HISTORY EXCLUSIVE: Unique Quantrill photo released for the first time

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By Tom Watson

This writer unveiled the only confirmed photo of Confederate Capt. William Clarke Quantrill several years ago.


Now it’s time to show you another picture of the guerrilla leader who was captured on the Spencer County farm of James Heady Wakefield.
Quantrill was shot by John Langford of Mount Eden on May 10, 1865, and died nearly a month later (on June 6) in Louisville.
These pictures of Quantrill were found in the collections of descendants of Donnie and Bud Pence of Nelson County. The Pence brothers, natives of Missouri, were members of Quantrill’s force who settled in the Samuels section of Nelson County after the Civil War.
The picture of Quantrill holding a hat came from the same collection as the original image of him that this scribe confirmed several years ago.
It has been proven through various sources, including a letter from Langford to newspaper editor W.W. Scott in Canal Dover, Ohio, that Quantrill had blonde hair. Hair color is distorted in images made as tintypes, then converted to CDVs (paper prints). In the pictures of Quantrill presented in this column, his blonde hair appears dark. It isn’t known if the two photos of Quantrill were taken at or near the same time.
When this photo of Quantrill with the hat was compared to the hatless one that came from the same family, recently-retired Kentucky Forensic Anthropologist, Dr. Emily Craig, told this writer, “they are the same person.”
The Quantrill researchers of Missouri, Kan., and elsewhere have had their own ideas about Quantrill’s appearance, based on mostly old sketches and photos they found here and there.
The only likeness of him they’ve absolutely accepted over the years is a sketch that appears in William Elsey Connelly’s book “Quantrill and the Border Wars,” published by the Torch Press in 1910. That image has been re-sketched over and over, but a real photo of him was not found until pictures from two Pence family collections were compared.
That comparison left no doubt that the sketch in Connelly’s book was based on a photo of Quantrill in the collection of Fred Miles, a nephew of Donnie Pence. I interviewed Miles several times over the years and got to see his pictures that he kept in a metal lunch box.
I also saw Bud Pence’s photos.
You may recall that this researcher found a photo of Jesse James in a scrapbook kept by Bud Pence’s daughters. The scrapbook was literally thrown out with the trash. The Jesse James photo was duly rescued and now sleeps in The People’s Bank vault at Taylorsville.
The newest Quantrill image bunks there as well.
What makes Quantrill so important that pictures of him are sought? The same thing that makes photos of Jesse and Frank James unique.
These people didn’t have their pictures made very often because they were such wanted characters and that’s why discovery of such images is important.
The photo we are showing with this article is absolutely Quantrill and we are fortunate to be able to show it in this newspaper for the first time anywhere.
The Spencer Magnet has agreed to publish the line “Copyright Thomas Shelby Watson, 2011” with the newly-found photo of Quantrill. This scribe serves only as a caretaker of the newly-found Quantrill image.
The first picture of Quantrill was eventually donated by Pence descendants to the Kentucky Historical Society, which requires credit anytime it is used in publication and is their prerogative.
Why release this second picture of Quantrill now?
Why not? It’s Spencer County history.