John Newman Edwards

Major John Newman Edwards was a famous member of the Dover Community.  His grave can be found in the Dover Cemetery.  He was a notable author of Civil War history, celebrated journalist, and the greatest purveyor of the Jesse James myth.

Accomplishments include:

Service as Brigade Adjutant, rank of Major, under General Joseph Shelby (CSA) during the Civil War

Inaugurating the “Kansas City Times”

Publishing the “Mexico Times”

Author of “Shelby and his Men (Or The War in the West)” 1867

Author of “Shelby’s Expedition to Mexico” 1872

Author of “A Terrible Quintette” 1873 (regarding the Jesse James Gang)

Author of “Noted Guerrillas (Or The Warfare of the Border)” 1877; written in Dover at the home of his wife’s father, Judge J. S. Plattenburg, also includes the James Gang

Many historians credit Edwards with almost single-handedly starting the myth of the “noble outlaw” in this country with his defense of the Jameses, Youngers, and their cohorts after the war. Jesse James even named his own son Jesse Edwards James, after our townsman.

Notes on Edwards and Jesse James from the “Dover History Book” as follows:

After the war, the country was terrorized by companies of men going about burning houses. Young girls were forced to flee their homes, often scantily dressed. Citizens were shot down for no reason.

It was men such as these who drove the James boys from their home and shot their mother, perhaps the reason many people in Dover upheld them and offered them shelter.  It is said Jesse James was often welcome in the homes of some of the citizens of Dover.  One such person was Edwards, son-in-law of the Plattenburgs. He often told the story of his mother-in-law, who stated she “sure would like to meet Jesse James.”  One night Edwards brought Jesse home with him; withholding his real identity from the family.  They were given supper and Jesse was sent upstairs to sleep with the fourteen year old son of the Plattenburgs.  The next morning after breakfast, Jesse left. As he rode away Edwards remarked to his mother-in-law, “Well mom, you always said you would like to meet Jesse James; there he goes.”  Later his fourteen year old brother-in-law, Walter Lee Plattenburg, remarked when told of his bed partner, “Well I’ll be darned, I always wanted to see Jesse James and I slept with him all night and never even saw his face.”

Like a great part of Missouri, the area around Dover suffered from the war and particularly from the violence and destruction of the bushwhackers.

See link below for more information regarding Edwards’s relationship with Jesse James:

A full Biographical Sketch can be found at the following link:

Missouri State Historical Society Biograph link below. Includes informative links to letters from Edwards during the exile of Shelby’s men to the country of Mexico.  Also, more information on letters sent between Edwards and Frank James giving Frank information and advice about public opinion, reward for his capture, and negotiations for his surrender to Governor Crittenden.

John Edwards Tombstone

Born January 4, 1839 in Warren County, Virginia; John Newman Edwards died May 4, 1889 in Jefferson City, Missouri. He was then buried in the Dover, Missouri cemetery as outline in the “Dover History Book” excerpt below:

Perhaps one of the most stirring services ever held in the Dover cemetery was that of Major John Edwards who was laid to rest here in May of 1889.  Major Edwards was born in Virginia. He began working in a newspaper office while he was a mere boy. Although he became a successful author and newspaper man, he had very little education.

In 1854 Major Edwards came to Missouri, and to Lexington the following year. He joined General Joe Shelby’s regiment in 1862. After serving several months, he was appointed Brigade Adjutant, rank of Major. He and General Shelby joined Corkrell and Coffee in September 1863. Upon reaching Johnson County and hearing of the battle at Lone Jack, they went there. They then went into Arkansas where several battles were fought. Major Edwards came back to Missouri. After the Civil War he went to Mexico. Here he published a newspaper, “The Mexico Times.” In 1868 he, with John C. Moore, inaugurated the Kansas City Times, a widely read newspaper.

Major Edwards was married March 28, 1871, to Mary Virginia Plattenburg of Dover. They were married at the home of General Joe Shelby in Aullville.  The wedding took place away from home because of an interposed objection on the part of her parents, grounded solely on near family relationship of the parties.

They had two sons, John and James, and one daughter, Laura.

Mr. Edwards died of heart disease in a Jefferson City hotel Saturday May 4, 1889. Only his colored Servants, Thomas and Laura, were present at the time of his death.

At 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, the funeral procession formed at the hotel to go to the depot where the train was waiting. First came a long line of gentlemen on foot, led by Governor Francis and composed of Senators, members of the House of Representatives, and many others. At the side of the hearse were the pall bearers: Dr. Morrison Memford, Col. D.W. Marmaduke, Honorable J. Frank Merriman, Major John L. Bittenger, Col. T.P. Hay, and Captain A.A. Lesueur; then came the family and other friends in carriages.

At Tipton a special train, furnished by the courtesy of S.H. Clark Esq., at the request of Col. A.C. Dawes, awaited the funeral party. The funeral party consisted of Mrs. Edwards, Miss Ella McCarty (her dear friend), all of the pall bearers except Col. Marmaduke, Rev. Peter Trone, and Mrs. George and Walter Lee Plattenburg.

At Boonville they were joined by the Honorable Thomas Cramer, and at Marshall by Elder George Platt and Mr. Yerley.  The train reached the Dover depot at 6:30 p.m., where it was met by a number of Dover citizens and by the following gents who were the active pall bearers: John Allen Harwood, E.W. Van Anglen, Dr. E.R. Meng, R.T. Koontz, James F. Winn, and George B. Gordon.

The casket was deposited at the Plattenburg mansion (Mrs. Edwards, girlhood home) until 10:00 a.m., the next morning when the burial took place in the village cemetery. The whole countryside turned out.

From the Kansas City Times, among the obituaries, the following article appeared:

Higginsville, Mo., May 6, 1889. In the old cemetery just at the outskirts of the little town of Dover ten miles from here, the body of John Newman Edwards was buried this morning. It is a quiet, secluded spot where the rumble of wagon wheels in the road nearby are the only sounds, save the singing of the birds heard from one year to the other- just the place where one with Major Edwards’ love of nature and the beautiful world would desire to lie in his last long sleep. It was his wish, fervently expressed, that he be buried here. It is within easy view from the old Plattenburg homestead where his wife spent her childhood days, where he wooed and won her, and from which his body was carried to its last resting place. The whole scene is a pretty rural one, the scattering houses of Dover giving it just enough of an urban aspect without destroying its primitive beauty.

At 8:30 a.m. the casket was opened and the citizens of Dover and people from the country for miles around filed in to take a last look at the face loved so well by so many throughout Lafayette County, where he passed his early life, and from which he went to make a name that was honored and loved wherever it was known.

Features were lifelike, expression peaceful. “He looks as if he were sleeping,” many remarked.

The greater part of the five or six hundred who viewed the corpse were from Lexington, Higginsville, Corder, and neighboring towns. There had been a misunderstanding as to the time of the funeral and many from Higginsville, Corder, etc. has driven over on Sunday. However, Dover could not have accommodated any more strangers on that morning.

Mr. Edwards’ death created profound sensation throughout Missouri.

Safe to Say no funeral at Dover for many years has created a greater impression on public minds than this one. Here he learned to know his beloved commander, General Joe Shelby. Here too, he wooed and won his bride, a fair grey eyed southern lassie, as full of impulses and romance as himself.

Dover had many ties upon the heart of John Newman Edwards. He was nearer and dearer to all Dover people than he was to many with whom he came in daily contact throughout his busy and active world; they were there to put all that was mortal of him away in its last resting place with their own loving hands. Their wives and children were there too, to add their tears to those of the stricken wife and children.

As the numerous assemblage encircled the grave, grief and sorrow written upon every face, the scene was one to immortalize the painter who could have seized it and put it on canvas.