Courtois Hills of the Ozarks

Courtois Hills of the Ozarks
The sub-regions of the Ozarks (from Rafferty, The Ozarks: land and li

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Death of Peter Hanger

I had heard the story of when and how Peter Hanger died, but never had the opportunity to read the story until the fall of 2008. Having learned where and by whom it had been published I went to Van Buren, Missouri and contacted a member of the local historical society and obtained a copy of:


Within this book are many stories and the majority are reprints of articles written forThe Current Local Newspaper-Van Buren, Carter Co., Missouri, under the byline:


I was excited to learn more about the civil war and how it affected my family and their neighbors. After reading it cover to cover, the history became more personal, it was real for me on a level I had never before experienced. I wanted more.

Soon I was visiting, online, in person and on the telephone, with others having a similar passion for this epic period in our history. I still could not care less what happened east of Mississippi River, except for how it affected those in the south Missouri Region. However, if given the time and resources, I would turn over every rock between the Black River and the Eleven Point, if I thought a clue were to be found explaining just one of the many mysteries that have been lost to time. After reading John J. Chilton’s writings I felt both illuminated and curious.

I was illuminated, in that my eyes had been opened to the richness, and tragedy, of our heritage and, the fact that our story had never made it to the main stream history books. Also, curious as to whither or not the facts, as told by John J. Chilton, could be supported with documentation. For, when I first was made aware of this collection of stories I wanted to share them with the world. So, I went to the experts, the academics, the lettered historians. I read what they wrote, I asked pointed questions and I shared with them what John J. Chilton had written. And much as a child is admonished by his teacher to study harder, read more. I was told that I should stay away from “local” histories because they are notoriously inaccurate and cannot be proven. To stick to what they had researched and written and not dwell on the stories that could not be proven. There have been times that I wished I had followed their advice. Without a knowledge of the local families and the various intermarriages many of these men and women would remain in anonymity. I feel a kinship and hope that I can help a little to bring back to life their forgotten stories.

Like many of you my family lines go back several generations in the hills of South Missouri. I feel like the old-timers told me the truth, as much as they knew the truth. Their fathers, grandfathers and uncles were the ones who experienced the war years and the terrible period after and had passed the oral history down. I was taught that it was a sin to lie, but excusable if the lie was to an “outsider”.  That’s probably why the “academics” could never prove or disprove the local stories.

I have spent innumerable hours in the pursuit of supportable evidence that would further explain to the modern, less informed reader, that these people Mr. Chilton wrote about were real. That they trully did exist and their families still live in the same area. I went to further lengths to find documents supporting the individual actions that Mr. Chilton recorded.

And thus, I submit this brief paper in order to show how I both failed and succeeded in what I set out to accomplish. It is only by way of your feedback that I will know one from the other.

Jim Morris

Page 33


By: John Jay Chilton
Source: The Current Local Newspaper-Van Buren, Carter Co., Missouri

January 14, 1932

James Boys made a Peaceful Visit Here

The winter of 1864-65 was cold with much snow and January was very quiet.  But late in January, or early in 1865, I went one day to the field with my older brothers to haul some fodder[1] and while two of the boys loaded the fodder one chopped some fish out of the ice on a pond that was frozen several inches deep, and I strung the fish.  About the time the boys drove up to the gate with the fodder we looked up the road and saw a lot of Federals, as we thought, coming.  They had Federal uniforms on but they treated us in a friendly way.  Some asked me questions about the fish and, to our surprise, they were not harsh as Federals had usually been before.  They left us guessing as to why they were so different to other Federals.  They had come down Current River from its headwaters and had not disturbed anyone.  We learned afterwards that it was Charles Quantrel, (Charles Quantrel White) and his band, consisting of the James brothers, Frank and Jesse, Cole, James and Bob Younger, and 66 others, 72 in all.  They went on down through Southeast Missouri and over into Tennessee and stayed there and in Kentucky until the war was over.  Charles Quantrel, the chief or captain of the bunch, is said to have died of pneumonia fever in Kentucky in May of that year.  The band, especially the James and Younger boys, came back to Missouri in the summer or fall of 1865.

In February 1865, while the snow was still on and the weather cold, a band of Federals[2] coming from towards Pilot Knob into Dry Valley[3], north of Ellington[4] in Reynolds County, caught Tucker Parks[5] and Luna Pruit[6].  Only a few miles from the place where they caught Mr. Pruit, they killed him leaving his body by the roadside.  They rode to the Baty Chitwood[7] home near the head of Dixon Valley[8], three miles south of Ellington, to a farm now owned by Henry Darr.  There they camped.  Then a part of them went to the home of Peter Hanger[9] on Paint Rock Creek[10] in southeast Shannon County, arrested him and brought him to camp.  He was old and stayed in the woods during the cold weather until only a few days before they arrested him, when he came in home intending to go to Pilot Knob and take the oath of allegiance so he could stay at home in peace, but before he was ready to go they came and got him, and he was unable to make them believe he was sincere in the statement, but he was.

Late in the evening, they took him and Mr. Parks up the valley about a mile to where the old Pilot Knob Road led up out of the valley toward Pine Valley.  There, they went a short distance up a hollow to the left of the road.

The prisoners realized that they were to be killed and Mr. Parks begged for his life, but Mr. Hanger opened his bosom and told them, “Shoot, you are killing a braver man than any of you.”  Both were shot down on snow and another snow fell that night, and the bodies lay there, it being late in February, until early in April.  The local citizens, including Sam Hanger[11], brother to the murdered Mr. Hanger, rode and re-rode, many times, through the woods looking for the bodies, but failed to find them.  Early in April James Bowers[12], living in Pine Valley[13], went to Pilot Knob and asked the Federals where they left the bodies.  They told them and when they found them, they were closer to the road than anyone had looked.

While the party was camped at Chitwood’s, he was staying in the woods.  He had killed a deer on the evening of the party’s arrival and was carrying it home when, on coming in sight of home, he noticed the smoke rising near the house and, on looking carefully, he saw it was Federals burning his fence rails in making camp fires.  Realizing only too well what that meant, he turned back into the jungles and, thereby, escaped a short journey up the valley with the two unfortunate men. 

The following are transcriptions of military correspondence preserved by the NARA on micofilm.

Lorenzo D. Wilhelms, 1842-1865, Compiled and edited by Jim Morris

Letter, Baker to Lonegan

Head Quarters Dept of the MO
Office Pro. Mar. General
St. Louis, MO March 14th 1865

            There is in custody here one Lorenzo D. Wilhelms[14] of Reynolds County, MO. Who claims to be a Reg. Confed. Soldier[15] but deserted and was Afraid to report and was captured Jan 24th, 65 and was taken to Centerville, Reynolds County MO. Where he claims to have done important service as a scout for Capt. Austin Co “M” 17th ILL Cav. and for Lt Robbins same co. & Regt.  He says he does not wish to be exchanged and prefers to take the Oath of Allegiance. Have the kindness to take the statements of Capt. Austin and Lt. Robbins regarding the Pris. And his services to them Rendered and collect all the evidence you can regarding the prisoners status from reliable parties acquainted with his character and forward all the papers to this office as soon as practicable. 

Very Respectfully
  Your Obedient
      JD Baker
         Col. & Pro. Mar. General

Capt. Lonegan
Asst. Pro. Mar.
Pilot Knob, MO


Letter, Wilhelms to Baker

St. Louis, MO March 24th/65
Gratroit St. Mil. Prison

Col. J. D. Baker
Pro. Mar. Gen’l.

            Sir I was arrested on the 24th day of January last in Reynolds Co, MO. While preparing to move to Pilot Knob for the purpose of taking Protection under the U. S. authorities. I desire you to inform me whether I can be released provided I will enlist into the Federal Army if so please let me know as my family are in a suffering condition. If I be permitted to enlist I would like to have the privilege of going into Co.  M, 17th Illinois Reg’t.

Yours Respectfully
L. D. Wilhelms

Statement of Lorenzo D. Wilhelms a citizen of Reynolds Co. MO.

I enlisted at Barnesville Reynolds Co. MO. Under Col. Lowe 4th Regt. MO S. G. Rebel Service. And went to Ark. To Pittman’s Ferry and from there to Bloomfield and then to Fredericktown, where we had a fight.  And from there to New Madrid and then to Buckskull and there I was transferred to White’s Reg. from there I was transferred to Burbridge’s Regiment went with Marmaduke’s force to Cape Girardeau MO. And from there back to Camden Ark.  And from there to Little Rock and from there to Princeton and then to Camden again. And from there to Gaines Landing and then out to Searcy. And from there started out on the late Price Raid; when I left them on the 18th of September at Pocahontas Ark. My time was up then and I would not go any farther. I staid at Pocahontas 4 days and then started for home in Reynolds County, MO.  When I arrived on the 1st of Oct. I did not report at any of the U. S. Mil. Posts. The reason I did not report was the Jayhawkers was watching me and I was afraid to go to a Mil. Post. I was going to move to the Iron Mountain where I intended to work. I have never taken the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. but would like to take The oath and quit. I have done some service for the United States under Capt. Austin Comd’g at Centerville, while under his charge. Who I believe will give me a recommendation, and also Luiet Chas. Robbins, Luiet Co. M & Luiet. Cotton, all of the 17th Illinois Cav. After being made a prisoner I acted as a guide for the officers. I was with them four weeks. I would like to take the Oath of Allegiance and stay inside the Federal lines. As I am, and was, tired of the Rebel Service A good while before I got away from them.

Lorenzo D. Wilhelms

Subscribed before me this 7th day of March 1865 at Pilot Knob, MO.

P. F. Lonegan
Capt. & Asst. Pro. Mar.
2nd Sub District, St. Louis

Letter, Lonegan to Baker

H’d Q’rs Pro. Mar. 2d Sub-Dist of St. Louis
Pilot Knob, Mo, Mar 25th, 1865

          I have the honor to return the papers in the case of L. D. Wilhems and
would respectfully say that I saw Capt. Austin whom Wilhelms refers to  Just as he was going on the Cars to Ill and as he had no time to make a written statement.

He requested me to say that he could give no recommendation as to Wilhelms as all he (Wilhelms) done was done as much through fear as anything else and that he has no faith whatever in Rebels that hope to be arrested in order to make them Loyal.

                             Very respectfully
                                                Your Obt. Servant
                                                            P.F. Lonergram
                                                            Capt and Asst. Pro. Mar.
                                                            2nd Sub Dist. Of  St. Louis

To. J.D. Baker
     Col and Pro Mar Genl

Statement of Lt Chas G. Robbins, 2nd Lieut
M Co 17th Cav Il. Vols.

          About L.D. Wilhelms, I think he has always been a rebel till our troops captured him, then he pretended to be a union man.  He went with us as a guide and done very well on several scouts but he had no chance to do otherwise.  Mr. Howell says that the Wilhelms have a bad reputation at best and he has no confidence in them.  I don’t think he would be of any service to the Union cause as a citizen.

                                                Charles G. Robbins
                                                2nd Lt M Co. 17 Ill Cav.

A true copy
            Capt and Asst Pro Mar
            2nd Sub Dist of St. Louis



Lorenzo Dow Wilhelms answered the call to arms at the very beginning of the conflict by serving in the Missouri State Guard under Col. Lowe and General M. Jeff Thompson.

            When the Missouri State Guard troops were discharged and disbanded Pvt. Wilhelms joined Col. James White’s Regiment under the authority of the Confederate States of America. At some point in time Lorenzo was assigned to Company D, 4th MO Cav. under Captain Sappington and Col. Burbridge.

            In September of 1864 his term of enlistment expired. The confederacy was in dire straits and could not afford to release him from duty. When Price’s Army left Pocahontas going into Missouri he went home to his wife and child. It was there in Reynolds County, Missouri that the federals captured him on the 24th day of January, 1865.

            After being taken to Centerville under guard Lorenzo attempted to cooperate. For four weeks he guided the 17th Illinois on the punitive scouting missions throughout Reynolds, Shannon and Carter Counties. By his own admission he assisted the federals in capturing 1 and killing 6 of his former comrades-in-arms. Rather than being grateful to him for the job he had done, out of fear said the federal captain, they sent him on up the chain of command. First to Pilot Knob and then to St. Louis. He was received as a Prisoner of War at the U. S. Military Prison at Alton, Illinois on April 13th, 1865.

He there died of Spotted Fever on the 7th day of May 1865. Lorenzo Dow Wilhelms was 23 years old....RIP

        I don’t know who the man was that was captured; I don’t know for certain who the men were that Lorenzo said were killed after he led the federals to them; what I do know is that John J. Chilton wrote in January of 1932 of the deaths of three men who died during February of 1865 in Reynolds County, Missouri.

Luna Pruitt...Soldier or Guerilla........RIP          
Pvt. Peter Adams Hanger, 4th MO Cav, Company H............ RIP
Pvt. Walter Tucker Parks, 4th MO Cav, Company H............ RIP

Leaving Centerville and travelling south on 21 Highway the first valley crossed is Sinking Creek. Just to the south of Sinking Creek on the west side of Highway 21 is Dry Valley. It meanders southward to a junction with Logan Creek at Ellington/Barnesville. The valley going south out of Ellington/Barnesville is Dixon/Dickson Valley. the head of the valley is the southernmost end. Where Dixon Valley trends southeasterly is the Batey Chitwood Place. Paint Rock Creek is not on this map but would be located to the southwest of the area labeled “Current River Conservation Area”.

[1] Fodder typically is referring to cornstalks left in the field after the corn has been picked.

[2]17th Illinois Cav. stationed at Centerville, Reynolds County, Missouri

[3]See Map on pg. 8,  Place name: Dry Valley
Description: A valley in the western part of Logan Township leading southeast and south into Logan Creek, so named because the stream which runs through the valley is usually dry. (Highway Map, Williams)
Source: Hamlett, Mayme L. "Place Names Of Six Southeast Counties Of Missouri." M.A. thesis., University of Missouri-Columbia, 1938.

[4]Ellington did not exist during the civil war. Barnesville had been burned and the post office from 1853-1895 was called Logan's Creek, from the nearby creek, and was located about two miles down the creek from present day Ellington.

[5]Pvt. Walter Tucker Parks, Co “H” 4th Cav., 1837-1865, son of  Walter Parks and Mary Williams-Parks.

[6]Believed to be the son of Hardin Pruit. Unconfirmed

[7]See Map on pg. 8

[8]See Map on pg. 8

[9]Peter Adams Hanger, 1814-1865. Son of David Hanger and Sarah Crosby-Hanger. Half-brother to Samuel Hanger. Fifty year-old Peter Hanger was certified disabled and discharged by the confederate army on the 1st day of April, 1863. He was no longer able to endure the daily fight.

[10]See Map on pg. 8

[11]Sam Hanger, 1822-1877. Son of David Hanger and Mary (Polly) Leslie-Hanger. Half-brother to Peter Adams Hanger.

[12]James Bowers, 1843-1897. Son of Calvin Sidney Bowers and Ruthy Whitely-Bowers

[13]See Map on pg. 8, Place name:Pine Valley [2 of 2]Description:A valley in the southwestern part of Logan Township, so named because of the pine trees growing there. (County Map, Williams)Source:Hamlett, Mayme L. "Place Names Of Six Southeast Counties Of Missouri." M.A. thesis., University of Missouri-Columbia, 1938.

[14] Lorenzo Dow Wilhelms, 1842-1865. Son of Jacob Wilhelm and Selia Ellen Blackwell-Wilhelm.

[15] Lorenzo Dow Wilhelms, had belonged to Company D of the 4th Regiment MO Cav. CSA