Joseph Degraftenried vs. Harvey T. McCune, et al – 1865-1866

Joseph Degraftenried lived in Looney Township in Polk County, Missouri working as a blacksmith and farmer. In August 1861, Degraftenried claimed Harvey T. McCune, George W. Messick, John Hagler, John Conley, Linsey Conley and Gransom Holden illegally imprisoned him and stole his gun. Degraftenried was subjected to a mock trial and detained for two days and one night by the group. He sued the men for five thousand dollars for damages in May 1865.

Due to the predominance of guerrilla warfare in region, many of the country court rooms were filled with civilian claims of restitution. McCune and Messick were cited in numerous court cases committing similar acts against civilians. Alvis Sheppard also sued McCune and Messick for five thousand dollars for falsely imprisoning him in August 1861. McCune and Messick were also indicted in a lawsuit for the burning of Bower’s Mill in Lawrence County, Missouri.

George W. Messick testified, denying the charges brought against him and the other defendants. He then, like the other court cases filed against him, requested a change of venue. His motion was granted and the trial was moved to Greene County, Missouri.
The rate of guerrilla warfare in the Ozarks indicates that it was a very lucrative business, with high payoffs and extreme danger. The damage guerrillas caused and the terror they spread plagued the civilians of the Ozarks for over ten years. This court case embodies the extreme nature of day-to-day living in the Ozarks during the Civil War, and the frequency of attacks by individual guerrillas. This case is very similar to another legal proceeding involving Messick and McCune and Alvis C. Sheppard of Lawrence County, Missouri. Sheppard also sued Messick and McCune for allegedly detaining him illegally and mistreating him.

Contributed by the Greene County Archives and Records Center

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  1. 1860 United States Federal Census; Census Place: Looney, Polk, Missouri; Roll: M653_641; Page: 130; Image: 130; Family History Library Film: 803641.