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 Archive


This page contains archived entries from the "This Month in Legal History" column published in 2012 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 7, 1857 - Sam Jones resigns as sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas Territory - Samuel J. Jones was appointed as the first sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas Territory, on August 27, 1855. He had been born in Virginia, but by late 1854, he was living in Westport, Missouri, with his wife and two young children. He was one of several thousand men from Missouri who came across the border into Kansas Territory on March 30, 1855, and ensured that the proslavery cause would win the territorial election that day by taking over the polling places, in many cases not allowing Free-State men to vote, and seizing ballot boxes. His efforts that day caught the eye of Acting Territorial Governor Daniel Woodson, a fellow Virginian and supporter of slavery, who then appointed Jones as the first sheriff of Douglas County. Jones became notorious with Free-State supporters in Kansas, for what they saw as his blatant use of the office to aid the proslavery movement. The most egregious example involved a large force of proslavery men who had invaded Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free-State movement in Kansas Territory. The men were originally under the command of United States Marshal Israel B. Donaldson, and ostensibly were in Lawrence to assist him serving warrants on several Free-State supporters. After Donaldson had completed his mission on May 21, 1856, Jones took command of the men and led them as they sacked and burned part of the town, including the Free State Hotel and the offices of two Free-State newspapers. The sack of Lawrence ushered in the most violent summer of the "Bleeding Kansas" period, with one act of violence building on another. At the end of 1856, Jones became involved in a dispute with then Territorial Governor John Geary. The Governor had denied Jones' request to be issued balls and chains to put on prisoners he was holding in Lecompton, then the capitol of the Territory. The Sheriff wanted to impose harsh corporal punishment on the Free-state men he was holding in prison there, but Geary wanted a more lenient, conciliatory policy, and so refused the Sheriff's request. In response, Jones resigned as Sheriff on January 7, 1857. He soon left Kansas and moved to New Mexico Territory. (From: Samuel J. Jones (Sheriff), ca.1820-ca.1880, Territorial Kansas Online website. Published 1/12.)  Back to top of page

February 1855 - Charles Dow acquires the claim of William White at Hickory Point - Charles W. Dow came to Hickory Point, Kansas Territory, from Ohio in February 1855. At the time, there were two settlements in the Territory known as Hickory Point, one approximately 24 miles north of Lawrence, in what would become Jefferson County, and one approximately 10 miles south of Lawrence, in what would become Douglas County. Dow came to the one south of Lawrence. When he arrived, he took possession of a parcel of land previously claimed by William White. White was originally from Tennessee, but had come to Missouri in 1832, settling first in Lafayette County before moving to Jackson County in 1850. He came into Kansas Territory in 1854, and laid claim to three tracts of land, two in what would become Douglas County and one in what would become Johnson County. One of the Douglas County tracts was at Hickory Point. White built a log cabin on his claim there, but he did not move in, returning instead to his home in Missouri. Kansas had only been opened to white settlement the previous May, and had yet to be officially surveyed, so at the time, no one could legally register a claim to property in the Territory. Instead, there were unofficial "squatter laws" in effect, by which you made a claim to land, and indicated in some way that you possessed it, either by farming it, building on it, or both. Leaving your claims unattended, as did White when he returned to Missouri, was a risky business, and frequently resulted in someone else jumping your claim. He probably thought that his having built a structure on his Hickory Point claim would secure it for him, but this is not how things played out. On or about the day that Dow arrived at Hickory Point, the log cabin on White's property burned down. Dow then began building on the vacant property, claiming it for his own. He did not live on his claim, but instead boarded with Jacob Branson, his neighbor to the north. Franklin Coleman, a proslavery supporter who was originally from Virginia, lived on a claim at Hickory Point directly to the west of the claim Dow had acquired. Coleman later charged that Branson, his neighbor to the northeast and a Free-State supporter, had colluded with other Free-State men to burn down White's cabin so that Dow, a Free-State man, could jump the claim and take the property away from White, a proslavery man. Coleman was no one to talk, as he had jumped the claim of a non-resident named Frasier when he had arrived at Hickory Point the previous September. Despite the rocky start, Coleman and Dow were able to work out a mutual agreement on the location of a conditional boundary line between their two claims, pending the completion of the official survey. When the official survey was done, the boundary line between Coleman and Dow's property shifted two hundred and fifty yards to the west. Coleman and other proslavery men refused to recognize the survey as the official government survey, and so did not recognize the change. 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 again confronted Coleman about cutting his timber. Later in the day, Dow went to the blacksmith shop, the road to which went west through Coleman's claim. He finished his business there and then walked home. As he did, he was joined by Coleman. The two walked to Coleman's house and continued with the conversation they had begun on the walk. They finished their conversation and Dow left for home. As Dow walked away, Coleman raised his shotgun, pointed it at Dow, and pulled the trigger. The percussion cap failed and the gun did not fire. Dow heard the noise and turned, gesturing at Coleman, and then resumed his walk home. Coleman replaced the spent cap with a fresh one, aimed at Dow and pulled the trigger again. The gun discharged and Dow fell dead in the road with at least nine lead pellets in his back. That night Coleman fled, eventually turning himself in to Douglas County Sheriff Sam Jones, a proslavery man. Jones took Coleman to Lecompton, Kansas, the Territorial Capitol. A Justice of the Peace there released him on a $500 bond. Lecompton was a proslavery town, and most if not all the officials there were also proslavery. Dow's friends became angry over what they saw as Coleman being given preferential treatment. Tensions between the Free-State and proslavery factions grew, and eventually boiled over into what came to be known as the Wakarusa War. For a time, around 1,500 proslavery Missourians besieged Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free-State movement in Kansas. This "War Without a Battle" ended in December with a peace treaty. The treaty only lasted until the next spring, when the most violent period in the "Bleeding Kansas" era erupted. Coleman himself participated in at least one of the violent confrontations that year, fighting on the proslavery side in the Battle of Black Jack on June 2, 1856. The name of the Hickory Point in Douglas County was eventually changed to Stony Point, presumably to end the confusion of having two settlements with the same name in such close proximity. William White eventually moved to Kansas, and in 1874, he was living with his wife and six children on the land in Johnson County that he had originally claimed in 1854. The fate of Coleman is unknown. (From: A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918. Transcribed in 1998 by Carolyn Ward, KsGenWeb website; William White, Atlas Map of Johnson County, Kansas, E. F. Heisler and Co., 1874, p. 49, JoCoHistory website; and, Charles W. Dow, Wikipedia website. Published 2/12.)  Back to top of page

March 13, 1903 - Excavation begins for the Douglas County, Kansas, courthouse - Douglas County, Kansas Territory, was founded in 1855, and until 1858, Lecompton was the county seat. In 1858, the county seat was permanently moved to Lawrence. From 1858 to 1869, the county rented space to house county offices in various business buildings in Lawrence. In 1869, the City of Lawrence built a City Hall, and the county rented space there for the court and some other county offices. By 1899, Douglas County, one of the most populous counties in the state, still did not have a courthouse of its own. That year, county voters approved a levy for an additional real estate tax to pay for one. In February 1902, local banker J.B. (Jabez Bunting) Watkins offered to donate four lots on the southeast corner of Massachusetts and Quincy (now 11th) Streets for the construction of a courthouse. The County Commission accepted the deed to the land in March, and planning for construction of the building was begun. A building design competition was held, but the Commissioners were unable to decide on one single architect. They asked architects J.G. Haskell and Frederick C. Gunn to work together on the project as associates for a fee not to exceed 5% of the gross amount expended on construction. Haskell and Gunn began drafting detailed plans that would permit construction to begin early in 1903. Eight bids for the construction of the Douglas County Courthouse were received, and a contract was awarded to the firm of Cuthbert and Sargent of Topeka for $62,181. Excavation for the building began on March 13, 1903. Actual construction starting about April 1. The cornerstone of the building was laid on July 4, 1903, during a ceremony conducted by the Masonic orders. In March of 1904, vaults were ordered from the Art Metal Construction Company of Jamestown, New York. In August, Sol Marks, a local jewelry store owner, was awarded a contract to provide a Seth Thomas clock with four dials for installation in the courthouse tower. Construction was completed sometime in late 1904, and in January 1905, county officers began to move in without fanfare. There is no evidence that the courthouse was officially dedicated. On April 14, 1975, the Douglas County Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. (From: Douglas County Courthouse History - Douglas County, Kansas, website; William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Douglas County, Part 3, County Organization and Official Roster; and, National Register of Historic Places, Inventory - Nomination Form - Douglas County Courthouse. Published 3/12.)  Back to top of page

April 1865 - "Summary punishment" is meted out to three "colored" men at Black Jack, Kansas - Black Jack was a small community founded in 1857 on the Santa Fe Trail in southeastern Douglas County, Kansas Territory. It was approximately 16 miles southeast of Lawrence, and a mile east of the site of the Battle of Black Jack, where a Free State militia, led by the abolitionist John Brown, had defeated a pro-slavery militia on June 2, 1856. In the April 6, 1865, issue of the Kansas [Daily] Tribune, there was an editorial titled Summary Punishment, written by John Speer, the newspaper's editor. The editorial began by recounting two communications that had recently been received by the newspaper from the vicinity of Black Jack. One of the communications reported that three "colored" men had been hanged there for stealing, and a fourth had been captured and was in the custody of the Vigilance Committee (1). It was also reported that the Committee was looking for a fifth man in Lawrence. Although Speer did not use the word, it is apparent from the tone of the editorial that the three men had been lynched. The editorial continued by acknowledging that there had been reports of several recent thefts in the area, and that, "the former sufferings of the people there have been such as not to naturally endow them with much mercy for thieves and robbers." Speer was likely referring to two raids that had been visited on the village in 1863, carried out by men who sometimes rode with the band of guerrillas led by William Clark Quantrill, the most notorious Confederate guerrilla leader in the Civil War. The first raid on Black Jack was on May 8, 1863, and was led by Dick Yeager. The raiders robbed the store owned by N. H. Brockway and S. A. Stonebraker, and stole all the horses that were owned by the overland stage route that had an office there. Then, on August 15, 1863, Bill Anderson, known as "Bloody Bill" because of his ruthless conduct toward Union soldiers and civilians, led another band of men on a raid of Black Jack. The raiders intercepted the overland mail, stole fourteen horses, and took $2,000 from the passengers. They also broke into and robbed Brockway and Stonebraker's store, stole about $1,800 worth of goods, and set fire to the building. In his editorial, Speer sympathized with how the community at Black Jack felt towards thieves and robbers, but not in how they reacted to such activity. He wrote that, "…the execution of men at this period by methods not recognized by law is very unsafe in precedent, however enormous the crime may be." He concluded the editorial with, "If the civil power is competent, it is very unsafe to resort to mob law. We have seen something of this kind in times of great excitement, and there is no safety in encouraging any other process for punishment of offenders than through the regular judicial tribunals." It is likely that Speer was troubled by the fact that the three men lynched were black. He had been a tireless champion of the Free State cause in Kansas before the War, and probably would have been disturbed that three men who had likely suffered the horrors of slavery had been executed without any legal proceedings in a state that was founded on the principle of being antislavery. Speer had himself lost two sons to the cause, when they were murdered by members of Quantrill's guerrilla band during its raid on Lawrence on August 21, 1863. It is one incident resulting from that raid that brings special meaning to the words that Speer wrote in his April 6, 1865, editorial. The day after Quantrill's raid, a resident of Lawrence named Thomas Corlew was accused of being a spy for the guerrilla leader. He was arrested by a mob, tried by a lynch court, found guilty, and hanged. In an article written by Speer titled Tom Corlew Hung that was published six days after the raid on August 27, 1863, in the Kansas Weekly Tribune, Speer seemed to approve of the process that led to Corlew's death, writing, "The proceedings were orderly; characterized by a deep determination to rid the world of a traitor and murderer." It was less than two years after the Lawrence raid that Speer wrote about the lynchings, the "summary punishment" of the three black men at Black Jack. Was he thinking of the Corlew lynching when he wrote, "We have seen something of this kind in times of great excitement, and there is no safety in encouraging any other process for punishment of offenders than through the regular judicial tribunals."? When he wrote about the three black men, saying, "…the execution of men at this period by methods not recognized by law is very unsafe in precedent, however enormous the crime may be," was he thinking of Thomas Corlew, and how he and the other citizens of Lawrence had allowed or participated in the lynching of the man in reaction to Quantrill's raid? How did he feel about the "summary punishment" that Corlew had received? After time and reflection, had Speer come to regret what had been done to Thomas Corlew? Without a diary or letters of Speer's coming to light that deal with his feelings about this, we will probably never know for certain, but the wording of his editorial makes one wonder.

(1) A vigilance committee was a group of private citizens who came together to enforce law and order, frequently by extralegal means, when they perceived that the governmental authorities were ineffective in controlling crime. They are better known by the term "vigilantes," and the justice they meted out as "vigilante justice." Many communities formed vigilance committees during the "Bleeding Kansas" era to protect themselves from groups of men who supported either the Free State or the proslavery cause during Kansas' Territorial period. During the Civil War that followed closely on the heels of Kansas statehood, vigilance committees attempted to defend against marauding Confederate guerillas from Missouri and bands of outlaws taking advantage of the turmoil caused by war. After the Civil War, some such groups disbanded or turned their full attention to protecting their communities from outlaws. Other communities that had not previously had such organizations formed them. One of these latter groups was the Cattlemen's Protective Association, or CPA, that formed in Eudora, Kansas, to protect against cattle rustlers and horse thieves. In addition to its protective role, the CPA became a social organization that held an annual picnic. The protective role of the organization eventually disappeared, but the social aspect remained. The CPA Picnic evolved into a three-day event that is held every July in Eudora, and includes parades, carnival rides, and other social activities.

(From: Kansas Daily Tribune, v. 2: issue 104 (April 6, 1865), p.2; William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Douglas County,
Part 34; and, Kansas Weekly Tribune, August 27, 1863, p.1. Published 4/12.)  Back to top of page

May 17, 1910 - Deputy Sheriff Woods is shot in the calf by Charles Trude - Charles Trude was born in January of 1881, probably in Cloud County, Kansas. His father was H.E. Trude and his mother was Sarah Trude, nee Netcatt. Sometime after Charles was born, the family moved to a farm in Wabaunsee County, Kansas. By 1905, Charles had apparently married, since on March 16th of that year, Marshal Henry Folkes of Wamego, Kansas, tried to arrest him on the charge of beating his wife. Trude asked the marshal if he had a warrant for his arrest. When the marshal said "no", Trude pulled two revolvers from his pockets, and with one in each hand, told the marshal to move on. A few weeks later, Trude jumped into a wagon that was being driven down a street in St. Marys, a town in Pottawatomie County, Kansas. The wagon was driven by an N.E. McPherson, and Trude proceeded to beat McPherson over the head and knock him out of the wagon. It was reported that Trude and McPherson both lived on an island in the Kansas River near St. Marys. McPherson filed charges, and on the evening of April 2, 1905, Night Marshall Dunn walked into a livery stable office in Wamego where Trude was waiting for a team of horses to be harnessed, pointed his revolver at Trude, and arrested him. Trude was locked in the city jail. The next morning, he broke a piece of metal from a tin bucket in his cell and fashioned a key that he used to pick the lock on his cell door. He was trying to pick the lock on the outer door of the cell room when a guard saw him and gave the alarm. He was locked back in his cell, minus the improvised key. The next night, Trude set fire to the bed in his cell, probably hoping he could make an escape during the confusion, but when the night guard gave the alarm, Night Marshall Dunn came and put out the fire without letting Trude escape. Trude was bound over to the district court for assault with intent to kill, and his bond was set at $5,000, which he failed to give. At the trial on April 7th, he was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail in Westmorland, Kansas, and fined $25 and costs. During his confinement, Trude asked Sheriff Orlando D. Hobbs for a chair to sit on in his cell, but the sheriff thought that he might use it for some other purpose and refused to give him one. The next time Sheriff Hobbs came in, he found Trude sitting on a chair in his cell. He had somehow pulled a chair up to the cell, took the chair apart, pulled the pieces through the bars, and then put the chair back together again inside his cell. On April 15, 1905, Trude told Sheriff Hobbs that he could unlock the cell door, or the outside jail door for that matter, with a wire. The sheriff did not believe that he could do so and gave him a piece of wire taken from a bale of hay, telling him to unlock the cell door. Trude quickly bent the wire and unlocked the door several times as fast as could be done with the regular key. The sheriff took the wire from him. Later that night, Trude managed to wrench some iron bars off the metal bunks in his cell, and heated them until they were red hot, presumably on a stove near the cell. The ceiling of his cell was made of two by fours driven full of iron spikes and covered by tin ceiling tiles. He was able to use the red hot iron bars to burn a seven by eleven inch hole through this material, and then crawl up above the ceiling. He then knocked the boards and shingles off the roof from underneath and escaped. The next morning, Trude went to the home of ex-Sheriff J. H. Cooper and wanted to borrow a gun from him, which was refused. Cooper notified Sheriff Hobbs, who telephoned local farmers and the surrounding towns, telling everyone to be on the lookout for Trude. When the empty cell was searched, the authorities found in his bed an inch and a half metal nut with a chair rail driven in the hole. It was speculated that Trude planned to use it as a weapon if he had needed it. A local man discovered that one of his horses was missing, a mare described as "an animal that was not in a condition for fast travel." It was assumed that Trude had taken her to use in his escape. The mare was found, and showed no evidence of having been ridden hard. It came to be generally known that Trude was hiding out on the island in the Kansas River near St. Marys, but he had been able to avoid capture by officers who had gone there from time to time looking for him. Around the first of June, Sheriff Hobbs enlisted the aid of an acquaintance of Trude's named Frank Wilber to try and capture the elusive fugitive. Sometime earlier, a ferry boat had broken loose from its moorings at Belvue, a town about seven miles upstream from St. Marys, and had washed down the river to the island where Trude was hiding. He had found the boat and was storing it on the island. Sheriff Hobbs and Wilber arranged that Wilber would tell Trude that the trustee of Belvue Township, who was a stranger to Trude, was willing to pay Trude $10.00 for the return of the boat. Trude agreed that he would turn over the boat for the offered $10.00, and Sheriff Hobbs was informed of this. It was agreed that Samuel M. Coffelt, also a stranger to Trude, would impersonate the Belvue trustee, and go with Wilber to Trude's house. On the morning of Sunday, June 4th, Wilber and Coffelt set out for Trude's house on the island. Sheriff Hobbs and Deputy William P. Myers also went to the island that morning and located the boat. They dug a hole in the sand by the boat that was large enough for the two of them to hide in, leaving only small openings from which to look out. They got into the hole and waited for Trude to come. Wilber and Coffelt had some difficulty inducing Trude to go with them to the boat, but the $10.00 he was to receive was too strong a temptation for him to resist. He finally loaded up his revolver and went with the two men to the boat. When they neared the boat, Wilber and Coffelt grabbed Trude and held his arms to his body to prevent him getting his gun. Sheriff Hobbs and Deputy Myers came out of their hole and hand-cuffed the fugitive. After Trude had been brought back to jail, some citizens expressed concern that it had taken the authorities so long to capture the man, but others pointed out that as long as he was behaving himself and stayed isolated on the island, it was just as well that he was not in custody until the jail had been repaired. Speculation was that Trude would probably be sent to the penitentiary for breaking jail. He was supposedly to be tried for this during the September term of court, but there is no information on when or if a trial was held. Trude's mother got 50 citizens of St. Mary's to sign a petition to the County Commissioners for his release. They alleged that he was a model citizen, and said that his presence was needed at home, as there was a large family dependent upon his labor for their support. He was not released. In September, probably on the 27th, W. H. Walden, who lived near the jail, heard pounding coming from the building. He reported this to Sheriff Hobbs, who investigated the noise. Hobbs found Trude outside his cell, ripping off the steel ceiling from the top of the corridor using a piece of the iron bedstead from his cell. Trude had made a key from a thin piece of steel he had taken from the bottom of his bunk and used it to unlock the cell door. He told the sheriff that he ought to be given special credit for being good for the previous four months and making no attempt to escape during that time. On January 6, 1906, Trude was back in district court. The court took up his case again, and considered the money that he owed, a $231.00 fine, $8.00 for reimbursement for damages to the jail, and $82.00 for the expenses incurred by the sheriff in re-capturing him. The court ordered that if Trude would promise to pay the Pottawatomie County Commission $25.00 every quarter until his debt was paid off, then he would be released from jail immediately. The court warned that if he failed to make the agreed to payments on time, then he would be rearrested. Trude agreed to the arrangement, and he was set free. His first payment was to be made in April 1906. In December 1906, a newspaper article noted that he was continuing to pay his quarterly payments on time. In May of 1910, word came to the authorities in Douglas County, Kansas, that Trude was wanted by the police in Ionia Michigan. On May 17, 1910, Deputy Sheriff Ebb Woods went to Eudora, Kansas. Trude was in Eudora that day, and whether Deputy Woods knew this and went there looking for him, or just happened to run into him there is not known, but around 9:00 a.m., Deputy Woods attempted to arrest Trude. Deputy Woods pulled out a revolver and Trude did the same. Both men began firing, and before the shooting was over, they had exchanged five shots apiece and Deputy Woods had been wounded in the calf. Trude was arrested and put in the Douglas County Jail. On May 21st, the Douglas County Sheriff received a message from an official in St. Marys recounting Trude's various misdeeds there. The official was quoted as saying, "Most everyone here hopes he will get a life sentence or be hung if possible for what he did down in your country." On June 9th, Trude's father arrived in Lawrence to look into getting bond and a good lawyer for his son. On September 24, 1910, Trude appeared in district court and pled guilty as charged to the shooting of Deputy Woods. He was sentenced to confinement and hard labor in the Kansas State Penitentiary for a term not less than one year and not more than ten years. He apparently had to serve the full sentence, as the name Charles E. Trude is recorded in the 1920 United States Census for Leavenworth County, Kansas, enumerated on January 12, 1920, as being an inmate in the Kansas State Penitentiary. (From: 1900 U.S. Census, Wabaunsee County, Kansas, 6/4/1900; 1880 U.S. Census, Cloud County, Nelson Township. Kansas, 6/16/1880; Charlie Trude Family History, Kansas Family History section, Kansas Heritage Group website; Wamego Times, Apr. 6, 1905, pg. 3; Westmoreland Recorder, Sept. 28, 1905; Westmoreland Recorder, Dec. 20, 1906; Lawrence Daily World, May 17, 1910; Lawrence Daily World, June 9, 1910; Case number 1887, Criminal Appearance Docket, Douglas County, Kansas, District Court; and, 1920 U.S. Census, Leavenworth County, Kansas - Kansas State Penitentiary, 1/12/1920. Published 5/12.)  Back to top of page

June 1860 - John Johnson hanged for horse stealing at Black Jack, Kansas Territory - The history of the Santa Fe Trail began in 1821, when Mexico's newly won independence from Spain opened up new trade opportunities for American and Mexican merchants. Thousands of commercial freight wagon trains pulled by teams of oxen and mules began crossing the plains between Missouri and Santa Fe. Unlike the other great Western trails, the Santa Fe Trail was originally a two-way trade route between two countries, the United States and Mexico. In the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, Mexico ceded New Mexico to the United States, and the new territory of New Mexico was created. The growing trade between New Mexico Territory and the rest of the United States along the Santa Fe Trail helped to solidify the connections between the two. Many new settlements sprung up along the Trail, founded by entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the economic opportunities created by the large volume of traffic. They offered supplies, repair facilities, and other services to the men and wagons moving along the Trail. The town of Black Jack was one of these new settlements. Founded on the Trail in 1857 in southeast Douglas County, Kansas Territory¸ it was a mile east of the site of the Battle of Black Jack, where a Free State militia, led by the abolitionist John Brown, had defeated a pro-slavery militia a year earlier on June 2, 1856. The area was called Black Jack because of the numerous Blackjack Oaks in the area, about the only vegetation standing taller than the prairie grass that stretched to the horizon in all directions. In January 1858, N. H. Brockway and S. A. Stonebraker opened a store in town, and a post office was also established that year. A schoolhouse and church were built in 1859. By 1860, it was a prosperous community. In June of that year, a man known as John Johnson had the misfortune of being caught stealing horses by the citizens of Black Jack. In the 19th Century, stealing horses was a serious offense. People relied on their horses for everything from transportation to food production, and as such, being deprived of your horse could be catastrophic, so someone who would do such a despicable thing as steal a horse was looked upon as being little better than a murderer. Hanging was frequently the result of someone being caught with someone else's horse in their possession, so when John Johnson was accused of being a horse thief, he would have known he was in trouble. There is no known record of the particulars of his case, or what kind of trial, if any, he would have received, but the outcome is known. The June 9, 1860, edition of the Kansas State Record included a one line notice that read, "A horse thief named John Johnson was hung at Black Jack a few days ago." Since Johnson was not brought to trial in the county court, the legality of the execution is in doubt, and it is likely that he was lynched. Unfortunately, this was not the only act of violence at Black Jack, as the subsequent history of the town was anything but peaceful. It was raided by pro-Confederate guerillas at least twice during the Civil War, and there would be other hangings there too. After the Civil War, traffic on the Santa Fe Trail diminished, and for all practical purposed it was discontinued around 1870 due to the completion of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. In 1894, the Black Jack Post Office was closed, and the town was soon abandoned. Over the years, all the structures in town were either dismantled or burned down. The only thing remaining there today is the Black Jack Cemetery, where many of the pioneers of the town are buried. (From: Exhibits in the Main Galleries, Santa Fe Trail Center Museum and Research Library website; William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Douglas County, Part 34, Black Jack; and, Kansas State Record, June 9, 1860, p. 5. Published 6/12.)  Back to top of page

July 13, 1857 - Amid growing controversy, the citizens of Lawrence, Kansas Territory, adopt a city charter - Kansas Territory was established on May 30, 1854, when President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act into law. Election day for the first territorial legislature was scheduled for March 30, 1855. On that early spring day, thousands of proslavery Missourians poured across the border into Kansas Territory, took over the polling places, prevented Free-State men from voting, and then voted themselves, even though they were not residents of the Territory. When the ballots were counted, there were three times as many ballots cast as there were legal residents of the Territory. Even though the Free-State partisans cried foul, both the Territorial and Federal governments declared the election to be valid and allowed the vote to stand. The proslavery legislature that was formed, known ever after by the Free-Staters in Kansas as the "Bogus Legislature," met and began to enact proslavery laws with extreme punishments for anyone who would dare to break them. In response, Free-Staters formed their own anti-slavery government, elected officials and a legislature, and began competing with the Bogus Legislature for control of the Territory. Founded in 1854, Lawrence was the headquarters of the Free-State movement in Kansas Territory. Even though it had been founded within months of the opening of the territory to white settlement, political differences between it and the government were keeping the town from receiving a charter. Once in 1855 and again in early 1857, the Territorial Legislature passed acts to give the town a charter, but the Free-State residents did not recognize the legitimacy of the legislature, and so did not accept their actions as legal or binding. Instead, Lawrence applied to the Free-State Legislature in Topeka for a charter, which was denied. The citizens of Lawrence proceeded to adopt a city charter of their own on July 13, 1857. On July 15th, Kansas Territorial Governor Robert J. Walker issued a proclamation "To the People of Lawrence" from his office in Lecompton, the Territorial Capitol and headquarters of the proslavery movement in Kansas. In his proclamation, Walker pointed out the differences between the charter adopted by the town and the one the legislature had passed, and warned that by following this course of action, the citizens of Lawrence would open up the town to a charge of treason. This threat was ignored by the town, and on July 17th, two rebuttals to Walker's proclamation were published, one being serious, and the other being a satirical rebuttal titled "To my Rebellious Subjects at Lawrence," supposedly issued by "Robertus J. Walkerus". The governor was not joking however, and he soon appeared in Lawrence at the head of 400 United States Dragoons commanded by Colonel Philip St. George Cooke (1). Walker proclaimed the town to be in open rebellion and declared it to be under martial law. Even though the citizens of Lawrence showed no signs of rebellion, Walker and the dragoons occupied the town until at least the middle of August. President James Buchanan eventually ordered the military to leave town, and after Walker and the dragoons left, the town continued to operate under the terms of its "illegal" charter. Free-Staters won the territorial election in October of 1857, and on February 11, 1858, the new Kansas Territorial Legislature repealed the act passed by the Bogus Legislature granting Lawrence a charter, and then passed a new act legalizing the July 13, 1857, charter.

(1) The two rebuttals to Walker's proclamation were published on July 17th, and it is unlikely that they would have been allowed if martial law had been declared prior to their publication, so they were likely published before Walker and the dragoon arrived in Lawrence. A letter from T. J. Marsh to George L. Stearns, written on July 18, 1857, indicates that the dragoons were in possession of the town by the evening of the 17th. It is therefore probable that Walker and the dragoons arrived in Lawrence on the 17th, sometime after publication of the rebuttals, but before Marsh observed the troops there that evening.

(From: The Annals of an Historic Town, by F.W. Blackmar, Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1893, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1894,
pp. 483, 498-499; Proclamation, To the people of Lawrence, by Robert J. Walker, July 15, 1857, Territorial Kansas Online; Proclamation, No. 2, To my rebellious subjects at Lawrence, by Robertus J. Walkerus, July 17, 1857, Territorial Kansas Online; Letter, T. J. Marsh to George L. Stearns, July 18, 1857, Territorial Kansas Online; and, Letter, T.J. Marsh to George L. Stearns, August 11, 1857, Territorial Kansas Online. Published 7/12.)  Back to top of page

August 12, 1856 - David Starr Hoyt is shot on his way back from Fort Saunders - David Starr Hoyt was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, on February 17, 1821, to Horatio and Hannah (nee Starr) Hoyt. He studied civil engineering under his uncle, General Epaphras Hoyt, and in December of 1846, the 25-year-old Hoyt enlisted in an ordnance company in the United States Army. The United States was involved in the Mexican-American War, and the country's forces were divided into two armies, the Northern Army, commanded by Zachary Taylor, that concentrated its actions near the border between the two countries, and the Southern Army, commanded by Major General Winfield Scott, that was to penetrate deep into Mexico. Hoyt's ordnance company was assigned to the Southern Army. He participated in all but one of the battles fought in Mexico by Scott's Southern Army, including the conquest of Mexico City. While in Mexico, Hoyt joined the small military party that ascended the volcano of Popocatepetl and planted the stars and stripes on its 17,800 foot summit. He also learned Spanish and began a meteorological journal that he kept up with for the rest of his life. After the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, the war ended. Hoyt returned home to Deerfield, and remained there until April 1849, when he moved to Randolph County, Illinois. He married Mathilda Christler in Chester, Illinois, on October 4, 1849, and on March 7, 1851, she gave birth to a baby girl that they named Helen. In April 1852, Hoyt left Illinois for the gold fields of California, arriving there after a 70-day journey. In June 1853, he joined a survey party led by Isaac Stevens, recently appoint as first Governor of the new territory of Washington, which was setting out from Minnesota to survey a northern route for a railroad to the Pacific. When the survey party reached Fort Vancouver in Washington Territory in November 1853, Hoyt left and returned to Deerfield, where he stayed until February 1856. On the 20th of that month, he set out for Kansas Territory. He was bringing with him a hundred Sharp's Rifles for the Free-State men in the Territory to use to defend against the depredations of proslavery men there. Hoyt had the rifles loaded on the Steamboat Arabia in St. Louis for the trip across Missouri. The rifles were discovered by passengers on the boat, and they were seized by proslavery men when the Arabia reached Lexington, Missouri. Hoyt had taken the precaution of removing the breechblocks, an "essential part," from each gun and had sent them on ahead by another route. Without them, the rifles could not be fired, so they were useless to the men who had taken them. Hoyt barely managed to avoid being lynched by a huge mob in Lexington, and was eventually released. After arriving in Kansas, he "served the cause of freedom faithfully and without interruption…." He joined a Free-State militia and was appointed to serve as a Major. In addition to Hoyt, a number of other men arrived in Kansas Territory that spring, but unlike him, many were proslavery and had been recruited to come to the territory to settle and make Kansas a slave state when it entered the Union. One who had organized a company of these proslavery emigrants was a man from South Carolina know as Colonel Treadwell. By the summer of 1856, a number of proslavery groups were concentrating under Treadwell, furnishing themselves with military stores and building fortifications. They constructed a well-built log cabin on a claim owned by a Mr. Saunders on Washington Creek in Douglas County, Kansas Territory, approximately 10 miles southwest of Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free-State movement in the Territory. Known both as Fort Saunders and Camp Saunders, it became a major threat to Free-State settlers in the surrounding area when word supposedly went out from there that, "all Free State men must leave the Territory or be killed…." The settlers applied to Major John Sedgwick, commander of the United States Dragoons stationed at Lecompton, the Territorial Capitol and headquarters of the proslavery movement in Kansas, to do something about the situation. A troop of dragoons was sent over to investigate, but did nothing more than confirm that there was building activity going on there. The frightened settlers applied to Lawrence for assistance, and the officials there determined that a messenger should be dispatched to find out what were Treadwell's intentions. Hoyt volunteered to be that messenger. He was a Freemason, and Treadwell was purported to have stated that all Freemasons, regardless of which side of the slavery issue they were on, would be safe with him (1). Apparently, Hoyt was not completely trusting to this, for in a document written some time later, John E. Stewart wrote that, "I think he had some apprehension of danger, for he told us when leaving that if he was not back by a certain time, we might conclude there had been foule [sic] play." Despite this, Hoyt reportedly was unarmed when he left Lawrence on his trip to Fort Saunders. The exact sequence and timing of what followed is clouded by different resources giving differing accounts of subsequent events (2). By utilizing what seems to be the most accurate of those resources, and piecing together the information they contain, what actually transpired can be approximated. It appears that Hoyt left Lawrence in the afternoon of August 11, 1856, and stayed overnight with a friend near Bloomington, a small settlement about 8 miles southwest of Lawrence, before continuing on to Fort Saunders the next day, August 12th. He stayed at the Fort until after dinner that day, when he left to return to Lawrence. Hoyt was followed by several men from the Fort, and had not gone far when they shot him dead through the back of the head. The shooting was witnessed by several boys. He was placed in a shallow grave and "his face was thickly coated with corrosive sublimate so as to destroy his identify as soon as possible." His attackers then made an apparent halfhearted attempt to bury him. It is not known when Hoyt had said he would return to Lawrence, so it is not known exactly when the Free State men there became worried by his failure to do so. A previously planned attack on a fortified structure in the proslavery town of Franklin was carried out by men from Lawrence late the night of the 12th. By the time Franklin had been captured, Hoyt's friends in Lawrence had probably given up on seeing him alive again. In addition, it was reported that word had come to Lawrence that a man had been shot in the vicinity of Fort Saunders, so his friends "became painfully anxious for his fate." Early on the 13th, a large company of Free-State men led by Captain Henry J. Shombre set out from Lawrence for Fort Saunders. They established a camp about three miles from the Fort at Dr. E.G. Macy's place on Rock Creek, about eight miles southwest of Lawrence. At about the same time that Shombre's militia set out, a rider left Lawrence for Topeka with news of the fighting at Franklin and that Shombre's militia was moving on Fort Saunders. After pitching camp, Shombre's men may have been visited by the boys who saw Hoyt killed, who then related their story to the men there. In response to the message from Lawrence, a group of Free-State men from Topeka arrived in Shombre's camp at 2:00 a.m. on the 14th, and were told of Hoyt's murder. Later on the 14th, Captain Shombre led a scouting party of thirty men to reconnoiter the Fort and look for Hoyt's body. They went to Fort Saunders to ask Colonel Treadwell if he knew where the body was, but got no answer. After searching most of the rest of the day without success, they encountered a party of surveyors who had seen a grave and were directed to it by them. The Free-State men found a partially buried body whose knees were projecting from the ground. They exhumed the body, and though the face was damaged, they recognized it to be that of their friend, Major Hoyt. They put it in a wagon and took it back to the Free-State camp. According to N.W. Spicer (3), "They returned late in the P.M. bringing in the mutilated remains of the Murdered man. When the corpse was exposed the men seemed indignant & swore revenge." Dr. Macy examined the body and determined that Hoyt had been shot in the back of the head, with the ball passing out through the forehead. It was also determined that had the corrosive material been left on the face "twelve hours more, it would have been destroyed." Henry Hyatt, perhaps the friend Hoyt had stayed with in Bloomington the night of the 11th, supplied a strongly built box to use as a makeshift coffin, and Hoyt was given a temporary burial in a grove of trees on Rock Creek. The Free-State men were incensed by Hoyt's murder and mutilation, and in revenge, moved to attack Fort Saunders on the 15th. Treadwell and his men got word of the impending attack and abandoned the Fort. Finding the Fort unoccupied, the Free-state men burned it to the ground. The next day, August 16th, the Free-State men attacked and captured Fort Titus, another proslavery stronghold located near Lecompton. Captain Shombre was mortally wounded during the battle. On June 23, 1857, ten months after his murder, Hoyt's body was exhumed from his grave on Rock Creek and brought to Lawrence for reburial with full military honors. After the service in the Unitarian Church, his remains "were followed to the grave by the Oread Guards and by a large contingent of citizens, accompanied by music from the [Lawrence Brass] Band." He was laid to rest between Thomas Barber, who had been murdered on December 6, 1855, at the time of the Wakarusa War, and Captain Shombre, who had been mortally wounded in the Battle of Fort Titus on August 16, 1856. The fate of Mathilda Hoyt is unknown, but Hoyt's daughter Helen grew up, married, and lived to be 95, dying in Arizona on April 20, 1946.

(1) There are numerous accounts of situations that occurred during the Kansas-Missouri Border War, known as "Bleeding Kansas," and in the American Civil War that followed, in which a man who was in a dire situation somehow made know to his tormentors that he was a Freemason, and was instantly welcomed by them as a brother Freemason, thereby saving his life and property, and restoring his freedom. The bond between Freemasons was understood by everyone to be very strong, and could bridge the gap in any disagreement.

(2) Some contemporary sources report that Hoyt was killed on the 11th, while others report it to be on the 12th, and at least one has it on the 13th. The June 27, 1857, edition of the Herald of Freedom carries an article on Hoyt that is the most detailed of the reports consulted. Since it was written a full ten months after the events, some might argue that the memory of the reporter could have been altered by intervening events and so not be accurate, but it might also be argued that the time between when the events occurred and when they were reported could have helped to clarify them and make them more accurate. An article in the August 23, 1856, edition of The New York Times included information that conflicts with some details in the other newspaper. Even though the Times article was published less than two weeks after the events occurred, it seems to rely on less accurate sources. On reason to suspect the article is that it indicated the Second Battle of Franklin occurred on the 13th, but it is a widely accepted fact that the attack on Franklin was on August 12th. In a report dated December 6, 1856, recording testimony given before the National Kansas Committee, an anti-slavery organization formed to support Free-State settlers in Kansas, N.W. Spicer related his experiences concerning the recovery of Hoyt's body and the response to it. Since Spicer was on the scene when several of the important events occurred, his account can probably be trusted as accurate.

(3) Spicer arrived in Topeka with a party of men on August 13th, after a long and difficult overland journey from Chicago. They had no more than arrived in Topeka when word came from Lawrence that Franklin had been attacked the day before, August 12th, and that they were needed by a Free-State militia on its way to Fort Saunders. Spicer and the other men left immediately, and arrived at the camp of the Free-States at 2:00 a.m. on the morning of August 14th.

David Starr [Hoyt], A genealogical history of the Hoyt, Haight, and Hight families, by David Webster Hoyt 2nd enl. ed., Providence Press Co., Providence, 1871, p548; David Starr Hoyt, Find A Grave website; Standard Certificate of Death, Helen Hoyt Bartlett, Maricopa County, Arizona, on FamilySearch.org website; Stevens, Isaac Ingalls (1818-1862), HistoryLink.org website; Rutherford, Phillip R. "The Arabia Incident." Kansas History, Spring 1978, pp.39-47; Herald of Freedom, June 27, 1857, v.2, no. 44, p.4; Experience of John E. Stewart, 1856?, Territorial Kansas Online; History of Kansas: from the first exploration of the Mississippi valley, to its admission into the Union …, by J. N. Holloway, James Emmons, and Co., Lafayette, ID, 1868, p.281; Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... , Standard Pub. Co. Chicago, 1912, Vol. 1, p.671, on KsGenWeb website; The War in Kansas, The New York Times, August 23, 1856; and, Experiences of R. S. Griffithe, N. W. Spicer, and J. A. Harvey, December 6, 1856, Territorial Kansas Online. Published 8/12.)  Back to top of page

September 17, 1856 - David Buffum murdered by a horse thief - David Chase Buffum was born in Salem (1), Massachusetts, on November 11 (2), 1822, to Edward and Sybil (or Sybel) (nee Chase) Buffum. Salem is north of Boston, not far from the town of Lynn in Essex County, Massachusetts. In the 1830s, Lynn became a center for the movement to abolish slavery in the United States, so much so that the noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass moved there in 1843. This abolitionist influence undoubtedly had an effect on the young Buffum, evidenced by his actions beginning in 1854. On May 30th of that year, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed into law by President Franklin Pierce, creating Kansas Territory, and opening it up to white settlement. The Act stipulated that the decision on whether Kansas would come into the Union as a slave state or a Free State would be made by a vote of the residents of the Territory. Since the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the line of latitude marking the southern boundary of Missouri had been the northern boundary that any new slave state could be formed in the new territories out west. The Kansas-Nebraska Act overturned that boundary restriction, and abolitionists did not think that to be fair. Supporters of Kansas being a slave state began moving into the Territory from Missouri, and to counteract that, groups of Free State supporters organized in the northeast. One of these groups was the New England Emigrant Aid Company that organized in Boston. The Company identified men and women interested in going to Kansas to settle, and to make it a free state. They rounded up supplies and began planning for their journey to the Territory. The first party of New England Emigrant Aid Company settlers left Boston on July 17, 1854, and arrived at their destination, the site of what would soon become the town of Lawrence, Kansas Territory, on August 1st. They camped on a bluff overlooking the Kansas River that they named Mount Oread. A second New England Emigrant Aid Company party began forming, and thirty-two-year-old David Buffum and his twenty-six-year-old cousin, Robert Buffum, signed up for it. The second party, including the two Buffums, left Boston on August 29, 1854, arriving on Mount Oread on September 16th. The Free State settlers camped out together while going about the process of claiming land and building sturdy shelters. Joseph Savage, another member of the second party and a messmate of David Buffum's, later observed that, "[David] was a shoemaker from Lynn, Massachusetts. He was slim in stature, of medium height, with a large brain. He would not be called brilliant, but was a strong, deep thinker. He was rather slow in action and speech, but in thought and expression was the very impersonation of a pure, genuine Yankee. He was brave and daring, ...though in manners he was modest and retiring. He took his claim four miles west of Lawrence, .... In his frequent visits to his claim that fall, he always carried his revolver in his right hand, up and back. His way there led him by some pro-slavers’ cabins, who were unfriendly to us Eastern men. Buffum used to keep his revolver rolled up in his best woolen stockings, and laid at the bottom of his trunk." Lawrence was becoming known as the headquarters of the Free State movement in the Territory, and so its inhabitants were becoming targets of proslavery men. Violence began erupting in the Territory over the issue of slavery, and Horace Greeley of the New-York Tribune began referring to it as "Bleeding Kansas," a name which stuck and by which the era was to ever after be known. To protect themselves against attacks by proslavery partisans, Free State men organized into militias. David and Robert both joined the militia in Lawrence, and were assigned to Company D, Second Regiment, First Brigade of Kansas Volunteers, with David being made a 1st Sergeant. In mid-1855, James Burnett Abbott, who had come to Kansas in the first New England Emigrant Aid Company party, returned east to raise money and purchase arms for the Free State cause. He met with Frederick Law Olmsted, who later would design Central Park in New York City, and spoke to him about acquiring arms for the Free State men in Kansas. Olmsted set to work raising money for Abbott. Abbott returned to Lawrence, and Olmsted continued fundraising and looking for weapons to send to Kansas. Olmsted wrote, "Making inquiries as to what might be available, I visited the New York State Arsenal and there found a [12-pounder bronze] mountain howitzer (3) [that had been cast by the Ames Manufacturing Company in Chicopee, Massachusetts, earlier that year] which I ascertained did not belong to the state but to a private owner. Friends soon provided means for its purchase together with fifty rounds of canister and shell with time fuses…." On October 24, 1855, Olmsted wrote to Abbott in Lawrence, "I have this day shipped the goods, (noted in previous advices to you) in five cases (marked (Δ1-5) to Care of B Slater, St Louis." The five cases containing the howitzer's parts arrived in Kansas City in late November. Trouble was brewing, and a party of men was dispatched to bring them to Lawrence while that was still possible. The party included Captain Thomas Bickerton, a young man named Sumner, and David and Robert Buffum. They went to Kansas City, retrieved the boxes, put them in a wagon concealed under more innocuous goods, and set out for Lawrence. In testimony given a year later, Bickerton reported that his companions nearly got the party into trouble by wanting to shoot animals along the road. They wanted to go to Lawrence by the direct route, but Bickerton took them by the northern route to avoid suspicion. In crossing the river, the wagon became stuck on the bank, and Bickerton talked some Missourians into helping get the wagon out. He reported that his companions wanted to stop until morning, but instead, they continued on and traveled all night. As they neared Lawrence, a troop of cavalry was sent out to accompany them in. David Buffum saw them coming and first thought they were proslavery men. The four Free State men prepared for a fight, but as the riders approached, they were recognized as friends. The men, their wagon, and their mounted escort, "had’nt [sic] been in Lawrence more than ½ an hour before the enemy had their lines stretched right across the river & across the road we had come over." That was the beginning of the week-long siege of Lawrence known as the "Wakarusa War." Upon its arrival in Lawrence, the howitzer's parts were unboxed and assembled. The siege of Lawrence ended when Territorial Governor Shannon brokered a peace treaty between the two sides on December 8, 1855. The prospect of having to face the howitzer's firepower if they attacked the town, combined with the fact that they were camping outside during some of the coldest weather in anyone's memory, doubtlessly contributed to the proslavery men's willingness to sign the peace treaty and go home for the winter. Violence in the Territory picked up again as the weather warmed up in 1856, and that year proved to be the most violent one in the war that had broken out along the Kansas-Missouri border. In the third week of May, a large body of proslavery men was camped at "Coon Point," which was in the vicinity of David Buffum's claim. On the night of May 17th, some of these men went to Buffum's house and took from him a horse, saddle, and bridle, "…using at the same time very violent and threating language towards [him]…". They came back several days later and took two double-barreled shotguns, bedding, and clothing from Buffum. They were likely part of the large force of proslavery men who sacked and burned Lawrence several days later on May 21st, led by the Sheriff of Douglas County, Sam Jones. Included in the force that Jones led that day were 250 to 300 men who were members of the northern part of the territorial militia known as the "Kickapoo Rangers." After a long summer of pitched battles and the deaths of a number of men, a force of around 2,700 proslavery men was camped near Lawrence in the second week of September. The force was composed of a number of different groups, many of whom had come directly from Missouri, but also a number of Kansas-based militias including the Kickapoo Rangers. They were threating to attack the town and wipe it out for good. Some of these men took the time to visit David Buffum again, stealing his chickens, trampling down the corn in his 10-acre cornfield, and taking from him a new saddle and bridle. The situation around Lawrence worsened, prompting newly appointed Territorial Governor John Geary to travel from Lecompton, then the Territorial Capital and the headquarters of the proslavery movement in Kansas, to Lawrence to head off the impending violence. The proslavery men were ostensibly serving as an army under orders issued by the previous territorial governor, so they were obliged to follow Geary's orders. On the morning of September 15th, Geary disbanded the army and the various units went their separate ways. A number went east back to Missouri, and on their way burned buildings and took any livestock that they encountered. The Kickapoo Rangers headed back to Lecompton by way of the California Road, accompanied by the Sheriff, Sam Jones. David Buffum's claim lay along the California Road, so the Kickapoo Rangers would pass nearby on their way to Lecompton. They must not have been in any hurry to get there, for it was sometime on the 16th when they neared Buffum's house. He had been harnessing a horse when he first saw the men approaching, and had run into the cornfield to hide in what remained standing after the trampling it had received the week before. A small number of the Rangers detached themselves from the main body and rode over to Buffum's. One took possession of the horse and harness that Buffum had abandoned in his attempt to hide, and the rest went to another horse hitched to a fence in the field. Undoubtedly tired of having his property repeatedly stolen, he "rose up from his hiding place and told them that the horse was blind and would be of no use to them, upon which one of the Rangers drew up a gun and shot Mr. Buffum [in the abdomen]...". The assailants left the wounded man lying on the ground, and almost immediately Governor Geary arrived on the scene, accompanied by Associate Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court Sterling G. Cato, who had been one of the 2,700 proslavery men preparing for the attack on Lawrence. Although in intense pain, Buffum was conscious and lucid enough to give the two men an account of what had happened. Geary and Cato took down what he said, which was reported to have been, " Oh, this was a most unprovoked and horrid murder! They asked me for my horses, and I plead with them not to take them. I told them that I was a cripple--a poor lame man-- that I had an aged father, a deaf-and-dumb brother, and two sisters, all depending upon me for a living, and my horses were all I had with which to procure it. One of them said I was a God damned abolitionist, and seizing me by the shoulder with one hand, he shot me with a pistol that he held in the other. I am dying; but my blood will cry to Heaven for vengeance, and this horrible deed will not go unpunished. I die a martyr to the cause of freedom, and my death will do much to aid that cause." Though mortally wounded, Buffum managed to stay alive the rest of the 16th, but died the next day, September 17, 1856. His dying words were reported to be, “I am willing to die for the cause of Freedom in Kansas.” The Governor was quoted as saying that he had been on many a battlefield, and was familiar with suffering and death, but that, "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. And I resolved that no means in my power should be spared to discover, arrest, and punish the author of that most villanous [sic] butchery." Upon arrival back in Lecompton, Geary issued a warrant for the arrest of the murderer and gave it to United States Marshal Israel B. Donaldson for its execution. Geary also issued a proclamation offering a $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of the murderer or murderers of David Buffum. In early November, reliable information was received that the murderer was a man named Charles Hays, a member of the Kickapoo Rangers, who lived in Atchison County, Kansas Territory. A new warrant in Hays' name was issued, and within a few days, he was arrested and brought to Lecompton. A grand jury there composed entirely of proslavery men heard the evidence against Hays and found a true bill, committing him for trial on the charge of murder in the first degree. On November 10th, Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court Samuel D. Lecompte, who, along with Cato, was known to be strongly proslavery, allowed Hays out of jail on bond. Geary was incensed that he had been released, and immediately issued another warrant for Hays and gave it to Marshal Donaldson for execution. Donaldson declined to execute the warrant, telling Geary he needed time to consider it. The Governor then issued a duplicate warrant and gave it to his special aid-de-camp Colonel Henry T. Titus with the instructions to execute it immediately before Hays could flee. Titus did so, and detained Hays. On November 17th, Geary traveled to Leavenworth to attend a public sale of land, and in his absence, Judge Lecompte released Hays on a writ of habeas corpus. Geary did not attempt to override this action. Hays was never tired for the murder and eventually left Kansas Territory. David Buffum was buried in Lawrence in the Oread Cemetery, later know as Pioneer Cemetery (4). David's cousin Robert left Kansas, eventually settling in Ohio with his wife Elizabeth. There are unsubstantiated reports that Robert was somehow "involved" with John Brown, but where and in what capacity is unknown. When the Civil War that had been going on in Kansas since 1854 broke out back east in 1861, Robert enlisted in the 21st Ohio Infantry. In early 1862, James J. Andrews, a civilian army scout, proposed a raid into Georgia to destroy the Western and Atlantic Railroad link to Chattanooga, thereby isolating the city from Atlanta. The raid was approved, and Andrews recruited another civilian and 22 Union soldiers to carry it out. Robert Buffum was one of those soldiers who volunteered for the raid. On the morning of April 12, a northbound train being pulled by the locomotive named The General stopped at Big Shanty, Georgia, so the crew could have breakfast. Andrews, Buffum, and the other raiders stole the train and took it and its Confederate pursuers on a wild eighty-mile chase through northwest Georgia. The General eventually ran out of fuel and "The Great Locomotive Chase" (5) ended. The raiders scattered, but all were caught within two weeks. Andrews and the other civilian were hanged as spies, and Buffum and the other soldiers were put in prison camps. On March 17, 1863, Buffum was included in a prisoner exchange and released by the Confederates. On March 25, 1863, Robert Buffum was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism on the raid into Georgia, the medal being presented by President Abraham Lincoln himself. The medal had just recently been created, and Buffum was only the third man to receive the award. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant on May 24, 1863, but was listed as absent without leave from June 22 to December 12, 1863. He resigned from the army "for the good of the service" on April 28, 1864. He had developed a severe drinking problem, and also suffered psychological damage as a result of the war and the eleven months he had spent as a Confederate prisoner. Buffum spent three years in a mental hospital after his resignation from the army. After his release from the hospital, he began drinking heavily again, and one night he got into an argument with a man who had vilified President Lincoln. Buffum shot and killed the man. He was indicted for murder and sent to the New York State Asylum in Auburn as an insane criminal. On July 20, 1871, Robert Buffum barricaded himself in his cell and committed suicide by slashing his own throat. He was buried the next day in an unmarked grave in the section of the local cemetery reserved for asylum inmates. His grave went unmarked until 1995, when the Medal of Honor Society tracked down its location and installed a grave marker appropriate for a Medal of Honor recipient.

(1) Some sources record David Buffum's birthplace as Lynn, Massachusetts, but others, including his gravestone, indicate his birthplace to be Salem.

(2) Various sources record David Buffum's birth date as November 7th, 10th, and 11th, but his gravestone indicates he was born on the 11th.

(3) A howitzer is an artillery piece midway between a gun used to fire projectiles over long distances, and a mortar, which is used to fire projectiles relatively short distances at high angles that are intended to drop down behind fortifications from above. A mountain howitzer is a howitzer that is made small enough to be dismantled and carried on the backs of mules or other beasts of burden over terrain where larger artillery pieces could not be taken. After its arrival in Kansas Territory, the howitzer that had been supplied by Frederic Law Olmsted became known as the Abbott Howitzer. It can be seen today in the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka.

(4) The inscription on David Buffum's headstone reads, "His death, although a great loss to his friends and the community, has been a great gain to the cause of Freedom. He was devoted to the cause for which he suffered; his last words being 'I am willing to die for the cause of Freedom in Kansas.'" His headstone did not stay with his grave. It is now in the collection of the Kansas State Historical Society and can be seen in the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka.

(5) The raid is known both as "The Great Locomotive Chase" and "The Andrews Raid." Two motion pictures have been made based on the raid. The first was the 1926 silent classic The General, starring Buster Keaton as the locomotive's Confederate engineer, and the second was the 1956 Walt Disney production The Great Locomotive Chase, starring Fess Parker as Andrews.

From: Cool Things -
Bleeding Kansas Tombstone, Kansas State Historical Society website; David C. Buffum's tombstone, Kansas Memory website; David C. Buffum, Find A Grave website; David Chase Buffum, "Massachusetts, Births and Christenings, 1639-1915," index, FamilySearch website; Edward Buffum, Ancestry.com website; The Emigrant Aid Company Parties of 1854, Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 2 (May 1943), pp.115-155; Recollections of 1854, by Joseph Savage, Western Home Journal, June 23-September 29, 1870; Muster Roll of Captain Samuel Walker, Company D, Second Regiment, 1st Brigade, Kansas Volunteers, Territorial Kansas Online website; "Kansas Museum Of History Exhibits The Ames M1835 ‘Abbott Howitzer’", by Bob Meistrell, The Artilleryman, Vol. 24, No. 4, (Fall 2003); Letter, Fred. Law Olmsted to James Burnett Abbott, Esq., October 24, 1855; Cool Things - Abbott Howitzer, Kansas Memory website; Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, First and Second Biennial Reports…, Vols. I and II, Topeka, Kansas Printing House, 1881, pp.216, 222-230; Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... , Standard Pub. Co. Chicago, 1912, Vol. II, pp.69-70, on KsGenWeb website; Geary and Kansas: Governor Geary's administration in Kansas…, by John H. Gihon, Philadelphia, 1857, pp.166-181; Letter, C [Charles Robinson] to My Dear S [Sara Robinson], Territorial Kansas Online website; No. 369, Kansas Claims, Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the Second Session of the Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1860-'61, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1861, p. 1377; Elizabeth Burchstead family story, AncientFaces website; Private Robert Buffum, The Great Locomotive Chase website; Great Locomotive Chase, Wikipedia web page; and, Medal of Honor Rite at Auburn Inmate Grave, New York Correction History Society website. Published 9/12.)  Back to top of page

October 29, 1913 - Colonel John Knox Rankin, survivor of Quantrill's Raid, dies from injuries inflicted by a disgruntled customer - John Knox Rankin was born in Cass County, Indiana, on November 3, 1837 (1), to the Reverend Robert Henderson and Eliza R. (nee Lowry) Rankin. He was reportedly related through his mother to John C. Calhoun, noted American politician and Vice-President under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, and to Sam Houston, one of the men most responsible for Texas' independence from Mexico and its subsequent joining the Union as the 28th state. John's father died when he was three, and his mother raised him. He began his higher education at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, but transferred to Iberia College in Iberia, Ohio, where he graduated in the winter of 1858/1859. Rankin's family was known as being strongly abolitionist, "…all his people being anti-slavery workers," so it is no surprise that he attended Iberia College, as it was a school that was open to all, regardless of race or gender. Soon after he graduated, Rankin set out for Kansas Territory, arriving in Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free State movement in the Territory, on May 1, 1859. Kansas had been the scene of significant violence since 1854 between Free State and proslavery forces contending over the issue of whether it would come into the Union as a free or slave state. By the time Rankin arrived in 1859, the Free State cause had triumphed and the violence had all but ceased. He soon became doorkeeper for the 1859 session of the Kansas Territorial Council, the legislative body of the Territory, and the next year was made the enrolling clerk. Kansas entered the Union as a Free State on January 29, 1861, and Rankin was appointed engrossing clerk of the House of Representatives for the first session of the Kansas State Legislature that spring. After the Civil War broke out back east in April 1861, military units began forming in Kansas. On May 14, 1861, Rankin enlisted in the newly forming Second Kansas Volunteer Infantry. The Regiment was mustered into service on June 10th, and Rankin was made a second lieutenant and assigned to Company C. The Second Kansas Volunteer Infantry, including Rankin and his Company C, took part in the Battle of Wilson's Creek near Springfield, Missouri, on August 10, 1861. Beginning that October, the Second Kansas Volunteer Infantry was reorganized into a cavalry unit under the name of the Second Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. Rankin was assigned as a second lieutenant to Company H (2). In the spring of 1862, a battalion of men, including Rankin, was detached from the Second Kansas and assigned to the artillery service in a brigade under General Robert B. Mitchell. General Mitchell had been Adjutant General of Kansas for a short time in the spring of 1861, before taking command of the Second Kansas Infantry. He was severely wounded at Wilson's Creek, and after he recovered, he was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the brigade to which Rankin was detached. That brigade had orders to join the Army of the Ohio. Later in the year, the battalion of men from the Second Kansas was remounted as a cavalry unit with Lieutenant Rankin in command, and served as a bodyguard for General Mitchell in North Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. General Mitchell, guarded by the cavalry unit led by Rankin, commanded a division in the Battle of Perryville, fought on October 8, 1862, in Kentucky. In late October, the Army of the Ohio was renamed the Army of the Cumberland, and at about that same time, the detachment of men from the Second Kansas was returned to that unit. Lieutenant Rankin did not rejoin his former unit, instead remaining with General Mitchell as his personal aide-de-camp. Rankin then participated in the Battle of Stones River, fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863, in Tennessee. Rankin was back in Lawrence in August of 1863 (3), and was there the morning of the 21st, when William Clark Quantrill, the most notorious Confederate guerrilla leader in the Civil War, led 450 guerillas in a murderous raid on the town. The raiders burned the town and murdered between 150 and 200 men and boys. Lieutenant Rankin and his cousin, Captain William A. Rankin, who also happened to be in town that day, were reported to be the only two men in town who were able to effectively fight back against the raiders. "Being out for an early walk when the attack was made, they started for home. Turning a corner they came upon two raiders attempting to shoot a man lying in a yard. They drew their revolvers and rushed toward the two horsemen. Just then four others came up behind them, and they all began shooting. John K. Rankin feels sure he wounded one man severely for he saw him jump up in his saddle and then ride off in a hurry. How many shots were exchanged it is not known, but the Rankins had emptied their revolvers, and the six raiders had kept up a constant racket. One shot was deliberately aimed at William Rankin and would doubtless have ended his part in the affair, had not the bullet hit the muzzle of his own revolver which he fired at the same time. Just as their ammunition gave out the raiders somehow got parted from them, and the Rankins escaped unhurt." After burning the town, Quantrill and his men rode south, pursued by a number of men led by Senator James Lane, who had been a target for assassination by the raiders. Lane put Lieutenant Rankin in charge of a company of men, and Rankin and the other pursuers fought with the fleeing raiders. The raiders counterattacked, and were able to escape in the resulting confusion. Lieutenant Rankin was reported to have been so overcome with emotion and rage at the failure to capture Quantrill and his men that he wept with humiliation. Soon after the raid on Lawrence, Rankin resumed his duties on General Mitchell's staff, and participated in the Battle of Chickamauga, fought September 19 and 20, 1863, in Georgia. His enlistment in the army expired in early 1865, and on March 21, 1865, he married Laura Finney in Terryville, Connecticut. He brought his bride back to Lawrence, and in June of that year, Kansas Governor Samuel J. Crawford appointed Rankin as paymaster and inspector general of the Kansas militia with the rank of Colonel. He was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives for 1866, and then from 1867 to 1871 he served as postmaster of Lawrence. Colonel Rankin became mayor of Lawrence in 1874 and held that office for two year, until 1876. During his term as mayor, tragedy struck his family, with his wife Laura dying on May 12, 1875. During their marriage, she had borne Rankin two sons, Robert Crawford and Herbert John. On September 5, 1878, Colonel Rankin married Augusta Fischer, who would bear him five children, Carl, Anna Laura, John Whistler, Alice Mary, and Gretchen Augusta. During the 1870s Colonel Rankin was involved in local railroading, being for a time quarter owner and treasurer of the Lawrence & Carbondale Railroad and treasurer of the Pleasant Hill & Lawrence Railroad. He was also a banker, having organized the Lawrence Savings Bank and for a number of years served as cashier and president there. In the early 1880s he became associated with the United States Pension Office, and served a second term in the Kansas House of Representatives in 1889. In 1890, Colonel Rankin was appointed as special allotment and distribution agent for the Office of Indian Affairs in the Interior Department. Over the next nineteen years, he made allotment of land to around 15,000 Indians in seven states. According to one source, "This work took him away from home much of his time. His services among the Indians through the West were especially conspicuous. Under Government license he traded at the various reservations with the Osage, Sac and Fox, Pottawatomie and Kickapoo tribes and as special agent his duties brought him into close relations with the Indians over much of the western United States, including Indian Territory, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Montana and Nebraska. Colonel Rankin to a notable degree gained the confidence, love and respect of the Indians. The Indians found him a tried and true friend. His diplomacy and tact gave him a great power among the Indians in his task of selecting allotments, and the Indians never questioned his word or his decision." He retired from the Interior Department in 1908, came back to Lawrence, and became manager and half owner of the Griffin Ice Company and Cold Storage Plant there. In July 1913, a seventeen-member committee was formed to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Quantrill's Raid, and Colonel Rankin was asked to chair it and preside over the events. On August 21, 1913, 126 survivors of the raid met in Lawrence. To mark the event for posterity, a group photograph of the survivors was taken on Massachusetts Street. Just sixteen days later, on Saturday, September 6th, Colonel Rankin was working late at the ice house. The ice company had been doing a thriving business that summer, due to the weather being extremely hot, with temperatures well above 100 degrees. Because of the rush of business that summer, Rankin was there that evening at 11:00 p.m. when a man known as Howard Wynn (4), an employee of the Lawrence Paper Mill who was around thirty years of age, called at the ice plant to purchase some ice. Upon receiving the ice from Colonel Rankin, Wynn made some comment about having been given short weight, pulled a knife, and advanced on Rankin. "Spot" Fearing, an employee of the ice company appeared and knocked Wynn to the floor. Wynn got up and struck at Rankin a second time. Fearing tried to strike Wynn again, but in the melee that followed, Rankin was knocked to the floor. He quickly rose back up and knocked Wynn unconscious with his cane. A doctor was called, but Wynn came to and left before he arrived. Rankin received no obvious physical injury, but he was taken home with concerns that the sever shock of the incident threatened a nervous breakdown in a man nearly seventy-six years old. The next day, a warrant was issued for Wynn on a charge of assault with intent to kill. He was quickly arrested and put in the county jail. He told officers that he "could not explain his actions unless it was that he was 'crazy drunk'." It was determined that Wynn was an alias he had been using in Lawrence, and that his name really was Wind. When Colonel Rankin found out that Wynn was in jail, he asked that the man be released from custody, which he was. Rankin remained confined to his home due to the attack. In early October, he became bedridden, and around the end of the third week of the month, his condition began to worsen. He grew steadily weaker, and at 8:00 a.m. on October 29, 1913 (5), Colonel John Knox Rankin died. He was buried in the family plot in Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence. With the death of Rankin, Wynn was rearrested, and initially charged with murder. John J. Riling and H.H. Asher became Wynn's attorneys. Judge Charles A. Smart was set to preside at the trial, which began on the afternoon of December 4, 1913, in Douglas County District Court. Jury selection took up the afternoon of the 4th and most of the morning of the following day, December 5th. The panel was sworn in at 11:00 a.m., and the prosecution began its case. The first witness was Dr. J.C. Simmons, who had been Colonel Rankin's doctor for a number of years, who testified that he had died of a dilatation of the heart brought on by the attack made on him by Wynn. "Spot" Fearing then testified that in addition to having been there at the time of the attack on Colonel Rankin, Wynn had come by the ice plant earlier in the evening of the 6th. Wynn had shown Fearing three knives that he was trying to sell, including one with a blade four-and-a-half or five inches long. After most of the prosecution's evidence had been presented, the defendant's attorneys filed a demurrer, which Judge Smart refused to sustain. The prosecution rested its case around 4:00 p.m., and the defense presented its case. Wynn was the chief witness, and testified that, "he could not remember distinctly the incidents of the evening and that after Col. Rankin struck him with a can[e] he remembered nothing until the next morning when he awoke in the city jail." He said that when he arrived at the ice plant, Colonel Rankin had been very belligerent towards him, first threating that he would call the police, and then immediately after hitting him with the cane. On cross examination, Wynn admitted, "having words with Col. Rankin regarding short weights he claimed to have received in ice." After the defense rested, Judge Smart instructed the jury that it could not convict Wynn of murder or manslaughter in the first or second degree. They could only convict him for manslaughter in the third or fourth degree, assault, or assault and battery. The jury went out around 6:00 p.m., and returned at 9:30 p.m. with a verdict of guilty of assault and battery. On December 17, 1913, Wynn was sentenced by Judge Smart to serve thirty days in jail and to pay court costs for his conviction of assault and battery on Colonel Rankin.

(1) The 1900 United States Census for Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas, lists Rankin's birth year as 1840, but his gravestone indicates he was born in 1837.

(2) Rankin's Company was original named Company I, but as the reorganization progressed, it was renamed Company H.

(3) There are conflicting accounts as to the reason that John Rankin was in Lawrence on August 21, 1863. One account indicates he was there on a short furlough, while another indicates he was there as part of his staff duties for General Mitchell.

(4) The spelling of the name varies in different sources, being recorded as Winn, Wynn, and Wynne.

(5) The entry for Colonel Rankin in the on-line transcription of Connelley's A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans incorrectly notes that he died in 1915. All other accounts, including his gravestone and newspapers from the time record that he died in 1913.

John Knox Rankin, A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918; 1900 U.S. Census, Douglas County, Kansas, 6/13/1900; Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 12, pp. 275-276; Ohio Central College, Wikipedia website; The 2nd Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Museum of the Kansas National Guard website; The 2nd Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, Museum of the Kansas National Guard website; Robert Byington Mitchell, Wikipedia website; A History of Lawrence from the earliest settlement to the close of the rebellion, by Richard Cordley, E. F. Caldwell, Lawrence, Kansas, 1895, Chapter 15 and Chapter 16; Past Mayors, 1857-1889, Lawrence, Kansas, city website; Lawrence Daily World, v. 57: issue 215 (September 8, 1913), p.1; Case number 2142, Criminal Appearance Docket, Douglas County, Kansas, District Court; 1910 U.S. Census, Douglas County, Kansas, 4/21/1910; Lawrence Daily World, v. 57: issue 259 (October 29, 1913), pp.1 and 4; Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 57: issue 290 (December 4, 1913), p.1; Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 57: issue 291 (December 5, 1913), p.1; Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 57: issue 292 (December 6, 1913), p.1; and, Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 57: issue 301 (December 17, 1913), p.1. Published 10/12.)  Back to top of page

November 29, 1854 - Lucius Kibbee shoots and kills Henry Davis - Lucius Kibbee was born in Indiana (1) to Lucius and Elizabeth Kibbee. Sometime during the next three decades, the younger Lucius moved to Iowa, where on September 1, 1846, he married Letitia "Lettie" Boucher in Delaware County. By the beginning of 1854, Kibbee had fathered four children with Lettie, three sons and a daughter. That January, a bill was introduced in the United States Senate to create and open up to white settlement the new Territory of Kansas in the previously unorganized land west of Missouri. The bill would repeal the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and allow the question of whether the new Territory of Kansas would come into the Union as a free or slave state to be left up to a vote of the residents of the territory. Under the Missouri Compromise, the land to be named Kansas would have been a free state, and changing the rules and allowing the possibility that it could become a slave state was vehemently opposed by Americans who sought the end of slavery. By late spring, it appeared that the Kansas-Nebraska Act, as the bill was called, would likely pass. Kibbee was against Kansas becoming a slave state, so he began packing up his family to move there to work for the cause of a free Kansas. He did so in May, arriving in what was to be Kansas Territory some days prior to it being officially opened to white settlement. He staked out a claim in what would eventually be Douglas County, and began building a cabin (2) to house him and his family. He was there on May 30th, the date the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed into law and the Territory was officially created. By virtue of that, Kibbee was the first white resident of what would be Douglas County. A few days later, a young man named Robert Hall Pearson arrived and was taken in by the Kibbees. Pearson resided with them until that September, when he moved out to set up housekeeping on his own. Many other men were also coming to Kansas Territory, some supporting the Free State cause, and others supporting the proslavery cause. Tensions between the two factions grew rapidly, and violence began to break out in the Territory. Kibbee began working to make Kansas free from slavery, and quickly became known to men on both sides of the issue as an active Free State man. November 29, 1854, was designated as the day of the Territorial election to choose a delegate to the United States Congress, who would represent the Territory's interests in that body. That day, Kibbee was in Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free State movement in the Territory, probably to vote in the election. He and four other Free State supporters left Lawrence in a wagon driven by Robert Hall Pearson (3) and headed south, presumably on their way back to their homes. The wagon was small and low-slung with no sides and no seat, the men in it sitting on hay. They had not gone two miles when they saw a group of four men in the road ahead of them, three walking and one riding a mule. They recognized at least two of the men, Henry Davis and J.W. Rollins, both of whom were known proslavery advocates. Davis, Rollins, and the other two men stopped at a small cabin next to the road. The men in the wagon observed Rollins climbing up on the thatched roof of the cabin, and soon saw smoke rising from it. Rollins got off the burning roof, and all four proslavery men proceeded to tear down the cabin as it burned. When the wagon reached the ruined cabin, Pearson stopped it, and Kibbee asked Rollins, who by that time had mounted the mule, why he had done what he had done. Rollins drew a revolver and asked Kibbee what business it was of his. He said that he would take Kibbee from the wagon at the ford on the Wakarusa River, some mile or so farther south, and "carve him up." Kibbee said that he would report him to the civil authorities. Hearing this, Davis began advancing on the wagon, which began moving again, shouting, "You will report us? I will report you to Hell!" He was also heard yelling something about Kibbee being a "God damned Yankee thief," and that he had stolen his timber. Davis attempted to get in the wagon, and Kibbee struck at him to keep him out. Davis then began walking alongside of the slowly moving wagon, and as he did, he drew a large knife with a five or six inch blade, known variously as an Arkansas Toothpick and a Bowie Knife, and struck at Kibbee, barely missing him, reportedly saying, "Come out you old Yankee son of a bitch." Kibbee said to Davis, "Go away. I want no fuss with you." Davis said that he would take Kibbee at the ford and, "Yes God damn your soul, I will carve you like beef." Davis took hold of the wagon, and attempted to reach Kibbee, striking at him twice again, saying that he would, "cut his damned heart out." Kibbee, fearing for his life, drew a pistol and fired at Davis. The pistol had been loaded with eight small shot, and they all hit Davis in the stomach. He let go of the wagon, walked a short distance, and sat down. Fearing a reprisal from the other men, Pearson picked up his whip and increased the speed of the wagon, driving the horses, described as a "rather poor team," as fast as they would go. A man named Sebastian, presumably one of Davis' compatriots, stayed with him for an hour. Davis reportedly said that, "he was gone," and asked for water. Sebastian went for water, which was about a half mile away, and when he returned, Davis was dead. A few days after the killing, Kibbee turned himself in to the authorities and was arrested. He was taken before Judge Rush Elmore in his court at the Shawnee Indian Mission (4). Kibbee was arraigned on a charge of first degree murder, the first such case in the Territory, and ordered to be confined without bail in the Leavenworth Jail, pending his trial. On December 27, 1854, he was brought back to the Shawnee Indian Mission to appear before Chief Justice Samuel D. Lecompte of the Kansas Territorial Supreme Court on a writ of Habeas Corpus. The Kansas Free Press reported that in the hearing that day, Sebastian, the man who had gone for water for Davis, N.B Blanton, presumably Napoleon Bonaparte Blanton, who owned land at the Wakarusa Ford, Dr. A. Still, a Mr. Chandler, a Mr. Daily, N.D. Johnson, Robert Hall Pearson, and a Mr. Lamb all testified. Lecompte ordered Kibbee to be released on payment of $1000 bond, and ordered him to appear before Judge Elmore for trial at Tecumseh, Kansas Territory (5). Elisur Hill and Peter Baysinger of Prairie City, Kansas Territory, served as Kibbee's bondsmen. Kibbee appeared at the appointed place and time for trial, but Judge Elmore did not (6). Owing to the absence of the Judge, no trial was held. The bondsmen were released, and it was reported that two days later, Kibbee "left the country." It appears that Kibbee moved his family a number of times over the next few years, first back to Iowa, where a daughter was born in 1855, then back to Kansas where another daughter was born in Linn County in 1857, then back to Iowa, where a son was born in 1858 and a daughter in 1860. All that moving around while birthing children may have been too much for Lettie, as she died in Iowa on May 11, 1860. Kibbee married Hannah Dodd in early 1862. They had three children in Iowa, two sons, one born in December 1862 and one (7) whose birth date is unknown, and a daughter born in 1865. Then Kibbee apparently moved his family back to Kansas, as a son was born in Linn County in 1867. The son was named Freeman, perhaps harkening back to Kibbee's Free State past. How long Kibbee stayed in Kansas is unknown, but the 1880 United States Census for Nebraska shows his nine-year-old daughter Emily (Emma) as being born in Nebraska, which would mean that Kibbee would have moved to Nebraska no later than 1870 or 1871. In 1876, Kibbee settled his family in Antelope County, Nebraska. He died there on November 7, 1880, never having been tried for shooting Davis back in 1854.

(1) There is some confusion about Kibbee's birth date. Several genealogical sources note it as being November 16, 1812, but his gravestone lists it as being November 17, 1815. A marriage record for him dated September 1, 1846, lists his age as 31, which would place his birth in 1815. The 1880 US Census for Antelope County in Nebraska, enumerated on June 2-3, lists his age as being 64. Since he had not had his birthday yet that year, his birth year would have been 1815. One source identifies his birthplace as Indianapolis. Considering the likelihood of his gravestone being correct, and given the fact that the marriage and census records both support the 1815 date, he was very likely born in Indiana on November 17, 1815, probably in Indianapolis.

(2) The Kibbee Cabin was the site of the first Methodist sermon preached to white settlers in Kansas. It was also where a group of Methodist ministers met in 1857 and founded Baker University. The cabin deteriorated over time and was eventually rebuilt on the Baker University campus in Baldwin City, Kansas. The walls and roof were built of new materials, but the floor and some of the furnishings were moved from the original site north of town and used in the rebuilt cabin.

(3) There is conflicting information as to who was driving the wagon. Some sources indicate that Kibbee was the driver, but in sworn testimony before Chief Justice Lecompte on December 27, 1854, Robert Hall Pearson identified himself as the wagon's driver.

(4) The Shawnee Indian Mission, located along the Santa Fe Trail not far from the Missouri Border, opened in 1839 as a manual training school for children from a number of Indian tribes, most of whom had been removed from back east by the Federal Government and relocated to the area that would become Kansas. The Shawnee Indian Mission was comprised of several good sized brick buildings. In 1854, they were the only solid, permanent structures in the new territory, so when Andrew Reeder was appointed as the First Kansas Territorial Governor, he established the government offices in the Shawnee Indian Mission. Judge Elmore was a Justice on the Kansas Territorial Supreme Court, which was also located at the Shawnee Indian Mission.

(5) Tecumseh was a settlement founded by proslavery partisans on September 1, 1854. Judge Elmore had settled his family and 14 slaves there soon after it was founded. There was a movement to make the town the territorial capital, and apparently the intent was to have Judge Elmore's court set up there by the time that Kibbee was to be tried.

(6) No documentation for the reason that Judge Elmore failed to show up for Kibbee's trial has been found. At about that time, accusations surfaced that top government officials were involved in a land speculation venture involving unlawful purchase of Indian lands. A number of government officials lost their positions as a result of the scandal that surrounded the accusations, among them being Judge Elmore and Governor Reeder. The charges were eventually found to be unfounded, and Elmore was reappointed as associate judge, but if Kibbee's trial date was during the time Elmore was under suspicion, then the Judge would not have been available to try Kibbee. The plan to make Tecumseh the territorial capitol also fell through, but the reasons for that are not known.

(7) Lucius and Hannah's son, Charles, is recorded as being born and buried in Iowa. No birth or death dates have been found, and his name does not appear along with the other members of the family in later census records, so it is possible that he did not live long. The birth locations and dates of the other children that Kibbee fathered with Lettie and Hannah help determine the movements of the family, but since no date or location is given for Charles' birth and death, his do not.

Lucius Kibbee, The Davis Family of Stafford, Connecticut, ID: I21678, RootsWeb.Ancestry.com website; Lucius Kibbee, Find A Grave website; "Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934," Lucius Kibbee, 1846, FamilySearch.org website; 1880 U.S. Census, Antelope County, Sherman Precinct, Nebraska, 6/2-3/1880; William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Biographical Sketches - Palmyra Township (Jacot - Willett), Douglas County, Part 36; Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 112: issue 44 (February 20, 1970), p.7; A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1918, Volume I, Chapter XXIV, The Beginnings of Disorder, pp.435-436; Kansas Free State, v. 1: issue 1 (January 3, 1855), p.3; Shawnee Indian Mission, Kansapedia, Kansas Historical Society website; Rush Elmore, Kansapedia, Kansas Historical Society website; Tecumseh, Kansas, Wikipedia website; Letter, James M. Hunter to T. N. Stinson, December 5, 1854, Territorial Kansas Online; Lettie(Leticia)Boucher Kibbee, GenForum, Gelealogy.com website; and, History of the State of Nebraska : Containing a full account of its growth …, by A.T. Andreas, Chicago, The Western Historical Company, 1882, Part 3, Antelope County, Glenalpine. Published 11/12.)  Back to top of page

December 8, 1855 - A peace treaty is signed to end the Wakarusa War - With the signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854, the new Territory of Kansas was created directly west of the State of Missouri, and was opened up to white settlement. The Act included a provision for Popular Sovereignty, which meant that the residents of the new Territory would be able to vote on whether it would come into the Union as a slave state or a free state. This effectively threw out the Missouri Compromise, which had made the line of latitude described by the southern border of Missouri the northern limit that any new slave state could form west of Missouri. This had been the law of the land since the Compromise's enactment in 1820, and those who opposed slavery saw this abrupt change in federal law as being unfair and something that should be resisted. As a result, anti-slavery societies began organizing in the east to send men to Kansas Territory to settle, and to vote for Free State status when the time came. One of those anti-slavery societies was the New England Emigrant Aid Company, who sent a number of parties of settlers to Kansas, the first one arriving at the site of the future town of Lawrence on August 1, 1854. The second party of New England Emigrant Aid Company settlers arrived there on September 16th, and merged with the first party. Two days later on the 18th, the settlers met "…to form an association to lay out the town." They also discussed what to name the town. Since the arrival of the first emigrant party, it had been informally called "New Boston" or "Wakarusa", and in addition to those names, the discussion on naming the town included "Quindaro" and "Eureka." Finally, "Caleb Pratt proposed we take our name after Amos Lawrence, as he thought it would be gratifying to him, and would be the means of obtaining many valuable bequests from him to our public library, as well as to our institutions of learning, to which Mr. Lawrence had then pledged ten thousand dollars." The seventy-nine men present voted unanimously to name the new town "Lawrence." The settlers proceeded to form a town company which would lay out the town site. A surveyor was elected and he began marking off the lots and streets. The Free Staters from back east were not the only men coming into Kansas Territory to settle. A large number of proslavery men from Missouri moved to Kansas and began making land claims, many times on land abutting claims made by Free State men. Having men, who held differing opinions on such a controversial issue as the expansion of slavery in the west, living in such close proximity to each other, invariably lead to trouble. That trouble quickly took the form of violence, and early on the victims of that violence were almost exclusively Free-State men. There was much enmity felt by the proslavery men against the Free-State men, who they saw as foreign usurpers trying to impose foreign ideas on "their" territory, and a considerable part of that enmity was directed towards Lawrence, which had become the headquarters of the Free-State movement in Kansas. According to Joseph Savage, a Free State supporter in Kansas, "...it was universally spoken of [by them] as the 'd[amne]d Yankee town'." The violence continued to escalate, and men soon began dying as a result of that violence. On March 30, 1855, the first election was held to choose members for the territorial legislature who would organize the territorial government, pass territorial laws, and apply to Congress for statehood when the time came. On that early spring day, thousands of proslavery Missourians poured across the border into Kansas Territory, took over the polling places, prevented Free-State residents from voting, and then voted themselves, even though they were not residents of the Territory. When the ballots were counted, there were nearly three times as many votes cast as there were legal residents of the Territory. Even though the Free-State partisans cried foul, President Pierce declared the election to be valid, allowed the vote to stand, and put pressure on Kansas Territorial Governor Andrew Reeder to bring the territorial government into alignment with the election results. The proslavery legislature that was formed after the election, known ever after by the Free-Staters in Kansas as the "Bogus Legislature," met and began to enact proslavery laws with extreme punishments for anyone who would dare to break them. In response, Free-Staters formed their own anti-slavery government, elected officials and a legislature, and began competing with the Bogus Legislature for control of the Territory. The actions of one of the proslavery men who had come into Kansas on election day had caught the eye of Acting Territorial Governor Daniel Woodson. Woodson had been appointed as acting governor when Reeder was dismissed from his position as Territorial Governor of Kansas by President Pierce on allegations that he had engaged in illegal land speculation. It is more likely that the real reason he was dismissed was for not doing enough to promote Kansas becoming a slave state, as President Pierce wanted. Reeder was from Pennsylvania, and was attempting to be neutral on the slavery issue in Kansas, while Woodson was a Virginian and a supporter of slavery. The man who had caught the eye of Woodson was Samuel J. Jones, a fellow Virginian. Jones' fervent efforts on the day of the election preventing Free-State men from voting and seizing ballot boxes had so impressed Woodson that on August 27, 1855, the Acting Governor appointed Jones as the first sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas Territory. Lawrence was in Douglas County, so Jones had jurisdiction over the Free-State town. He quickly began going about his duties as he saw them, and soon became notorious with Free-State supporters in Kansas for what they saw as his blatant use of the office to aid the proslavery movement. Jones' actions did nothing to calm the escalating violence in the Territory. Then, on November 21, 1855, a proslavery man named Franklin Coleman shot Charles Dow, his Free-State neighbor, in the back with a shotgun over a land dispute. The killing took place at Hickory Point, a small settlement in Douglas County about ten miles south of Lawrence. Coleman fled to Westport, Missouri, and Free-State friends of Dow complained that Sheriff Jones made no effort to capture the killer. Jacob Branson, a Free-State supporter and friend of the murdered man, made comments about Coleman that prompted a friend of Coleman to swear out a warrant against Branson. On the night of November 26, 1855, Sheriff Jones took some fifteen men and went to Branson’s house to arrest him. Some of Branson's neighbors got word of this, banded together, and confronted Sheriff Jones and his posse at about 1:00 a.m. After a tense standoff lasting over an hour, Sheriff Jones released Branson to the Free State men. Branson was taken to Lawrence for safekeeping. Jones told newly appointed Territorial Governor Wilson Shannon that Lawrence was in rebellion, and in response the Governor order out all proslavery men that could be mustered in the Territory. Sheriff Jones also sent a dispatch to Colonel Albert Gallatin Boone, grandson of Daniel Boone, in Westport, Missouri, to mobilize forces in Missouri for assistance. The Sheriff had befriended Boone(1) when Jones moved his wife and two young children to Westport in the fall of 1854. Boone was an influential man, and both he and Jones were strong proponents of slavery and of Kansas being a slave state. Between 1,500 and 2,000 proslavery men from Kansas and Missouri responded to the calls from Shannon and Jones, and they marched on Lawrence. Beginning on December 1st, they laid siege to the town. The citizens of Lawrence had rapidly been fortifying the town in anticipation of trouble. They had also managed to bring a howitzer in just ahead of the advancing proslavery army. A standoff developed, the citizens of Lawrence being unwilling to surrender their town to the proslavery men, and the proslavery men being unwilling to attack a fortified town protected by a howitzer. The standoff had continued for several days when a delegation managed to get out of Lawrence and go to the Governor, apprising him that Lawrence was not in rebellion, and that he should come see this for himself. Shannon came to Lawrence on the 7th, and began organizing a conference between the besiegers and the besieged. Colonel Boone and the other leaders of the proslavery men were escorted into town and, overseen by Shannon, met with Charles Robinson and James Lane who were representing Lawrence. A draft peace treaty was negotiated, and was signed on December 8, 1855, by Shannon, Robinson, and Lane. Shortly before the peace treaty was signed, the abolitionist John Brown and four of his sons arrived in Lawrence with arms and ammunition. In a letter to his wife and children written on December 16th, Brown gave an addition to the account of the actions of Governor Shannon while he was in Lawrence that does not appear in other sources. Brown wrote that, "When there, the leading Free-state men, finding out his [Shannon's] weakness, frailty and consciousness of the awkward circumstances into which he [Shannon] had really got himself, took advantage of his cowardice and folly, and by means of that and the free use of whisky and some trickery succeeded in getting a written arrangement with him, much to their own liking." Regardless of the means by which the peace treaty was arranged, it was implemented on December 9th, and the proslavery men broke their siege on Lawrence and went off on their separate ways, ending the Wakarusa War, the "War Without a Battle." It was a war without a battle, but not a war without a death. On December 6, 1855, the day before Shannon arrived in town to broker the peace treaty, Thomas Barber rode out of Lawrence with his brother Robert and their brother-in-law Thomas Pierson(2), intending to head home to chop wood for their families. They had gone about four miles when they were stopped by two proslavery men on horseback, who told Barber that he must come with them. He replied that they had no authority over him and began to ride away. Both men drew pistols and fired on the unarmed Thomas Barber, shooting him dead. Although they made no attempt to conceal the fact they had killed Barber, neither man was ever arrested or tried for the crime. Sam Jones was back in Lawrence on May 21, 1856, at the head of a large group of proslavery men who sacked and burned the town that this time was undefended.

(1) At least one account identifies Colonel Boone as being Sheriff Jones' father-in-law, but this is in all likelihood incorrect. Jones came from Virginia, and had a wife and two small children when he arrived in Westport, Missouri, in 1854. Boone had lived most of his life in Missouri, having been in Westport since 1838. It is extremely unlikely that Jones would have come to Missouri sometime earlier than 1854, married Boone's daughter, moved away, and fathered two children before moving back to Westport in 1854. It is therefore safe to say that Boone was probably not Jones' father-in-law. Where this confusion came from is not known. One possible answer is that for a time, Mary Bent, daughter of William Bent of Bent's Fort fame, lived with Boone and his family in Westport. Jones' wife was also named Mary, so perhaps someone misunderstood the relationship between Mary Bent and Colonel Boone, and confused the two women named Mary, which resulted in confusing the relationship between Boone and Jones.

(2) There is conflicting information as to the spelling of Thomas Pierson's last name. Several contemporary books giving accounts of the killing of Barber spell it "Peirson," and at least one modern book also spells it this way. However, genealogical records, including the entry for his father in the 1820 United States Census for Pennsylvania, have the spelling as "Pierson."

Recollections of 1854, by Joseph Savage, Western Home Journal, June 23-September 29, 1870; Andrew H. Reeder, 1807-1864, - Territorial Kansas Online website; A.G. Boone, KansasBogusLegislature.org website; Samuel J. Jones (Sheriff), ca.1820-ca.1880, Territorial Kansas Online; Letter, John Brown to Dear Wife and Children, Every One, December 16, 1855, "Bleeding Kansas," E Pluribus Unum collection, Assumption College website; Wakarusa War, Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc., edited by Frank M. Blackmar, Standard Publishing Co, Chicago, 1912, v. 1; and, Wakarusa Treaty, December 8, 1855, Territorial Kansas Online website. Published 12/12.)  Back to top of page

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