State of Missouri vs. Evaline Roberts-1866

Evaline Roberts was born in Arkansas in 1843 and lived with her family in White River in Barry County, Missouri in 1860. After the war she lived in Greene County, and in 1866 she was accused of teaching school without taking the Oath of Loyalty. The Oath of Loyalty was a heavily debated component of the 1865 Missouri Constitution, and part of a movement in Missouri to disfranchisement of anyone with questionable loyalties to the Union.

On January 11, 1865, the Missouri state convention, meeting in St. Louis, and debated passage of a new state constitution. Emancipation, Negro suffrage, and Charles Drake’s proposed “iron-clad oath” were the core issues at the convention. The oath required individuals to attest to his/her innocence of eighty-six acts of disloyalty against the state of Missouri and the Union. These acts ranged from providing money, goods, or intelligence to the enemy; to taking up arms; participating in guerrilla warfare, aiding or abetting guerrillas. Even expressing general sympathy towards the South, or specific individuals that fought for the Southern cause, would be seen as acts of disloyalty. Failing to take this oath would prevent one from voting, holding a public office, and from holding professional licenses such as lawyers, teachers, clergy, and other influential positions.

It is unknown if Roberts refused or failed to take the oath, which was seen as an automatic admission of guilt. The guilty party could be fined or imprisoned. Robert’s southern background and her failure to take the oath before she began teaching probably looked suspicious to government officials. The final verdict of the case is unknown, but the case represents the hard political backlash the war had on civilians in Missouri.

Contributed by the Greene County Archives and Records Center

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