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TMM Bio: Upton Hays

Posted by The Muse (themuse) on Aug 27 2018
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Upton HaysUpton Hays was a pro-Southern resident of Jackson County, Missouri, when the Civil War started. Much of what happened to pro-Southern Missourians living in the counties along the Kansas border, was chronicled by his wife, Margaret Jane Watts Hays, in letters she wrote to her mother before, during and after the Civil War. Hays organized a group of Jackson County citizens in a home guard to protect themselves from Jayhawkers. Hays was commissioned a colonel of the 12th Missouri Cavalry (CSA). Colonel Hays was killed in action on September 12, 1862, during the First Battle of Newtonia, Missouri.

The war brought few losses more sincerely mourned than the loss of Colonel Upton Hays. He was a horn leader of men and a brilliant military career was opening before him when, after the battle of Lone Jack, he was killed by a Federal cavalryman near Newtonia, Mo.

Upton Hays was the youngest of a family of thirteen children, live boys and eight girls. At the sunset of the nineteenth century, these are all dead except the oldest, Amazon Hays, who lives with his wife and daughter, Mrs. Booth, at Westport, and Linville Hays, who lives at the old Hays homestead two miles south of Westport. These brothers are very old and infirm, the former being nearly 80 years of age.

Upton Hays was born in Callaway County, Mo., March 29, 1832. His father was Boone Hays, grandson of the famous pioneer, Daniel Boone.

While Upton was still a small boy, the family moved to Jackson County and settled near West-port. This was in 1837. The elder son, Amazon, then 18 years of age, spent that summer in Independence, Mo., and worked in the plow factory owned by Robert Weston (whose funeral occurred to-day, November 28, 1890).

In 1849 Boone Hays, accompanied by his eldest and youngest sons, went “across the plains” to California, where he died the following year. Meantime, Amazon had returned to Missouri and was driving a band of 500 cattle through to California. The two boys returned to Westport, then on the western rim of civilization and the starting-point for travelers across the plains. After the war with Mexico, a large freighting business sprang up between points on the Missouri River and Santa Fe, New Mexico, conducted overland by wagon-trains.

Margaret Jane Watts HaysAfter Amazon and Upton Hays returned to Westport, it was arranged for Upton to enter school. He attended school one week. A Mexican who had left Westport with a wagon-train for Santa Fe made such slow progress that he returned and induced the youthful Upton to go with him as captain of the train. This suited the adventurous school-boy far better than the schoolroom, and he conducted the Mexican’s train to its destination safely and in good time. This trip demonstrated that Upton Hays, boy as he was, possessed marked executive ability.

The Government sent out annually long wagon-trains of supplies under contractors. These contractors usually made a great deal of money, but a great deal of money had to be first invested in animals, wagons, hire of men, etc. Amazon and Upton Hays formed a company with Henry C. Chiles and Mr. Hunter, each of the four putting in $25,000. The company secured large Government contracts, and equipped 101 wagons and sent them out under the management of the company. This train was insufficient, and so subcontractors were employed. One of Jennison’s first exploits was the capture of a train belonging to Upton Hays. Soon after this, Jennison burned Upton Hays’ house, a very fine, new building; cattle, horses, carriages, and negroes were carried off. Then Upton Hays organized a company to resist these predatory raids. The company soon had work to do. Jennison came down again, plundering and burning. At one time sixteen burning farmhouses could be seen from the Hays’ homestead. Jennison’s men came on to the home of Sam Hays, brother of Upton. While they were ransacking the house, Upton nays arrived suddenly with his company. His men fired upon the marauders before they were ordered to do so, and Sam Hays, a prisoner in his own house, fell badly wounded by his own friends and rescuers. Quite a battle ensued. The house was punctured and variously marked by bullets. The bullet holes are there to this day and are shown with great interest by Mr. and Mrs. Asbury. Mrs. Asbury is a daughter of Sam Hays. She remembers the battle distinctly, though but a child at the time. Jennison retreated toward Kansas. Afterwards he came upon nays’ company encamped at White Oak, on the Big Blue River. A severe battle was fought on this occasion. Jennison retreated to Kansas again, leaving a number of his men dead on the field. Hays lost one man, Private Wells.

Upton Hays was very fond of hunting, and he kept a large pack of dogs. On his last visit home, he arrived stealthily after dark. His favorite dog made a disturbance, and he slew the animal with his saber. That night, he kissed his wife and children, one a new-born babe, good-bye—as it proved, forever. He went to the recruiting camp near Lee’s Summit, and a few days later the battle of Independence was fought. In this battle Colonel Hughes was killed and Colonel Thompson was wounded. Colonel Hays then took command, lie led five different assaults against the rock fence occupied by the Federals. Elsewhere is given an account of his gallantry at the battle of Lone Jack, and an account of his death. After the war, his body was taken to Westport.


Webb, William L. “Colonel Upton Hays.” In Battles and Biographies of Missourians, or, the Civil War Period of Our State, 322–25. Kansas City: Hudson-Kimberly Pub. Co., 1900.


Last changed: Aug 28 2018 at 7:14 AM