Two PC Politicians Peter Out, But Fighting Jo Never Did

Twenty six years of organizing, planning and selling of books culminated in a celebration of the life of Confederate Gen. Joseph Orville Shelby. The folks of little Waverly, Missouri, population 807, were determined to honor their hometown hero. They completed their mission on Saturday, June 27, 2009, with the dedication of the first ever statue to General Shelby.

Jo Shelby was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on December 12, 1830. His father died when he was five years old and his mother married Benjamin Gratz who ran a hemp operation. Mr. Gratz was a Jewish widower with several sons. He educated his stepson, Jo, at a school in Pennsylvania and then sent him to Transylvania College in Lexington. Below is a War vintage image of  Gen. Jo Shelby which was previously unpublished.                                                       

Shelby was a friend of John Hunt Morgan also of Lexington, Kentucky. After Shelby dropped out of Transylvania University, he was employed for a time at his stepfather’s rope factory. At the age of twenty one, he received funds from his deceased father’s estate and with one of his stepbrothers, traveled to Waverly, Missouri .

The town of Waverly is located on the banks of the Missouri River. It was in this village that they began a farming operation which included growing hemp for rope. Their property included a wharf and Shelby started a shipping and steamboat service.Many Kentuckians had moved into Missouri in the 1820’s and 1830’s. In 1858, Shelby married a distant cousin, Elizabeth “Bettie” Shelby, the daughter of a Shelbyville, Kentucky, native. This Shelby family had also settled in the Waverly area.

It was not long before Jo Shelby took part in the border war engagements as early as 1858 and 1859. His stepbrother wanted no part in the blood letting caused by the Kansas redlegs and returned to Lexington , Kentucky. I learned that another stepbrother, Carey, joined the Union forces and was killed in his first engagement.Frank Blair, another Kentucky cousin, stationed in St. Louis offered Shelby a Union commission when the War started, but he refused the offer. Blair was the brother of Lincoln ’s Postmaster General, Montgomery Blair.

In 1861, at the Methodist Church located near his plantation, Shelby recruited hundreds of men in a matter of hours. He outfitted them with his own money. These men became the core of his famous Iron Brigade and their exploits have been recorded. Shelby ’s adjutant was John Newman Edwards who wrote glowing accounts about the Missouri Confederate exploits during the War for Southern Independence.

Yankee arsonists burned down the Shelby home along with all the outbuildings. Shelby refused to surrender at the end of the War. He led the remnants of his men across the Rio Grande River at Eagle Pass, Texas , where they buried the battle flag in that river. About 1,000 dejected Southern men followed Shelby to Mexico. Bettie and her two young sons were reunited with Shelby at the American colony near Vera Cruz.

In 1867, Shelby and his family returned to Missouri and began a farming operation in Adrian, Missouri. In 1893, President Grover Cleveland appointed him as U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Missouri.

General Shelby died on February 13, 1897 , and was buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri. He left behind a wife, seven sons and a daughter. Shelby became a folk hero to the people of the devastated Southland. Today, many people consider Gen. Jo Shelby to be the greatest Confederate Cavalry leader of the War years.  

This former Confederate resident is who Waverly citizens wanted so badly to honor. The states of Kentucky and Missouri had both failed to raise a statue to their brave son and heroic figure. The Shelby marker which rests in Forest Hills Cemetery is rather insignificant considering the accomplishments of this brave leader of men.

W. L. Pointer and Keith Daleen of Waverly took out a loan in order to purchase 2,000 copies of the book entitled “Shelby and his Men.” These books were sold to help raise the necessary funds for a Shelby statue. It took twenty-six years of fundraising, but they did it. Many people worked on this project over the long years of fundraising. Below is an image of the finished statue.                 

On a blistering hot Saturday afternoon, a ceremony was held to unveil the General Shelby equestrian statute. There were flags, reenactors, singing groups, boy scouts and at least thirty Shelby family members in attendance from several states.

Speeches were given by Jim Beckner, John Hinz, Col. James Shelby, Waverly Mayor Barbara Schreiman, U.S. Representative Ike Skelton, Jim England of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Missouri President of the UDC.
Two notable MIA’s were the key note speaker, my own Kentucky Governor, Steve Breshear, and the Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon. They both managed to come up with last-minute excuses as to why they could not attend this event. Come on now boys, you can do better than that. This Confederate memorial service does not fit the PC guidebook and some innocent reporter just might have mentioned your attendance to the media.
The citizens of Waverly, Jim Beckner, John Hinz, Mary MaCoy, Cathy Gottsch, the sutlers, vendors and re-enactors deserve our gratitude for a wonderful weekend event. If you decide to visit Waverly, don’t miss a chance to see the only original log home that stood upon the Santa Fe Trail. Apparently all the other homes on the old trail have been moved there from various locations. This house witnessed those first Santa Fe freighters, the Union and Confederate soldiers and even stood to attention during Jo’s Day.

This article was submitted by Nancy Hitt–2009 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. "Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this or copyrighted essay and/or image."  .                                                                            

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