Ed. Note: Although the title of this article suggests it is intended primarily for Jackson Co, MO researchers, the author has provided his readers with great insight into the policies and politics of post-Civil War Missouri.

Background: James H. Combs was the s/o Evan Ennis and Mary Sydnor HINDE Combs, and gs/o Cuthbert & Sarah EVANS Combs, Sr. He was named in the 1848-9 Lafayette Co, MO will of his father, and in 1850 is found in Montgomery Co, KY in the census household of his sister, Mary Ann Combs Caldwell. According to the Edna F. Hightower Collection, James "married a MARSHALL of Lexington [Fayette Co], Kentucky."



In 1866 there were thirteen Missouri House races and three Senate elections which were bitterly contested for allegations of irregularities. This was not a random occurrence. Between 1865 and 1870 the "Radical Unionist government in Missouri is remembered as an extremely divisive and trying time in the…State's history" (Seyffert, p. 18). By the conclusion of the Civil War the election process had been essentially reduced to that of a one-party system, founded upon Republican Rule. "The Whigs had disbanded during the prior decade, and Missouri Democrats, being the party of many secessionists, had quickly disappeared from the scene with the military triumph of the Union in the State. By mid-war, the individual secessionists had been largely disfranchised" (Seyffert, p. 18). All Democrats, and former Whigs loyal to the Union were forced into a collision behind the Unionists.

The Missouri Unionist government soon was divided over the issue of the emancipation of the slaves. Those individuals that supported the concept of a gradual freeing of slaves were know as the Conservatives. Those Unionists favoring the immediate freedom of slaves were called the Radicals. This division was not unique to Missouri, and was also a divisive point at the national level.

Since the Unionists were in power at the State level, they conducted a number of political maneuvers to increase their control of the government. Two such tactics were to force voters to take loyalty oaths, and disfranchise anyone who opposed their view. The Radicals were quick to find it to their advantage to disqualify any and all Conservative voters. In 1865 a lengthy list of voter disqualifications were passed by the State legislature, most of them relating to actions and attitudes during the Civil War.

Located in a very historic area of Missouri is Fort Osage Township. This township is located on the Missouri River flood plain, in Jackson County, Missouri. It is the site of the construction of an 1808 American militia built fort, called Fort Osage. Fort Osage was intended as a citadel for the opening of the great American West. The Fort was also to function as a trading post for the Osage Nation. It was the first Outpost of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. Fort Osage was abandoned in 1827, and was the site where the small town called Sibley originated. Fort Osage did not have any impact on the 1866 Missouri elections, but it does demonstrate the strategic value of the location. The land is fertile and it is accessible to the Missouri River. This location enables the control of the water and land routes in the area. If the site was desirable in 1808, it makes since that it would also be a strategic point during the Civil War. In fact there are several accounts where Confederate guerrilla units are claimed to be quartered in Jackson County, Missouri; as well as in the Sniabar Creek timber in Lafayette County (Brownlee, p. 209 ).

"Wild Bill (William "Bloody Bill" ANDERSON) and three or four other bushwhackers, robbed the mail about three miles below Richfield on Monday last. The military of our country immediately went in pursuit, and had a "scrimmage," which resulted in wounding one of the bushwhackers, and one of the militia in the hand. The bushwhackers retreated back into Jackson County… headquarters of bushwhackers in Missouri" (Liberty Tribune, p. 3).

In a text titled "Branded as Rebels, Moses McCoy "…in 1863…was custodian of one of Quantrill's camps in the Missouri River Bluffs three miles from Sibley", Missouri (Eakin & Hale, p. 292).

Sidney S. NEELEY was appointed as an officer of registration for Fort Osage Township. He stated that he diligently inquired and satisfied himself that there were 121 qualified voters and eleven that had to be rejected by the officer of registration (24th General Assembly, p.210). "Before I began the registration of voters, (William H.) RODEWARD gave me the names of a few persons as being disqualified as voters, which names I rejected when application was made by those persons for registration as voters" (24th General Assembly, p. 217).

On the list of rejected voters is the name "J. H. Combs" (24th General Assembly, p. 211). But the real irony of the situation was that the entire vote of Fort Osage Township was cast out by the clerk of the County Court. The reason stated was that the votes were illegal due to fraudulent registrations by Sidney S. NEELY. "I replied to RODEWARD that I had no evidence against any person registered as a qualified voter" (24th General Assembly, p. 217).

The Board of Appeals and Revision met on 23 OCT 1866 and also threw out the election returns for Fort Osage Township. The Board stated that they were "of the opinion that the officer of registration for election district number 2, being township of Fort Osage, had not done his duty" (24th General Assembly, p. 213). The Conservative candidate was Milton J. PAYNE, and the Radical opponent was Minor T. GRAHAM. The results of the election was 1,460 for PAYNE and 1,463 for GRAHAM. The rejection of the Fort Osage returns had changed the outcome of the election, since Fort Osage Township had cast 108 votes for PAYNE and 2 votes for GRAHAM (24th General Assembly, p. 209).

Milton PAYNE contested the election and the right of Minor T. GRAHAM to a seat as a member of the Senate of the Twenty-fourth General Assembly of the State of Missouri. An investigation was conducted and a number of depositions were taken from individuals from the Fort Osage Township. The main charge against the Fort Osage Township voter registration was that a number of those who were listed as qualified voters in fact had committed acts which were outlined in the third section of the second article of the Constitution of the State of Missouri. The following are some of the testimonies which were given against individuals in Fort Osage Township:

Henry DONEHUE - kept ranch for bushwhackers and associated with them.

John H. PETTY - has said to witness that secesh was his religion.

J. T. SILLARD - was imprisoned for rebellious acts and sympathizing.

Jessee MORROW - he said that Uncle Sam had as good a right and deserved to be whipped.

Joel E. HUDSPETH - went to Texas with his property - mules and Negroes - about the year 1862, during the Civil War

Samuel J. CHILES - went to Texas and sympathizing.

A. G. STEELE - helped raise the secesh (Confederate) flag in Sibley.

Joseph BUGBY - laid in the brush and gave himself up as a rebel to the Second Colorado Regiment, USA.

John H. SANDERS - he said that they had the Federals whipped and that the South would raise the black flag and finish it. He also was reported as stating that he would, if he could, cut all the Federal soldiers' throats.

Noel COLSON - never pretended to be anything but a rebel, and so expressed himself.

Samuel KINSEY - attended a rebel muster, rebel sympathizer, and proclaimed to have seceded from the Union.

N. J. FAVAER - went to the Rock Creek fight to take the rebels some blankets.

William DIXON - was in the rebel service.

Ebenezer DIXON - son was in the rebel service.

William DUGLASS - enrolled as a rebel sympathizer and gave bond.

Samuel HALL - expression of rebel sympathy.

Charles DIXON - rebel sympathizer.

Henry DIXON - covertly aiding the rebels (24th General Assembly, pp. 215-216).

"Deponents say, that living as they are, in the midst of those so in sympathy, they consider it unsafe to give evidence against particular individuals. That if the… list represents truly the persons registered under the law in said township…that from the number of open rebels and sympathizers, and persons known by general report to have gone to Texas with their property, deponents say said registrations has been made fraudulently and against the law" (24th General Assembly, p. 216).

Another interesting fact about the 121 qualified voters in the Fort Osage Township, was that fifty percent of the names were listed with some sort of spelling changes. William SIMMS was William SUMMERS, James T HATE was James T. SALE, John S. PRIOR was John S. PRYOR. Some names had single letter changes while others were completely altered. This demonstrates that some individuals tried to change their identities after the Civil War (Seyffert, pp. 21-22). The variances in the recording of names was less prevalent in Washington and Kaw Townships than in Fort Osage when it is compared with the percentage of qualified voters (Seyffert, p. 113).

On the day of the election there was the anticipation of violence at the polls (Seyffert, p. 19). One can just picture the farmers in the area ascending on Sibley to cast their ballots for the Conservative candidate. Only two ballots were given for the Radical opponent. The local eating establishments were probably packed with local male residents ordering meals and coffee while vibrantly discussing the politics of the area. The election took place on 6 November 1866 without any sort of incident (24th General Assembly, pp. 211-212).

After the political and legal battles were fought, the Radical candidate, Minor T. GRAHAM was given the Senatorial seat. "Minor T. GRAHAM was duly elected a member from said district for four years…this 3d day of November, A.D. 1866" (24th General Assembly, p. 219).

J. H. Combs

Based on the 1866 voter registration process, this individual was judged to be a supporter of the Confederacy. J. H. Combs went to the 1866 polling point, which was located in Sibley, Missouri; and was rejected as a qualified voter. It is also a known fact that J. H. Combs was present at the balloting point since the election judges stated that these are the "names of voters rejected at the election held at Sibley, in Fort Osage township, on the sixth day of November…one thousand eight hundred and sixty-six" (24th General Assembly, p. 211). J. H. Combs is found to be the fifth name on the list of rejected Fort Osage Township voters (24th General Assembly, p. 211).

During the Civil War, in an attempt to escape capture by Union soldiers, ten members of Quantrill's Raiders were racing for Jackson County. The river is heavily patrolled and the rebels were trying to cross the Missouri River in Ray County, Missouri into Osage Township. "When the guerrillas left their horses the Federals were on the northern side of the river firing futilely across… [After crossing they] spread…out again under the warming sun and waited and watched. The dismounted men had need to mount themselves rapidly, it was battle everywhere. James Combs especially gave Frank JAMES a horse destined soon to become famous" (Edwards, pp. 171-172).

On 30 Apr 1866 James H. Combs had purchased approximately 160 acres in Fort Osage Township from Robert and Mary W. AULL. The legal description is recorded as the E ½ SE, Section 4, Township 50 N, Range 31 W; NE NE, Section 9, Township 50 N, Range 31 W; and NW NE, Section 9, Township 50 N, Range 31 W (Jackson County, Missouri. 1866). In 1838 William and Margaret "Peggy" Combs (Atchison County, Missouri) sold 80 areas located in Lot 1, NW, Section 9, Township 50 N, Range 31 W. (Jackson County, Missouri. 1838). Lot 1 and Section 4 are contiguous parcels of land.

In the 1870 US Census for Fort Osage Township there is a listing for a James H. Combs. He is 38 years of age, born in Kentucky and has "farmer" noted as his occupation. He is married to an Elizabeth, age 32, who was also born in Kentucky. Three children are listed in the Census - Robert, age 8, born in Missouri; Mary D., age 5, born in Missouri; and William, age 1, also born in Missouri. This family is residing in Fort Osage Township (1870 US Census, Missouri. p. 250).


Often the real movers and shakers of an era go unnoticed during their lifetimes. This is certainly true of the groups of anonymous Combs who moved in westward settlements. Most Combs married eventually and raised children of their own. They lived out their lives bent primarily upon taming their environments. They attracted little attention individually in history books. However their power was in the process of transforming their families into ordinary placid citizens. There is no doubt that Dr. Ennis Combs was known in Jackson County, Missouri. He was probably recognized as a prominent citizen of the community. Although it seems likely that James Combs of Frank JAMES fame was the same as James H. Combs, since this family was known for their politics, James H. Combs was just as likely to be placed on the unqualified voters list for Fort Osage Township due to family association. This list of eleven unqualified voters was known to have been hung at the polling place in Sibley, since this was the directions given by those in power in 1866.

Dr. Evan Ennis Combs unfortunately died when his son James H. Combs was between sixteen and seventeen years of age. It's not known what happened to James H. Combs during the Civil War, but it is known that he acquired land after the War in an area which was crawling with Confederate sympathizers. Fort Osage Township was probably one of the most important strategic locations south of the Missouri River for covert Confederate units.

The social standing of Midwest citizens after the Civil War varied from place to place and from time to time. In general the attitude of those in power was that there were two classes of citizens - they were either War soiled or victoriously clean, and there was to be no mingling of the two. A typical viewpoint in the U.S. Congress was that the "Confederate states had 'committed suicide' and should be treated like 'conquered provinces'" (Garraty, p. 428). As was illustrated in the 1866 Missouri election any person could make accusations about another individuals politics and then be restricted from voting. There was no apparent appeal for this unjust political mechanism (Seyffert, p. 19).

In family research there are significant periods when events have caused puzzling behaviors. Why did a family change the spelling of their name? Why did ancestors not talk about their families? Why is documentation hard to find on family members? Why did the family migrate to this area of the United States? It is therefore apparent that during the Reconstruction era the War soiled became either agents in the process of making history or they functioned as subjects under the weight of oppression and exploitation. Those fighting the battle of oppression and exploitation changed their names, migrated to safe havens, and did not discuss their ancestors.


Brownlee, R.S. (1958). Gray Ghosts of the Confederacy - Guerrilla Warfare in the West 1861- 1865. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press.

Eakin, J.S. & Hale, D.R. (1993). Branded as Rebels - A List of Bushwhackers, Guerrillas, Partisan Rangers, Confederates and Southern Sympathizers from Missouri during the War Years. Independence, MO: Wee Print, 3437 South Noland, Independence, Missouri 64055.

Edwards, J.N. (1996). Noted Guerrillas on the Warfare of the Border - Guerrillas of the West. Shawnee, KS: Two Trails Publishing Company.

Garraty, J.A. (1966). The American Nation - A History of the United States. New York, NY: Harper & Roe, Publishers Inc.

Seyffert, G. (1980). The Kansas City Genealogist. "Missouri's Contested Legislative Elections of 1866: Jackson County." v.21(1 & 2).

_________ (1981). The Kansas City Genealogist. "Missouri's Contested Legislative Elections of 1866: Jackson County." v.21(3).

Twenty-fourth General Assembly. (2 JAN 1867). Appendix to The Senate Journal. v.1. Jefferson City, MO: Emory S. Foster, Public Printer.

pp. 206-219. [Appendix to The Senate Journal was located in the Law Library, University of Missouri at Kansas City].

U.S. Census, Missouri - Jackson County. (1870). "James H. Combs." Fort Osage Township, p. 250, lines 28-38.

Important: All Records collected for this county may not have been added here as yet. See also the Combs Research List Archives

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