John L. Wood was born in 1820 and was raised in rural Sullivan County, Mo., near Milan. Wood grew up to become a Methodist minister. During the Civil War, Methodist churches across Missouri were divided between the Union and the Confederacy.Missouri was a slave state that was really stuck up into the North. There was fierce competition between the two wings for the loyalty of people in the Methodist Churches in the state," said John Gooch of The Methodist History Journal. "Many ministers in the Southern church were in favor of the Union, they were not slave owners. But the fact they were ministers in the South was enough to condemn them in the eyes of Northerners.
On March 22, 1864, Wood was testifying in a case at the Putnam County Courthouse in Unionville. On his way back to Sullivan County, he was shot in the back by a group of Union soldiers home on furlough. He died a few hours later, all because he was a Southern Methodist minister.
They were murdered because they were attempting to preach during this horrific time, said Maryellen McVicker of the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church.
According to the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church, Wood was one of seven Methodist ministers killed by Union soldiers simply because they were ministers of the Methodist Episcopal South Church.
It wasn TMt the religion they were preaching. It was just the fact they were from the South," said historian Jenie Vertrees. "They were Southern Methodists rather than being Northern Methodists. [It was really about the] North and South. They just wanted to get rid of anything in this area that was Southern.
On October 11, 2011, the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church dedicated a marker at Wood's gravesite at Judson Cemetery in Sullivan County as part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
None of them had any type of marker by their stone saying that they were a Methodist minister who was killed for their faith," McVicker said. "When you talk about the Civil War, this was huge, in many ways a family fight with literally brother against brother. The fact you would kill an innocent person just shows you how horrible things were around here during that time period.
Wood left behind a wife, his children, and his parents. His parents were buried next to him. His wife and children were never heard from again. Most of the ministers that were killed left behind wives and small children in a world without any type of security net. Many of the wives and their children had to go back to wherever their families were. We really don TMt know what happened to Mrs. Woods, McVicker said.
The Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church hopes that these stories of the Civil War will teach younger generations about the darkest years of American history in hopes the blood shed of the innocent will never be forgotten.