Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Hell is full of such angels!" Part II

When Marshall Cleveland was gunned down by soldiers from the 6th Kansas Cavalry on the morning of May 11, 1862 on the banks of the Marais des Cygnes River, in Osawatomie, Kansas, his “supposed wife” or mistress attracted little attention. While the official report of the killing failed to mention her, (her name still remains a mystery), she was in fact in the house surrounded by Union soldiers that morning. The Atchison Daily Globe would later report that “Cleveland’s mistress by-the-way was the cause of his death. When it became so bad that soldiers were sent in search of him, the women was watched and the outlaw located at Osawatomie when the women went to visit him and he was killed.” While she did not draw a lot of attention on the morning of May 11, Cleveland’s widow would, over the course of the summer, draw quite a bit of interest.
Only a day after Cleveland’s death his widow appeared in Lawrence, Kansas. The Lawrence Republican noting that Cleveland “was buried on Monday” and that his “supposed wife passed through this place on Tuesday swearing vengeance on all United States Volunteers.”Weeks later a Missouri newspaper, the Liberty Tribune, ran a story entitled “The Tomb of Cleveland.” The newspaper reported that “At the marble works of Mr. Bedwell, on the corner of Francis and Sixth Streets [St. Joseph, Missouri], may now be seen an extraordinary work of art. It is not so remarkable as a mere artistic work, as it is when taken in connection with the purpose for which it is designed. The work of which we speak is the tombstone of the late Marshal L. Cleveland, who was killed at Osawatomie, Kansas…by Federal soldiers who had arrested him for his innumerable and heavy crimes as a Jayhawker. The stone was ordered by his wife, and the design of it is entirely her own. It consists of a plain slab of white marble; at the top are sculptured two hands each holding a pistol. The inscription on the stone is as follows:
Marshal L. Cleveland,
Died May 12, 1862.
“Earth counts a mortal less, Heaven an angel more.”

As an aside, the newspaper quoted the St. Jo. Journal’s comments about the tombstone, noting that, “To use a new expression, comment is superfluous.”
The story of the tombstone appeared in numerous Kansas and Missouri newspapers leading many to speculate that since the tombstone was fashioned in St. Joseph, Cleveland was certainly buried there. As an example, United States Senator John James Ingalls wrote in an article published in 1902, that “His temporary widow took his sacred clay to St. Joseph, where its place of interment is marked by a marble headstone bearing the usual memoranda, and concluding with the following:
“One hero less on earth,
One angel more in heaven!”

Ingalls and others however, were mistaken. The authentic story of Cleveland’s interment and of his widow was written in 1904, by a former wagon master and occasional express rider named R.M. Peck. Kip Lindberg and I stumbled across his memoirs in 2004 while researching the Baxter Springs Massacre. Peck and his associate Dan Eckerberger stopped at a hotel in Osawatomie in August, 1862 to feed their mules and procure dinner. Ushered into the men’s parlor to await their meal, Peck eyed a freshly chiseled tombstone propped up in the corner of the room. Curious to determine the inscription carved into the slab, Peck walked over and read it to Eckerberger:
Sacred to the memory of
Captain Marshall L. Cleveland,
Who died May 11th, 1862
“Earth counts one mortal less-
Heaven one angel more.”

“I write this from memory," recalled Peck, “and cannot recall the age given, but I think the name, date and quotation on the tombstone were just as I have given them. The absurdity of such a sentiment on the tomb of such a notorious criminal as Cleveland was known to have been, struck me so forcibly that without thinking where I was, or who might be in hearing, I blurted out impulsively: “Hell’s full of such angels.” I was sorry I had used such ungentlemanly language as soon as I uttered it, for as I glanced through an open door into what seemed to be the ladies parlor, which I had not before noticed, I saw a black-eyed women ‘looking daggers’ at me, and I feared I had hurt her feelings, whoever she was. The landlord hurriedly approaching, as if fearful of another such explosion from me requested: ‘Mister, please don’t use such language in the hearing of the lady in the next room. She’s Capt. Cleveland’s widow.’…The landlord informed me that ‘Mrs. Cleveland’ had recently brought the tombstone from Leavenworth to have it placed at the jay-hawker’s grave. If it still stands there bearing that ‘misfit’ epitaph, it has probably, ere now, provoked many similar rough expressions of opinion from those who knew his reputation in life. It is scarcely necessary to add that Cleveland’s gang of jay-hawkers fell to pieces after his death; but strange to say, some of his men afterwards became respectable citizens of Kansas, with two of whom I became personally acquainted. One was, some years ago, a Justice of the Peace in Leavenworth, and the other was United States Marshal of Kansas.” [I will have more on these gentlemen in a concluding blog]
Peck was able to learn afterwards “that the woman who had passed herself as ‘Capt. Cleveland’s widow’ was never his wife, but had formerly been employed in ‘Ben Wheeler’s Ten Cent Show’- a disreputable ‘varieties’ dive in Leavenworth – as a comedy actress and ‘beer slinger.’ She was there known as the wife of ‘Tommy’ Pell, the comedian, whom she deserted for the jay-hawker.” Peck’s story appears to be right on the mark. Tommy Pell did in fact work for the same minstrel troupe as Ben Wheeler and it is almost certain that Pell performed on Wheeler’s stage in Leavenworth.
After reading Peck’s account, I drove over to Osawatomie, and soon located Cleveland’s grave and tombstone in the Oakwood Cemetery. What I found can be seen in the photograph included with this blog post. In Part III of this story I will reveal what happened to the rest of the monument.

1 comment:

  1. Great account! I have visited that cemetery with Michelle Martin and Doug McGovern. Would sure like to know more about her!