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Buchanan County MOGenWeb Project

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Biographies of Buchanan County Residents:

Moses Alexander Thomas

Submitted by Lesa Pfrommer

Lesapfrommer@aol.com

Moses Alexander Thomas b. 14 Dec. 1846 Buchanan Co. Mo. d. 1 Jan. 1935 buried Baptist Cemetery, Frazier, Mo. m. 3 Jan. 1867 Margarete Catharine Critchfield b. 4 Aug. 1850 d. 15 April 1937 buried Baptist Cemetery, Frazier, Mo. daughter of Martin Critchfield and Mary Brady b. 8 May 1829 d. 27 Feb. 1897 who was daughter of John Brady and Mary Ann Buchanan m. Gerrard Co. Ky. coming to Missouri 1850 on horseback settling Buchanan Co., she being distant relative to President of U.S. James Buchanan 1857 - 1861. Mary Brady’s mother was Elizabeth Laire, first white child born in Kentucky 12 March 1799 at Boones Fort on Licking River, daughter of Andrew and Frances Laire, m. John Brady of Lincoln Co. Ky. 2 Aug. 1800 and who d. 1801, said Elizabeth Laire Brady m. #2 Thomas Pope, Danville, Ky. and lived to age 104 years. Her father Andrew Laire moved to Kentucky with one of Daniel Boone’s companies. His father was Mathias Laire who came to America prior to the Revolution and lived with wife Frances and 6 sons Rockingham Co. Va.--all Sons soldiers in the Revolution (Information from Kentucky State Historical Society, Frankfort, Ky.).

Moses Alexander Thomas was a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and of the Odd Fellows Lodge at Agency, Mo. The cemetery in which said Moses Thomas and his wife Margarite are buried at Frazier is also known as Rock House Prairie Cemetery.

The intimate family and historical information which follows was prepared by Martin Noel Thomas, grandchild of Moses Alexander Thomas, who spent his summers until age 12 with his grandfather, and after that until he reached high school age, lived all year with his grandfather.

Moses Alexander Thomas was born on his father's farm at Halleck (Taos), Buchanan County, Missouri December 14, 1846. He was named after his great-grandfather, Moses Thomas and after Alexander Campbell , one of the founders of the Disciples of Christ Church, who was a personal friend of his father, Robert Bean Thomas. He lived on his father's farm until he was 21 years of age at which time he was married. He married Margaret Catherine (Kate) Critchfield at the home of her father, Martin Critchfield on January 3, 1867. They set up housekeeping on a farm northeast of Saxton, Missouri on the Pickett Road at a point just east of the CRI&P Railroad. They lived on this farm as tenants for two years and then moved to a farm south and east of the present town of Faucett in an area known locally as "Sog Prairie".

Moses purchased a farm of 140 acres in Tremont Township where he remained for the remainder of his active life. He was intensely interested in Democratic politics although he never held a political job or filed for office. In addition to the usual farming operations he also dealt in livestock, especially with mules and riding horses. When he was about 60 years of age he developed cataracts and eventually became totally blind. After a time he underwent an operation which restored the sight of one eye. During the period of his partial and total blindness he continued in the operation of his farm with his sons Harry and Cecil. He continued his practice of riding horseback about the country until he was totally blind, after which time he traveled about in a buggy, accompanied by some member of the family. After his operation he was able to resume his normal activities to a great extent although he had impaired vision. His sons Harry and Cecil continued with their assistance in operating the farm during summer school vacations until they finished school and struck out on their own. In 1919 Cecil was married and took over the operation of the farm. Moses retired and moved to Gower, Missouri where he spent the remainder of his days.

Moses was a tall man, being just a bit more than six feet in height. He weighed approximately 180 pounds and was quite active. He was an abstentious man and never used liquor or tobacco in any form which was quite unusual for a man of his time. He never cursed but he did have an elaborate vocabulary of substitute "cuss words" which may have been more effective. He employed them whenever the occasion arose, which was quite often as he was a volatile man. He had a very short temper which was probably augmented by the frustrations occasioned by his blindness. Many people considered him to be quite a contentious person and he was fair game for the young sports of that day who liked to ride through the country at night and "horse laugh" in front of the homes of people who could be depended upon to "throw a fit".

In spite of his shortcomings he was never known to utter an unkind word to his wife, Kate. Kate had a wealth of understanding and patience and also had a remarkable sense of humor. She truly had him "wrapped around her little finger" and was certainly the "balance wheel" of his complicated mechanism.

In his advanced years, Grandfather Moses Thomas became senile and was unable to keep abreast of current events. He did, however, retain a vivid memory of things that transpired in his childhood and young manhood. Grandmother Kate Thomas, on the other hand, retained all of her faculties until her terminal illness. She was a good conversationalist, possessed a keen sense of humor and had a remarkable memory.

I visited with them quite often at their home in Gower and learned a great many things about the family that had never been discussed with their own children. Up until the time grandfather became senile he would never discuss the happenings of the Civil War period and he apparently had wished to consider the matter a closed book. None of his children seem to know much about his early life.

At this time, grandfather seemed to recognize me vaguely as some one he had known as a young man.  He would often question me about details of events that had happened years ago and would sometimes become rather impatient when I was unable to furnish information on some specific point. I was usually able to direct the conversation toward events of his early life and he would answer my questions readily and without hesitation. Unfortunately, at that time, I had no thought of taking notes so I have forgotten a great many of the things that he told me. Occasionally the things he told me were so unbelievable that I would ask grandma for confirmation and she would assure me that his account was quite accurate. At the same time I was able to learn a great deal about grandma's family.

I shall attempt to narrate some of these episodes as I remember them although they may not be in chronological order and my memory will not supply complete details such as names, dates and localities.

HOW TAOS GOT ITS NAME

Taos is a small unincorporated village in the southern part of Buchanan County, Missouri. It was originally known as Berming. Later it was platted and recorded in the Recorder's office as the town of Halleck. This townsite is adjacent to the farm owned by Robert Bean Thomas. During the Mexican War several young men in the vicinity of Halleck enlisted in the army and joined Col. Doniphan's expedition. After the campaign in Mexico the army returned to Taos, New Mexico where it spent the winter. The army disbanded in the spring and the soldiers returned to their homes.

One of the distinctions enjoyed by Halleck at that time was that there was a saloon on each of the four corners of the cross-roads that served as the principal feature of the settlement. Some of the returned soldiers were frequent visitors to the saloons and they sometimes became a bit boisterous.

One night one of the soldiers decided to liven things up a bit and rode his horse into one of the saloons and demanded liquor. When the proprietor remonstrated with him upon his casual observation of the rules of etiquette, the soldier shot out the lights and dashed out yelling "hooray for old Taos". The results so pleased him that he repeated the performance in each of the other saloons.

Such an incident could hardly be overlooked, even in those times, and was the subject of general conversation for several days, during which time the settlement acquired the name of Taos and it has been known by that name ever since.

UNSETTLED TIMES

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Robert Bean Thomas was 44 years of age and was a successful farmer. He had a sizable family and owned a considerable amount of property, including several slaves.  He was a southerner by birth, tradition and politics but he attempted to maintain a neutral position in partisan matters pertaining to Secession. Soon after the war began, there was a general deterioration of law enforcement and bands of terrorists began to prey upon the country.  Usually these bands or gangs claimed affiliation with one side or the other and their depredations were aimed at the supporters of the opposing faction. Those attempting to maintain neutrality became the victims of both lawless factions. Neighbors became suspicious of one another and it was generally believed that both Union and Confederate sympathizers were furnishing information to the armed raiders.

These raiders would appear suddenly and demand money, food, clothing, livestock or any thing else of value that could be transported easily. If their demands were not complied with they would search the premises and seize whatever was visible. If they thought that goods had been concealed, they would burn buildings, pollute the wells or commit other acts of depredation.

This situation resulted in a general abandonment of any kind of organized farming program and it became necessary that everything of value be concealed and yet, at the same time, make it appear that the family was trying to get along with stock and equipment that was not worth stealing. At this time grandpa was 15 years of age and his brother John was 17. It became their duty to manage the concealment of supplies and livestock. They would drive the cows to a hiding place in the woods and carefully brush out their tracks where they left a traveled road. Horses were likewise concealed in the woods in separate locations so that, if discovered, all would not be lost. Quantities of sugar, salt, flour, coffee, etc. were hidden in stone jars under brush piles and other available places of concealment. Hams and bacon were suspended in hollow trees after covering them with cloth and a thick layer of clay.

After a time, federal troops and the "Paw Paw Militia" began scouring the country in search of raiders, deserters, draft evaders and Confederate sympathizers suspected of traffic with the Confederacy. According to both grandma and grandpa these undisciplined troops were every bit as bad as the outlaws.

Robert Bean Thomas' oldest son, Robert Henry, enlisted in the Confederate army and joined General Price. In the late spring of 1864 grandpa and his brother John went to Weston in the adjacent County to enlist in the Confederate army. Grandpa was then nearly 18 years of age and John was past 19. A captain who was the recruiting officer had signed up several young men and they were staying in a schoolhouse until such time as a sufficient number had been recruited to provide a force strong enough to get through the Union lines to General Price, who was then in southern Missouri. Grandpa could not remember whether he had actually been sworn in as a soldier or not.

One day the captain, who had been drinking heavily, became quite boisterous and belligerent. He bragged in public of the valor of his command and offered combat to any one who thought otherwise. Grandpa and his brother became apprehensive and decided to take precautions. They, and a neighbor boy named Campbell, removed their horses from the picket line in front of the schoolhouse and hid them in a dense thicket of hazel brush to the rear of the schoolhouse. That night they secured places near an open window at the rear of the schoolhouse. Some time during the night a detail of federal cavalry rode up to the schoolhouse and called out demands for surrender. The Confederate Captain threw open the door and started shouting, whereupon a brisk skirmish ensued during which time grandpa, his brother John and Campbell made their escape, mounted their horses and returned to their homes. Some of the recruits were killed, as was their captain; a few managed to escape and the rest were captured.

It is probable that a Union Sympathizer had notified the command at Ft. Leavenworth and had furnished a list of the names of the recruits. At any rate, the Union troops knew whom they were looking for and where to look. In the meantime grandpa and John were hiding in the woods where they were joined by Campbell. They were still familiar with the terrain and knew where provisions were hidden. They had little difficulty in keeping out of sight and they occasionally saw members of their families by careful management. They had a hiding place where they could leave and receive notes and were thus able to keep in touch with current events.

On July 3, 1864 they were discovered by a small cavalry detail and made their escape by plunging into a small timbered tract. From shouts that they heard they knew that there were other troops in the area and that they risked capture if they remained. Accordingly, they broke out of their cover and across a field toward a much heavier timber. They were observed by another detail of cavalry which entered upon pursuit. Campbell was in the lead, followed by John, with grandpa in the rear. The soldiers started shooting as the fugitives approached a rail fence. Campbell's horse jumped the fence and disappeared into a wooded hollow. John's horse made the jump but, while in mid-air John was struck by a bullet and fell from the saddle.  Grandpa made the jump and looked back to see whether John was able to get up.  He was still lying where he had fallen.

Grandpa and Campbell soon located each other and spent the rest of the day in hiding. That night they returned to their secret mail box where grandpa found a note from his mother that told him that John had been killed instantly. The shooting had been witnessed by a neighbor who informed the family.

Within a few days it was decided that grandpa would join up with a wagon train headed west for California. His father had made this arrangement with a friend who had an interest in the venture. Accordingly, grandpa set out and joined the wagon train at a place near Lawrence, Kansas. He proceeded with the train until it reached Junction City. There the train was joined by a group that grandpa designated as Redleg outlaws whose leader was from Weston. This leader, whose name I have forgotten, had participated in a raid in the Taos neighborhood where the attack had been repulsed by a determined band of neighbors. Grandpa knew that he would be recognized and would probably suffer in the encounter so he decided to return to his home. This he did, after being gone from his home only two or three weeks.

After a conference with his father it was decided that it would be safer for grandpa to attempt to reach relatives in Kentucky than to attempt to reach the Confederate army. He was instructed to travel at night and to follow directions to the home of a friend in Clay County who would probably be able to furnish him with instructions and directions which would enable him to locate someone farther east who would be of assistance. This plan was followed and grandpa headed east toward relatives in Pike County who could assist him in getting to Kentucky. He made fairly good progress, made the necessary contacts, and received aid according to plan. I don't remember whether grandpa gave me the details of the trip or not. At any rate I am unable to remember them. I do remember that, somewhere along the latter part of the journey, his horse was stolen and that the remainder of the journey was made on foot and that a man took him across the Mississippi River in a canoe in exchange for his rifle.

Grandpa eventually reached the home of the relative that he was seeking. I think he was either an uncle or his father's uncle. I don't remember the location or the date of his arrival. It must have been late in the fall as grandpa told about the nights being quite cold and that he did not have sufficient clothing to keep him warm.

I don't know how grandpa was able to spend the remainder of the war period without incident but that seems to be what happened. Shortly after termination of armed hostilities he returned home but I never heard any of the details of the trip.