S-O-S: Attention Everyone Who Is Interested in Justice, We Need Your Help To Help Save-Our-Smith!

In a obscure part of modern day Kansas City, Missouri, there is a small, desolate parcel of land, that once contained the Smith Cemetery. During the 1860's, the Smith Cemetery, also known as the Smith/Davis Cemetery, was located next to one of the main roads out of Kansas City, Missouri. Today it lies between two lanes of Missouri Highway 350, in the area known as Knobtown, located near Raytown and Lee's Summit, Missouri.

This cemetery is the final resting place of of Jabez McCorkle, Ferdinand Scott, Daniel Boone Scholl and James Lilly, Confederate guerrillas who served under Colonel William Clarke Quantrill. One circular grave contains the mortal remains of between 12-15 unknown Civil War soldiers. This graveyard also contains the bodies of Susan Crawford Vandevere, Armenia Crawford Selvey, and Charity McCorkle Kerr, three young girls murdered in the August 14, 1863, Union jail collapse in Kansas City. Father Starr, a Revolutionary War veteran is also buried there.  Here is an image of the slain non-combatant Charity McCorkle Kerr.                                                                                             

At this point it's impossible as well as unproductive, to attempt to chronicle exactly how this cemetery fell into such a state of degradation and disrepair. It is public knowledge that tombstones were still present as late as 1980.

Yet soon after the property changed hands, the tombstones mysteriously disappeared. Despite tireless attempts over the years by Vicki Beck, Jim Beckner, Paul Petersen, Claiborne Scholl Nappier and others too numerous to mention, the current property owner, obstructed and destroyed many terrain features and refused to acknowledge the existence of the cemetery.

If it was not for the dedication and persistence of those who refused to accept the disrespectful treatment of Missouri partisans, the story might have ended there. Thankfully, instead of giving up the fight and going home, each and every set-back merely heightened the determination to fight again. Due to their continued vigilance, for the first time in decades there appears to be progress towards a positive resolution to this injustice.

Because the property recently changed hands, the new owners were required to appear before the Kansas City Planning Commission. When Hillside Redevelopment presented their 103 million dollar multi-use commercial and residential proposal, they "were unaware of the existence of the Smith Cemetery." (1).

A provision to preserve the cemetery and adhere to local, state and federal laws regarding the human remains on the site was included in the report prepared by the planning and development department. This recommendation was adopted by the Planning Commission, and it was received favorably by Hillside Redevelopment.(2) Additionally, Brad Wolf of the Kansas City Landmark Commission purposed "that the cemetery and surrounding ground, be converted into a 'pocket-park'." (3).

To some it may appear that this battle is over and done with. However based upon my own personal  experience, I think the real fight is just beginning. Since the issue is now in the hands of the state government, it also affords those who oppose any project honoring Confederate soldiers the chance to organize and mobilize against it.

Although I don't know all the details of every attempt to save this landmark, I have no doubt that Vicki Beck was behind the vast majority of them. All I know is that I first heard about the protracted fight to save the Smith Cemetery in the late 1980's, then and in nearly every instance that followed it was Vicki Beck who was leading the way.

On behalf of website management I applaud Vicki, Jim, Paul, Claiborne, and everyone else who refuse to let this issue die. Thanks to your efforts, there is a ray of hope that injustice might be corrected after so many years. However since I have seen virtually every project of this type encounter opposition, I caution us all against premature celebration.

Although it has been over 15 years, the bitter taste of one defeat will haunt my memories until the day I die. It seemed as if all the hard work and persistence were ready to pay off. Everyone was ecstatic because we were so close to obtaining our goal, which was placing a military headstone on the grave of Alexander Franklin James.

The debates were done, the hearings were held, and bureaucrats had been placated. It had been a long hard struggle, but we had cleared every hurdle that was placed in front of us. Because the Ralston family grave yard which holds Frank's remains is located inside a city park, obtaining approval was no small feat. But now that didn't matter, we were like the horse that smelled his barn, we were ready to gallop on towards home.

All the plans were made, the finished marker was in our possession, and we were less than two weeks until the date of the service. In addition to obtaining permission to place the marker, we had even won approval to hold a memorial service. I was honored to be asked to attend the service as a member of the James family, and I was looking forward to attending the historic occasion.

Everything was rolling along like clockwork, until an article about the event was published in the local newspaper "The Independence Examiner."

Within hours of the article's publication, the vile forces who refuse to allow the Missouri Confederate veterans to receive the humane treatment they so justly deserve, sprang into action. A previously unknown elderly relative of the Ralstons and her attorney were soon knocking on doors of City Hall.

Citing a clause purportedly included in the original agreement with the City, the relative threatened to reclaim legal ownership of the property. Although the City Attorney said the Ralston family had "no legal leg to stand on," some pencil pusher decided to throw in the towel. Permission to place the headstone was rescinded.

Of course we did not just fold up our tent and go home, many valiant attempts were made in an effort the reverse the decision. Long story short, today the marker is on still display at the James Farm Museum in Kearney, Missouri.

I have said it one thousand times, I will continue to shout from the rooftops until the day I die. Each and every American regardless of their race or creed should be appalled at this inhumane treatment. Above all else no matter what you may call them, they were all American veterans who fought and died defending their country.

And less us not forget that  in the Smith Cemetery also lie the remains of innocent non-combatants, as well as a least one other "rebel," a veteran of the American Revolution. So, even if you think the vile Confederates should not be honored, should the others who rest there also be punished?  The next tintype is of Daniel Boone Scholl.                                                                                                   

There is only one answer a truly free and just society could respond to that question, and of course that would be a resounding NO! Yet there is little hope that the situation will ever change, unless we the public demand change from the politicians and the bureaucrats.

Therefore I say now is the time to act, and the Smith cemetery is the place where we should make our stand. I implore each and every member every member of quantrillsguerrillas.com to rally behind Vicki Beck and to join the effort to "Save our Smith."

What can we do to help this most worthy cause?

(1). The first step is for each of us to stay informed of the current developments.  You can rest assured that we have numerous people monitoring this effort from various vantage points, and that we will do our best to keep the public informed.

(2). Tell your friends and family, tell your enemies, tell anyone who will listen about the plight of the Smith.

(3). Be ready, willing and able to work together with anyone, individual and or group, who is working toward the goal of ensuring the memory of these brave men and women is honored and preserved. Any differences that may occur need to be set aside, and we all need to work toward the only goal that matters, honoring the dead with the respect they deserve.

One of the worse things that could happen now is for those who support this noble effort, is for us to appear unprofessional and disjointed. As hard as it is to resist the impulse to take actions into our own hands run out and start a picket line, we must be patient and allow those who are currently heading the effort the time and flexibility they need.  

At this moment things seem to be progressing towards a positive resolution, therefore let's us hope and pray that is what happens. However history has shown that we would be wise to prepared for anything.

We realize there may be non-members who would like to participate in this effort. However we do not have the resources to accommodate that request, and if you want to help out with this and other similar noble causes, then WHY haven't you joined us already?

Now is the time for all of our members to come to the aid of their forefathers, we need you to be ready at a moment's notice to help us to "Save our Smith."

Refferences: (1). Information from "The No Quarterly" The newsletter of the William Clarke Quantrill Society, was utilized in our story. (2). Ibid (3). Ibid.

©Patrick R. Marquis quantrillsguerrillas.com 2008 "Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this copyrighted essay and or image."                                                                                                                                                          

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