The Old Military Road


The Old Military Road


It is the 28th of April 1851. The rains have made the roads almost impassable for wheeled traffic, hence those gathered in the Gillispie farm home have come on horseback.. Angel “Angie” Gillispie is sick unto death and is about to make his last will and testament. His daughters, Mary J. and Margaret are here. Mary J., the 18 year old wife of Dr. C. C. Fuqua, arrived on a pillion behind the doctor. Margaret, 16 years old, bride of a few months, wife of the young merchant, William Lasley, who is keeping store in Old Clinton, has ridden side saddle. Marcus D. (“M. D.”) Blakey senior partner of the firm of Blakey & Lasley, has ridden out with Margaret at her husband’s request, along with Joseph T. Norton and David Heniger, to witness the will.

Angie will leave to William Lasley a house “in Clinton or Jonesburg”. He will leave legacies to “ C. C. Fuqua” to his son Evermont, aged 23 and mentally afflicted, also to his son “James” who has just attained his majority. The bulk of the estate will go to the wife Lucinda (Spencer) Gillispie, who will attend to the interests of the minor children.

They do not forsee that Margaret and William are founding a family which, in Shelbina, a town not yet in existence, will still be merchants well over 100 years. Nor do they dream that “son James”, now a young bachelor, will produce a daughter who will marry the yet as unborn son of the witness, M. D. Blakey, and his wife Patsy Julia Buckner Blakey.

But sine this is about “the Road”, I am getting ahead of my story. The “ Old Military Road” begins at Palmyra. Someone may say, “But, I though all roads in Northeast Missouri lead to Hannibal. That’s true, but the road from Palmyra to Hannibal was cut through before the Old Military Road was authorized.

At the top of the hill, where Palmyra Avenue ends and “the road” begins stands Morgan’s Tavern. John Morgan is a descendant of General Morgan of Revolutionary fame, in whose regiment of sharp shooters, John Austin, father of  John Frazier Austin of Ralls County and grandfather of John Sanford Austin of Monroe County, marched and fought. And it was a long march from Virginia to New York, where they persuaded the British General Burgoyne to surrender and back south to North Carolina, then to Virginia again. And George Blakey after crossing the Delaware River with General Washington and helping in the taking of Trenton and Princeton, also joined the regiment. For defeating a superior force of the English in the battle of Cowpens, in N. C., in 1781, Congress voted General Morgan a gold medal. The general would have been the first to say but for the bravery and discipline of his men, it could never have been done. John Austin died, only a few years ago, in 1845, in Oldham Co., Ky., aged 109 years and George Blakey, aged 93, died three years earlier in Logan Co., Kentucky.

At Morgan’s Tavern, three roads meet, the road to Hannibal the earliest; the road to Shelbyville and on through the county seats to the west; and the old military road, cut through about 1835. Starting at Palmyra, it traverses Monroe, Randolph and Howard Counties; crosses the Missouri River at Boonville; runs thru Cooper, Pettis and Benton Counties; crossing the Osage at Warsaw, thence south through Springfield, Mo., Fayetteville and Ft. Smith, Ark., to Texas.

Several Blakeys and Blakey descendants settled at the northern end of the road. Wm Blakey and his son Granville were at Palmyra with their families. Churchill Blakey, possibly William’s brother was an 1824 land owner in Lewis County. The Robert Stockton Garnett family was in Lewis Co. He was the grandson of Catherine (Blakey) Stockton of Barren Co., Ky. William was the uncle of Marcus D.

Two stage coaches, drawn by four horses each, ply between Hannibal and Paris, one going each way every day. When the daily coach reaches the top of the hill, a large horn in Morgan’s Tavern announces the approach and a general turning out of the population of the Avenue follows.

The farmers up in Monroe County use the road to drive their stock to market. In those days, hogs, cattle and even turkeys are walked to market. Along the road to the river, inns are available for overnight stops. One of these is at Dr. Bush’s farm and Dr. Bush states that he has seen as many as 1,000 turkeys resting on the rail fence around the house and barn. Arriving at the river with hogs, some may be sold to the pork packing plant in Hannibal, salted down and sent south. Others may be loaded on the bottom deck of a boat, giving the farmer a trip to St. Louis to sell the stock. This is a real event. On the way down, farmers who have stock on ship, build a poll lot near the river, hail the boat when it comes and load. On the way back, when he leaves the river, the farmer will walk and stop for the night at the inn. Until the Hannibal & St. Joe RR is built in 1856, all freight and passengers to and from the north, east and south will come and go by steamboat. Traffic to the east and west is and will be by wagon and on foot.

The country merchant, and until he sold his store Blakey & Lasley, this includes William Blakey, drives to Hannibal twice each year and boards a boat to St. Louis. There he purchases a six months stock of provisions, which he ships to a forwarding firm in Hannibal. This firm stores the provisions until the country roads are in good condition for hauling. A clerk in one of these forwarding firms says it is not uncommon to load 250 wagons in a single day. However, the movement of goods is not all in one direction. The wagons came into town loaded with bacon, honey wheat, hides and homemade linsey, which the country merchants have taken in trade, and return with the provisions shipped from St. Louis.

When Joel Maupin took the 1850 census of Monroe Co., he listed in the same household with Marcus D. and Patsy Blakey with their two daughters, Ellen and Mary (the latter only one month old) the name of Joseph Angel, aged 19 born in MO. Occupation Stage drive. So on these semi-annual trips to St. Louis, there seems little doubt that the traveling members of the firm of Blakey & Lasley rides with their young friend Joseph Angel at times.

The end of an era approaches, however. The first mile of railroad track in Missouri will be laid next year (1852). In the next decade many miles of track will be laid and town of Shelbina will be born, appearing as the name of a stop on the Hannibal & St. Joe RR., hence the importance of the old military will begin to diminish.

However, ten years hence, in Sept. 1861, when Colonel Williams, with the federal troops from Iowa and Kansas, advance from Shelbina in an attempt to seize the specie (money) in the Bank of Paris, the road will seem important to the colonel. The Populace, including Grandpa Austin, strongly sympathizing with the Confederate cause, and doubtful of the protective force which Col. Martin E. Green has to oppose him. The federal retreat from Paris to Shelbina without the money they came to seize will not be by the direct routes but along the old military road to Old Clinton, thus doubling the length of the journey. The Kansas commander will have told his men the money in the bank is to furnish their pay. So, who will blame the populace for their doubts? The next day the confederates will besiege the federals in Shelbina, who will then retreat by train to Brookfield after receiving about 30 shots from the two confederate cannon, one six pounder and one nine pounder, the Federal cavalry riding on the right or safe side of the train.

The burning of the railroad bridge over Salt River, in an attempt to bottle up the Federals in Shelbina, will furnish the reason for the General (then Colonel) N. S. Grant’s services in Shelby county. He will be sent to guard the workman rebuilding it. It is here in Shelby and Monroe Counties that he will learn a lesson which he himself will say stands him in good stead.

Ordered to dislodge Harris’ Division, he will steadfastly approach the task but with much trepidation. When he arrives at the suspected place of combat, he will find the Confederates gone. As he will later state it: “I’ll admit I was suffering from stage fright when we went up that hill, but it never occurred to me till then that Harris might be suffering from the same disease. When going into battle I try to remember that the enemy might be as much afraid of me as I am of him.”

Other Blakeys and Blakey connections are served by the road. Here in Monroe County we find George Madison and Malinda (Miner) Buckner, together with his brother, also Robert Thornton and Ann (Sidener) Smith who are allies with the Williams and as well as the Blakeys. Some years ago J. C. Fox, who took, as his second wife, Mildred (Buckner) Caldwell, widowed sister of Patsy Blakey, gave a considerable tract of land, on which a part of the city of Paris is located, to which city Marcus and Patsy Blakey will shortly move. Here also will come from Virginia, Wm. Dewitt Blakey, son of Marcus sister Catherine, who married her 2nd cousin, Dr. Yelverton C. Blakey. Wm. Dewitt Blakey will marry Peter Blakey’s niece, step daughter of J. C. Fox. Here also are the Austins and Kippers.

Included among the latter a few years ago, was the Revolutionary soldier John Kippers, whose three saber wounds on the head and two bayonet wounds, one on the left shoulder and other on the right hip, testifies to valiant service in the battle of the Waxhaws, in South Carolina, when the British Colonel Tarleton defeated the American Colonel Buford.  Later Kipper generations seem to have have dropped the final “e”. John Austin, having united in marriage with Nanie Elizabeth Kipper, the couple will furnish a wife to Fred Blakey, as yet an unborn son of Marcus and Patsy. Other Blakey children will take unto themselves wives or husbands from Monroe and Shelby Counties, in the next 100 years, named Crow, Rodes, Curtright, Buerk, Speed and Daniel, until one of them will say to a former resident of Monroe County, not far away, “stick around for a while and well work up a relationship, for if you are from Monroe County, surely we are kin to each other.”

Further along the road, in Howard county, John M. Blakey, grandson of John and Sarah (Cowherd) Blakey of Madison Co., Va., lived and died in 1844. His son, R. W. “Dr. Dick” Blakey will become a physician in this county. Here Dr. W. c. Harvey will marry Dr. Dick’s sister Leah, settle at Teanoke and hearing of the Blakeys of Monroe Co., will invite W. B. Blakey’s Ellen and W. D. Blakey’s daughter, Carrie to visit them. Here Ellen will meet the doctor’s brother, Benjamin P. Harvey and Carrie will meet Clyde Canfield, the man each will, eventually marry.

Across the Missouri River, where the road traverses Benton co., we find the physician Robert O. and Harriet (Neal) Blakey, the latter the aunt of the future President, Grover Cleveland, the former believe but as not yet proved to be the brother of John M. Blakey of Howard county. Here too is James M. Blakey, first cousin of the father of Marcus D. He was Public Administrator in 1844. He and his wife Nancy (Branham) Blakey came to Benton Co., Mo., from Madison Co., VA via Bowling Green, Ky., where he represented Warren Co., in the Kentucky Legislature in 1820. His son, Col. A. C. Blakey will represent Benton Co. in the Mo. Legislature 1854 and again in 1856. He will be mayor of Pleasant Hill, Mo., Division Inspector of the 5th Mo. Militia Dist., and Consul to Chile (1858-60). Other sons of James M. Blakey will shortly lay out the town of Cole Camp and establish a store there where the road crosses Cole Camp Creek. They will use the Old Military Road to haul provisions, shipped from St. Louis, up the Missouri and Osage Rivers, to Warsaw, just as do their cousins in Monroe county.

But disaster also came along the road. On June 6, 1849, another James Blakey returned to Warsaw from a trip south with a herd of horses and died the next day of cholera. Among others who died of cholera was Mr. Blakey’s child, his sister, Mrs. Major, probably the widow of Bert F. Major, State Senator from Benton Co. It is of interest that on page 70 of Ray’s “Memoirs”, he reports meeting a distant cousin by the name of Major or Majors, when on his way to Warrensburg.

Further north where the road traverses Green Co., at Springield, is Whitsitt Balkey, thrice elected Judge Judge of the County Court; to become the ancestor of the Blakeys of Green Co., Mo. These in Grayson, Co, Tex some of whom will be found in Oklahoma City in 1963. All of these descendants from that Revolutionary soldier, George Blakey, previously mentioned.

Still further south at Fayetteville, where the road traverses Ark. Are Johnathan and Martha Angeline (Skelton) Osburn, together with several of their brothers and sisters. They will produce a daughter to become the wife of Marcus D. Blakey’s grandson, Bernard. They arrived via the Arkansas river to Ft. Smith, where the notorious “Hanging Judge” neither Blakey nor Osburn disperses his so-called justice. Thence they traveled via the Old Military Road to Fayetteville. They will be buried above the road, on Boston Mountain at Sunset, Ark.

A hundred years later Blakey and Osburn descendants, via TV will watch Mr. Faber and Wishbone drive cattle along the Old Military Road, which the cattlemen call “The Sedalia Trail” after the railroad reached Sedalia.

There the road traverses the Northwestern part of Texas. Blakeys from Georgia and Balkeys from Kentucky, but originally from Virginia, have settled. One of them lost his life in the Battle on San Jacinto.

So, like beads on a necklace, Blakeys and Blakey descendants are struggling along the Old Military road, out by the United States Government, and became the chief route of travel from the upper Mississippi Valley to Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. It was regularly located and cut out to legal width under the authority of an act dated 7 March 1855. 

Source: Blakey Family “Round Robin”