Bushwhackers were guerilla soldiers on the border of Kansas and Missouri. They led raids back and forth across the state line. One of the leaders of the bushwhackers was William Clark Quantrill. Other well known bushwhackers included Frank and Jesse James and the Younger brothers.

William Clark Quantrill was a Confederate Bushwhacker. He was born in 1837 in Ohio. He spent several years on the frontier as a gambler, ne'er-do-well, and petty thief. He became entangled in the border skirmishes between Missouri and Kansas and used the upset conditions for his own purposes. Known also as Charley Hart, and Billy Quantrill, he fought at Wilsons Creek and then undertook guerilla operations in Missouri. On the 11th of August in 1862 he captured Independence Missouri. Four days later he was commissioned a Captain in the confederate army with about 150 men under him. Later in November he went to Richmond VA. and claimed that he had been given a Colonels commission.

In the meantime his men had been fighting in Missouri and Kansas, Quantrill did not join them until January or February of 1863. On August 21, 1863, his command burned and plundered Lawrence Kansas. About 150 men and boys were killed and about a million and a half dollars worth of property was destroyed.

Some of the Best Known Bushwhackers:

W. Quantrill, Cole Younger, Frank James, Jim Younger and Bob Younger

In 1864 Quantrill set out for Washington D.C. to assassinate President Lincoln, but on May 10, he was fatally wounded by Federal troops in Kentucky. He lived 20 days after he was shot and left $500 in gold to his wife, Kate Clark. She used the money to start a "house of ill repute" in St. Louis.

 The Bushwhackers affected many Missourians. Some were famous most were not. George Washington Carver and his mother were kidnapped by confederate Bushwhackers shortly after his birth. He was found in Arkansas and brought back, his mother was never seen again.

The term Bushwhacker came about because these men were known to prefer to hide in brushy areas. They would then surprise their enemies by ambush. The bushwhackers were excellent marksmen who preferred pistols. The Bushwhackers were helped by many of the pro-slavery citizens.

The 1999 movie, "Ride with the Devil," provides a very accurate historic account of the Bushwhackers and the Border Wars.

For many years, Bushwhackers who had ridden with Quantrill held an annual reunion. Here is a ribbon from one of those reuntions:


This is a stereoview of a sculpture entitled "The Bushwhacker."

 The Bushwhackers of Vernon County

The November election of 1860 in Vernon County was overwhelmingly democratic. No votes were recorded for Abraham Lincoln. Although there were a dozen or more Republicans in the county, they were not permitted to vote. Missouri, of course, never seceded from the Union, but the majority of the citizens of Vernon County were in sympathy with the south.

By fall of 1861 Vernon County was practically deserted. The southern sympathizers went south and northern sympathizers went to various locations in the northern territory.

In the latter part of February 1862, there was a fight between some Federal soldiers who were spending the night at a Mr. Riggs' house, about ¾ of a mile southwest of what is now Avola (a small village about halfway between Bronaugh and Sheldon, not far from the current site of Bushwhacker Lake). There were 17 rebel and 9 federal troops. Confederates attacked the next morning and wounded 7 of the federal soldiers. The confederates then disbanded for a time, but before long the confederate bushwhackers were found to be occupying vacant buildings in the town of Montevallo just a few miles east of Avola. Not long after that, federal soldiers destroyed Montevallo. Most of Vernon County was ravaged. In fact in 1863, the entire town of Nevada was burned by a federal militia.

Bushwhackers were then relatively common in the southwestern corner of Vernon County. In the fall of 1864, a federal soldier was caught and killed by Bushwhackers near Little Drywood. Little Drywood is the creek that would one day be dammed to become Bushwhacker Lake.

By the end of the civil war most of the county had been burned and there were fewer than 100 families remaining. No towns or villages were left. The settlers had to travel to Ft. Scott, Kansas, to purchase supplies because there were no stores left. All that remained was the fertile prairie.

W. W. Dorris, a pioneer Bronaugh resident, once wrote, "In 1876 my parents came to Vernon County. There was nothing here except the wide prairie, and I can remember helping my father cut the wild prairie grass for winter feed.

See pictures of the History and Construction of the lake

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