State of Missouri vs. James Hamilton-1866

Elisha Estes and his family lived in Newton County, Missouri before the war. Elisha and his wife, Elizabeth had two children Henry and Mary. Martha Estes, presumably Elisha’s mother, also lived with the family. Elisha owned $4,000 worth of land, which he worked as a farmer. During the war Newton County was subject to extensive guerrilla warfare. Both armies came to Granby for lead to make ammunition. The “Neosho Company” was organized in October, 1860, and later joined the Missouri State Guard under Captain Henderson Jennings. Newton County residents were divided between the Confederacy and the Union, though there were few abolitionists in the area. The County saw several battles which resulted in a vast depopulation of the area and destruction of Newtonia.

Estes claimed that in August 1863 James Hamilton, also a resident of Newton County, came to his home and the home of James Kelly and stole a large quantity of personal property. He listed 100 lbs of wool, a set of blacksmith tools, ten head of cattle, a set of plow gears, and a pair of stretchers taken from the two estates. Estes and Kelly asked for $467.50 in compensation for the lost property.

The reasoning behind the theft is unknown, as is the verdict of the case. After his property was stolen Estes joined the 45th Missouri Infantry, a Union regiment. Differences in political loyalties could have caused Hamilton to steal the property, but more research is required to draw any further conclusion. This case represents the various types of depredation committed throughout the region and how civilians were left to recover their losses. Due to the vicious nature and predominance of the guerrilla warfare in Missouri, many county court rooms were filled with civilian claims of restitution in the post-war years.

Contributed by the Greene County Archives and Records Center

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