Thursday, May 28, 2015

Nat. & Maggie Kinney: True Grit

Over the past few years, quite a small number of people have asked me for more background on the earlier life of the originator of the Bald Knobbers, Capt. Nathaniel Napoleon "Nat" Kinney. One of the best biographies of Kinney I have ever read was written in the autumn of 1993 by Kristen Kalen and Lynn Morrow in the White River Valley Historical Quarterly.  This great article can be read here: Nat Kinney's Sunday School Crowd

Here are a few extra things I have gleaned over the years.

It is difficult to say where "Nat" Kinney was was born. Some sources claim Nat was born in New York and some say Scotland. Newspapers from  Springfield, Missouri, & Atchison, Kansas, speak of Kinney being born in Scotland, and his family migrated the to the states at an early age. The later statement could hold  more fact. Kinney's ancestry did hail from Scotland, and his parents could have come through New York when immigrating to the United States. I have scoured databases for his birth information in New York with no success at this time. I am about to speculate he was born in Scotland. But sometimes, that's all we can do...just speculate.
One major misconception is due to his title “Captain,” and people assume this is from the Civil War. Actually, he was never an officer in the Civil War, but he was a private in the Union Army.  Kinney garnered his title as “Captain” due to being the leader of the Taney County Bald Knobbers.

In the Civil War, Kinney mustered into 6th Regiment of the West Virginia Infantry.  The regiment was specifically organized for railroad guard duty only. The regiment’s goal during the war was to protect & maintain the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which ran from Cumberland, Maryland, through West Virginia. The cargo consisted of the delivery of Union forces along with their equipment and supplies to assist during the Civil War. It seems it was here where Kinney honed his skills for the future. Additionally, Kinney followed wherever the railroad was expanding & growing.  As a side note to his service in the war, Nat Kinney did serve with some of the McCoy men associated with the infamous Hatfield-McCoy Feud. 

Kinney moved through Indiana, briefly to Colorado, and then onto Kansas. While in Kansas, Kinney met a lady who was widowed during the Civil War; her name was Margret "Maggie" Carriger Delong.  But first, let's talk briefly about Maggie's background.

Maggie Carriger
Maggie was born in 1842 in Carter County, Tennessee, and migrated with her family to Kansas. Her father's name was Elliot Carriager, and her mother was Angeline Rhea Allen Carriger. (On a personal note, the author of this biography shares linage through Maggie's mother. Maggie's grandfather was John T. Allen.) 

Maggie was the eldest child, and she had five siblings: Mary L., Sarah E., John C.,William Allen &
James. Maggie's first marriage was to William Henry Delong. He was 10 years her senior, and they were married on
the 13th of August, 1857, in Maggie's home of her father. Maggie's father, Elliot, was also a Justice of the Peace of that area.

William & Maggie DeLong had four children: James Allen, Harry, Mary Maude & Gertrude Eva. In the Civil War, William belonged to the 2nd Kansas Militia, Company G, and he was severely wounded in Price's Raid on October 22nd, 1864. This clashing of forces took place at the Mockbee farmhouse. The name of the battle was once known as "the Battle of Locust Grove."  Over time, it became known as the "Battle of the Blue" near the Big Blue River, Missouri.  

Battle of the Blue by Benjamin D.Mileham, 1896.

William was severely wounded in this battle. In less than a month, on the 17th of November, 1864, William Henry Delong passed from this life.   He is buried at the Auburn Cemetery in Shawnee County, Kansas.
There are websites that reference that William & Maggie were divorced, and I assumed that was probably correct. But, I recently came across the Kansas State Census of 1865 that references Williams name though he was killed 9 months prior. Therefore, until I see the divorce decree, I will side with Maggie being widowed. Hence, this left Maggie widowed with four children.
Nat meets Maggie
It is written by some local historians that Nat Kinney worked briefly as an Indian Scout once Kinney arrived in Kansas.  I could not find the exact record for that, but Nat had an uncle working nearby as a very influential U. S. Indian Agent, Mr. John F. Kinney. This could be the reason for him going to Kansas for a new start. As an interesting side note, one of Indian Agent's, John F. Kinney, big goals was to establish a Sunday school on the reservations from Kansas to the Dakotas. A few years later, some of the Kinney family became missionaries to these reservations. Hence, the theme of Sunday School Conventions become a activity that is promoted by the Kinney family.

Life soon changed for Maggie and her children; she married Nat Kinney on December 16, 1866. 

At the time, it seems Kinney found a niche for his wondering soul and became a superintendent for a stage-line, the Topeka Omnibus Line.

After Kinney came back to Kansas, it is written by some local historians that Nat Kinney worked briefly as an Indian Scout. I could not find the exact record for that, but Nat had an uncle working nearby as a very influential U. S. Indian Agent, Mr. John F. Kinney. This could be the reason for him going to Kansas for a new start. As an interesting side note, one of Indian Agent's, John F. Kinney's, big goals was to establish a Sunday school on the reservations from Kansas to the Dakotas. A few years later, some of the Kinney family became missionaries to these reservations. Hence, the theme of Sunday School Conventions become a activity that was promoted by the Kinney family.

Since Maggie had the estate of her former husband, Nat Kinney tried his hand at farming in Neosho, Kansas. By 1871, Nat & Maggie had a little boy of their own, Paul C. Kinney. A few years later, in 1874, their daughter Georgia S. Kinney.
Farming did not seem to work out for Nat Kinney. He was drawn by the industry that was ignited by the incoming railroad, and Kinney moved to Topeka, Kansas, by 1874. Soon he became the manager of a mail/hack delivery service with rifle in tow. It was here he garnered a position in the Capitols Guards as a part of the Topeka Rifles. Apparently, there were a few more tigers that needed to be tamed, and Kinney was obliged in assisting. A drunken brawl once broke out in a Topeka Saloon, and Kinney was in the thick of it. The end result was Kinney laid out on the ground after meeting with a billiard cue.
In 1880, that Kansas passed the prohibition of the manufacturing and/or sale of "intoxicating liquors" throughout the state. This law was ratified by a majority of the voters in November of 1880, and took effect on January 1, 1881. Ironically enough, this too was the same year Kinney moved to Springfield, Missouri, and started working in a saloon. By 1882, he owned a saloon in the city.

Before he moved to Taney County, it seems our good Captain fell into a hole in Springfield and won a lawsuit for damages. In the process of time & appeals, Kinney never saw the money. Fortunately for his widow, "Maggie", the $1,500 was awarded after his death.

Taney County News, 20 Sept., 1888. Forsyth, MO
Once the Kinneys moved to Taney County, it did not take long for Nat to pick up the gauntlet for defending the unrepresented, while some thought he just wanted to pick a fight.

One of Nat &Maggie's daughters was soon married into an influential family in Taney County. Gertrude married Robert H. Prather on the 28th of March, 1887.

Robert was the son of Col. Alonzo Smith "A.S." Prather who was one of the founding members of the Bald Knobbers. Additionally, the marriage was officiated by and took place at the home of Capt. James Rollins "J. R." Vanzant, another founding member of the Bald Knobbers.

For those trying to keep tack of times & chronologies, this is probably the apex of the Taney County Bald Knobbers. It would have been a high time to be a fly on the wall at this wedding gala event and hear the latest happenings & estimations from the men who formed the first Bald Knobbers.

For the Christian County Bald Knobbers, this was not a high time to show the old horned hood. March 28th, 1887, is only two weeks after the Edens-Green Massacre, and the law was breathing down many a necks in Christian County. The Taney County Bald Knobbers came out condemning the tragedy and gave notice they were a separate league.

True Grit Themes

When talking about Capt. Nat Kinney, these are the themes that seem to come up in conversation.

Size - The newspaper articles that mention him seem to embellish his height & weight over time. Earlier in his career, his height is about 6’ 2”; later on his height could be stated up to 6’ 7”. Likewise concerning his weight, he was about 220 lbs.; and later on, Kinney weighed up to 285 lbs.
Railroads – Protecting cargo & the people who were advancing & build the railroad seemed to catch Kinney's eye. Remember, many Bald Knobbers were working to cut railroad ties for the advancing railroad though the Ozarks

Guarding – Kinney found himself early in his career during the Civil War guarding the railroad. Later on he was working on Kansas mail hack with a rifle in tow. In Missouri he thought of protecting people who were being taken advantage of in the Ozarks.

Saloons – The frequenting of this establishment seems to crop up in Kansas, Springfield & Taney County.

Seeking official leadership – Kinny was always a private in the Civil War, and he didn't win the election for the Democratic Party in Taney County. As a side note to his critics, I would argue it looks pretty "official" when the Missouri Governor, Marmaduke,  sends Adjt. General Jamison to Taney County, and Kinney worked out an armistice to "officially" disband the Bald Knobbers on April the 10th, 1886. 

Orating Speeches – "Inspiring" the masses is the first step in gaining leadership. This was done at the Capitol Guards in Kansas. Kinney also inspire crowds in spreading the gospel of Bald Knobberism to other counties in Southern Missouri. Lastly, it seems he honed his craft in Sunday School Conventions. Some also would argue that's Kinney’s way to organize & manipulate a group or class of people.
 After Kinney’s life came to a tragic end on August the 10, 1888, one should think a huge obituary would be published in many newspapers the week after Kinney's death, Well, I have searched for an official obituary published in the Ozarks the next week after his death. At the moment, this is all I can find. The Taney County News newspaper published a resolution from the J. N. Hilton Post No. 254 of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in which they gave Kinney a parting farewell.

Usually, obituaries give the basic facts of parents, family, and origin. Unfortunately, I haven't  come across those issues yet. Nevertheless, I did find an overview of his life the week following from the newspaper in Taney County owned by Kinney’s stepson, James A. DeLong.

Captain Kinney

(From Topeka Commonwealth)

Mr. A. E. Jones, a well-known farmer, who resides near this city, yesterday gave The Commonwealth reporter some interesting facts in regard to Nat Kinney, the reputed chief of the Bald Knobbers, whose recent tragic end was described in the Associated Press dispatches. Mr. Jones said:

“Reading not long ago an item from the Clay County Times giving personal recollections of ‘Big Kinney’ brought freshly to my mind the times when he and myself stood side by side in the ‘Capitol guards.’ I first saw him in the fall of 1877, when he was manager of the ’bus company for General Terry. To those who frequented the Tefft house of an evening between ’bus hours, the herculean form and stentorian voice of ‘Big Nat’ must still be vividly portrayed. 

“In April, 1878, during the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe strike, a company was formed, known as the capitol Guards,’ and we, among others, became members. No little pride was shown by the company in the ‘Big four,’ composed of Kinney, myself, my brother, Ben (now deceased, and J. W. Campbell, who held down the extreme right and was ready to bet money that the four could not be matched for size west of the ‘Father of waters.’ At one time, when the company was in such a position that the two extreme ends were brought together, a great laugh was provoked by ‘Little Sim’ (druggist) looking up and asking Kinney to hand down a chew of tobacco, and inquiring how the weather was in the upper stratus. In business meetings and in councils of company Kinney developed considerable talent as an orator, and his advice on matters of importance was usually accepted. While in camp at Bismarck, in 1880, Kinney and myself occupied the same tent and I never found him otherwise than kind and gentlemanly to all.

“One noteworthy trait in his makeup was the care he exercised toward poor people, or those who seemed to be distressed, as on the arrival and departure of trains, when his towering form could be seen above the crowd, giving directions to those in need.

“I still have in my possession the score book wherein is inscribed the names of the C. G. Rifle team; also the silver cup which he helped win from the Ottawa team in 1879, at Bismarck. The course he took after leaving here and going to Missouri is unaccountable, and very likely his case may be like that of poor dog Tray – he got in bad company. If, as the papers stated, he was chief of the Bald Knobbers, and had committed crimes amendable to the law, why was he not arrested and convicted as others of that stripe have been, is one of the mysteries which time may disclose. In one of the photograph galleries in Topeka is a negative of a picture which we had taken together, and hope to find, as there are persons wanting copies. Of his bold and eventful career which terminated so sadly, I hope someday to give more particulars.”

The finial resting place of Nathaniel Napoleon "Nat" Kinney.
I have researched this man for nine years, and he was truly an enigma. Sometimes it has been difficult in finding pertinent facts of his life, but I believe it his life can serve as a beacon of many lessons in our day & age. There may be many faults that can be easily seen in his passage of time. For the record, I have seen not only his discrepancies & sins...I has also discovered my own.

There are times it takes True Grit to admit the Truth.

Lately it seems that I have begun to hear the calls for vindication & justice. I know what that sounds like. I have been there.

The attitude comes from believing all the facts are easily seen & distinguishable. I know what that looks like. I have been there.

Seeds of doubt are the next kernels to fall in the soils of our heart, and the foul odor of distrust pollinates nearby hearts. I know what that smells like. I have been there.

The next step is to voice a quick opinion, while trusting in our own infallibility. This is like placing a rope around the necks of our "enemies" and hanging them on the gallows of our hearts. I know what that feels like. I have been there.

You see, I have not only been the victim, I have also played the role of judge & executioner. It is these actions that shows the depravity of my human heart.

Nevertheless, the freedom that comes into my life after I:
Acknowledge my sin
Confess with Godly sorrow
Make amends with the one I offended
Forsake the sin

It is then I can walk in the knowledge I am forgiven. There is one point that has recently been my focus: Did I confess with Godly sorrow because I was caught, or was I truly sorry? I believe this can be a key point for anyone to have true joy in one's life.

If you don't believe me;I know what that's like. I have been there.

References: U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Kansas, Vital Record Abstracts, 1854-2009 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2007.
Anderson, Vincent S. Bald Knobbers: Chronicles of Vigilante Justice. 1st ed. Charlotte, NC: The History Press, 2013. Print.
"Captain Kenny" Taney County News, (5. 40) 20 Sept., 1888. Forsyth, MO. 
"Good for the Captain" Taney County News, (5. 40) 20 Sept., 1888. Forsyth, MO.
Kalen, Kristen; Morrow, Lynn. "Nat Kinney's Sunday School Crowd." White River Valley Historical Quarterly (33.1) 1993. 
 Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, Kansas; 1865 Kansas Territory Census; Roll: ks1865_7; Line: 12.
The Kanzas news. (Emporia, Kan.), 23 Jan. 1858. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>
"Kinney Killed" The Atchison Daily Globe. Atchison, Kansas. Wednesday, August 22, 1888; Issue 3,341. <>
"Resolutions of Respect and Condolences." Taney County, News  (5. 39) 13 Sept., 1888. Forsyth, MO.
"Sunday School Convention" Taney County News,  20 July, 1888. Forsyth, MO. 
U. S. Department of the Interior. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior on the Operations, (Vol. 1). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1886. <>
 Year: 1880; Census Place: Auburn, Shawnee, Kansas; Roll: 397; Family History Film: 1254397; Page: 207C; Enumeration District: 012; Image: 0314