KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than a dozen residents in Lafayette County gathered at a small, historical cemetery Friday to honor the lives of three African-American Civil War soldiers.
The service kicked off the county's Juneteenth celebration, which marks the day in 1865 when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Texas and issued an order emancipating the last of the slaves.
"They fought for my freedom and this whole town, this whole county, is the little Dixie and we're part of that," Linda Smith said.
Smith helped organize the event. She is part of the Lafayette County Juneteenth Foundation and has made it a personal mission to help identify these Civil War soldiers.
"I have a great, great-grandfather who was in the Civil War," she said. "He was a slave from Lafayette County and he never did return."
Smith and others have since identified three of these soldiers at the Mount Munice Cemetery in Higginsville, Missouri. They hope with the help of others to identify even more.
"We need to commemorate the troops no one has ever talked about," said Aron Haynes, who is also with the foundation. "We want to teach those that don't know, so that they can continuously tell the story."
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19.