Bronaugh, Missouri History

by Lyndon Irwin

It is well established that the Vernon County, Missouri town of Bronaugh was named for Warren Carter Bronaugh.

Warren C. Bronaugh

Warren C. Bronaugh was born in Buffalo, (West) Virginia in 1841. He was the son of C.C. Bronaugh and the grandson of Revolutionary War Patriot, William Bronaugh.

When Warren was a young child, his family moved to Henry County, Missouri and it was there that he grew up. He was nicknamed "Wal". In 1861, he enlisted in the Confederate Army in Springfield and served under General Price. He participated in the Battle of Lone Jack. After the battle, Wal and another soldier became separated from the rest of their unit. Their unit retreated while they were away. Fortunately, Wal and the soldier met another Confederate soldier who told them about the retreat and they were able to relocate their unit instead of being captured by the Union troops that had moved into the area.

After the War, Wal and his brothers moved to Texas where they raised cattle. However, during a 1880's drought, they went broke. The Bronaugh brothers then moved to an area south of Nevada and started another cattle operation. It was at that point that land for a new town was obtained, and the town was named for Wal Bronaugh. Before long, he returned to Henry County and he then lived near Clinton for many years.

Henry County home of the Bronaugh's.

One part of Bronaugh history that is often overlooked, is the relationship of the town founder to the Younger brothers who rode with Jesse James and who were arrested following the famous bank robbery at Northfield, Minnesota. The Younger brothers were also Confederate Soldiers. Their family was among those families who were robbed many times by Jayhawkers coming out of Kansas. The Youngers reacted by joining up with various bands of outlaws who were referred to as Bushwhackers. There is no evidence that Wal Bronaugh ever participated in such activities.

By 1876, the Youngers careers of riding with the James gang had ended. They had been convicted of the robbery and murders associated with the Northfield, Minnesota bank robbery. They then entered the Minnesota State Penitentiary with life sentences ahead of them.

Cole Younger

In the fall of 1885, Wal Bronaugh traveled to Minnesota and asked to visit with the Youngers in prison. He was allowed to do so. There is some question as to Bronaugh's real motive for visiting the former outlaws. Originally it was felt that he went to Minnesota on a sense of loyalty to fellow Confederate soldiers who he felt were victims of circumstance. When he met Cole Younger, Bronaugh later stated that it was then that he realized that he had formerly met Cole. Cole had been the Confederate soldier who had helped Wal find his way back to his Confederate unit some 20 years ago at Lone Jack, Missouri. He had in essence, probably saved Wal Bronaugh's life.

There is another theory about Bronaugh meeting the Youngers and it involves Frank James (Jesse's brother). Frank could certainly never go into Minnesota during his life or he would be arrested for the Northfield bank robbery. It is well established that Wal Bronaugh and Frank James were good friends. It is plausible that Wal's visit to the Minnesota penitentiary was actually on behalf of Frank.

Bob, Jim and Cole Younger with a sister

Whatever the reason for Wal Bronaugh's going to Minnesota, there is no doubt that he was absolutely committed to working for the release of the Youngers from prison. In fact, he spent the next nearly 20 years working toward that goal. He spent much of his own money and used his influence with Missouri politicians to work for the Younger's parole. The Youngers were paroled finally in 1901. On the day that their parole was announced, Wal Bronaugh was in Minnesota and it was he who escorted the Youngers from prison and met with reporters.

It was not long until Wal Bronaugh had written a book. The name of it is "The Youngers Fight for Freedom" and it contains many letters that he wrote to the Youngers as well of an account of his efforts to gain paroles for them.

A copy of Wal Bronaugh's book, along with an autographed page to his first cousin, Yelverton McCullan Bronaugh. Pam Phillips tells that Yelverton M. was a son of William Yelverton Bronaugh who was a brother to C. C. Bronaugh, Wal's father.

Click here for more information on the Bronaugh family that Pam has provided.

Read Bronaugh Family Obituaries.

Throughout his life, it appears obvious that Wal Bronaugh was convinced that the mistreatment of the Younger family by Union troops and anti-slavery Jayhawkers justified the later activities of the Younger brothers. Wal Bronaugh was a Confederate supporter for his entire life. He served as commander of Missouri unit of the "United Confederate Veterans" and was active in other organizations related to the Confederacy.

Thanks to Norman and Beth Jones for lending me their W. C. Bronaugh book. I am glad to say that I have managed to purchase a copy in September, 2000.

Click here to go back to the Bronaugh page

Click here to visit my son's Bushwhacker site

If you have questions, email me