Worth County, Missouri

Crazy Bill Easter
and the Allendale Raid

Decades-long research into local history eventually led me to piece together this story about the only Civil war "battle" fought in Worth County. A battle in name only as, technically, not a single shot had been fired by either side. This account has been compiled from many sources (unnamed, of course) and represents, unlikely as it might seem, the truest version possible of the event.

It was the summer of 1864 and the Civil War had not been going at all well for the South. In Missouri, the hostilities had been confined mainly to south of the Missouri River, with only an occasional foray to the northern reaches of the state. William Easter, a tall, scrawny young man of perhaps twenty-five, had drifted into Worth County a year or so earlier and had raised suspicion among many regarding several unsolved burglaries in the area. Not the brightest star in the sky by any means, he had the odd habit of talking to himself, making weird gestures with his fingers and, in general, acting rather strange. It didnít take long before he was known around this part of the county as Crazy Bill.

Little of fact was known about Bill and he was rarely seen by the locals but was, by his own breath, a confirmed Southern sympathizer who thought death to all Yankees was the only remedy to the conflict. More than once he had "gone South" to join Bloody Bill Anderson's or William Quantrell's group but, to this point, had been rejected by even the worst of the worst. So, a few weeks earlier, Crazy Bill had formed his own band of renegades from low-life, former Kentuckians and Tennesseeans of his ilk, living mostly around the village of Hatfield, in Harrison County. What they needed now was enough money to go back south, start their own guerrilla band, and help the Rebels win the war.

This particular June morning, Crazy Bill and his band set their sights on the tiny village of Allendale, in the north-eastern part of the county. Bill knew there werenít many men in the town and hitting the bank for a few hundred dollars would, or at least should, be easy. But Bill, in his apparent patriotic ardor, refused to just ride in and rob the bank in the flourish later used by the James boys. He decided to do it military style, and proceeded to set siege to the town. He and the eight others of his band 'surrounded' the village and demanded the money from the tiny bank on the south-west corner of Main and Jackson streets. They had approached from the south, swung around to the east, and now were situated on the high ground just to the north of town. They quickly dismounted and commenced to set up an offensive line with a cannon in the line's center. The cannon, if one really wanted to describe it as such, had long before lost its wheels and now was nothing more than a long barrel slung in a wide canvas tied to the saddles of two horses. They laboriously lowered the heavy thing to the ground, then man-handled it into a position where the firing end rested high on a dried-out log. As a consequence, its tactical placement was questionable and, probably, totally ineffective. The fear it might wrought would be that of the defense not knowing exactly where the ball might land.

When they had finished with the cannon and initial breastworks, Tom Lund, a young man not appreciably brighter than Crazy Bill, was chosen to carry the message into town and deliver it to the appropriate person. The assignment kept Lund occupied most of the afternoon as no one he approached wanted the responsibility of accepting the note. The Mayor, normally at his office in the nearly new Bee Hive Hotel, was at the fairground just northwest of town (slightly behind and to the west of the 'Confederate' line), and when he heard what was happening he hied back to rally the men-folk and save the day. Finally, Lund was able to pass the message to the banker, himself, and was, in no uncertain terms, told to get out of town before someone shot him and put everyone out of their misery.

Lund hurriedly relayed the news to an irate Easter who, in turn, ordered the canon brought to bear on the center of town, or at least as close as possible to the bank that had rejected him. Preparations were made amid the tirade of insults traded back and forth between the townspeople and the raiders as they were no more than a couple of hundred yards apart. Easter, so angry and frustrated that he was almost in tears, mounted his horse and, with his shotgun pointed toward the south, ordered the cannon fired. A muffled roar and sparks shot from the end of the barrel, but the ball remained inside. Angered at the attempt, the townsmen began slinging serious threats toward the raiders who, fearing a possible reprisal, quickly rolled the barrel onto the tarp and secured it to the pack horses. Then, in a burst of bravado, Easter screamed to the oncoming men that it "wasn't ended," and alluded that his group would someday return and wreck a most horrible havoc upon the town. To throw off pursuit, the raiders split up and fled in different directions, with most of the men riding east and Easter heading due west toward the county seat.

Easter was seen from time to time over the next few months, once even returning to Allendale where, within minutes, he was unceremoniously dragged from his horse and ushered, on foot, to the city limits and admonished to never return or they would "turn their dogs on him" and feed his liver to the chickens. For years, stories abounded of Bill's continued streak of bad luck in Worth County and many was the uproarious laugh at Bill's expense. When the war ended, it was said that Bill headed farther west, a broken and disillusioned man, forsaken even by his own compatriots.

NOTE: Years ago, in my grandfatherís day, old-timers often repeated the stories of Crazy Bill Easter, some true and some, Iíd guess, rather fanciful. The consensus of those old-timers was that Bill's "battle line" was on the little knoll about where old Willie Baker's house now stands and that the townsmen were grouped across the gully just north of the present-day Baptist Church. A few years after the war ended many communities erected monuments and such to commemorate their participation in the National struggle and there was even some talk in Allendale of doing the same. But, it never came to be. The note Crazy Bill sent to town passed from person to person until it finally disappeared, only a humorous memory to those who were there. The canon was never seen again but, must likely, it was soon discarded by Bill's men and now lies, undisturbed for well over a century, somewhere in the part of the county known as the Nation, waiting to be found.


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