Hildebrand Brothers

Rebecca McKee moved from Abbeville, SC to Jefferson County, Mo with her parents, Michael and Margaret McKee, and her siblings sometime around 1815-1818. She would have been around ten years old at that time.
In 1828, Rebecca married George Hildebrand, a German immigrant. Together the couple had ten children. Sons: Richard, George Washington, Samuel, William Frank, Henry,and James and Daughters: Elvira, Mary, Margaret.
According to Samuel’s autobiography, they were not educated people and did not attend school. George Hildebrand, the patriarch of the group, died on August 30, 1850.
As the Civil War near, tensions were on high. Many immigrants from the south, held Confederate beliefs; while the sixty percent of immigrants in Missouri sided with the Union point of view. Samuel states in his biography, that he didn’t understand all of the political views nor did he care. All he knew was what others told him. This is probably true for a lot of the immigrants of that time period.

Samuel HildebrandBy the 1860s, the Hildebrand’s had a reputation for being wild, bullies and hotheads. Samuel’s autobiography, states that there were a number of “hot claim” disputes.

Samuel would gain a reputation in the Ozarks that were “second only to the [Jesse] James brothers”.
Around August 1861, Allen Roan {a Hildebrand cousin} was accussed of horse stealing. He apparently traded the horse with Samuel, who did not realize the horse was stolen. When Samuel traded the horse, Hildebrand was linked with Roan as a horse stealer.
Federal agents were called in for a trial and death threats were made against them. Samuel and his brother, Frank {also accussed} hid out in the woods for months. Samuel finally took his family and moved to a southwestern community called, Flat Woods. Frank decided to stay and work things out. Frank was arrested by Firman McIlvaine and some of his friends. When a judge refused to pass sentence without a trial, McIlvaine and his friends took him out and hung him.
In April 1862, with evidence of where Sam was, McIlvaine and his men ambushed the Sam Hildebrand family. Sam claimed that this is when he decided to fight back. He would later acquire the nickname “Kill Devil.”
Shortly thereafter, Sam received a commission from Confederate commander General Jeff Thompson. He was given permission to pick his own troops, fight his own way, as long as he checked in every six months.
Sam then moved to Green County, Arkansas. He would sneak into Missouri to fight. In mid-June 1862, Sam killed the informat that gave up his location and McIlvaine. Three companies of union troops were called out in response. Two of Sam’s brothers, Washington and Henry, and an uncle {John Roan, father of Allen} were killed in retalitaion.
In July 1862, Rebecca McKee Hildebrand, by this time an elderly woman, was forced out of her home. “Rebecca was forced to leave her home with only her family bible and her bed.”
William Hildebrand was shot when he exited a mine he was working in by Union troops.
On July 23, the troops arrived to find youngest son, Henry working the land. He was ordered to leave, climbed on his horse and began to ride away. Sam tells in his autobiography: “The soldiers proceeded to break down the picket fence, and to pitch it into the house for kindling. The refused to let anything be taken out of the house, being determined to burn up the furniture, clothing, bedding, provisions, and everything else connected with it…

When ordered again to leave, he seemed to be stupefied with wonder at the enormity of the scene before him. Franklin Murphy being present told him it was best to leave; so he mounted his horse and started, but before he got two hundred yards from the house, he was shot and he dropped dead from the horse. Thus perished the poor innocent boy, who could not be induced to believe that the men were base enough to kill him, Innocent and inoffensive as he was. But alas! How greatly was he mistaken in them!”
Sam participated in warfare and was termed “guerrilla Hildebrand” through the remainder of the Civil War. He shot one “friend” for giving his location away. He often made quick, surprise attacks in areas he knew were not heavily armed. In that way, he was very cautious.
Union troops continued to search for Sam. He was considered a bushwacker. His fighting stopped when he was paroled in Jacksonport, Arkansas on May 26, 1865.
Rebecca died on June 14 1869, having outlived at least half of her children.
Sam was shot and killed resisting arrest in May 1872, in Pickneyville, Illinois.

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