It’s been 150 years since the assassination of Pleasant Lea, a prominent settler whose name is seen all over Lee’s Summit.
By RUSS PULLEY
Special to The Star
A doctor, store owner and appointed postmaster for the area then called Big Cedar, Lea was assassinated Sept. 12, 1862, by Union soldiers from Iowa or by Jayhawkers during the brutal Border Wars between Kansas and Missouri.
The version of the tale depends on which sources or folklore one relies on, said Kathy Smith, president of the Lee’s Summit Historical Society.
Smith said Lea was shot down in the vicinity of what’s now the train depot downtown. A friend took his body to be buried on his property, now Lea McKeighan Park, without ceremony. A different story says he was shot at his cabin.
“That was that,” Smith said.
So the Lee’s Summit Historical Society is giving him a funeral as part of National Historic Preservation Month.
The historical society is working with the Lee’s Summit North debate and International Baccalaureate history students to interpret those days from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Gamber Center, with funeral ceremonies at the grave site. Tickets will be $10 and include a booklet of the history.
The Lea family was close to the family of Henry Washington Younger, of Harrisonville, father of infamous outlaw Cole Younger. Cole Younger was a teenager when his father was murdered July 20, 1862, as a result of the conflict. The Younger family was well-respected and educated, Smith said.
The brutal border wars turned the young man to the path of rebellion, and then crime as he joined with Jesse James.
A son of Pleasant Lea, J.C. Lea, rode with Quantrill in the raid on Lawrence.
Later he traveled to New Mexico, started a cattle company, was a founder and first mayor of Roswell, Smith said. Roswell’s website said Lea brought stability to the area after the Lincoln County War, famous for the story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. J.C. Lea brought Garrett into the war.
“It became a whole legend,” Smith said. “It was the most fascinating thing connecting all these people.”