Kevin Culton brings the notorious outlaw to
Big River Chautauqua
By K. JENKINS Daily Journal Staff Writer | Published Wednesday, July
Local resident Kevin Culton says he hopes to bring the spirit of Confederate Maj. Sam
Hildebrand alive at pre-shows hell be headlining each evening at 6:30
p.m., at the 17th annual Big River Chautauqua.
The popular event which has as this years theme, Civil War: The Front
Line, will be taking place Thursday through Saturday, under a big tent set up
each year behind Bonne Terre City Hall at Bonne Terre, Missouri. .
Nicknamed The Big River Bushwhacker, Hildebrand is known as southeast
Missouris most notorious outlaw. Culton, an avid Civil War buff and reenactor, said
he feels a special kinship with Hildebrand because for six years he lived on what was once
the Confederate officers Bonne Terre farm.
I leased the farm from Sams great-nephew, Bill Harper, after leaving the
service in 1990, explained Culton, who said he often enjoyed having long talks with
the elderly man about Hildebrand.
Sam Hildebrand Home North of Bonne Terre, Missouri.
Sam was born into the family of Rebecca McKee and George Hildebrand on Jan. 6, 1836.
The 1850 St. Francois County census lists the couple as having nine children:
Richard, George, Elvira, Samuel, William, James, Mary, Henry and Margaret.
Culton says that Sam only attended school one day and, so, had virtually no education.
He was; however, an excellent marksman and worked hard on the family farm, alongside his
Trouble brewed when Sam and his brother, Frank, got in trouble over a horse swapping
deal in which the animal had apparently been stolen. When the Civil War began in 1861,
Frank traveled to Potosi where he enlisted in the Union Army Home Guards. It was then that
Capt. Castleman turned Frank over to Firmin McIlvaine and his group of vigilantes. Frank
was eventually taken by McIlvaines men to Ste. Genevieve County where, without
benefit of a trial, he was hanged and his body thrown into a sinkhole where it was not
found until more than a month later.
In June, 1862, Sam avenged his brothers death when he shot and killed both George
Cornicius and Firmin McIlvaine.
The Federal Army took revenge on Sam's family in July 1862 for the killing of Cornicius
and McIlvaine. Sam's widowed and aged mother was forced from the Hildebrand homestead
which was then burned to the ground. Sam's brother and his sister's fiancÚ were literally
shot to pieces by a whole company of federal soldiers. Sam's uncle and 13-year-old
brother were also shot to death.
When Sam joined the Confederate Army he became a rebel soldier/guerilla who
was greatly feared throughout southeast Missouri. He began a reign of killings and terror
that continued throughout the war and only ending with Sam's death in 1872.
Sam killed many people with his high caliber rifle, which he named "Kill
Devil." Culton said that for every person the outlaw killed with his rifle, he carved
a notch in the rifle stock. It is said that, at Sams death,
"Kill-Devil" had over 80 notches carved in it.
Culton, who has appeared in numerous cable Civil War documentaries for the likes of
Disney, A&E, and the History and Discovery channels as well as three Hollywood
movies said he's excited about being able to relate Hildebrands unique story
in a way that brings it to life for the audience.
On Thursday evening, he will speak about Hildebrand during the pre-war era, on Friday
night about his exploits during the war and on Saturday evening, about Hildebrands
life after the war.