James “Pop” Menefee said he likes to do one good thing every day.
By selling an easement on 190 acres north of Carthage to the Civil War Trust, Menefee hopes this one good thing will last forever.
Menefee talked to the Jasper County Commission this week about why he and his family agreed to put a big chunk of his land, located on Buck Branch Creek on Civil War Road, under an easement that will prevent anyone who owns it in the future from developing it or dividing it.
“This is one good thing that will last from now on,” he told the commissioners on Tuesday. “There will never be a development or a Walmart or anything built on this Civil War battleground and I would like to see this piece stay like it is for my lifetime, for my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren and so on. I love my life there and I'd like to keep it that way.”
Menefee's land was the location of one of the key engagements in the Civil War Battle of Carthage on July 5, 1861.
Jasper County Records Center Director and historian Steve Weldon said Bucks Branch was an important engagement in the Battle of Carthage.
It was at Buck's Branch where Col. Franz Sigel's 1,100 troops faced possibly their biggest challenge as they struggled to escape about 6,000 Missouri State Guard troops under Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson.
Weldon said State Guardsmen on horseback had managed to get to Sigel's rear, blocking his retreat to Carthage, so some of Sigel's men fixed bayonets and charged the horsemen, scattering them and allowing the Union soldiers and their supply train to retreat to Carthage.
“It's important to remember that the State Guard troops were not cavalry, they were soldiers on horseback, and there's a difference,” Weldon said. “A cavalryman is specially trained to fight form horseback. At the same time, the horse also has to be specially trained not to be spooked by gunfire and loud noises. These were farm boys on farm horses and from what we know, they scattered when the Union soldiers fired their muskets and cannon.”
Menefee, who runs a grass-fed beef ranch on the property, said he didn't know about the land's Civil War history until after he bought it about 20 years ago.
“I knew you were on Civil War Avenue, then I contacted the Civil War Trust and a lady there came up with all the battleground information,” Menefee said. “She said this is a core battleground, the Buck Branch, all that property I'm on. I just keep hoping I find a cannon somewhere.”
Menefee said he talked it over with his wife, who has since passed away, and three children and two grandchildren and the entire family agreed to his plan to put the easement on the land.
Page 2 of 2 - In July, Ozarks Regional Land Trust executive director David Coonrod approached the Jasper County Commission about serving as a “pass-through” agency, meaning they would direct the funds from a National Park Service grant to where they needed to go in order to pay the landowners for the easement.
The Washington D.C.-based Civil War Trust, a group dedicated to preserving Civil War Battlefields, would purchase the easement, in which the landowner agrees to give up development rights in exchange for money and a tax break, using the National Park Service grant.
The commissioners did not vote on the issue on Tuesday. Commissioner Darieus Adams said he was close to a yes-vote on the land, but he had a few questions that he felt needed to be answered.
The commissioners delayed a vote until next Tuesday's regular meeting.