It is a town where the tracks meet the trail, a town full of character and rich history. Dating back to its first settlers in 1828, Pleasant Hill, MO, part of the Van Buren County, now called Cass County, accounts its initial population count at 40 inhabitants according to an 1844 record. But what makes this town so impressive and intriguing are its stories not found in any mere textbook, no, these stories are passed down over the years, documented for us to listen, learn, and in a way help us catch a glimpse of times gone by.
These stories of Pleasant Hill’s people and the events they witnessed range from humorous, mysterious, and heartwarming. I’m your guide, Christina Sommer and I invite you to take a seat in the assembly hall of memories. Welcome to The Bygone Society.
The year was 1912, Clayton Van Hoy in Oklahoma happened to pick up a copy of the Pleasant Hill Times to read an article about an event he remembers well. The burning of Pleasant Hill. It was during the Civil War, Pleasant Hill was occupied as a military post and as Millard Parker remembers it, both nights were consumed with destruction and terror. It started with a group named the Bushwhackers, these were Missourians who fled and hid in the backcountry in order to resist the Union occupation of the bordering counties by way of guerrilla warfare. Since a few companies of Federal soldiers were stationed in Old Town, one of the Bushwackers disguised himself as a Federal soldier and delivered a fake dispatch informing the local commandant to send his men to the defense of Harrisonville, as the town was being neared by the army of General Sterling Price. As the Federals were on the way, they were ambushed by one group of Bushwackers. Meanwhile, the other group was busy burning about 30 buildings that were taken up by these Federals being careful not to affect the homes or buildings of the southerners. Finding out what had happened, the Federals returned the gesture by setting fire to the homes and buildings of Southern sympathizers the very next night.
Such a scene would’ve made anyone run in fear but that’s not what Millard had in mind. While the Union forces were setting 33 buildings and homes ablaze, what seemed to be the whole of Pleasant Hill, one home, however, stayed standing, and that was the dwelling of Millard’s father. Clayton Van Hoy remembers being awoken by his mother and told that Millard needed his help, although improperly dressed from being stirred from his bed in the middle of the night, he knew that duty and Millard needed him and he raced off without a second thought. Remember this was during the winter months of 1862 and what a sight it would’ve been to see old Millard carrying out a piano, with Clayton at his heels, stove under one arm, and a churn under the other. And so it went with other items like the refrigerator, phonograph, featherbed, and Bible. The tale ends with Frank Moore finishing the job of saving the house. Good thing too, since that house would be home to the entire populace of Pleasant Hill during the rest of that bleak winter. You’ve been listening to The Bygone Society where I share with you a bit of interesting history one morsel at a time. Tune in next week for your weekly dose of The Bygone Society.