Biographies of Buchanan County Residents:
EVENTS AS TOLD BY GRANDMA
by Martin Noel Thomas
At the outbreak of the war grandma was eleven years old. Her father, Martin Critchfield, was a farmer living on Bee Creek at a place just west of the present town of Faucett, Buchanan County, Missouri. The house is still standing in good condition across the highway from the Faucett High School. According to grandma, the children in her family quickly adjusted themselves to the temper of the times. Upon appearance of a stranger the children would give an alarm and then scatter and hide like quails. Neighbors kept in close touch with one another and news was passed through the community rapidly. Every new raid or outrage was reported by messenger and grandma drank in all of the details. Then would follow a family discussion of the best plans to follow in order to avoid danger. This was truly a very exciting time for a child and grandma was in a perpetual fever of excitement.
Then came a day in August 1863 when the raider struck at the Martin Critchfield home. Martin was plowing at some distance from the house. Mary, his -wife, and the children were in the house when a group of soldiers (grandma called them soldiers) rode up. Mary hurriedly admonished grandma to look after the other children and stepped out the door, closing it after her. This placed grandma at a considerable disadvantage as she-could see but little that was going on and she could hear only fragments of the conversation. It seemed to be a very spirited conversation in which Mary refused to comply with the demands of the raiders.
As he was plowing, Martin would glance toward the house at every opportunity. Thus he saw the raiders ride up and saw Mary arguing with them. He quickly unhitched his team and, mounting one of the horses, headed for the house at top speed. Grandma heard some of the ensuing argument which seemed to be about the location of some horses thought to be hidden in the vicinity. After a time she heard a voice say “You’ll have to tell that to the captain” and then heard the beat of hoofs as they rode away. The kitchen door burst open and Mary rushed in, grabbed up a large butcher knife and ran out in pursuit of the raiding party. Grandma ran to the door and saw the mounted group, with her father in its midst, riding rapidly to the east while Mary followed on foot, running as fast as she could.
When the raiders had traveled a little more than half a mile they came to an orchard where they stopped to question Martin further. His answers infuriated them. A rope was placed around his neck and tied to a branch of an apple tree. His horse was then driven out from under him and he was left hanging and struggling. Within a short time Mary arrived and found him hanging limp and unconscious. She quickly cut him down, loosened the rope about his neck and did everything she could think of to revive him. He soon began to gasp and in a few moments began to regain consciousness.
In the meantime grandma wanted desperately to follow her mother and see what had happened but she knew that she had to remain and look after the other children. It seemed to grandma that hours had passed before her parents returned although it probably was a comparatively short time. Martin was a bit shaken up by the experience and he had a very sore neck. Mary was visibly affected by the experience and was unusually quiet as she went about her household duties. Grandma was still in great excitement and wanted to hear all of the details but Mary didn’t want to talk about it.
During the next several days there were a great many discussions with people who dropped in. Several expressed the opinion that it might be better to try to find a safer place. As a result of these conferences it was decided to organize a party and to try to go to Nebraska where there were friends and relatives. I don’t know who the other members of the party were but, as I remember, there were probably three families. They loaded what they considered essential into wagons and started out. I don’t know what livestock they took with them but grandma was much elated when she learned that she was to help drive the cattle, quite an honor for a thirteen year old girl.
They stopped at the home of a friend or relative in the vicinity of Oregon, Missouri, where it was decided that Mary and the smaller children would remain for the winter. The remainder of the party proceeded to their destination in Nebraska. The next spring Mary and the younger children joined the rest of the family; where they remained until the war was over. I don’t know what part of Nebraska they were in as grandma didn’t seem to know. She said that they crossed the Missouri River on a ferry a day or two after they left the Oregon area so they must have crossed near White Cloud or Rulo. She said that there were lots of Indians in the area where they stayed in Nebraska but that these Indians were not hostile although they were a terrible nuisance. They continually prowled about the area, stealing chickens and hogs and they were inveterate beggars. They were not armed and the Nebraskans didn’t seem to pay much attention to them. Mary and the children never did become accustomed to them and were in a constant state of apprehension.
I never heard an account of the return of the Martin Critchfield family to Missouri but they did return the year the war was over.