Born July 25, 1831, Coshocton County, Ohio; died May 23, 1901, Graham County, Kansas
Lieutenant Colonel Levi Pritchard exemplifies the heroic citizen soldier of Missouri’s Civil War period. He was a patriot who defended his state and the Union against the Confederate forces during most of the war years. Pritchard’s exemplary record of Civil War service ranged across the state from St. Joseph to Jefferson City to St Louis, beginning in 1861 when he joined the Union army up to 1865 when he was wounded and released from active duty. He entered as a thirty-year-old private then quickly was promoted to Captain and finally rose to Lt. Colonel, serving almost the entire time guarding Missouri with a number of State Militias.
This portrait, a rare example of the artist's large scale portraiture, was painted by Bingham circa 1862 when Pritchard was Captain of Company D, 4th Regiment Missouri State Militia Calvary, based at Regimental Headquarters, Jefferson City. Bingham, an active Whig politician and a nationally famous artist by then, had been appointed State Treasurer (1862-65) and moved to Jefferson City in 1862.
In 1864, while serving with the 12th Regiment Missouri Calvalry, Major Pritchard was wounded in a battle related to the defense of Nashville, in support of General Thomas’s decisive victory over the Confederate forces of General Hood. Pritchard left the service in February 1865 because of his wounds. Two months later, at the end of the Civil War in April, he was made a Lt. Colonel of the 54th Regiment of a newly reorganized Missouri Militia. This new Militia, comprised of 84 regiments, survived long after the Civil War and became the primary force that addressed the lawlessness that engulfed post-war Missouri.
As a young man of twenty in 1852, Pritchard left Ohio and the family farm and crossed the plains to California seeking his fortune. By 1855 Pritchard returned to Ohio. In 1856 he moved to Dekalb County, Missouri where he ran a general store and became DeKalb County Postmaster until the Civil War intruded.
After the Civil War, Pritchard returned to DeKalb County and married 19 year old Anna Pierce of Galena, Ohio (1846-1927); his second marriage. His first marriage had left him a widower with three children. In 1879, he and his family, now with five children, moved to Graham County, Kansas and a life of farming where they were known for their cattle, roses, and apples. In 1879, Pritchard founded the first newspaper in Graham County, The Western Star in Millbrook, which continued publishing until 1928.
In 1880, Levi Pritchard was elected Graham County Surveyor. In 1892, as a member of the “People’s Party”, he was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, and in 1896 he was elected State Senator from the same party and served until his death in 1901.
His obituaries from many sources honored Levi Pritchard as an extraordinary man: “…Most honored citizen…The height of his ambition was to make friends, whom are legion…No man in Kansas stood higher in the estimation of the people…One of the farmer members of the legislature and always was found faithful to the people who elected him. He was a gallant soldier in the Civil War respected for repeated acts of bravery and never failing moral courage…Western Kansas loses one of its best and most faithful citizens. As a member of the House of Representatives, as a Senator, as a public spirited citizen, as a fair minded honest man, and as a kind hearted and hospitable neighbor and friend, he was known far and near. If every man who enters politics could retire with the same high regard and respect from his associates, politics would be cleaner and the affairs of state would be more sacredly guarded…”
It was noted that “54 teams were in procession” following his remains; and that “Considering it was a burial without ceremony, this was a very large procession.”A large monument marks the grave of Levi Pritchard at the cemetery in Hill City, Kansas.