Last Updated on Monday, 09 September 2013 06:15
Sterling Price was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia in 1809 to Pugh and Elizabeth Williamson Price. He was educated at Hampden-Sidney College, and moved to Howard County, Missouri in 1831 with his father and brother, John. Two years later they moved to Keytesville, Missouri. John Price built a hotel in the town of Keytesville, and sold it to Sterling in 1835 who then embarked in the mercantile business with his brother-in-law, Walter G Childs.
In 1840 Sterling Price took his seat in the 11th General Assembly of Missouri. He was unanimously elected Speaker of the House, and re-elected to the same posts in 1842. He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1844 but resigned in 1846 when the Mexican War broke out. He was commissioned by President Polk to raise and command a regiment in Missouri to be known as the 2nd Missouri Mounted Volunteers, and before the end of the war he rose to the rank of Brigadier General. He returned to Chariton County in 1847 and settled on the Bowling Green prairie about 1/2 mile east of the Missouri River with his wife, Martha (Head), whom he had married in 1832 - 1833. Here he built the home he loved and called it Val Verde.
He served as Governor of Missouri being elected to that position in 1852 as an anti-Benton Democrat. In 1857 he interested himself in a canvas for a county subscription of $250,000 for the purpose of securing a railroad through Chariton County which is now a part of the Wabash Railroad, and it was largely through his efforts the project succeeded. On the expiration of his term as Governor, he was appointed State Bank Commissioner which position he held until May 1861. He was then appointed as Major General of the Missouri State Guard.
"The true position of General Sterling Price cannot be clearly understood without knowing in 1860 he was a decided Union man, and supported Stephen A Douglas for President. He was a member of the convention which declared that Missouri would not secede, was made chairman, the vote being 75 for Price and 15 for Nathaniel W Watkins."
Sterling Price espoused the cause of Stephen A Douglas in the triangular contest in the 1860 Presidential election. When the results of the election were known the State Legislature called a convention of 99 members, three from each of the 33 senatorial districts to consider the relation of Missouri to the Federal Government. Price was elected chairman of this convention. It appeared to be the disposition of the people of Missouri to avoid, if possible, taking part in the war which ensued, and to occupy the position of armed neutrality. Being denounced and treated as traitors by the Federal Government, sentiment underwent a sudden and drastic change. Immediately there was preparation for war by both sides and General Sterling Price took his place with the secessionists and was commissioned in 1862 by Governor Jackson as Major General of the state forces having abandoned all hope of averting conflict.
General Sterling Price, known as "Old Pap" by the soldiers in his command, was loved by his men with a true devotion. He allowed a close relationship with those serving in his unit but yet preserved the dignity and respect of his rank. He organized and trained his men on the Cowskin Prairie where "prairie grass, lean beef and water" were in abundance. He had "neither arms nor military stores of any kind and no money to buy them if any had been for sale, yet he soon had 5000 men armed and ready for battle." Price and his command served with distinction throughout the Civil War.
Price settled in St. Louis after the war, and engaged in the commission business. He died there in 1867 and was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery.
(Source: John Price the Emigrant by Rev. Benjamin Luther Price, 1910. Available for research at the CCHS.)