Michael J. Malone
Douglas County Law Library

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Lawrence, Kansas 66044
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This Month in Legal History

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This page contains the "This Month in Legal History" column as published in the current Michael J. Malone Douglas County Law Library E-Mail Newsletter. The column features a different event from the history of law and jurisprudence of Douglas County, Kansas, that occurred during the month. It is published monthly in the Michael J. Malone Douglas County Law Library E-Mail Newsletter and on the Home page of this website.

Archived entries from this and previous years can be accessed by visiting the This Month in Legal History Archive page on this website.

December 14, 1921 - Emily Hunt Grover, widow of Joel Grover and veteran of the "illegal" Underground Railroad, dies at her home southwest of Lawrence in Douglas County, Kansas.

Emily Jane Hunt was born on September 1, 1839, in Medway, Massachusetts, the second of six children of George Washington Hunt and Nancy Mary Hunt, née Adams. Emily's older brother was Charles Wilberforce Hunt, and her younger siblings in descending order were George Adams Hunt, Nancy Augusta Hunt, Harriet Eldora Hunt, and Caroline Marie Hunt. The elder George was known to be a strong proponent of the abolition of slavery in the United States, which is witnessed by the middle name given to his first born child, undoubtedly in honor of William Wilberforce, an English politician and philanthropist who was most responsible for the abolition of both the international slave trade and slavery in the English Empire. Although Wilberforce died in 1833, three years before the birth of Charles, his international notoriety would have made him well known to the elder George. The extent of the Hull Family's abolitionist activities in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where the family resided, is unknown, but considering that the town was known to be a hotbed of antislavery activity in the state, it was likely significant. Whatever it was there, the family's abolitionist focus shifted dramatically when Kansas Territory was opened to white settlement with the signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had made the line of latitude of the southern boundary of Missouri to be the northern boundary for new slave states to form, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act threw that out and would allow slavery in any new territory by a majority vote of the territory's residents. Abolitionist back east determined that Kansas would be free, and many went there to make it so. The elder George was one of the first to go. He left his wife and children in Massachusetts and came to Kansas in the summer of 1854, soon after the signing of the Act. Two parties of men under the auspices of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, a society organized to send Free State settlers and aid to Kansas, arrived in the latter part of the summer. There were at least four men from Fitchburg in the second party, whom Hunt likely knew. One of them was Charles Robinson, future first governor of the State of Kansas. Another member of the party was Joel Grover, a Free State man from Richmond, New York, born August 5, 1825, who also would later figure prominently in the story. The men helped to establish the town of Lawrence, with Robinson as president of the Town Company and Grover as town marshal. Hunt was a carpenter by trade, and likely assisted in building the cabins of the early residents of Lawrence. He left Kansas and traveled back to Massachusetts in the autumn of 1854. Since her father was temporarily occupied with abolitionist activities in Massachusetts during the spring of 1855, Emily Hunt traveled out to Kansas with Sara Robinson, who was coming out there to join her husband, Charles Robinson. Emily resided with the Robinsons once arriving in Lawrence, and for a time was employed by them as a servant. On April 17, 1855, the elder George Hunt departed Boston at the head of a party of New England Emigrant Aid Company settlers bound for Kansas Territory. After returning to Kansas, George was appointed commissary general of the first division of Kansas Free State volunteers, organized to defend settlers in the Territory from proslavery men bent on making Kansas a slave state when it joined the Union. He joined in with another man and built the Free State Hotel in Lawrence, which was the headquarters of the New England Aid Company there. George Hunt, Charles Robinson, and Joel Grover were closely associated, which undoubtedly led to Grover and Emily Hunt becoming acquainted. Grover was commissioned as Colonel of the 6th Regiment, First Brigade of Kansas Volunteers in November to help defend Lawrence from attack in the so called "Wakarusa War", a war which ended without a battle. In the spring of 1856, George Hunt returned to Massachusetts and led another party of Free State settlers to Kansas, which including his wife and younger children. His two sons, Charles and George A. also came out to Kansas around this time. On May 21, Lawrence was sacked and burned by a large group of proslavery men led by the proslavery sheriff of Douglas County, Sam Jones. The Free State Hotel was destroyed, as well as Robinson's house. The Robinsons were taken in by the Hunts until they could rebuild their home. Joel Grover took part in the battles of Franklin, Fort Saunders, and Fort Titus in the spring and summer of 1856, but despite all the violence and uncertainty in and around Lawrence, a romance developed between him and Emily Hunt. They were married on October 13, 1857, and he brought his bride home to his farm a few miles southwest of Lawrence in Douglas County. The violence in the Territory diminished somewhat, and the couple began settling into married life. Joel built a fine big stone barn on their land in 1858. In November of that year, a friend of Joel's from New York named Samuel Reed came to stay with them. The Grovers were active not only in the Free State cause in Kansas Territory, but also in the broader antislavery movement including the Underground Railroad. Joel was known to be an associate of the abolitionist John Brown, who had come to Kansas in 1855. In December 1858, Brown was approached by Jim Daniels, a slave who had come into Kansas from his home in Missouri, with a request to free members of his family who were scheduled to soon be sold south. Brown led men in a raid from Kansas into Vernon County, Missouri, on December 20th. They freed 11 slaves, including the family of Daniels, and brought them into Kansas. Word quickly spread of the daring raid, and according to Reed, Joel was "boiling over with abolitionism." The refugees and their protectors slowly moved north through the Territory, avoiding men sent out to recapture them. Near the town of Garnett, Kansas Territory, a baby boy was born to Daniels' wife, who named her new freeborn son John Brown Daniels. Brown came to Joel and Emily Grover's house on the evening of January 11, 1859, and again on the 14th, this time accompanied by Jeremiah G. Anderson(1), who was one of the men who had been on the raid into Missouri. They all had a long talk and ate supper together there. James Montgomery, a militant advocate of the Free State cause in Kansas, arrived later that evening. Brown and the others stayed the night. They left the evening of the 15th and headed south, to where the escaped slaves were hiding. Sometime in the night of the 23rd/24th of January, the twelve fugitives from bondage arrived at the Grover farm and were given refuge in the Grover's barn. By sheltering them there, Joel and Emily were in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and were subject to massive fines and long prison sentences, but like so many other conductors on the Underground Railroad, they bravely followed their conscience. It has previously been thought that the fugitives remained with the Grovers until the 28th before continuing their journey north to freedom, but recently discovered information(2) has raised some doubt as to the accuracy of this. Regardless of the exact timing of their departure, after Joel, Emily, and Samuel bade farewell to the party, Brown led the fugitives to Topeka, where they were given shelter. They then went north to near Holton, and eventually on into Nebraska. Their final destination in the United States was Detroit, Michigan, where the fugitives crossed over to freedom in Canada on March 12, 1859. Despite the coming Civil War, Joel and Emily began a family. Their first child was a boy, born in the spring of 1860. They named him Frank Guy Grover. A daughter, Helen, who may have been known as Nellie later in life, was born around 1863. On August 21 of that year, Confederate raiders under the command of William Clarke Quantrill, one of the most notorious guerilla leaders in the Civil War, attacked Lawrence, burned most of the town, and killed upwards of 200 unarmed men and boys. Despite Joel Grover's previous Free State support and his and Emily's less than secret antislavery activities, he and his farm were not visited by the raiders, and all there survived that horrible day intact. As Lawrence was rebuilt and peace came to Douglas County, Joel and Emily settled into farm life. Around 1865, Charles R. Grover, known as Charlie, was born, and Cora E. was born about 1868. Joel was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives from the 36th District for the 1868/1869 legislative session. The elder George Hunt, Emily's father, died in Lawrence on March 25, 1870. The Grover family continued to grow, with Ernest Joab Grover being born on July 22, 1870, and Lillian L. around 1874. A seventh child, Jay, was born August 24, 1878. Great sorrow intruded into the family when Joel Grover died on July 28, 1879, of unreported causes, and was buried on the farm. Emily was left to care for six children under the age of 18, but was likely aided by her mother and sisters. Nancy Mary Hunt, Emily's mother, died on April 11, 1897. Lillian married Herman Brown on July 21, 1899. Most of the Grover children stayed close to home, and by 1910, only Charlie and Lillian were no longer living on the farm. By 1920, Frank and Cora were also gone, but to where is not known. The family experienced another loss when Emily Jane Hunt Grover died on December 14, 1921, and was buried beside Joel on the farm. By 1940, Frank had returned to the farm and was living there with Ernest and Jay. He died sometime after this, leaving his two brothers alone on the old home place. Ernest and Jay had never married, and lived together and actively farmed the land there until they both became ill in the fall of 1952. They spent some time in Lawrence Memorial Hospital and then in the county convalescent hospital, but eventually returned home. On Saturday, January 17, 1953, the medical condition of both brothers worsened, and they were quickly returned to the convalescent hospital. Ernest Grover died there that afternoon, and Jay Grover died the following afternoon, January 18, 1953. They were buried next to each other in Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence. With their passing, Lillian, whose home was in Palo Alto, California, was the only child of Joel and Emily Grover still living. When she died is not known. The farm was sold and passed to various owners, eventually being subdivided into suburban lots as part of a growing Lawrence. A controversy erupted in 1980 as to what was the fate of Joel and Emily's graves. There was no record of them ever having been moved prior to development of the individual lots. Later in the decade, the City of Lawrence acquired the barn where the escaped slaves had sheltered, the only remaining structure built by Joel Grover. It was by then surrounded by houses and lawns, and the City converted it into a fire station, preserving the majority of the structure. In 2006, the barn was deactivated as a fire station and the City began looking for a way to utilize the building in the future. One proposal was to turn the barn into an Underground Railroad Interpretative Center/Abolition Museum, but this never gained the interest of those who had the power to make it a reality. On February 14, 2006, the Lawrence City Commission passed an ordinance designating the barn a landmark on the Lawrence Register of Historic Place. So where are the remains of Joel and Emily Grover? Have they been reburied in some unknown location, or are these heroes of the struggle against slavery and of Douglas County history lying unknown and unhonored in someone's backyard? And what of the only enduring monument to their lives and struggles in Kansas, the Grover Barn? Will it also be allowed to decay and disappear due to apathy and the shortsightedness of local officials?

(1) The two visits are noted in a letter from Samuel Reed to his sister Caroline.

(2) A notation inside the front cover of a diary that Samuel Reed kept while in Kansas, reads, "Captain John Brown on the evening of the 24th of January 1859, I gave him a good shake of the hand just as he left in the direction of the north pole with 12."

From: George Washington Hunt, Family Search website; G.W. Hunt, 1860 U.S. Census, Lawrence City, Douglas County, Kansas, 6/23/1860; Proceedings of the Fitchburg Historical Society and Papers Relating to the History of the Town Read by Some of the Members, Volume II, Fitchburg, Mass., The Historical Society, 1897, pp. 290-292; Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1907-1908: Embracing …, Vol. X, Topeka, State Printing Office, 1908, p. 271; Ernest Joab Grover, Find A Grave website; Jay Gould Grover, Find A Grave website; Lawrence: Survivors of Quantrill's Raid, by Katie H. Armitage, Charleston, SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2010, p. 113; Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 65, no. 299 (December 15, 1921), p. 2; Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 95, no. 16 (January 19, 1953), p. 2; and, Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 122, no. 90 (March 30, 1980), p. 6A.

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Created: November 27, 2006; Revised: December 11, 2014