Thomas Wood Ballenger

Thomas Wood Ballenger was born 24 December 1842 in Providence, Missouri, to James Ballenger and Nancy Lewis Roddy.1 His father died when he was very young (less than a year), and one John Ellis became his guardian and the administrator of the funds left him by his father.

At age three his mother Nancy married Bradford Lanham on 5 January 1847.2 Thomas was still living with his mother and stepfather as of 1850.3 His mother died (likely of cancer) on 30 March 1857.4

Some time soon after he was sent north to live with a family friend (or perhaps distant relative) in Jackson Township, Livingston County.5 With him he took an embroidered alphabet sampler given him by his mother; he treasured this gift and kept it with him throughout his life.

When the Civil War started in 1861, Thomas ran away and joined the Confederate Army. He enlisted with Company A, 9th Regiment Missouri Infantry. At this point his residence was listed as Boone County, Missouri.6 Thomas fought in at least two major engagements in the Civil War, Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove.

The following is from a letter written by Cloyd Ballenger, one of Thomas' grandsons:

"[General Sterling Price] was known to the family. Some of them must have lived near him or in the same neighborhood. Grand Father made an unpatriotic remark on one occasion and got in the jail or guardhouse, or whatever they called the army caliboose, and General Price let him out."

"I recall two stories which he told. One was that after a battle some place he was walking across the field and heard a man call for water. He stopped and it was a wounded Federal soldier. He had some brandy in his canteen and Grandfather had water in his so they exchanged canteens."

"At one time his outfit was on the east side of the Mississippi, probably in Tenn, There was a battle and Grandfather was struck by a bullet or other projectile on the leather cartridge box which they wore on their belts. Grandfather said that it knocked the breath out of him and of course knocked him down. He heard his company commander say "there goes another good man". A little later Grandfather was back in line and he said his company commander looked at him like he was seeing a ghost. Too bad we did not have tape recorders half a century earlier than we did. And if that bullet had hit two inches higher or lower we would have had no Grandfather!"

In June of 1865, the commanding officer of the Trans-Missippippi Department surrendered the army at Galveston, Texas. Thomas later related that the Confederate Army was in such bad shape at this point that he had to walk back to Missouri without any shoes. He stayed in Boone County only briefly however, finding employment with a wagon train freighting from Leavenworth Kansas to Denver Colorado. He wouldn't return to Boone County until 1886, 21 years later.

Likely this stage company was Wells Fargo, who in 1866 added the Leavenworth-Denver route in a buy out of the Overland Stage Line. While thus employed, he encountered the typical "old west" scenery; buffalo, mountain lions, even attacks by native americans.

Also from a letter written by Cloyd Ballenger is the following account:

"We sat on the porch and he talked about his Civil War experiences, and some of his later experiences on the plains when he worked on a wagon train freighting from Levenworth Kansas to Denver Colo. He spent at least one winter at Denver. He told this story about that time: He was out hunting with another man and the other man must have shot at a mountain lion (a panther?) He missed and the animal started chasing him around a big tree. I do not recall how they managed the finale of this but they both got away."

"One other event of those plains trips: Grandfather was night herdsman. One day the wagon train passed some buffalos which were across a gully or small canyon from the train. Grandfather decided to get one of them so he goes over and takes a shot at one of them. But that one or another took off after Grandfather and he had to run for it. When he went down in the gully some one in the wagon train shot the buffalo. And there is this."

"On another occasion the wagon train was attacked by indians. In the defense Grandfather was hit by an arrow on his left hand. My father said he still had the scar where the arrow had struck him."7

A coworker of his, one Charley Anderson, brought Thomas to Clifton, Bosque County, Texas in 1868.There he met and married this man's sister, Barbara Anderson, on 23 August, 1869.8 They had one daughter, Nancy Catherine. Barbara died in 1871, and is buried in Oswald Cemetery, Clifton.10

On 1 May 1877 Thomas married Mary Melindie Ann Adams in Johnson County Texas.9 Three children followed; Archie Grey in 1878, William Thomas in 1879, and Minnie Lou in 1881.1 In 1886 Thomas and his family were living in Heugh, Johnson County. This year also marked the first occasion that Thomas returned to his birthplace in Boone County, visiting his Aunt Julia Ann (Ballenger) Proctor.8

Some time before 1910 Thomas and Mary moved fromt Texas to Quay County, New Mexico.10 In 1915 he purchased an acreage near the property of his son Archie, near Tucumcari.12

In 1918 they joined their son Archie in Hemet, California, to alleviate a medical condition (possibly asthma) that doctors felt the climate of California might assuage. Thomas passed away on 6 November 1921, and his widow Mary continued to live with the family for several more years, alternating between Hemet and the Fresno area (where her daughter Minnie Lue (Ballenger) Harbin was living).10 Mary died on 7 April 1932. She is buried next to her husband Thomas in San Jacinto Valley Cemetery in Hemet, California.13

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Thomas Wood c.1900