At the beginning of December of 1862, a party led by Major White, was foraging in the vicinity of the Grand River in northern Bates county. The party stopped at a local farm where they found a man by the name of Slater. Slater was found to be armed and was taken into custody.
Slater was taken to Butler to be tried and was found guilty of his crime. On 24 December 1862, the prisoner was taken from his cell and led to the west side of the square. There he was blindfolded and forced to kneel. The soldiers fired and Slater fell on his face, dead. Six shots had been fired through his heart.
According to The History of Cass and Bates Counties the people of Butler had been invited to witness the execution by Major White. Another account claims that everyone in the town had been forced to watch. There were some spectators on the northwest corner of the square that day.
The History of Cass and Bates Counties published in 1883 states that the spot of Slater’s execution was approximately where the I.N. Davidson store stood then. If we go to the 1881 Bates County Tax book we find that I.N Davidson paid taxes on a lot that comprised 3 feet of the south side of lot 1 and 20 feet of the north side of lot 2 of Block 10 on the Butler square. Today it would be the building the sits between What To Wear on the south and Happy Hill Church on the north.
We don’t know who Major White was or what unit he was with. We only know he arrived in Butler sometime in late 1862. The only other mention of him we have is in a memoir by Annie (Cogswell) Collier whose father’s land ran up to the east side of the square. Annie was a Southerner and wasn’t too impressed with Major White to say the least.
We know even less about Mr. Slater. The History of Cass and Bates Counties simply states that he was from Cass County and suspected of being a Rebel.
Sources: The History of Cass and Bates counties, Missouri : containing a history of these counties, their cities, towns, etc. : biographical sketches of their citizens, general and local statistics, history of Missouri, map of Cass and Bates counties, etc. National Historic Company, St. Joseph, Missouri. 1883
The Eddie Hermann Archives. Entry dated 24 December 1862, in December binder , in which he states that the entire town was forced to watch the execution of Slater.