The Early History of the Missouri Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, 1898-1932

From the Pages of the Confederate Veteran Magazine

by Compatriot Gene Dressel

The formation of the Jo Vaughan Camp #55 on December 20, 1897, was the birth of the Missouri Division Sons of Confederate Veterans. The Jo Vaughan Camp was commanded by Robert C. Clark, son of Confederate Senator John Bullock Clark, Sr. and brother of Confederate General John B. Clark, Jr. Charter members, according to December 23, 1897 article in the Missouri Democrat Leader (Fayette), were: Robert C. Clark, John O. Winn, John R. Hairson, John T. Cunningham, Dr. Charles H. Lee, Robert L. Holliday, Rev. J. M. McManaway, Corbin Furr, Samuel H. Willard, Harry P. Mason, Carlos E. Betts, James D. Chorn, Shields P. Collins, John W. Gaines, Roma B. Shields, Jeff W. Tindall, Fletcher Todd, and Boyd M. Woods.

Robert C. Clark was appointed the first Missouri Division Commander by appointment by Commander-in-Chief Robert A. Smythe. During the 1900 National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, Commander-in-Chief Briscoe Hindman appointed Judge Richard Brownrigg Haughton as the new Commander of the Missouri Division. Judge Haughton organized the first Missouri Division Convention in 1900. This event was held in Warrensburg on September 27-28. Although raining both days, over 200 Confederate Veterans and 144 Sons of Confederate Veterans attended. During this convention, Commander Judge Haughton announced that he had chartered, or about to charter, Camps in Houston, Warrensburg, Springfield, Higginsville, and Clifton.

Though only less than 40 years since the War for Southern Independence, the Sons of Confederate Veterans were even at that time facing the evils of revisionists. During the 1900 State Convention, the Honorable Robert Lamar of Houston, Missouri delivered an address concerning the inaccuracies and injustices of the current (1900!) school histories of the day.

The first Missouri Division Reunion in 1900 was a success and establish traditions that continue today. James Gulliford McConkey was elected Division Commander for the upcoming year and Springfield was chosen as the site for the 1901 reunion.

Having demonstrated his superior organizational skills and enthusiasm for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Judge Richard B. Haughton was elected Commander-in-Chief of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans at the May 28-30, 1901 National Reunion in Memphis, Tennessee.

During the 1901 Missouri Division Reunion, the unveiling of the Confederate Monument at the newly dedicated National Cemetery in Springfield was the highlight of the convention. Speeches were made by Missouri Governor Alex M. Dockery, Supreme Court Judge Leroy B. Valliant, and Judge James B. Gantt throughout the reunion.

The annual convention on September 9-12, 1902 was held at St. Joseph in conjunction with the United Confederate Veterans. Chilton Atkinson was elected Division Commander and would hold that position until 1911. Those of notable mention who attended the 1902 reunion were Elijah Gates, Confederate Colonel and Major General of the U.C.V., U. S. Senator and Confederate General F. M. Cockrell, U. S. Senator James H. Berry of Arkansas, and Hon. John Allen of Mississippi.

Columbia was the site of the 1903 Missouri Division Reunion. The assembly was held in the Missouri University Auditorium and presided over by Elijah Gates. A parade of more than 500 Confederate Veterans was led by the University Cadet Band through the streets of downtown Columbia. Notable veterans in attendance were: John C. Landis, James Bannerman, S. A. Cunningham (editor of the Confederate Veteran Magazine), and Senator F. M. Cockrell.

E. W. Stephens, editor of the Columbia Herald, wrote of the event: "On this day Columbia and Boone County extend comfort and a heartfelt welcome to the old soldiers of the Southern Confederacy. In this greeting all the people join, without regard to politics or religion….today Union men and Southern sympathizers, federal and Confederate bushwhackers, and the militia vie with each other in the cordiality of their welcome, and authorize the statement that: 'All they possess is yours, as contraband of war!' Even the Rebel Yell has become a loyal hallelujah, and you can indulge in it to your heart's content."

The fifth annual reunion of the Missouri Division was held on the grounds of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. The Veterans, Sons, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy met in the Missouri State Building on October 4th. One of the chief concerns during this reunion in St. Louis during the World's Fair was transportation. Ex-Confederate Captain Robert McCulloch of the Eighteenth Virginia Infantry was General Manager of the United Street Railways Company. Captain McCulloch was involved with every feature of construction and operation of the St. Louis lines. At the time of the 1904 World's Fair, 345 miles of track were constructed with 1100 cars carrying over one million passengers daily. There were 5,000 employees under Captain McCulloch and the St. Louis Transit Company was capitalized at $65,000,000 in preferred stock (1904 dollars!).

The St. Louis Mirror stated: "The signal success of the Fair opening was the service of the Transit Company. Everybody's hat is off to the management. The arrangements were nearly perfect. One certainly never would have thought there were so many street cars in the world as the Transit Company had in service."

During 1904, monuments were unveiled at Neosho, Independence, and Liberty. On his 70th birthday, Senator F. M. Cockrell gave the address at the unveiling of the monument at Liberty on October 1, 1904.

The Missouri Division lost a strong supporter in 1904 with the passing of Senator George Graham Vest. A member of the Confederate Congress from Missouri, Col. G. G. Vest, as U. S. Senator from 1879 to 1903, was known for his outspoken support for the Southern Confederacy, his legislation creating Yellowstone National Park, and his work as a champion for the rights of Native American Indians.