Jesse James and Confederate Churches: Bollinger County’s Hidden Secrets

This article was originally published on Examiner.Com  on May 22, 2012:

You never know the treasures that are hidden in your own back yard. The first time I realized this is when I bought our house at the corner of Englehart Ln & Opossum Creek Road.

Little did I know that Opossum Creek Road was part of the old “Military Trail” that was heavily traveled during the War Between the States, by soldiers from both the Northern and Southern armies?

There were however; more treasures to explore.

If you follow Opossum Creek Road (also known as Bollinger County Road 502), from beginning to end, you will know doubt easily notice several Confederate flags that dot the landscape, flown by those who want commemorate the history of the Military Trail.

What you might miss, if you aren’t looking very carefully, is a church that served as a Confederate safe-haven during the war, and quite possibly played host to two of Missouri’s most famous folk-heroes.

I was talking to the late “Sonny” Freeman during the last week in March, 2008 (Sonny of course, is the gentleman who first envisioned putting together the Bollinger County Veterans Memorial), and he told me a fascinating story about the Methodist Episcopal Church South.

As mentioned previously in this article, the Methodist Episcopal Church South served as a safe-haven for Confederate soldiers and Southern sympathizers during the War Between the States, after the war the doors were always open to weary travelers passing through the area.

On one such occasion (as legend has it) in the early 1870’s a weary traveler took advantage of the church’s refuge and decided to bed down for the night. He had made coffee and cooked a meal of local game on the church’s stove but this would not be the only visitor to the church on this evening.

Two men soon entered the church. The weary traveler noticed that they were dressed better than most but this was no occasion to deny the two well dressed men Southern hospitality.

He offered to share his coffee and meal with them and they accepted his generosity. When the weary traveler awoke the next morning, he noticed that the two well dressed men were gone, however; they had left him a twenty dollar gold piece for his troubles.

The weary traveler believed his guests to be none other than Frank and Jesse James.

It is not impossible to believe that Frank and Jesse might have passed through this area.

Digging through the Bollinger County Archives I found an article that was published in the Marble Hill Press on July 9, 1891 which states:

“John A. Reilly was in to see us last week and told the Press man a modicum of criminal history in the information that the night after the Gad’s Hill robbery {which occurred on January 31’st, 1874}the notorious James gang, , the perpetrators of the robbery , camped at the foot of the hill just beyond “Uncle” David Lutes’ residence, about one and one-half miles west of Lutesville. Mr. R. says that he saw Frank and Jesse James at that place and that they were there nearly one whole night, but did not kindle a fire. We suppose this is about the extent of the James gang’s operation in Bollinger County, but if any of our readers know of any history of this kind relative to our county, why , just write it up and send it in.”

Ironically exactly a week after Sonny Freeman related this story to me, I was attending the John T. Coffee Camp #1934, Missouri Sons of Confederate Veterans annual heritage dinner in Osceola, Missouri {another favorite hang out of the James and Younger’s}.

After the speech and dinner I was browsing the inventory of a book publisher and seller from Independence, Missouri and found “With Jeff Thompson: The Diary of Adam Perkins”.

How ironic, it was, to find the diary of a Bollinger County man six hours away from home. As it turns out Adam enlisted for six months with the Bollinger County Light Horse Cavalry , which was formed in Dallas {present day Marble Hill}, and served in the Missouri State Guard {Missouri Confederate Militia} under General M. Jeff Thompson.

Reading through the diary, one will find that Adam was born in Stoddard County, Missouri on August 17, 1834 and that he and his family moved to Bollinger County when he was six years old. “He was converted and joined the M.E. Church, South, when he was twenty”

Through the Diary of Adam Perkins we can conclude that the Methodist Episcopal Church South has been around since at least 1854, and its membership included numerous Confederate veterans, family members and, if you believe in legends, Frank and Jesse James for at least one night.

About aldermanlacy

I am just an average blue collar American who works hard and tries to be a good dad. I have a passion for history, music and freedom.

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