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Biography: August Myers, Quantrill Guerrilla
BRANDED AS REBELS by Joanne Eakin and Donald Hale (page 320) lists: "Myers, ______, A German guerrilla who was with the band of 15 who raided Rhineland, Missouri May 26, 1863." The raid was led by Colonel James Brewer, a much loved officer of Gus'.
His name was August "Gus" Myers. He was born in 1838 or 1839 and was trained in English, math, and as a wheelwright. He emigrated from Hamburg, Germany in the early 1850s and moved to Leavenworth, Kansas to live with his Uncle Wooten. He and his Uncle worked at the RMW(Russell, Majors and Waddell) Freight Company building repairing wooden wagon wheels and building barrels. It is important to note here that his Uncle Wooten did not sympathize with the pre-Civil War abolitionists in Kansas and was clearly sympathetic to the Confederate/Southern ideology. He taught his nephew Gus to be of the same like mind in these issues.
Sometime around 1862, however, Gus left Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and settled near Grandview, Missouri in Jackson County. He stated in his journal here that he had had "a run-in with the local Constabulary" in Leavenworth and had to make a hasty retreat. Later in the journal, we find out that the run-in was over a grave robbing accusation and Gus said "I am not proud of what I done but must relieve myself of it now" (in his journal). This seems to make the grave robbing
At any rate, Gus set up a shop as a wheelwright in Grandview in 1862 where his skills were most needed. Wagon wheels were brought to him from all over the area. However, he soon became restless and bored with his craft (Ref: Gus' journal). Interestingly enough, it seems to be at this time that Gus became friends with W.C. Quantrill's brother Thompson Quantrill who was, Gus states, using the name David at that time. Many references in Myers' journal refer to "David Quantrill". There are also references that Thompson Quantrill was nothing like his brother William Clarke in that Thompson was essentially an "unsavory bum" (Myers journal).
During the 1862 period, Gus describes himself as a person who "cared little about Federal Trash" and delighted in "making them skedaddle or hairless" (scalped?). Also in this period, he became a Quantrill guerrilla under Todd's command; a man he deeply revered. He denied later in life that he had been in the Lawrence raid but his highly detailed description of the raid itself belies this. Also, he states references that he was charged with the "spoils of war" (plunder?) amassed from the time with George Todd and F.M. Poole. These "spoils of war" will be explained in more detail under the description of the collection and its contents. It can be tracked from THIS point in 1864 that AUGUST MYERS became THE SPECIFIED ARCHIVIST OF THE QUANTRILL GUERRILLAS!
However, it was in July, 1862 that a turning point in Gus' life happened which would also lead to the accumulation of the Myers collection. At this time and throughout the Civil War, the photographer of choice for the Quantrill guerrillas and many Federal troops as well was ELIAS ALBERT BALDWIN, known as "The Traveling Artist". He and his daughter PRUDENCE GRACE BALDWIN traveled in a wagon photographic saloon through North Western Missouri, Kansas, OklahomaTerritory, Texas, and Southern Nebraska from their home base in Falls City, Nebraska. He photographed Rebel and border partisans as well as Kansas Jayhawkers and Federal troops so he was "largely un-molested" (Ref: Myers journal).
It is interesting to note here that the Myers journal states that E. A . Baldwin formed a partnership in 1885 with another traveling photographer in the Indian Territory by the name of Irwin M. Askren. Askren was another Civil War traveling photographer who took extensive images in the border states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. In 1892, this partnership, listed as Baldwin and Askren, is listed as traveling but based in East Des Moines, Iowa. Both E. A. Baldwin and I. M. Askren are described as "traveling" as they both maintained traveling saloons or wagons as well as a permanent studio. This confirms two important things concerning the Myers image collection. Those are that Gus Myers had direct access to any duplicate images and their identifications in the Baldwin and Askren files at least into 1892. E.A. Baldwin died in 1892 and is buried in Omaha, Nebraska.
To continue, in July, 1862 the wagon broke down near Grandview, Mo. The Quantrill guerrilla, Henry Hockensmith (Gus' close friend) took them to Gus Myers' shop for repairs. This was when Gus met Prudence and they were married in 1862. The journal states that Prudence knew "what Gus was up to" and that she was "behind him in every way".
At this point in the journal there are additional references that Gus was in Lawrence and Centralia but the references are rather vague. There is a reference that in 1863, he was "living in the forests of Missouri and riding under the Black Flag of William Clarke Quantrill's men under George Todd's command". There is another reference in the journal that Gus was "the ambulance driver when Todd was killed" at Harrisonville, Mo. on 11/04/1864 (outside Independence) and was taken for burial at the Burns house nearby. Gus never surrendered in 1865 and was on the run for several years afterwards.
Gus' life after the war is sketchy but, as in the case of many guerrillas, he was constantly side stepping the Federal authorities and on the run. He does specify in the journal that he was with F.M. Poole and Archie Clement on the day Archie was murdered in Lexington, Missouri in 1866. Also, that he changed his name to GEORGE MASON (name will appear again later in this narrative). In later life, talking to his son, he admitted, "I have used up all but one of my nine lives" trying to evade the law. As a matter of fact, in 1914, just before his death, he admitted to his son, George (named after George Todd) that he did "some terrible, awful things before, during, and after the War. I was constantly drunk son. No good ever came of it."
In a humorous aside here, in 1938, Gus's grandson said that "Pops said that we (the family) were a tick's hide from becoming the MASON CLAN". Evidently the AKA: George Mason almost stuck!
The journal does state in reference to one of the 1860s period images (covered later) that in the 1869-1872 period, Gus worked for guerrilla Captain George Scholl and his partner, Robert Sargent in their combined freight and undertaking business. Gus worked there as a teamster foreman for George Scholl and a grave digger for Robert Sargent. He states that he was "great friends with both men". There is also a reference that in 1872, Gus farmed some land close to or owned by William Gregg and had his own home there. The reference in the journal also refers to him meeting retired General Mosby at that time and that Mosby was recuperating from a fall off his horse at the Myer's home.
Gus died in 1914 while on a steamboat near Omaha, Nebraska. His body was taken off the boat at "Rock City or Rock Bluff" (memory of childhood description by his GG granddaughter). From there it was taken by wagon back to Falls City. It is not known for sure, but possible, he was even buried under the name George Mason or George Myerson to protect his identity as he was a very secretive man after the Civil War. In fact, a journal entry states that his body was exhumed ( probably by order of his son, George Jr.) , placed in a new coffin, and reburied at a new location. However, the family has not revealed where, from or to.
Gus Myers(on) died a gruff old penitent man pertaining to the crimes he admitted to have done before, during, and after the Civil War. He remained a devoted loyalist of the cause he supported and very proud of being a guerrilla. He did accomplished one thing that will cause him to be remembered . His dedication to the memory of W.C. Quantrill, his captains, and each and every member of the Missouri guerrillas, as well as his marriage into a trusted photography family, led him to accumulate the greatest collection of Missouri guerrilla images extant. It is this collection, how it was accumulated, and how it was documented, that will be detailed in the next section.
Gus Myers later changed his name to George Myerson, Sr. The reason for this is unknown but the family, from George Myerson, Jr., his son, carries this name to this day. His son knew of the change and that his father's real name was Gus Myers.
George Myerson, Jr.
George Myerson Jr. was Gus' son. He was born circa 1868 after the Civil War. The journal is written in his hand as dictated to him by his father and from stories that his father related to him on occasion. George traveled with Gus to visit many of Gus' old Quantrill guerrilla friends and to Ex-Confederate reunions.
Over time, as he grew up dealing with the Gus Myers' guerrilla image collection, George Jr. became interested in collecting himself. He made it a habit of pursuing images of the famous lawmen and outlaws he read about in the newspapers and books between 1885-1935. He became very tenacious and, as he was a successful dentist and businessman, he had the funds to pursue what he wanted. He was known to use Gus' contacts to find original photographers who took many of the images and he tracked down family members whenever he could do so.
He also formed a business dealing in dental and orthodontics supplies and met and befriended both Robert "Hub" Holliday and George H. Holliday, Doc Holliday's favorite cousins. George Jr. was said to have had a particular obsession on Doc Holliday and had a framed 1/2 plate, tinted image of Doc on his desk for all to see that he was given by Robert Holliday. The two Holliday brothers also dealt in dental supplies ( Robert was a dentist and graduated from the same dental college as Doc Holliday) and they all met socially and at conventions. Fortunately, he was in the right time and place to still acquire the images that still existed in other people's hands. George Jr. was also known to travel great distances by train when required to buy what he wanted.
George Myerson Jr. accumulated most of the NON-Quantrill related images in the collection and a few of the Quantrill guerrilla images that Gus did not already have. His major love was the Western characters we recognize today; Wyatt Earp, Pat Garrett, Doc Holiday, Bill Hickok, J.J. Webb, Dave Rudabaugh, Dave Morrow, Tom Horn, and their friends and associates. His was not a big collection of images (compared with Gus') but it is a important, historical collection none-the-less. He became a well know collector in his own right and knew many western characters still living and their families.
George Myerson Jr. is unknown to collectors today. However, in his own time, he was very well known and today, is one of the Father's of Western image collecting (in the 1885-1930 period). He preceded Noah Rose, Wilbur Zink, Herb Peck and the others by decades. He was in the right place at the right time to acquire images and artifacts from the photographers who photographed them, the families who knew and loved them, and even the men and women themselves who were still alive. He was successful and wealthy and therefore had the time and means to pursue his goals wherever that took him. He died in 1935.
George Myerson II, George Myerson, Jr's son, became the last archivist of the collection. He cased many of the images, protected them archivaly, rewrapped them in their numbered butcher paper and crated them along with the journal where they remained for around 70 years after the death of his father until opened by his son in 2006.
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