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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