Missouri women explore Civil War-era family trees

Friday, March 25, 2011 | 3:00 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD — It was a piece of land that sent Rosemary Sullivan Bane to research her family's history, where she found family members on both sides of the Civil War.

In 1952, her father, Earl Sullivan, who was mayor of Clever and a Christian County judge, said, "Rosemary, we can buy Crowbar Ranch, which you always have thought is the most beautiful place in the whole world," she recalled.

Buying the land, renamed Sullivan Lodge, was a thrill, but what they saw on the property record was even more exciting. The first name on it was Noah Maples, Bane's great-great-grandfather.

She had to know more, and she was soon immersed in genealogy.

Noah Maples and his family came to Missouri from McMinn County, Tenn., in 1855, settling at the Delaware Indian spring about 1 1/2 miles north of present-day Clever.

In 1862, Noah enlisted in the Union army. The war must have been painful for his wife, Sara Ann Greenway Maples, Bane said, because among her 10 brothers, five fought for the North and five for the South. A letter from another Maples relative said all 10 men survived the war, and their father said they could come home if they never mentioned war in his house.

When the war began, Noah hoped to take his family someplace safe, away from the "bloody battleground" in Missouri, so he took them to "the Ozarks of Illinois" where he joined the 81st Regiment and Ulysses Grant.

Noah survived the war, but not without injury. His disability discharge certificate shows that in April 1863 he was shot in the wrist and had to have his arm amputated. He died four years later.

Bane's research has taken her from family stories to official records to learn her family members' fates. In a document of declaration for widow's pension, she discovered that Noah's son, Bane's great-grandfather David Perry Maples, ran away from home to enlist in December 1863.

"He is said to have been one of the youngest drummer boys in the Civil War," said Bane, who owns his drumsticks.

Another great-great-grandfather, Deacon Hugh Lafayette McBride, did not believe in killing, so he served in the commissary. McBride and his wife — Uncle Fate and Aunt Fanny — started a church in their home and held services there until after the war.

"My grandmother said that when the baby, Lafayette, died while his father was in the Civil War, the swaddling clothes were the sacrament cloth because that was all they had to use," Bane said.

A visit from bushwhackers while the men were all away at war is another family memory. They took, among other things, a bag of coffee, but Aunt Fanny began to cry that she could not do without her coffee.

"One of the bushwhackers must have had a soft spot in his heart," Bane said. "He threw the coffee back and said, 'Keep your old coffee.'"

The Sullivans were a Union family, but when Rosemary married James Bane she knew he came from Southern stock. "He was really Confederate," she said.

One day, she remembers, he asked her who her favorite president was. When she said it was Abraham Lincoln, he quipped, "That's the only thing we have ever disagreed on."

Sally Lyons McAlear grew up hearing stories about her paternal grandfather, who emigrated from Ireland in 1881.

Those stories, and inspiration from Alex Haley's book "Roots," led her to publish a history of the Lyne/Lyons family.

Then she began to quiz her mother about the other side of the family.

The only story her mother ever told was about her mother's grandfather, who lied about his profession when drafted into the Union army because he knew how bloody it was on the battlefield. He claimed to be a physician and evenbandaged up a fellow soldier. He did the job well, so he was given a medic's job anyway. His pension papers listed him as a farmer from Indiana.

"My mother told that story countless times," McAlear said.

She later learned that her mother also had a great-grandfather who was Confederate. Searching, she found David Snapp, who was originally from Taney County. Snapp's father, Harrison, owned slaves.

"Harrison Snapp fled Taney County, or so the family stories go," she said.

David's daughter, Sarah Alice Snapp, married George Edmonds — the man who lied about being a doctor.

McAlear has since connected with her Snapp cousins, who held a reunion in Branson in 2009.

Family stories are an important source to start learning about ancestors, but McAlear discovered that not all those stories are accurate.

One such myth was that her mother's great-grandfather Sam Maritt (or Merritt) was killed by bushwhackers on his way home from the war. A search for his pension records show that was "far from the truth." He actually died from his war wounds years later.

One family member died of measles during the war, and another died of consumption.

Bushwhackers weren't the only nonmilitary danger to the family. David Snapp's youngest brother, Sam, wasn't old enough to fight in the war, but years later he was killed by Bald Knobbers in Kirbyville.

Both Bane and McAlear are members of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, though both would be eligible to join the United Daughters of the Confederacy as well.

Neither is interested.

"I guess it's my patriotism," McAlear said. "I love this country and would never want to see it split apart."

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