A funeral after 150 years

rpulley@lsjournal.comMay 3, 2013 

This is the 150th anniversary year of the assassination of Pleasant Lea, a prominent settler whose name is seen all over Lee’s Summit.

A doctor and owner of a store and appointed postmaster for the area then called Big Cedar, Lea was assassinated Sept. 12, 1862 by Union soldiers from Iowa or Jayhawkers, during the brutal Border Wars between Kansas and Missouri.

The version of the tale depends on which sources or folklore one relies on, said Kathy Smith, president of the Lee’s Summit Historical Society.

Smith said Lea was shot down in the vicinity of what’s now the train depot downtown. A friend took his body to be buried on his property, now Lea McKeighan Park without ceremony. A different story says he was shot at his cabin.

“That was that,” Smith said.

So this year the Lee’s Summit Historical Society will give him a funeral as part of National Historic Preservation Month.

The Lee’s Summit Historical Society working with the Lee’s Summit North debate and International Baccalaureate History students to interpreting those days from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 18 at the Gamber Center and two funeral ceremonies at the grave site. Tickets will be $10 and include a booklet of the history.

The Lea family was close to the family of Henry Washington Younger, of Harrisonville, father of infamous outlaw Cole Younger. Cole Younger was a teenager when his father also was murdered July 20, 1862 as a result of the conflict. The Younger family were well respected and educated, Smith said.

The brutal border wars turned the young man to the path of rebellion then crime joining with Jesse James.

A son of Pleasant Lea, J.C. Lea, rode with Quantrill in the raid on Lawrence.

Later he traveled to New Mexico, started a cattle company, was a founder and first mayor of Roswell, Smith said. Roswell’s website said Lea brought stability to the area after the Lincoln County War, famous for the story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. J.C. Lea brought Garrett into the war.

“It became a whole legend,” Smith said. “It was the most fascinating thing connecting all these people.”

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