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Sept. 26, 2022

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Clark County History: Confederate makes good

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President Grover Cleveland appointed a former Confederate officer as special agent of the General Land Office for the Washington Territory in 1885. During the Civil War, Lt. James A. Munday (1843-1918) led a Tenth Kentucky Cavalry company against Union troops until he was captured and imprisoned for the duration.

The war over, Munday returned to Kentucky to study law, starting a law practice in 1867. He also ran for public office as a Democrat and gained a sequence of elected positions, including rising to the Kentucky state senate, which elected him senate secretary.

The unsanitary condition of his incarceration damaged his health. Health problems pushed him out of public service and into business. First, he produced lumber from the timberland he owned, then launched the Owensboro Messenger, a weekly newspaper, merging it a few years later with a rival newspaper, The Examiner. Then, he sold the newspaper to run again for the Kentucky senate and was elected for four years before the president sent him West.

Munday worked as the appointed land agent in the Washington Territory for four years. When statehood came in 1889, he returned to lawyering. Although nominated for the superior court justice of Skamania, Clark, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum and Pacific counties, he lost, as did most Democrats in the state.

His interest in politics undiminished, Munday became a nominee for the state Democratic Convention and the Washington state representative at the Chicago National Democratic Convention of 1892. Again, Munday decided to run for the state’s congressional representative that November. Again, he and his party lost.

Despite the fact that Munday was a Democrat in a Republican Clark County, people liked the gentle Southerner. He participated in a local Grand Army of the Republic encampment although a former adversary. He was contributing member of three fraternities, the Masons, Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias, and a dynamic Commercial Club member. He believed in Vancouver’s potential, saying it was destined for greatness.

He promoted improving transportation, especially roads and the Interstate Bridge. As president of the Clark County Good Roads League, he demanded that political candidates make a stand for better roads and the state highway department. With others, he visited Gov. Ernest Lister to lobby for the Interstate Bridge in 1913 and also negotiated with Portland.

The Port of Vancouver exists today because Munday saw its potential. In 1912, he lobbied for the port’s creation. Munday declared the city must either accept a “humble existence” or choose “metropolitan proportions.” In an April special election, the vote was 631 to 182 in favor of creating the port.

Soon after, Sandiford Steel Shipyards would set up along the Columbia River to produce ships for the World War I. When the ex-Confederate died in 1918, The Oregonian called Munday one of the best-known and beloved personalities in Clark County. The Columbian lamented, “No one will be missed in this community more than he.”

Martin Middlewood is editor of the Clark County Historical Society Annual. Reach him at

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