Michael J. Malone
Douglas County Law Library

Judicial and Law Enforcement Center
111 East 11th Street
Lawrence, Kansas 66044
Phone: (785) 838-2477
Fax: (785) 838-2455

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.

February 11, 1855 - Leffridge dies after having been shot by Moody.

A short article appeared in the February 14, 1855, edition of the Kansas Free Press titled "Leffridge Dead". The text of the article reads "Leffridge, who was shot some time since by Moody of Westport, died on last Sabbath evening of his wound. Moody, the murderer, has fled the county--gone to parts unknown--but it is supposed by many that he has gone to old Mexico, by way of Santa Fe." This illustrates many of the problems encountered while performing historical research on lesser known events such as this, and what one has to do to write about them. The first challenge is to determine who the two persons mentioned were. Both men are identified only by their last names. Lacking first names or initials makes researching them very difficult. One way to attempt to discover the first names is to consult census records. A search of U.S. Census records for 1850, the most recent one prior to 1855, does not return anyone with the last name Leffridge. This is common, as not everyone was enumerated in any given census, and the misspelling of names is unfortunately also very common. In addition, sometimes a person would change their name when they came to a new territory like Kansas to get a new start, which is also a problem hard to overcome. In contrast to Leffridge, there are over thirty males that are associated with Westport, Missouri, in the 1850 census who are named Moody, and who were between the ages of 16 and 40, the most likely age range for him. This is far too many to make an educated guess as to whether any of them is the correct one. The first Kansas Territorial Census, taken in 1855, is no help either, because the Douglas County portion was not scheduled to be completed until February 14th, well after Leffridge had been shot and three days after he died. Moody had already fled the county some time before that. Another source of information is the FamilySearch genealogy website provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This is often a good resource for finding information on the families of people being researched, but knowing only Leffridge and Moody's last names again results in not being able to find anything about them there. Sometimes a search of the Internet turns up information on other genealogical or historical websites, but this is not the case with either of these two men. Not being able to obtain either man's first name severely limits obtaining background information on them. Nothing about where or when they were born, their ages, their family connections, their occupations, their prior history, or the reasons they were in Kansas Territory and encountered each other can be known. This makes writing about the incident extremely difficult. Compounding the problems is that many older resources on the Internet have been transcribed from the original, and mistakes are made during the transcription process. This was the case with this story. The first reference to this incident that was found was on a web page titled Death Notices from Kansas Territorial Newspapers that is on the Kansas Historical Society website. It was transcribed from an article with the same title published in the August 1950 issue of the journal Kansas Historical Quarterly. In the on-line transcription, Leffridge's name is spelled Leffrillge(1), which caused problems locating the article in the original newspaper article from 1855. Trying to locate Leffrillge when the correct spelling is Leffridge complicates matters significantly. As to the date of Leffridge's death, the article in the Kansas Free Press did not give the date but instead alludes to him having died the previous Sabbath. Assuming that most of the newspaper's readers were Christians, the Sabbath would have been a Sunday. The newspaper was published on Wednesday, February 14th, so the previous Sunday would have been February 11, 1855. Since the newspaper was published in Lawrence, Kansas Territory, this is most likely where Leffridge died. So in the final analysis, we have a man known to us only as Leffridge who died on Sunday, February 11, 1855, in Lawrence, Kansas Territory, after having been shot by a man from Missouri known to us only as Moody and who escaped punishment for the deed. New resources containing old, original documents are being added to the Internet all the time, so someday, more information on this story may come to light, but for now, we will have to be content with the few details that we do have.

(1) The error has since been corrected.

From: Kansas Free State, v. 1, no. 5 (February 14, 1855), p. 2; Territorial Census, 1855, District 2, Kansas Memory website; Death Notices from Kansas Territorial Newspapers, 1854-1861, Kansas Historical Society website; and, Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 18, no. 3 (August 1950), p. 322.

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Created: November 27, 2006; Revised: February 2, 2017