Riverview Cemetery

Keown, James L.

The divide of the nation was felt more powerfully in Missouri than in any northern or southern state. The Show-Me State was the border between the Union and the Confederacy, and political allegiances divided families, friends, and towns. It was entirely possible that your mother, brother, best friend, and pastor all supported the side you did not. For Missouri men, it was also probable that you would see your friend or cousin on the opposite side of a battlefield.

James Levi Keown experienced this nightmare. He was born on April 11, 1821, to Scottish immigrant Robert Keown. Although he was born near Nashville, Tennessee, he grew up in Missouri. He learned the carpenter’s trade, and after a short hiatus in California during the 1849 Gold Rush, returned to run the woodworking shop at the Missouri State Penitentiary. He also played an influential role in the construction of the interior of the governor’s mansion.

Keown joined the Confederate Army under the command of General Sterling Price. He served as Captain, and was attached to General M. M. Parson’s Brigade. During the Battle at Wilson’s Creek,  he saw his childhood friend, Frederick Buehrle, fighting under the Union flag. He witnessed Buehrle get shot in the shoulder and leg, and in that moment, Keown’s political loyalty came second to his friendship. In the middle of a fierce battle, Keown ran across the field, into enemy territory, to pull his friend to safety. Keown stayed behind his enemy’s line with Buehrle until Union medical help reached them.

Both Keown and Buehrle survived the Civil War, and were reunited in Jefferson City fifty years later.

Keown married Georgia Barkley, and the couple raised six children.