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Pvt Eleazer Lake
Birth: 1821
Marion County
Missouri, USA
Death: Oct. 18, 1862
Marion County
Missouri, USA

Eleazer Lake was the great great grandfather of this writer's husband, Donald Ervin Ellis.

Eleazer was the son of Ballard Lake (1792-1832) who was born in Orange County, North Carolina and died in Marion County, Missouri; and Sarah Polly (Young) Lake (1791-1832) who was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina, and died in Palmyra, Marion County, Missouri.

Eleazer's paternal grandparents were Daniel Lake, Sr. (1774-1827) and Elizabeth (Whaley) Lake (1774-1838) who were pioneers from the New England states to the Ralls and Marion County area of Missouri in the early 1820s.

Eleazer had the following known siblings:

Mary Ann Lake
Cyrus Lake 1817
Elvira Lake 1818
Ezra Lake 1823 1878
Elisha/Elasah Lake 1824

Eleazer's parents each came west to Tennessee from North Carolina with their families when they were young, and were married in about 1815 in Smith County, Tennessee. Ballard Lake soon took his wife further west into the new territory of Missouri where he purchased 80 acres of land on April 24, 1820 in the Palmyra, Missouri, Land Office in Marion County. Here, the Lakes were farmers who raised their family and died in Marion County.

On February 29, 1844, in Marion County, Missouri, Eleazer Lake was married to Sarah Jane Terrill (1826-1849) by the Rev. Jeremiah Taylor. The couple had two children:

John Ballard Lake 1844-1913
Samantha Lake 1848-1862

Sadly, Sarah Jane died sometime between 1848 and 1850, perhaps at the birth of Samantha. This left Eleazer with a baby and a young boy to raise. Because it was necessary for him to work, he placed them in the home of Sarah Jane's widowed mother where there were plenty of aunts to care for John and Samantha.

In the 1850 census of Union, Marion County, Missouri, Eleazer's young children, John and Samantha, were listed in the home of their maternal grandmother, Sarah Terrill, age 62, and their 3 Terrell aunts, Fanny, Lucy, and Almira, and 2 Terrill uncles, Oliver and John, all of whom were in their 20s at that time.

Eleazer went to work close by around Union, Missouri, as a farm hand for a Turpin family. In the 1850 census, he was listed as one of two farm laborers in the home of Lydia Turpin 58, and Jerimiah Turpin 20.

Within a couple of years after this, Eleazer Lake married Sarah Ann "Sallie" (Heryford) Hillbrant, widow of Henry Hillbrant, who had a young son Homer Lee Paul Hillbrant (1849-1921). The family moved to a farm in Scotland County, Missouri.

Eleazer and Sallie had two daughters:

Martha Jane Lake 1854-1935
Mary Evelyn Lake 1860-1930

In the same month that Mary turned 2 years old, June, 1862, her father enlisted as a private in the Missouri Cavalry, Company C, Snider's Battalion, to fight for the Confederacy in the great Civil War. Eleazer was mustered in on July 28, 1962, file number M380, roll 9. But he had only served a short time when he was taken prisoner by the Union and jailed at Palmyra, Missouri, in his home county of Marion. Palmyra was being occupied by the Union Army, and local men who refused to join the Union Army or who had actively engaged in seditious acts were jailed in the County Jail which was being used as a federal prison during the Civil War. The jail was a two-story brick building resembling a house, which was newly built just 4 years earlier in 1858.

During a raid led by Col. Porter of the Missouri Militia for the southern forces, in an attempt to free those prisoners, Porter's men kidnapped a Union sympathizer, 62-year-old Andrew Allsman. The Union forces demanded that Allsman be returned within ten days or ten prisoners in the jail would be shot. It was later believed that Allsman had been killed by some of Porter's men, so he could not be returned when demanded. In any case, Allsman was not returned, and Col. William McNeil of the Union Army made good his threat.

McNeil ordered that the "worst rebels" be selected from the Palmyra jail for execution. He directed that those who could not read nor write, be left alone, taking instead those "of the highest social position and influence." Eleazer Lake was one of those men selected. Actually, only five men were selected from Palmyra Jail and five were brought from the Hannibal, Missouri, jail to Palmyra.

The names of the 10 men selected were: Capt. Thomas A. Sidenor, from Monroe County, Thomas Humston, from Lewis County, Morgan Bixler, from Lewis County, John Y. McPheeters, from Lewis County, Herbert Hudson, from Ralls County, John M. Wade, from Ralls County, Francis M. Lear, from Ralls County, Eleazar Lake, from Scotland County, William T. Humphrey, from Lewis County. These nine men were most all family men and all of them were active in their churches. All of them had been soldiers in the Confederate army. The 10th man was Willis Baker, age 60, who had never served in the Confederate Army but had 2 sons who had. William T. Humphrey's wife succeeded in talking McNeil into a reprieve for her husband because she had a new baby and 2 step-children; 22-year-old Hiram Smith of Knox County was chosen in his place.

Dispite the order to choose men who could read and write, some of the condemned could not. Other prisoners helped them write letters to family members.

The men were taken to the Palmyra fairgrounds on October 18, 1862, riding in wagons and sitting on their own wooden coffins which had been prepared in advance. At the fairgrounds, each was required to stand at the end of their open coffins and a firing squad executed them in front of a crowd of onlookers. Each was supposed to fall backward into their cofins. Since the shooters were not expert riflemen, a greusome sight took place with some men not dying immediately as planned.

The coffin lids, upon which each man's name was written, were screwed on and the bodies returned to town. Friends and family took 7 of the corpses, and three who were not immediately claimed were buried in the public cemetery at Palmyra. It has been reported that Eleazer's body was one of these bodies which was not claimed immediately. However, another source says his cousin claimed his body. Reportedly, he was buried in the Bethel Baptist Church Cemetery north of Palmyra where his parents, Ballard and Sarah Lake were buried. His body was possibly moved later to the Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Scotland County, Missouri, near his family, but we do not know this for sure.

Prior to his execution, Eleazer wrote a touching letter to his wife Sallie and children John, Samantha, Martha, and Mary, and step-son Homer, on the day before he was killed. This letter also shows his faith in God:

"October 17, 1862, Dear Wife and Children, I seat myself to write my last farewell. I am now in jail and have received the sentence of death since dusk. I am to be shot in the morning, but death has no terrors, thank God, as you can see from the hand I write. Bear it with fortitude, for death is only the passage from earth to Heaven, and I feel prepared to go. We shall all soon meet in Heaven, where all tears will be wiped away, and where parting will be no more, and where sickness and sorrow never come. Dear, do not distress about it any more than you can avoid. I should like to see you all once more, but we will soon meet in another world. I bid my fiends farewell, and you, dear wife and children, praying God may bless, protect and support you through your trials. - Eleazer Lake"

After Eleazer Lake's life was taken, his cousin Laban Lake who was the last family member to see him alive, wrote this letter to his widow, Sarah Sally (Hereford) Lake and tells when he buried Eleazer:

October 23, 1862
Mrs. Sarah Lake,

"It becomes my painful duty to inform you that Cousin Eleazer was shot on the 18th inst. I happened to be in Palmyra that morning and heard he was in jail. I went to the jail and stayed with him until the time of his execution. He told me he was perfectly resigned to his fate that he was not afraid to die, only he regretted to leave his family. He also said he had been in the army 8 months and had never done anything he was ashamed of and was still a Southern man. He requested me to take care of his body, which I did. I took his remains and deposited them in the Bethel Church yard beside his father and mother. This is truly a heartrending occurrence. Your husband had gone the way of all earth. He has paid the debt allotted to man, and I believe his spirit has bond to that blissful land where parting will be nor more. May it be our happy lot to feel as he felt when our time shall come. The Lord give and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed [be] the name of the Lord. You will remember your loss is his gain. You can go to him, but he cannot return to you. I shall add nothing more but remain yours respectfully. - Laban Lake"

The Palmyra Massacre attracted nation-wide attention and is said to have been a subject of discussion in the cabinet of President Lincoln. Confederate President Jefferson Davis threatened to execute ten Union prisoners unless McNeil was handed over to the Confederacy, but the threat was never carried out.

Col. McNeil left Palmyra before the executions and went to St. Louis to give a newspaper interview explaining his actions. The executions were condemned by the New York Times and a number of international newspapers.

McNeil earned the title of "Butcher of Palmyra" and neither McNeil nor his Provost Marshall, Strachan, escaped the taint of their actions.

The Palmyra Confederate Monument Association erected a granite monument on the grounds of the Palmyra Courthouse on February 25, 1907. The monument lists the men executed who were Capt. Thomas A. Sidenor, of Monroe County; Willis J. Baker, Thomas Humston, Morgan Bixler, John Y. McPheeters and Hiram T. Smith of Lewis County; Herbert Hudson, John M. Wade and Francis M. Lear of Ralls County and Eleazer Lake of Scotland County. The fairgrounds where they were executed was never again used as a fairgrounds.

The Palmyra Massacre Monument is located on the grounds of the Marion County Courthouse, which is on S. Main Street (US-61) north of Ross Street, Palmyra, Missouri.

Eleazer's oldest daughter, 14-year-old Samantha, died the same year as her father. The circumstances of her death are unknown to this writer. All of Eleazer's other children, including his step-son, lived to adulthood, married and had families. His wife Sallie remarried to James Sunderland of Macon County, Missouri, and they had two sons. After James died, Sallie, her two youngest sons, her daughter Martha, her step-son John Lake, and their families moved to Caddo County, Oklahoma where many of them spent the rest of their days. Sallie is buried in Lone Wolf Cemetery, Kiowa County, Oklahoma.

Eleazer and Sallie's daughter Mary Lake married one of her step-brothers, Thomas Sunderland, when she was 15. She is the great grandmother of this writer's husband, Donald Ervin Ellis, through her daughter Eva Lois (Sunderland) Gentry. Mary and her husband farmed in Macon County, Missouri and are buried at Hopewell Cemetery in Macon County.

- Written by Blytha (Dennis) Ellis
Family links: 
  Ballard Lake (1793 - 1832)
  Sarah Polly Young Lake (1791 - 1832)
  Sarah Ann Hereford Sunderland (1829 - 1918)
  Martha Jane Lake McNeely (1854 - 1935)*
  Mary Evelyn Lake Sunderland (1860 - 1930)*
  Eleazer Lake (1821 - 1862)
  Ezra Lake (1823 - 1878)*
*Calculated relationship
Bethel Baptist Church Cemetery
Marion County
Missouri, USA
Created by: Blytha & Donald Ellis
Record added: Dec 06, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 62620641
Pvt Eleazer Lake
Added by: Blytha & Donald Ellis
Pvt Eleazer Lake
Added by: Blytha & Donald Ellis
Pvt Eleazer Lake
Added by: Blytha & Donald Ellis
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 Added: May. 16, 2014
150th anniversary of my great great grandfather's cruel and unjust death in the Palmyra Massacre.
- Donald Ervin Ellis
 Added: Oct. 18, 2012
Remembering you on the 150th anniversary of your death. RIP!
 Added: Oct. 18, 2012
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This page is sponsored by: Blytha & Donald Ellis

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