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Alenia Dressor McCord was reared in the Bethel community, about eight miles northwest of Greenville, now known as Reno, and was a child during the turbulent days of the Civil War.
She told her granddaughter, the late Alenia McCord, known to many as a former high school teacher in Vandalia, many family stories. One of her stories was about an event that would become known as the "Vandalia Raid."
In the early 1860s, the Bethel community was then full of Southern sympathizers; also known as "Copperheads." One time, the Dressor children went to visit their cousins, who lived in the Elm Point community, no more than four miles from their home. The usual entertainment was to attend the revival meetings. This particular evening, a revival was being held in the Presbyterian Church at Elm Point.
Here is where Grandmother McCord’s story began. “The old minister who was conducting the revival was a notorious Copperhead. A short time before this, the federal authorities at Vandalia had taken several civilians as prisoners.
“They were planning to move the prisoners to another town when a large contingent from Bond County, many from Greenville, marched on the town to rescue them. At the edge of town, they were fired upon and apparently ran most of the way back to Greenville. Some of the men were jailed at Greenville, but others escaped.
“When the old minister at the Elm Point church shouted, “What shall we do to be saved?” a voice at the rear was heard with the advice, ‘Throw down your gun and run like you did at Vandalia!’”
Lemuel Adams, a former soldier from Bond County, knew some of the people involved in what he called the “invasion of Fayette County,” and a story was told about it in the book, "Voices of the Prairie Land."
Thomas N. Hunter, who lived five miles southwest of Greenville, was said by Adams to have been a colonel; John H. Heston a major; and Andrew J. Ray, a captain in the Bond County branch of the vigilante group.
One evening, just after dark, a company of men mustered by Ray rode east toward Vandalia to meet up with other men and organize. They passed through Greenville and no attempt was made to detain them. As the journey lengthened, their numbers increased.
When they reached Vandalia, they heard the whispers that a regiment of federal officers was coming. It wasn’t long before some of the men got a little jumpy. Then, a panic swept over the men, first one group, and then another, scattered for home.
Col. Hunter and Maj. Heston had also reached Vandalia. “When they saw their army dissolving, they departed for home by a circuitous route, and were seen by some in Dudleyville.”
One man by the name of Grigg didn’t even take time to saddle his horse but struck for home. It was told that he made 16 miles in just under two hours' time.
Andrew Ray, whom Lemuel Adams describes as a person with a forceful character, did not, as Adams put it, appear to be a bad man and was counted among the old settlers of Bond County.
Ray’s farm, located a few miles west of Greenville, was a prosperous one, and his livestock were well cared for. However, Ray was possessed with the idea that the Civil War was somehow depriving him of some of his rights.
Following the "Vandalia Raid," Ray, with sons John and William, were arrested for inciting a riot. All those who rode with them were imprisoned. Bail was set, and they were all finally released on bail paid, in part, by their neighbors. Adams said the case dragged on for years, and was finally dismissed.
Tevis Greathouse of Vandalia, whom Andrew Ray described as a drunken raving Copperhead, was hired as an attorney for the men. Greathouse later had to sue them for his attorney’s fee of $100.
In a separate incident, an indictment of Ray and 18 others was filed in April 1864 in Bond County court, charging them with attempted murder of George Boyer, a Union soldier.
Copies of this indictment found in Fayette County files, show that in addition to Ray and his sons, John B., William and 20-year-old Andrew J. Ray, others involved in the affair included James B. Rutherford, Martin Day, Jeremiah Coyle, Perry Reid, John Plog, Frank and George Hochderffer, William Price, Orlando Hay, Thomas Brown, George Bush, John Trieb, Tillman and Birdine Carroll, and John Pain.
These men all lived as neighbors in Bond County, and in close proximity to the camp of the Clingman Gang near Sanner’s Ford. A check of the Bond County census indicates that several were fathers and sons, with the oldest being James B. Rutherford, who was age 67 at the time of the indictment.
During this period in our history, the Clingman gang kept things stirred up. They were credited with stealing horses, assault and murder, and even burned a bridge or two in Fayette County. These Bond County men were probably loosely associated with Clingman, carrying out a brand of terror to those who didn’t think as they did.