Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first Civil War battle of Newtonia, 30 people gathered on Sunday at Newtonia Baptist Church to hold a sunrise memorial service.Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first Civil War battle of Newtonia, 30 people gathered on Sunday at Newtonia Baptist Church to hold a sunrise memorial service.

NEWTONIA — Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first Civil War battle of Newtonia, 30 people gathered on Sunday at Newtonia Baptist Church to hold a sunrise memorial service.

It was not only to remember those who fought at Newtonia, but also to remember the fallen soldiers and also an awards presentation was given.

“(Nearly) 20 years ago, we (Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association) met at Empire (District) room (in Neosho) at that time and right now there are still four people involved with the group that met that first time,” said Larry James, president of NBPA.

Prior to his remarks, those in attendance had the opportunity to see a slide show of the Ritchey Mansion – which was built by Matthew Ritchey in the early 1850s – and still, stands today. NBPA owns the mansion, along with takes care of more than 20 acres of land and takes care of the Old Civil War Cemetery.

During the Civil War, Newtonia saw two battles. The first battle occurred on Sept. 30 1862 and saw an unprecedented number of Native American units fight on both sides. The second battle in Oct. 28, 1864 battle was the last one fought in Missouri. Approximately 350 soldiers were either killed or wounded in 1862, and 650 casualties were reported in the 1864 battle.

Giving the keynote speech was Chief Glenna Wallace, of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe.

“I want to commend you for what you are doing here, for what you have done, and to know that it is just the beginning,” she said. “So, 150 years ago, here, there was a battle and you know that that battle, all battles are historic, but that one was particularly historic because we had complete regiments of Indians fighting against each other on each side of that battle.”

Wallace talked about her tribe’s history. 

“My people came to this country or to this area in 1832, we preceded the Civil War about 30 years,” she said. “We came not because we wanted to, we came because we were forced. We came not in an easy way, we said if we had to go, we were going to go on foot…I can tell you what was happening with my tribe. We started out in the Ohio Valley, numbering at least 10,000 people. In 1900, my tribe was down to 69 people. It was almost an example of genocide. The 20 of you that met 20 years ago have made a significant impact. Those 69 people kept my tribe alive.”

Wallace reiterated to the NBPA group the importance of what they are doing.

“You are fighting for something that you believe in,” she said. “And from those 69 people in 1900, you look at my tribe today, I am sure there are 69 people who would shake their heads and say, ‘I cant believe this.’ ‘I could never had imagined this.’ And I think that is what you were saying Larry (James), when you met 20 years ago, your vision could not encompass all of this, you have accomplished far more. I can remember talking the first time to Kay Hively about this, and Kay was so proud because she said, ‘we have purchased the Ritchey Mansion. It will probably never be paid for in our lifetime, but at least we have a down payment so that other people can carry on.’ You have come far more for paying for the Ritchey Mansion.”

On Saturday, the group hosted a living history on the mansion grounds, it also coincided with the 37th annual Newtonia Fall Festival. Cars were lined on both sides of the street in front of the mansion and the community center, along with other streets.

Wallace remarked on that as well.

“You have impacted far more people (referring to the crowd on Saturday) just as those 69 people impacted people in my tribe,” she said. “…So now we are at this time, and the fruits of your labor, you can begin to see the results.”

NBPA member Rudy Farber, Neosho, read a letter from Sen. Roy Blunt to the group.

The letter said in part, “Dear friends, I regret that my schedule prevents me from attending this milestone event in Newtonia. Please know how much I appreciate the NBPA’s hard work to preserve the lands, heritage, and culture at Newtonia, demonstrations, drills, reenactments, and special speakers. It is hard to imagine that on the peaceful pastures in and around Newtonia 150 years ago, men clashed and died…America’s Civil War was a remarkable, violent, and critical time in our history…Congratulations on your efforts to commemorate 150th anniversary of the battle of Newtonia.”

On a personal note, Farber said, “I know that the senator has been very instrumental in attempting to link us up with the National Park Service. I know that he and his staff are continuing to work on this. Now that the cannons are silenced and that we move forward, I would like to echo the sentiments of the chief in terms of the vision that lasted. There are a number of people that have worked extremely hard in trying to keep Newtonia alive and well. I would like to thank Kay and Russell Hively, Tom Higdon, Larry James, Steve Roark, David Weems, and Larry Neff for their contributions for this effort. Chief Wallace, thank you very much for involvement of your tribe in this area…”

At the conclusion of the service, Russ Hively, Jim Ridenour and Newtonia Mayor George Philliber gave out awards.

Both Russ Hively and Ridenour read the order of the tin cup, which read as follows:

Every soldier in the Civil War — had and used a tin cup. They were used for drinking water — coffee — or whatever else they could find or acquire. Although not their first choice, when forced, troops would use them to heat their rations or warm their coffee. Some soldiers made a cover with a hole the size of a candle, thus producing a simple candleholder. Cups were used for shaving, gambling, storing and sorting things. At times when better options weren’t available, men used them for digging. A tin cup, so simple and so basic, yet so vital to those who need it, could easily represent the soldiers that served in the Civil War. Men that everyday followed orders; and did the best they could to serve their country, their homes, and their families in an honorable manner.

“Since its inception in 1993, the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association has grown from a few people meeting in Newtonia’s Community Building to a group that now numbers in the hundreds and is responsible for the care of the Ritchey Mansion and the old Newtonia Cemetery,” Russ Hively said.

 “Today, the NBPA would like to recognize some of those who have been vital in the success achieved by this group, by presenting them a small token: We award (each of them) the Order of the Tin Cup,” Ridenour said.

The awards went to Tom Higdon, Kay Hively, Rudy Farber, David Weems, to the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, Larry James, the 4th Missouri Infantry, Ranger Connie Langum, Sen. Roy Blunt, Newtonia Betterment Association, Don Jessen, Jean Knabb and Ed Bearss.