How were these
letters discovered and saved?
To find out, please scroll down the text in this box.
"In 1928 an
article in the Kansas City (Missouri) Star announced the publication
in the Missouri Historical Review of a few of the Civil War letters of
Margaret Jane Watts Hays Overstreet She was the widow of Col. Upton
Hays, a Confederate officer from Jackson Co., MO who was killed in
1862. The letters were found in Margaret's trunk of keepsakes after
her death in 1923 and kept together by her oldest daughter, Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Hays
trunk contained much
a few Civil War letters, in fact the letters begin in 1849 and continue
on to the early 1900's. The letter writers were members
of the large and interconnected Watts, Hays, Berry, Boone, Yager
and Yocum families
who settled Kentucky in the late 1700's and early 1800's and then
moved on to Missouri.
is the central figure in
this history of a family. The 1849 letter is by her father,
John S. Watts, who wrote from Albuquerque, New Mexico to
tell his family how he was faring on his journey to the California
gold fields. Her brother wrote her from the diggings at Cold
Springs, California in about 1850 and there was the packet
of letters Margaret had written to her mother in California
from 1852 to 1872. There is a letter from her young nephew,
Tommy Yocum, who died at the Battle of Corinth in 1861 and
a treasured letter from Rev. Cornelius Yager, a cousin who
preached the funeral oration for her father in 1860.
Hays Moutrey saw the letters as a chronicle of the times
which her mother had lived. She wanted them to be published
but was unable to do that herself. She was born in Jackson
County, Missouri, and was only five years old when the
Civil War started and had little opportunity for schooling
in war-torn Missouri. She saw the publication of a few
letters but did not, for some reason, provide more letters
for publication. The Missouri Historical Review articles
were written by Betty's cousin Virginia Hays Asbury and
Virginia's son-in-law, Albert S. Doerschuk.
married young, raised a family and passed the letters on
to her daughters. Eventually the letters and other documents
were passed on to the next generation who took over the
legacy, so finally the complete collection of letters and
other documents will appear here."