Alexander Doniphan

Alexander Doniphan & Ray County

Alexander  Doniphan was born in Kentucky on July 9, 1808, to Joseph and Anne Doniphan. He started his law practice in Kentucky before moving to Lexington in 1830. Three years later, he moved to Liberty. In Liberty, he married Elizabeth Jane Thornton on her 17th birthday, Dec 21, 1837. It was a double wedding with Elizabeth’s sister, Caroline, and Oliver P. Moss. Alexander was 29-years-old and a colleague of Elizabeth’s father in the Missouri State Legislature. 

Alexander and Elizabeth had two sons, but both died young. Elizabeth was a frail lady and suffered a stroke while burying her son John. She was a semi-invalid the rest of her life and died in New York City at the age of 52 while visiting with her sisters. Alexander had returned to Richmond where he received the telegram informing him of her death. 

He was 10 days away from his 65th birthday and lived in Richmond for another 14 years. Doniphan died in Richmond on Aug 8, 1887, at the Hudgins House, a hotel located on the northwest corner of the Richmond square where the Christian Church once stood. Doniphan is buried by his wife and sons in Liberty. 

Doniphan is still honored 203 years after his death. In addition to being a lawyer and banker in Richmond, he was a brigadier general in the Missouri state militia in 1838. He and 2,000 troops were sent to Far West in Caldwell County to arrested Joseph Smith and his fellow Mormon church leaders after they refused to leave Missouri. Doniphan was given orders to shoot them but he refused. He called the order “cold-blooded murder.” The Mormon leaders were taken into custody to stand trial and Doniphan served as one of their lawyers. 

Many members of the Mormon Church visit Richmond each year and stop to pay their respects to the man that saved Joseph Smith. 

When the Spanish American War started in 1846, Doniphan helped organized the 1st Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers and was elected Colonel of the regiment. He would carry the moniker of “Colonel” for the remainder of his life. 

He and his troops left Fort Leavenworth on a journey that took them 3,600 miles by land and 2,000 by boat. It’s said this was one of the most successful marches in U.S. military history. At one point in New Mexico, Doniphan and his men were assisted by Sterling Price and the Second Missouri Mounted Volunteers. Doniphan had his picture taken by Matthew Brady when he was in New Orleans on his way home after the war. This picture was later used to create the face of Doniphan’s statue. 

There are many other interesting stories about Doniphan including one where he met Abe Lincoln and Honest Abe surmised, “Alexander Doniphan is the only man I have ever met who lived up to my previous expectations.” 

On July 29, 1918, over 20,000 people gathered around the Richmond Square to celebrate the unveiling on the 19-foot tall statue of Alexander Doniphan.