General Joseph Bailey, Vernon Co, MO USGenWeb Project

                                                                                        The above is an advertisement




Family Gp Sheets
Orphans Home
Other Links
Photos Need ID
Photos Misc.
Research Trip
State Hosp #3
Towns & Twps





From the 1887 History of Vernon County, Missouri, p. 774-775:

Gen. Joseph Bailey


Even to one accustomed to the preparation of biographical memoirs it is an undertaking of no small magnitude to properly portray the life history of such a one as the subject of this sketch, for words seem to but faintly indicate the true worth of the man, and the sincere respect in which he was held.  His residence in this county was of such importance to the people that only few realized his influence and standing until he had been called away, stricken down as he was in the very prime of life, and at a time when it seemed possible for him to accomplish the most good.  Joseph Bailey was a man of the people, and yet he unconsciously towered above those of ordinary intelligence.  Quiet, unassuming and calm in demeanor, he was as is often the case, possessed of those traits of character which pronounced him a man of fearless, decisive determination, and those with whom he often had to deal knew this fact well.  Frequent mention is made all through the present volume of this good man, and to those places we would refer our readers for more extended account of the part he took in advancing the interests of Vernon county.  Originally from Ashtabula county, O., where he was born March 6, 1825, Gen. Bailey moved to Southern Illinois when young and there was principally reared.  Later on he went to Columbia county Wis., and there was engaged in engineering for a time, subsequently becoming captain of the 4th Wisconsin regiment.  At the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted as captain, and served through the war, passing the various stages of major, lieutenant-colonel, colonel, etc., until given the title of general, a distinction for which he was well qualified.  After the close of the war he came to Missouri in 1866, and this continued to be his home until his untimely death, elsewhere referred to.  His brutal murder and the excitement of the news of such a crime will be remembered by all who were then living in the county.  December 24, 1846, Mr. Bailey was married to Miss Mary Spaulding, of New York, who still survives, a lady of substantial worth and refinement of manner.  She accompanied her parents to Illinois when only 13 years old.  At this time she is residing upon a farm of 375 acres in the western part of Harrison township, warmly esteemed by all who are favored with her acquaintance.



"Hero of the Red River: The Life and Times of Joseph Bailey" by Michael J. Goc.  Book review by Patrick Brophy.




   In the spring of 1866 there was considerable excitement throughout this county and Southwestern Missouri over the importation into the country of Texas cattle.  Thousands of them were purchased in Texas at a very low price, and brought into Missouri and Kansas to feed upon the open range, then very abundant, until such time as they should be ready for market.  They brought with them a peculiar bovine malady which has come to be known as Texas fever, and which was very destructive among the native herds of this State.  In this county a few men lost all of their cattle from Texas fever contracted from the imported long-horns.  Matters came to such a pass that armed men were stationed on the borders of the counties and certain townships to turn back all droves and herds of cattle coming from Texas or the Indian Territory.

   The legislature passed a stringent law on the subject, and in May the Vernon county court appointed cattle commissioners for each township--Henry B. Hall, Andrew Townsend, and Green Cline, for Henry; Barnett Hummell, Adam Huffman, and Gen. Joseph Bailey, for Harrison, and so on.  Some herds were encountered in the southern part of the county, having run the gauntlet through Jasper and Barton, and were turned back with difficulty.  In some cases bloodshed was prevented only by firmness and forbearance on the part of the commissioners.

History of Vernon County, Missouri. St. Louis: Brown & Co. 1887. p. 347




   Tuesday, Mar 26, 1867, the then sheriff of the county, Gen. Joseph Bailey, was murdered by two brothers named Pixley, whom he had arrested and was conveying to Nevada City, on a charge of hog stealing.  The following details of this incident have been abridged from the account given in the Nevada City Times of March 29, succeeding the date of the tragedy:--

   On Monday, March 25, Lewis Williams made complaint before Justice E. I. Fishpool, of Center township, that Perry and Lewis Pixley had stolen from him a hog and refused to give it up when called upon to do so.  The justice issued a warrant for the arrest of the Pixleys, but as there was no acting constable in the township the writ was directed to the sheriff of the county.  The sheriff and deputy both being absent from the town on the 25th, the warrant was not placed in the hands of Gen. Bailey until about noon on Tuesday, the 26th, and about 3 o'clock that day he proceeded to the home of the Pixleys to execute the writ.  The Pixleys lived near Moore's mill on the Marmaton, some three miles northwest from Nevada.  They had formerly lived in Clay county, and during the war were bushwhackers.  Gen. Bailey made the arrest, but the prisoners refused to deliver up their arms and at first refused to go, though finally consenting to accompany him; but one was heard to say that he would "go part of the way, but not all the way," and was also heard to tell his sister-in-law to persuade his brother not to go up to town, that they would be disarmed if they got up there.  Gen. Bailey assisted in driving up their horses which they were to ride to town, but not having saddles a stop was made at a Mr. Brown's, a quarter of a mile distant, to procure them.  At that time one of the Pixleys asked Gen. Bailey to see that Mr. Brown's saddles were returned if they (Pixleys) should not return them, and receiving an affirmative answer the party started.  A few moments before this two ladies, Mrs. and Miss Bryan, had left Mr. Brown's to go home; they were about 60 yards in advance of Gen. Bailey and the Pixleys, who when last seen were near where the main road forks, one (on which the ladies were traveling) leading to Nevada, and the other obliquing to the left,--Gen. B. being a little ahead of the Pixleys.  Before riding far one of the ladies heard a pistol shot, but not suspecting that these men were under arrest and not knowing who they were, thought but little about the firing, and proceeded towards home, which was a mile from town.

   Only a portion of the citizens knew that Gen. Bailey had gone to arrest the Pixleys, but when inquiries were made for him Wednesday morning, and it was ascertained that he had not returned, a party at once proceeded to search for him.  Arriving at Mr. Brown's, and learning of the facts concerning the sheriff's departure with his prisoners from that place, information was immediately sent to town and a few minutes later 25 or 30 more persons were searching for the missing man.  The first party struck the trail at the forks of the road and followed the horse tracks and one footman's tracks down the left-hand road about half a mile to Scott's branch.  In the road near the stream blood was found, and further search revealed indications of the body's having been dragged through the brush some 10 rods to the bank of the creek.  The body of Gen. Bailey was found in 8 inches of water, and 50 yards distant his cap, with the warrant in it, was discovered, hidden in a hollow tree.  A coroner's jury was impaneled and a verdict rendered in accordance with the above facts, after which the body was taken into town, where it received every attention.

   The body of the murdered man was accompanied to his home in the southwestern part of the county by a party of ladies and gentlemen, and on Friday morning following the Masonic Lodge of Fort Scott received the body of its late member and interred it in the military graveyard in that city, with the honors of the order; it was afterwards removed to Evergreen Cemetery.

   On the reception of the news at Balltown the citizens of Little Osage township assembled and went in search of the Pixleys and their confederates.  In the forks of the Osage and Marmaton rivers lived three or four of their intimate friends, and John Eslinger and J. W. Williams were arrested on the night of March 28th.  After their arrest they were interrogated as to their knowledge of the whereabouts of the Pixleys, but each protested his ignorance of the commission of any crime and claimed he had heard or seen nothing of the Pixleys for over a week.  Eslinger was finally prevailed upon to tell what he knew concerning the murder.  He stated that on the night of the 26th Lewis and Perry Pixley came to Mrs. Doke's, where he was staying, and said they had killed Gen. Bailey that evening, and that they had swam the river a short time before and were very wet.  Breakfast was prepared for them and two hours before day they started to the Marmaton, and entering into a canoe which had previously been stolen by Tom Ingram and himself (Eslinger) started down the river.  Arrangements were made for Pixley's family to cross the river, and the following Monday all were to start for North Missouri.  Williams afterwards confessed and corroborated this statement.

   Tom Ingram was arrested Friday evening, but refused to make a confession, though he did remark that the Pixleys "made a raise of $250," the amount secured from Gen. Bailey.  Williams confessed that on Wednesday Tom Ingram came up to his house with one of Pixley's horses (one used when Bailey was killed) and wanted him (Williams) to take care of it; that afterwards he (Ingram) wanted him to take care of a gray horse (belonging to Bailey) and told him that the Pixleys had killed the sheriff and had gotten that horse of him.  He (Williams) refused to do so, when Tom Ingram turned the horse loose and it remained on the prairie until Williams' arrest.  At the time Ingram was arrested he was at the house where Pixley's family also were, endeavoring to execute the programme adopted by him and the Pixleys when they parted at the canoe, which was to have the family cross the Marmaton, then very high, preparatory to starting to North Missouri.  Eslinger and Williams after their arrest claimed that Ingram, who had secured the information direct from the Pixleys, knew more of the particulars of Gen. Bailey's murder than they did, they having been told of the affair by Ingram.  They did not know what amount of money was taken from the sheriff, only Ingram told Williams they "made a raise of $250."  The party that arrested these men brought Mrs. Doke and Ingram's wife to town at the same time.  After reaching Nevada Ingram remarked to one who demanded him to surrender that he had come nearer losing his life that night than he ever had; and that he had "the drop on him" or there were not enough men on that hill to arrest him.  The same day he had been at a house in the neighborhood and made the remark that the work (meaning Gen. Bailey's murder) had just commenced, and that a certain, giving his name, would be the next one to go.  Ingram was the husband of the woman, formerly the wife of notorious "Pony" Hill, the well known outlaw and bushwhacker during the war.

   After Ingram's incarceration he refused to state anything further; at his own request he was permitted to see his wife.  The same night he was taken out of the hands of the guards by a posse of men, supposed to be the vigilance committee.  The next morning his body was found hanging to a tree in the edge of the timber skirting the town; a coffin was provided by the citizens, a large number of men went to town from the country, and after the body had been placed in the coffin it was carried off and buried.

   A reward of $1,500 was immediately offered by the people for the arrest of the Pixleys, and this was supplemented by an offer of a similar amount on the part of the authorities, making $3,000 in all.  Following is a copy of the hand-bill and advertisement circulated by County-Attorney Birdseye:--


Murder -- $3,000 Reward!!!

   Whereas, The citizens of Vernon county have offered a reward of $1,500 for the apprehension of Lewis Pixley and Perry Pixley, the murderers of Gen. Joseph Bailey, sheriff of Vernon county, on the evening of March 26, I, John T. Birdseye, county attorney, on behalf of said county, offer an additional reward of $1,500 making the sum of $3,000, for the apprehension and delivery to the authorities of Vernon county the bodies of the said Pixleys, or one-half for either of them, or sufficient proof of their having been killed in attempting to arrest them.  Perry Pixley is 5 feet 8 inches high, weighs about 165 pounds, small, clear blue eyes, full face, lips compressed, light hair, very light thin whiskers, twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, and talks out one side of his mouth, which draws that side of his mouth down somewhat while talking.  Lewis Pixley bears a strong resemblance to Perry, but is larger and more rough; nose is rather large, bones of the face are large, about 5 feet 9 inches high, weights about 180 pounds, smooth face, light hair, twenty-five or twenty-six years old, and has a defect in one eye which gives it a slightly inflamed and watery appearance; was once shot in the left arm, from which cause he carries his left shoulder an inch or so lower than the right; was also wounded in the thigh, which causes a slight lameness.

          John T. Birdseye,

          Nevada City, Mo., March 27, 1867



   Gen. Joseph Bailey was born in the village of Pennsylvania, Ashtabula county, Ohio, May 6, 1825.  He was educated chiefly at Quincy, Ill., was married to Miss Mary Spaulding in 1846, and removed to Wisconsin the following year.  When the civil war broke out he resided at Kilbourn City, Wisconsin, engaged in lumbering and building railroad and other bridges, although he was by profession a civil engineer.  He raised a company of lumbermen and entered the Federal service as captain of Co. D, 4th Wisconsin infantry.  He was promoted to major in March, 1863, to lieutenant-colonel in June following, and June 10, 1864, for his service on the Red river campaign, he was made a brigadier-general and received a resolution of thanks from Congress.  It was he who, as every history of the war relates, constructed the wing dams at Alexandria, La., thus raising the water in Red river so that the large and valuable Federal fleet of gunboats and transports could pass over the rapids at that point.  But for Gen. Bailey, perhaps, every boat would either have been destroyed or fallen into the hands of the enemy.

   Gen. Bailey's services during the war were chiefly in the line of engineering, although he took part in the battles at Port Hudson, Baton Rouge, Grand Gulf, and in numerous skirmishes in Maryland and Louisiana.  He built Ft. Dix, in Maryland, a large fortification at New Orleans, and had charge of the Vicksburg cut-off.  He received the surrender of Ft. Morgan and its garrison at Mobile, and his last services were rendered in leading an expedition through Western Florida and from Mobile to Baton Rouge.  He resigned from the army July 7, 1865, and in October following settled in this county, on the farm in Harrison township where his widow still resides.  He had visited the locality in 1860, and then resolved to make it his future home.

   In politics Gen. Bailey was a firm Democrat, but personally popular with all parties.  Had he lived he would have become in 1868 the Democratic candidate for Congress in this district, and in time would have been chosen to high and responsible positions in the State and republic.  He was of great service to this county during the brief period he lived here, and his death was universally deplored

History of Vernon County, Missouri. St. Louis: Brown & Co. 1887. p. 350-355



General Joseph Bailey and Mary Bailey

Evergreen Cemetery, Fort Scott, Kansas


Photos by Nancy Thompson



The Finding of Old Papers Revives a Story

It Was One of the Sensations in Nevada's Early History

   Delving among the old records of his office, Circuit Clerk Diehr has found all the papers connected with the killing of Sheriff Joseph Bailey, which occurred March 27, 1867.

   There is a copy of the indictment, the verdict of the coroner’s jury, a list of the subscribers to the reward offered for the murderers, and the testimony taken in the case.

   “I remember it all very distinctly,” said A. R. Patterson.  “I came to Nevada about six weeks after Sheriff Bailey was killed and the community was still in perfect tumult about it.

   “Lewis and Perry Pixley were the men who did the killing.  They lived two or three miles northwest of town and the sheriff went out to arrest them for hog stealing.  They were desperate men, but Bailey was brave to recklessness.

   After their arrest they asked to keep their arms to protect themselves against a mob which they feared.  The request was granted.  When they reached the by-road which turned east a short distance north of what is now the Mitchell fruit farm, it is supposed the fatal shot was fired.  The ground there evidenced the prancing and wheeling of the horses.  The body was found over the hill in a little draw.

   “The Pixleys escaped and every one wondered then who it was that put them across the Marmaton.  The water was very high at that time and seriously interfered with pursuit.

   “Many years afterward it was learned that a sweetheart of one of the Pixley’s rowed them across the river.

   “A man named James Ingraham was accused of ferrying them over.  He was arrested and brought to town.  He was thoroughly reckless and after abusing his captors in very hastily selected and indiscreet language, he told them he had aided the Pixleys.  In truth, he had done so such thing.

   “Several of the citizens soon collected and took Ingraham away from his guard.  I do not think it was a very difficult task.  They carried him to a little frame out building a short distance from the present site of the Centenary church, and there hung him to a rafter until he was dead.

   “The house stood on the residence lot of Deputy Sheriff Shaw.  It was decided that it would make Mrs. Shaw nervous to know that a man had been hung in her summer kitchen, so they moved the body and strung it up on a black jack near the place where the Trinity church now stands.  They neglected to pull the rope hard enough, and the feet were left dragging on the ground. 

   “Sheriff Bailey’s body was found by John Birdseye, if I remember correctly.  His cap was sticking in the end of a hollow log and there was a bullet hole through it.  The ball had entered the back part of the sheriff’s head.

   The sheriff was stationed in this section of the state during the war.  He was the colonel of the third Wisconsin regiment.  A considerable number of his men settled here and at Ft. Scott after the war.”

   A copy of the testimony of John T. Birdseye is preserved among the papers in the office of the circuit clerk.  Rendered uneasy by the length of Sheriff Bailey’s stay, Mr. Birdseye and others went in search of him. 

   Starting from the point where the ground had been trampled by the horses, Mr. Birdseye followed the trail through the woods.  He first picked up a pocket-comb which he recognized as the property of the sheriff and a little further he discovered the body lying in a pool of water in a ravine.

   Other witnesses saw the sheriff in company with the Pixleys.

   A reward of $3,000 was offered for the murderers, $1,500 being offered by the county court and the remainder was made up by individual subscription.

   The Pixleys took $700 from the body of their victim and also took his horse which was a very fine animal.

   The memory of Sheriff Jose Bailey is commemorated in the name of the G. A. R. post at this place.

The Nevada Daily Mail, Nevada, Vernon Co., MO.  April 20, 1893




Return to Biographies A-B


Please contact the County Coordinator if you have family information or photos that can be displayed on this page.



Web hosting generously provided by 

© 2011-Present

Vernon Co, MO County Coordinator

Nancy Thompson