Gone But Not Forgotten: Quantrill’s Harrelson Campsite

Harrelson, Missouri, QuantrillThe following is shared with permission from Don Gilmore, author of Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border, consultant for Ang Lee’s Ride With the Devil and instructor and senior editor of the Combat Studies Institute at Ft. Leavenworth for 17 years. In this short article, Mr. Gilmore relates a time in which he and Chris Edwards (author of Quantrill’s Revenge) took a trip to view a little known Quantrill camp site located near Belton.


“The last time I saw Chris Edwards was a year or two ago. We had lunch together at Belton, and I took him south on 49 Highway, south of Belton’s third exit, to see where Harrelson used to be. In John Newman Edwards’ Quantrill and the Border Wars, written shortly after the Civil War by Edwards, Jo Shelby’s executive officer, mentions Harrelson. It was a cattle loading site at that time owned by a man named Harrelson. As you go out of Belton going south, it is at the bottom of the first hill. There are some propane tanks stored there today. There used to be a lot of them. A sign some decades back was beside the Frisco Railroad tracks there with the sign HARRELSON on it. When I was a boy, a long time ago, the old fellows said that Quantrill had bivouacked on what was then the Pickering Farm, back in the thirties, on both sides of the road at Harrelson. To the west of the propane tanks is the head of the Grand River, once described as the middle fork. Harrelson is a level stretch of flood plain several hundred yards long and perhaps 300-400 yards wide. A good campground for Quantrill and his men with good water for the hundreds of horses and pasture.


I am the first one I know of to publish the location of Quantrill’s bivouac location. That is because, no one except the locals around here knew where it was, although it’s mentioned in Edwards. Few if any remembered the importance of Harrelson. One of the last of the Harrelsons lived in Belton when I was a boy, an elderly lady, in a large, stately house on Second Street. I was on Jack Cashill’s radio program a couple times, and I told him where it was, and he set up a set nearby and broadcast from there. He got the location wrong by about 400 yards or so and set up on the hill just north of where the railroad sign was. I don’t know if it was still there or not at the time. The sign has been gone for some time.


So the next time you got through Belton going south, watch as you descend the first hill and reach its bottom and look for the propane tanks. To get to the Grand River was harder for me when I showed Chris the site, Because of a  change in routes, Now, to approach Harrelson, you have to go north on the access road that parallels the highway on the west Our of Peculiar, Missouri, and drive north five miles to the site. Chris and I did that and he took a picture of the Grand River from a bridge going over it. It’s just a small creek here.”


Note: The State Historical Society of Missouri notes the following in regards to Harrelson: “A station on the San Francisco Railroad in the southwest part of Raymore Township; named for Nathan Harrelson (1807 – ) who owned the land on the site. Mr. Harrelson came from North Carolina to Cass County in 1831. (W.P. Houston; Glenn’s HIST. CASS (1917), 106, 320; Official Map Surveny, 1930)


Missouri, guerrilla, Bushwhacker, border war, kansas, history, civil war, Quantrill, Quantrill's RevengeRead the book that everyone is talking about!
In regards to Quantrill’s Revenge: A Comprehensive Tour Guide to William C. Quantrill’s Raid of Lawrence, Kansas, Thomas Rose notes that, “This is the kind of book you keep in the glove box for quick reference on those road trips through history. The Border War decimated an entire region of Missouri and outside of a 50 mile radius, few folks know about it. Mr. Edwards does a great job pin-pointing with great accuracy, key places from a turbulent time in Missouri-Kansas history. Well done.”
 If you or someone you know loves history, going on day trips, or learning about interesting people and places – then this book is the perfect gift for a birthday or the holidays! Discover more right HERE.

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