Maj. Samuel P. Cox — A County Legend

The adventures of Major S.P. Cox (1828-1913) read like a history of our nation including the westward movement, the Mexican War, the West’s early Indian wars, the California gold rush, the Civil War, and the exploits the notorious outlaws Frank & Jesse James.

The adventures of Major S.P. Cox (1828-1913) read like a history of our nation including the westward movement, the Mexican War, the West’s early Indian wars, the California gold rush, the Civil War, and the exploits the notorious outlaws Frank & Jesse James.

Samuel Cox of Gallatin, MO

Samuel Cox was born on Dec. 16, 1828, at Williamsburg in Whitley County, KY. He moved to Daviess County, MO, in 1839 with his father, Franklin Cox. The family settled in the southeastern part of the county near the old Ames Saw Mill and Trosper Lake.

Enlisting in the U.S. Army at age 19, Cox was among the Missouri volunteers ordered to help develop the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail and to protect the Santa Fe Trail. In 1848 he helped complete Fort Kearney, located on the south side of the Platte River in what later became Nebraska.

Cox settled in Gallatin, MO, in 1850, married and worked four years in the mercantile business. Then, with oxen and cattle, he moved his family to Oroville, CA, to work as a teamster for gold diggers. The family prospered but yearned to return to Missouri. So, they sold out and went to San Francisco where they were attracted to a steam ship voyage, a route with Baltimore as a destination by way of Nicaragua. The family survived a shipwreck near Key West, FL.

In 1859 Cox drew national newspaper publicity for an extraordinary feat. While delivering Army dispatches, Cox covered over 1200 miles in 30 days by mule! His trek from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Nebraska City, NE, included one leg of 125 miles without a stop to avoid hostile Sioux warriors led by Red Cloud. Cox’s feat compares favorably against horseback rides in relay and he was a lone rider without companions or support, other than two good mules.

Cox was among the first to publicly declare for the Union soon after the start of the Civil War in 1861. He promptly recruited and commanded “Cox’s Battalion.” He fought guerrillas at Kirksville (Adair County), Lee’s Ford (Chariton County), and Union Mills (Platte County).

Daviess County Savings Association, located on the southwest corner of the Gallatin business square

After the war, the infamous James Gang robbery of the Daviess County Savings Association occurred on Dec. 7, 1869. The murder of cashier John Sheets vaulted Frank and Jesse James onto the wanted list for the very first time and marked the beginning of an assault against law and order of international interest. Samuel P. Cox was a central player in the outlaws’ early plot.

Inscription on the ceremonial saber presented to Lt. Col. Samuel P. Cox of St. Joseph reads: “Presented to Lt. Col. Samuel P. Cox, 33 Inf. Missouri militia, from the Citizens of Gallatin, Mo., Dec. 25, 1864”
Daviess County Historical Society acquired a ceremonial saber and pistol in May, 1992. The saber was given in gratitude for his wartime services. The pistol is a Remington .44 six-shot U.S. Army revolver, authentic and thought to be used by Cox although not of a quality to interest gun collectors. The Remington is from an estimated quantity of 132,000 issued between 1803 and 1875, and was considered the stiffest competitor to Colt’s Model 1860 Army revolver. A leather holster complete with brass Army buckle was also acquired. (Cox obituary, published August, 1913, in the Gallatin Democrat)

Union Major Samuel P. Cox gained widespread fame when he was credited with the killing of William “Bloody Bill” Anderson on Oct. 27, 1864, near Richmond, MO. The City of St. Joseph presented Cox with a ceremonial sword for killing the notorious guerrilla chief (accused of killing 54 Union men). Few knew Major Cox was actually protecting a bugler under his command, Adolph Vogel, who in all probability pulled the trigger that sent Bloody Bill to his death. Vogel was a young family man, mindful of revenge sworn by Jesse James and other guerrillas against whomever killed their leader. So, as commanding officer, Major Cox assumed that personal risk for years after the Civil War …a risk that became bloody reality when the James brothers later robbed the savings association in Gallatin.

Artist’s concept of the shooting of Capt. John Sheets

Jesse James swore he would avenge the death of Wm. “Bloody Bill” Anderson whenever he next saw Samuel P. Cox. Thus, during the 1869 robbery of the Daviess County Savings Association, John W. Sheets was an unfortunate victim of circumstance when Jesse James mistook him for Samuel Cox. A horse used during the robbery and murder linked Jesse James to the crime. The Governor of Missouri soon offered a bounty for the capture of the outlaw. This was the first time Jesse James was publicly wanted by the law, the start of a 12-year crime spree.

Ironically, a James Gang member, Clelland Miller, was a friend to Cox and actually saved the Major’s life during the Civil War.

The case can be made for Samuel Cox to top our list of military leaders from Daviess County. His escapades and achievements need no embellishment.

In 1862 Major Cox served the county as recorder and circuit clerk. In 1874 he was collector for Union Township.

If Cox wasn’t particularly interested in business, he certainly knew how to pick business partners. Local records show a mercantile business at the southeast corner of the Gallatin square called Ballinger, Cox & Kemper. It operated a little more than a year, long enough for the birth of William T. Kemper. The Kemper family fortune became one of Kansas City’s largest. The family controls one of Missouri’s largest financial institutions, United Missouri Bank of Kansas City, and the Kemper name is lavished on Kansas City’s civic arena. By the way, the real estate for the business in Gallatin was purchased by the three partners for $1,500. Evidently, business was good. Partner John Ballinger later purchased Kemper’s interest for $1,250.

Samuel P. Cox died on Aug. 21, 1913, a man who lived history in legendary fashion. He is buried at Brown Cemetery, on the north side of Gallatin.

— written by Darryl Wilkinson, Gallatin North Missourian editor & publisher

Adolph Vogel — The slayer of Bloody Bill Anderson

Adolph Vogel, Civil war veteran to whom the death of “Bill” Anderson, noted guerilla, is attributed by those most familiar with the circumstances, died of heart disease Monday of last week at his home north of Jameson. He was a brother-in-law of James Nelson of Bethany, and was 85 years old.

Adolph Vogel, Civil war veteran to whom the death of Wm “Bloody Bill” Anderson, noted guerrilla, is attributed by those most familiar with the circumstances, died of heart disease Monday of last week at his home north of Jameson, MO. He was a brother-in-law of James Nelson of Bethany, and was 85 years old.

Mr. Vogel had been in poor health for some time, but had been able to up and about the house. He was out in the yard at his home when stricken, and was found a few minutes before he died.

A little more than three years ago it came to public light that the Daviess County man probably was the one who shot as a soldier among Missouri troops during the Civil war was the one which brought the death of Anderson, the guerrilla, and the perpetrator of the Centralia Massacre. Until that time, the fact was known only to members of his family and a few others.

Then, and presumably now, papers taken from the body of the guerrilla when he was killed reposed in Mr. Vogel’s safety deposit box at a Coffey bank,, and the flashy hat which Anderson wore when he was killed was given only a few year ago by Mr. Vogel to a sister, who also lives In Daviess County.

Although Samuel Cox was widely acclaimed for the slaying of Bushwacker “Bloody Bill” Anderson, the bullet that actually killed the Confederate guerrilla probably came from the gun of Adolph Vogel.

It is possible that the fact Mr. Vogel fired the shot that killed Anderson was kept quiet for fear of revenge on the part of Anderson’s friends, among whom were the James boys and the Youngers. Publicly, the killing was attributed to Major Cox of Gallatin, and Captain Sheets of that town was slain presumably by members of the James gang in mistaken identity for Major Cox; the story goes, Vogel was a member Major Cox’s command. Missouri guerrillas held an intense hatred for Germans who fought in the Union army, anyhow, in the belief that the Civil war was not in any sense their fight.

In the late summer of 1924, however, it came to public notice that it was Mr. Vogel who, in all probability, fired the shot that brought Bill Anderson’s end. It came about through the claim of a man at Brownwood, Texas, that he was Bill Anderson; that he had escaped the warring scenes of Missouri of that day, gone to Texas and lived quietly while the public believed him to be dead. His claim was proved false not only by Vogel’s discourses, but also by the fact that the real Bill Anderson would have been much older than the Texas man.

The claim of the Texas man was refuted after Mr. Vogel had told his story to the editor of the Republican, and it was sent out to many newspapers up and down the Mississippi valley and printed by them. Until that time the Texan was getting lots of publicity.

William T. Anderson (1840 – Oct. 26, 1864) — known as “Bloody Bill” Anderson — was one of the deadliest and most brutal pro-Confederate guerrilla leaders in the American Civil War. Anderson led a band that targeted Union loyalists and Federal soldiers in Missouri and Kansas. He was killed in a Union ambush near Richmond, MO.

Mr. Vogel would not say he was the man who actually killed Anderson in battle, but made this statement: “It is likely that I was the man who killed him, but you can’t be about such things when they happen in a fight of that kind.”

His story of the affair is as follows:

“It happened south of Richmond, Mo., in some heavily timbered bottom land. I was in the Missouri militia, and we were hunting a force of men who were said to be commanded by Anderson. I was under Major Cox of Gallatin.

“We found out that the other fel1ows were near, and we got off our horses and left them behind our lines. You know the guerrillas had always had always attacked the militia when they were on horses and because the horses were not used to gunfire they would stampede, and their riders would be routed. I suspect that is what would have happened to us if we had not known the fight was about to happen. There were not more than a few hundred men on a side.

“The fight didn’t last very long. As I was a bugler, I was the only other man in our battalion, besides Major Cox, who was horseback. We were attacked, but, kept our ground, and in a little bit the other fe1lows were running, routed.

“I saw the body of a man in front at me who looked like he was an officer. He was dressed well, and in his big wide brimmed hat there was a long feather.

“I told Major Cox about him, an he ordered me to take everything off him. We took his pistols, his hat and papers he had on him that told who he was. The hat was just what I wanted and I took it.”

That it actually was Anderson who was killed at that time is shown by the word of a man who now lives at Bethany, but whose family lived near the scene of the fight. They knew the guerrilla by sight, saw him the evening before he was killed, and knew how he was dressed.

Mr. Vogel was born in Germany, but I came to the United States when three years old. He is survived by widow, and 1 daughter — Bethany Republican.

— Taken from the Gallatin Democrat, 1927; researched by Ron McNeely