Advance To The Rapidan

September 16th - October 9th, 1863

Part 3:  Picketing the River & Stringfellow's in Kansas Essay

Picture of a small dog in a saddlebag on a donkey

I know.  I'm not going to tell you.  You have to read the right article on this page to find out.

Table of Contents

 Introduction & What's On This Page

When the 12th Corps left the Army of the Potomac for the Western Theatre of the War on September 24th, the 1st Corps moved down toward the Rapidan River to take its place.  On the river bank, the soldiers took turns doing 3 days of picket duty, rotating from the picket guard to the reserve.  There were some very entertaining times along the river after the initial cavalry clashes, when things quieted down.   We get a glimpse of some of them from various regimental sources and the local histories of Culpeper County and Orange County Virginia.  I've added musical links to this page to make it more interactive.

Hands down, the highlight of this section of the website is Edward Rollins story titled, “Dr. Stringfellow and His Slaves.”  I had very few stories from the soldiers of the 13th MA to fill out this chapter of their history, so I turned to scouring the pages of my 1885 volume of Bivouac Magazine, with slim hopes of finding some story or remembrance by a 13th MA soldier to add to the text.   I struck pay dirt with Rollin's article.  Edward Rollin's narrative remarkably connects the 13th MA with all the research and effort I spent on the Stringfellow family.  Read it and you will see why.  To give Rollin's story more impact, I ran down a long  "rabbit hole" to illuminate the roles Dr. John H. Stringfellow and his brother Ben, played in the Kansas Troubles of the 1850's.  The result is the very long essay that fills out most of this page, but as always, I think its worth it or I wouldn't have added it. There are many full excerpts of Dr. John Stringfellow's newspaper, Squatter Sovereign.  Future Division Commander and friend of this website, Brigadier-General John White Geary, plays a significant part in this Kansas narrative, as it was Geary who was called upon to end the chaos in Kansas during the bloody summer of 1856.  The soldiers fighting the war would have been familiar with the events in Kansas that foreshadowed Civil War.  The 13th MA part of this page is short but entertaining.  Please enjoy and reflect on the meeting of "East & West" at Retreat Farm along the Rapidan river in October, 1863.

PICTURE CREDITS:  All  images are from the Library of Congress Digital Collections with the following exceptions:  Raccoon Ford from, "Culpeper A Virginia County's History Through 1920", by Eugene M. Scheel, Culpeper Historical Society; Illustration of Soldier Carrying Girl is by Will Hulsey, 1959, for True Men Stories, accessed on-line;  Portrait of Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow & Portrait of Dr. John Henry Stringfellow is from Kansas Memory, ;  Illustration, "Sacking of Lawrence" 1855, December, State History Society of Missouri;   Portrait of Governor Robert K. Walker is from "Kansapedia" at ;  All of the Kansas images are from the Kansas Historical Society's numerous digital archives.  They do an incredible job.  There is much to explore there.  Steamboat Illustration is a detail from artist John Stobart's painting "Rafting on the Missouri."  I found the image at ;   The panoramic views and other photographs of contemporary Culeper, Madison & Orange Counties, Virginia were taken by the author/webmaster; [Bradley M. Forbush].    ALL IMAGES have been EDITED in PHOTOSHOP.

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Picketing the Rapidan River

The following description and picture comes from the small book, “Historic Culpeper, Bicentennial Edition”, Culpeper Historical Society.


Raccoon Ford, today almost a deserted village, was at one time an important trading and residential center.  Since the 1930’s, the Rapidan River village has lost its highway bridge, mill, store and post office.  The large flour and grist mill, situated just below a dam on the river, was washed away in a 1937 flood, and a highway bridge, built in 1888, was washed out in 1942.  The Rackoon (as it was first spelled) Ford post office, established in 1836, was discontinued in 1951.  Only a suspension bridge for pedestrian traffic links Culpeper and Orange counties at this point today.  [no longer in existence––B.F.]  A pontoon bridge immediately antedated the highway bridge, and, earlier still, a ferry, said to have been established in 1737, was in operation at the Ford.

Raccoon Ford Village

The first Orange County courthouse was built in 1738 across the river from Raccoon Ford on land now owned by Odell Baker.   Old records state that the Raccoon Ford ferry was to be “kept open on Court days and the day after, the minister and sheriff to be sent over for 400 pounds of tobacco.”  The original ford was located a short distance up the river from the village.

At the upper end of the plantation, Retreat, Lafayette is said to have built a bridge and crossed the river –– then called the Rapid Anne –– en route to Yorktown.  From this point he started building the famous Marquis Road, which extended from Raccoon Ford to Brock’s Bridge on the North Anna River.

Tradition says that when Lafayette’s men were building the bridge they cut a large tree that was full of little raccoons and that Lafayette named the river crossing “Rackoon Ford.”  The same name was given to the village and river crossing that developed a short distance downstream.

From the Diary of Sam Webster:
        Excerpts of this diary (HM 48531) are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

Tuesday, September 29th, 1863.  Move out, towards Mitchell Station, near edge of the woods, say about a mile.  Can’t get water much short of that distance, and returning late almost got lost, as it was dark.  Later there was a great disturbance among a lot of darkeys some distance off, seemingly about a cow, as the bell would indicate.

From the regimental history, Three Years In The Army,  by Charles E. Davis, Jr.:

Tuesday, Sept. 29.  On the 27th we moved our camp about three miles up the river, and to-day we moved another mile in the direction of Mitchell’s Station.

The river at this point was only fifteen yards wide, and the rebel pickets on the other side were so near that we could easily discern each other’s features.  The position of their camp is superior to ours, inasmuch as it is on high ground, while ours is situated on a level plain.  Their camp is near enough to ours to hear the sound of a band which frequently played, as though serenading some officer.  They slithered money enough for bands.  A hand-organ would have satisfied us — that is, if it was a good one.

Raccoon Ford from the Orange (south) side of the river

View of Raccoon Ford from the south side (Orange County) of the river looking north to the Culpeper County side. (Photo by Brad Forbush).

A Musical Post

The links below will take you to some reference recordings of the songs indicated, but all of them are off-site.  The music is on the following websites:  Bonnie Blue Flag = Encyclopedia VA;   Star Spangled Banner / Red White & Blue / Home Sweet Home = are all at the Library of Congress Digital Juke Box, Maryland My Maryland is a link on Digital History (;  and Old Hundred is on youtube.  To the best of my knowlege and searching, "Pennyroyal" is a sort of 19th century slang for an old fashioned hymn.  Possibly, All Creatures of God and King, but it is also a song by Nirvana, so I came up empty-handed.

The following is from the History of the 39th MA titled, "The Thirty-Ninth Massachusetts Regiment; 1862 - 1865"; by Alfred S. Row, Worcester, Mass., 1914.

In the stillness of the Sunday evening (September 27th) the Confederates in their camp indulged in a prayer-meeting and their hymns, the same that Northern Christians were singing at that very moment in the far away churches, were plainly heard by the hostile soldiery on our side of the stream.  Need there be any wonder that some listeners moralized on the absurdity of men who read the same Bible and sang the same songs, spending several years of their lives, none too long at the longest in shooting at each other?  Here took place the famous exchange of song, so often told in campfires and wherever it is desirable to prove that one touch of Nature makes the whole world kin.

One night the Rebs. started off on the “Bonnie Blue Flag,” and when their strains had ceased, the Yanks got back at them with the “Star Spangled Banner”; next the Boys in Gray tuned up with “Maryland, My Maryland” and those in Blue naturally retorted with “The Red White and Blue”;  breaking the lull that ensued, our men started John Howard Payne’s immortal and universal “Home Sweet Home”; scarcely had the first note been struck before the sympathetic enemy chimed in, and Virginia woods and hillsides echoed with the tender strains clearly showing how Saxon blood remembers.  On another occasion a musical exchange, beginning with “Pennyroyal,” ran through the list of then popular melodies, though all sang in unison, and very naturally, too, for ending “Old Hundred.”  Will not coming generations wonder that men who could together sing the old songs should ever fight each other ?

Band of the 10th Connecticut along the James River, 1864

Monday, the 28th ended the stay by the river’s side and the detail returned to camp, coming up with it some two miles nearer than when it was left, a fact that in no way disturbed those coming back.  While a large part of the Regiment was on its tour of duty, those left behind were by no means idle and they too had their observations of Confederates who apparently had heard from Chicamauga, a favorite shout of their’s across the river being, “How are you, Rosey?”

[Note:  The Confederates defeated General Rosecrans at the Battle of Chickamauga, September 20.  Gen. Rosecrans retreated into Chattanooga, TN.  The Confederate Army followed them up and laid seige to the town, in effort to starve the Union forces into submission.]

From the History of the 39th MA continued:
        Picketing along the Rapidan at this time was not a hardship, since by mutual consent there was no firing, and the native Yankee disposition to explore had full vent, when not actually on post, the reserve furnishing many opportunities for learning habits and conditions of the people not otherwise attainable.  Relieving the Nintieth Pennsylvania, one-half of the detail attended to extreme out-post duty, while the other part enjoyed absence of drill and the inspections around the reserve camp, “Revelling in that delicious abandon, one bright spot in a soldier’s life, when he can do just what he pleases.”  Thus it was an even turn-about during the days on the river, in these parts only a narrow stream of possibly three rods’ width.  Most cordial relations existed between Reb. and Fed. and the trades between the Blue and the Gray proved that no monopoly in the swapping habit was enjoyed by the Yankee.  Whatever extra coffee the boys possessed proved to be as good as cash, if not better, when dealing with these lads from the Southland.  They even swam across the river to partake of Northern hospitality and to facilitate exchanges.  The nights being cold, campfires were kindled on both sides and the alleged enemies kept as comfortable as possible, in plain sight of each other.

Edwin Forbes sketch of Pickets trading wares

 Edwin Forbes sketch titled “Pickets Trading Between The Lines.”

Good Times on the Rapidan

In the book  “Culpeper A Virginia County's History Through 1920”, author Eugene M Scheel* gives an amusing account of what was happening on the other side of the river.  Here is an excerpt:

From August 1 through October 1, chaplains preached two sermons a day to troops encamped from Raccoon Ford to Liberty (Madison) Mills.  In autumn, men of Brig. Gen. John Brown Gordon’s brigade were immersed in the Rapidan in full view and easy range of pickets on the Culpeper side.  “Not many of the men were permitted to attend for fear of attracting the fire of the enemy.  “Gordon was always present, “his tall form presenting a tempting target,”  but the Yankees “contented themselves with looking on in mute wonder” #1

 A Private Goodwin was led to the river by fifty comrades, with the baptism attracting Federals from across the river.  They were so moved that a considerable number ambled down to the opposite shore.  Presently, the Confederates began to sing “There is a Fountain Filled With Blood,” and many of the Yanks joined to sing the familiar hymn. #2

Often, soldiers of both sides would wade to the center of the Rapidan or on its swinging bridges and exchange goods and newspapers.  Coffee, clothes, and shoes were in strong demand by the Rebs; tobacco was coveted by the Yanks.  In the evening they’d sometimes break into song, the tune with ‘Southern’ words coming from Orange, its answer with ‘Northern’ words from Culpeper.

View toward the Rapidan from the Confederate Side

Pictured is a stretch of the Rapidan River, (not visible, yet it courses along the tree line in the middleground) close to where General Gordon's headquarters was located.  The photo is taken from River Road, on the Orange County side, (Confederate) looking north to the Culpeper County side, (Union), near what was once Willis Mill's Ford.

Things got too chummy, and in late summer, General Lee sent Gordon to break up the fraternization.  “They would not shoot at each other, and so it was not miltary-like,”  Gordon recalled.  As he approached a group of his pickets, the men appeared confused and surprised.  Suddenly, up from the weeds arose a naked man.

soldiers swimming

“Who are you?” Gordon asked.

“I am from over yonder, General.”

“Over yonder––where?”  said Gordon, and the man pointed to the Culpeper side of Rapidan.  “What regiment do you belong to?”

“The One Hundred Fourth Pennsylvania,#3 General.”

“What are you doing in my camp?”

Why, I thought I would just come over and see the boys.”

“See the boys–– what boys?  Do you meant to say you have entered my camp except as a prisoner?  Now, I am going to have you marched to Libby Prison just as you are, without a rag of clothes on you!”

“General,” said the man, “I had rather you would order me shot right here.”

“No sir, you go to Libby.”

Gordon’s soldiers then spoke up.  “General, don’t be too hard on him, he’s a pretty good fellow.  He didn’t mean any harm;  he just wanted to talk with us.”

Gordon hadn’t the heart to arrest the man from the beginning, and promised to let him go if he or no others came over–– except as prisoners.

“God bless you, general!”  And without another word, he leaped into the Rapidan, came upon the other side, and took to the woods.

girl spy illustration

Another Tale

One of their famous temporary bridges was at Raccoon Ford.  The water was bad on the Culpeper side, and by mutual agreement and a daily rations of coffee the Yanks would come over with their water cans and fill up at Orange Spring.

For some time now the Yankee water carrier had been taking a good look at a young mulatto lass, and she had been giving some looks back.  So the Yankee picket asked his counterpart if he might spend the night at the lass’s cabin.  The Reb said he could try his luck, but first he’d like those boots the Yank had on, for his own feet were covered with burlap.

Next morning, as the Yank returnd, the Reb yelled, “Now you bare-footed s.o.b. I see what you’re fighting for.”#5

*NOTES:  Source:  Eugene M. Sheel's book is published by The Culpeper Historical Society, Culpeper, Va.  These anecdotes are found on page 199 in his text:   Note 1. He gives the following sources for each quote, in order:  J. William Jones, Christ in Camp  (Richmond:  B.F. Johnson, 1888), p. 185, 215-216, 173.  Note 2:  Sheels' source is,  Confederate Veteran XXV (1914), p. 471.  Note 3:  This unit is either the 104th NY or 107th PA.   (The 104th PA. is in S.C. at this time. ––B. F.).  Note 5:  From Monroe Waugh of Raccoon Ford, February 16, 1978.  Tom Bell told him the story some sixty years ago.  a few years ago while the state was debating where to put Germanna Community College, Mr. Waugh, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, told the story to a state official while standing on the Orange side of Germanna Bridge.  The story elicited more interest than Monroe's telling of the merits of Orange, and on the Orange side the college stands.

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Lieutenant Edward Rollins Meets Dr. John Stringfellow

The serene, bucolic life at Retreat farm, as described by Lizzie Stringfellow, [see the previous page of this section––B.F.] ended when the dreaded “Yankees” appeared on the front lawn in the Fall of 1863.  Part of that contingency were detachments from the 13th Massachusetts and the other regiments from Col. Thomas McCoy's 1st brigade, who were assigned to picket the Rapidan river.  Lizzie was in the area at this time.  She and her little sister Mary, still spent summers at her late grandfather’s farm in 1862 and 1863.    After the September 14th cavalry fights along the river,  a Federal officer feared for their safety and ordered them to be moved.  While at the farmhouse,  Lizzie's Aunt Ann, was  wounded in the foot by a stray Confederate bullet on September 15th.   The officer had the bevy of women escorted at midnight to their Uncle’s estate, Sumerduck, up the road about 2 miles, ––where they were confined to the house.    The wounded matron, Ann Slaughter Stringfellow, was the mother of famed Confederate spy, “Frank” Stringfellow (1840-1913) who defied the horde of Yankees camped on Sumerduck grounds, and slipped into the house unnoticed to visit his injured mother.  Frank hid out several days undiscovered, then stealthily slipped away to safety.

Sumerduck House, 1990 by Bud Hall

Picture of Sumerduck House, 1990, photo by Bud Hall.

Another famous Stringfellow, Dr. John Henry, (1819-1905) was head of household at Retreat Farm at this time, although Lizzie does not mention him.

Born in 1819,  he and his brother Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow, (1816-1891) were the youngest sons of 'Robert of the Retreat', by his 2nd wife, Mary "Polly" Plunkett.  Dr. John was 12 years old when his father bought Retreat, but with all his schooling at Fredericksburg and other places, it is unclear if he spent much time at the plantation.  He settled in Missouri at age 26, soon after graduating from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1845.  His older brother Ben was Attorney General of the state at this time.   Both were firm believers in slavery, and both were key participants in the struggle to bring Kansas Territory into the Union as a slave state.

In September & October, 1863, the picket posts of General Robinson's 1st Brigade encountered Dr. John Henry at Retreat Farm.

From the History of the 39th MA:
        The 26th saw a large force of twenty-five men from each company, under the command of Lieut. Colonel Peirson, proceeding to the banks of the Rapidan for picket duty.  It was while nearing this point that the residence of Dr. John H. Stringfellow of Kansas notoriety, then or later a Confederate Surgeon, was reached and the man himself was interviewed, who declared his undeviating secession proclivities.  Though certain these Massachusetts men would have liked to repay some of the debts due him, they concluded that he was getting his punishment as he went along, for evidently his situation in the midst of contending armies was rapidly reducing him to a condition of absolute destitution.

From the History of the 16th Maine:
        September 28.  Major Leavitt, division officer of the day.  While encamped here Colonel Farnham and the Major called upon Colonel Stringfellow of Kansas notoriety, who is true to his convictions and an ardent rebel.  Mrs. Stringfellow is an accomplished conversationalist, a regular apostle of garrulity.  In fact she did most of the talking.  Moved camp one mile northwest.

Lieutenant Rollins Picket Detail

Lieutenant Edward F. Rollins, 13th MA, led a picket detail at Raccoon Ford, September 30 - October 3rd.  He set up his picket headquarters at the Stringfellow family's Retreat Farm, where he had the most remarkable experience in meeting Dr. John Henry Stringfellow, of Kansas.  For you see, Rollins, a newspaper man by trade, was an editor for Dr. Charles Robinson's Massachusetts newspaper, founded in 1851, the Fitchburg News.  Dr. Robinson was Dr. Stringfellow's Free-soil foe in Kansas Territory.

Calvin Conant's Diary - continued.

Calvin went with Lt. Edward Rollin's Picket detail down to Raccoon Ford.

September; Tuesday, 29 — awfull cold night reveille at 4 o’clock — marched at 6 about 2 miles went into Camp in the woods after waiting around about a hour   am of  the opinion we shall have lots of disese(?) if we stop here long    was detailed to help dig Sinks. [Sinks=latrenes.]

September; Wednesday, 30–– Pleasant day went out on Picket it took all the old men in the Regiment.  I was laying all day at the Reserve Post

October; Thursday, 1st.   Am at reserve Post have nothing to do at all

Friday,  2.   went out to the Picket post last night at 12 oclock and went on post down to the river side from 5 to 8 oclock  I am within a 100 roods of the Reb Picket  come on to rain at noon and rained hard the rest of the day  did not get relieved till dark  started back to camp through the woods on my own hook  like to got lost  finely got in about 8 all wet through and all muddy  turned in for the night

By Lt. Edward Rollins 13 MA
from Bivouac; Volume III October, 1885

I found the following [un-signed] narrative in Bivouac magazine, and suspected the anonymous author might be Lieutenant Edward Rollins, who was one of that magazine's editors.  The author claimed to have worked for Dr. Charles L. Robinson prior to the war.  A little research help from my cousin Michelle Holmes, was able to prove that Rollins did indeed work with Dr. Charles L. Robinson in Fitchburg, Massachusetts in the early 1850's.  Rollins edited Dr. Robinson's newspaper, The Fitchburg News.  The interrelationships in this story are amazing, and it connects all of my research on the Stringfellow family, with this period of the 13th MA Vol's. history.

The site of Retreat Farm, Rapidan, VA

The location of Retreat Farm today; the setting for this story.  The house would have been in the middle background.

Dr. Stringfellow's Slaves

Picket-duty in the army was sometimes quite a relief from the customary duties and monotonies of the camp, and packing up and going out to the line a mile or two away seemed like going on an out-of-door picnic in citizen life.  I remember a detail of two days that I spent very pleasantly on the picket-line near Raccoon Ford, on the Rapidan River, in Virginia, October 1 and 2, 1863.  The picket reserve headquarters were established near a farm-house surrounded by negro cabins, not far from the north bank of the river.  The pickets were posted along the bank, and on the south side the rebel pickets were also posted in plain sight.  By agreement no firing took place, both sides having pledged themselves to abstain from picket firing for the mutual comfort of the men, only separated by the narrow stream, unless some hostile act was attempted.

I soon learned that the house where the reserve was stationed was the homestead of Dr. Stringfellow [John Henry] of Kansas notoriety.  He had returned from Kansas to his home in Virginia, and was a non-combatant on the strength of his being a practicing physician in the country round about where he lived.  Still he was a rabid secessionist, as might be supposed from the zealous part he had taken in trying to make Kansas a slave State.

After my line had been posted and everything was going along smoothly, I returned to the reserve stationed on the lawn near the house.  I was soon invited, from the piazza of the house, by a man whom I rightly conjectured to be the doctor himself, to take a seat on the piazza.  I did so, and entered into conversation with him.

After exhausting the subject of the weather and the location of the lines of pickets, he spoke of the arrangement that no unnecessary firing was to be indulged in, saying that the occasional shooting of a picket was murderous and would not affect the general result of the contest.  He seemed to be anxious to talk, and soon inquired what State I was from and the picket detail with me.  I told him I was from Massachusetts, and that the detail was from the same State, and also from Maine, New York and Pennsylvania, being made up from the regiments composing the brigade to which I belonged.  I told him that I had learned from some of his servants who he was, and that I had formerly been intimate in Fitchburg, Mass., with another doctor whose name was probably familiar to him.

“Ah,” said he, “Dr. Robinson, the first free-State governor of Kansas.”  I then told him how I had been connected with Dr. Robinson in the publication of a newspaper before the Kansas troubles commenced.  He then proceeded to relate his story of the contest in Kansas, and his efforts and personal sacrifices, to make Kansas a slaveholding State, because he believed slavery to be right.  He brought out his Bible and quoted Scripture to substantiate his belief.  From this subject we drifted on to the probabilities of the present contest.

Whenever I had to leave him to attend to my duties upon my return I would find him awaiting me to continue the conversation.  He was intelligent, able and earnest, and I had not met so agreeable a Southern man to talk with the whole two years I had been in the service.  I could express my sincere views on the questions talked about without his taking offence, and I did my best to sustain my side of the argument.  The whole day was thus consumed with our talk, and upon the approach of evening, he invited me to come into his house and have tea and lodging.  I thanked him for his offer, but excused myself by saying that my duties while in command of that portion of the picket-line would not allow me to do so;  that I was very well provided with rations.  He, however, stepped inside the house and called to a colored girl to bring out to me some bread, butter and milk.  After she had obeyed him,  as we had been discussing the slavery question, he spoke of the girl who had just brought out the articles named, saying that she was a slave, and was as much attached to his children as possible, and that he should as soon think of one of them leaving him as this girl;  that he had clothed her, boarded her, educated her so that she could read and write, and that she was better off than she would be if she were free, and that she knew it and thought so too;  that most of his slaves had left him, he having about forty before the arrival of our troops in his vicinity;  that besides this girl, he had four or five left, who were so old that they could not run away, and much more talk to this effect before bidding me good night.

 I was awake a good part of the night, going the round of the picket-line, being absent an hour or so, but neither heard nor saw any movement or lights about the house or grounds, other than made by the relief of pickets.

illustration of slaves escaping in the night

Soon after daylight he came out on the piazza again, not fully dressed, and hurriedly asked if I had seen the girl leave the house since daylight, going towards the negro quarters.  I replied that I had not.  He then started for the quarters, and soon returned, saying that they had all gone, –– the girl and the old ones, too, he reckoned.  I became interested, and questioned the sentinels at the relief, if they had seen anything indicating the slaves leaving.  They reported that they had not.  In the course of an hour the doctor again made his appearance, and confirmed his previous report, that they had all left.  He asked me if any of my men could milk cows, saying that he did not know how, nor any of his family, and offering to give half of the milk to the soldier who would perform the operation.  I was not long in finding some one who would accommodate him.

I did not see much of him during the day, but the next morning, when relieved by another detail, he came to me and bade me good-bye, and presented me with a half blood-hound and half setter puppy which I had been admiring the previous day.   He did not allude again to the loss of the girl and the aged slaves.  The puppy was so small that I carried him to camp in my fatigue cap.  I fed him for several weeks on condensed milk bought from the sutlers.  Before he got large enough to travel on the march he was put in a tin kettle on a mule’s back among the officers’ cooking utensils.   He became a great favorite in the regiment, and in the January following was sent home to Massachusetts.

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KANSAS ESSAY, PARTS 1 & 2; "Introductions" & "The First Elections"

The Stringfellow Brothers and The Kansas Troubles; Parts 1 & 2

Feeling it would be beneficial to review the events of the “Kansas Troubles” (1854-1859) and specifically, the Stringfellow brothers involvement with them, I put together this synopsis of events.  Please excuse this lengthy indulgence on my part, however the Rollin's story is much more meaningful when the extant of Dr. John's activities are known, and also the efforts of his Free-State opponent in Kansas, Dr. Charles Robinson.  Robinson employed Lt. Rollins before the war.  ––The volunteer soldiers, especially the older ones would have been very familiar with these events as evidenced by the entries of the 39th MA and the 16th Maine soldiers.

This essay is more of a selective narration rather than a thoughtful analysis.  Many elements read like a Western Action Film.  There are shootouts, rowdy town meetings, gunfights, ambushes, rescues, narrow escapes, stand-offs.  There are law books vs. frontier violence... well you get the idea.  Yes I ran down a rabbit hole, but I think if you stick with it, you will be rewarded for so doing.


Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow (1816-1891)

With passage of the Kansas Nebraska act in 1854, the Missouri Compromise, which limited slavery to states south of the Mason-Dixon line, was thrown out, and the idea of “Popular Sovereignty” was created.   The intent was to allow the settlers of Kansas Territory to decide by popular vote, the issue of whether they would be a slave State or a free State.  Unfortunately “partisans of both sides targeted Kansas.”  Its real intent was for the slave States to maintain a national balance of power in the U.S. Congress between their faction and the free States.  It was understood by pro-slavery advocates, that Kansas Territory would enter  the Union as a slave State.  To insure this, the Pro-slavery faction over played their hand, and the tensions between the most ardent leaders of the opposing ideologies clashed in what became a bloody territorial Civil War.

Two members of the Stringfellow family played a significant role in the drama that came to be called the “Kansas Troubles.”

 Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow (Sept. 3, 1816 - April 26, 1891) and his brother, Dr. John Henry Stringfellow, were sons of Robert II Stringfellow of Retreat Farm.  They were born to Robert’s 2nd wife, Mary “Polly” Plunkett, who married Robert in  March 1814, at Orange County, VA.  Mary is buried in the family cemetery, near the Rapidan river, on a barren piece of land that was once the family plantation.  These two highly educated brothers,  did their active best to bring Kansas into the Union as a slave State.

The Stringfellow family lived near Fredericksburg before Robert II purchased Retreat Farm in the 1830’s.  Benjamin was born at Fredercksburg, and, “raised on his father’s plantation where he was educated by tutors until he reached 12 years of age." He then attended a local preparatory school in the town.  He studied at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and began to read law in 1835.  He passed the bar in 1836 and began his practice in Louisville, Kentucky in 1837.  He soon moved to St. Louis, and from there continued westward to Huntsville, Missouri in the east-central part of the state.#1

At Huntsville he met Sterling Price, a fellow Virginian who had moved to Missouri with his parents when he was 22 years of age in 1831.  Price’s father bought land in Keytesville and eventually owned almost 5,000 acres. Prominent in the local militia, young Sterling was elected to the Democrat State Convention in 1834, which launched a 25 year political career.  The party he represented was controlled by the influential planters and merchants of central Missouri.  Price persuaded Ben Stringfellow to move to Keytesville where the latter became known as a lawyer of ability.

Ben Stringfellow’s reputation gained him the appointment of Circuit Attorney, which office he held four years.  In 1844 he entered into active political life when he won election to the Missouri State legislature.  His friend Sterling Price was elected to the U.S. Congress the same year.  From 1845 - 1849 Stringfellow served as Attorney-General of Missouri.#2 He and Senator David R. Atchison, were close allies and the decided leaders of the Missouri Pro-Slavery effort to make Kansas a slave State. Their public speeches contain some of the most vitriolic rhetoric on record.  It was characteristic of the times.  Historian G.W. Martin attributed it to “the general charge all free-soilers made––the barbarism of slavery.”#3   Yet those who defended slavery, and there were many, were convinced of the morality of the institution.  A prickly subject to discuss these days, yet seriously accepted by thoughtful moral thinkers of that era.  Perhaps one reason for Stringfellow’s bitterness during the Kansas conflict, can be found by his own admission in the following interview:

St. Louis Democrat, September 12, 1855:
        “I asked General Stringfellow if he had any children.  I shall never forget the sudden and almost terrible shadow in the expression of his face that this question produced.  The conversation had begun about politics and had been carried on very freely up to this point.  My careless question, however, suddenly changed his expression.  Never in my life did I see a broken heart so vividly pictured on human face.  His breast heaved;  the tears started in his eyes; he could hardly articulate.  He answered by monosyllables and single words at a  time.  He told me he had lost four children last spring, within a few days of each other.  As he described the death of his young son, at whose bedside he sat ten days without rest, he was often forced to stop to surpress his rising tears and sobs. To see a strong man so moved is the most terrible and affecting sight beneath the sun.  It affected me greatly –– even to tears –– not as I saw it, for its intense expression of despair and grief paralyzed my own feelings, but as I recalled it in the solitude of my own chamber.  ‘That’s what makes me desperate so often,’ was the last remark he made in describing his domestic misfortunes.  And as he said so I thought if the leaders of political parties knew each other’s sorrows, the hidden causes of political hate and revolutions would soon cease to be a mystery.”   It must be stated before proceeding, “when the end came,” he “squarely and honorably acknowledged defeat.” #4

Dr.  John Henry Stringfellow

Dr. John Henry Stringfellow (November, 1819 - 1905) was born in Culpeper County, Virginia.  He was educated at Caroline Academy in Virginia,  and Columbia University in Washington, D.C.  He graduated from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1845.  After medical school he moved to Carrollton, Missouri in the center-west portion of the State, and married Ophelia Simmons, niece of Missouri Governor John C. Edwards.  His brother Ben was Attorney-General of Missouri at this time.    During the cholera epidemic of 1849, when every boat coming up the Missouri river unloaded cholera patients at Hill’s Landing, he converted a large warehouse into a hospital and devoted three months to caring for the victims.  In 1852 both Stringfellow brothers moved to Platte County in western Missouri, where John set up his medical practice in Platte City.#5

Dr. John Henry Stringfellow (1819 - 1905) pictured right.

When Kansas Territory opened for settlement, the two brothers, allied themselves with David Atchison, a prominent member of the U.S. Senate, and an outspoken advocate of extending slavery into the new territory.  Atchison claimed credit for abolishing the Missouri Compromise.   He urged Missourians to “resist the abolitionist plot to surround their state with free territory.”#6

The viewpoint of these partisans was described as follows by John Gihon, the personal secretary of future Kansas Territorial Governor John White Geary:

“The broad ground assumed by the rabid leaders of the pro-slavery party in Kansas was that an equilibrium of the slave power must be maintained at any sacrifice in the American Union, and this could only be effected by increasing the slave states in proportion with the free. As Nebraska will unquestionably enter the Union a free State, Kansas must be admitted with a constitution authorizing slavery.  Whilst, therefore, the south was willing to give Nebraska to the north, they asked and demanded that Kansas should be ceded to the south.

“It was of little consequence what number of northern men located themselves in Kansas.  It was assumed that they had no right to come there, unless with the intention of assisting to make it a slave state.  If they would not pledge themselves to that object they were abolitionists, allies of disunionism, and deserving of death; and so far from being a crime, it was a virtue to kill them.

“This was the doctrine, openly and boldly advocated, that led to the commission of the most horrid atrocities that blackened the annals of the territory.” #7

The writings of Reverend Thornton Stringfellow, Ben and John’s uncle, who was the leading scriptural apologist for slavery in the South, re-enforced the brothers belief that slavery was right, and that it was sanctioned by biblical scripture.  In their view, the abolitionists were the trouble makers, the radicals, and the disturbers of the peace.  Uncle Thornton wasn’t necessarily against emancipation, he just thought it would come in God’s own time when He was ready.  Ironically, Uncle Thornton wrote a treatise pointing to the violence in Kansas as a rationale why the times were not right to emancipate the slaves.#8

As soon as the Kansas-Nebraska act passed, Missourians, eager to extend slavery into the new territory crossed the border and began staking claims.

“John Stringfellow was among the first of many Platte County citizens to move to Kansas.  In July, 1854, he and a small group of others set out to explore locations to found a town which they named Atchison, to honor their influential senator and leader.  “Near Independence Creek, they found two men named Million and Dickson had staked claims.  Dickson had built a small cabin on his claim but Million lived in Missouri.”  He was in Kansas the day the prospectors arrived.  A witness tells the story:

“As all the men in the party, except Dr. Stringfellow, had already taken claims in the valley of Walnut creek, he was the only member of the party who could select a claim.  He therefore took a tract north of Million’s.  The proposition of forming a town company for the future cite was laid before the first settlers.  Dickson was willing, but Million did not care to cut up his claim.  He offered to sell his claim for $1,000 –– an exorbitant price for the land –– but the men from Platte City had determined to found a city on that particular spot, and the purchase was made.  A town company was formed and a week later a meeting was held under a tree on the bank of the river, about a half block south of where Atchison street now runs.  There were eighteen persons present when the town company was formally organized by electing Peter T. Abell, president; James Burns, treasurer; Dr. J. H. Stringfellow, secretary.” #9

Ben Stringfellow’s Blue Lodges

While Dr. John and company were founding the town of Atchison, brother Ben was busy building an army of supporters ready to help keep abolition minded settlers out of Kansas Territory.  In the border town of Weston, Missouri, where the Stringfellow brothers lived in 1854, Ben called a meeting on July 15 to express concerns that abolitionist societies had got the jump on pro-slavery settlers in Kansas Territory.  He  complained that members of the Leavenworth (Town) Association which established the first land claims in Kansas, were settling abolitionists there.  He titled his address, “Privileges and Power are too fast Slipping From the Many to the Few.”  At this meeting, his attempts to spur the townspeople into action failed.

He called another meeting on July 20 to deal with runaway slaves.  Four had run away on July 8 from Platte county slaveholders.  There was little doubt among the pro-slavery men that the abolitionists of Leavenworth were responsible.  This meeting met with more success for Ben.   “The attendees organized the Platte County Self-Defensive Association and named Ben Stringfellow as Secretary.  The association asserted it “had right to investigate anyone suspected of free-soilism and refuse to do business with them.”” #10

Ben Stringfellow’s organization was not popular.   “Weston merchants did not like the refusal-to-do-business resolution, and even some of Stringfellow’s associates thought his measures too radical.  In September citizens of Weston held a meeting in opposition to the Association, …declaring their loyalty to the General Government and their opposition to “violence and menace.” #11

Letter of Frederick Starr, October 18, 1854

[From State Historical Society of Missouri.]

  Frederick Starr, a Presbyterian minister and officer of the Leavenworth Association, reported to his father the work of Ben Stringfellow's Self Defensive Association.  (Frederick Starr, Jr. was born in New York, 1826.  His father had a piano manufacturing/sales business in Rochester.  Frederick graduated from Yale University and studied religion at Auburn Seminary).

From Frederick Starr to Dear Father, Mother, and Boys Great and Small.#12

Weston. Oct 18th 1854.

Dear Father, Mother, and boys great and small

                         The Self Defensive association of Platte County being fully organized & having issued their anathemas against Emigration Aid Societies, Abolitionists and free soilers, immediately set to work to rid the country of all pests.

    There was a gentleman living in Weston, i.e. he had rented a house & his wife & two children lived in it, while he was absent more or less selecting a claim in Kanzas. This man's name was Minard, originally from Massachusetts––but lately from Iowa. This man is a smart, clear-minded, common man;  but a genuine free soiler. At various places here in town he had expressed himself very freely in reference to Kanzas & the Emigration Aid Companies. Had declared in conversations with persons whom he met in Kanzas that he had seen & voted for Eli Thayer    This was enough.  He was arrested by this mob society and brought before 3 of their judges. They were not posted as to the proper way to go forward & the trial was a public one, so that a large number of citizens were there & heard all. Minard defended his own case against Stringfellow & Abell. When the judges gave their decision on the case they were divided. Two great dunces pronounced him an abolitionist and ordered him to leave the city within 24 hours in default of which they should give him 24 lashes on the bare back!!!  They were a majority and their decision was binding     The third judge   the most influential of the three and the greatest villain, (but for once right) gave a minority or dissenting decision ––He pronounced The man innocent of the charge    that they had proved nothing;  that he was a free soiler & intended to vote the free ticket in Kanzas    he had acknowledged that was all they had against him; that he denied being an Abolitionist & they had not shown any thing to

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even indicate it.  The meeting broke up; and that with a great deal of dissatisfaction among the common people

    “Dick Murphy” the dissenting judge took Minard down to his store and there had a talk with him. He told him that he could see for himself just how things stood     that he could not on any ground of justice urge him to leave town, on the other hand that if he chose to remain he (Murphy) would stand by him & fight with him & for him that he (Minard)  should not be touched.  And yet to have the excitement subside & not to irritate to the extreeme men already insane, he advised him for a few weeks at least to go away; and promised to see that his family should need nothing while he should be absent.  Many men came to Minard & urged him to stay & fight     that they would die with him sooner than he should be driven away or whipped. Minard however concluded that he would leave and took passage for Iowa leaving his family in Weston. I knew nothing of this arrest, trial or leaving until all was passed. This is a scene in the Constitution loving South. That Constitution Says, any citizen passing from one state into the bounds of another shall be entitled to all the rights, priveleges & immunities of a citizen of that state!!! What a commentary upon the text!!

    There was a man by name Osborne, a low, degraded, drunken, ragged, gambling man. He was the second night arrested by a possee of about 20 men upon the declaration of a negro (mark it! the laws of Missouri rule all testimony of a negro against a white man, out of court, and declare it null and void) for writing passes & selling them to the negros to help them off to Canada. He was confined in the Cala

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––boose two days and then had his trial. I went to the courtroom –– when lo all those who would not join the association were directed to leave, so that I took my hat & left the house with two or three others; and did not hear the trial.  Nothing was proved except that the man had ten dollars and the nigger said he had paid that sum to him some two weeks before. They shaved one half his head and commanded him to leave in 48 hours or take 50 lashes and not to return. They also ordered the free negroes to leave the city.  Osborne left for the north. His character and position were such that this treatment produced but little effect on the citizens.

The committee of the “Self Defensive” association appointed to obtain signatures to their organization were very dilligent and met with scarce no opposition, as they could instantly excite the public against any one who should even attempt to question the propriety of any of their movements.  There was a general external assent at least of every one to whom their paper was presented.  I however with every working man I met & poor man & those with whom I had influence, asked some insinuating questions intended to make them think & intimated that my fist could never be at the bottom of such a paper.  I was in the public street with two men with whom I had just been talking on this same subject, when one of the ringleaders came up with his paper to get my name.  He was one of the men who have always hated and opposed me since I have been here, for years pronouncing me an “abolitionist” and a “Yankee” and when he has felt peculiarly amiable, styles me by the euphonious appellation of  “Starr the God damed blue bellied Yankee Abolitionist”  one of the men who “would help him run Starr out of the community”  &c &c. He made me a respectable bow & remarked with a blush, “Mr. Starr would you like to sign this paper”?   “What paper is it Mr. Wallingford”?  Our Self Defensive resolutions”   I took them a moment & glanced at them & returned them with the remark,  “I am obliged to you for your

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trouble in presenting them, but you must excuse me from signing them,  “I have no property of that kind which I need to protect.”  I knew my remarks would be repeated every where.  His face was very red, he handed the paper to one of the men by me     he told him that while he kept his brains he would never put his name to that paper.  The other one wavered    went aside & signed it fearing for his bread & dreading the wrath of the big 'uns     This Man Wallingford is a professional gambler and a notorious negro whoremaster    having often been run out of kitchens & cabins by the owners of slaves     he is one of the great and influential men of the city.

    Two days after this Mr. John W. Vineyard  one of my church members came to me in great tribulation     he owns some 3 or 4 himself, and wanted to talk with me.  it was the first time that a word had ever passed between us in regard to Negro Slavery.   He “knew I was not an abolitionist, and he told every one so but he was not posted as to what I was, and now tell me what you are so that I can tell people just what you are?”   “Well I believe slavery a civil & moral evil.  I believe mere holding of men as slaves for purposes of gain is sinful, and leaving that I am a colonizationist and a free soiler,  I am in favor of sending free blacks & emancipated slaves with their own consent out of the country, and of keeping slavery out of territory where it does not exist.”   He agreed to all that. He told me that one John W. Vineyard & Dr. Bayliss, two great men among the planters were lookin    I left the place where I was and went with him down to his shop where I was talking with him when Mr   John W. Vineyard came in.  He is one of the most notorious and influential of the planters of this region.

    Enclosed I send you 160$ as follows[:] City Bank Oswego Letter A No   275––. [Howe?] Miss draft July 6th $50- Order Fredk Starr. [Home?] Miss draft July 27 $50–– Order C H  Heckmann. [Howe]  Miss draft Sept  16th 1854 $40 Order Fredk Starr––

All very well

Yours affectionately,
Frederick Starr

NOTE:  Fred was eventually forced to flee Weston, MO in 1855.

Dr. Charles Robinson

Dr. Charles Robinson

When Kansas Territory opened for settlement wealthy and powerful advocates for a free Kansas were ready to act, particularly in the North East States. The New England Emigrant Aid Company was chartered in Worcester, Massachusetts in April, 1854.   Its founder, Eli Thayer  planned to settle anti-slave home-steaders in Kansas and capture the majority vote, making it a Free-State.  The company planned to profit through land speculation, a common goal among many of the early emigrants.  Company boosters lectured throughout the Northeast to raise funds and recruit settlers.  The company promised prospective homesteaders reduced transportation rates for the journey west and temporary housing when they arrived in Kansas.  The first group of 29 recruits from Massachusetts, led by Dr. Charles Lawrence Robinson, arrived in Kansas City, Missouri on July 29, 1854.  The party crossed into the territory August 1st and founded their new settlement at Lawrence, named in honor of Amos Lawrence, the agency’s treasurer.  A saw mill and a grist mill were established, and a weekly newspaper, The Lawrence Herald of Freedom, which was financed by the company to publicize and promote the progress of the Free-State movement for the National Press.  Events in Kansas took center stage in the National Debate over slavery.

Dr. Robinson ( July 21, 1818 - August 17, 1894 ) was a native of Worcester Massachusetts.  He attended Amherst Academy, taught school, graduated from Berkshire Medical School and practiced medicine in Belchertown, Massachusetts before traveling west in 1849 for the California gold fields.  He passed through Kansas Territory on the way west and it left a strong impression on him.   Robinson was excited by the fertile prairie in the region that would become his future home. He described the landscape in his journal.

“May 11, 1849.  Our course today has been over the rolling prairie, and we passed along without difficulty. The prairie seems to be an endless succession of rolls, with a smooth, green surface, dotted all over with most beautiful flowers.  The soil is of the most rich and fertile character, with no waste land.  The feelings that come over a person as he first views this immense ocean of land, are indescribable.  As far as the eye can reach, he sees nothing but a beautiful green carpet, save here and there perhaps a cluster of trees; he hears nothing but the feathered songstress of the air, and he feels nothing but a solemn awe in view of this infinite display of creative power.”#13

While in California Dr. Robinson supported John C. Fremont’s efforts to keep slavery out of the new state.  He served a year in the California House of Representatives (1850-1851).  He returned to Massachusetts in 1851, married, and settled in Fitchburg, near Worcester, and established a newspaper, The Fitchburg News.  His editor was Edward F. Rollins, a future lieutenant in the 13th MA Vols., author of “Dr. Stringfellow and His Slaves.”  Dr. Robinson, long opposed the spread of slavery, and enlisted in the New England Emigrant Aid Society as an agent, to fight for a free Kansas.  He became President of the Lawrence town company, which established offices at the formidable Free-State Hotel.   Dr. Robinson’s skills as a coalition builder made him a target of the most virulent pro-slavery men.#14

The first portion of this essay now closes, with all the principal players of the drama introduced.


Note #1.  Kansas Bogus Legislature website, author: Charles Clark, Entry:  Benjamin F. Stringfellow.  [ ]

Note #2.  s/a above (and)  “Legends of Kansas website,”   Entry: Historic People of Kansas - Last Name “S” :  Benjamin F. Stringfellow, (1816-1891);  owner-editor Kathy Weiser-Alexander. [ ]

Note #3.  Martin, George W.; “First Two Years of Kansas.” p. 124.  Found in “Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1907-1908.” 

Note #4.   Martin, p. 124. (both quotes.) 1st quote found in Webb’s scrapbook.

Note #5.  Kansas Bogus Legislature website, author: Charles Clark, Entry:  J.H. Stringfellow, Speaker of the House [ ]  Clark cites Blackmar, Kansas, p. 770
(Blackmar, Frank W. Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History. Chicago: Standard Publishing Company, 1912.)

Note #6.   Kansas Historical Society, Kansapedia website, [ ]  Entry:  Kansas Territory.

Note #7.  John H. Gihon, "Geary and Kansas. Governor Geary's s Administration in Kansas: With a Complete History of the Territory Until July 1857" (Philadelphia, 1857).”  Chapter 21.  Gihon was Personal Secretary to 3rd Territorial Governor, John White Geary.  In Autumn 1976, (vol 42, #3, p. 237 - 262) the Kansas Historical Society published, "No Propriety in the Late Course of the Governor" The Geary-Sherrard Affair Re-examined,  by Historian David E. Meerse.  Regarding Gihon's credibility Meerse wrote this :   For the general reliance upon Gihon, see Nichols, Bleeding Kansas, pp. 286-293; Nevins, Emergence, v. 1, pp. 135-136; Potter, Impending Crisis, p. 215. Spring, Kansas, p. 205, while declaring Gihon's account "rather intemperate and heavily-colored," still concludes that it "retains large elements of historic fidelity." A comparison of Gihon's account with "Governor Geary's Private Diary Kept by His Secretary," "Geary Mss," Yale, indicates it to have been the "private papers" to which Gihon had access in writing his volume. The "Diary" consists primarily of letters sent by Geary to President Pierce and President-elect Buchanan; comparison of the "Diary" versions with originals of the extant letters in the "Franklin Pierce Manuscripts," Library of Congress (microfilm edition), and the "Buchanan Mss," HSP, indicates that they are faithful copies. This makes Gihon's account, in fact, Geary's; on some matters, as for example the Steward affair, Gihon's accounts are almost verbatim copies from the "Diary." Gihon did not, however apparently have the use of Geary's incoming correspondence. For Gihon's relations with Geary while writing and publishing his book, see his letters to Geary, Philadelphia, May 26, July 15, 29, 1857, "Geary Mss," Yale.

[ ]

Note #8.  Justin Barrett Stowe, Thesis “Virginia’s Steward:  A re-examination of the Life and Work of Thornton Stringfellow 1788-1869 Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School  May 28, 2009.

Note #9.  s/a Note #1.  [Blackmar, Kansas, p. 771. found on Bogus Legislature, Charles Clark.]

Note #10.   Baltimore, Stringfellow, p. 17, [as found on Chas. Clark, Bogus Leg.]
Baltimore, Lester B. "Benjamin Stringfellow: Fight for Slavery on the Missouri Border." Missouri Historical Review 62 (October 1967): 14-29.
Stringfellow's progress from Platte County lawyer to pro-slavery leader to Republican railroader.

Note #11.  Paxton, Annals p 176. [as found on Chas. Clark Bogus Leg.]
Paxton, William McClung. Annals of Platte County, Missouri. Kansas City: Hudson-Kimberly, 1897.
One of the best of the county histories by a judge who knew many of the early figures.

Note #12.   Letter Excerpt State Historical Society of Missouri:  Digital Collections.  [ ]  Also found at Kansas City Public Library, "Civil War on the Western Border."

Note #13.   “The Report of the Committee of the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society with the Act of Incorporation”  ( found on-line at Kansas Collection Books: ).

Note #14.  “Territorial Kansas Online”  Topics: Personalities;  “Charles Robinson”[ ]  The biography cites the following sources:
Rawley, James A. Biographical sketch of “Robinson, Charles.” In American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Sokolofsky, Homer E. Kansas Governors. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990.


Andrew H. Reeder

The first order of business in the new territory was the election of a territorial representative to congress.  Governor Andrew H. Reeder, a talented lawyer and lifelong Pennsylvania Democrat was appointed in July by President Franklin Pierce's administration to oversee these elections.  Sounds like an easy task, but the reality proved somewhat more complicated.   Reeder was 47 years old, an imposing figure  at 6’ tall, muscular, with great physical and intellectual force.  He had ties to Virginia by his wife which supplied his Southern bona-fides.  Reeder was a strong advocate of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and said shortly after his appointment “that he would have no more scruples in buying a slave than in buying a horse.”  His experiences as Governor changed his mind.

He arrived in Kansas Territory October 7, 1854.  There were three candidates competing in the election.    Judge J. A. Wakefield was the free-state choice.  The pro-slavery party’s preferred man was John W. Whitfield, Indian Agent, from Tennessee, and a Mexican War Veteran. The third candidate was a Mr. Flenniken who came to Kansas with Governor Reeder.  In order to secure victory, the Stringfellow brothers and other allies of Senator Atchison organized large bands of Missourians to cross the border into Kansas and vote in the November 29th election.  Whitfield won easily with 1,700 illegal votes cast.  Most bona-fide settlers paid little attention to the contest.  They were too busy tending their farms.#15

An early settler from New Hampshire, John E. Stewart, recalled this first election in a fascinating reminiscence, of which a short exerpt is given here.#16

Experience of John E. Stewart (excerpt)

Found at Territorial Kansas On-line & Kansas Memory.  This undated document is presumably written by KS settler John E. Stewart, and relates his experiences in the territory. (Thaddeus Hyatt Collection, #401, Box 2, Folder 5, Item Number: 101751).

“The first election held in this Territory was in November which of course I attended, saw a much larger company than I supposed lived in this district, many of whom I lurned came from Missouri.  I particularly noticed a noisy blustery half drunken man who very much wanted to fight as he repeatedly challenged any abbolitionist on the ground. This man not finding any one in town upon whom to try his pujulistick skill, attacted a waggon full of men on their way home to Hickery Point. He made the attact with a Knife in the front of the waggon, at the driver, whose name was Kibby, who after dodgeing the Knife several times, finally told him if he made another thrust, he would shoot him, the fellow made the thrust & immediately received a ball from a pistol in his breast which turminated his existance in about two hours. This affair created great excitement, but every impartial man justified the act as done in self defence.

The man whom Kibby Killd was named Davis.”

Letter of Kersey Coates, December 1, 1854

Kersey Coates, a Kansas City, Missouri, pioneer and businessman who was sympathetic to the Free-State cause in neighboring Kansas, wrote to Governor Reeder and described his impressions of the first election fraud.#17

Steam Boat Genoa December 1/54

To His Excellency A.H. Reeder

                                            Dear Sir
                                                                The day fixed for the election of a Delegate to Congress has passed, and an outrage perpetrated at the Ballot Box which in the annals of our country is without a parallel.  A barbarian horde was turned in upon us from our neighboring state, that over awed our citizens and either drove them from the polls, or prevented them from depositing their votes.

But I need not enter into particulars; these you will doubtless have had from others, ere this note shall have come to hand.  The people of Missouri

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feel that they have played a game, too desperate –– that they have overshot the mark, for the reaction, the meritable attendant of such a policy, is already swift on its track. That they feel this I have evidences unmistakable in their character. They know, their success in casting their lawless votes is complete; but they already think that the election of their favorite candidate is incomplete and are quietly discussing the probability of its being set aside.

The substantial people of Kansas on the other hand so far as my knowledge extends, (and I have seen many of them) are all on fire. There is kindled within them, a spirit of resistance to the usurpations made, and wrongs inflicted upon them by the people of Missouri, which will not readily be allayed.

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They begin to feel seriously, that the question is no longer one of the introduction or non-introduction of Negro Slavery into the Territory of Kansas, but weather we, the White freeman shall ourselves be slaves.

Men who before were apathetic in their support of yourself and your administration, are now your warm and inflexible adherents.

I have no suggestion to make concerning your duty in regard to this Bogus Election, nor is it my place. You know your duty and  I have no fear that you will fail to do it.

It may however be a satisfaction to you to know, or to feel, that the great mass of the people of the Territory are fixed in their determination to adhere inflexibly to you, and rally to your support in the establishment of a home government, and stand by you from first to last “though the Heavens fall.”

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Such you may rest in perfect confidence is the feeling of the people over whom you are called to preside.

            I am very respectfully
            yours most Obediently
                    K. Coates
Copyright 2007-2020 - Kansas Historical Society.

In December, after the elections, Ben Stringfellow (who voted in Atchison County), was selected by Senator Atchison’s allies to travel to Washington D.C. to lobby Congressmen from Southern States, to send colonists to Kansas.  He believed if 2,000 slaves were living in the Territory the future of slavery would be assured.  He traveled east for the winter of 1854-55, and worked hard to this purpose, but the result of his efforts came to naught.  He collected plenty of promises but they went unfulfilled.  The next territorial elections were held in the Spring of 1855.

Governor Reeder conducted a census to prepare for the next round of voting, which would establish the first territorial legislature.   The rampant fraud of the 1st election, caused him to declare, that only bona-fide residents living in the territory were eligible to vote. The census reported 8,501 actual residents, including 252 slaves.   Of these, 2,905 were legal voters, three fifths of whom were from Missouri, and other slave states. When the census was completed elections were scheduled for March 30, 1855.

If David Atchison’s pro-slavery faction had played it straight, they would likely have carried the vote legitimately in both elections.  But they cheated.  Senator Atchison and the Stringfellow brothers brought in 4,908 illegal voters from Missouri and with this massive fraud elected a nearly unanimous pro-slavery legislature.

Voting in Kickapoo

Atchison is quoted saying, “There are eleven hundred men coming over from Platte County to vote, and if that ain’t enough we can send five thousand –– enough to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the Territory.”  Ben Stringfellow said in a speech at St. Joseph,  “I tell you to mark every scoundrel among you that is the least tainted with free-soilism, or abolitionism, and exterminate him.  Neither give nor take quarter from the damned rascals.  …To those who have qualms of conscience as to violating laws, state or national, the crisis has arrived when such impositions must be disregarded, as your rights and property are in danger and I advise one and all to enter every election district in Kansas, in defiance of Reeder and his vile myrmidons, and vote at the point of the Bowie knife or revolver” #18

Former Attorney-General of Missouri, Ben Stringfellow added his gravitas to the cause, by authoring a paper before the March elections, stating his legal opinion that anyone who could get to the Kansas polls on election day had the right to vote.  Governor Reeder’s careful description of a residency requirement for voting should be tossed aside.#19

The violence and threats of violence made by the invaders caused Free-State citizens to organize into armed militia groups for protection.  The following letter foreshadows the bloody clash that was to come.

Letter of Dr. Charles Robinson, April 2, 1855

Dr. Robinson describes election day to Eli Thayer, President of the New England Emigrant Aid Company.#20

For E. Thayer
This is sent to Mr Rice to avoid opening & deny(?) authority.
                                                         Lawrence April 2 1855

                    Dear Sir
                                Another election in Kansas Territory has passed & like the first was controlled entirely by Missourians.  A few days before the election I was travelling in the Southern & eastern part of the territory & met hundreds of people from Missouri on their way to the different voting precincts in the Territory.  Encampments were formed in the vicinity of the polls varying in size according to the number of voters required in the Several districts to secure their end –– The grand rendevous was at Lawrence where they had reinforcements stationed for all parts –

At Tecumseh two of the judges of election refused to take the oath prescribed by the Governor & the third refused to proceed when the mob, after snapping pistols at the antislavery judge & threatening to destroy all the judges if they did not leave, proceeded to choose judges of their own & go on with the election ––

The free State men accordingly abandoned the polls & did not vote ––  At Douglas the judges attempted to conform to the law & instructions of the Gov. when they were mobbed & driven off.

No antislavery voting was consequently done at that place.

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At Lawrence about a thousand Missourians took possession of the polls & threatened to hang one of the judges who was formerly from Missouri but antislavery if he refused to take their votes & he refused to serve at all.   A proslavery man was put in his place leaving but one of the three free soil.  He was overruled & refused to serve leaving the field to our enemies & they all voted who chose ––

No free soil man could get near the polls till late in the day when a few of our men voted.

I arrived at Lawrence about 3 oclock P.M. & found the town an encampment of Missourians who had given out that they intended in the night to destroy Lawrence root & branch. We immediately prepared to give them a good time in doing it & kept one hundred men sleeping on their arms all night with a good watch in all parts of the city –– The Missouri spies were out during the whole time & nothing but their finding a large guard patrolling the city saved us from destruction.

At the polls they assailed Mr Bond & friend Stearns who were obliged to leave as it was in the early part of the day & but few of our people were on the ground. Bond was fired at but not wounded.    They attempted to frighten Mr Pomeroy & make him leave the polls but failed to do so.*   Some of their leaders told him confidentially that he was in danger –– that the people were infuriated & they could not control them nor keep them off from

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him ––  He told them they need not trouble themselves about him but let them come on if they wanted to for if they could not keep them off he could –– so Mr P. told me himself he talked to them –– He was not molested –– I was told that frequent inquiries were made for me in the forenoon & it was asserted that I would not be allowed to vote –– When I learned their desire to see me I went over to the polls & voted & then passed through their camp arm in arm with Mr Brown** who also had been threatened.  Neither of us was disturbed or insulted although all eyes were turned upon us.

It is said they had two Cannon with them.  Col. Doniphan also was said to be here & said that next fall they should be on hand again.   It is also said that Atchison talks of running for Delegate to Congress & bring his voters with him;  & a man from Missouri, a Bentonite, says the plan is if he does so for old Bullion to take the field against him & his friends also will see that fair play is had.

Our people have now formed themselves into four Military Companies & will meet to drill till they have perfected themselves in the art.  Also companies are being formed in other places & we want arms.  Give us the weapons & every man from the north will be a soldier & die in his tracks if necessary to protect and defend our rights.  It looks very much like war & I am ready for it & so are our people.  If they give us occasion to settle the question of slavery in this

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country with the bayonet let us improve it.  What way can bring the slaves redemption more speedily –– Wouldn’t it be rich to march an army through the Slave holding States & roll up a black cloud that should spread dismay & terror to the ranks of the oppressors?

But I must Close, for want of time –– Can not your Secret Society send us 200 of Sharps rifles as a loan till this question is settled?   also a couple of field pieces? –– If they will do that I think they will be well used & preserved.

I have given our people encouragement to expect something of the kind & hope we shall not be disappointed –– Please inform me what the prospect is in this direction.

If the Gov. sets this election aside we of course must have another & shall need to be up & dressed

        In great haste                  
            Very Respectfully
                            C. Robinson

To Hon. Eli Thayer
         Worcester Mass

NOTE:  *Sam Pomeroy was chairman of the Lawrence Committee of Public Safety during sack of Lawrence.
**George Washington Brown is the editor of the Herald of Freedom.

Copyright 2007-2020 - Kansas Historical Society.

The  request for arms in the above letter prompts reference to a remarkable quote.

Henry Ward Beecher said he believed that “the Sharp’s rifle was truly a moral agency, and there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles.”  “You might just as well,” said he, “read the Bible to buffaloes as to those fellows who follow Atchison and Stringfellow;  but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp’s rifles.” #21

Governor Andrew Reeder’s response to the election fraud.

The election sham outraged Territorial Governor, Andrew Reeder.   Disregarding threats to his life, he refused to grant certificates to 17 of 42 representatives chosen in the contested vote, and, he called for new elections in the 6 Kansas districts which filed official protests. (Governor Reeder granted certificates to 9 councilmen (Upper House) and 16 representatives (Lower House) of the Territorial Legislature.   He refused certificates to 4 councilmen and 13 of the house of representatives).

The announcement for new elections was not done without threats to his life.

Reeder testified later, “The election was held on the 30th of March as ordered, and an invading force from Missouri entered the territory for the purpose of voting, which, although it had been openly threatened, far exceeded my anticipations.  About the time fixed as the return-day for that election a majority of the persons returned as elected assembled at Shawnee Mission and Westport, and remained several days, holding private caucuses at both places.  I had frequent conversations with them, and they strenuously denied my right to go behind the returns made by the judges of the election, or investigate in any way the legality of the election.  A committee called upon me and presented a paper, signed by twenty-three of twenty-four of them, to the same effect.  Threats of violence against my person and life were freely afloat in the community, and the same threats were reported to me as having been made by members elect in their private caucuses.  In consequence of its being reported to me that a number of the members in their caucuses in their speeches had declared that they would take my life if I persisted in taking cognizance of the complaints made against the legality of the elections, I made arrangements to assemble a small number of friends for defense, and on the morning of the 6th of April I proceeded to announce my decision upon the returns.  Upon the one side of the room were arrayed the members elect, nearly if not quite all armed, and on the other side about fourteen of my friends, who, with myself, were also well armed.” #22

The Governor scheduled the do-over elections for May 22nd 1855.  Pro-slavery men boycotted this vote and Free-Soil candidates won all of the seats.

In the interim Governor Reeder traveled east to Washington, to convince President Pierce and his administration to reject the fraudulent election results.  He left Kansas Territory on April 19.  Senator Atchison and other powerful members of the slave power accordingly pressured President Pierce to accept the vote.  They convinced him that it was the Emigrant Aid men, abolitionists from Massachusetts, that caused all the trouble in Kansas, and that these were aided and abetted by the Northern press which blew the situation all out of proportion.#23

Governor Reeder first stopped in Washington to meet with President Pierce. He then traveled home to Easton, PA where he was greeted with a large public reception.  In a long speech he explained how Missourians were meddling in Kansas affairs. Later, he returned to Washington for further interviews.  The negotiations between Governor Reeder and the President continued for several days.  In the course of conversation it became clear that Franklin Pierce wanted Reeder to resign.  The President expressed concern for Reeder’s safety and added that his assassination in Kansas would incite a Civil War.   He continued by suggesting a new governor might bring calm to the excited passions that now existed in Kansas.   Reeder refused to step down on two points.  First, remaining in office was the only way to protect the citizens from further oppressions and persecutions which would continue were he to leave.  Second, it was a point of honor, as with the many threats to his life declared publicly, his resignation would be viewed as cowardice.  Falling to convince Reeder to resign, the President offered him a prominent appointment, as Ambassador to China, under the pretense that it would demonstrate the President’s continued faith in him.  The bribe so angered Reeder he left the room without a reply, other than “Good Morning.” #24

Governor Reeder knew that Atchison and his allies in Washington D.C., had won over President Pierce.   Already his adversaries in Kansas were accusing him of unethical land speculation deals with the Indians.  The allegations of corruption, no greater than any other land-speculater in the region, gave President Pierce an excuse to dismiss Reeder from office.

The Squatter Sovereign

In February, 1855, Dr. John Stringfellow established the Squatter Sovereign newspaper for the Atchison Town Company, with partner Robert S. Kelley.  It was “the shrillest and most widely read voice of Kansas pro-slavery opinion.”#25   The paper was hostile to Governor Reeder and gleefully spread the allegations of land fraud within its pages.  The paper often took advantage of its circulation to forecast pro-slavery party strategies to its readership.

Image of Squatter Sovereign Newspaper Front Page

Its first issue featured a full page spread of brother Ben Stringfellow’s address to the Platte County Self Defensive Association titled, “Slavery No Evil.”   Several subsequent issues devoted pages of text to Uncle Thornton Stringfellow’s 1841 treatises on Biblical approbation of the ‘peculiar’ Southern Institution.

On-going editorials encouraged Missourians to cross the border and vote in Kansas elections. The paper cautioned free-soilers to keep away from the polls at their own peril.  But its chief occupation between February and June, 1855, was to berate “His Free-Soil Excellency” Gov. Reeder.  Reeder was the “head of the underground railroad,” an abolitionist, a monarch, a swindler.  He was “unjust,” “dishonest,” “rotten and corrupt.”

The editors found fault with everything he did.  The pages of the Squatter Sovereign listed his crimes.  Gov. Reeder delayed the legislature elections until March so Free-Soilers could increase their numbers.  He appointed Free-Soil men to take the census in some districts, to preclude the registration of pro-slavery voters absent from home.  Gov. Reeder had no right to define the qualifications of voters; ––  because anyone who showed up to vote was eligible to vote provided he claimed the intent to stay.  The court districts the governor organized were unfair because the cities were not equal distance apart, and because Reeder owned property in two of them.  He had no right to prohibit alcohol sales near polling places.  “Where does he derive the power to do this?”   “Perhaps the Governor regards the sale of liquor, as he does slavery, as a “moral, social and political evil,” and finds in the “Higher Law” power to prohibit the sale of liquor, and to destroy the property of the Grocer or Merchant, as he does the right to prohibit slavery, and steal his neighbors negroes?”

The paper heralded the great election victory of March 30th.  The headline read, “The entire forces of Abolitionism, Reederism, Free-Soilism, and other isms combined, completely Routed.  Kansas declared in favor of Slavery.”

When Gov. Reeder declared he had the right to decide contested seats the paper proclaimed it was the right of the Legislature to decide who won.  They mocked Reeder’s efforts in Washington, D.C. to repudiate the vote;  “He seriously proposed to the President to dissolve the Kansas Legislature, but his proposition was only the subject of merriment.  It is said Mr. Cushing [Caleb Cushing, Attorney General of the U.S.] asked him if he had not given the members of the Legislature certificates that “they were duly and legally elected.”  He answered he had.  “Then, said Mr. Cushing, “which are we to believe and respect,  your official certificate of a fact given under the sanctity of an oath, or your declarations here that all law and order were violated and gross outrages perpetrated in the election of the Legislature.”  [S.S. June 5th, 1855.]

The land fraud allegations against Governor Reeder began to appear in the newspaper, on April 3rd immediately after the March 30th election.  Atchison’s allies were able to use these charges of corruption as a tool to convince President Pierce to fire the governor.

Confrontation with Ben Stringfellow

Andrew Reeder began his return trip to Kansas Territory on June 11th.  He arrived in Kansas on June 23rd, in time to write an address for the opening of the 1st Territorial Legislature.   Soon after his return, Ben Stringfellow paid a visit to the Governor’s office.  The visit was reported this way in the Free-State press:

Herald of Freedom, October 8, 1857


“Gov. Reeder soon after the 30th of March visited Washington, hoping to induce Pres. Pierce to disregard the election. On his way there he stopped at his old home, Easton, Pa., and told the story of Kansas’ wrongs, in a speech to his old neighbors.  In this he designated the invaders as “Border Ruffians,” and said they were led by their chiefs, David R. Atchison and B. F. Stringfellow.  Soon after the Governor’s return to Kansas, he was called upon by Sringfellow, and a party of kindred spirits.  Stringfellow demanded of Reeder to know if he had made the statement.  The Governor repeated what he said; that the Territory had been invaded by a regularly organized company of armed men, “Border Ruffians,” if you please, who took possession of the ballot-boxes, and made the Legislature to suit the purposes of the pro-slavery party;  and that in his opinion Gen. Stringfellow was responsible for the result.  Stringfellow sprang to his feet, seized his chair, and felled the Governor to the floor, kicking him when down.  He also attempted to draw a revolver, but was prevented from using it by District Attorney Isaaks, and Mr. Halderman, the Governor’s private secretary.  And this the origin of the term, so common on the Kansas border for so many years, of “Border Ruffian.”#26

Thomas Sherwood Letter, July 5, 1855

An eye witness provides another account of this famous confrontation:#27

Thomas Sherwood says the two men were only saved from shooting one another by the intervention of Reeder’s private secretary, John Halderman, and the U.S. District Attorney for Kansas Territory, Andrew Isacks.

Squaws Leg City July 5th 1855

Friend Woodward                                      

                                                    When I left you on March last I promised to write you Long before this, Being Somewhat Unfortunate while at Pawnee was not able to write until of late.

You will see by the way I date my Letter I am traveling that is I am not at Pawnee and having an opportunity to Send a Letter to the States I write you.  I Shall be home at Sept.   Court is alive and well and wish you to have my case ready for trial with the Oricle virsez Sutten  I presume,  Whitney and Several others have returned home before this and Kansas put down to the Lowest Pitch    All I will Say is Any Man that finds fault with the Soil or Climate of Kansas in my Estimation is not worthy of notice.

I will not undertake now to give you a history of touring For I intend to be home Soon for My famaly I may be home as Soon as the 1st of August  The Legislature is now in Session at pawnee   If they move to the Shawnee Mission as the Missourians Say they Shall I Shall Start home in a few days  I have my Clams made   house built    & Partner  in a team Sufficient to Brake Prairie &c

I Can get a boy for $15 per Month to take my place and drive the team therefore I may as well be home as here.  Until it is time to put in a crop

I presume before this you have Seen Statements in the Paper Conserning Stringfellow & Reeder.  I will give you a

p. 2

Correct Statement.   Stringfellow Came to the Gov Office at the Shawnee Mission.  He Commenced with insulting Language by asking Reeder if he had Said So & so at this place and at that    Reeder told him what he had Said.

Stringfellow then Said do you mean to include me when you Say Missourians Came to the Territory Voted Illegally     at the Same time put his hands on his Pistol in his belt   He could not get it out very well.

Reeder took his Pistol from his Drawer and told Stringfellow not to rais his Pistol if he did he  was a dead Man  would defend himself.  Stringfellow then gave inn   Reader Verry Unwisely took his Chair and Sat in a Verry Unguarded possision.  Stringfellow Still Using insulting Language by Asking questions and not giving the Gov time to answer    Gov said if you wish to Converse with me you must treat me gentlemanly or I will not Stoop to Converse with you     Stringfellow then Made a Spring on the Gov and both fell on the floor    Halderman & Isaacks  then Came and Stood between the parties or one or both would been Shot

I am only Supprised Reeder did not Shoot him for Stringfellow has said Severel times he would take the damb Rebbels Life, More when I see you

            Give my respect to all

                Your old Friend                   
                    Thos Sherwood


Note #15.  Gihon, Chapter 5.

Note #16.  “, Kansas Historical Society”  John E. Stewart Reminiscence. p. 4.

Note #17.   “, Kansas Historical Society.”;  Kersey Coates to Andrew Horatio Reeder, Dec. 1, 1854.  KS HS item Number:  217292  Mershon Collection of Andrew Reeder Family Archives, KSHS Identifier:  DaRt ID:  217292

Note #18.   Martin, George W.; “First Two Years of Kansas.” p. 126.  Found in “Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1907-1908.”  Martin cites the NY Tribune for the quote.

Note #19. Howard Report, p. 318.  Author Baltimore, p. 27. As found on Bogus Legislature website by Charles Clark. Entry:  “Missourians / Benjamin F. Stringfellow.”

Note #20.   " Kansas Historical Society.” Entry: “Dr. Robinson to Eli Thayer, 2 April 1855.  also, From Territorial Kansas On-line. "Letter, C. Robinson to E. Thayer. April 2, 1855."  KSHS Call Number: Eli Thayer Collection, #519, Box 1, Folder 1.  Item Number 102359

Note #21.  Martin, p. 138.   Note: #78 Webb’s Scrapbook, vol. 9, p. 67. ( No Date ).

Note  #22.  Martin, pp. 126-127.   “Report of the committee on Kansas Affairs, 1856, “ pp. 935,  936.

Note #23.  McPherson, James, “Battlecry of Freedom,”  p. 146.

Note #24.  Biography of Andrew Reeder, Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5 v.  Found at Kansas GenWeb.  [ ]

Note #25.   Library of Congress, “Chronicling America” website.  Squatter Sovereign Mission statement. [ ]

Note #26.  Clark,, cites Brown, Governor Walker, p. 13.

Note #27.   " Kansas Historical Society.” Entry:  Thomas Sherwood to Friend Woodward,  July 5, 1855. Location of Original:  KU  Call Number RH MS P152  Item Number 101577  (Territorial Kansas Online).

Return to Table of Contents

  PARTS 3 & 4; "The Slave Laws" & "Free-Staters Organize"


Governor Reeder selected the town of Pawnee Mission for the new Territorial Legislature to meet. He wanted it to be far from the Missouri border and its influence.  He also owned shares in the town company, so if Pawnee Mission prospered, he would too.  Land speculation was a common enterprise in the new territory.  On this point, the legislature had a legitimate criticism of Gov. Reeder, even though they profited from similar schemes.  It was used as a pretext to dismiss Gov. Reeder, though it was not the real cause of his removal.  Pro-slavery men believed the whole purpose of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, was to maintain the balance of power between free States and slave States.  To that end, in their view, any official who did not assist their efforts to bring slavery into Kansas was an obstacle.

Gov. Reeder's Capitol Building at Pawnee.

Governor Reeder's Capitol Building at Pawnee Mission.  The first meeting place of the Kansas Territorial Legislature.  After a few days here, under disagreeable conditions, the Legislature adjourned and changed its meeting place to Shawnee Mission.

Pawnee Mission was a few days journey from the settlements in east Kansas. The town itself was woefully unprepared for the gathering.  The selected meeting place was still unfinished, and only two houses had been completed. This first congress would be contentious and brief, lasting only one week.

One of the legislature’s first actions was to unseat the Free-State delegates elected in the do-over vote of May.  The original pro-slavery delegates elected in the contested March election were seated in their place.  This left only 2 recognized Free-Staters in the Legislative body.  They resigned.  The legislature then voted to move their meeting place to Shawnee Mission against Governor Reeder’s strong objections.   Dr. John H. Stringfellow was voted Speaker of the House of the new Legislative body and sent steady reports of its actions to his newspaper for publication.  His first report gives an interesting account of the gathering at Pawnee Mission.

Squatter Sovereign, July 17, 1855.

Governor Reeder charged the new territorial legislature with its duties.  This included establishing counties, setting up a judicial system, levying taxes, and organizing a militia, determine a permanent seat of government and preparing a State Constitution which decides whether Kansas will be a free or slave state.


Kansas Legislature.

Letter from the Senior.

Pawnee, K.T.  June 30th, 1855.

I arrived to-day, after a three day's trip from Atchison, and I can safely say that the finest country I have seen on the route with the exception of the Pottowattomie Reserve is that extending from Atchison to Osawkee.  Every foot of the land between those two points is good, and timber enough for farming purposes. The various heads of Stranger all marked with timber, and the waters of Grasshopper on the right, make it the finest farming country I have seen.  After leaving the Pottowattomie country, the lands are valuable, still along the different streams Black Jack, Rock Creek, Blue and Wild Cat, there are some fine lands and good timber.  The hardy squatter is found on all of them, and generally has fine fields of corn.

On arriving at Pawnee, I must acknowledge I was disappointed in not finding more improvements, especially as Gov. Reeder thought this the most eligible place for holding the session of the Legislature.  The building designed for the Legislative Hall, is a large stone ware-house, which when we arrived on Saturday, had neither floor nor roof, but by working all day Sunday and Sunday night, the roof and floor was finished, but the doors were not completed while we stayed — so we had to legislate with open doors.  There are two other houses, which, for the time, were converted into hotels.  I put up at the one kept by Mr. Klotz, a very clever Pennsylvanian, with an interesting looking wife, and I can say truly, that no one under the circumstances could have treated us better, but so far from market with no gardens and no market of any kind, we had a hard time of it.  Our house was crowded to its utmost capacity, and still the large portion of the members had to camp out in tents and wagons.

On Monday we met and organized, electing the various officers, after being sworn in by Judge Johnson, The judge of the Pawnee District.

The officers of the House are;

Speaker–– J. H. Stringfellow, of Atchison.
Chief Clerk –– Mr. Lyle, of Leavenworth.
Assistant Clerk –– Mr. Martin of Tecumsah.
Sergeant-at-Arms –– Mr. Cramer, of Nemaha.
Door-keeper –– Mr. Campbell, of Fort Scott.
In the Council the officers are:
President –– Thos. Johnson, of Shawnee Mission.
Chief Clerk –– O. Grover, of Kickapoo.
Sergeant-at-Arms ––Mr. Whithead.
Door-Keeper –– Mr. Godefroy, of Fort Scott.

On Tuesday the Governor sent in his message, which you will find is very well calculated to have its effect with the Pennsylvania Democracy.  If he was trustworthy, I would be disposed to compliment the most of it, but knowing how corrupt the author is, and that it is only designed for political effect in Pennsylvania, he not expecting to remain long with us, I will pass it by.

Mr. McMeeken introduced a bill to locate the seat of Government temporarily at Shawnee Mission, which passed both houses, and after keeping it nearly three days, the Governor returned it with his objections.  The bill was then passed again, only two votes in the House and one in the Council against it.  Gov. Reeder's objections are so silly and absurd that I am not disposed to give him credit for half the intelligence I once accorded him.  I am afraid he will loose his chance for a seat in the U.S. Senate, from Pennsylvania, if he writes many more such papers.

The committee on credentials in both Houses reported adversely to those claiming seats under the second election of the Governor, on the ground that he had the right only to order the first, and all subsequent elections are to be provided for by law.  The gentlemen died hard, but had to go.

The Governor assumes that no law that we can pass at Shawnee will be valid, because he does not sanction the removal.  We shall see whether the Judges will so construe it; whether a law passed by the people is to be declared null because the legislature would not sit at the Governor's pet town –– whether the framers of the bill intended to give the Governor more power than the people.  This would be popular sovereignty with a vengeance.  I have not time to go more into detail, you will recieve full reports of our proceedings.

On Friday morning the Legislature proceeded to elect a Public Printer.

Mr. Brady, recently of the “Frontier News,” but who was about to start a paper at Tecumseh, in connection with a gentleman from Syracuse, New York.  Mr. Hazard, of the “Pioneer,” Mr. Adams, of the “Herald,” ( Leavenworth,)  R. S. Kelley, of Atchison, and Mr. Higins of Pawnee were nominated.  Mr. Brady received 29 votes, Mr. Hazard one, Mr. Higins 1 and Mr Kelley 7.  Mr. Brady was elected.

During our stay at Pawnee, the cholera broke out, and some deaths ensued.

On Friday evening both Houses adjourned to Shawnee Mission, with out passing any laws of a general nature.  The House passed the Missouri code by a large majority as a provisional code until repealed, or altered.  The Council referred it to a committee, preferring not to act upon it until we get to the Mission.

I shall be at home on Sunday next.

Remarks of the Speaker

On being conducted to the Chair, Dr. Stringfellow said:

Gentlemen –– I need not say to you that I am proud of the distinction you have conferred upon me, and that from my heart I thank you –– to do so, would convey but a feeble idea of the feelings which animated me on this occasion.  You have to-day, gentlemen, converred on me an honor which I prize more highly than any other in the gift of the House or the people.  The honor of presiding over the first house of Representatives in Kansas Territory.  To have intimated one year ago that such a result would be wrought out, one would have been called a visionary –– to have predicted that to-day a Legislature would assemble, almost unanimously pro-slavery, and with myself for Speaker, I would have been thought mad.  For these reasons, and becuase of the fact that the destinies of our glorious Union hang upon our actions –– because the eyes of the world are upon us –– the eyes of fanatical and malignant enemies are closely watching us –– the eyes of sympathising friends are anxiously fixed upon us –– for these reasons, and felling that it is a high and responsible trust you have confided to me, I feel both proud and most grateful.

In conclusion, allow me to hope, gentlemen, that in our deliberations, courtesy and candor may mark our course, so that nothing unpleasant may interrupt that harmony which I hope will ever subsist amongst us.

In June the newspaper editorials suggested the Territorial Legislature should pass rigid laws against abolitionists.  The Legislature would soon heed this advice when they re-convened at Shawnee Mission.

Squatter Sovereign, June 12, 1855. (excerpts)


Messrs. Editors: –– As the time for the assembling of the Legislature is almost at hand, I feel impelled to call the attention of the members elect, to some matters of very grave importance, at least to some who are to feel the practical effects of their action.

By the Kansas Bill, the Legislature is recongnised as having the same powers possessed by the State Legislatures. This being the case, I wish to suggest that there is one class of property here requiring legislation of a rigid character, to protect, I mean the slaves.  As the owner of that kind of property I claim the right to speak on the subject.  It is clearly the duty of the Assembly to pass stringent laws for the peace, as well as the safety of our slave property.  To do this, the meddling, prating Abolitionists, must be silenced.  They will “howl” about free speech, and a free press, but their ravings must not be heeded.  Men have no right to talk slanderously of their neighbors, the law forbids it, and will make a money damage the consequence.  Any language that may result in pecuniary damage, to another the law prohibits.  So with us our Legislature should make the publishing, or uttering of Abolitionism, an offense of a high grade, both indictable, and actionable if loss is sustained thereby.  By establishing laws of this kind, our Territory will soon be filled with wealthy and enterprising men from the South, and we will soon rid ourselves of the most troublesome portion of the Emigrant Aid men.  They don’t like work, and if the Legislature, will only make the penalty for the above offences, a 6 or 12 months service in a chain gang, these lazy meddlesome fellows will soon find their way back to some more congenial clime.”

The Territorial Legislature re-assembled on July 16th at Shawnee Mission.  It did so with the knowledge that Governor Reeder would soon be replaced.  Before Reeder left office on July 31, the Legislature approved laws that stripped him of almost every vestige of power granted in the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  Then, they assumed the power to appoint all territorial officers.  They naturally selected only men with strong pro-slavery sentiments.  Throughout the territory there was only 1 Free-State party man; the post-master of Lawrence.  The Legislature retroactively legalized the border ruffian ballot by removing the requirement of prior-residency in the territory as a qualification to vote.#28

Foremost on the agenda of the territorial legislature, was the creation of a strong slave law.  Indeed it was for this reason, David Atchision and his allies worked so hard to ensure pro-slavey candidates won a majority of seats in the contested elections.   Now with unanimous control of both houses, the assembly set to work to create the strongest pro-slavery laws in the country.

Just before the Legislative session began, a Pro-slavery Convention was held in Lexington, Missouri on July 12, where 226 delegates met with Senator Atchison and Benjamin Stringfellow  to consider retaliation against northern states enacting liberty laws.  Some members of the Territorial Legislature were likely present.#29

The Slave Laws

As part of the Compromise of 1850, a stronger Fugitive Slave act was passed by Congress, requiring Free States to surrender escaped runaway slaves.  Congress explicitly extended this act to the Territory of Kansas.  Appalled, some northern states passed legislation to weaken the act.  Massachusetts passed  “The Massachusetts Personal Liberty Act of 1855, which guaranteed the writ of habeas corps, the right to a trial jury and other devices to protect runaways.  [Massachusetts, Acts and Resolves 1855, 924]

 The Legislature asked Gov. Reeder for copies of these laws, so that they could counter them with their own tough pro-slavery statutes.#30  They passed the Offense Against Slave Property Act (Sept. 1855).  It made:

1. “Decoying” any slave away from his owner punishable by death.
2.  Aiding or assisting decoying a slave punishable by death.
3.  Bringing decoyed slaves into Kansas Territory from any other state or territory punishable by death.
4.  Raising a rebellion or insurrection among slaves, free negroes or mulattoes punishable by death.
5.   Aiding or assisting in any such rebellion or insurrection punishable by death.
6.  Resisting any officer attempting to arrest a slave punishable by two years at hard labor.
7.  Printing or publishing any book, pamphlet, etc. calculated to produce “dangerous disaffection” among slaves punishable by five years at hard labor.
8.  Speaking or writing that “persons have not the right to hold slaves in this Territory” punishable by two years at hard labor.  [1855 Statutes, Chapter 151]

Other statutes passed:

1. Required an oath from every officer, elected or appointed, to support the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Law. [ 1855 Statutes, 438]
2. Disqualified any person opposed to slavery as a juror. [1855 Statutes, 377, 378]
3. Required an oath from every attorney to support the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Law. [1855 Statutes, 118]
4. Made homicide excusable when correcting a slave and cohabitation of a slave with a white woman punishable by castration. [1855, Statutes, 205]
5. Made petit larceny and misdemeanors committed by slaves punishable by whipping. [1855 Statutes, 252 ff]
6. Disallowed the writ of habeas corpus to slaves charged with crimes. [1855 Statutes, 345]
7.    Made wearing a ball and chain mandatory for all prisoners serving hard labor sentences. [1855 Statutes, 146]

[From Charles Clark, KanasBogusLegislature Website.]

Squatter Sovereign, September 11, 1855

After these laws passed,  Ben Stringfellow said, they “were more efficient to protect slave property than those of any state in the Union,” and that they “will be enforced to the very letter.”#31

The Squatter Sovereign published an editorial on these laws, penned by a member of the legislature signed “S.”  I presume it is Dr. John Stringfellow, Speaker of the House of the Territorial Legislature.

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN, September 11, 1855.

Kansas Legislature

We promised in our last a summary of the doings of the Legislature.  Before we commence it is necessary to say what we did not do, as the press over in Missouri are representing us, as having done a great many things which we have not done.

First, we did not pass any law exempting negroes from sale under execution. ––  A bill was introduced into the lower house, of that character but it met with no favor, and after it was amended, so as only to exempt household slaves, it received but four votes.  We did not pass a law preventing free negroes and mulattoes from emigrating to the Territory, although I think from the feeling amongst all parties here, they will meet with but poor encouragement to come.  We did not pass a law permitting negroes to testify against white persons, all of which have been charged against us by the Abolition press.  We passed a law for the encouragement of Abolition emigration from the Territory.––

Amongst other provisions, is one providing against the utterance of the opinion that slaves cannot be legally held in bondage in the Territory.  Against this a terrible cry is raised.  We propose to investigate this.  The Abolitionists contend that is a terrible outrage upon the freedom of speech.  When the law was framed, it was not intended or expected that any Abolitionist would be pleased with it;  it is one of a dozen sections, and we venture that not one of the whole dozen, pleased them any better than this.

Men have the right to hold any opinion they may chose;  they can conclude  that their neighbor is a horse thief, but if they utter that opinion, a heavy damage will be the result of a slander  suit; he may think  his neighbor burned a house, but if the charge is made and not sustained, a slander suit is again the result and money damages follow.  So if one thinks that negroes cannot be held in servitude here, and utters  that opinion so that negro property is endangered by it –– and it will be if the negro hears it –– then our law comes in and because of the injury  done to the property, the penalty of imprisonment and hard labor is inflicted.  We would ask what necessity is there for the utterance of any such opinion, unless some suit for freedom is commenced, if so, then no one presumes that a lawyer who would make such plea, would be considered as having violated the law.  Outside of such circumstances the uttering  of such sentiment could only be with evil intent, and should be punished.  We are very much gratified that this is the only provision of the twelfth section that is objected to.

It is amusing to see such papers as the Democrat and Intelligencer of St. Louis, deploring the great injury the Kansas Legislature has done the slavery interest;  one would think to read some of their articles, that the whole cause was in their special charge.  If we had entertained any doubts as to the correctness of the policy we had pursued, the Intelligencer and Democrat would have removed them all.  The miserable Abolitionists who conduct them had better keep in St. Louis, or they may meet the fate of their friend Pardee Butler.*  It is a humiliating reflection that Missouri, at this particular crises, has to endure such infamous sheets.  We hope that the next session of her Legislature, will imitate the example of Kansas, and muzzle all such vile sheets.

Next week we will give a further summary of our acts.


*Rev. Pardee Butler, (1816 - 1888) an abolitionist, came to KS Territory in the Spring of 1855.  After building a cabin he traveled to Atchison where he intended to board a steamboat to Illinois to bring his family to KS.  While waiting for the boat, on Aug. 17, he was confronted by a pro-slavery mob and requested to sign papers stating he would support the slavery laws.  When he refused he was dragged to the river, stripped, humiliated and set adrift on a raft, his  assailants hoping the river would kill him.   He later recalled telling his tormentors: “Gentlemen, if I am drowned I forgive you; but I have this to say to you.  If you are not ashamed of your part in this transaction, I am not ashamed of mine.  Good bye.”   Butler used a penknife to cut off a branch to use as an oar, and managed to dock on the KS side of the river a few miles below Atchison.  He later returned to Kansas  in April 1856.  He was again confronted by a mob and this time tarred and feathered.  He did not abandon his principles; he helped organize the Republican party in KS, and helped develop the Christian Church in the West.#32

Robert S. Kelley,  junior partner of the Atchison Squatter Sovereign was one of the chief assailants.

Other offenses occurred in addition to the abuse of Rev. Pardee Butler.  The Pro-slavery faction were feeling empowered to intimidate the “convicts and criminals of the Eastern cities shipped to Kansas Territory.” “We cannot feel safe while the air of Kansas is polluted by the breath of a single free-soiler.  We are not safe, and self-preservation requires the total extermination of this set.” — Squatter Sovereign, Aug 7th 1855.  “A Mr. Finney, a noisey and troublesome free-soiler, was badly beaten on Saturday last, in this city, by a Pro-Slavery man who he had insulted.  Two other persons entertaining free-soil views, were knocked over and silenced, on the same day.  Abolitionists in this vicinity are in “hot water.”  Squatter Sovereign –– Aug. 21.

Letter of Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, July 29, 1855

In his last days as territorial governor, Andrew Reeder repudiated the Legislature.  Cyrus Kurtz Holliday attests to this in a letter to his wife from Lawrence, KT on July 29, 1855.#33    Holliday came to Kansas from Meadville Pennsylvania.  He was the first president of the Topeka Town Association and was involved in founding and settling Topeka.  He was also an agent for the New England Emigrant Aid Company. –– Territorial Kansas Online, KHSH.

Lawrence, Kansas Territory, July 29, 1855

“Day before yesterday (Friday) I spent at Shawnee Mission with the Governor and in visiting the Pseudo Territorial Legislature  –– The Governor and the assembly are at perfect loggerheads.  The Gov. does not recognize them as a legal body, vetoes all their bills, and pays no respect whatever to them –– Where this will all end I or no other man can dare to predict.  The Governor says that when he left his family he told his wife just how things stood and that it was probable she might never see him again –– That will give  some idea of how he regards things ––  You must not argue from this but there is any immediate danger –– I think not in fact –– And things have now asumed such a shape that they will attack Reeder before they do the citizens.”


Note #28.  McPherson, “Battlecry of Freedom,” p. 147, (footnote 6 cites:  Nevins, “Ordeal of the Union”, II, 384-390; Jay Monaghan, “Civil War on the Western Border, 1854-1865” (New York, 1955), 17-30; Roy F. Nichols, “Franklin Pierce,” (2nd ed., Philadelphia, 1958), 407-18.).

Note #29.   Shoemaker, Missouri’s Proslavery Fight, p. 335  Some of the Kansas representatives probably attended. Found on Charles Clark, “” + “Legislation.”

Note #30.  Clark, KansasBogusLegislature, Entry page: “Legislation” + “Slavery.” All the laws listed are from this website entry.

Note #31.  Martin, p. 132 (footnote 48) cites Wilder’s Annals of Kansas, 2d ed., p. 82.

Note #32.  Martin, p. 130.,  Martin cites Webb’s Scrap-book, Vol 2. p.181.

Note #33.  “, Kansas Historical Society.” item 2768 text. copyright 2007-2020 KHS.  (Also found at Territorial Kansas Online). Cyrus Kurtz Holliday To Mary Dillon Holliday. 29 July 1855.  Cyrus K. Holliday was the President of the Topeka Town Company, and temporary agent for Emigrant Aid Society.  (Location of Original:  KS Historical Society Call Number: Cyrus Kurtz Holliday Collection, #386, Box 1, Folder 2 Item Number 101482.  Territorial Kansas Online).

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And what was the Free-soilers reaction to the Legislature?

Some Pro-Slavery men were bothered by the repressive slave laws as much as the abolitionists, but the loss of self government was the issue that united the Free-State movement as they began to organize opposition to the “Bogus Territorial Legislature.”

The appointment of all county officers  by the Legislature gave Free-soilers a political issue. “Settlers reared in the Jacksonian tradition of local self-government could have been expected to rebel at the loss of their right to elect those officials closest to their daily lives.”  “Many settlers had no strong feelings about black slavery, so anti-slavery advocates had to find a rallying point to attract a wider following.   One historian quoted Charles Robinson, who wrote that “the invasion of their own civil and political rights” became the issue.#34

For as one writer observed, countless settlers were more interested in their own prospects rather than the issue of Free or Slave State.

 “…amid all the brawling “You will find a Yankee, a Tennesseean, and a Missourian all cozily sheltered in the same cabin, and living together as harmoniously as a prairie-dog, a rattlesnake and an owl. They all seek to better their condition in life and to secure, if it be so they can, the little lordship of 160 acres of Mother Earth, heron to propagate no matter what, but opinion least of all things.  The Yankee (shame on his education) has never heard of the famous Boston propaganda;  the Tennesseean has barely ‘hearn tell’ of Mr. Calhoun and the rights of the South; and the Missourian thinks the rights of the West will be amply vindicated if he can get his favorite quarter-section.”#35

The Free-Staters Organize an Opposition Government

Dr. John H. Gihon, wrote in his chronicle of Kansas the following:  (paraphrased)

Free-State settlers “held mass meetings and conventions to discuss their grievances with the Territorial Government.  At one of these, a resolution passed requesting all bona-fide citizens of Kansas Territory, whatever their views, …elect delegates to assemble in Topeka on September 19, 1855, to …form a state constitution with the intent of immediate application to be admitted as a state.”

Free State Convention Poster

A well attended Free-State meeting on September 5, at Big Springs resolved, that the Legislature was fraudulently elected; that its laws had no binding force or validity;  and “Every freeman was at liberty, consistently with his obligations as a citizen and man, to defy and resist them.”  They passed other resolutions rebuking the “partisan” judiciary, and by extra-judicial decision, giving opinions in violation of all propriety.”  Also, that citizens submit to the Legislature’s laws, “no longer than best interests of the territory require, as the least of two evils.” And, “to resist, should peaceful remedies fail.”  It was recommended friends throughout the territory organize volunteer companies and arm themselves.  They especially repudiated the laws for the coming October 1st election to choose a new delegate to Congress.  The one year term of Whitfield had expired and the Pro-Slavery men rigged his re-election.  The assembly resolved to boycott the election and fix their own day (October 9th)  to elect a delegate to Congress, and to elect their own delegates to a Constitutional Convention.   On that day, Andrew Reeder received 2,816  Free-State votes as delegate to Congress.  Over 800 Missourians, of 3,000 voters helped Pro-Slavery Whitfield get re-elected in the Legislature’s  election.  In March, 1856, both Whitfield and Reeder were in Washington, D.C. to claim the Territorial Representative seat.  This caused Congress to dispatch a 3 member committee to Kansas to investigate the disputed elections.  But more on this later –– there were many rousing events to come before this.

On October 23rd, the Free-State Convention met in Topeka.  They voted that city their capitol, and approved a clause in their constitution, “Slavery shall not exist in the State.”#36

Advent of Governor Wilson Shannon

The new Governor, Wilson Shannon arrived in Kansas Territory on September 7th 1855.  A nondescript but loyal, Democrat from Ohio, his political mission was to shepherd Kansas Territory into the Union as a slave state.  But Shannon’s character would prove too weak to enforce the agenda of the Pro-Slave Legislature.  Charles Robinson’s reasoning, and other politically astute Free-Staters, caused Gov. Shannon to vacillate somewhat between factions, depending on whose company he was keeping.  His tenure as Governor erupted into the bloodiest period of the territory's history.

He eventually lost all control of events and resigned the following Summer.

His initial arrival however, was welcomed by the Legislature, as reported in the Squatter Sovereign.

Squatter Sovereign, September 11, 1855

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN, September 11, 1855.

Governor Shannon arrived at Westport on Saturday the 1st inst.

Intelligence of his arrival at Kansas City having reached the citizens of Westport, a considerable number of them, accompanied by such members of the Kansas Legislature Assembly as still remained in the vicinity of the Mission, [Shawnee Mission] repaired in a body to Kansas City, and escorted him to his lodgings at Westport.  In the evening he addressed a large and attentive audience from the front of the Harris House.  Those who heard him, assure us that he was eminently felicitous in his remarks, and made the best possible impression upon the minds of his hearers.  He did not let fall a word, which a Pro-Slavery, or any other right-minded man would wish to have changed; nor did he leave unsaid any thing necessary to a full understanding of his position.  He recognizes, in its fullest extent, the legality of the Legislative Assembly, and the binding force of its enactments, which he pledges himself to see executed with all of his power and authority.  He spoke of the deep interest which Missourians have evinced, in the institutions of Kansas, and declared that it was nothing more than natural that people, divided only by an ideal line, and closely allied by the ties of kindred, intimate acquaintance and personal friendship, should desire to have their institutions as nearly assimilated to each other as possible.

On the Monday following, the Governor having removed his quarters to the Mission was received with a neat and appropriate address by Mr. Brown, of the House of Representatives, to which he responded in terms alike felicitous, as in his speech at Westport, and re-iterating the assurance, given on that occasion.

The Murder of Charles Dow, November 21, 1855

With support from the naive new governor, the Pro-slavery partisans began to flex their muscle.  In response to the Free-soilers organizing an opposition government, and militia, pro-slavery men held a meeting on October 6th, to discuss forming a “Law & Order” political party.  Its primary mission was to enforce the anti-abolition laws passed by the Legislature.  At a convention in Leavenworth on November 14th the party declared it treason to oppose the pro-slavery laws.  The stage was being set for a full scale confrontation.

Periodic incidents of violence broke out in the territory throughout the Spring and Summer of 1855, but a full fledged war was narrowly averted in December.  The spark that set it off, was the murder of Free-State homesteader, Charles M. Dow.  In response to the murder of Dow, the notorious partisan Sheriff Samuel J. Jones, arrested Dow’s friend, Jacob Branson who had nothing to do with the killing.  John Gihon described Sheriff Jones as “one of the most zealous of the pro-slavery men, and has done as much to create and perpetuate the difficulties that have disgraced Kansas, as any other individual.”  In a dramatic narrative, John E. Stewart, a member of the Free-soil militia, tells the story of Dow’s murder and the rescue of Branson from Sheriff Jones.

The Rescue of Jacob Branson, Night of November 24, 1855

Rescue of Jacob Branson

"The Rescue of Jacob Branson illustrated by J.N. Holloway."

John E. Stewart’s Reminiscences of Kansas Territory.#37

Settler John E. Stewart was a Free-State supporter engaged in many territorial confrontations with the pro-slavery men.  He also helped slaves to escape on the Underground Railroad.  Stewart was listed on the Free-State ticket for the Territorial House of Representatives of Douglas County in May, 1858. –– From Kansas Territory, Online, KHS.


I succeeded this Spring in getting about 5 acres of prairie ploughd, which I planted with corn vegetables &c.  & succeeded in raising a tolerable crop, which I gathered in the fall & placed it in a yard near my house, filld up my temporary stable with corn stalks &c. &c.  Intending to let my cow eat her way in & so get shelter by the time the severe wether came on.  But alass, I was doomed to disappointment as I will relate in its place.  The Month of March 1855 was the time appointed for electing members of the Legislature & council for the organization of this territory, at which time immence hourdes of Missourians came into the territory & took possession of the ballott box in nearly every presinct & thereby elected a majority of members of their own stripe many of whom where not, nor ever had been residents of the territory, & wresting from us our boasted right, to regulate our own domestic institutions in our own way

John Stewart

[Page 5]

The proceedings of that body thus elected, are before the publick so I nead not record them here.

Dureing the summer many threats where made by Missourians to wipe out all the free state settlers & towards fall it became evident to all of us that an attempt would be made to carry those threats into execution, we therefor began to think about defending ourselves & beleaving in the virtue of Sharps rifles we after organizing as a Military company called the Wakarusa Liberty Guard, we dispatched Mr. J. B. Abbott, an officer of said company East, to procure a supply, which he succeeded in doing & they arrived in safety packd in large barrels, & were distributed among the members. Several attempts where made by the Pro Slavery party to drive out the free state settlers from Hickery Point & vicinity – the majority being of the former stripe.

And had the latter been of a quarrelsome disposition there would doubtless have been considerable fighting during this summer.  But we came here to work, not to fight, to plant fields & build up towns to erect schools & Churches & live peaceable & happy in the enjoyment of the finds of our industry.  The proslavery party did not understand us they mistook our quiet disposition for cowardice.  How widely they where mistaken, the history of our battles will prove;  we do not like to fight, but we can & will fight desperately when there is no other alternative.

A man by the name of Coleman living at Hickery Point in order to quarrel with the free state men, commenced cutting timber on a claim belonging to G. W. Dow with which he burnt a lime Kiln & sold the lime, this was submitted to Coleman supposing he could repeat the act with impunity, commenced cutting for another lime Kiln.  Dow hearing him at work went & forbid him

[Page 6]

He, Coleman refused to desist,  Dow left & went to the house of Jacob Branson where he boarded, told Branson about Coleman & asked him to accompany him back to the place, as Coleman had a man with him, Branson took his Sharps Rifle & urged Dow to do the same but he refused,  when they came to the place Coleman had left, but, the man remained, after some conversation Branson left for his home & Dow for the Blacksmith Shop on the Santifee [Santa Fe] Road, to get a peace of iron belonging to a waggon mended.  While there a man by the name of Buckley, a companion of Colemans, came to the doore, & commenced abuseing Dow, & told him if he came out he would shoot him.  Dow immediately went out walkd up to him & put his hand on his sholder, the man lowered his gun & left. The blacksmith having finished Dow’s work, the latter left the shop & started for home, when he had gone about 1/2 a mile he came to a house in the course of erection, out of which Coleman came & commenced a course of abuse;  they both walked along the road till they came to Colemans house.  Dow livieng about one mile beyond, here Coleman halted, raised his gun & pulled the trigger, but the gun missed fire.  Dow hearing the snap of the gun turned round, by this time Coleman was placing another cap on the gun, which done he immediately shot Dow in the head, Killing him on the spot.

Coleman then walked into the house & came out again accompanied by Buckley  Argus & Waggoner. They all four walked up and look at the body & then returned to the house, It was then about noon and the body remained on the road till five oclock.

[Page 7]

It was then discovered by a neighbor named Gleason who gave the alarm & the body was taken away by his friends.  Next day a number of men met together & searched for the murderer, but without success.

The Wakarusa Light Guard of which Dow was a member held a meeting & appointed the following Monday to investigate the circumstances connected with this cold blooded murder & invited the inhabitents all round the country to attend.  According a large number assembled on the spot where the Martyr fell, many persons where examined & many important facts wher elicited, which proved that it was part of a preconcerted plan of extermination.  Resolutions where passd expressive of the sence of the meeting after which the members of the military corps visited the grave of their murdered brother.

No stone markd the spot but the raised earth pointed out his resting place, silently we approached the grave, & the inmate seamed to say I died a martyr, be firm, & fall like me rather than yeald your rights.  We secretly vowd, to stand by our principles regardless of consequences.  Never did soldiers fire a salute over a braver man, he was an entire stranger to fear & the only crime he was guilty of towards his murderers was his firm free state principles. Coleman fled to the Shawnee Mission & gave himself up to Gov Shannon, was placed in the custody of an officer & taken to Lecompton, while on his way through Lawrence he got out a peace warrent against, Jacob Branson, which was placed in the hands of  S. Jones the bogus Sheriff of Douglas Co., who proceeded with a posse to arrest him.

[Page 8]

The day which the Sheriff had selected to make that arest, hapened to be the same day that we went up to examine in to the circumstances of the murder, and just as we where leaving the ground, two or three well known suspicious characters made their appearance, who told us that Coleman had given himself up, their object doubtless was to see if the course was clear.

About noon of the same day Jones with his party arrived at Blantons Bridge stopd & got dinner & spent the afternoon in smoking & drinking liquor, which they brought with them, and in the course of conversation which they had with different people it leakd out that they where going to arest Branson. This fact was communicated to Mr. J. B. Abbott as soon as he arived at home, who immediately went down to hear what he could, & after satisfying himself he procured a horse & in company with S.N. Wood Esq. started for Bransons at the same time dispatching some others to collect the neighbors at the house of Wm. Estabrooks.  When they arrived at Bransons they found that the party had been there & taken Branson off, the way they proceeded was thus discribed by Branson himself,  he said he had just retired to rest when some one knockd at the door Branson enquired who was there, they said a friend, when he said come in, they immediately rushd in filling the house.  Jones presented a pistol, at his head & told him to come with him immediately or he would blow him to hell.  Branson tried to expostulate but, it was of no use, they hurried him off scarcely giving him time to dress.

[Page 9]

They told his wife they where going to take him to Lawrence which she very much doubted, but said she beleaved they intended to Kill him as they had Dow. When Abbott & Wood arived there, they had been gone about 20 minutes, & it was their opinion that they would take Branson to Franklin, they therefor returned by a different road, searching & listening, hoping to find their track, in the mean time they dispatched a messenger to Estabrooks requesting all there assembled to come to Abbotts house 1/2 mile South of Blantons bridge & it was not long before some 12 or 14 where then discussing the matter, they had just aranged to send two men to Franklin & if Branson was there, one of them was to return to Abbotts house, the other was to go to Lawrence for help when they intended to resque him, this plan was just aranged when some one reported horsemen approaching.

It may be necessary to explane why it was that Jones with his prisoner was so long in getting to Abbotts house as they had been gone from Bransons 20 minutes before Abbot & Wood arrived there. The reason was they persued a circuitous rout in order to avoid persuit.

Quick as thought every man sprang to his feet, those who had guns took them, those who had not took any kind of wepon they could get, 5 or 6 had sharps rifles, 3 or 4 more had common rifles & shot guns, some of which were out of repare.  One old Mexican Soldier was without a gun of any Kind but nothing daunted he seazed three or four good size rocks, & took his place with the rest. The house was built on the east side of the road, & the party of horsemen where approaching from the south, so that by getting at the North end of the house then we where out of sight, where we remained till they where within 3 or 4 rods when we filed across the road, which brought them to a halt.  When Bogus Jones who was the leader & spokesman demanded what was up, Mr Abbott replied that that

[Page 9 Continued]

was what we wanted to know, & enquired if Branson was there   Branson upon hearing his name, replied the he was

[Page 10]

There & a prisoner.  Jones said he had him under arrest, &c.  Abbott replied that we did not recognize his authority & told Branson to come over, when several of the bogus party declared if he moved they would blow his brains out.  Branson replied I can die but once & so left them.

Abbott gave them to understand that the first gun fired would be a signal for every one of them to die. They each had double barreld guns & revolvers, but not one of them dare shoot. Every one of us held our guns to our sholdrs ready to fire a given signal.

Branson was rideing a mule which they took with them for that purpose when he left them he said what shall I do with the mule.  One of our party, Philip Upps, said let him go to hell, accompanying the remark with a kick on the sturn of the beast.  Jones blustered a great deal, made some severe threats, but not succeeding in this, he began to talk mildly, & said though we had been guilty of a high crime, if we would give him Branson up, he would promise that we should not be punished.  We told him we had counted the cost & he might do as he pleased. he said he was no coward & to prove it he chalenged to fight aney one of our numbers, but we told him we did not fight for fighting sake. we had accomplished our purpose & should not fight untill attacted, &c, &c.  S.N. Wood, Esq told them we where eastern paupers & askd them if we where not pretty good fellows.  After some 30 minutes spent in this way they departed Jones declaring that in less than two weeks he would bring 10,000 men up & make us respect his authority.

A fiew more neighbours having by this time arived we fell in double file & marched to Lawrence to the sound of the drums, where we arrived about one hower before day.

[Page 11]

A spirited meeting was held, &, some strong resolutions passed, & thus the matter rested.


Note #34.  Clark,, cites Etchison, Bleeding Kansas, p. 75.  Entry: “Legislation” + “Counties” page.

Note #35.  Martin, p. 128.  Cites:   “Webb’s Scrap-book Vol. 4,” p. 60.

Note #36.  Gihon, “Geary and Kansas,” Chapter VII.

Note #37.  Stewart, John E., Reminiscence, pp. 5-11.

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PARTS 5 & 6; "Wakarusa War" & "Escalating Tensions"


Infamous Sheriff Samuel Jones Kansas Territory

Dow’s murder and the rescue of Branson set off a chain of events that quickly spun out of control.

At the aforesaid meeting mentioned by John Stewart above, the leading citizens of Lawrence decided to organize  and  prepare for an attack based upon the threats Sheriff Jones’ hurled at Branson’s rescue party.  Dr. Charles Robinson was elected Commander in Chief.   His rival, the more aggressive James H. Lane was appointed 2nd in command.  A fairly recent emigrant named John Brown received a captain’s commission.  The citizens armed themselves.  Earthworks were thrown up on a hill fronting the town, and 4 field pieces placed there.  In short order, the citizens had fortified Lawrence and were ready to defend themselves.

Meanwhile an angry Sheriff Jones (pictured left) sent Governor Shannon an embellished account of the incident.  He declared forty armed men with Sharpe’s Rifles rushed upon him suddenly while he was serving a lawful peace-warrant.  “You may consider an armed rebellion as having already commenced, and I call upon you for three thousand men to carry out the laws.”

Having only officers and no troops in the Territorial Militia, Governor Shannon, who believed in the veracity of Sheriff Jones' statement, alerted his Generals and authorized them to raise as many men and ammunitions as they could, to put down an open rebellion in Douglas County.  Handbills were placed throughout Western Missouri like this one:


“It is expected that every lover of law and order will rally at Leavenworth on Saturday, December 1st, 1855, prepared to march at once to the scene of rebellion, to put down the outlaws of Douglas county, who are committing depredations upon persons and property, burning down houses, and declaring open hostility and resistance to the laws, and have forcibly rescued a prisoner from the sheriff.  Come one, come all!  The laws must be executed.  The outlaws, it is said, are armed to the teeth, and number one thousand men.  Every man should bring his rifel, ammunition, and it would be well to bring two or three days’ provisions.  Let the call be promptly obeyed.  Every man to his post, and to his duty.” #38

Within days, 1500 Missouri volunteers were gathered together and camped along the Wakarusa river near Lawrence, eager to attack the Abolitionists.  Among their leaders were Senator David Atchison, his ally “General” Ben Stringfellow, and Dr. John H. Stringfellow of the Territorial Legislature.

Governor Wilson Shannon

Gov. Shannon suddenly realized he had unintentionally lit the fuse to a powder keg. The 1500 marauding Missourians were not interested in serving a few warrants, they were out for blood.  And  1,000 well armed free-soilers were willing and able to oppose them.  Governor Shannon had a war on his hands.  He decided to appeal for help.  He sent several urgent dispatches to Col. Edwin V. Sumner commanding Federal troops at Fort Leavenworth, requesting aid.  Could Col. Sumner interpose his troops between the warring factions gathering about Lawrence?

Governor Wilson Shannon, pictured.

Sumner was sympathetic to the request, but replied he was reluctant to do so without the official sanction of the U.S. government.  He advised Shannon to write Washington for that purpose, and suggested he suspend all orders to the Missouri militia until a reply was received.  Shannon took his advice.

But not all the militia officers were willing to stand down. The days passed slowly in the restless camps along the Wakarusa.  Rumors spread that if marching orders failed to come, the black flag would be hoisted and nine-tenths of the militia would march upon Lawrence without orders.  On Dec. 6 Shannon summoned the Territorial Officials to his office to gauge their opinions on the course of action to take.  One agreed with him to wait for word from the government; some would settle for the citizens of Lawrence to disarm;  others wanted to attack and destroy the town.  The meeting adjourned at midnight and accomplished nothing.  The next day, December 7, Gov. Shannon rode to Lawrence.  A witness described his first round of negotiations with the town leaders.  “The Gov. appeared in person to compromise, his first terms were that the people of Lawrence should deliver up to this army Sharps rifles and obey the Laws of the Bogus Legislature.  Gov. Robinson's reply was worthy of one of the old Romans.  “We shall keep the rifles & give them the contents.”  A long consultation followed, the Gov. became convinced that he had been grossly deceived & imposed upon by his Missourian allies who were only making him a tool to carry out their own base purposes.  He was deeply troubled.” #39

The people absolutely refused to disarm.  On Dec. 8th, the Sheriff's militia warned Governor Shannon they would attack the next day if the people of Lawrence would not surrender their arms.   So Shannon returned to Lawrence, but this time the leaders were prepared to bargain.  They presented the governor with a clever document drawn up the previous night which basically maintained that a misunderstanding existed between the people of Lawrence, and the sheriff, and that they were willing to co-operate with proper legal authorities.

Gov. Shannon gratefully agreed to the terms, and rode over to the camp of Sheriff Jones and his generals.  He discussed the situation, ––claimed he had an agreement from the citizens of Lawrence to co-operate with the territorial authorities, and so, ordered the Missouri Militia to disband and depart.  “Having made satisfactory arrangements by which all legal process in your hands, either now, or hereafter, may be served without the aid of your present posse, you are hereby required to disband the same.”  Many still wanted to attack while they had the chance, regardless of any agreement.  But Senator Atchison, realizing the politics of the situation persuaded the mob to go home.

Atchison told them, “If you attack Lawrence now, you attack as a mob, and what would be the result?  you could cause the election of an abolition President, and the ruin of the Democratic party.  Wait a little, You cannot now destroy these people without losing more than your would gain.” #40  The cold temperatures and the ice storm setting in also played a persuasive part in changing their minds.

The Murder of Thomas Barber

The murder of Thomas Barber is a famous casualty of this war.  On Dec. 6, 1855, Thomas W. Barber, a free-state militia volunteer, was shot and killed on the road four miles southwest of Lawrence. A report on the killings says:  Either George W. Clark or Mr. James N. Burnes murdered Thomas Barber.  George Clark was an Indian Agent for the Federal Government, thus a territorial official.

Tom and his brother Robert, and their brother-in-law Thomas Pierson  while on a road, came a cross the path of 12 - 15 riders headed towards the Wakarusa camp.  “Clark and Burns spurred their horses and dashed across the prairie to intercept them.”  The Barber’s slowed down.  Clark shouted out for the three men to halt and then started interrogating them.  Thomas Barber answered Clark's questions in a mild tone.  Clark demanded they turn their horses around and go with him and Burnes, to which Barber replied, “We won’t.”  At that instant Clark and Burnes drew their pistols together and shot Thomas.  He was unarmed.  Robert Barber drew his gun and returned the fire as the parties separated.  Galloping a short distance away, Thomas put his hand to his side and remarked, “That fellow shot me.”  “Robert hastened to his assistance and attempted to support him; but in a little while he slipped from his saddle and fell to the ground.’#41 His death was widely lamented throughout the community.

Sheriff Jones bragged about the murder saying, “Major Clark and Burnes both claimed the credit of killing that damned abolitionist, and he didn’t know which ought to have it.  If Shannon hadn’t been a damned old fool, peace would never have been declared.  He would have wiped Lawrence out. He had men and means enough to do it.”#42

A correspondent wrote in the St. Louis Democrat that “negro property is no longer safe in Kansas Territory; that the twelve hundred friends of the murdered Barber will make it unsafe.”#43

Prisoner of the Missouri Militia;  Letter of Marc A. Parrott, December 15, 1855

Marcus Parrot studied law at Cambridge Mass., and returned home to practice in Dayton, Ohio where he was raised.  In 1853 and 54 he served as a representative in the Ohio state Legislature. Soon after he became interested in Kansas Territory and moved west in 1855.  He settled in Lecompton and opened a law office there.  A Democrat when he arrived he soon became a member of the Free-State party.  In the following letter, he tells his brother Ed, of the excitement at Lawrence, his capture by the Missouri Ruffian army, and subsequent happenings in the enemy’s camp.#44

Leavenworth K.T. Dec. 15th/55
Edwin A. Parrott  Dayton. O                          

                                                                        Dear Edd.         Your favor of the 29th inst was received whilst absent at the war, through a messenger.  On the breaking out of theMarcus Parrott difficulty which was not un expected but which on the other hand was premeditated.––  indeed I knew that the plan was concocted at the law & order meeting in Leavenworth, for immediately thereafter wagon loads of bread were sent into Atchison & several pieces of cannon to Kickapoo & small arms at other places to await the exigency, which was intended to be made.  I left for Lawrence on Saturday night the first of Dec at 10 1/2 o Clock & reached there at 12 of the next day, having been fourteen hours in the saddle.  On arriving there I found that there was about 500 Missourians with several pieces of artillery, encamped on the Wakarusa about five miles South of Lawrence.  At LeCompton in the North about 300 & at Douglass 5 miles west of Lawrence 250.

p. 2.

To meet these forces we had in Lawrence about 500 men, with superior arms –– 2 pieces of cannon & four trenches or rifle batteries thrown up in the streets.  All parties had out scouting parties as well as picket guards at night.  In fact the picket guard of the Wakarusa Camp came so close to the Lawrence guard as frequently to challenge each other & sometimes to exchange shots.  In one of these encounters Barber –– a Free State Man –– was shot dead on Thursday night.  Our reinforcements came in slowly –– those of the Missourians rapidly.  Stringfellow [Ben] & Atchison were the real leaders of the Missouri forces although Shannon had them enrolled as the Militia.  Whilst trying to get a load of powder & lead into the town on Saturday Evening & being separated from my men I was taken prisoner by a large party of the Missourians from the Wakarusa.  They marched me 15 miles to Head Quarters, swimming the Kansas river in our course & placed me under guard.  The camp presented a scene much like what I imagine pandemonium to be. The wind blew a perfect gale & the camp fires made the woods look like a vast sea of flame & smoke.

p. 3.

Long lines of Wagons –– ladened with provision & ammunition –– great stacks of arms –– U.S. sabres & guns  –– ( they had robbed the U.S. Arsenal at Lexington or Liberty rather ), piles of Shell & Cannisters of shot, lying by the large 6 & 12 pounders of brass Artillery –– from the arsenal at Liberty –– the marching & counter marching of armed men relieving guard  scouting parties the deep and bitter execration of this hellish crew against “the d—d abolitioninsts”, all this, with my notorious hostility to their organization was calculated to make me feel very uncertain of my fate.  About 12 o Clock P.M. however I was removed from the camp, to the Generals Head Quarters & had an interview with Shannon.  I learned from him that an adjustment of the difficulty could be had in the morning. The night was one of great distress to me lying in the ground with my clothing frozen to me & not Knowing what moment some desperado would send me to my account.  Next day articles were arranged.  But that was not found sufficient. Shannon had agreed to a peace but the Missouri troops would not.  All Sunday morning the camp was tossed with inflammatory stump speeches.

p. 4.

Some in favor of accepting the terms made by the Gov & others of an immediate descent on Lawrence.   Among the orators was Atchison like another Moloch, discoursing fiends.  The peace party at last prevailed to my great satisfaction & shortly afterward I was furnished with a passport through their lines –– which I send you –– & shortly after that was with my friends in Lawrence.  Peace was restored on the 9th day after the hostile parties were in the field. The terms were highly honorable to the free state party & none other would have been accepted.  We left off in the same position as we began with our flag flying & arms in our hands.  On that evening Shannon came to Lawrence, got gloriously & definitively drunk –– Commissioned the forces in Lawrence to act as the Militia of the Territory & tried to ring in with the Free State party.  I trust this diabolical attempt to murder free soilers or free state men, will meet with the public reprobation, it richly deserves & its authors fall in a fate commensurate with the crime of which they are guilty.  I enclose you my commission & passport that you may see them.  Return them to me when you write in reply.  Of course I am jealous of my Military honors, the fruit of actual service much danger & some suffering, for the present position of things I can not go to Washington as I had expected, unless sent for by a subpoena from Congress.

(From Territorial Kansas Online.)

Squatter Sovereign, January 1, 1856

When Dr. John Stringfellow and his partner Robert Kelley, returned from their soldiering adventure along the Wakarusa river, they returned to their printing press and commented on recent events.

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN,  January 1, 1856.

We have been frequently asked if we approved of the manner in which the difficulties between the Law and Order men and Abolitionists were settled.  We answer unhesitatingly, we do not.  Nothing but an unconditional surrender of arms and a clear suspension of their leaders can or shall satisfy us.  The arbitrators on our part were men of too weak nerved and faint hearts.  When this difficulty comes up again, we should leave our chicken hearted commanders at home.


Note #38.  Gihon, “Geary and Kansas,” Chapter IX.

Note #39.   “ Kansas Historical Society,” (item 3629).  Isaac Goodnow Letter to unknown recipient; no date.

Note #40.  McPherson, “Battlecry of Freedom,”  p,148.  (footnote 7 cites Nevins, “Ordeal of the Union,” 4 vols., New York, 1947-71), vol. II p. 411.

Note #41.  Gihon,  Chapter 11.

Note #42.  Martin, p. 211.  Note 66, cites:  Phillip’s Conquest of Kansas, p. 211.

Note #43. Squatter Sovereign,  January 22, 1856.

Note #44.  Letter, Unsigned, Marc Parrott to Dear Edd., Dec 15 1855;  From, Territorial Kansas On-line, created by The University of Kansas and the Kansas Historical Society.


The Citizens of Lawrence must have breathed a collective sigh of relief, with more than a little satisfaction at their dealings with the new Territorial Governor.  The Treaty they negotiated, recognized as John Brown wrote in a letter to his wife,  the Free-State “volunteers as Militia of Kansas and empowered their officers to call them out whenever in their discretion the safety of Lawrence or other portions of the territory might require it to be done.   The governor gave up all pretension of further attempt to enforce the enactments of the Bogus Legislature.”   Of course Governor Shannon withheld these Treaty details from the Missourians.  Yet in the end the promises of the Governor failed the people of Lawrence.  After the Wakarusa War the Topeka Free-State party continued to organize.

Voters across the territory went to the polls on Dec. 15, to voice their opinion on the Topeka Constitution which would forbid slavery in the state.  The elections went off surprisingly well, with Leavenworth being the only town where violence occurred.  A drunken mob from Platte County Missouri rushed the house where the votes were being polled and beat one of the clerks within an inch of his life.  Then they carried off the ballot box.  A few days later they burned the Leavenworth jail to the ground and 2 days after that they destroyed the printing press of the Territorial Register, the Free-State newspaper at that place.   The measure passed with  a respectable popular vote of 1731 in favor to 46 opposed.  A week later, a caucus at Lawrence elected Charles Robinson Governor of the Topeka Congress.

Another Free-State election was held on January 15th to select the territorial officers under the Topeka Constitution.  A vicious murder followed the vote.

Murder of Captain E. P. Brown

Kansas Street scene

The Leavenworth mayor forbid any voting in Leavenworth, so the make up vote was held January 17, and the polling place was moved 12 miles out of town to the village of Easton.  The day of the election armed pro-slavery men from Missouri stationed themselves along the road to Easton to intercept, disarm and turn away Free-State citizens headed to the polling place.  Because of threats to destroy the ballot box, a party of 20 Free-Staters remained at the polling place until evening, well after the polls closed, to protect the box.  Late at night, three of these men, Mr. Stephen Sparks, his son and nephew, were assailed by a dozen armed men while passing near Easton on the way to their homes.  Mr. Sparks and son drew their revolvers and kept the attackers at bay while their nephew ran to get help.  A member of the Free State militia, Captain E. P. Brown came to the rescue with 15 mounted men. The sound of approaching hoofbeats scattered the pro-slavery party.   But, at that moment a large body of pro-slavery militia, the Kickapoo Rangers, rushed upon the scene and commanded Brown and his men to surrender.  When they refused the Rangers commenced firing.  Both sides fled to some empty houses and a two hour gunfight ensued.  A pro-slavery man named Cook was killed, and several were wounded on both sides.

“A short time after this encounter, Brown, with seven others, left for their homes near Leavenworth, in a buggy and a one horse wagon.  They had not proceeded far when a wagon filled with armed men passed them in the road, without anything being said on either side.  Scarcely had they passed, when, at a bend in the road, two other wagons appeared, and also a party of mounted men.  These were the Kickapoo Rangers, who had thus fairly entrapped Brown and his party.  Escape was impossible, and as resistance would have been certain destruction, Brown yielded to the wishes of his friends, and surrendered.  Then commenced a series of cruelties never exceeded by the wildest savages.  Capt. Martin, of the Rangers, being unable to restrain his men, after numerous efforts, turned away in disgust from their wanton atrocities.”  Martin helped the other prisoners, who were confined in a store, to make their escape.  “The ruffians assaulted their unarmed prisoner with kicks and blows, and finally after amusing themselves for some time in this way, literally hacked him to pieces with their hatchets…”  “The fatal blow was given by a man named Gibson, who buried his hatched in the side of Browns’ skull, sinking it deep into the brain.  Before life was extinct, his murderers carried him to his own house, when meeting his wife on the threshold, he exclaimed, “I have been murdered by a gang of cowards in cold blood,” and instantly fell dead in her arms.”#46

The Leavenworth Herald justified this murder.  Brown had three cracks in his skull from a hatchet, and they spit tobacco juice in his wounds, because “anything would make a damned abolitionist feel better.”#47

Two Competing Governments

In January, 1856, Kansas Territory had two competing governments.  President Pierce declared the Topeka Constitution as the product of “persons confessedly not constituting the body politic.”  He also declared the Topeka Government in rebellion.  In February, President Pierce granted Governor Shannon the use of Federal troops to insure the laws of the Legislative Assembly as adopted at Shawnee Mission, should be sustained and enforced by the entire force of the government.#48

 The authorities in Washington, continued to believe that the abolitionists were a minority party in Kansas Territory, and that they were stirring up all the trouble.

The Leaders of the Territorial Legislature would soon have another chance at wiping out the Free-Staters at Lawrence.

Squatter Sovereign, January 29, 1856

The rhetoric of the Squatter Sovereign continued vitriolic.

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN, January 29, 1856

War !  War !

It seems not to be certain that we shall have to give the abolitionists at least one good thrashing before political matters are settled in this Territory.  To do so we must have arms; we have the men.  I propose to raise funds to furnish Colt’s revolvers and other arms for those who are without them.  I propose to do so without taxing any one but myself.  I will sell some shares of town stock in the Territory, (as given below) and bind myself to invest all the money in the above articles, which shall be loaned to such soldiers as are unable to purchase them, and shall remain for such use for the space of one or two years.  The arms to be used by the volunteers and militia of Atchison county when in service.

The stock I propose to sell will be sold at a fair valuation, such as will enable the purchaser to get a good per centavo on the investment.  I feel assured that the wealthy friends of our cause, in Western Missouri, will be glad of the opportunity to invest.  “Don’t all speak at once.”  The shares are––

Two shares in Lecompton, the capitol of the Territory.

One in Delaware, county-seat of Leavenworth.

Two in Calhoun, county-seat of Calhoun.

One in Nemeha City, mouth of Nemeha river.


Address the subscriber, or P.T. Bell, or Samuel Dixon Atchison, K. T.

The Squatter Sovereign, February 17, 1856

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN, February 17, 1856.

Kansas Affairs in General

The traitors and rebellionists at Lawrence, and some few other places in the Territory, are still at their work of organizing another government.  From all we have been able to learn, they did not attempt to hold elections for governor and other officers at but few points outside of Lawrence.

…The papers at Lawrence are full of boasting at the victory they gained over the pro-slavery party, which were called there by the Governor to the relief of Sheriff Jones, which shows that the leniency of our people has had not good effect at Lawrence;

….And these things go to prove, that while indulgence and kindness may operate favorably upon the ignorant dupes to fanaticism, the leaders are encouraged in their villainy;  and in our opinion, the only effectual way to correct the evils that now exist, is to hang up to the nearest tree the very last traitor that was instrumental in getting up, or participated in, the celebrated Topeka convention.  That once done, and peace and quiet would prevail, and we would hear no more of this new government we are to have.  The prime movers of this abolition scheme in this Territory are the very refuse of God’s creation, and despicable in the sight of good men everywhere; We say, that all the law necessary for such low-flung disturbers of the peace, is the law of Judge Lynch; but, if our people are not disposed to let his honor, Judge Lynch, preside, then the only alternative is for the Governor to call an extra session of the Legislature, to pass laws defining treason, &c. so that we may legally deal out justice to these traitors in their country.  That they will have to be dealt with, and that speedily, in order to restore peace to this Territory, is a fixed fact;  and if the Governor does not see to it, as we have intimated heretofore, the people will.

Squatter Sovereign, February 26, 1856

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN, February 26, 1856.

Treason Checkmated.

We have just seen the last “move” of the traitors in this Territory, in the shape of a circular from Lane & Robinson to the various Abolition tools.  It states for fact, that “an overwhelming force is being organized in Missouri for the purpose of marching into Kansas to destroy the Abolitionists at Lawrence and other places, and unless they are reinforced from the Free States, they must be crushed.”  A more willful and wicked lie, was never fabricated; there is not the least foundation for such a thought even, and fortunately for the peace of the country, we have a President of “head and nerve,” who has seen through the lying device, and issued a proclamation, which has “check-mated” the scoundrels, and will make some of them feel very uneasy about the throat.

Wonder if His Excellency, Governor Robinson, and his conferes, will assume to meet on the 4th of March, and take upon themselves the weighty responsibility of office ?  If they do, we predict they will prove too heavy for them, when they become suspended to the end of a hemp cord.

The Topeka Legislature met for the first time on March 1st, and organized a State government.  Governor Charles Robinson was sworn in and gave an inaugural address.  Former Territorial Governor Andrew Reeder and Free-State leader James Lane were elected Senators, should Kansas be admitted as a state under the Topeka Constitution.   Reeder was also elected Territorial Delegate by the Free-State population in the election of October 9, 1855, as stated earlier, which boycotted and rejected the re-election of Delegate John W. Whitfield.  At this initial meeting of the Topeka assembly, committees were formed to frame a code of law during adjournment, with the congress scheduled to re-convene on July 4th.

Sheriff Jones attended this meeting and took down the names of the Free-State leaders so legal authorities would know who to indict for treason.

Meanwhile, Northern immigration to the territory was out-pacing Southern immigration.  Missourians decided to take the advice of the Squatter Sovereign by closing traffic on the Missouri river to Free-soilers trying to enter Kansas.

Squatter Sovereign, February 19, 1856

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN,   February 19, 1856.

Establish a Political Quarantine.

––We suggest the propriety of the “Border Ruffians,” establishing a Quarantine, somewhere between St. Louis and Kansas City, where all steamboats may be searched, and the infectious political paupers be prevented from tainting the air of Kansas Territory with their presence.  We see no impropriety in this, and should they not do it, they will have to bear the name of having so done.  Have they not been branded as “Ruffians”  “Cut-throats,” “Robbers,” and  “Traitors,” –– if they are to bear such names, let them do something, we say, that will entitle them to the “honor.”  We are opposed to receiving something for nothing.  We suggest Lexington as a suitable place for the establishment of a Political Quarantine.

The "Law & Order" Party Begins to Act

Subsequently a quarantine was established at Lexington, MO.  Passengers were searched and those without the proper pro-slavery sentiments were turned back.  The searches also prevented supplies and arms reaching their intended destinations.  In March, 100 rifles hidden in barrels on the way to Free-State settlements were confiscated and seized.

Both sides actively campaigned to bring like-minded settlers to the region.  One Southerner who seriously responded to the call was Major Jefferson Buford of South Carolina.  Buford sponsored recruits by paying all their travel expenses to Kansas;  a year’s guaranteed means of support once there;  and a 40 acre homestead to each colonist.  He set up rendezvous spots across Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.  In all Major Buford recruited about 400 persons most of whom were young men.  They began landing in the territory in early April.  Sheriff Donalson  immediately enrolled them into companies of the Territorial Militia.  They were just in time to take part in the famous “Sack of Lawrence.”#49

The pro-slavery Territorial authorities finally acted on their long standing threats to arrest the leaders of the Topeka Government and destroy the Headquarters of the Free-Staters at Lawrence.  On May 5th, Judge Samuel Lecompte instructed a Grand Jury to indict those who resisted the territorial laws for high treason.  The Grand Jury, responded, and indicted Charles Robinson, Andrew Reeder and other Free-state leaders for this crime.  The jury also recommended the destruction of the Free-State Hotel in Lawrence and two Free-State newspapers, The Herald of Freedom and  The Kansas Free State, because they were public nuissances. On May 7 and May 9, attempts were made to arrest ex-Governor Reeder.

Reeder was elected by the Free-Staters to serve the next term in Washington as Territorial Representative.  The Pro-Slavery party had re-elected General John W. Whitfield in their election.  In March, 1856, both men showed up in Congress to claim the seat.  Reeder said he was elected by legitimate voters, and not Missourians.  To decide the matter a Congressional Committee of 3 men, returned to Kansas  in April, in company with ex-Governor Reeder, to investigate the disputed elections.  The committee, William A. Howard of Michigan, John Sherman of Ohio, and Mordicai Oliver of Missouri, staid some time in Leavenworth City, then visited Lecompton, and then went to Lawrence, where they remained.

While Mr. Reeder was examining a witness before the Committee, at Tecumseh, Deputy Marshal Fain appeared with a warrant for his arrest, and demanded his immediate presence at Lecompton.  The ex-Governor “put himself upon his privilege, claimed the protection of the committee and told the marshal that if he attempted to arrest him he would do so at his peril as he had a revolver on the table.”#50

Mr. Howard, chairman of the commission, …declared, “that if they were thus to be molested, he would call to their aid a sufficient force to arrest and send the offending parties as prisoners to Washington.”#51

Reeder’s Escape from Kansas

Governor Reeder disguised as a Woodchopper

It was apparent to friends of his on both sides of the political divide, that it was no longer safe for  ex-Governor Reeder to remain in Kansas.  His life was in danger.  Major Buford’s militia encamped close by Lawrence and were keeping an eye out to capture him.  So he made his escape.  With friends help, he secreted away to Kansas City and arrived there at 2 a.m. May 11. They went to a friendly hotel where Reeder remained concealed for 2 weeks.  Those pursuing him burned another hotel where they thought he was staying.  On May 22nd, he received the news that Lawrence had been taken, and the Free-State Hotel burned.  Believing things were too hot for him to remain, a costume was brought to his room by friends to be used for a disguise.  He dressed up as a wood-chopper and then:

“After they left I lit my pipe and walked boldly down the front stairs, through the office which was crowded with people.  Elbowing through them I passed into the bar room and out on the steps. Dozens of people were sitting and standing about the door and on the sidewalk, many of them the most obnoxious men, and who were well acquainted with me.  I stood quite unconcerned on the steps until I saw a vacant chair, and went to it and sat down.  My friends were all about, and by my previous directions engaged those in conversation who were nearest and most dangerous;  after sitting some minutes, I walked deliberately up the road, unmolested and unrecognized with a sense of great relief.”

Painting shows Gov. Reeder disguised as a woodchopper.

Two days later, after walking to Randolph, in his disguise with a friend, an eyewitness described his escape:

Saturday, May 24:
        “That evening, just before dark, an Irishman was seen to enter the office of the hotel dressed in a slouch hat, hickory shirt, blue overalls, so short as to expose a heavy pair of brogan shoes on his feet, carrying an axe on his shoulder and smoking a short clay pipe.  He stopped, inquired for work, any wood to cut, or if he could be informed where he could get work.  Not getting a satisfactory answer he sauntered out on the sidewalk and repeated the inquiry to the bystanders, then moved up the river and disappeared behind the bluff.  At 11 o’clock that night Elwood S. Eldridge, brother of the landlord of the hotel, strolled out for a walk, going up the river around the point of the blue.  Nearing the mouth of the cave he encountered the Irishman holding his axe in an attitude of attack.  Eldridge called out to him not to strike;  with that he dropped his weapon and approached.  They knew each other.  After a moment of hasty conversation they went down to the water’s edge, got into a boat and floated quietly down the stream to a landing about five miles below that city.  The steamer which was expected to take Governor Reeder down the river was to have returned that night but it did not reach Kansas City until near noon the following day.  The captain stood by the side of the pilot as she curved her way out into the stream.  Near Randolph landing the captain ordered the pilot to “round her to.”  The pilot could see no signal but the captain insisted that one had been made.  The captain was one of the anti-slavery men and ready to serve the Governor.  On nearing the landing our Irishman inquired if he could get a passage to St. Charles.  The captain to keep up the illusion cursed him for delaying his boat and said ‘get aboard, you old scalawag, I won’t wait two minutes for you.’  He threw his axe ahead of him and clambered on board and Governor Reeder escaped from Kansas.’#52

Dr. Robinson tried to leave the territory but he was apprehended at Lexington, MO on May 10th while traveling east.  He was sent to Lecompton and charged with High Treason. He remained in captivity four months.  Other Free-State leaders were arrested a few days later.  On May 11, citizens of Lawrence complained to Gov. Shannon and the U.S. Marshal about Major Buford’s threatening militia.  One incident reported a Free-State Vermont man named Baker who was taken from his cabin, whipped and hung on a tree, but cut down before death.  He was released upon promise to leave Kansas.#53

The Governor replied to their complaint:

Executive Office, May 12, 1856,
Lecompton, K.T.

Gentlemen:  Your note of the eleventh inst. is received, and, in reply, I have to state that there is no force around or approaching Lawrence, except the legally constituted posse of the United States Marshal and Sheriff of Douglas county, each of whom, I am informed, have a number of writs in their hands for execution against persons now in Lawrence. I shall in no way interfere with either of these officers in the discharge of their official duties.

The Ruffians roaming the countryside were described by a Boston traveler,  Dr. J. V. C. Smith.   “Those I saw at Westport whose camp was in the woods only a few rods out of the territory, were young men, rough, coarse, sneering, swaggering, dare-devil looking rascals as ever swung upon a gallows.  The marauders were mounted upon horses and mules, armed to the teeth with pistols, long knives and carbines.#54  They rob travelers, surprise the humble residents of prairie cabins, whom they strip of their valuables, and in repeated instances murder the owner.  They drive off cattle the property most in request, and steal horses.  They oblige a man to dismount, and take his horse, and should he remonstrate or resist, blow his brains out without apology.#55

The people  complained again on May 17.  A committee of  town leaders, C.W. Babcock, Lyman Allen and J. A. Perry,  asked the U.S. Marshal to put a stop to the depredations committed by a large force of armed men in the vicinity.#56

No reply came.  On May 21, the sheriff’s posse sacked the town.

The Winter of ’55-‘56 was exceedingly cold in Kansas.  The Summer would be red-hot.


Note #45.  Gihon, Chapter 12.

Note #46.  Gihon, Chapter 12.

Note #47.  Martin, p. 136, note #69.  Martin cites, Phillips, Conquest of Kansas, Chapter 18.

 Note # 48.  Clark, Charles KansasBogusLegislature, Entry: “Legislation” + “Constitutional Conventions” page. And, McPherson, “Battlecry of Freedom,”  p. 148. Gihon, “Geary and Kansas.” Chapter 12.

Note #49.  “Kansapedia, Kansas Historical Society,”  Biography of Jefferson Buford.
 [ ]

Note #50.  Connelley, William E., “A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans,” Chicago : Lewis, 1918.( 5 v.)  Found at Kansas Gen Web.  [ ]

Note #51.  Gihon, “Geary and Kansas,” Chapter 12.

Note #52.  Connelley, William E., “A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans,” Chicago : Lewis, 1918.( 5 v.)  Found at Kansas Gen Web.  [ ]  The narrative gives a much fuller detailed account of the Governor's sage passage out of Kansas Territory.

Note #53. Martin, p. 137.  Martin cites Sanborn’s, John Brown, p. 260.

Note #54.  Martin, p. 138. Martin adds, ––This is a very gentle reference to those called “border ruffians” when compared with the statement made by Thomas H. Gladstone, a cousin of William E. Gladstone, the premier of England, in a book entitled “Kanzas: Squatter Life and Border Warfare in the Far West.”  Gladstone was a correspondent of the London Times, ital and was induced by the debates in Congress and general excitement about Kansas to make a tour of the territory in 1856, and an investigation for his own satisfaction.  His book abounds in awful description.  “I had just arrived in Kansas City,” he says on page 38, “and shall never forget the appearance of the lawless mob that poured into the place (it was after the sacking of Lawrence, May 21, 1856), inflamed with drink, glutted with the indulgence of the vilest passions, displaying with loud boasts the ‘plunder’ they had taken from the inhabitants, and thirsting for the opportunity of repeating the sack of Lawrence in some other offending place.”  On the same page is a sentence which has been a standing sermon ever since:  “Having once been taught that robbery and outrage, if committed in the service of the South, were to be regarded as deeds of loyalty and obedience, these ministers of a self-styled “law and order’ were slow to unlearn a doctrine so acceptable.”

Note #55.  Martin, p, 138.  Cites Webb’s Scrap-book, vol. 14, p. 35.

Note #56.   Martin, p. 139.  Martin cites  Sara T. D. Robinson,  “Kansas - Its Interior and Exterior Live.”  p. 237.

Return to Table of Contents

PART 7; "The Sack of Lawrence"

Illustration of the Militia preparing to destroy the Free State Hotel


On May 17th a committee of leading citizens wrote to the Territorial Marshal listing the depredations of the armed men near Lawrence and asked directly if he recognized them as his posse, and if he would feel responsible for their acts.  If not, “we hope and trust you will prevent a repetition of such acts…”  No reply was given.#1

John E. Stewart Reminiscence;  Death of Jones at Blanton’s Bridge; May 19, 1856

On May 19 & 20, respectfully, two Free-State men were shot and killed by men with Sharp’s rifles.  Settler John Stewart recounted the first murder of a man named Jones.#2

John E. Stewart Experiences

[p. 23.]

I must now relate a few particulars connected with my farming operations this year.

Early in the Spring I removed my fence,  & by Joining with a neighbor I succeeded in enclosing about 30 acres, 13 of which I ploughd.

but before I planted any, we where calld to Lawrence the enemy being in our midst, Viz, the Georgians & Alabamans where prowling about the country, committing all sorts of outrages frequently I have been obliged to hide my wife & children in the timber wrapping them up in blankets & covering them with boughs.

About this time a young man named Jones was shot at Blantons Bridge, he had been to the store to buy his Mother who was a widow a sack of meal. When he was surrounded by some of Bufords men who demanded his revolver, which after some altercation he gave up, & started to go home.   he sat on his horse & had the sack of meal behind him, when one of them shot him in the back.   He lived only a fiew howers, but before he died he called his brother to his bead side & asked him to take his Sharps rifle & use it in defence of his rights & liberties.  he promised he would, but failed to do so.

 We buried poor Jones the next night on the blue Mound.  I will not attempt to describe my feelings when I took the last look at his coffin as it was being covered up, but I know I vowed, never peaceably to submit to these infernals, nor bow to the authority which had calld them into the territory, & that even if they made it a slave state I would stop one year if they did not kill me to harass them.

The Marshal’s posse closed in around the town of Lawrence the night of May 20th.  They hauled a cannon up Mount Oread under cover of darkness and posted it on the high hill overlooking the town.  Just after dawn on the morning of the 21st, about 200 mounted Ruffians crested the mount, ready to advance upon Lawrence.  All was quiet in the town below.  The people were resolved not to resist.  Many of the town leaders were already jailed, so the people reasoned any aggression by the Pro-Slavery men would be loudly trumpeted in the National Press to their advantage.  This proved to be a shrewd calculation, though perhaps risky for the safety of the citizens, considering the character of the mob.

At 7 a.m.  Marshal Donalson’s posse took up headquarters in front of Dr. Robinson’s house on the side of Mt. Oread.   An hour later the main body of this army rode to the edge of Lawrence and sealed off the roads leading out of town.    Deputy Marshal Fain, with 10 men, proceeded into town, served writs for the arrest of two prominent men, quietly took his captives, and then dined at the Free State Hotel.  After breakfast he returned to Mount Oread and dismissed the posse.  But the army remained.

At 3 p.m. Sheriff Jones galloped into town at the head of 25 mounted men.  He was  loudly cheered by the militia as he passed through their lines.   Senator David Atchison was present, and also Dr. John H. Stringfellow, as Colonel of the 3rd Regiment, Territorial Militia, a command of 200 men.  Atchison addressed his troops in their camps, before they marched in.

David Atchison's Speech to the Pro-Slavery Forces

Joseph Pomeroy Root,  a prisoner of the Ruffian Militia “heard and reported the speech” given in the camps of the militia 2 miles west of Lawrence.  Atchison refers to Root and others as they listened and recorded his words.  It appears from the following  that Senator Atchison was expecting heavy resistance from the citizens of Lawrence.#3

Senator David Atchison

Gentlemen, Officers & Soldiers! - (Yells) This is the most glorious day of my life! This is the day I am a border ruffian! (Yells.)

The U.S. Marshall has just given you his orders and has kindly invited me to address you. For this invitation, coming from no less than U.S. authority, I thank him most sincerely, and now allow me, in true border-ruffian style, to extend to you the right hand of fellowship. (Cheers.)

Men of the South, I greet you as border-ruffian brothers. (Repeated yells & waving of hats.)

Though I have seen more years than most of you, I am yet young in the same glorious cause that has made you leave your homes in the South. Boys I am one of your number today (Yells.) and today you have a glorious duty to perform, today you will earn laurels that will ever show you to have been true sons of the noble South!   (Cheers.)

You have endured many hardships, have suffered many privations on your trips, but for this you will be more than compensated by the work laid out by the Marshal,  –– and what you know is to be done as the programme of the day.  Now Boys, let your work be well done! (Cheers.)

Faint not as you approach the city of Lawrence, but remembering your mission act with true Southern heroism, & at the word, Spring like your bloodhounds at home upon that d--d accursed abolition hole;  break through every thing that may oppose your never flinching courage! –– (Yells.)

Yes, ruffians, draw your revolvers & bowie knives, & cool them in the heart's blood of all those d--d dogs, that dare defend that d--d breathing hole of hell. (Yells.) Tear down their boasted Free State Hotel, and if those Hellish lying free-soilers have left no port holes in it, with your unerring cannon make some, Yes, riddle it till it shall fall to the ground. Throw into

[Page 2]

the Kanzas their printing presses, & let's see if any more free speeches will be issued from them!  Boys, do the Marshall's full bidding! –– Do the sheriff's entire command! –– (Yells.) for today Mr. Jones is not only Sheriff, but deputy Marshall, so that whatever he commands will be right, and under the authority of the administration of the U.S.!  –– and for it you will be amply paid as U.S. troops, besides having an opportunity of benefitting your wardrobes from the private dwellings of those infernal nigger-stealers. (Cheers.)

Courage for a few hours & the victory is ours, falter & all is lost! –– Are you determined? Will every one of you swear to bathe your steel in the black blood of some of those black sons of ----   (cries & yells of yes, yes.)

Yes, I know you will, the South has always proved itself ready for honorable fight, & you, who are noble sons of noble sires, I know you will never fail, but will burn, sack & destroy, until every vestage of these Northern Abolishionists is wiped out.  Men of the
South & Missouri, I am Proud of this day!  I have received office and honor before; –– I have occupied the vice-presidents place in the greatest republic the light of God's sun ever shone upon; –– but, ruffian brothers,  (yells.)   that glory, that honor was nothing, it was an Empty buable, compared with the solid grandeur & magnificent glory of this momentous occasion! Here, on this beautiful prairie-bluff, with naught but the canopy of heaven for my covering, with my splendid Arabian charger for my seat, to whose well tried fleetness I may yet have to depend for my life, unless this days work shall annihilate from our western world these hellish Emigrant Aid paupers, whose bellies are filled with beggars food, & whose houses are stored with "Beecher's Rifles    (Bibbs!) (Yells prolonged.)

I say, here, with the cool breeze of the morning blowing fresh around my head, with the U.S. Marshall at my left, –– completely surrounded by my younger brothers, (terrible enthusiasm.)   each supporting a U.S. rifle, and on the manly countenance of each, plainly seen, his high & fixed determination to carry our to the letter the lofty & glorious resolves that have brought him here

[Page 3]

–– the resolves of the entire South, and of the present Administration, that is, to carry the war into the heart of the country, (cheers.)   never to slacken or stop until every spark of free-state, free-speech, free-niggers, or free in any shape is quenched out of Kansaz!   (Long shouting & cheering.)

And what is also pleasing beyond my powers of description, is the fact that, having above me, –– as I speak the honest sentiments of my heart and the sentiments of the administration & the blessed pro-slavery party throughout this great nation, –– is the only flag we recognize, and the only one under whose folds we will march into Lawrence, the only one under which these d--d Abolishionist prisoners were arrested –– who are now outside yonder tent endeavoring to hear me, which I care not a d--n if they do!   (Cheers.)

Yes, these G--d d--d sons of d--d puritan stock will learn their fate, and they may go home and tell their cowardly friends what I say! –– I care not for them! –– I defy & d--n them all to H--l.    (roars & yells.)

Yes, that large red flag denotes our purpose to press the matter even to blood, –– the large lone white star in the centre denotes the purity of our purpose, & the words "Southern Rights" above it clearly indicate the rightiousness of our principles.

I say under all these circumstances I am now enjoying the proudest moments of my life, –– but I will detain you no longer.    (Cries of go on, go on.)

No boys! –– I cannot stay your spirit of patriotism, I cannot even stay my own; –– our precious time is wasting. ––– No hasten to work, –– follow your worthy and immediate leader, Col. Stringfellow!   (Yells.) he will lead you on to a glorious victory,  & I will be there to support all your acts & assist as best I may in all your acts, & assist completing the overthrow of that hellish party, & in crushing out the last sign of d--d abolishionism in the territory of Kanzas. –– (Three times Yells for Atchison.)
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After the speech The troops marched into town.  Sheriff Jones went and informed the owner of the Free-State hotel, Shalor Eldridge, that the building must be demolished under orders of the Grand Jury at Lecompton.  The sheriff gave Col. Eldrige  one hour to evacuate his family and possessions from the impressive stone building.    Meanwhile the offices of the Herald of Freedom and the Free Press were ransacked.  The printing press was broken to pieces and dumped into the Kansas River, with all the type.

John Gihon described the scene this way:

“Whilst the work of destruction was going on at the printing-offices, the bombardment of the hotel, a strongly constructed three-story stone building, commenced.  Kegs of gunpowder had been placed inside and the house fired in numerous places; and whilst the flames were doing their destructive work within, heavy cannon were battering against the walls without;  and amid the crackling of the conflagration, the noise of falling walls and timbers, and the roar of the artillery, were mingled the almost frantic yells of satisfaction that constantly burst from the "law and order" lovers of Kansas Territory.   Jones himself was in ecstasies.  He sat upon his horse, contemplating the havoc he was making, and rubbing his hands with wild delight, exclaimed:  “This is the happiest day of my life. I determined to make the fanatics bow before me in the dust, and kiss the territorial laws; and I have done it--by G--d, I have done it!” #4

After these primary tasks were accomplished the militia set to looting the stores and houses in town.  Their last act was to burn the home of Dr. Robinson, the provisional Free-State Governor, on the slope of Mount Oread, just after sunset.  Flames lit the path of the retreating army, as they pillaged houses, stole horses and terrified women on the way to their respective homes.

Ruins of the Free State Hotel

Ruins of the Free State Hotel after the sack of Lawrence, KS; May 21, 1856.

The Squatter Sovereign, May 27, 1856

The Squatter Sovereign described the scene.


Summary of the Events in Douglas County –– Destruction of the Printing Presses and Emigrant Aid Hotel.

About the first of May, the District Court for Douglas county met, and various presentments were made by the grand jury for the county against persons in Lawrence and vicinity, for offenses of every character, from treason to petty larceny.  The people of Lawrence, in private conversation, public meetings and through the Herald of Freedom and Free State, proclaimed that no process in the hands of the Sheriff should be served in that city, and no arrests made.  The law and order citizens in the Territory determined to aid in the enforcement of the law.  A subpoena was served upon Ex-Governor Reeder by the United States Marshal, which Reeder refused to obey.  An attachment was then issued by Judge Lecompte, and the Marshal ordered to bring him before the Court. The arrest was made, or rather attempted to be made, which was resisted by Reeder threatening death to the Marshal if he persisted in the attempt.  On this the marshal ordered, by proclamation, the posse of the Territory to assist in executing the Law.  About the 20th day of May, a sufficient posse being present, the marshal proceeded to Lawrence, and search was made for the accused parties.  He was permitted to make his arrests without molestation.  He then dismissed the posse, who were immediately summoned by the Sheriff, Jones –– who was for the first time since his attempted assassination, able to sit on his horse  The posse, by three loud cheers for the gallant Sheriff, signified their willingness to assist him even to the death.  And here we will remark that the Herald of Freedom, a few days before, distinctly stated, that “if the Sheriff attempted with an armed posse to enforce the bogus laws in Lawrence, he would be resisted to the death.”  The Sheriff, scarcely able to sit upon his horse, nothing but his indomitable courage sustaining him, marched down with some dozen men, and demanded of the citizens the surrender of their arms, before proceeding to make any search for persons, with the pledge that if they were not given up, he would destroy the town.  Discretion ruled, and the cannon, four in number, were handed over to the forces which had formed about one hundred yards from the hotel –– the cavalry, some two hundred and fifty in number, under Col. Titus, formerly of Florida, and the infantry under Col. J. H. Stringfellow of Atchison, numbering some five hundred.  Orders were given to march into the town and destroy the hotel and printing offices –– they having been declared nuisances by the grand jury and ordered by the court to be abated, which was done.  A further order was given to disarm the citizens, which was also carried into effect, wherever a man was found with arms in hand.  During the stay in the town the cowardly assassins were discovered in the act of firing on the posse from concealed places, and as may be imagined, they met the fate they so richly merited.  Except in these instances, there was no act of violence, and neither persons –– though unarmed and at our mercy –– nor property was molested, thus giving the lie to the charge “that our cowardice alone prevented our destroying the town of Lawrence at any time.”  With a force of seven hundred and fifty men, the town disarmed and at our mercy, we simply executed to the letter what the law decreed, and left as though we had been to church –– by the way, there is no church in Lawrence, but several free love associations.

We publish this statement without any embellishment, that the world may judge between us and our opponents.

In another place will be found some of the incidents connected with the above transactions.

Weekly Minnesotian, Minnesota Territory, June 14, 1856

(This Newspaper is on-line at Chronicling America, Library of Congress).

Dr. John H. Stringfellow, gained some notoriety in several newspapers across the county for pilfering  cigars during the Sack of Lawrence.  Here is one version of the tale:



Mr. James F. Legate, of this city, was in Mr. Babcock’s store, when Dr. Stringfellow and other “law-abiding” persons entered it.

Stringfellow said –– “Boys!  can’t we get some good cigars here?”

He went behind the counter and put a box under each arm.

“Well, boys” he said, as he took them away “I guess this is as good plunder as I want.”

The other good men who came in with him carried off goods.

The blustery partisans of the Pro-slavery party had goaded and mocked their political opponents for months and accused them of inciting a Civil War in Kansas, a challenge for which they claimed to be ready and willing to oppose.  After the Sack of Lawrence it came.  Tensions had reached a breaking point.  Dr. Robinson, who advocated peaceful resistance was in jail, so hotter heads assumed control of the Free-State men.

A Northern Newspaper, summed up the outrages committed by the Pro-Slavery faction of Kansas Territory, beginning from the first elections to the sack of Lawrence.

Bradford Reporter, June 21, 1856

[From Chronicling America, Library of Congress]

BRADFORD REPORTER, Towanda, Pa., June 21, 1856.

A Record of Kansas Ruffianism.

Availing themselves of the fact that the rumors of the alleged death of Dr. Root, Gen. Pomeroy, and Mr. Mitchell, the shooting of Jones,  and the killing of  “eight Pro-Slavery men,” now prove to have been unfounded, the doughfaces boldly characterize all statements of outrages in Kansas as “Republican lies.”  ––

That there has been falsehood as well as truth sent over the telegraph lines, by the Missourians who have charge of them, is unquestionable.  But these false statements do not invalidate or diminish the real catalogue of crime.  To enable our readers to keep the latter in memory we subjoin below a list of a few occurrences, which are authenticated by legal evidence, and which are not even attempted to be denied.  There are five times as many other similar ones reported, and tolerably well authenticated.  But we wait until they shall be officially and legally confirmed before adding them to the list: ––


                                                            November 29, 1854.
        Missourians to the number of over one thousand invaded Territory, armed, drive Judges and legal voters from Polls, and by fraudulent ballots pretend to elect Whitfield Delegate.

                                                            March 30, 1855.
        Nearly four thousand Missourians again invade Territory and repeat outrages committed in November preceding.

                                                            October 1, 1855.
          Third invasion of Missourians, accompanied by similar outrages.

                                                            December 15, 1855.
        Fourth invasion, by which an endeavor is made to vote down the Free-State Constitution, but proves a failure.

                                                            May 21, 1856.
        Jones, a Missouri Postmaster, heads an armed mob of Alabama, South Carolina and Missouri men, which marches against Lawrence, pillages and plunders it, with violence to the inhabitants, and the burning of several buildings.


                                                            October 2, 1855.
        Thomas Neuman, a Free-State man, stabbed in the street of Leavenworth by a gang of Missourians.

                                                           October 2, 1855.
        Child killed while at play, by a shot fired by a Missourian at James Furnam, a Free-State man, which missed him and entered a window.

                                                            November 23, 1855.
        Chas. W. Dow, a Free-State man, shot by F. N. Coleman, a pro-slavery settler.  Murderer takes refuge with Gov. Shannon, and is protected by him.

                                                            December ––, 1855.
        James Barber, Free-State man, assaulted and murdered by a shot in the back from the gun of one of President Pierce’s Indian agents.

                                                            November, 1855.
        Collins, a Free-State man, called out from his mill, where he was at work, and shot by Laughlin, a pro-slavery settler.

                                                            January 17, 1856.
        E. P. Brown, a Free-State man, taken prisoner by a gang of Missourians, hacked to pieces with knives and hatchets, and his bleeding corpse flung into his own door –– from the effects of which his widow in now a raving maniac.

                                                            May 20, 1856.
        John Stewart, formerly of Bushford, Allegheny county, N.Y., a young man of 20, shot in his saddle while attempting to escape from a party of “Jones’ posse.”

                                                            May 19, 1856.
        Jones, “the only son of his mother, and she a widow,” aged 19, shot through the back, by  one of “Jones’ posse,” because he refused to give up his horse, with which he supported himself and his widowed mother.


                                                            December 22, 1855.
        Territorial Register, an Administration paper at Leavenworth, conducted by Col. Delahay, mobbed for advocating a Free-State, presses broken, type thrown into the river and editor threatened with murder.

                                                            April 14, 1855.
        Parkville Luminary, at Parkville, on the frontier, mobbed by Missourians for similar cause, and the editors, Messrs. Park & Patterson, obliged to quit the State.

                                                            May 21, 1855.
        Herald of Freedom office, in Lawrence, fired upon with a field piece by “Jones’ posse” and reduced to ruins.

Tribune office, in Lawrence, mobbed, ransacked and set on fire and burned to the ground, presses, &c., destroyed.

LYNCHING –– 1855 AND ’56.

Sixteen Free-State men, at different times, have been tarred and feathered, or beaten, or both, and some of them carried into Missouri, or set adrift in the river.  Among them were William Phillips, a lawyer of Leavenworth, and a member elect of the Territorial Legislature; the Rev. Pardee Butler, a Baptist clergyman; the Rev. Mr. Clark, a Methodist missionary, and other ministers of the gospel of various denominations.  Assaults and battery have been too numerous to recapitulate, hardly a day passing without some attack on Free-State men in the streets or on the high roads.  Among those assailed have been Gov. Reeder, Gen. Pomeroy, &c.


Of Governor Robinson, without a warrant.  Of Mr. Brown, editor of The Herald of Freedom, without a warrant.

Of Messrs. Bronson, Hutchinson, Dietzler, Schuyler, Smith Baker and fourteen others, by Missourians acting under authority of a pretended court, for “high treason,” in refusing to obey laws of the “Legislature” pretended to have been elected by the Missouri invaders.


                                                            September, 1855.
            Imposing penalty of death for assisting slaves to escape.

    Imposing penalty of death for circulating or printing publications calculated to incite slaves to insurrections.

     Imposing penalty of death for assisting slaves to escape from any State and take refuge in the Territory.

     Imposing penalty of five years’ imprisonment at hard labor for harboring fugitive slaves.

     Imposing penalty of two year’s imprisonment for aiding a fugitive slave to escape from custody of an officer.

     Imposing penalty of five years’ imprisonment at hard labor for writing, printing or circulating anything against slavery.

     Imposing penalty of two years’ imprisonment at hard labor for saying that persons have not a right to hold slaves in the Territory.

     Disqualifying all from sitting as Jurors who do not admit the right to hold slaves in the Territory.

     Disqualifying all as voters who do not swear to support the fugitive slave law.

     Admitting any one to vote on payment of $1, no matter where resident, who will swear to uphold the fugitive slave law and Nebraska bill.

     Appointing Missourians to be town and county officers for six years to come.

     Re-enacting the Slave laws of Missouri, en masse, adding that wherever the word “State” occurs in them, it shall be construed to mean “Territory.”


I.B. Donalson, United States Marshal for the First District Court, et cetera, collected his monster posse under pretext that he could not execute the writs in his hands by an ordinary force.

His letter to the people of Lawrence proved that this was a mere pretext.  Another fact confirms this charge.  On the evening preceeding the destruction of the printing offices, the Free-State Hotel, Gov. Robinson’s residence, and the sacking of the city Mr. Donalson’s Deputy Marshal –– Mr. Fain –– served two writs in Lawrence, without the aid of any posse or encountering the slightest opposition.

Let this fact be borne in mind !


A few days previous to the sacking of Lawrence, two young ladies were violated by a gang of “law and order” ruffians, on a claim five miles northwest of the city.

They lived on the claim with their mother.  Their father had recently gone East on business. They saw four or five men seize two of their horses in the field, and lead them off ––

They went down, and protested against the act.  The ruffians seized them, carried them down to the woods, and consummated an outrage upon their persons.

There is a day of retribution coming for all this –– and that speedily.


“Up to this time, the spring of 1856, all the outrages committed by the free-state men were purely political; they resisted the fraudulently elected  Territorial Government and organized their own leadership via the Topeka movement.  “But now a man arose who thought it time to strike a blow –– that turning the other cheek had been worked long enough.”#5

On May 23, John Brown with a company of Free-State men, on their way to Lawrence were encamped on Ottawa Creek.  One of their party left a partial account of what happened that fateful night.

John Brown by August Bondi

John Brown

“In the evening of May 23, [1856], about nine P.M., came John Grant, jr., from Dutch Henry’s crossing to the camp;  he was a member of the Pottawatomie company, but at the urgent solicitations of mother and sister he had remained at home.  He informed us that in the morning of the day Bill Sherman (Dutch Bill) had come to their cabin, only his mother and sister Mary at home, he and his father in the field, with his usual swaggering tone had denounced the abolitionists, and then had attempted to criminally assault the girl. (Mary Grant was twenty-three years old and one of the best-looking and best-educated girls on the creek;  the family were from New York.)  The outcries of the women brought father and son from the field, and Dutch Bill left, cursing and swearing utter extinction of all free-state men.  Old John Brown heard the account and John Grant, jr.’s, appeal for protection some way or other.  About the time, also, came in a runner from Lawrence with Colonel Sumner’s proclamation, ordering all armed bodies to disperse, and thereupon the two companies agreed to break camp at dawn and return home.  Old John Brown called his boys and myself and Weiner and Townsley to one side and made a short speech, telling us that for the protection of our friends and families a blow had to be struck on Pottawatomie creek, to strike terror into the pro-slavery miscreants who intended pillage and murder, and asked James Townsley, who had a team of grays, whether he would haul them. Townsley assented at once.  Then he asked his boys, Fred, Owen, Salmon, and Oliver, and his son-in-law, Thompson, and Theodor Weiner, each separately, if willing to accompany him.  They all assented.  To me he said:  ‘I do not want you along; you have been away all winter; you are not so well known; we need some one to keep up communication with our families, so you will attend to bringing news to us and carrying news to our families.  You may remain behind for the present, anyway;  you may meet us, however, on my brother-in-law’s (Day) claim to-morrow night.’  He gave a few more immaterial instructions.  Townsley had his team hitched up, the men of the expedition were on the wagon, old John Brown shook hands with me, and off they started.”#6

Night of May 24 - Morning of May 25

John Brown, and his four sons, Owen, Fred, Watson and Oliver, his son-in-law Henry Thompson, James Townsley, and Theodore Weiner, returned to Pottawatomie creek on the 23rd.  On the night of the 24th they went out, and took from their homes James P. Doyle, with his two sons, William and Drury, Allen Wilkinson, and William Sherman.  These men were notorious for their threats and harassment of free-soil settlers in the community.  The Brown party viciously hacked them to death with broadswords in nearby woods.  John Brown admitted his responsibility for the killing.

August Bondi, the narrator of the above story, maintained that it was the rape of Mary Grant that inspired the killings.

Of John Brown Charles Robinson said, “I never had much doubt that Captain Brown was the author of the blow at Pottawatomie, for the reason that he was the only man who comprehended the situation and saw the absolute necessity of some such blow, and had the nerve to strike it.”#7

The attack spread fear and panic throughout the territory.

The Squatter Sovereign, June 10, 1856

News of the massacre came to the Squatter Sovereign through a Weston, Missouri Newspaper.


From the Westport Border Times, May 27th.

WAR ! WAR !!

We learn from a dispatch just received by Col. A. G. Boone, dated at Paola, K.T., May 26th, 1856, and signed by Generals Hieskell and Barbee, that the reported murder of eight pro-slavery men in Franklin County, K.T., is but too true.

The dispatch says :

“It is my painful duty to inform you that Allen Wilkinson is no more.  About 12 o’clock on Saturday night, last, a party of some twenty men entered his house, and in spite of the entreaties of his wife, dragged him out of his bed and brutally murdered him.  They then proceeded to the house of an old man named Doyle, and murdered the old man and two sons.  They then went to a Mr. Sherman’s, where they murdered three more men.  A man named Whiteman, was also killed.  The bodies of the murdered men, are terribly mutilated.”

The dispatch says the only reason that could be assigned for this inhuman butchery, was, that the abolitionists, ( the Court being in session, ) were afraid that these men would be called upon to give evidence against them, as many of them were charged with treason.

An appeal is made to the South for men and money.  Civil war, with all its horrors, now rages in Kansas Territory. ––  Where is Governor Shannon?  Where are the United States troops?  are the oft repeated questions.  How they are to be answered, time alone will show.

The Squatter Sovereign, May 27, 1856

The Squatter Sovereign couldn’t seem to make up its mind about the boldness of their ‘abolitionist’ foes.  During the Sack of Lawrence the paper editorialized them as cowards:


Bravery of the Yankees.  –– When the Sheriff’s posse entered the city of Lawrence to enforce the laws, the town seemed to be deserted by the brave  warriors who have been defending that place.  They left between two days, leaving their wives and children to the tender mercy of the “heartless border ruffians.”  If they are honest in the belief that the law and order citizens of the Territory are “ruffians,”  does it not show cowardice  in them to run off and leave their families entirely un-protected when a few hundred resolute men, with the fortifications of Lawrence, could have kept at bay an army of thousands.  After all the boasting of Reeder, Robinson, Brown* and others, less than five hundred men took possession of the city without firing a gun.  We have often denounced the paupers sent out from the brothels of the east as cowards, and the events of the past week go to show that we were right in our conjecture.

*Brown referred to is George Washington Brown, editor of the Herald of Freedom.

Squatter Sovereign, June 10, 1856

Opinions changed at the newspaper when the Free-Staters went on the attack.  The same issue that reported on the Pottawatomie Massacre had other violence to report.


Startling News.




We stop the press to give the following items of interest, which we are permitted to extract from an extra from the Herald office.

Capt. Pate’s company, about forty men, were attacked by one hundred and fifty abolitionists, and two of his men were killed. The enemy were repulsed.

Reinforced, the enemy made the second attack, the battle lasting four hours, in which fifteen of Capt. Pate’s men were killed.  The company being entirely surrounded, and being fast cut to pieces by an overwhelming force, were compelled to surrender.  Colman, Long, and one other member of the company, while the arms were being stacked, cut their way through the enemy’s lines, and made good their escape.  Their clothes were riddled with bullets, and their horses were badly wounded.

…We also have rumors of the murder of pro-slavery men in other portions of the Territory.  The abolitionists shoot down our men without provocations, wherever they meet them.  Let us retaliate in the same manner –– A free fight is all we desire !  If murder and assassination is the program of the day, we are in favor of filling the bill.  Let not the knives of the pro-slavery men be sheathed while there is one abolitionist in the Territory.  As they have shown no quarters to our men, they deserve none from us. Let our motto be written in blood upon our flags: ––– “DEATH TO ALL YANKEES , AND TRAITORS IN KANSAS!”

We have one hundred and fifty men in Atchison, ready to start at an hour's notice.  All we lack, is horses and provisions.  Cannot our friends in Missouri, whose interests are identical with ours, contribute something that will enable us to protect our lives and families from the outrages of the cowardly assassins of the North.  If the South ever intends to act, now is the time; –– our murdered friends must be avenged.  We again repeat, let not this war cease, until Kansas is purged of abolitionists!

Denoument; The Break Up of the Topeka Assembly

Col. Sumner Breaks up the Topeka Legislature, July 4, 1856

This illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated News shows Col. E.V. Sumner breaking up the Free-State Legislature on July 4, 1856.  The events in Kansas were widely publicized in the National Press.  (From Civil War on the Western Border, Kansas Historical Society).

On July 2nd, elected Free-State representatives, not under arrest or driven from the territory, gathered in Topeka to continue forming a provisional government.  With so many absent it was undecided how to proceed.  The Pro-Slavery Party were still the law of the land and under authority of President Pierce’s January proclamation, they called out Federal troops to break up the meeting.  Colonel Edwin V. Sumner posted 11 companies to camps both north and south of Topeka.  A committee from the town visited with Col. Sumner to learn the meaning of the threatening stance.  Col. Sumner said he had orders to prevent the legislature from meeting and would have to use force if the assembly wouldn’t depart.  On July 4th, Marshal Israel P. Donalson came to address the gathering.   At his request ex-judge Rush Elmore, one of the more even-handed Pro-Slavery officials, read President Pierce’s January proclamation that declared the laws of the Territorial Legislature, convened at Shawnee Mission, must be obeyed, under full force of the government.  After reading the document the two men departed.  In a short while Col. Sumner rode in at the head of two hundred dragoons, bringing two pieces of artillery with them.  The guns were positioned to cover the main streets of town.   Col. Sumner informed the citizens, that by order of the President he was to disperse the meeting of the Topeka Legislature.  He added that he was reluctant to do so, and, “it was the most painful duty of my life.”  Col. Sumner counseled the group to go home peacefully for the good of the country.  After listening to the Colonel’s request the assembly complied, giving him 3 cheers before leaving.  Then, they gave 3 jeers for President Pierce. #8


Note #1.  All of the preceding from Gihon, “Geary & Kansas,” Chapter 13.

Note #2.   Stewart, John E.;  Experiences p. 23.  Found at Territorial Kansas Online.

Note #3.  David Atchison Speech, “Kansas Memory, Kansas Historical Society.” This copy of the speech was transcribed by Joseph Pomeroy Root,  who was a prisoner of the Ruffian Militia.  Root “heard and reported the speech” given in the camps of the militia 2 miles west of Lawrence.  From:    Copyright 2007-2020 - Kansas Historical Society

Note #4.  Gihon, Chapter 13.  John Gihon was Gov. Geary’s personal secretary.  In the forward to his book he writes, “Unbiased by any partisan or personal considerations, he has related in as plain and comprehensive a manner as possible, the facts, as they came under his own observation, were communicated to him by individuals immediately connected with the events described, or have been gleaned from other reliable resources.  The writer is alone responsible for the contents of the book. During his official connection with Governor Geary, he availed himself of his opportunities for information, and has substantiated many of his statements, by the official documents, now on file in the Department of State at Washington, and which passed through his hands in the executive office in Kansas.  These are public property, and there has been no impropriety or breach of trust in their employment.  …The author cannot be accused of any undue prejudices in favor of the free-soil party. When he went to Kansas, all his proclivities were on the opposite side, which he did not hesitate to make known on all proper occasions and among all classes of people.  The free-oilers regarded him as their enemy, and the pro-slavery leaders received him with marked favor as a new accession to their forces.  With the latter he constantly associated, and his impressions were strengthened by their representation of territorial affairs.  Hence his letters to the eastern papers, with which he corresponded were severely condemnatory of the free-state party of Kansas.  He resisted as long as possible the daily accumulation evidences of his error; but with many others like himself, was at length forced, though unwillingly, to acknowledge the truth of the statements contained in this volume.”

Note #5.  Martin, “The First Two Years of Kansas.”  p. 140.

Note #6.  Martin, p. 140-141.  Martin had this to say about Bondi.  “August Bondi fell dead on a street in St. Louis, September 30, and was buried at Salina, Kans., October 3, 1907.  He told the writer frequently, in the past twenty years, that the political troubles in the territory had nothing to do with John Brown’s action on the Pottawatomie.  He was asked why he never said anything about the cause he assigned, [rape-B.F.] and he responded that he did tell the Reverend Utter, when he had his controversy with ex-Senator Ingalls, but that Utter would not consider it.  Probably there was no politics in the Mary Grant story, while practically all men would approve of killing in case of an assault upon a woman.  Bondi was a splendid citizen, a Hebrew, and of late yeas an earnest and active member of the Democratic party.

Note #7. Letter to James Hanway, Feb. 5, 1878, quoted in Martin, “First Two Years of Kansas.” p. 146.

Note #8.  Gihon,  Chapter 7.

Return to Top of Page

PART 8; "Bleeding Kansas"


During the Summer of 1856 the violence in Kansas spun out of control.  Armed bands on both sides of the political divide roamed the territory, raiding, pillaging, burning, killing and looting each other.  No way to run a government.

The “Law & Order” party continued to prey on the Free-staters, but now the Free-staters fought back.  From this time forward it was “An Eye for an Eye.”

John Gihon described the scene:

“The pro-slavery marauders south of the Kansas River had established and fortified themselves at the town of Franklin;  at a fort thrown up near Osawattomie; at another on Washington Creek, twelve miles from Lawrence;  and at Colonel Titus's house, on the border of Lecompton.  From these strongholds they would sally forth, "press" horses and cattle, intercept the mails, rob stores and dwellings, plunder travellers, burn houses, and destroy crops.

The fort near Osawattomie, in consequence of outrages committed in the neighborhood, and at the solicitation of the settlers, was attacked by a company of free-state men from Lawrence, on the 5th of August.  A party of Georgians who held this position, upon the approach of the enemy, fled without firing a gun, leaving behind a large quantity of plunder.  The fort was then taken and demolished.

“The defeated party retreated to the fort at Washington Creek, and thence continued their depredations upon the neighboring inhabitants.  On the 11th the people of Lawrence sent Major D. S. Hoyt, a peaceable man, who was greatly respected, to this camp to endeavor to make some sort of amicable arrangement with Colonel Treadwell, the commander.  On his way home he was waylaid and shot, his body being fairly riddled with bullet holes.

“This news so enraged the people of Lawrence, that on the 12th they attacked the pro-slavery post at Franklin. The enemy was strongly fortified in a block-house, and had one brass six-pounder.  This battle lasted three hours, and was conducted with great spirit on both sides.

“The free-state men, at length, drew a wagon load of hay against the house, and were about to set it on fire when the inmates cried for quarter.  They then threw down their arms and fled.  In this engagement the free-state men had one killed and six wounded.  The other side had four severely wounded, one of them mortally.  The cannon taken was one that had been used to batter down the walls of the Lawrence hotel.” #9

John E. Stewart Reminiscence#10

Settler John E. Stewart continues his reminiscences with a description of the attack upon the Pro-Slavery Fort at Franklin.  The Free-State Militia was led by the volatile politician, James H. Lane.  Lane was the rival to Dr. Robinson, for leadership in the Free-State party.

John E. Stewart Experiences, continued.

The peacefull pursuits of agraculture to which we had returned was again disturbed & we where calld upon to relinquish the spade & the hoe, for the rifle & the revolver, & march against Franklin which place another of these Southern hoards had made their head quarters. Here they where encouraged by one or two of the residents, to the great anoyance & fear of all the rest, here they stopd & plundered our teames, here travelers where insulted & robbd, here was stored a quantity of rifles stolen from us besides a number of U. S. Muskets to be used for our destruction, & here to they had a brass, 6 ft cannon.

[Page 15]

We surrounded this place in the night of,  General Lane  in command, they having refused to  surrender we opened fire upon them, which they returned, the fireing was kept up on both sides for about two howers.  But they being in a block house we made no impression on them, while our men who where exposed suffered severely, having one killd & 6 or 7 wonded

Bulletts having no effect upon them we determined to try what virtue there was in fire, & therefer loaded up a waggon with hay & backed it up in front of the house.  This extremely dangerous task was performed principally by Major Buckerton amidst a shower of bulletts from within, All being aranged, the match was applied, & soon to All appearance the house was on fire, & the inmates cried aloud for quarters    After removing the waggon we found that the house though somewhat scorched had not taken fire    About 75 Guns where taken & the 6 pounder together with some provisions

John Gihon’s narrative continues:

“A general panic seized the Missouri men, and other southern intruders on learning these repeated free-state successes.  On the 15th the Georgian camp at Washington Creek broke up in great confusion, its occupants flying in hot haste as the Lawrence forces approached.  This fort was entered without resistance; large quantities of provisions and goods taken at Lawrence were recovered; the building was set on fire and entirely consumed.”

“The next blow was struck at Colonel Henry T. Titus’s fortified house, near Lecompton. This was one of the boldest strokes of the Kansas war.  Lecompton was the stronghold of the pro-slavery party.  It was the capitol of the territory, the headquarters of Governor Shannon, and within two miles of the house of Titus a large force of United States dragoons was encamped.  Captain Samuel Walker, a Pennsylvanian, and as brave a man as ever lived, commanded the attacking army.  With about four hundred men and one brass six-pounder, he took up a position upon an elevated piece of ground near the house soon after sunrise on the morning of the 16th of August.  The fight, which was a spirited one, immediately commenced, and resulted in the capture of Titus, Captain William Donaldson, (who also had rendered himself notorious at the sacking of Lawrence and elsewhere), and of eighteen others.  Five prisoners, previously taken by Titus's party, were released, one of whom had been sentenced to be shot that very day.  One of his men was killed in this engagement and several others wounded.  Titus was shot in the shoulder and hand.  Walker's cannon was loaded with slugs and balls cast from the type of the Herald of Freedom, fished out of the Kansas River, where it had been thrown on the day that Lawrence was sacked.  Walker set fire to the house of Titus, which was completely destroyed, and carried his prisoners to Lawrence.”#11

Governor Shannon was incapable of pacifying the Territory.   He abandoned it for St. Louis on June 23rd.  Shannon penned a resignation letter to President Pierce in mid August, but Pierce had already decided to replace him.  Territorial Secretary Daniel Woodson became acting Governor for the 2nd time.  It was Woodson who called out the Missouri Militia and instigated the Wakarusa War the previous year.  With open warfare on his hands, it was a natural response for the acting Governor to raise an army.

…August 21st. –– Governor Shannon receiving official notice of his removal, Secretary Woodson took charge of the government.  This was a signal for great rejoicing among the pro-slavery people.  Woodson was a creature of their own, and they felt assured that they would now be endowed with legal authority to continue the acts of rapine that had previously been committed without the shadow of law.  The acting Governor came up to all their expectations.  He forthwith issued a proclamation, declaring the territory in a state of rebellion and insurrection, and called for help from Missouri, to drive out and exterminate the destroyers of the public peace.  Atchison and Stringfellow soon responded to this call, and concentrated an army of eleven hundred men at Little Santa Fe, on the Missouri border.”#12

The Advent of Governor Geary

In late July,  John White Geary's  appointment as Territorial Governor of Kansas was approved by the Senate.  Geary is an old friend to this website ––for careful readers.  Major J. P. Gould of the 13th MA was put off by Geary’s ambition and bluster when the two met at Harper’s Ferry in 1861.  In a letter to Colonel Leonard, (13th MA) Major Gould wrote of Colonel Geary:   “I would say you are aware there are two classes of men in our little world.   One goes quietly and faithfully to the performance of his duties.  Another blusters about, and sets all sails, imagines that his presence sustains the world, and that everybody else puffs to fill his sails.”  Charles Robinson would probably have agreed with Major Gould, for in the Autumn of 1856, Robinson wrote of Geary:   “The Gov. is windy & occasionally very flat. He thinks he is awful smart & is getting ridiculous fast.”#13

If we can agree that Geary’s rhetoric was verbose, and his lengthy communications as Territorial Governor bear this out, we can also agree that Geary was a fearless man.  At height 6 foot 6 inches tall, he was an imposing figure all around.  He was a Mexican War veteran and a politician with a reputation for dispelling violence in troubled spots.  His boldness, bravery and leadership stopped the worst period of bloodshed in Kansas Territory.

Detail from a riverboat painting by Stobart

Governor-elect Geary spent a month preparing for the new post before traveling west.  His party arrived at Jefferson City, MO on Sept. 5th 1856.  The next day he met with Missouri Governor Sterling Price to establish a plan to bring peace to the border.  Traffic along the Missouri river would soon be re-opened to Free-State settlers headed to Kansas.  After the meeting, Geary boarded the steam packet-boat “Keystone” and proceeded up river toward Leavenworth City.  The boat stopped to take on passengers about noon the next day, and while docked, another steamer headed down-river pulled alongside.   A very agitated ex-Governor Shannon was on board, and hearing Geary was at hand, he asked for an interview.  The two men met aboard the Keystone.  Shannon, in a panicked manner declared Kansas to be in a state of war.  He feared for his life.   Bodies lined the roads where murderers lurked.  The countryside was devastated.  Geary listened attentively until it was time for  the two Governor’s to part.  They continued on their separate ways; Shannon departing Kansas, Geary arriving.  Geary’s  packet-boat steamed past the towns of Lexington and Kansas City, Missouri where all visible activity pertained to war.  Transport Wagons awaited volunteer militia at Kansas City to carry them 5 miles north to Westport on the Kansas border.  Here the Ruffian Army was gathering for another advance into the territory.  The Ruffians were described as typically armed with bowie knives, pistols, carbines and broadswords slung across their backs.  Geary’s boat left Kansas City late at night and arrived at Leavenworth City at daybreak.  More militia roamed the streets and saloons, while horses galloped here and there, fifes and drums played to the volunteers on parade and drill.  Geary continued up river 3 miles to Fort Leavenworth, where he was greeted by the new Federal Commander, General P. F. Smith.  Smith was more sympathetic to the Pro-Slavery faction that governed Kansas than his predecessor Col. Edwin Sumner had been, and was appointed to command in Col. Sumner’s stead.  Fort Leavenworth was crowded with refugees, who had been robbed and run off by marauding bands of “Law & Order” men.#14

The Governor was getting an eye-full, first hand, of the situation in Kansas.  After a brief stay at Fort Leavenworth, Geary and his staff, left for Lecompton, the territorial capitol.  They rode in a four horse military ambulance followed by a second wagon that carried six infantryman.   A mounted sergeant followed behind.  The military escort was commanded by a Lieutenant.   Nearly all the houses along the road were burned and destroyed.  As they proceeded,  they came upon six mounted men riding in the distance ahead of them.  These turned and approached Geary’s wagon.  Their intent must have been dubious, for when the wagon carrying the military escort popped into view over the crest of a hill, the riders turned and put spurs to their horses.  The mounted sergeant dashed after them, over-took two of the party and arrested them.   At Lecompton, Geary was greeted by the elite of the territorial authority, who offered him all sorts of advice about clearing Kansas of the God-d—-d abolitionists.  The new Governor listened patiently to their advice, but his first proclamation to the citizenry stated that he intended to recognize no party or faction in his governance, except the laws of Kansas and the country.  His proclamation banished outside influences from determining law, reserving it to the bona-fide residents only.  He appealed to the Free-Staters to work with the new legislature to revise the laws that caused them distress.  The proclamation was read with reserved optimism by the Free-Staters, and contempt by the leaders of the Law & Order party.#15

A second proclamation ordered the disbandment of the Missouri militia massing along the border towns.  A third proclamation called for the formation of three new militia companies to be comprised of bona-fide citizens, enrolled for the protection of the land.

His first dispatch to the government at Washington was penned at Fort Leavenworth, during his travels, and addressed to Secretary of War William L. Marcy.  It vividly describes the state of affairs in Kansas as Governor Geary found it.#16

“Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory,
“Sept. 9, 1856.

Hon. Wm. L. Marcy,

 “Dear Sir:  I arrived here this morning, and have passed the day mostly in consultation with Gen. P. F. Smith, in relation to the affairs of the territory, which, as I am now on the spot, I begin more clearly to understand.  It is no exaggeration to say that the existing difficulties are of a far more complicated character than I had anticipated.

    “I find that I have not simply to contend against bands of armed ruffians and brigands, whose sole aim and end is assassination and robbery –– infatuated adherents and advocates of conflicting political sentiments and local institutions –– and evil-disposed persons, actuated by a desire to obtain elevated positions;  but worst of all, against the influence of men who have been placed in authority, and have employed all the destructive agents around them to promote their own personal interests, at the sacrifice of every just, honorable and lawful consideration.

    “I have barely time to give you a brief statement of facts as I find them. The town of Leavenworth is now in the hands of armed bodies of men, who, having been enrolled as militia, perpetrate outrages of the most atrocious character under shadow of authority from the territorial government.  Within a few days these men have robbed and driven from their homes unoffending citizens, have fired upon and killed others in their own dwellings, and stolen horses and property under the pretence of employing them in the public service. They have seized persons who had committed no offence, and after stripping them of all their valuables, placed them on steamers, and sent them out of the territory.  Some of these bands, who have thus violated their rights and privileges, and shamefully and shockingly misused and abused the oldest inhabitants of the territory, who had settled here with their wives and children, are strangers from distant states, who have no interest in, nor care for the welfare of Kansas, and contemplate remaining here only so long as opportunities for mischief and plunder exist.

“The actual pro-slavery settlers of the territory are generally as well-disposed persons as are to be found in most communities.  But there are among them a few troublesome agitators, chiefly from distant districts, who labor assiduously to keep alive the prevailing sentiment.

“It is also true that among the free-soil residents are many peaceable and useful citizens;  and if uninfluenced by aspiring demagogues, would commit no unlawful act.  But many of these, too, have been rendered turbulent by officious meddlers from abroad. The chief of these is Lane,* now encamped and fortified at Lawrence with a force, it is said, of fifteen hundred men. They are suffering for provisions, to cut off the supplies of which, the opposing faction is extremely watchful and active.

“In isolated or country places, no man's life is safe. The roads are filled with armed robbers, and murders for mere plunder are of daily occurrence.  Almost every farm-house is deserted, and no traveller has the temerity to venture upon the highway without an escort.

“Such is the condition of Kansas, faintly pictured.  It can be no worse. Yet I feel assured that I shall be able ere long to restore it to peace and quiet.  To accomplish this, I should have more aid from the general government.  The number of United States troops here is too limited to render the needed services.  Immediate reinforcements are essentially necessary;  as the excitement is so intense, and citizens generally are so much influenced by their political prejudices, that members of the two great factions cannot be induced to act in unison, and therefore cannot be relied upon.  As soon, however, as I can succeed in disbanding a portion of those now in service, I will from time to time cause to be enrolled as many of the bona fide inhabitants as exigencies may seem to require.  In the meantime, the presence of additional government troops will exert a moral influence that cannot be obtained by any militia that can here be called in requisition.

“In making the foregoing statements, I have endeavored to give the truth, and nothing but the truth.  I deem it important that you should be apprised of the actual state of the case; and whatever may be the effect of such relations, they will be given, from time to time without extenuation.

“I shall proceed early in the morning to Lecompton, under an escort furnished by Gen. Smith, where I will take charge of the government, and whence I shall again address you at an early moment.

Very respectfully, your obedt. servt.,
"Jno. W. Geary,
"Governor of Kansas.”

NOTE:  *James H. Lane is an important figure in the annals of KS whom I have not brought significantly into this story.  Lane was Lt.-Gov. of Indiana and a member of Congress who voted for the KS-NB Act of 1854.   Although a Democrat Lane sided with the Free-state party in K.T.  He had a violent temper, some said ruthless, and advocated an aggressive response to the Law & Order party’s violence.  Lane served as President of the Topeka & Leavenworth constitutional conventions and was elected one of the state’s 1st U.S. Senators. During the Civil War, he raised the first black regt. to see service;  (1st KS Colored Vols).  In 1866, shortly after he lost favor in politics he committed suicide. Biography from  “Kansapedia, KS Historical Society.”

Geary Orders the Missouri Army to Disband

John White Geary

Gov. Geary issued a proclamation, September 8th calling on the so-called militia to disband and go home.  This order was ignored.   From Lecompton he personally ordered Adjutant-General Hiram J. Strickler to disarm the militia and store arms.  He ordered his Inspector-General to do the same.  They both ignored him.  Geary rebuked them and became suspicious of the Territorial Officers.  On Sept. 12 he dispatched his own secret scouts to the Kansas border towns to report on what was happening.

The following day messages arrived from a Brigadier-General of militia, who reported the number of troops he had mustered in response to acting Governor Woodson’s proclamation, and that these troops were now awaiting Gov. Geary’s orders.  ––After midnight one of his scouts at Lawrence, reported the citizens there were heavily armed and awaiting an immediate attack from 300 Missouri Ruffians spotted at nearby Franklin.  Geary acted quickly. ––He ordered the Brigadier to disband his force, and then summoned Col. Cooke of the U.S. army, posted near Lecompton, to deploy a sufficient force to Lawrence immediately.  An hour later about 2:30 a.m. Governor Geary was riding to Lawrence with Colonel Cooke, 300 troopers and 4 pieces of artillery in company.  The party arrived at sunrise the morning of September 13th.  They found the city fortified, with 300 armed men awaiting a fight as reported.  However,  there was no evidence of an imminent attack anywhere in sight.   Geary addressed the people and re-assured them of their safety under his administration.  He made arrangements to implement safeguards for their protection before returning with Col. Cooke to Lecompton that afternoon.  His visit at Lawrence was well received.  The governor would return the following day under more urgent circumstances.#17

The hub-bub that recalled Geary to Lecompton was the complaint of Pro-Slavery men, just arrived from Hickory Point, that a large body of Free-State outlaws were threatening their settlements with destruction.  They clamored about his office all day with remonstrations against the abolitionist traitors. A reliable witness filed the following  affidavit which was afterwards confirmed by others equally reliable.

“Territory of Kansas, Douglas County.

“Personally appeared before a justice in and for Douglas county, Kansas Territory, William F. Dyer, and being duly sworn, says, Col. Whipple, at head of a hundred or more men, among whom were J. Ritchie, Ephraim Bainter, J.O.B. Dunning, Captain Jamison, and others not known to him, did, on Monday, September 8, 1856, rob him of six head of mules and horses, and various articles of merchandise, amounting in value to more than a thousand dollars; and on Tuesday following, it being the 9th of September 1856, the same men robbed him of various articles of merchandise, amounting in value to over three thousand dollars; and that this day, it being Saturday, September 13, 1856, the same men were assembled at Osawkee, about 8 o’clock, A.M., as he believed for the purpose of robbing and burning the town and country round about, and attacking the town of Hardtville this evening.

W.F. Dyer 
“Subscribed and sworn this 13th day of September, 1856, before me,
B.R. Nelson
“Justice of the Peace.”

The Battle of Hickory Point, Sept. 13, 1856

Pictured is a sketch of the Battle of Hickory Point.

Battle of Hickory Point

100 Free-State Militia Members Captured

Based on the veracity of the witnesses Governor Geary immediately ordered Col. Cooke to investigate events at Hickory Point.  Colonel Cooke in turn dispatched a squadron of 81 men, Companies C & H, 1st U.S. Cavalry, Captains Wood and Newby, to the region –– 18 miles distant.  The troopers left camp at 2 p.m. Sunday, September 14.  En route they learned a large party of men had attacked a cabin at Hickory Point that morning, sustaining a six hour fight.  That night, at 11 p.m. Captain Wood captured 25 men leading 3 wagons, one with a wounded man, on the road to Lawrence.  He arrested the men who proffered no resistance.  Three more men soon came in on the same road and they were likewise arrested without resistance.  Advancing, four miles from Hickory Point, Captain Wood discovered a large camp on the prairie on the road leading to Lawrence.  This was the main body of this little band of Free-State Militia.  The camp was surprised, and the men, admitting their guilt, were arrested.  The expedition returned to Lecompton the next day with 101 prisoners, one field-artillery piece, “seven wagons, thirty-eight United States muskets, forty-seven Sharp's rifles, six hunting rifles, two shot guns, twenty revolving pistols, fourteen bowie knives, four swords, and a large supply of ammunition for artillery and small arms.”  The prisoners were held outside Lecompton at the camp of the U.S. military.  Prosecutor Joseph C. Anderson, said to be the author of the Legislature’s oppressive slave code, charged the prisoners with 1st Degree murder.  Some were incarcerated for several months without bail.  When Col. Cooke complained he had no room at his camp for the prisoners they were shuffled to a dilapidated house in Lecompton.  Some were acquitted in an October trial, a few were convicted of various degrees of manslaughter and sentenced to hard-labor.  Twenty-two  escaped in late November after months of in-action regarding their cases.  One man died of exposure during the confinement.  In December the remaining prisoners were moved to more humane quarters.  Just before Governor Geary resigned office in March, 1857, he pardoned seventeen prisoners still held without bail.#18

Geary Personally Breaks Up the Missouri Militia

After listening to the complaints of the Pro-Slavery men from Hickory Point on the morning of the 14th, a steady stream of messengers arrived from Lawrence throughout mid-day warning of an imminent attack upon the town by a large party of Missouri militia camped nearby.  Gov. Geary once more ordered Secretary Woodson and Adjt-Gen. Strickler, with an escort of troops to ride to the camps of the Missouri Militia and disband these men.  They left in the afternoon.  When they were gone, Geary again assembled 300 Federal troops and a battery of artillery, and galloped away in haste to the town of Lawrence.  They arrived in the evening, after dark.  The Governor posted the troops in front of Lawrence, ready to resist any impending attack, and then rode into the town alone.  There he found 300 citizens, men, women & children, heavily armed.  Addressing the crowd, Gov. Geary assured them that they were protected by the army under his authority.  They listened  attentively, as he told them to take their arms and go home, and use them only as a last resort to protect their life and property.  The citizens dispursed, and he stayed the night.

Secretary Woodson and Adjutant Strickler were unsuccessful in their mission to dismiss the Missouri army which they had themselves called into action earlier that Summer.  The Governor’s agent sent a dispatch to Lecompton at midnight, but Geary was already at Lawrence.#19

“Lawrence, 12 o'clock, midnight,
    "September 14, 1856”


    “Sir:  I went as directed to the camp of the militia, and found at the town of Franklin, three miles from this place, encamped three hundred men, with four pieces of artillery.  One mile to the right on the Wakarusa, I found a very large encampment of three hundred tents and wagons.  They claim to have two thousand five hundred men, and from the appearance of the camp I have no doubt they have that number.  General Reid is in command.   I saw and was introduced to General Atchison, Colonel Titus, Sheriff Jones, General Richardson, &c.  The proclamations were distributed.

“Secretary Woodson and General Strickler had not, up to the time I left, delivered their orders;  but were about doing so as soon as they could get the officers together.

“The outposts of both parties were fighting about an hour before sunset.  One man killed of the militia, and one house burned at Franklin.

“There were but few people at Lawrence, most of them having gone to their homes after your visit here.

“I reported these facts to the officer in command here, and your prompt action has undoubtedly been the means of preventing the loss of blood and saving valuable property.

“Secretary Woodson thought you had better come to the camp of the militia as soon as you can.  I think a prompt visit would have a good effect.  I will see you as you come this way, and communicate with you more fully.

"Very respectfully, your obedt. servt.,

Geary no doubt consulted with Adams while at Lawrence.  Early the next morning the Governor departed for the camps of the Missouri Militia, leaving the army picket behind to protect the town.  The governor rode alone towards Franklin 3 miles away where an advance guard of 300 Missourians stood watch a mile from their camp.#20

Did the Militia-men take note of the uncommonly tall rider rapidly approaching their battle lines in the early morning light?  Did they ride forward to challenge him or did they calmly await his approach?  Coming upon the 300 men with red shirts and odd shaped hats the Governor asked who they were and what was their purpose?  We are the Territorial Militia, called into service by the Governor, came the reply, and we are marching to “wipe out Lawrence and every damned abolitionist in the country.”

Geary informed them he was now the Governor of the Territory and demanded they follow him back into camp one mile distant.  Riding at the head of this reluctant escort they descended the beautiful plain near the junction of the Wakarusa and Kansas rivers, and proceeded into the camps of 2,700 armed ruffians.  They murmured discontent and threats of assassination as he rode by.   At camp head-quarters Geary summoned the leaders of the assembled army and addressed them.   Ex-Senator Atchison and his staunch ally B.F. Stringfellow were there, with Territorial delegate John Whitfield and others of the Kansas and Missouri legislature, –– and Sheriff Jones.  Geary soundly chastised Atchison in particular for “leading on to a civil and disastrous war an army of men, with uncontrollable passions, and determined upon wholesale slaughter and destruction.  He concluded his remarks by directing attention to his proclamation, and ordered the army to be disbanded and dispersed.”   The more moderate men of the party were relieved to be released from these uncomfortable circumstances, but it was a reluctant dissolution for the majority.

On September 16, the next day, Governor Geary sent a report to Secretary of War William L. Marcy in Washington, D.C.

After relating all of the above he concluded his report:

“In closing, I have merely to add, that unless I am more fully sustained hereafter by the civil authorities, and serious difficulties and disturbances continue to agitate the territory, my only recourse will be to martial law, which I must needs proclaim and enforce.”#21

David Buffum’s Murder

While returning to Lecompton on Sept. 15th, the Governor’s party came upon a lame man named Buffum, a past member of the Free-State Militia, who had been shot in the abdomen.  A small party of the Kickapoo Rangers, with a force of about 250 men, recently dismissed from the army, were returning to Lecompton on the same road ahead of Geary.  Five or six of them came across David C. Buffum working in his fields by the thoroughfare.  They robbed him of his horses then shot him, and stole a little girl's pony!   “Governor Geary, as he relates in his executive minutes, “coming along the road almost immediately afterward, in company with Judge Cato, his attention was called to the dying man.  He found him in a dying condition, suffering the greatest agony and weltering in his gore.  He said: ‘I am about to die and enter the presence of my God.  This is a cold-blooded murder; he shot me because I asked him not to take away my horse.’#22     “They asked me for my horses and I begged them not to take them.  I told them that I was a cripple, that I had an aged father, a deaf and dumb brother, and two sisters all depending on me for a living, and my horses were all I had to procure it.  One of them said I was a God d—d abolitionist, and seizing me by the shoulder with one hand, he shot me with a pistol that he held in the other.”  The incident greatly affected Governor Geary, who said “I never witnessed a scene that filled my mind with so much horror…  There was a peculiar significance in the looks and words of that poor dying man that I never can forget;  for they seemed to tell me that I could have no rest until I brought his murderer to justice.”  Territorial Judge Sterling G. Cato, riding with the governor, took Buffum’s last testimony.   A warrant was issued to the United States marshal for the arrest of the murderer as soon as the Governor arrived at Lecompton.  The passage of time produced nothing from the Marshal’s office so Geary once again dispatched his own scouts to ferret out  information about the killing.  In early November the suspect was arrested.   But Judge Samuel Lecompte, immediately freed the prisoner on bail.   Ex-Governor Reeder described Judge Lecompte “as a man of frivolous mind, little ability less integrity, great perversity and indolence, and limited knowledge of the law, who, having neither property, practice, nor reputation at home had been appointed Chief Justice of the unfortunate Territory.”  Geary  was incensed when he learned this, and ordered the man re-arrested.  In John Geary's opinion, it was one more example of the despotic rule exercised by the ruling party.#23

By October, the worst of “Bleeding Kansas” was at an end.  With the endorsement of the Pierce administration, and its approved use of Federal troops to enforce the peace, Governor Geary had restored order to the territory in less than a month.  He endeavored to maintain the calm by restoring the courts and prodding inert judges into action.  He organized 3 legitimate bona-fide militia companies and mustered them into the service of the United States to police the region as needed.  Then, with a semblance of calm restored, the Governor embarked on a 20 day tour of the territory.  At each town he met with the citizens and listened to their wants.  Yet all was still not right, and the governor would soon loose the support of Democrats in Washington, now that he had served their immediate purpose.

On the national scene the open warfare in Kansas during the summer of 1856  was an embarrassment to the ruling Democrat party, during an election year.  The drama of Kansas Territory played out in the national press with passionate editorials on both sides of the issue.  An increasing number of Northern Democrats became alienated from their Southern counterparts over the violent rhetoric expounded upon the extension of slavery into the territories.  The following letter published after Governor Reeder’s visit to Washington the previous year is a good example of this growing sentiment in the North.

The Daily Pennsylvanian

THE DAILY PENNSYLVANIAN, Philadelphia, (date unknown)

“We will give below an extract from a letter to a gentleman of this city, from one who has battled long and well for the rights of the South, and who will still aid it in all that justly belongs to it.  But it is very evident that his feelings have been soured at the conduct of the Missourians:

Washington City, May 30, 1856.

“Governor Reeder has a proud yet most critical position.  The murderers in Missouri pursue him alone, because he will not yield to their demand for slavery by illegal votes in Kansas.  Had he done so there would not be the skeleton of a Democratic party left in the free states.  He might have purchased ease and place by letting the slave-owners of Missouri take charge of Kansas;  he might have been governor or senator; but he thought of Pennsylvania and the North, and of his own honor, and he acted as an honest and patriotic democrat.  He goes back, and will sell his life dearly, if any effort is made to do him personal injury.  The fact is, the South asked too much of us.  I am sick of their arrogance, sick of their violence, and resolved that, however ready I am to stand by their rights, I will not sustain their wrongs.  Slavery  is not God-descended;  it is not a divinity;  it is a load to carry, and we must not have it made heavier by arrogant exactions.”#24


Note #8.  Gihon,  Chapter 7.

Note #9.  Gihon, Chapter 16.

Note #10.  John E. Stewart Reminiscences, p. 14-15. “Kansas Memory, Kansas Historical Society.”

Note #11.   Gihon, Chapter 16.  Colonel Henry T. Titus arrived in K.T. early May, 1856, the same time as Major Jefferson Buford.  Both men actively recruited Southern men to settle in K.T. in response to the call from the Stringfellow Bros. and David Atchison.  He participated in the Sack of Lawrence May 21, destroying the Herald of Freedom Press and dumping it with all its type into the Kansas river.  From his fortified log home, “Fort Titus” situated just outside the Pro-slavery town of Lecompton, Titus quickly earned a reputation among Free-state men as a looter and thief.  He harassed anyone supporting the Free-state party.  On August 16, 1856, Samual Walker led a company of Free-state men in an assault on Fort Titus.  They fired cannon shot made from melted down type from the Herald of Freedom to quickly overtake the Pro-slavery stronghold.  A wounded Col. Titus was captured, and the artillery piece he took during the Sack of Lawrence was returned to Walker.  The acting Governor negotiated an un-easy truce and the prisoners were released.  For a time Titus worked for Gov. Geary, and twice arrested Charles Hayes, Buffum’s murderer.  By December, Titus realized the Free-state men had the upper hand in K.T. so with 100 men, he departed for Nicaragua, where Southern Fillibuster, William Walker set up a mini-nation state.  When that enterprise failed Titus moved to Florida and founded the town of Titusville, today the home of the Kennedy Space Center.  –– from Kansapedia.  “Kansas Historical Society.”  [ ]

 Note #12.   Gihon, Chapter 16.

Note #13.  Charles Robinson, Letter to his wife, September 29, 1856. Found on-line at “Kansas Memory, Kansas Historical Society.”

Note #14. Gihon, Chapter 17.

Note #15.  Gihon,  Chapter 22.

Note #16.  Gihon,  Chapter 19.

Note #17, ibid.

Note #18.  Gihon, Chapter 23 &24.

Note  #19. Gihon, Chapter 24.

Note #20.  ibid.

Note #21.  ibid.

Note #22.  Eldridge, Recollections of Early Days in Kansas, by Shalor Winchell Eldridge, Vol. II, 1920, Kansas Historical Society.

Note #23. Gihon, Chapter 26.

Note #24.  Quoted in Gov. Reeder’s biography, [ ]

Return to Table of Contents

PARTS 9 &10; "Undermining Governor Geary" & "Conclusion"


Ex-Governor Reeder, who was then a political member of the Topeka party of Kansas, presciently observed, James Buchanan (democrat) would win the presidency in 1856, but the Republicans would win in 1860.  Present Governor Geary soon found himself without friends and discovered that the lame-duck Pierce administration had deserted him.

Upon return from his extensive tour of the territory, in which he promised to address political concerns of the settlers with an even hand, he learned that Judge Samuel Lecompte had for the second time, released Charles Hays, the alleged murderer of David Buffum with a writ of habeas corpus.

This enraged Geary.  He didn’t interfere with the writ but he complained to the President about Judge Lecompte and the  partisan favoritism of the territorial officials.  He labeled them “prominent actors” and “willing tools” of a “virulent spirit of dogged determination, to force slavery into this Territory.”   He criticized all the Federal officials and explicitly named, Judges Lecompte and Cato, Secretary Daniel Woodson, District Attorney Andrew Issaks, Marshal Israel B. Donalson, Surveyor General John Calhoun and Indian Agent George Clarke, (one of the  murderers of Thomas Barber).  He also mentioned David Atchison and Ben Stringfellow by name.  In response President Pierce replaced George Clarke, and Marshal Donalson, who resigned.  He assigend a new Federal Judge to the vacant 3rd District and nominated Kentuckian C. O. Harrison to replace Judge Lecompte.  This news reached Governor Geary on December 10th.  Geary was able to report back to the President that the news met with great approval, "the removal of Donaldson, Clark, and Lecompte has been received here with general acclamation by the people, and men recently disposed to vilify and abuse you are loud in your praise."  Although Pierce supported Geary’s request to appoint a new judge in Lecompte’s place, the issue never went anywhere and Lecompte remained in office.  The murderer Hayes, eventually found the territory too unsafe, and removed himself to Colorado.  He was never tried for the murder of David Buffum.#25

The Squatter Sovereign reported on the matter, ––of course.

The Squatter Sovereign, November 22, 1856

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN, November 22, 1856.

Gov. Geary a Second Jackson.

We have just learned that our Governor is endeavoring to ape the immortal “Old Hero,” by ordering the arrest of a man whom Judge Lecompte had released on bail, the Governor thinking that the Judge had not acted rightly in the case.  We presume the next move will be to arrest and imprison the Judge should he release the prisoner under the writ of habeas corpus, still more to personate, or rather to ape the Old Hero.

But seriously, this is really the climax to everything perpetrated by the knave Reeder or the fool Shannon.  In a time of profound peace –– for which Gov. Geary has ordered a day of general thanksgiving –– a Governor to trample under foot the edicts of the highest judicial officer in the land, and call upon the military to execute what he conceives to be justice, is certainly the most supremely stupid piece of high-handed outrage –– we won’t dignify it by the name of tyranny –– that has yet been enacted in Kansas.

The man must surely be insane.  An abler lawyer, or more honest man than Judge Lecompte does not live in this Territory, and Governor G. will find, we opine, that he does not lack the nerve to discharge his duty against any, whether they be in low places, or highly dignified.

We are very much surprised to see that the Leavenworth Journal thinks the President will justify the Governor in this outrage.  President Pierce is too good a lawyer for that.  This is a beautiful commentary upon the Governor’s first test –– “That the laws must be obeyed.”  If he can set the decisions of the Courts at defiance, surely every one else may do the same.  President Pierce must surely have appointed all our Governors on Friday, to have been so very unlucky.

Attempts to Compromise with the Territorial Legislature.

In late November, the governor began working with a bi-partisan coalition of settlers willing to compromise with the pro-slavery legislature, to preserve the peace in the territory, provided the Legislature would modify the most draconian parts of the slave law.  He requested Governor-Elect Robinson of the Topeka movement to keep a low profile and promote the idea that the Topeka movement is a provisional organization dependent upon Statehood.  In return, the Governor would restrain  the radical pro-slavery officials from harrassing the Topekans.  Robinson agreed to the plan and travelled to Washington, D.C. to lobby support for the Topeka Constitution and Governor Geary's bi-partisan coalition.  His mission was to get the House of Representatives to work with members of the Democrat controlled Senate.#26   In keeping with their bold partisan front,  The Squatter Sovereign rejected outright the plan to amend any of the Legislature's laws.  It was evident now that the number of Free-soilers in the Territory were a majority of the population.

The Squatter Sovereign, December 16, 1856

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN, December 16, 1856.

Meeting at Tecumseh.

At a meeting of the citizens of Tecumseh and vicinity, held at Tecumseh Court House, K.T., on Wednesday evening, November 26, 1856,  Caleb B. Clemens was called to the Chair, and W. W. Pardee appointed Secretary.  The Chairman started the object of the meeting to be “for the appointment of Delegates to attend the Convention to be held at Leavenworth City, to consult on and propose a policy upon which the citizens of Kansas without distinction of party may unite for the preservation of peace, and a general reconciliation, –– based upon acquiescence in existing Legislation, an impartial administration of justice, and opposition to external intervention in the affairs of the Territory.

Col. Johnson, of Leavenworth, city, Mr. Bennett of the Lecompton Union, Mr. Lamb, of Atchison, and E. Hoagland, of Tecumseh, being called upon, addressed the meeting in favor of the stated objects of the Convention and urged the appointment of Delegates.

E. Hoagland then offered the following resolutions which were unanimously adopted

Resolved, That we cordially approve of any and all measures that may have a tendency to restore peace and harmony among the citizens of Kansas.  That in view of the past and impressed with the importance of the present, we earnestly implore our fellow-citizens without distinction of party to aid in the preservation of Peace and Order by adopting a policy of conciliation.

Resolved,   That whatever differences of opinion may prevail touching the circumstances that resulted in the adoption of existing laws, we deem it the duty of every man to support and sustain those laws in preference to having no laws at all and continuing the anarchy that has too long prevailed.

Resolved,  That we believe the existing Territorial laws contain provisions that should be repealed, and we have confidence that the Legislature will, at the next session, with a spirit of justice and moderation correct oppressive legislation.

Resolved,  That we have confidence in the patriotic desire and ability of Gov. Geary to faithfully administer the laws and protect and enforce the rights of all the citizens of Kansas; and we cordially approve the policy he has adopted, and which, thus far, has been attended with the happiest results, towards the restoration of law and order, equality and justice.

The meeting then appointed as Delegates to the Leavenworth convention, B. L Castleman, A. W. Pardee, Judge Yager, W. A. M. Vaughan, John Dolman, Henry Carmicle, L. McArther, E. Hoagland, George Osbourne, Bennet A. Murphy, Henry W. Martin and Judge Elmore.

Ordered, That the Secretary furnish copies of the proceedings of this meeting to the Lawrence, Leavenworth and Lecompton newspapers, with a request to publish the same.


A.W. Pardee, Sec.

We copy the above from the Leavenworth Herald, and must confess that we are at “the first” of this move.  We have seen (in fact we were the first to propose) a call for a Pro-Slavery convention to be held at Leavenworth, which has since been changed to Lecompton and fixed for the second Monday of January next.  We will take occasion to say, however, that we have no earthly objection to the good citizens of Tecumseh and vicinity doing all in their power to bring about an era of good feeling in Kansas, by attempting ”to restore peace and harmony among her citizens.”  But for our part, we have long since found that impracticable, and henceforth as ever, are for taking measures to advance the interests of our party.   This was our object in starting the project, and we presume, will be the object of the convention when it shall assemble. We expect none but members of our party to participate in its deliberations.

Our friends in Tecumseh may make as many pacific resolutions as they may see fit, and laud his Excellency to their hearts content, but we most seriously object to their impeaching our code of laws as “oppressive” particularly if they expect to be admitted as members of the Pro-Slavery Convention which is to meet at Lecompton.  We would advise our Shawnee friends to hold “another meeting” and appoint delegates to the Pro-Slavery Convention or their credentials may be rejected.

A Stronger Poltical Opposition Arises

When the newly elected legislature met in January, they ignored Gov. Geary’s request to amend the slave code.  They then added insult to injury, by passing their first bill, which endorsed the conduct of Judge Lecompte in releasing Charles Hayes, Buffum’s murderer.  The new law authorized territorial judges and courts to issue bail in all cases, whatever the crime.   Geary offered a thoughtful reply to the bill but it passed over his objections.  The following day several prominent pro-slavery men with long unserved warrants for their arrest, including Dr. John Stringfellow appeared before a judge and posted bail.  Meanwhile, many Free-staters were still being held in jail, without bail, for much lesser offenses.

Governor Geary’s policy of judicial impartiality and his replacement of  Federal Officials angered his powerful political opponents in Kansas Territory.  With regards to Judge Le Compte's removal the Legislature argued it was not within Geary's authority to remove members of the Judiciary with whom he disagreed.  They used this argument to lobby their allies in Washington to weaken Geary's political support.  Pro-Slavery Territorial Representative John Whitfield, with a lot of work, was eventually able to squelch the confirmation of Judge Harrison to replace Judge Le Compte.#27

To make their political strategy more attractive on a National level, the Pro-Slavery "Law & Order" party began to re-organize.  A widely publicized meeting was called in Lecompton in January, the same day the new Territorial Legislature convened.  Dr. John Stringfellow urged this meeting be called a “Pro-Slavery Convocation,” rather than, a meeting of the “Law & Order Party.”   On the 2nd day of the gathering, Dr. John  proposed that convention delegates re-name themselves “The National Democratic Party of Kansas Territory.”   The new name disturbed many of the attendants,  who were mostly former Whigs;  traditional opponents of the Democrat Party.  But it was explained by Dr. Stringfellow, that by calling themselves “National Democrats,” they could channel their pro-slavery platform, into a more powerful national alliance which would find more favor in Washington than a one issue party, only interested in bringing Kansas into the Union as a slave State.  It was further argued as old political alliances were fracturing and new ones being formed, that the National Democrat party was the only safe party for pro-slavery men to subscribe.  The assembly recognized the wisdom of this scheme and unenthusiastically agreed to the name change.  The new caucus united former political enemies into a unified Pro-Slavery Democrat party.  (It is interesting to note that it was this policy, pursued by President Buchanan, that led to the regional fracture of the Democrat party and the election of President Lincoln in 1860).#28

A committee of four of these men, led by powerful Kansas Surveyor-General John Calhoun, a friend of Stephen Douglas, traveled to Washington D.C. to support Judge Lecompte’s arguments over Governor Geary’s, with regards to their feud, and to  lobby for a new territorial governor.  They obtained a meeting with Democrat President-elect James Buchanan, and his cabinet, and requested that Geary be replaced with a Southern man.  Their pleas fell on sympathetic ears.  President Buchanan labored under the mistaken belief that the Pro-Slavery men were in the majority in Kansas, and that the Abolitionists with the help of the Northern press were causing all the trouble there.  The Kansas delegation also met with Robert S. Walker, a Senator from Mississippi, whom they told, that were he appointed Governor of Kansas Territory, they would put no obstacles in his path or oppose his appointment in any way.  Meanwhile, harrassing Governor Geary became a fundamental mission of the Territorial Legislature.#29

The Sherrard Affair

Another issue arose with which to condemn the Governor, and unfortunately its sad end tarnished Geary's reputation as a peace maker in Kansas.   The story is as follows:

Notorious Sheriff Sam Jones resigned his office for unknown reasons and recommended to the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners, William T. Sherrard, of Winchester, Virginia, as his successor.  At Jones’ recommendation the board tendered the office to Sherrard. Sherrard age 28, came from a reputable Virginia family but had a quick temper and stubborn demeanor.  He arrived in Kansas in September by way of Illinois where he had been active in Democrat politics.  The young man immediately called on Governor Geary, December 18th, to demand his offcial certificate to the office of Sheriff.   Sherrard's own account of the interview is this:

“On the 18th day of December, I called at the Executive Office, and enquired of the Governor if the appointment had been certified to him by the clerk of the county tribunal.  He replied that it had.  I then respectfully requested that he would cause the commission to be made out as soon as possible, adding at the same time as a reason for the request, that I had understood that there were many writs that ought to be served at once, and that there was at that time no officer in the county to execute them.  The Governor appeared not to appreciate the force of these reasons, and even betrayed some excitement at the suggestions I had made.  In the course of a rather warm conversation that ensued, he said “Before I make this appointment, I wish to know whether you intend to act inimically to me or not.”   I expressed my surprise at the question, and said that it seemed to me to imply that he desired to impose conditions upon me before he discharged a duty required of him by the law –– if such was his meaning, I had only to say, that in executing the office in which I had been appointed, I should endeavor to be guided only by my oath, and by my duty, and whilst I did this, should pay no regard him, his wishes, or his opinions.  The conversation continued for some time longer, and at the close of it he said the commission should be made out between that time and the next day.”

At the time Governor Geary was making assurances to the Free-State leaders in Topeka that his administration would not interfere with their political organizing as had been the case with the previous administration and the "Law & Order" authorities of the territory.  Knowing the outstanding writs Sherrard referred to were for the arrest of these men, it can be seen why Gov. Geary became excited in the interview.   Whether he stalled Sherrard to learn more about his character, or deliberatly lied to him about granting the commission is unknown.

Sherrard's statement continues:

“Some days after, having heard nothing from the Governor, I wrote him a note formally demanding my commission, and informing him that in case of refusal, I should be constrained to use legal means to compel him to issue it.

“Before sending it, however, I learned from R. H. Bennet [Editor of the Lecompton Union] that in an interview he had had with the Governor he had been informed by him that he (the Governor) had understood that I was about applying for a mandamus,  that this was unnecessary as he had never intended to refuse to issue the commission, and that he would have kept his promise but for the absence of the Secretary of the Territory, adding that as soon as the Secretary returned the commission should be made out.  Hearing this, I delayed sending the letter till the 29th, when (the Secretary having returned on the 26th) I mailed it, merely adding a postscript, saying that I should without further delay, pursue the course I had in the letter.  I have never received any reply to that letter.” #30

Governor Geary did not grant the certificate.  Sherrard's attempt to secure a Mandamus from Judge LeCompte also failed, the Judge claiming court was not in session, so he could not properly issue the order.  Next the Legislature took up the cause.  They sent an official inquiry to the Governor demanding his reasons for denying Sherrard the Sheriff's commission.

Governor Geary replied that members of the County Commissioners privately met with him to express their change of mind, –– they had made a mistake in granting the office to Sherrard, upon the recommendation of Sheriff Jones, and asked the Governor to withhold  the commission until they could meet again and revoke the appointment.   They explained they were unaware at the time, of Sherrard’s violent temperament, and that  since then, they found Sherrard almost daily involved in tavern and street brawls.  Geary received numerous petitions from concerned citizens to the same effect.  In one such reported incident, Sherrard threw a plate, and then pulled a gun, on a fellow boarder sitting with him at the dinner table.  Sherrard  told the man to run; that he would allow him 10 steps before shooting.  The man, named Locklane, replied he would not run and defiantly sat in place staring down the barrel of a loaded revolver for two hours until Sherrard stood down.#31   He added that the charges against Sherrard could be easily proven by members of his community, and that he was notorious for this kind of behavior.

Evidence is scant for some of the Governor's claims.  Two of the 3 commissioners supported Sherrard's complaint in the Legislature but one did admit telling Geary about some of Sherrard's street brawls. #32   In response to Geary's allegations Sherrard admitted he had been in two fights in December, but he was willing to submit his conduct to a jury.

The Legislature responded in typical form.  The lower house harranged Geary over his reply, calling him names, “usurper,” “monster,” “worse than a Russian autocrat,” “Nero,” and “Caligula!”  The House of Representatives then voted to grant Sherrard the office of  Douglas County Sheriff.   The Council, the upper house of the legislature rebuked Geary  for assailing Sherrard's character and using discretionary power where he had none, but they refused to approve the bill.  They claimed it was more properly a matter for the Judiciary to decide. #33 

State house at Lecompton where the Legislature met

The State House Building in Lecompton where the Supreme Court and the Legislature met.

Arrest of the Topeka Government

Before the Sherrard affair concludes it is important to note, that despite Geary's efforts to appease the Free-Staters at Topeka, the Deputy Marshal of the Territory went ahead and served the writs for their arrest.  The members were furious with Geary for the betrayal, but he appeased them by having Judge Cato quickly release them all on bail.  Geary's secretary John Gihon claimed the arrest was made by the Pro-Slavery men in an attempt to stir up more violence and tarnish Geary's reputation.  The Squatter Sovereign gave a brief account of the important incident.

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN, January 20, 1857.

The Topeka bogus legislature was cut short in mid career by the appearance of the deputy United States marshal, who arrested the gang, sixteen in number, who were taken before Judge Cato at Tecumseh, where they were held to bail in the sum of five hundred dollars each. ––

Gov. Robinson, deeming prudence the better part of valor, did not make his appearance at the Free State Capitol, nor neither did the lieutenant-governor.

Sherrard's Assault on the Governor and Its Results

Sherrard's temper was up.  His feud with Geary caused him to strike out at the Governor's allies. “Meeting Mr. John A. W. Jones, a member of the governor's household, and a remarkably peaceable man, of slight physical frame, and without arms with which to defend himself, Sherrard assailed and struck him, without the slightest shadow of provocation.  The next day, whilst sitting in one corner of a public saloon, between David Johnson, his counsellor, and Captain Martin, of the Kickapoo Rangers, both members of the Legislature, he saw the governor's private secretary on the opposite side of the room, and called him over, when he attempted to create a quarrel by attacking the official character of the governor. The secretary declined entering into the controversy, had turned and was about to leave, and notwithstanding he was unarmed and extremely feeble from a recent accident, Sherrard sprang to his feet and struck him upon the cheek, and seizing, the handle of his pistol, dared him to resent the blow.  ...The secretary told him that had he not known he was unarmed, the insult would not have been offered. There were a number of persons present, and Sherrard's friends, perceiving they were in the minority, forced him from the room." #34

  On the morning of February 9th, Geary and staff, made their rounds to the departments of state at the Capitol building.

  When the Governor and two staff members took their seats in the Hall of the Legislature, Sherrard glanced at them, and quickly left the Hall in an agitated manner.   About  half an hour later the Governor’s party got up to leave.  –– Sherrard stood waiting in the narrow hallway adjoining the Hall.  He was armed with a large bowie knife and two navy revolvers strapped to the outside his clothing.  As Geary opened the door to the hallway Sherrard, with his hand on the handle of a gun shouted at him,  “You have treated me like a damned scoundrel!”  He spit at Geary.  The Governor simply walked past Sherrard and paid him no notice.  Sherrard spit after him twice more.  Mr. Richard McAllister of the Governor’s staff quickly followed, and got between the two men.  Sherrard followed them to the stairs outside.  The Hall was on the second story of the building and as Geary and McAllister descended the stairs, Sherrard stood upon the upper platform and waved a gun in his hand, while muttering oaths, apparently contemplating whether or not to shoot.  John Gihon saw him there as he left the hallway to exit the building.  Geary was by then out of hearing range.  When the Governor’s party reached the bottom of the steps Sherrard followed on, until the length of the building was passed.  He stopped, shouted an oath and skulked into the Surveyor-General’s office where friends were waiting for him.  It is said the Governor had no idea of the extent of the insult until his staff informed him.#35

The excitement enraged Geary’s many supporters.  A meeting was called forth on February18th to address the matter.  Nearly 400 citizens attended, many poured in from outside pro-slavery Lecompton to express their support for Geary.  The multitude gathered on the Capitol grounds in the open air.  Sheriff Jones, and William Sherrard were in attendance.  The purpose of the meeting was to formulate an official response of the people to Sherrard's assault on the Governor.  The intended chairman of the meeting, James Skagg, one of the largest slave-holders in the territory did not show.  At the urging of others Lecompton Mayor Owen C. Stewart took the chair.  A 5 man committee was selected to draft resolutions to be voted upon at the meeting.  The comittee retired to a nearby store to draft the resolutions and the floor was opened for comments.  Jailer Levi Hampton spoke first and offered praise for the neutral policies of Governor Geary.  R.H. Bennett, one of the editors of the pro-slavery Lecompton Union, and Sherrard's friend, gave an inebriated speech.  John Gihon, Geary's secretary records it thus:

“I tell you, this meetin' is not a meetin' of gen'lemen –– (hic).  It aint the law'd order party –– (hic) –– that's sure.”

    His tongue was as thick as his brain was addled, and his words were chopped off very often in the middle.

    “I say –– I tell yer –– (hic) –– this meetin's the rag –– (hic) –– the rag-tail and the bob-tail –– (hic) –– of the ab'lishonists –– that's what I –– (hic) –– what I tell yer, and by G--d, I know it!”

    As Bennett halted for breath, the boys cried out, “Go it, Bennett; that's the way to talk!” “You're one of the orators ––you are!”  “Have a little more whiskey, Bennett!”  “Why don't you pitch into the governor?”

    “I tell yer," continued the speaker, “Sherrard is –– (hic) –– so he is, by g--d, the soul of –– (hic) –– chiv'l'ry, and it's a pity he did'nt –– (hic) –– yes it is--for d--n Governor Geary –– (hic) –– Them's my sentiments, and I don't kere a d--n who knows it!” #36

After Bennet finished another of Geary's secretaries, Mr. McAllister began to speak when three committee members returned to the meeting to present the majority resolutions.  The document supported the Governor's official actions, his impartial administration and his message to the current legislature.  They pledged support without distinction of party for Governor Geary.  The committee chairman added that he did not know Sherrard and that he could not be accused of personal bias in presenting these resolutions.

illustration of man in crowd pointing a gun

Sherrard asked to speak.  The Mayor requested he wait until the minority committee report, but Sherrard tood the stand and said, “The difficulty between Geary and myself is a personal matter and I have offered satisfaction.  Any man who imputes anything dishonorable to me in that affair is a liar, a scoundrel and a coward!”   Sherrard returned to his friends in the crowd amidst many taunts and hostile questions. 

A Justice of the Peace named Joseph Sheppard stood up and quietly remarked, “The resolutions were just.”   Sherrard called Sheppard a liar and drew a pistol and fired.  Sheppard drew his revolver, and fired.  Sheppard then clubbed his pistol and charged Sherrard.   Mayor Stewart lept from the chair, and he and Sheriff Jones separated the two men.  Sheppard was removed to tend to his wounds.  Suddenly the  gun fire became general.  Secretary McAllister was heard to say, “Why don't somebody shoot Sherrard?”  Mayor Stewart asked for help to keep the peace and used his heavy cane to deflect the fire of other shooters.  When the shooting started the crowd dispersed.  Only about a dozen men remaining.  Sherrard turned with revolver drawn and approached Geary's other secretary, John A. W. Jones.  Jones raised his pistol and fired.  Sherrard lept in the air and fell to the floor.   Brains oozed from the wound in his forehead.  He was carried from the scene and died two days later.  The killing of Sherrard by one of Geary's personal secretaries sorely damaged the Governor's reputation.

  In the wake of the disturbance, Governor Geary’s supporters urged him to post some Federal troops in town to keep the peace, –– for his own protection.  They were concerned that the continued threats issued against him were getting too serious to ignore.#37

On the afternoon of February 9th after the commotion, Geary requested two companies of dragoons be brought to Lecompton.  Commanding general Brevet Maj.-Gen. Percifal Smith refused the request for troops in a communication dated Feb. 11th, stating in part, the contingency (insurrection) for which the troops were acting had ceased.   In the letter he stated, “Insults or probable breaches of the peace do not authorize the employment of the troops.”  The general stated the troops will be available “if the presidency directs their employment.”  He added that all the forces in the territory would soon depart for other distant services by order of the Secretary of War.

Request For Troops Denied - Geary's Resignation

Geary’s reply to General Smith dated March 2nd said the absence  of troops would spur the lawless into action.  Then Gov. Geary learned that the intrigue against him in Washington by pro-slavery delegates from the National Democratic Party of Kansas to sustain Judge Le Compte had been successful.  He forthwith submitted his resignation on March 4th.    To avoid detection, he fained illness and loss of strength and told Secretary Woodson, he was going to take a rest for a period of days.  He secretly armed himself with two pistols, and on  March 10th, left Lecompton under cover of darkness, “and proceeded, via Lawrence and Westport, to Kansas City, where he took passage for St. Louis on the steam-packet,  “A. B. Chambers.”  He reached Washington City on the 21st of the same month.” #38  Before he left he pardoned the few remaining Free-state prisoners of the original 100 captured at Hickory Point in September.  Like Governor Reeder before him, Governor Geary had to sneak out of Kansas for the safety of his life.

Shortly after the Governor’s departure the fate of Kansas Territory, whether it be free-state or slave-state, became strictly political.  The demographics were now on the side of Free-staters who outnumbered the pro-slavery settlers by a wide margin.  The violence didn’t end, but no longer could the Ruffians attempt to intimidate and run off their opponents with force of numbers.   Invasions from Missouri ceased.  But even though Freestaters were the majority population, the Pro-Slavery Party still controlled the government. 

One of the last acts of the Legislature before Geary’s resignation, was the passage of a Census Bill and election rules which rigged the next ballot for representatives to a state constitutional convention, in favor of pro-slavery delegates.  Geary vetoed the bill but it passed both houses almost unanimously over his objections.  The bill guaranteed a pro-slavery constitution would be drafted and sent to congress in the coming year.  To insure its success the Legislature submitted the final work to Congress for ratification, without a referendum vote by the people of the Territory.  The notorious Lecompton Constitution was the result of this legislation and it caused a National furor.

Governor Robert J. Walker

Governor Robert J. Walker

Incoming Governor Robert J. Walker, a Southerner with an acknowledged fair and admirable record, inherited this issue when he assumed the Governor’s office.  He was appointed by President Buchannan March 26, 1857.  Walker was the fourth governor sympathetic to the preservation of slavery to try his hand at governing the unwieldy territory.

Walker arrived in Kansas on April 15th.  He promised voters a chance to reject or adopt changes to the constitution before its submission to congress and urged them to participate in the voting process.  Governor Geary had asked the Legislature to include  a referendum vote by the people in the bill when it was drafted but they refused.#39

Governor Robert J. Walker, pictured left.  Another pro-slavery democrat governor of Kansas, who supported the Union during the Civil War, due to his experience in Kansas.

The June election went off as planned with Pro-Slavery delegates winning all the seats to the September Constitutional Convention.  Free-Staters refused to participate in another election sham.  In September, 1857 the delegates drafted what became known as the Lecompton Constitution, which if ratified by Congress would make Kansas a slave state.  It was sent directly to congress without a referendum vote.

The Lecompton Constitution was drafted by delegates representing only 1/5 of the total legal voting population of Kansas Territory.  Democrats in the North, who had supported the idea of ‘popular sovereignty’ viewed the document as a fraud.  But under the ubiquitous threat of ‘secession’ by leaders of the Southern States, President Buchanan changed his mind on the referendum, which he initially supported, and planned to submit the document directly to Congress for approval.  Southerners maintained Kansas must enter the Union as a slave state to maintain the balance of power between slave states and free,  within the National government.

Without a fair vote referendum on the Lecompton Constitution as promised, Governor Walker resigned in disgust.  On December 3, 1857, the powerful congressman Stephen Douglas, one of the creators of the idea of “popular sovereignty” confronted President Buchanan about the trickery used to create the document.  He promised to lead Democrat opposition to its passage in Congress if Buchanan proceeded on his present course, which he did, thus creating a split between Northern and Southern Democrats. The split led, as former Governor Reeder predicted, to the election of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, in 1860.#40

The Lecompton Constitution was a hot potato issue for nearly a year, receiving letters of both support and opposition in the halls of Congress.  It was eventually rejected in August, 1858, when allowed a fair referendum vote in Kansas.  In 1859 a new constitution was drafted at Wyandote, and Kansas eventually entered the Union in 1861 as a Free State.  The strife in Kansas would continue for years to come.  When the Civil War broke out the old passions renewed along the Kansas Missouri border, and paritsan rangers gave vent to their wrath with atrocities that continued, well after 1865.


Ex-Governor Andrew Reeder went home to Pennsylvania and returned to his law practice. The Committee investigating the election fraud committed during his term as Governor sustained his actions but advised against him taking the seat as territorial representative in 1856.

He declined appointment as Kansas’s first Senator when it was finally admitted into the Union as a free State in 1861.  He also declined an officer's commission in the Union Army tendered by President Lincoln when the war broke out.  He commented it was too late in his life to learn the military profession as he had no prior experience, especially since the lives of others would be dependent on his skill.  Too bad other politicians didn’t respond with such sound reasoning.  He remained a popular speaker in Republican Political circles.

Ex-Governor Shannon returned to Kansas in January, 1857 and practiced law in Lawrence.

Ex-Governor Geary’s experiences in Kansas, caused him to raise a regiment of infantry when war broke out between the States.  He rose to the rank of Brigadier-General and exhibited conspicuous bravery and skill as a military leader.  He paid dearly for his devotion.  His son, Lt. Edward R. Geary a member of Knap’s Pennsylvania Battery was killed at the Battle of Wauhatchie, Tennessee.  General Geary’s tall frame was seen silhouetted in the early morning hours of October 29, 1863, standing amid the wreckage of Knap’s artillery, with his dead son at his feet.   After the war Geary switched political parties and won the governorship of Pennsylvania as a Republican.  He served two terms.  In Kansas, Geary County is named for him.

Dr. Charles Robinson’s diligent political efforts paid off, when Kansas became a State. He was elected the first Governor in 1861.  His fiery rival James H. Lane raised a political ruckus and Robinson only served one term as Governor.  Robinson later served in the Kansas State senate. He had been imprisoned by the Kansas Territorial Legislature four months, from May to  September 10, 1856.  His skills as a coalition builder caused one biographer to name him “the strongest character in the history of the State.” #41

The Stringfellow Brothers

To paraphrase the observations of Kansas Historian Shalor Winchell Eldridge, “In the Spring of 1857 the tide of immigration became a flood.  This wave of immigrants was composed of a more substantial, practical, business minded class of citizens, who heretofore stayed out of the territory because of the violence and insecurity prevailing.  Most of them came from Northern states.  The substantial leaders of the slave party realizing they had lost, abandoned the contest and with wisdom to their credit, divided their property and eagerly worked with Northern capital and the Free-state population to promote the interests of their towns from which they had first excluded all such men.”#42

The Stringfellow brothers were congenial losers.  Hard to believe from the rhetoric, but true.

“Ben Stringfellow, the organizer and Chief Counsel of the slave-party struck hands with General [Samuel C.] Pomeroy, the representative of the Emigrant Aid Company, in an effort, through railroads and eastern capital, to make Atchison the metropolis of Kansas.”#43

George Martin, a future governor of the state wrote of him, “Stringfellow early became a citizen of Kansas, and when the end came, squarely and honorably acknowledged defeat.  I met him frequently as late as the ’80’s.  He was a kindly gentleman of the old school, earnest and efficient in all things looking to the development of the state, an interested participant in the first Kansas railroad convention, held in 1860, and author of the appeal to Congress for railroad aid.  He was a director in the Santa Fe Railroad Company from November 24, 1863, to July 27, 1865, and from May 16, 1878, to August 5, 1884.  When slavery lost out, he became a Republican.  The talk and actions of these men are to-day incredible, and can only be accounted for by the general charge all free-soilers made––the barbarism of slavery.”  Stringfellow died April 26, 1891.#44

Dr. John Stringfellow began to see the political tide turning in spite of his great efforts to make Kansas a slave state.  An editorial in the Squatter Sovereign, February, 1857, departed slightly from the usual bellicose style and said, “Let us make Kansas a slave State and Democratic if possible.  If not, then next best we can, which is to make it a National Democratic State should slavery be abolished.”  In the next issue, Feb. 17, 1857, he announced his candidacy for Territorial Representative.  But on March 3, the Squatter Sovereign published its last issue under the ownership of Stringfellow and Kelley.  It was sold to Free-state leader Samuel C. Pomeroy & 3 other Free-State entrepreneurs in 1857.

In 1858, Pomeroy acquired sole ownership and renamed it Freedom’s Champion.   Stringfellow & Kelley both left Kansas to fight for the Confederacy.#45   It is here, in the midst of the war, that Dr. John met up by chance one night in October, 1863, with Lt. Edward Rollins of the 13th MA, who once edited a paper for Dr. Charles Robinson.


Note #25.  Information on the specifically named Territorial Officials criticized by Gov. Geary and President Pierce's response comes from an essay by David E. Meerse, "No Propriety in the Late Course of the Governor," 1976, Kansas Historical Society.  Geary's response to President Pierce dated December 20, 1856 found in Meerse article, p. 250.

Note #26.  Meerse, p.  252.   Meerse says Robinson resigned his post.

Note #27.  Gihon, Chapter 39. And, Letter, February 1, 1857,  John W. Whitfield to John A. Halderman, found at Territorial Kansas Online. John A. Halderman Collection #370, Box 1.  Item Number 100267.

Note #28.  Gihon, Chapter 40.

Note #29.  Gihon, Chapter 39.

Note #30.  Squatter Sovereign, February 3, 1857;  Sherrard's Testimony dated January 21, 1857.

Note #31.  Gihon, Chapter 37.

Note #32.  Meerse, p. 258  & 259.  Meerse writes there is no evidence to support Geary's claims, except that  one member of the County Commissioners, Probate Judge John P. Wood, said something to Geary about Sherrard's fighting.  Two of the 3 Commissioners, went on record as witnesses in  support of Sherrard's request for a federal mandamus demanding Geary grant Sherrard the office of Sheriff.   Geary probably stalled Sherrard after the initial interview so he could learn more from friends about Sherrard's character.

Note #33.  Meerse, p. 258.  Gihon, Chapter 37.

Note #34.  Gihon, Chapter 37.  Geary's Secretary, John Gihon stated there was a conspiracy of leading territorial officials that included Judge Le Compte, to manipulate Sherrard's temper to get at Gov. Geary.  But Judge Le Compte did not grant Sherrard the requested mandamus, on grounds the court was not in session.  Although the pro-slavery powers in Kansas did want to have Geary replaced, the Sherrard incident was probably not a conspiracy to stir up trouble, but rather a situation that worked to their advantage.  Gihon's account does have an admitted bias and his conspiracy theory is probably flase.  Author David E. Meerse asserts the opposite, that it was Geary who conspired to use Sherrard's violent temper to create a rucus at the February 9th meeting in hopes of contrasting his efforts at keeping the peace with the violent actions of the pro-slavery partisans. Meerse says this was so Geary could maintain favor in Washington with the incoming Buchanan administration.  But Meerse has to take a few broad leaps (in my opinion)  to argue his thesis.

Note #35.  Quote from William P.  Richardson, found in: “Recollections of Early Days in Kansas” p. 124,  by Shalor Winchell Eldridge Vol. II Topeka; 1920.  Eldridge cites Council Journal, Kansas Territory, 1857, pp. 164-168. for the quote.  Also found in Gihon, Chapter 21. Richardson, a virulent Pro-slavery member of the Council, who died a few days before its adjournment, in the last letter he wrote has left on record his feeling of mortification with the house for its action, and has corroborated the account of the meeting as recorded by Geary.   He says:  “Sherrard cursed him.  The governor paid no attention to him, but walked on, when Sherrard spit on his back as often as twice––so say the two gentlemen who were with him at the time.  I have no idea that Governor Geary knew the extent of the insult until the persons who were with him informed him.”

Note #36.  Gihon, Chapter 38.

Note #37. Gihon, Chapter 38.

Note #38. Gihon, Chapter 42.

Note #39.  McPherson, Battlecry of Freedom, pp. 163-164.

Note #40.  ibid.

Note #41.  Kansas State Historical Society and University of Kansas.  Territorial Kansas Online, Entry:  “Charles Robinson”  [ ]

Note #42.  Eldridge, p. 129.

Note #43.  ibid.

Note #44.  Martin, p. 123-124.

Note #45.  Library of Congress website, “Chronicling America” biographical information on the owners of the Squatter Sovereign, 1855- 1857.  [ ]


Baltimore, Lester B. "Benjamin Stringfellow: Fight for Slavery on the Missouri Border." Missouri Historical Review 62 (October 1967): 14-29.  Stringfellow's progress from Platte County lawyer to pro-slavery leader to Republican railroader. (as found on Charles Clark’s “KansasBogusLegislature” website.

BRADFORD REPORTER, Found at "Chronicling America" Library of Congress.

Brown, George W.,  “Reminiscences of Governor R.J. Walker: The Rescue of Kansas from Slavery.”   Rockford, Illinois: George W. Brown, 1902. (Baker Library) [as cited by Charles Clark at KansasBogusLegislature ]

Clark, Charles;  “KansasBogusLegislature Website;”  [ ]

Connelley, William E., A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, Chicago : Lewis, 1918. ( 5 v.)  Found at Kansas Gen Web. (Biographical material on Governor Reeder). [ ]

Eldridge, Shalor Winchell,  “Recollections of Early Days in Kansas” Vol. II Topeka; 1920.

Kersey Coates to Andrew Horatio Reeder, Dec. 1 1854. “, Kansas Historical Society.”

Etcheson, Nicole. Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004. As Found on Charles Clark’s  He says, “Latest general history of the time with emphasis on political "agitation" leading to the free state movement.”

Gihon, John H., M.D.;  “Geary And Kansas.”  Philadelphia, Charles C. Rhodes, 1857. Found on-line at [ ]

“, Kansas Historical Society.”

Kansas State Historical Society and University of Kansas.  Territorial Kansas Online, Entry:  “Charles Robinson”  [ ]

Martin, George W.;  “First Two Years of Kansas.” Found in “The First Two Years of Kansas.” p. 126.  Found in “Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1907-1908.” “

McPherson, James;  “Battle Cry of Freedom.”  Oxford Univ. Press, 1988. 

Meerse, David E.,   No Propriety in the Late Course of the Governor; The Geary-Sherrard Affair Re-examined.  Autumn 1976 (Vol. 42, No. 3), pages 237 to 262.  Transcribed by Barbara J. Scott; digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.

Nevins, Alan,  "The Needless Conflict"  American Heritage, August 1956, Vol. 7 Issue 5.

Paxton, William McClung. Annals of Platte County, Missouri. Kansas City: Hudson-Kimberly, 1897.

One of the best of the county histories by a judge who knew many of the early figures. (as found on Charles Clark’s “KansasBogusLegislature” website.)

Phillips, William Addison. The Conquest of Kansas, by Missouri and her Allies: A history of the troubles in Kansas, from the passage of the organic act until the close of July, 1856. Boston: Philips, Sampson and company, 1856.  Free-State spokesman wrote for Horace Greeley.  As found on Charles Clark's KansasBogusLegislature site.

Robinson, Sara T. D.,   “Kansas - Its Interior and Exterior Live.”  As found in Martin, “The First Two Years of Kansas.”

Sanborn, F.B. The Life and Letters of John Brown. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1891.  As found in Martin, “The First Two Years in Kansas.” p. 137.

Thomas Sherwood to Friend Woodward 5 July 1855. “, Kansas Historical Society.”

Shoemaker, Floyd C. "Missouri's Proslavery Fight for Kansas. [Part I]" Missouri Historical Review 48 (April 1954): 221-236; "[Part II]" 48 (July 1954): 325-340; and "[Part III]" 49 (October 1954): 41-54. As Found on Charles Clark’s KansasBogusLegislature website.

SQUATTER SOVEREIGN;  (1855-1857)  Found at "Chronicling America"  Library of Congress.

State Historical Society of Missouri; Digital Collections.

Stewart, John E;   “  Kansas Historical Society”   “John E. Stewart Reminiscence.”

Stowe, Justin Barrett, Thesis “Virginia’s Steward:  A re-examination of the Life and Work of Thornton Stringfellow 1788-1869.”  Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School;  May 28, 2009.

“The Report of the Committee of the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society with the Act of Incorporation.”  ( found on-line at Kansas Collection Books: )

Webb’s Scrap-book.  (Description from George Washington Martin in his essay “The FIrst Two Years of Kansas”);  Note. –– Dr. Thomas Hopkins Webb, was secretary of the Emigrant Aid Company from 1854 to 1860.  During this time he made a scrap-book compilation of newspaper clippings, said to include everything printed about kansas from Maine to New Orleans during the years mentioned.  They embrace seventeen volumes, three columns to the page, on both sides of the sheet, 10 x 12 incense in size, and about 250 pages, neatly bound.  They constitute a wonderful historical mine, representing all shades of opinion.  In all, they number over 3000 pages of closely printed matter. The legislature of 1877 appropriated $1000 for the purpose of obtaining them, but the Histoorical Society succeeded in July, 1878, in getting them for $400.  Doctor Webb was born at Providence, September 21, 1801.  In 1833 he was married to Lydia Athearn, of Nantucket.  He died August 2, 1866, leaving no children.  In the struggle to repel slavery from the soil of Kansas, Doctor Webb was a hearty participant as secretary of the Emigrant Aid Company.  He visited the territory and organized many companies of settlers.  His little guide-book for emigrants was a modest but efficient factor in repelling aggressions which sought to nationalize the Southern institution.  He published two different pamphlets concerning Kansas, each of which went through six editions. –– Secretary.

WEEKLY MINNESOTIAN, Found at "Chronicling America" Library of Congress.

Wilder, Daniel Webster. Annals of Kansas., 2d edition, Topeka: Geo. W. Martin, 1875(?) as found in George Washington Martin’s essay, “The First Two Years of Kansas.”

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“He was intelligent, able and earnest, and I had not met so agreeable a Southern man to talk with the whole two years I had been in the service. ”