The Ray County Historical Society and the Ray County Commissioner recognized Murrell J. Thomas of Orrick with a plaque on Friday, August 19, honoring Thomas' commitment to the preservation of the history of Ray County.
Gathering at the Battle of Albany Memorial, Ray County Commissioners Bob King, Allen Dale and Mike Twyman, and Ray County Historical Society President David Blyth presented a plaque to Thomas as his son and daughter (Mark Thomas and Lois Stein), and other family members looked on.
Blyth said it was a honor to be the one to recognize Thomas on behalf of the
Ray County Historical Society.
The plaque read: Presented to Murrell J. Thomas in acknowledgment of his commitment to the preservation of the history of Ray County, Missouri. With Grateful Appreciation, The Ray County Administrative Commission and The Ray County Historical Society Board of Directors. August 19, 2011.
Thomas, a retired General Motors worker, has lived at the same location north of Orrick for over 50 years. Thomas discovered an old cemetery on the property that had graves dating back to the founding of Ray County in 1820. Ray County was organized on November 16, 1820.
Research by John Crouch, a member of the Ray County Historical Society, tied the old cemetery in with the Battle at Albany.
Captain William T. Anderson, one of the best known and most feared of all the Missouri Confederate guerrillas, was killed in the battle on Oct 26, 1864.
Missouri militiamen under the command of Major Samuel P. Cox located Anderson and his men camped near what is now the Thomas' property and set up an ambush.
According to the account provided by Major Cox:
"Lieutenant Baker was sent ahead to reconnoiter and bring on the fight, and then retreat through our line. Baker dashed up to where Anderson and his men camped and opened fire. Instantly, Anderson and his men were in their saddles and gave chase to Baker, who retreated under instructions and came dashing through our line. Anderson and some twenty of his men came on, a revolver in each hand. When my men opened fire many of Anderson’s command went down, others turned and fled, but Anderson and two of his men went right through the line shooting and yelling, and it was as Anderson and one of his men turned back that both of them were killed."
Upon examining the personal items found on his body, Capt. Anderson had seven pistols, a fine gold watch and chain and a silver one; $323 in gold and $273 in paper money besides some silver change and small paper currency and $18 in Confederate money.
In his pockets were also found two Rebel flags, one about two feet long and 10 inches wide, another a small but very fine one some foot long and four inches wide, 12 stars on one side and 11 on the other and made of fine silk ribbon. On the middle stripe of which was written on one side, “Presented to Capt. Wm. T. Anderson by his friend M.L.R.” and on the other, “Don’t let it be contaminated by Fed. hands.”
Orders found in his pockets identified him as Capt. Anderson: "Head Quarters Army of Missouri, Boonville 11 October, 1864. Special Order: Capt. Anderson with his command will at once proceed to the north side of the Missouri River and permanently destroy the North Missouri Railroad going as' far east as practicable. He will report his operations at least every two days. By order of Maj. Gen. (Sterling) Price.
Four Federal troops were wounded in the battle.
Partisan Rangers killed in the battle were:
1. Hank Patterson; 2. Simonds; 3. Anson Tolliver; 4. Paul Debenhorst; 5. Smith Jobson; 6. Luckett; 7. John Mcllvane; 8. Jasper Moody; 9. William Tarkington; 10. John Pringle; and 11. William T. Anderson.
Anderson is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Richmond.
Once he discovered the cemetery, Thomas cleared out his blackberry bushes and began maintaining it.
Some of the graves are marked, and some are not. A few still have small white stones at the head and foot.
The Battle of Albany Monument was erected on the site in 1988 and honors the eleven Confederate Partisan Rangers who died there.
In part, the monument reads: "With belated honour: Oh, smooth the damp hair over their brows; They are pale and white and ghastly now. And hide the wounds in their gory breasts; for their souls have fled to their final rest.
People from all over the county and the country have visited the cemetery and both Clay and Ray County historical groups have included the site on tours.
Thomas enjoys sharing history with them and said vistitors are always welcome to visit the cemetery and monument.