HOLT, Mo. - An Eagle Scout project quickly turned into a history lesson last week for a group of Boy Scouts from Excelsior Springs.
Jack Taylor Jr., 15, came up with the idea to straighten up headstones and clean up brush at the Oakland Cemetery outside of Holt. He quickly made an intriguing discovery.
"We noticed some of the stones sticking up out of the ground and then we just kept noticing that there were more around them," Taylor said.
Once the teens started unearthing the headstones, Jack noticed four of them had the same last name: Bigelow. Two of them had June 25, 1864, listed as the date of death.
"They were killed in the Civil War by guerillas led by Charles F. Taylor," local historian Harry Soltysiak said.
Soltysiak said the brothers - John and Salmon Bigelow - both served with the Union militia. The Confederate guerillas had them surrounded in their northern Clay County home and demanded they surrender.
"And they refused that because they knew their fate was sealed anyway and they put up a spirited resistance," Soltysiak said. "When their guns went empty, they started throwing furniture at their assailants. And of course they lost."
Soltysiak said that was just one of Taylor's bloody stops in Missouri and Kansas. He was shocked to discover such a strong connection at the cemetery.
"That was the first tangible link to that era I've found in a long time," Soltysiak said.
While the headstones are naturally exciting for a historian, they are giving a younger generation a new appreciation for the past.
"I almost found it to be like a history lesson. It was pretty cool to find out the history about it," Taylor said.