I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of these stories. I’ve found that family lore usually contains a grain of truth, but often one generation is mixed up with another or facts get garbled.
Two of my Great grandfathers fought for the South during the Civil War. Both John Byrd and O.A. Robertson were taken prisoner by the Union. After a while, both were released on giving their oath that they would: (1) Never again take up arms against the Union; and (2) Go west and join the cavalry to fight Indians. They both did (1) but didn’t do (2). Source: Sid Robertson
As OA Robertson made his way west he ran into Quantrill’s Raiders - an infamous band of pro-Confederates who pillaged the countryside on the Kansas/Missouri border. My Dad said OA had known Quantrill before the war started. Quantrill invited OA to join the group. OA had given his word not to fight the Union anymore but felt sure he would be killed if he didn’t agree to join the group. For the sake of survival, OA agreed to join. He waited until members of the group were soundly asleep, got up, saddled his horse, and silently rode away. Source: Sid Robertson
OA Robertson ran a 20 mule team freight outfit from Helena to Corinne, Utah the nearest railhead. Source: Sid Robertson
GOLD IN A CORNFIELD
After John Byrd's release from POW camp he returned to his Missouri farm. He hid in a cornfield and during the night came and saw his wife, Emmeline. John told her he was headed west. Then he accessed some or all of the gold he had buried in a cornfield. John had been part of the 1849 Gold Rush to California whence he acquired the gold. Source: Sid Robertson
NORTHERN SOLDIERS RAID PLANTATION
“When the Civil War began, Grandfather [John Byrd] enlisted and was very soon taken prisoner. During this time, Grandmother [Emmeline Owens Byrd] was alone on the plantation with the slaves to look out for her and her four children. Daddy, John Byrd [Jr.], was born January 9, 1862, and when he was a few days old, the Northern Army came through their plantation and took everything – all the food stored in the store house, including hams and bacon, etc.; all the livestock, including all the horses, except one lame mare. They ransacked the house while Grandmother and her tiny baby were lying in bed, and took everything of value. They could not load the barrels of sorghum, so they spit tobacco juice in it so she couldn’t use it. The slaves were hiding in the woods. You may be sure she hated the North with a venom.” One of the daughters of John Byrd Jr., possibly Nellie.
BURNED OUT WAGON TRAIN
“He [John Byrd] and the other men left by night and went to Colorado in 1863. Gold was discovered in Montana later and they went to Alder Gulch (now Virginia City) in 1864. I went through some of the old records there and found where he [John Byrd] signed for groceries. It looked so rich to them that he wrote Grandmother and said to get up a caravan and leave from St. Joe. She left their home in charge of her brother, freed the slaves and took her five children Henry, Rose, Robin, Clara, and Daddy. [She gives ages, but I know they are not all correct from my research]. They left St. Joe with a caravan, most neighbors, in May 1865 and arrived in September 1865. They had three wagons, some livestock and a milk cow, which they led behind one of the wagons, so they had milk for the children. They hung a pail of milk on the back of the wagon and that way they churned their butter.
When they crossed the Platte River it was high and a lot of the livestock were drowned, but they all came out fine.
Once they came upon a whole caravan that had been killed by Indians and scalped. Grandmother was so shocked, she said she wanted to take her little family and go back, but, of course, could not."
Source: Quoted from a paper by one of the daughters of John Byrd Jr., possibly Nellie. Heard wagon train story from Joanne – a granddaughter of Molly Byrd Cochrane. Also Emmeline Owens Obituary that I found in the Helena Independent, May 1894 mentions Emmeline driving the wagon with oxen across the plains.
I started this post with all kinds of different stories in mind. When I stumbled on a paper of Byrd stories, I ended up posting them. If people are interested in stories, next time I will have more stories from other branches of the family.