were the two boys that were there. It wasn’t no Frank or Jesse James that I’d say. (Deb) Well, you know, a lot of people do believe it was Frank and Jesse and it’s just hard to believe that you could spend twenty-five years in prison and come out and still be friends with those guys who got away scot-free. That’s pretty amazing. (Male) Well how could they have gotten away scot-free if they weren’t there? (Deb) Well that’s a good point, Cole. You’re a good friend. You’re a loyal friend, probably more than they deserved. We’ll be right back with a little more of Around Kansas.
(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. I’m your co-host Deb Bisel and with me is my good friend, Dan Hadley. (Male) Hi, Deb. (Deb) Great to have you with us. (Male) Great to have you. (Deb) I’m just so blessed to have so many talented, good friends and Dan is one of the most talented, an artist and a re-enactor and he wears so many hats and as a Missourian, let’s talk about the impact of the Missouri-Kansas border war on civilians because I know that’s something that you’d studied very extensively in many of the roles you’ve taken on or projects that you’ve worked on. (Male) That’s what’s so fascinating about doing living history out here. It’s not just the Civil War. Of course it goes back to the Kansas Missouri Border War and that informs everything we do. If you’re doing 1864, like next year will be the Sesquicentennial of 1864 and we have, you know, Sterling Price’s Raid among many other things. (Deb) Mine Creek in Kansas. (Male) Mine Creek, absolutely and, but it all comes back to what was happening during the border warfare. It informs everything we do. It colors all of the impressions you do and that’s one of the rewards of this hobby. It’s not just putting on the funny clothes, as we say, but it’s the research because when you research, you learn and you learn and it compounds itself. So it’s a wonderful, rewarding hobby and then it gives us more information for the next time we set out and do things, but kind of getting back to the original question, I grew up in independence, Missouri, separate from Kansas City, didn’t know a whole lot about the Civil War growing up and, of course, had I lived I would have not been effected by Order Number 11 because I lived within a one mile radius of Independence which is one of the rules of the Order, as you know, but I did not know and here’s something else we were just talking about, just today, in high school in independent, Missouri, we were studying key battles in the east like Gettysburg, Antietam, all of that, nary a word about what was happening in Missouri and it wasn’t until after I got out of high school and say my first reenactment when I was like eighteen or nineteen years old, was star struck, wanted to do it, and that was the beginning of a journey where I met the most wonderful people like you and so many people who are lovers of history, care about history, preserving it, promoting it and travel to so many places, but there was so much happening right in our backdoor and in school, didn’t even touch on it, so it’s just an unfortunate thing, but I love coming out here. We do this because we enjoy it. We derive pleasure and satisfaction from doing it that equally it’s important to do it properly to educate others. Like it or not, when we step out in the public, we are educators. We’re story tellers and we have, obviously, an awesome responsibility to drive to do the best we can, so, and we love. I love that responsibility and it’s like a Zen quest, you’re always trying to get better and better. You know you always keep trying.
(Deb) Let’s talk about your family story. When you got into the Civil War then and you started asking questions, what did you find? (Male) Yeah, I had a fantastic awakening, just a lad in school and my mom was a single parent and my grandma used to watch my while she worked and I had written some little paper when I was in fourth grade and we had to write a story that contained all of our vocabulary words for that week and I concocted some story. One of the words must have been slave or slavery because I wrote some kind of story about slaves on the plantation who were being whipped by their master and beaten and wearing rags and this was before Alex Haley’s Roots program because I’m really old. This was a long time ago and anyway, I got good marks on that paper and I went up the street to my grandma’s house after school and I said, Hey, I got a good grade on this paper, the story I wrote, and she says, Oh, well read it to me because her eyesight was really bad and, so, I read my story aloud and I thought she was gonna be so impressed with this story, okay, and, so, I read the story with a self-righteous tone about it, you know, and I finished reading it and was waiting for her to give me words of praise and she said nothing. She just sat there for a minute and she said, Well you know, Daniel, not all masters treated their slaves that poorly, and I thought to myself, Well what does she know about slavery, and so, on that day, I learned it was my grandmother’s grandfather who had owned slaves. They lived in Saline County which is a couple of counties over from here and it rocked my world. I thought about it over the years and didn’t do a whole lot of research about it, but the wonderful advent of all the information that’s put on the internet now, it allows dummies like me who aren’t very good researches, to stumble across information. I found out the name of one of the slaves that my great-great grandfather owned because he enlisted in the United States Color Troops in 1863 and, so, I had a name because on the slave census, the slaves are not listed by name. (Deb) Right. (Male) They’re just listed by gender and age and state of origin, so how frustrating that must be for African-American researches to hit that wall. (Deb) It is. (Male) Yeah. Anyways, so I had a name for one of the slaves. His name was Richard Green. Well I read about a wonderful researcher, speaker, historian, a wonderful African-American gal named Virginia Houston who was giving a lecture in Marshall about slaves who were earning their freedom by enlisting in the United States Color Troops. One of the soldiers she was profiling was named Richard Green. So, you know, I thought this was awesome, so I went to hear her speak, introduced myself to her and I was received so warmly by her, I thought, There might some awkward moments of that moment of the slave owners meeting the descendants of the slaves. I got introduced to Richard Green’s great-great granddaughter and south of Marshall, there was a black community that was formed after the war called Penny Town, free blacks kind of formed their own community and every year, the descendants of that place have a reunion and I was invited to attend the reunion and it was a wonderful experience. I was treated like family. I was hugged and they said, Dan, you’re like family to us now. So it’s a remarkable for me, this hobby and history, the doors keep opening that have surprises, learning opportunities, rewards and this was one of them that I got a chance to connect with ancestors of the slaves that my ancestors owned and rather than it being it wasn’t a clumsy or hateful or bitter thing at all. It was a very loving, enriching experience. So that’s my little story that was awesome. (Deb) That’s such a great story because it highlights, you know, history’s complex. We just want to draw a line and put people on one side or the other and people won’t stay on one side or the other. It’s always like this and that’s a wonderful story to illustrate that. Thanks for sharing that. (Male) Yeah, and the longer I’m in this hobby, we used to go out and play solider, you know, Confederates fighting Union soldiers and it’s great, but they’re not fighting in a vacuum. It’s impacting the civilian war. It is, it’s so complex and we learn so much, but the more we learn, the better storytellers we become. (Deb) Right, and I think one of the things that you’ve kind of touched on is it makes it so important for kids to understand it because I work with so many students in Kansas, you know, students in Kansas need to understand important things happened right here. It wasn’t all somewhere else. Important things happened right here and important decisions remained here, important people come from this spot and will continue to do so and that’s really a great thing to share. (Male) I’m getting a little long in the (?) to be portraying a solider anymore and I think all people who like history should seek out and find a home in a local historical society or some site that you like or you love, make yourself a presence there. That’s what I did. There’s a Battle of Lone Jack which was a battle in eastern Jackson County. I live ten miles from there. There’s a little museum. I started volunteering up there and it’s very rewarding and you just touched on something so important, I love it when young people come in and you can see it in their eyes, they want to learn and it’s just a wonderful thing because sometimes we feel like history is dying. When the generation dies off, the history dies with it and when you see young people who care and want to learn, that gives a lot of hope.
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