Michael J. Malone
Douglas County Law Library

Judicial and Law Enforcement Center
111 East 11th Street
Lawrence, Kansas 66044
Phone: (785) 838-2477
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This Month in Legal History Archive


This page contains archived entries from the "This Month in Legal History" column published in 2008 in the Michael J. Malone Douglas County Law Library E-Mail Newsletter and on the Home page of this website. Each month, the column features a different event from the history of law and jurisprudence of Douglas County, Kansas, that occurred during the month.

January 1870 - Kansas Supreme Court affirms $1000 judgment for Keokuk - On November 23, 1868, Albert Wiley, Indian Agent for the Sac and Fox Indians in Kansas, had Keokuk, chief of the Sac and Fox Indians, arrested as he was passing through Lawrence, Kansas, on his way to Washington D.C. from the tribe's Reserve in Franklin County, Kansas. Keokuk later filed suit for assault and battery, and false imprisonment against Wiley and a number of other defendants, claiming that he had been "unlawfully, and with force, assaulted … and beat, bruised, wounded, and ill-treated …, and … imprisoned … in the county jail of Douglas county, amongst a lot of thieves, and other vile characters, without any reasonable or probable cause whatever, for the space of one night and two days…." In his suit, Keokuk asked for damages of $10,000. By the time the case went to trial, all defendants had been dismissed from the case except for Wiley. In the trial, the defense testified that, due to lack of funding, no Indians of the tribe were to be allowed to go to Washington during the time period in question, and when Keokuk left the Reserve with the intent to do so, Wiley had a warrant issued for his arrest. After hearing the evidence, the jury found for the plaintiff, Keokuk, and assessed his damages at $1000. Wiley then appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, and in January 1870, the Court affirmed the original judgment and damage assessment. It was not Mr. Wiley's month, for during the same term, the Supreme Court upheld another damage judgment against him, this time for $500, awarded to Man-A-To-Wah, a Sac and Fox Indian who was arrested and imprisoned at the same time as Keokuk. (From: Albert Wiley vs. Keokuk - January Term 1870. 6 Kan. 94; 1870 Kan. LEXIS 66, and Albert Wiley vs. Man-A-To-Wah - January Term 1870. 6 Kan. 111; 1870 Kan. LEXIS 67. Published 1/08.)  Back to top of page

February 18, 1857 - Sheriff William Sherrard shot in a gunfight - In response to a public notice, a crowd of between 200 and 300 people assembled on Capitol Hill, Lecompton, Kansas, seat of the pro-slavery government of territorial Kansas, at 2:00 PM on Wednesday, February 18, 1857. There were official delegates elected by public meetings, editors of the local newspaper, Sam Jones, the former sheriff of the county, federal officials, and ordinary citizens. All knew that the purpose of the meeting was to take some action about recent insults made by 28-year-old William T. Sherrard, a pro-slavery man who had recently been appointed sheriff of Douglas County, to 38-year-old John W. Geary, the current Kansas territorial governor. Sherrard's insults, which had escalated to the level of an attempt at the governor's assassination, stemmed from Geary's refusal to issue the official commission entitling Sherrard to exercise the office to which the board of county commissioners had appointed him. The meeting was called to order and a five-man resolutions committee was appointed and withdrew to a nearby store to perform their duties. While the committee worked, a number of speakers from both sides of the issue addressed the crowd. Three members of the resolutions committee returned and made their report, consisting of a preamble and three resolutions. Sherrard, who was in the crowd, took the stand and began addressing the crowd. He said that anyone who would vote to sustain the resolutions was "a liar, a coward, and a scoundrel." In the crowd about the stand was Joseph W. Sheppard, who said that he endorsed the resolutions. With an oath, Sherrard drew his revolver and commenced firing. Sheppard fired back, wounding Sherrard once, while suffering two wounds himself, none of which were serious. This was the signal for a general outbreak of shooting in the crowd, with perhaps as many as 50 shots being fired. As soon as the firing began, officials tried to restore order. Ex-Sheriff Sam Jones and others separated Sheppard and Sherrard. Two witnesses testified that they heard one of Geary's Secretaries, Richard McAllister say, "Why don't somebody shoot Sherrard?" Sherrard, whose revolver was empty, turned away and drew out another pistol. As he turned, he confronted Free-State supporter John A. W. Jones. John A. W. Jones was Governor Geary's nephew and one of his secretaries, and had been physically attacked by Sherrard three weeks before. As Sherrard moved toward him, he drew out his own pistol and shot Sherrard in the head. In the words of a witness, "I saw Sherrard leap into the air as a bullet struck him in the forehead." There were conflicting reports whether Sherrard's pistol fired. Fatally wounded, his brains oozing from the bullet hole, Sherrard was carried off to die. He clung to life for more than two days, dying on the morning of February 21, 1857. John A. W. Jones was arrested and arraigned for murder, but, fearing retribution from pro-slavery men, managed to free himself from custody and leave Kansas. (From: No Propriety in the Late Course of the Governor: The Geary-Sherrard Affair Reexamined, by David E. Meerse, Kansas Historical Quarterly, Autumn, 1976 (Vol. 42, No. 3), pp. 237 to 262. Published 2/08.)  Back to top of page

March 8, 1858 - Charles Freeman convicted of selling “spirituous liquors” without a license - On March 8, 1858, in Lecompton, Kansas, the Second Judicial District indicted, tried, and convicted Charles Freeman of selling “spirituous liquors” without having procured a license as a “grocer, dram-shop keeper, or tavern keeper, contrary to the statute in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the territory of Kansas.” Freeman, who was a resident of Douglas County at the time of the offense, appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of the Territory of Kansas.

The Supreme Court struck down Freeman’s conviction in The Territory of Kansas v. Charles Freeman in December 1858, on the grounds that the indictment in the case had been “clearly defective” because it had not named “any county of the district, or any place in the district.” In 1858, the Second Judicial District contained eight counties, each of which had set separate jurisdictional limits within its own boundaries. The court found that the question of “In which of these [counties] was this offense committed?” impossible to determine because of the absence of such written information on the indictment.

Even more importantly perhaps, the court noted that in the 1855 Statutes of Kansas Territory, it had been decreed that: “A special election is hereby ordered, to be held on the first Monday of October, in the year of 1855, and on the first Monday of October every two years thereafter, in each municipal township, in every county in the territory, and in each incorporated city or town in the territory, to take the vote of the people upon the question, whether dram-shops and tavern licenses shall be issued in the said township, incorporated city or town, for the next two years thereafter.¹” Without being able to identify the location of Freeman’s offense, the Supreme Court found it impossible to fairly imply any potentially applicable township statute to his case.

Historically speaking, the case of The Territory of Kansas v. Charles Freeman underlines the early significance of alcohol in Douglas County and territorial Kansas in the 1850s. The Santa Fe Trail, the main artery for a voluminous trade with Mexico, ran directly through the site of present day Baldwin City in southern Douglas County. Long trains of Conestoga wagons, laden with cottons and woolens, silks, velvets, and hardware would set out from Independence, MO, pass through Westport, and head southwest for Santa Fe. They would return with furs, blankets, and heavy bags of Spanish gold and silver. Cattle were drove on this trail in large numbers too, not only for trade but also for the benefit of the drovers themselves. Alcohol was a highly valued commodity among both the traders and cattle drovers. As early as 1843, the annual monetary value of the entire trade was an estimated $450,000. The 1850s however, was an even more successful decade though for Douglas County alcohol traders, as during the “Bleeding Kansas” period in the 1850s, the California Trail was rerouted from the south and ran through the Wakarusa Valley south of Lawrence. All of this traffic gave rise to a large demand for “spirituous liquors” from willing peddlers, and subsequent calls to regulate this trade.

Unfortunately, during this period in Kansas, a large number of the alcohol traders were committed to selling their product to the numerous Indians that lived in eastern Kansas. When Lewis Henry Morgan visited Kansas territories in 1859, among the tribes he visited, which included the Kansa, Osage, Pawnee, Delaware, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Kaskaskia, Peoria, Wea, Piankashaw, Ottawa, Sauk, Fox, Iowa, Miami, and Wyandotte, he witnessed large numbers of illegally operating white alcohol traders targeting Indians primarily in their trade. Douglas County was a common residence for such traders, especially considering the close proximity to the Ottawa Reservation approximately ten miles south of Lawrence.

In the winter months of 1855, the widow of a missionary who had lived among the Ottawa, John Meeker, wrote upon his death about the conditions of the Ottawa on the reservation: "As to the poor forsaken Indians I know not what to say. They feel that they have lost a true friend, and will never find another. In addition to this, they are in a suffering condition. On account of the great failure of the crops last season, they are left without anything to eat. Some of them are now living on roots. I fear they will die of hunger. Provisions are very high here. The white people who are settling around us are some of the worst in the world, and are standing ready to injure the Indians in every possible way in their power. This little Church is smitten. The tender branches are surrounded by enemies.²"

The white people that the missionary’s wife alluded to, no doubt, included alcohol traders like Charles Freeman from Douglas County, who were active participants in the thriving, and sometimes illegal, alcohol trade in Kansas. While Freeman was exonerated in The Territory of Kansas v. Charles Freeman, the case clarified for local officials the legal methods and manners with which illegal alcohol traders could be dealt. This realization, no doubt, contributed to the gradual diminishment of the trade in Douglas County in coming decades. (¹ Statutes of Kansas Territory, 1855, chap. 64, sec. 1, page 322, and ² Qtd. in Miner, H. Craig and William Unrau. The End of Indian Kansas. (Lawrence: U of Kansas P, 1978) 67. Published 3/08.)  Back to top of page

April 9, 1862 - The Drunken Bowler Shooting - As reported in the Kansas State Journal, a soldier who was serving in the 7th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry Regiment under Colonel Charles Jennison was bowling while drunk. Frustrated that he was unable to hit any of the pins, the drunken soldier began firing his gun at them. A Captain Walker, presumably Captain Samuel Walker, intervened. The soldier then attempted to shoot the Captain, but had no better aim with his gun than he had had with the bowling ball and missed him. He fired his gun again, but, his aim not having improved, hit a fellow soldier instead. Captain Walker then shot the drunken soldier in the hip. The wound suffered by the innocent soldier was deemed to be painful but not to be serious. The fate of the drunken soldier and the seriousness of his wound were not reported. (From: Incidents of Reports of Violent Crimes from the Lawrence Area from 1861 to 1865, by Sarah Martin. Unpublished manuscript, 2002. Published 4/08.)  Back to top of page

May 21, 1856 - Sheriff Jones gives Lawrence a hot time - On May 21, 1856, Sheriff Sam Jones led a large pro-slavery posse against Lawrence, Kansas, the center of Free State activity in Kansas Territory. Sheriff Jones claimed to have a warrant issued by Judge Lecompte of the United States District Court in Kansas. The warrant was said to be intended to stop the supposed insurrectionist activities of the Free State men in the town, which Jones said were centered in the Free State Hotel, home of the New England Immigrant Aid Company. To enforce the supposed warrant, Jones and the posse proceeded to attack the hotel. Despite receiving no resistance to their attack, the pro-slavery men burned it to the ground. It was later determined that no such warrant had ever been issued. The posse also attacked the two Free-State newspapers in town, the Herald of Freedom and the Kansas Free State, destroying their presses and throwing their type into the Kaw River. They justified the destruction of the two newspapers by citing the "gag law" enacted the previous year by the pro-slavery "Bogus" Kansas territorial legislature, which, despite the freedom of the press guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution, made it a crime to print or in any other way assert that people did not have a right to hold slaves in Kansas Territory. The sack of Lawrence was one more step in the increasing violence of the Bleeding Kansas era, and led to the so-called "Pottawatomie Massacre," on May 24, which then led to the Battle of Black Jack on June 2. Early the next year, Jones resigned as sheriff, reportedly because his request to use balls and chains to restrain incarcerated Free-State men was denied by then Kansas Territorial Governor John Geary. Jones then left the territory and settled in New Mexico. (From: Judge Lecompte and the "Sack of Lawrence," May 21, 1856, by James C. Malin. Kansas Historical Quarterlies, November 1953 (Vol. 20, No. 8), pages 553 to 597; O. E. L to Dear Friends, Learnard, Oscar E., May 23, 1856. Territorial Kansas Online; and Samuel J. Jones (Sheriff), ca.1820-ca.1880. Territorial Kansas Online. Published 5/08.)  Back to top of page

June 2, 1856 - Deputy Marshal Henry Clay Pate gets taken by "Old Brown" at Black Jack - On the night of May 24th-25th, five men who supported having Kansas Territory be admitted to the Union as a slave state were dragged from their houses near Pottawatomie Creek in Franklin County, Kansas, and were hacked to death by broad swords, in what has become known as the Pottawatomie Massacre. Descriptions given by the surviving family members were said to match the description of the abolitionist John Brown. This, combined with his known hostility to slavery and those supporting the proslavery cause, lead many to believe that Brown was responsible for the deed. Henry Clay Pate, a 24-year old proslavery man originally from Virginia, who had participated in the sack of Lawrence, Kansas, on May 21st, was able to get himself appointed deputy United States' marshal, with the intent to "Get Old Brown." Pate and his proslavery militia of sixty to seventy men were camped at Black Jack Springs Campground, a popular stopping place along the Santa Fe Trail in southeastern Douglas County, Kansas Territory. On June 1, 1856, some of his men decided to raid Prairie City, a Free-State town some three miles west of the campground. When they arrived in town, they found around twenty armed Free-State men there who were led by John Brown. They had not bargained on this, so, rather than fighting, Pate's men left and headed back to Black Jack. Some of Brown's men wanted to follow and attack them immediately, but Brown said no, it would be better to wait and attack the camp at dawn when Pate and his men would not be expecting trouble. Brown and his men waited until dark and then moved out towards Black Jack, arriving in the vicinity early in the morning of June 2nd. It was still dark when they occupied positions on the high ground overlooking the camp where Pate's men were sleeping. Sometime after first light, probably around 4:30 AM, one of the Free-State men mistakenly exposed himself in the growing light and one of Pate's sentries saw him and fired his weapon, signaling the start of the Battle of Black Jack. As the battle progressed, Pate and his men abandoned the superior position they held around their wagons and moved down towards the Free-Staters and into the eastern branch of a "Y" shaped creek. Brown and his men moved down to occupy the western branch of the creek. After several hours of intense fighting with neither side gaining the advantage, Brown decided to force the issue by ordering two of his men to begin shooting Pate's horses and mules, knowing that if Pate were stranded on foot, he and his men would be in serious trouble. Pate also knew he and his men would be in trouble without animals to carry them away if Free-State reinforcements arrived, so, as his animals begin dying, Pate began to think about trying to get a truce. Soon after, Frederick Brown, one of John Brown's sons, rode a horse down between the opposing forces, waiving his sword over his head yelling "Father, we have them surrounded and have cut off their lines of communications." Pate thought that Frederick was the vanguard of Free-State reinforcements and immediately put up a flag of truce to get the battle stopped. He strode over to Brown and began dictating what the terms of the truce would be, acting more like a conqueror than a man asking for a truce. Pate declared that he was a deputy Unites States marshal and was acting under orders of the government looking for "certain persons" who had been indicted. Brown became fed up with Pate's actions and demanded that he surrender unconditionally. At first, Pate refused, protesting that Brown was violating the rules of war by not honoring the white flag. When Brown pointed his cocked pistol at Pate, he quickly agreed to surrender, thereby ending the Battle of Black Jack after three hours of intense fighting in which a number of men were wounded but, thanks to prompt medical attention, no one was killed. Brown called the Battle of Black Jack, "the first regular battle fought between Free-State and proslavery forces in Kansas." Eastern newspapers called it "civil war." Pate later commented on the battle, writing, "I went to take Old Brown, but Old Brown took me." (From: To Purge this Land With Blood, by Stephen Oates. Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1970; and The Black Jack Battlefield and Nature Park website. Published 6/08.)  Back to top of page

July 1970 - Two young men are killed by police officers during a violent summer in Lawrence - In early 1970, the racial and student unrest that had been building in Lawrence, Kansas, over a number of years began to boil over. There had been walkouts, confrontations, and violence that spring at Lawrence High School. On the night of April 20, an arson fire gutted the Student Union at the University of Kansas. On April 21, Kansas Governor Robert Docking declared a three-day dusk to dawn curfew in Lawrence and sent in Kansas Highway Patrol troopers and members of the Kansas National Guard to assist the Lawrence Police maintain order. Feeding off each other, tension and violence in the city increased throughout the rest of that spring and into the summer. Gunshots could be heard ringing out nearly every night. Late in the evening of July 16, 1970, two Lawrence police officers were in the vicinity of Afro House, a black cultural center established earlier in the summer. They observed Rick "Tiger" Dowdell, a 19 year-old Lawrence native, leave Afro House and enter a Volkswagen driven by a woman. When the car drove off, the officers followed. Eventually, the Volkswagen turned down an alley and was followed in by the patrol car. The Volkswagen stopped in the alley and Dowdell got out. Gunfire was heard, and Dowdell was killed by a shot to the back of the head. The officers reported that Dowdell had a gun in his hand when he exited the car and began to run away. He allegedly fired on one of the officers and was hit when the officer fired three shots in return. Many members of the black community in Lawrence disputed the police version, charging that the officers were gunning for Dowdell, that they had murdered him, and that the gun the police produced was a "throw down" planted by the officers to justify their actions. Tensions in town increased, and on July 18th, a Lawrence Police officer was seriously wounded in a gun battle near Afro House. Then, on the night of Monday, July 20th, there was another killing. Police were called to the vicinity of the Gaslight Tavern, a bar just off the Kansas University campus on Oread Avenue that was patronized by Kansas University students It was frequented by local hippies and was a center for student activists in town. Police were responding to a report that a city fire truck had been fired on by a sniper in the area. When the police arrived, there was a crowd of young people in the street outside the Gaslight. Some members of the crowd began to do things to confront the police. They overturned a Volkswagen, tried to sets some bushes on fire, and opened a fire hydrant. The police formed up in a line across Oread Avenue, a block north of the Gaslight near the Rock Chalk Café, another bar and student hangout, and began advancing toward the Gaslight, carrying shotguns and rifles aimed in the direction of the crowd. Several teargas grenades were thrown at the crowd, but the wind was in the south that night, as it often is in the summer in Kansas, and the dense teargas cloud drifted back into the line of officers. A number of shots rang out. In response to the shooting, pandemonium broke out in the crowd of young people by the Gaslight. Eventually, someone noticed a young man lying in the street, bleeding from a bullet wound in the head. The young man was Nick Rice, a white 18-year-old Kansas University student. Several people carried Rice into the Gaslight, followed almost immediately by teargas canisters fired into the building by the police. Rice soon died of his wound. Many observers that night reported that police had fired wildly into the crowd. Police denied the charge and instead claimed Rice was shot by a sniper. Tensions in town continued to increase, as did the fear of major violence erupting. On July 22, an all-white panel at a coroner's inquest exonerated the officer who killed Rick Dowdell of any wrongdoing. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation also found no wrongdoing in the shooting. On Thursday, July 23rd, Rick Dowdell was buried, his interment preceded by a large funeral procession that included his coffin, draped with the red, black, and green Black Liberation flag, being pulled on a wagon behind a mule, followed by mourners wearing black. The procession wound it is way through town, its route including several blocks of Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. The city's annual Sidewalk Bazaar was that day, and the sight of the mule-drawn wagon and its burden followed by a long line of black mourners walking in total silence, juxtaposed by the large suddenly hushed crowd of mostly white bargain hunters lining both sides of the street on merchandise-covered sidewalks, made the evening news on national television that day. Also on that day, a newspaper article reported that the woman who had driven the car Rick Dowdell exited just prior to his being shot said that she had heard only one shot, not the multiple shots reported by police, making many question the officer's account and the inquest's findings. In response to the killings of Dowdell and Rice, tension and fear remained high. The Kansas Governor sent in more Highway Patrol Troopers and relative calm was restored. Police officers were reported to have been offended by this, the implication being that the Lawrence Police Department was not capable of handling the situation. In August, an investigating team from the President's Commission on Campus Unrest found that the Lawrence Police Department had fired M-1 rifles and shotguns "at a dangerous level" in the July 20, 1970, incident in which Nick Rice was killed. The lack of a significant independent local review of the shootings prompted many at the time to charge that there was an official cover-up of police wrongdoing. Although tension remained high the remainder of the year and there were scattered incidents of violence, including two bombings, one at Lawrence High School and another at Summerfield Hall at Kansas University, there were no other killings associated with the unrest. (From: "This is America?": the Sixties in Lawrence, Kansas, by Rusty Monhollon. Palgrave, 2002, and personal recollections of the Law Librarian. Published 7/08.)  Back to top of page

August 1865 - Man is accused of being one of Quantrill's Raiders - The August 22, 1865, edition of the Kansas Daily Tribune, reported that a Joseph Longacre had been taken into custody in Lawrence, Kansas. He had been recognized as being one of the men who had followed William Clarke Quantrill in his deadly raid on Lawrence on August 21, 1863, in which over 150 unarmed men and boys had been killed and most of the town burned to the ground. Longacre admitted to knowing Bushwhackers, guerrillas from Missouri who raided into Kansas during the Civil War, but denied that he had participated in the raid. The paper reported that his neighbors in Kingsville, Missouri, insisted that he was, in fact, a raider. The next day's edition of the paper reported that Longacre had been captured by an unnamed black man. Further reports of Longacre's fate in Lawrence have not been found, but, considering the hatred felt in town for Quantrill and his men, he was in a very dangerous situation indeed. Apparently, he somehow must have survived his predicament and made it home, as records show that a Joseph Decatur Longacre, born in Roane County, Tennessee, on February 26, 1820, died in Johnson County, Missouri, on January 6, 1902, and was buried in Bluff Springs Cemetery in Kingsville, Missouri. One wonders how well he got along with his Kingsville "neighbors" after he got back home. (From: Incidents of Reports of Violent Crimes from the Lawrence Area from 1861 to 1865, by Sarah Martin. Unpublished manuscript, 2002; and, the Joseph Decatur Longacre page on the Find a Grave website. Published 8/08.)  Back to top of page

September 1857 - Mail robbery is discovered - As reported in the September 5, 1857, issue of the Herald of Freedom newspaper, a mail bag had been fished out of the Missouri River near Kansas City several weeks earlier. The bag had a large tear in it and most of its contents were missing. The Kansas City Postmaster had determined that it was a bag from Lawrence, Kansas Territory, which was destined for the East. He made that determination because the remaining contents of the bag were letters bearing the Lawrence, K.T., stamp of July 11. It was assumed that the bag had been robbed and that it had been sunk to avoid suspicion. The article ended with an observation that "A large amount of money goes out in nearly every mail from Lawrence." Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, there was another article in the same issue of the newspaper titled "Mail Routes." In the second article, the writer pointed out the poor quality of mail service in Kansas. He observed that the mail was usually carried on horseback, and was insufficient and irregular, and even though there was a daily mail stage between Leavenworth and Lawrence, the mail only went out once a week. Perhaps, given the observations in the second article, the events reported in the first article are not surprising. (From: Herald of Freedom, Vol. 3, Issue 4 (September 5, 1857), pp. 2-3. Published 9/08.)  Back to top of page

October 1883 - A fight over a needle - The October 3, 1883, issue of the Lawrence Daily Journal in Lawrence, Kansas, reported that there had been a fight at the jail. The fight started over a needle that one of the prisoners was using to repair his clothes. The prisoner with the needle had exchanged words, presumably heated, with another prisoner, who had then pulled a small knife from his boot. The ensuing fight resulted in the prisoner with the needle being very badly cut. The authorities were reported as not being completely sure how the knife had escaped prior searches, but were sure that it was because the knife was small and was hidden in the boot. Apparently, they were not concerned that prisoners were allowed to have needles in the jail. (From: Violent Crimes, 1880 to 1885, by Katie Ambler. Unpublished manuscript, 2002. Published 10/08.)  Back to top of page

November 21, 1855 - The murder of Charles Dow sparks off the Wakarusa War - In July of 1854, Franklin M. Coleman came to Kansas Territory. In September of that year, he went to Hickory Point in southern Douglas County and there jumped the claim of a non-resident named Frasier. Charles W. Dow came from Ohio to Hickory Point in February of 1855, and jumped a claim directly east of Coleman's that belonged to a man named William White. The land in the area had not yet been surveyed, so Coleman and Dow worked out a mutual agreement on the location of a conditional boundary line between their two claims, pending the completion of the official survey. The fact that they could agree on anything might be surprising, since Coleman supported having Kansas be admitted to the Union as a state that allowed slavery, while Dow opposed slavery, and supported the admittance of Kansas to the Union as a free state. When the boundary of the land reserved for the Shawnee Indian Tribe, the so-called Shawnee Reserve Line, was surveyed, Free-State settlers in the area began recognizing the location of land claims based on that line. Doing so moved the north-south boundary line between all claims in the area, including Coleman and Dow's, two hundred and fifty yards to the west. As with other pro-slavery men, Coleman did not recognize this as the official government survey, and so did not recognize any changes resulting from it. He continued to cut timber on land that Dow now thought to be his. A dispute arose over this and there were several confrontations between the two men. On the morning of November 21, 1855, Dow and Jacob Branson, the man with whom Dow was boarding, went to stop Coleman, who was cutting timber on the disputed land. Branson was armed but Dow was not. On the approach of Dow and Branson, Coleman stopped cutting timber and went to his cabin to get his shotgun. Seeing Coleman leave, Dow proceeded to a blacksmith shop in the area to get some repairs made, arriving there around noon. Dow stayed until the work was completed and then began walking home, passing the house of William McKinney on the way. Coleman was at the house talking to McKinney, and as Dow passed by, Coleman joined him. The two men talked while they walked, eventually arriving at Coleman's house, where they continued the conversation after they arrived. Eventually, the conversation ended and Dow left Coleman. As Dow walked away, Coleman raised his shotgun, aimed at Dow, and pulled the trigger. The percussion cap exploded but the gun did not discharge. Dow heard the noise and turned to Coleman, motioning with his finger while saying something, and then turned his back on Coleman to resume his trip home. Coleman replaced the exploded cap with a fresh one, aimed, and pulled the trigger again. The gun fired and Dow dropped dead in the road, having been hit by at least nine lead slugs. That night Coleman fled, eventually turning himself over to Douglas County Sheriff Sam Jones, a pro-slavery man. Jones took Coleman to Lecompton, Kansas, where a Justice of the Peace released him on a $500 bond. Although Dow's murder was over a land dispute and not because he was a Free-State man, the political tension in the area escalated as a result of partisans on both sides taking opposing views of the event. Dow's Free-State friends, including Jacob Branson, who had been with Dow earlier on the day he was shot, began organizing to get Coleman and bring him to justice. A pro-slavery friend of Coleman swore out a warrant for the arrest of Branson, saying that he felt threatened by him. Acting on the warrant, Sheriff Jones arrested Branson. This precipitated Free-State men from Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free-State movement in the Territory, to stage a rescue of Branson from the Sheriff. Jones is reported to have then sent out a call for help in recapturing Branson, the response being a force of around 1,500 Missourians coming into Kansas to attack Lawrence. Lawrence was besieged by the Missourians beginning December 1st. Although they surrounded the city, they did not attack, presumably because the town militia was ready to fight, having been recently organized by the abolitionist John Brown. After about a week, a peace treaty ended the siege and tensions subsided somewhat. The Wakarusa War, the war without a battle, ended, but the factional violence in Bleeding Kansas did not. (From: A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918. Transcribed in 1998 by Carolyn Ward, KsGenWeb Project website. Published 11/08.)  Back to top of page

December 11, 1970 - A bomb in Summerfield Hall is no joke - 1970 was a violent year in Lawrence, Kansas, perhaps the most violent since 1863, the year of Quantrill's Raid. The Student Union at the University of Kansas was burned in an arson fire on the night of April 20, 1970. Two young men were shot and killed by police within four days of each other in July. Tensions were high. In anticipation of trouble, KU officials had begun locking down the interior doors of all campus buildings after 6:00 pm. At approximately 10:56 pm on the night of December 11, 1970, a call came in to the switchboard of the Computation Center in Summerfield Hall on the KU campus. The caller told the operator that, “There is a bomb in the machine room set to go off in three minutes. This is no joke.” Computation Center staff immediately began evacuating people from the building out into the 20-degree night air. Bomb threats on campus were not a rare occurrence that year, and three students went back into the building to resume their work, assuming that the bomb threat was a hoax. At 11:00 pm, a bomb exploded, blowing out a cinder block wall and bending the large metal doors leading into the computer room. Shrapnel from the blast was sprayed across campus to the east and south. The three students who had reentered the building were all injured, but even though two of them were just 10 feet away from the bomb when it went off, none of the injuries was serious. There was extensive superficial damage to the building, but no structural damage was found. The University's mainframe computer was not damaged. It was thought that the force of the explosion was blocked by a stairwell and boxes of computer paper and blank student schedules. The locking of interior doors at 6:00 pm probably prevented the bomb from being placed in a location that would have caused more damage. There was an extensive investigation into the bombing by the Lawrence Police Department, the Lawrence Fire Department, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Six truckloads of debris were sifted for clues, but nothing incriminating was found. Many suspected that the Weathermen, a radical offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society, were responsible, but there was no evidence to implicate them. In spite of all the best efforts of the authorities and $2,500 being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators, it was never determined who bombed the building. The building was repaired and today houses the KU Business School. No one has ever taken responsibility for the bombing, leaving the identity of the bombers a mystery to this day. (From: This Is No Joke, by Douglas Harvey, on the This Week In KU History website. Published 12/08.)  Back to top of page

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