Archive for Friday, February 13, 1998


February 13, 1998


A man from St. Joseph, Mo., spoke Thursday about his own family's history regarding the Kansas-Missouri border skirmishes during the Civil War.

When Joe Houts thinks of William Quantrill's raid on Lawrence in 1863, he has mixed feelings.

Houts had known he had relatives who were on both sides of the Civil War -- but he recently found documents indicating three ancestors rode with the notorious Confederate guerrilla.

``I have a strong feeling they were on the raid in Lawrence,'' said Houts, a St. Joseph, Mo., banker and attorney.

Houts spoke Thursday at the Commerce Bank's Senior Partners' Valentine Luncheon. About 65 people attended the event, which was held at the Alvamar Country Club in west Lawrence.

Houts, a history buff, said his suspicions were raised while going through some papers in his father's attic two years ago.

That's when he found documents revealing three of his great-great-great uncles had been ``border ruffians'' during the Civil War on the Confederate side.

Houts started to leave the attic, then came across a neatly folded sheet of paper that contained a double-column list of names.

Opening it, he found Quantrill's name headed the top of the list. And three of Houts' relatives names were on the list.

``A chill went down my spine,'' Houts said.

Feeling he had made an important discovery, Houts contacted historians about the paper and determined it to be authentic.

Houts has since been researching his relatives and is in the process of getting a book published. He said six of his ancestors fought on the Union side and five on the Confederate side.

Houts said his own personal research on Quantrill revealed that Quantrill was ``a real assortment of contradictions.''

Quantrill was a natural leader, articulate, cool under pressure and ordered his troops not to harm women.

However, writings about his boyhood showed he had a streak of cruelty, such as nailing snakes to trees and torturing cats, Houts said.

Quantrill's father was caught embezzling and sought revenge against those who turned him in, Houts said. Quantrill also had an uncle who was a pirate, a drunkard and a murderer, Houts said.

The boyhood streak of cruelty and possible inherited tendencies toward vengeance and murder may explain Quantrill's actions, Houts said.

Houts said historians think that some 650 people rode with Quantrill during the Civil War period. That included several hundred who took part in the Aug. 21, 1863, raid on Lawrence, killing 134 men.

Many of those who took part had joined the Confederacy because they felt like the Union was taking away their property, their liberty and their lives, Houts said.

``You've got to understand that many of the guerrillas were farm boys,'' he said, ``...and not psychopaths.''

-- Dave Toplikar's phone message number is 832-7151. His e-mail address is

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