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 2015 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 15, 1897 - Fred Chism is taken from a farm near Lecompton, Kansas, leading to worries that he would be lynched in Missouri - Fredrick Douglas Chism(1) was born on November 29, 1866, in Versailles, Morgan County, Missouri, to General and Ann Chism. Considering when and where he was born, there is the strong possibility that both General and Ann had formerly been slaves. Fred, as he was known, grew up on a farm with his parents' in Morgan County. He became acquainted with Rachel Thouvenel(2), who had been born on October 16, 1878, in Benton County, the county directly west of Morgan County. Rachel, known as Rose or Rosa, was the daughter of Charles Nicolas Thouvenel, a Benton County farmer who had been born in Thiebaumenil, Meurthe et Moselle, France, and who had come to Benton County with his parent's when they immigrated to the United States. Although there was a twelve year difference in their ages, a relationship developed between Fred and Rose. She was later reported to have said "she had wanted to marry him ever since she was old enough." On November 10, 1895, the two ran off together. Rose's father took great offense at this and reported to the local authorities that Chism had abducted his 16-year old daughter. Complicating the whole matter was the fact that Chism was black and the Tourvenels were white. Fred and Rose made their way to Lawrence, Kansas. Why they went there is not known, but perhaps the reason was that forty years earlier, the town had been the headquarters of the Free State movement to bring Kansas into the Union as a state that did not allow slavery, and the two thought that their relationship would be accepted there. They had likely come to Lawrence by way of Sedalia, Missouri, as it was reported that Rose's father was looking for them there. Within a few days after their arrival in Lawrence, Chism went to work as a cook at the Central Hotel in town and Rose gave birth to a baby. On November 20th, Douglas County Sheriff Bud Hindman received a telegram from George W. Laird, the Sheriff of Bates County, asking him to arrest Chism on a charge of kidnapping, and offered him a reward from Rose's father for doing so. Hindman showed the note to Lawrence Police officer Sam Jeans, who told him that Chism was indeed in town. Hindman, Jean, and James H. Monroe, another police officer, arrested Chism around 7:00 p.m. that evening. Chism expressed fear for his life if he was sent back to Missouri. Rose was also put in jail. On reporting the incident, a newspaper article titled "Miscegenation" described Chism as "a burley fellow and no one ever would suspect that he could win the affections of a white girl." Rose was described as "simple", and that "She certainly could not be called bright." Although they had previously told people that they were married, the following day Chism requested of the Sheriff that they be allowed to get a license and get married. Without notice to anyone, Chism was then taken out of the jail and driven the fourteen or so miles to Lecompton, Kansas, put on a train and taken to Topeka, where he was held in the Shawnee County Jail for some hours in the custody of Sheriff D.N. Burge. Meanwhile, Francis M. McHale, a local Lawrence attorney, was in the process of preparing the paperwork of a writ of habeas corpus for Chism. When he went to the jail to get the prisoner to sign it, he found he was not there. Apparently, Sheriff Hindman had moved Chism to avoid the possibility of such a thing occurring. The Lawrence Daily World printed a short article on November 23rd, poking fun at both McHale and Hindman that read "Frank McHale lost $20 by having Chism taken away[,] but if Mc had got him out of trouble the sheriff would have lost $100." Chism was transferred from Topeka to Ottawa, county seat of Franklin County, Kansas, and put in the custody of Sheriff J.A. Elwell there. An unsubstantiated report surfaced that Chism's brother had been killed for helping the couple run off by rowing them across the river, and this added to a growing concern in the black communities in Lawrence and Topeka for Chism's fate if he was taken back to Missouri. Sheriff Laird had come to Topeka, asking Kansas Governor Edmund N. Morrill to honor his requisition papers for custody of Chism. There had been a protest by members of the black community against sending him back, and the governor met with a delegation of them and Sheriff Laird to review the matter. One of the items considered was a telegram, purportedly from Benton County, indicating that 400 people had assembled in Warsaw, Missouri, the county seat of Benton County, to meet Laird on his return, with the avowed purpose of lynching Chism. On the 25th, a writ of habeas corpus was directed to Sheriff Elwell in Franklin County, but he replied that no such person was or had been in his custody. It is not known if this was before Chism had arrived in Ottawa, and therefore the sheriff was being truthful, or if he was there at the time, and the sheriff was not being truthful. A lawyer from Topeka came to Lawrence proposing to "make a hard fight" for Chism once he was able to get an action on the case, and Rose, who had been released from jail in Lawrence, had traveled to Topeka to protest sending her lover and the father of her child back to where, in her judgment, he would be killed. On the morning of the 26th, Governor Morrill refused to issue the requisition from Sheriff Laird because he found the certificate accompanying it was irregular. Sheriff Laird went back to Missouri to get it corrected. The newspaper observed that twice before in the history of Kansas, requisition papers had been refused "…when it was shown that to take the accused back to the southern states meant simply death." On the Morning of the 27th, a writ of habeas corpus was issued from the District Court to Sheriff Hindman for him to bring Chism to court on Friday the 29th. The Sheriff was out of the county summoning witnesses on another case, and supposedly did not know about the furor that was happening over Chism. A writ was also issued to Sheriff Laird from Benton County, who had returned to Topeka, but he said he did not have Chism in his custody. However, he expected to have the proper requisition papers by the time the writ could be heard in Douglas County, and he planned to press for Chism's rearrest if he were to be released. If he was rearrested, Chism's supporters planned to file a writ with the Kansas Supreme Court. The newspaper noted "A desperate fight will be made for the purpose of preventing the return of Chism to Missouri. The colored people contend that they are not fighting to defend a man charged with a crime but to prevent his lynching." It went on to report that "eastern newspapers have numerous dispatches from Missouri stating that Chism is surely to be killed if brought back to Missouri and this has wrought up the colored people." On the morning of November 28th, Sheriff Hindman returned Chism to Lawrence "from the south," presumably from the Franklin County Jail in Ottawa. The habeas corpus proceedings took place in Lawrence on the morning of the 29th before Judge Alfred W. Benson. It was determined that Sheriff Hindman did not have a warrant for the arrest of Chism, but had arrested him on word from Benton County that he was wanted for a crime committed there. Judge Benson immediately ordered Chism's release from custody. Sheriff Elwell of Franklin County requested the arrest of Chism, and immediately after that, a new habeas corpus writ was filed, to be considered that afternoon. While this was going on, Chism and Rose went across the hall to the office of Probate Judge John Q.A. Norton. Judge Norton issued a marriage license to the couple, and they were married there in his office by Shelby Henderson, a "Minister of the Gospel." When the habeas case was taken up again around 1:30 that afternoon, Judge Benson continued it for a day pending an investigation of the evidence provided. Sheriff Laird arrived back in Topeka that same day with corrected requisition papers for Chism from Missouri Governor Stone that he intended to present to Governor Morrill the next day. He also brought a number of affidavits from people in and around Warsaw that asserted there was no danger of Chism being lynched upon his returned there. That evening, a large group of people, "armed with shotguns and clubs" marched through the streets of Lawrence to the jail where Chism was being held and surrounded it, determined to guard against any attempts to take him away. The newspaper referred to the group as a mob, and decried it as a disgrace to the town. Apparently the black citizens of Lawrence had longer memories than the author of the newspaper article, because they undoubtedly took this action to ensure that there was no recurrence of what happened on June 10, 1882, when a mob broke into the jail in Lawrence, took out three black men who were being held there, and lynched them from the Kansas River bridge(3), something that had truly been a disgrace to the town. When Judge Benson's court resumed on the 30th, a black attorney from Topeka named A.M. Thomas, presumable the lawyer referred to earlier as intending to "make a hard fight" for Chism, had a run-in with the judge. He was reported to have repeatedly asked for the court to demand the presence of Sheriff Laird in the hearing. Judge Benson supposedly said he had no right to try the case at that time as the warrant from Sheriff Laird was sworn to a Franklin County justice. Thomas was reported to have said he could show some underhanded work by the officers involved. Judge Benson set the case for a hearing on Wednesday, December 4th. Sheriff Laird presented his documents to Governor Merrill, but the Governor refused to honor the requisition from Governor Stone, and the Sheriff went back to Missouri disgusted with the Kansas authorities. Rose's father came to Lawrence to try to persuade his daughter to come home to Missouri. Sheriff Laird was quoted as saying that Rose was so infatuated with her husband that the visit would be fruitless. He was wrong, as Rose agreed to go back home with her father under the condition that charges of abduction against Chism were to be dropped. Thouvenel complied with his daughter's wishes, and sent telegrams to Benton County and Topeka asking that charges against Chism be dropped. Subpoenas were issued for Rose and her father to appear in Lawrence on the 4th, but they were probably never served. As they passed through Kansas City on the way home, Rose left her baby with the matron of a police station there, who promised to see to it that it was provided with a good home. They arrived in Sedalia, Missouri, on December 3rd. That afternoon, Sheriff Hindman received a telegram from Warsaw stating that the case against Chism had been dismissed. Chism was brought up before Judge Benson again the next day, December 4th, and the judge found that "the papers in the case were regular," and that he must stand trial in Ottawa, the county seat of Franklin County. Later that day, a telegram was received from the authorities in Ottawa that the proceedings against Chism were being dismissed without requiring the formality of bringing him back to Ottawa from Lawrence. Chism was immediately released from jail. Sheriff Hindman came under attack from the Kansas State Ledger, which implied he was crooked, accusing him of having moved Chism to Ottawa where he would get more sympathizers. After his release, Chism went to work on a farm near Lecompton, Kansas. On October 29, 1896, Chism filed a $15,000 damage claim in the district court against D.N. Burge, former sheriff of Shawnee County, C.D. Watson, former deputy sheriff of Shawnee County, L.W. Hindman, former sheriff of Douglas County, and J.A. Elwell, Sheriff of Franklin County, for false imprisonment. He contended that as there was no warrant issued against him when he was arrested in November of 1895, the motivation for the arrest was the promise of a reward, and that the officers named in the suite had conspired to earn the money. He asserted that "he was moved rapidly from place to place mostly at night and in a very secretive manner" in order to keep his friends from getting him released on a habeas corpus writ. He claimed mental and physical anguish, and damage to his health and reputation. In the November 3, 1896 election, John W. Leedy was elected as the new governor of Kansas. He took office on January 11, 1897, replacing Edmund Morrill, the man who had denied Chism's extradition to Missouri. Four days later, on the 15th, four men in a wagon came to the Emery farm near Lecompton where Chism worked and demanded that he come with them. He refused, and the men went on to Lecompton. Towards evening, they returned to the farm and read aloud what they said was a warrant for his arrest. Chism reluctantly went with them. It was reported in the newspaper that the men said that he was an escaped convict from the Missouri penitentiary. On the 18th, Sheriff Laird from Benton County presented to Governor Leedy a requisition for Chism signed by Missouri Governor Stevens. Leedy determined the papers were in order and signed permission for Laird to take Chism out of Kansas. Some of the black citizens of Topeka got wind of what was happening and tried to get it stopped but were too late. Laird quickly took Chism into Missouri. In the evening, Governor Leedy telephoned officials in Lawrence informing them that the requisition had been issued by him "under a misapprehension" and that if Chism was still in town that he should be held "at all hazards." They informed him that Chism had not been in Lawrence since before his arrest, and that it was too late. Exactly why the authorities in Missouri had chosen to go after Chism again, over a year after Thouvenel had requested he not be prosecuted, is not clear, but the Lawrence Daily World thought it knew when it observed, "These Missouri officers have long memories and consider it their religious duty to catch colored men when they can." There was great apprehension in Topeka and Lawrence that Chism was doomed. On the 19th, Governor Leedy sent Governor Stevens a telegram, stating that he understood that Fred Chism was threatened with violence in Benton County, and asked that he be protected. Stevens replied that he had notified the authorities in Warsaw to protect him "at all hazards." Chism received a preliminary trial in Warsaw during the second week of February. His attorneys were T.B. Wheeler and W.L.P. Burney(4), and it was reported that they presented no evidence, but made the state "show its hand." It was also reported that Chism had no money and his attorneys had not been paid a cent. Although he was bound over to the grand jury for $500, it appeared the case against him was not very strong. In mid-May, Chism's suit for damages against former Douglas County Sheriff Hindman, former Shawnee County Sheriff Burge, and current Franklin County Sheriff Elwell was dismissed due to lack of prosecution. Chism's abduction case went to trial the second week of August. It appears his lawyers argued that because Missouri had lowered the age of consent to 14 prior to Chism and Rose having run away together, he had violated no law, since being 16-years-old, she was free to do what she wanted without her father's permission. Whatever that argued, Chism was acquitted of all charges on August 18th. In September 1897, Chism went to Topeka and filed a new suit for damages against former sheriff Burge. The outcome of that suit is unknown. Chism decided to remain in Missouri, but despite this, his marriage to Rose did not last. The two divorced, and he married a black woman named Callie Callius on August 25, 1898, in Benton County. Four days later, Rose remarried, as sarcastically reported by the Sedalia Democrat, to "a blonde white man, as far away in complexion from the son of Ham as possible" who was named William Willhite. Fred and Callie Chism, along with Fred's father General, settled on a farm in Pettis County, the Missouri county immediately north of Benton County. Sometime before 1910, the Willhites moved to a farm in Kearny County, Kansas. The Chisms had at least three children, Walter, Julia, and Clara, and the five were still living together as a family in Pettis County as late as 1920. Charles Thouvenel died on January 30, 1922, and Rose and William eventually moved to King County, Washington. There is no evidence that they had children together. Chism later married another woman named Angeline, but what happened to Callie is not known. Fred Chism died in Appleton City, St. Clair County, Missouri, on November 5, 1940, of natural causes, and was buried in the Appleton City Cemetery. Rose died on November 9, 1958, in Washington, and was buried in Carnation Cemetery in King County.

(1) No documents have been found with the name Frederick, but a reference to the birth of a child record this as his first name. In addition, there is other circumstantial evidence that supports this. In some newspaper accounts his last name is incorrectly spelled "Chisholm".

(2) There is some confusion as to what her full name actually was. In a reference to the birth of her baby, her name is listed as Rachel Rosa Rosetta Thouvenel. Several census records have her name as Rachel R., while one has her as Rossetta [sp.]. Newspaper accounts refer to her as either Rose or Rosa. Rose and Rosa can both be nicknames of Rosetta, and having two middle names as similar as Rosa and Rosetta would be unusual but not unheard of. Baring more information, it is not possible to be completely certain as to her full name. In some newspaper accounts the family's last name is spelled "Thouvenal".

(3) See the This Month In Legal History article for June 2010 for the story of this dark day in Lawrence history.

(4) Burney was a graduate of the University of Kansas Law School.

(From: Fred D. Chism, Missouri Death Certificates, 1910 - 1963, Missouri Digital Heritage website; Chism, Fred D., 1900 U.S. Census, Lake Creek Township, Pettis County, Missouri, 6/18/1900; Chism, General, 1880 U.S. Census, Haw Creek Township, Morgan County, Missouri, 6/5/1880; Rachel Thouvenel Willhite, Find A Grave website; Charles Nicholas Thouvenel, Find A Grave website; Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 27, no. 278 (November 21, 1897) p. 4; Lawrence Daily World, v. 4, no. 229 (November 21, 1895), pp. 3, 4; Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 211 (October 30, 1896), pp. 3; Lawrence Daily World, v. 4, no. 230 (November 22, 1895), p. 3; Lawrence Daily World, v. 4, no. 232 (November 25, 1895), p. 3; Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 27, no. 282 (November 26, 1897), p. 4; Lawrence Daily World, v. 4, no. 233 (November 26, 1895), p. 3; Lawrence Daily World, v. 4, no. 234 (November 27, 1895), p. 3; Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 27, no. 284 (November 28, 1895), p. 4; Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 27, no. 285 (November 29, 1895), p. 4; Lawrence Daily World, v. 4, no. 236 (November 29, 1895), p. 2; Douglas County, Kansas, Marriage Certificates; Lawrence Daily World, v. 4, no. 237 (November 30, 1895), pp. 3, 4; Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 27, no. 287 (December 2, 1897). p. 4; Lawrence Daily World, v. 4, no. 238 (December 2, 1895), p. 1; Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 27, no.288 (December 3, 1895), p. 4; Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 27, no.289 (December 4, 1895), p. 4; Lawrence Daily World, v. 4, no. 240 (December 4, 1895), pp. 1-3; Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 279 (January 18, 1897), p. 3; Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 280 (January 19, 1897), p. 3; Lawrence Daily World, v. 5, no. 281 (January 20, 1897), p. 2; Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 29, no. 39 (February 15, 1897), p. 4 Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 29, no. 119 (May 19, 1897), p. 4; Lawrence Daily Journal v. 29, no. 197 (August 18, 1897), p. 4; Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 29, no. 220 (September 14, 1897), p. 4; Benton County, Missouri Marriages, Book G (July 1897 to August 1901) Bride Index, USGenWeb Archives website; Sedalia Democrat (September 4, 1898), p. 1; Chism, Fred D., 1920 U.S. Census, Sedalia City, Sedalia Township, Pettis County, Missouri, 1/9/1920; Willhite, William, 1910 U.S. Census, Kendall Township, Kearny County, Kansas, 5/10/1910; Chism, Fred D., 1940 U.S. Census, Appleton City, Appleton Township, St. Clair County, Missouri, 4/29/40; and, Willhite, W.P., 1940 U.S. Census, Stillwater Precinct, King County, Washington, 5/4/1940. Published 1/15.)  Back to top of page

February 17, 1897 - The New England Emigrant Aid Company transfers its claim for the destruction of the Free State Hotel to the University of Kansas - On January 4, 1854, a bill to create the territories of Kansas and Nebraska was reported to the main body of the United States Senate. The bill, that came to be known as the Kansas-Nebraska Act, had been introduced by the senior senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas. There was a significant amount of pressure coming from proponents of slavery to end restrictions on slavery in new territories. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had set the line of latitude of the southern border of Missouri as the northern boundary for new slave states to form in the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase, and the proslavery powers were pushing to end this. Douglas knew he would need support from southern senators to get his bill passed, so he included the concept of "popular sovereignty" in it. Popular sovereignty meant that the residents of a territory could vote on whether it would come into the Union as a slave or free state, in effect, throwing out the Missouri Compromise. As the winter of 1854 turned to spring, the word out of Washington was that the bill would likely pass. Eastern abolitionists began to plan on how to respond to this dramatic change in the prospects for the future of slavery in the country. In April the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company was formed under the guidance of Eli Thayer of Worcester, Massachusetts. It was established as both a benevolent and moneymaking venture, and its initial aims were to secure reduced transportation fares to the west for Free State emigrants traveling in companies organized and directed by the company, to provide temporary accommodations for settlers, to build or buy steam saw and grist mills, and to establish a weekly newspaper in Kansas to act as the voice of the company. The company planned to make a profit on investments by purchasing the land upon which its hotels and mills stood, and when land values increased, sell for the benefit of the stockholders. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by Congress and was signed into law by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854. The first party of Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company settlers arrived at the future site of Lawrence, Kansas Territory, on August 1, 1854. That summer and fall, five other parties arrived bringing a total of around 450 settlers. In February 1855, a new charter of the company was written, changing the name of the company to the New England Emigrant Aid Company. The company established other towns in Kansas, but Lawrence became the headquarters of the Free State movement in the territory, and the focus of anti-abolitionist hatred from the proponents of slavery both in and outside Kansas. That spring, seven more company parties brought out another 800 Free State settlers. Work was begun on a hotel in Lawrence to house new settlers that arrived in town until houses could be built for them. George W. Hunt, who had lead one of the company's settler parties to Kansas, joined with another man to be the contractors for the building of the hotel, destined to be named the Free State. The hotel was also intended to serve as the headquarters for the New England Emigrant Aid Company in Kansas. It was a very substantial three-story structure made of stone. Proslavery partisans, including many territorial officials, accused it of being built as a fortress for the Free State men in Lawrence to illegally resist the lawful authorities. The Free State Hotel opened in April 1856, just before the violence between pro and antislavery factions in the territory, which had led to it becoming known as "Bleeding Kansas," dramatically escalated. In May, United States Marshal Israel B. Donaldson(1) was issued warrants for the arrest of several Lawrence residents for their supposed activities against the government. He began to assemble a posse of proslavery men to help him inforce the warrant. They camped a few miles west of the town while the men assembled. On the morning of May 21, 1856, the proslavery posse ate breakfast, and then was drawn up into a hollow square formation. Marshal Donaldson was introduced, and gave his orders for the day to his men, to march into Lawrence and enforce his warrants. Next to speak was David Rice Atchison. Atchison was a United States Senator for Missouri. He had served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate for six years, and had requested that Senator Stephen Douglas introduce the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Atchison was strongly in favor of Kansas becoming as slave state, and bitterly opposed the Free State men in Lawrence. He made a fiery speech to the assembled proslavery posse, excoriating the town, and telling the posse to crush out "the last sign of damned abolitionism in the territory of Kansas." Donaldson then led the posse into Lawrence, took over the town, and began serving his warrants. When he was finished, the Marshal left Lawrence. The proslavery sheriff of Douglas County, Sam Jones, took command of the proslavery posse. Jones had had several previous run-ins with citizens of Lawrence, and blamed the town for the attempt on his life when he had been shot there by an unknown gunman the month before. Jones claimed that he was a deputy United States marshal and had a warrant from the federal court in the territory to suppress what he said was an insurrection against the government. He led the posse as they proceeded to sack and burn the town. They had brought a cannon with them, and they fired several rounds at the Free State Hotel. It was so well built that the shot did little structural damage, but instead only knocked off pieces of the stone exterior. One piece of the stone landed on a proslavery man and killed him. They gave up trying to destroy the hotel with the cannon and instead lit it on fire. The hotel was gutted, leaving only smoking ruins of the stone walls standing when the proslavery posse left town. The violence in the territory continued to be intense for the rest of the summer of 1856, but slowly decreased in later years as the Free State cause became ascendant, with Kansas being admitted to the Union as a Free State on January 29, 1861. The following year, the stockholders of the New England Emigrant Aid Company ordered that all of its properties in Kansas and Missouri be sold. When this was completed, the company realized sufficient funds to just about pay its outstanding debts. Early on, the stockholders had been advised to not invest more money than they could afford to lose, so despite the lack of a profit, they were pleased with the results of its operations. After Kansas became a state, the company transferred its activities to other areas. In 1864 and 1865 it promoted the migration of working women to Oregon, and from 1866 to 1868 it was active in bringing Northerners to Florida. By 1870, the company had ceased activities, and held no more stockholders' meetings until 1897, when it requested and was granted an extension to its charter. On February 17, 1897, the stockholders transferred to the University of Kansas its only asset, a claim against the United States government for the loss of the Free State Hotel when it was destroyed on May 21, 1856. The University filed a claim with the United States Court of Claims in 1903 seeking damages for the loss. On January 28, 1907, the court denied the claim, finding that when Sheriff Jones and his posse destroyed the hotel, "it does not appear that the said Sheriff had any official connection with the United States." It was true, the court said, that Jones had announced that he was a deputy United States marshal, that he was acting under an order of the "United States Court for Douglas County," and that he had a writ from the court, but all those announcements were untrue. Less than a month later, on February 19, 1907, the extended charter for the New England Emigrant Aid Company expired, and the company ceased to exist. Not satisfied with the ruling from the claims court, the University continued to seek legislative relief for their claim off and on until 1934, when it finally abandoned the effort.

(1) There is a question about the spelling of the Marshal's last name. Although most if not all secondary sources that discuss the Marshal's activities in Kansas spell his name as "Donaldson", there is strong evidence that he may have spelled it "Donalson". Not having access to any primary material that was signed by him limits the ability to determine which spelling is correct, so in effect, the two spellings of the Marshal's name are interchangeable.

(From: Kansas-Nebraska Act, Wikipedia website; New England Emigrant Aid Company Papers , Kansas Historical Society website; Proceedings of the Fitchburg Historical Society and Papers Relating to the History of the Town Read by Some of the Members, Volume II, Fitchburg, Mass., The Historical Society, 1897, pp. 290-292; Massachusetts Street: Monuments and Milestones, The Eldridge Hotel, Watkins Museum of History website; Speech, David R. Atchison to Pro-Slavery "Soldiers", May 21, 1856, Territorial Kansas On-Line website; The University of Kansas and the Sack of Lawrence: A Problem of Intellectual Honesty, by C. S. Griffin, Kansas Historical Quarterly, Winter 1968 (Vol. XXXIV. No. 4), pp. 409-426; and, Letter from the assistant clerk of the court of claims transmitting a copy of the findings of the court in the case of the regents of the University of Kansas against the United States, 59th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate, Document 274, Unites States Congressional Serial Set, Issue 5072, [pp. 75-80]. Published 2/15.)  Back to top of page

March 9, 1859 - Samuel Dexter Lecompte leaves his position as the first chief justice of the Kansas Territorial Supreme Court - Samuel Dexter Lecompte(1) was born in Dorchester County, Maryland, on December 13, 1814, the eldest child of Samuel D. Lecompte and Araminta Lecompte, née Frazier. Both his parents had previously been married and widowed, so in addition to three younger sisters, the junior Samuel had two half-brothers and two half-sisters, all older than he was. He attended Kenyan College in Gambier, Ohio, for two years, and then transferred to Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, graduating with honors from there in 1834. After graduation, Lecompte settled in Cambridge, Maryland, where he studied law. On September 7, 1837, he was admitted to the bar, and set up a practice in Carroll County, Maryland. In 1840, Lecompte ran for the State Legislature, and was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. He took office in January 1841. Later that year, on April 28, 1841, he married Camilla Anderson of Baltimore, Maryland, who was about 19 years old at the time. Sometime in 1842, a son, Samuel E., was born to the couple. Lecompte served only one term in the legislature, leaving office in 1843. A second child was born later that year, and in 1844, Lecompte moved his growing family back to Cambridge. While living in Cambridge, Camilla gave birth to eight more children, most of whom died in infancy. In 1850, Lecompte ran as the Democratic Party candidate for the United States Congress, but was defeated. The family moved to Baltimore in 1854, where Lecompte continued to practice law and be an active member of the Democratic Party. As such, he was known to be a supporter of the institution of slavery. On May 30, 1854, President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, opening up the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase to white settlement. The Territory of Kansas was directly west of the slave state of Missouri, and was to quickly become a battleground over the issue of slavery in the United States. One of the provisions in the Act was that the issue over whether slavery would be allowed in Kansas would be open to a vote of the residents. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had set the line of latitude of the southern border of Missouri to be the northern boundary for any new slave state to form west of there, so under it, Kansas should have been a state without slavery. The Kansas-Nebraska Act threw out that boundary, and in so doing, set the stage for what was to become a bloody conflict between Free State and proslavery supporters in the Territory. Men on both sides of the issue poured into Kansas, and violence erupted. President Pierce began naming men to fill governmental positions in the new territory, and he decided to name Lecompte to be the first chief justice of the Kansas Territorial Supreme Court(2). The reasons for that appointment are obscure, but the fact that Pierce was a Democrat and Lecompte was active in the Democratic Party undoubtedly had something to do with it. In early December 1854, Lecompte, his wife Camilla, their surviving children(3), and "two negro women"(4) arrived in Kansas. After arriving in Kansas, Justice Lecompte began his duties as Chief Justice. He and the other two justices on the Supreme Court also served as district court judges. Lecompte was appointed district judge of the First Judicial District of Kansas. That district consisted of all the counties north of the Kaw, or Kansas, River and south of the Nebraska border. Soon, Douglas County was added to the district. Douglas County was the location of the town of Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free State movement in Kansas, which was hated by many proslavery men. Lecompte rode circuit throughout the First District, hearing many cases involving clashes between Free State and proslavery men. Many of his decisions and actions became notorious to the Free State men in the Territory, who claimed that Justice Lecompte was allowing his support of slavery to influence his decisions and so favor the proslavery faction in Kansas. He was reported to have answered this with, "To the charge of a pro-slavery bias, I am proud, too, of this. I am the steady friend of Southern rights under the constitution of the United States. I have been reared where slavery was recognized by the constitution of my state. I love the institution as entwining itself around all my early and late associations." The March 30, 1855, election for the territorial legislature witnessed thousands of proslavery men from Missouri crossing into Kansas, taking over polling stations, many times preventing Free State men from voting, but voting themselves. When the ballots were counted, out of the approximately 2,700 legal residents of Kansas, there were nearly 6,000 votes cast. The Free State men cried "foul", but eventually the proslavery men were allowed to form the legislature, and began passing laws to make Kansas a slave territory. That "Bogus Legislature," as it was known to the Free State men, received significant support from the decisions that Justice Lecompte made from the bench. Because of his support of their cause, proslavery men in the town of Bald Eagle in northwest Douglas County, Kansas Territory, renamed their home Lecompton in his honor. The first session of the Territorial Supreme Court was July 30, 1855, at the Shawnee Manual Labor School. The Territorial Legislature had been meeting there, but soon after adjourned to the newly renamed Lecompton, which became the headquarters of the proslavery movement as well as the Territorial Capital. Many of the seemingly proslavery decisions from Justice Lecompte continued to anger the Free State men, and pressure was put on the Federal Government to get him out of office. In December 1856, President Pierce appointed James O. Harrison to replace Lecompte. Whether this was because of pressure from Free State supporters, because the summer of 1856 in Kansas had been the most violent and bloody time in recent United States history, because Lecompte had clashed over policy with then Territorial Governor of Kansas John W. Geary, because of internal Democratic Party politics, or from some other reason is unclear, but whatever the reasons, it became a moot point when the Congress refused to confirm Harrison, leaving Justice Lecompte still in office. The tide began to turn against the proslavery cause in Kansas, and a Free State dominated Territorial Legislature was elected in 1857. Sometime in 1858, Justice Lecompte's wife Camilla delivered a son, who they named James. By 1859, it was becoming apparent that Kansas would come into the Union as a Free State, but considering the opposition from slavery's supporters in Congress, when it would was unclear to everyone. On March 9, 1859, Justice Lecompte retired from the Kansas Territorial Supreme Court. During his tenure on the court, he speculated in real estate and railroads. He was president of the Lecompton Town Company, and for a time actively promoted it to eventually become the state capital when Kansas was admitted to the Union. He sponsored a charter for a medical college to be located in Lecompton, and promoted the establishment of a state university in Leavenworth, Kansas. He was involved in the incorporation of three railroads, the Kansas Central Railroad Company; the Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western Railroad Company; and the Leavenworth and Lecompton Railroad Company. After his retirement from the court, Lecompte moved his family to Delaware City, a town in Leavenworth County, Kansas Territory, south of the town of Leavenworth. He soon opened a law office in Leavenworth. On the night of December 4, 1860, Lecompte's 19 year-old son Samuel fell over what was described as "a steep embankment, 30 or 40 feet deep," and was so severely injured that he died around 8:00 a.m. the next morning, leaving three children surviving in the family. At the end of the Civil War, Lecompte renounced his allegiance to slavery and the Democratic Party, and joined the Republican Party. He served as probate judge for four years in Leavenworth County and was elected to the state legislature for the 1867 and 1868 sessions. He was named Poet Laureate of the Kansas Legislature and wrote a satirical poem containing comments about each legislator. Lecompte's earlier support of slavery and his actions on the bench in the 1850s continued to cause him problems. A newspaper controversy prompted him to write a defense of his actions, which was published on February 4, 1875, as "A Defense by Samuel D. Lecompte" in the Weekly Kansas Chief. That same year, he was elected chairman of the First District Republican Congressional Committee. On October 22, 1877, Lecompte's wife Camilla died in Leavenworth. In 1887, he moved to Kansas City, Missouri, to live with his son James, and died there on April 24, 1888. Lecompte is still strongly associated with the proslavery cause in Kansas, and his memory is tarnished with what many believe was an unfair bias.

(1) In some sources the name is spelled LeCompte.

(2) There is some confusion as to when Lecompte actually took office. In Reports of Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of the Territory of Kansas, published in 1870 by James McCahon, it is reported that his commission began on June 11, 1854, while a footnote on page 389 of the Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, Vol. 8, 1903-1904, published in 1904, reports that he held the position from October 3, 1854. The two dates might record different stages in his becoming a justice, or one of them could just be incorrect. It is also possible that the October date is when the family left Maryland bound for Kansas. Determining which of these possibilities is correct will need to wait on additions sources of information coming to light.

(3) The date may be suspect, as it comes from a source that may have incorrectly reported the date that Lecompte assumed office, but until additional sources of information become available, this is the best estimation of when Lecompte arrived in Kansas Territory. Several sources note that he and his wife brought five children with them to Kansas Territory. The 1860 U.S. Census for Leavenworth County, Kansas Territory does indeed list five children, but while the four oldest were recorded as being born in Maryland, the youngest, two-year-old James, is recorded as being born in Kansas. It is therefore probable that the Lecompte family had only four children when they came to Kansas in 1854, and that the sources confuse the fact that the fifth one was born after the family had been living in Kansas. The four who came in 1854 were Samuel E., Eugene D., Edward, and Camilla.

(4) It is not recorded as to whether the women were free servants or slaves, but considering the fact that Maryland was a state that allowed slavery, and that Lecompte was a known supporter of the institution, it is likely that they were enslaved. There is also a question as to whether both of the servants were women. The 1860 U.S. Census for Leavenworth County, Kansas Territory, records two blacks in Lecompte's household. One is 65 year-old John Phillips, a laborer, and the other is a 60 year-old female cook whose name is apparently spelled "Mentary." Both are recorded as being born in Maryland. Whether these are the two "women" who came from Maryland with the family is unknown.

(From: Samuel Dexter Lecompte, 1814-1888, Territorial Kansas website; In Judge Lecompte's Court, by M.H. Hoeflich, University of Kansas Law Review, June, 2014, pp. 1169-1225; Reports of Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of the Territory of Kansas, by James McCahon, Chicago, Callaghan & Cockcroft, 1870, vi-x; A Defense by Samuel D. Lecompte, Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1903-1904: Together With …, Vol. VIII, Topeka, Geo. A Clark, State Printer, 1904, pp. 389-405; Judge Samuel Dexter LeCompte, LeComptes of Castle Haven,, Sketches of Some Famous LeComptes, lecompte.net website; History of Western Maryland: Being a History of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties from the Earliest Period to the Present Day; Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men, Vol.2, p. 816; Samuel D. Lecompte, 1860 U.S. Census, Delaware Township, Leavenworth County, Kansas Territory, 8/21/1860; History of the Kansas Appellate Courts, Kansas Judicial Branch website; Letter, J. [John] W. Whitfield to Dear [John A.] Halderman, by Whitfield, John W. (Wilkins), February 1, 1857, Territorial Kansas Online website; Delaware City and Township, William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Leavenworth County, Part 32; and, The Easton Gazette [Easton, Maryland], Vol. 43, no. 51, (December 29, 1860), p. 2. Published 3/15.)  Back to top of page

April 20, 1856 - For the second time in two days, Samuel N. Wood avoids being arrested by Sheriff Jones - Samuel Newitt Wood was born on December 30, 1825, in Mount Gilead, Ohio, the fifth of eleven children of David Wood and Esther Ward Wood, née Mosher. Both his grandfathers were leaders in the Society of Friends, and this Quaker upbringing, described as "an eminently rigid anti-slavery type" gave his parents a strong hatred of slavery, which they passed along to their son Samuel. This abhorrence of slavery led the family to become active abolitionists and conductors on the Underground Railroad. At risk to their own liberty, they helped many runaway slaves avoid slave catchers on the road to freedom. Even thought he was not yet old enough to vote, during the presidential election campaign of 1844 eighteen-year-old Samuel was appointed chairman of the Liberty Party for his county. In 1848, he was a delegate from Ohio to the convention of the newly established Free Soil Party that, although it did not actively support abolitionism, had the motto of "Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men" and opposed the expansion of slavery beyond where it already existed. The convention nominated Martin Van Buren for President and Charles Francis Adams, son of John Quincy Adams and grandson of John Adams, for Vice-President. Wood cast his first vote in an election for the Free Soil Party ticket, which was defeated at the polls. In 1849, during one of his many successful trips taking runaway slaves to freedom, Wood met Margaret Walker Lyon, the nineteen-year-old daughter of William Lyon and Elizabeth Lyon, née Sinkey, another family of Ohio abolitionists. Samuel and Margaret began courting. The following year, Congress passed the Compromise of 1850, which allowed California to join the Union as a free state, one that did not allow slavery. The Compromise consisted of five separate bills that favored the proslavery cause, enacted because a free state was to be allowed into the Union without a corresponding slave state to balance it in Congress. One of the acts, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, became notorious among abolitionists, as it dramatically increased the powers of masters to regain escaped slaves and made helping a fugitive slave a federal crime. The Fugitive Slave Act was signed into law on September 18, 1850, which was likely a low point for the abolitionist Wood and Lyon families, but that would have been mitigated somewhat with the joy accompanying the marriage of Samuel and Margaret two weeks later on October 3, 1850. Margaret gave birth to a son on July 25, 1851, who was named David after Wood's father. Wood was teaching school to support himself and his family, but in 1852, he began reading law. Then on March 10, 1853, a second son was born, and named William Lyon after Margaret's father. During this time, the question of how slavery should be handled as new territories were created out West began to gain prominence in the nation. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had set the line of latitude of the southern border of Missouri as the northern boundary for any new slave territory to be organized in the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase, but the proslavery powers in the nation did not like that restriction. There was also no clear indication of what would be the slavery status of new territories created from land that was not part of the Louisiana Purchase. That discussion became even more intense in early 1854 when Congress began moving toward opening up the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase to white settlement by creating new territories. Stephen Douglas, the senior senator from Illinois, introduced the Kansas-Nebraska Act to accomplish this. Two new territories would be created, the Territory of Kansas would be created directly west of Missouri and the Territory of Nebraska would consist of the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase land, with the intent that it would be subdivided into smaller territories as settlement progressed. There was dissention within the ranks of the proslavery members of Congress about creating several new territories that would eventually become states, above the boundary restricting new slave territories. It appeared that they would block the creation of such new territories, so Douglas included "Popular Sovereignty" in his bill, which would allow the residents of the new territories to vote on whether they would be admitted to the Union as a free or slave state, in effect discarding the Missouri Compromise. The sudden prospect of allowing land that had been looked upon for more than thirty years as eventually becoming a free state to instead become a slave state riled up abolitionists. As the spring of 1854 progressed and it became more and more apparent that the bill with its drastic changes to controls on limiting slavery was moving towards being enacted, abolitionists began to organize and plan to oppose slavery in the territories. Because of its more northern location, it was assumed that Nebraska Territory would be free, but Kansas Territory, being directly west of the slave state of Missouri, was going to be a battleground over the issue. Wood was paying attention to all this, and decided that if the bill was passes, he would go to Kansas and work to make it a free state. Margaret's parents had decided to leave Ohio, but their intended destination was California. They left for there in early May 1854. As anticipated, the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed, and was signed into law by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854. Six days later, on June 5th, Wood was admitted to the bar in Ohio, and just two days after that he and his family left for the new Kansas Territory. They landed in Independence, Missouri, in late June and discovered that Margaret's family was also there, waiting on passage for California. Without much trouble, Samuel and Margaret were able to convince them to abandon their goal of California and instead to settle in Kansas and help the Free State cause there. They found much opposition to Free State men, first in Missouri, and then when they ventured into Kansas. There was talk of driving them all back east or lynching them on the spot. On June 24th, Wood staked a claim along the California road, west of what would become the site of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas Territory. A party of Free State settlers associated with the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company, later known as the New England Emigrant Aid Company, came to the Territory in late July. They arrived at the future site of Lawrence on August 1, 1854. Wood's father-in-law also staked a claim in the area of the newly forming town site and the two men went to work making homes for their two family groups. Wood had a wagon, and used it to help many of the settlers find claims of their own and build up their homesteads. He built the first frame house in Lawrence that autumn. The town was rapidly becoming the headquarters of the Free State movement in the territory. One of the early arrivals in Lawrence was Moses Pomeroy. He had come through Illinois, and by the time he got to town, he was sick with an "Illinois Fever." Samuel and Margaret took the young man into their brand new house and did everything they could for him, but he became the first person to die in Lawrence. That same autumn, Wood became associated with John Speer, another Free State man who had also come from Ohio, and helped him begin publishing the Kansas Tribune in January 1855 in Lawrence. During these early days, Wood's family did not have many material possessions, and clothing was especially in short supply. As such, he got the reputation for rarely changing his shirt. His dirty shirt became well known in the Territory, and one report has it that the mere mention of it would cause a particular newspaper reporter to want to scratch. Wood ran for office in the March 30, 1855, election to choose members of a territorial legislature that would pass the laws and write the constitution with which Kansas would be admitted to the Union. On that day, thousands of proslavery Missourians came into Kansas, took over many polling places, prevented Free State residents from voting, voted themselves, and then went back to Missouri when the ballot boxes were all secured. With approximately 2,700 legal residents of the Territory, nearly 6,000 votes were cast. Only two Free State men were elected, and Wood was not one of them. There was pressure to declare the obviously fraudulent election void, but nothing came of it, and the proslavery men were allowed to form a legislature, which soon rid itself of its two Free State members, and the "Bogus Legislature, as the Free State men referred to it, proceeded to pass draconian laws to make Kansas a slave state. These actions increased the tension in the Territory, and Free State men were determined not to allow them to go unanswered. In an attempt to take back the governance of Kansas from what they saw as an illegal usurpation of power by the proslavery partisans, they began forming a Free State government. On August 27, 1855, Samuel Jones, a proslavery man, was appointed as sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas Territory by the Bogus Legislature. A convention was soon called to meet in Topeka, Kansas Territory, and write a Free State Constitution. Wood was chosen as a delegate to that convention. The delegates convened in Constitution Hall in Topeka on October 23, 1855, and met there until November 11th. On November 21, 1855, Charles Coleman, a proslavery supporter, shot Charles Dow, his Free State neighbor, in the back with a shotgun. Dow die of his injuries, and although the shooting was over a land dispute and not based on their opposing beliefs over slavery, it caused a sudden and significant increase in the tension between the two sides. Coleman quickly fled to Westport, Missouri, and Free State men complained that Sheriff Jones was doing nothing to get him back for trial. Free State men began talking publically that if Jones refused to do his duty, then they would do something about Coleman. One of these was Jacob Branson, a friend and roommate of Dow. A proslavery friend of Coleman swore out a warrant against Branson, stating that he felt threatened by words that the Free State man had been saying. On the night of November 26th, Sheriff Jones organized a posse of around fifteen men and went to arrest Branson on the warrant. They accomplished their mission, and began escorting their prisoner to Lecompton, Kansas Territory, the headquarters of the proslavery movement in Kansas. Some of Branson's neighbors got wind of what was happening and got together a number of Free State men to stop Jones and his men from getting Branson to Lecompton. Wood was one of these men. The Free State men confronted Jones' posse about 1:00 a.m., and a standoff ensued. For over an hour, threats and insults were traded back and forth between the two groups of men. Sheriff Jones finally released Branson to the Free State men, and he was taken to Lawrence for safekeeping. Sheriff Jones issued a call for help to recapture Branson, and a force totaling around 1,500 Missourians came into Kansas and besieged Lawrence. The townspeople mobilized for defense, erecting a number of crude forts to repel any attacks made by the proslavery men. They were also able to smuggle a cannon into town. It was decided that the men who had participated in the rescue of Branson should leave town so that there would be no excuse for Lawrence to be attacked. Wood and the other men left and went to Topeka. When the proslavery force arrived, they realized that attacking the town would be difficult and costly, so instead of attacking, they surrounded the town and put it under siege. The siege lasted about a week, ending after a peace treaty was negotiated and signed by representatives of both sides in early December. Before the siege had ended, Wood and the other Branson rescuers heard a rumor that there had been an attack on Lawrence with many men having been killed, so they made their way back into town through the proslavery lines. Upon his arrival, wood discovered that the rumor was false. After the peace treaty was signed, the besieging proslavery force disbanded, and most of the Missourians went home, thereby ending the incident that came to be known as the Wakarusa War. Wood was asked to smuggle a number of letters out of Kansas to Free State supporters back east. He was reluctant to leave his family, but he finally agreed and soon left the Territory. While back east, Wood became a delegate to the convention held in February 1856 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that was called to organize the Republican Party. He was chosen to be one of the speakers to address the convention. Wood returned to Kansas Territory in March, conducting a party of Free State emigrants from Columbus, Ohio. Arriving back in Lawrence, he rejoined his family, and took up where he had left off. On April 19, 1856, Wood went to the law office of James Christian. As he stepped into the office, he encountered Sheriff Jones and two or three other men. Wood and Jones exchanged a few words, and then Jones put his hand on Wood's shoulder saying, "You are my prisoner." Jones was supposedly arresting Wood for his participation in the rescue of Branson the previous November 26th. Wood asked to the see the writ for his arrest, which Jones refused to supply. Suspecting that Jones did not have a writ, Wood turned and walked out the door. Jones followed him out and grabbed onto him again. Wood was later quoted that he was "trying his [Jones'] strength and studying about the propriety of whipping him." At last, Wood told Jones that he would go no farther. Jones called out to some bystanders to help him, and went for his pistol. Wood had anticipated this, and got a hold of it first. He drew it and passed it behind his back to one or more unnamed individuals, thereby disarming the Sheriff. Just then, John Speer, Wood's newspaper partner who was serving as a justice of the peace in Lawrence, stepped in between the two men and pushed them apart. Wood left the scene, walking a block or two to his house, where he waited inside until Jones and his men left town. Early the next day, Sunday, April 20th, Jones wrote to United State Marshal Israel B. Donaldson, requesting that he be sent a writ for the arrest of Wood. Later that day, Jones reappeared in Lawrence, armed with four warrants for the arrest of men who he said had helped Wood avoid arrest the previous day. He called on several men on their way to church services to help him serve the warrants on Wood and the other men, but his request was refused. Jones again left town without arresting Wood. Upon returning to Lecompton, Jones notified the Territorial Governor Wilson Shannon that the citizens of Lawrence had shown disrespect for him as sheriff. The Governor requested that Colonel Edwin Sumner, the commander of the United States Dragoons stationed near Lecompton, to send a troop of his men to Lawrence to help Jones enforce his authority there. Lieutenant McIntosh led six dragoons to Lawrence, and set up camp in the town. On April 23rd, Jones came to town and arrested six of the men for which he had warrants. Wood was not among them, so Jones decided to stay the night in Lieutenant McIntosh's camp, hoping to be able to get Wood the next day. That evening, Jones retired to his tent, pitched near the building housing the prisoners. His shadow was cast on the tent by light from the lamp inside, so his form was plainly visible from the outside. Someone out in the dark took advantage of this and shot Jones in the back, hitting him between the right shoulder and the spine. He fell, saying, "I am shot!" Although badly wounded, he received medical treatment and survived. A reward of $500 was offered for the arrest of the shooter. No one was every identified, but many proslavery men accused Wood, because of his previous run-ins with Jones, of having been the one who did the shooting. He went into hiding. In early May, Wood and seven other Free State men were indicted for treason because of their resistance to the proslavery government in Kansas Territory. The actions that Wood and the other men had taken led to Marshal Donaldson bringing a large force of proslavery men to Lawrence on May 21, 1856, to serve warrants on Free State supporters there. Sheriff Jones accompanied them, and after Donaldson had completed his mission and left town, Jones took command of the proslavery men and proceeded to sack and burn the town. Under his orders, they burned the Free State Hotel, headquarters of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, and destroyed the offices and printing presses of the two Free State newspapers in town. Wood was not around to see this, as he had previously escaped Kansas through Iowa on his way to Ohio. His family soon left Kansas and joined him in Ohio. Wood attended the first Republican Party National Convention, held from June 17-19, 1856, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and served as a delegate. John C. Frémont was chosen as the candidate for President. Wood became an active supporter of Frémont, and campaigned extensively for him throughout the summer and fall. The family planned to come back to Kansas early in 1857, but Margaret gave birth on January 20, 1857, to a daughter who they named Florence Sarah, which delayed them. They eventually made it back to Kansas in the spring. Wood worked to increase the political power of the Free State cause in the Territorial government, and in the October 5, 1857 election for the Territorial Legislature, Free State men won the majority. Wood himself was elected justice of the peace for Lecompton Township. In early 1858, the new legislature passed an act to organize a constitutional convention. There had been two previous attempts at getting a constitution, the Topeka Constitution, written by Free State men, and the Lecompton Constitution, written by proslavery men. The new convention was set for Leavenworth, and Wood was elected as a delegate to it from Douglas County. The resulting Leavenworth Constitution was an extremely liberal document for the time, granting voting rights to all men regardless of their race, ending slavery, and setting up a framework for women's rights. Like the two previous constitution attempts, it failed to gain approval in Congress. In early 1859, Wood moved his family to Cottonwood Falls in Chase County, Kansas Territory and opened a newspaper, the Kansas Press, there. He realized that the prospects for economic development there were severely limited, so within months, he moved his family and the newspaper to Council Grove in Morris County. Wood was elected to the Territorial Legislature in December 1859, and reelected in 1860. That year he helped organize the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. Near the end of the 1861 legislative session, newly inaugurated President Abraham Lincoln offered Wood the position of Collector of Customs at El Paso del Norte in Texas. He initially accepted, but the outbreak of the Civil War caused him to change his mind. Wood declined the appointment and went about raising a company of cavalry, known as the "Kansas Rangers," for which he was appointed captain. His cavalry company was organized in Lawrence, mustered into service in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 20, 1861, and attached to the 2nd Regiment of the Kansas Volunteer Infantry. Wood's regiment was assigned to the Army of the West, whose overall commander was Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon. Wood and Lyon were reported to be friends. When and how they first met is unknown, but the fact that Wood's son William had been given the middle name of Lyon when he was born in 1853 would tend to indicate that it was before then. Lyon took the Army of the West, including his friend Wood, to southwest Missouri pursuing a Confederate force. The Union and Confederate armies met on August 10, 1861, southwest of Springfield. In the ensuing battle, known as Wilson's Creek, Lyon was killed, becoming the first Union general to die in the Civil War. Wood and the Kansas Rangers saw much combat during the battle. Wood was then allowed to recruit Missouri men into a new battalion to be part of the 6th Missouri Cavalry. He was reassigned with the rank of Major to the Missouri battalion known as "Frémont's Battalion." Wood served with them in the Battle of Salem, Missouri, on December 3, 1861. Afterwards, he spent time hunting for Confederate guerrillas in Missouri, and then joined Major General Samuel Curtis' Army of the Southwest in its campaign into Arkansas. During his time with the 6th Missouri, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. This military service earned him the nickname of "The Fighting Quaker." In August 1863, Wood resigned his commission and returned to Morris County, Kansas. He was elected to the Kansas House for the 1864 biennial session. That same year he was appointed Brigadier General of the Kansas State Militia. On July 7, 1865, Margaret gave birth to the couple's fourth and final child, a daughter they named Mary Elizabeth, and whom they always called Dearie. Wood was elected to the Kansas Senate for the 1866 session, where he introduced the first resolution in favor of women's suffrage. He was appointed a state judge, served for several years before he resigned to spend two years in Texas cattle ranching. Wood came back to Kansas and served several more terms in the Kansas House. His progressive views caused him to break with the mainstream Republican Party, leading him to membership in the Greenback, Labor, and finally the Populist Party. Wood's younger daughter, Mary Elizabeth, died on July 12, 1879. In 1885, Wood became a partner in a company to establish a new town in Stevens County, Kansas, which was on the southern border in the far southwestern part of the state. The new town was named Woodsdale, and Wood became the mayor. Woodsdale became a rival to Hugoton, the only other settlement of any size in the county, to be the county seat of Stevens County. Both towns wanted the honor and economic benefits of being the county seat of Stevens County, and the rivalry between the two became intense, and eventually devolving into violence and bloodshed in one of Kansas' "County Seat Wars(1)". Men from Hugoton devised a plan to get Wood out of the way. He was arrested in August 1886 on a trumped up charge of libel, bail was denied, and he was put in the custody of several men who took him into No Man's Land(2) south of the Kansas Border The story was circulated that Wood had been given a sum of money to abandon his plans. His friends did not believe it and began to search for him. They discovered a note that Wood had dropped along the trail that he and his captors had taken. They continued on and overtook the men, freeing Wood, and taking the men to Garden City, Kansas, where civil and criminal proceedings were brought against the Hugoton men. Nothing came of the charges and they were eventually dismissed. Animosity between men of the two towns continued to grow, and open warfare nearly erupted on several occasions. During a meeting in May of 1888, Sam Robinson, the marshal of Hugoton, struck the undersheriff of Stevens County, a Woodsdale supporter, with his revolver. A warrant for the arrest of Robinson was issued to Ed Short, the marshal of Woodsdale. Short went to Hugoton. The two men had a gunfight in which both emptied their revolvers at each other without either man being injured. Short failed to arrest Robinson, and the tension between the two towns increased. On July 22, Short got word that Robinson was with a party picnicking in No Man's Land. Short got a few friends together and went into No Man's Land to arrest Robinson, who got word that they were coming for him and tried to escape. The posse supposedly surrounded Robinson, but felt the need for support to effect the capture. Short sent word back to Woodsdale for reinforcements. Sheriff John M. Cross assembled another posse of four men and went into No Man's Land. They failed to find Short and his men, and stopped to at a camp of men who were making hay in a meadow near Wild Horse Lake. In the meantime, Robinson's friends had made it back to Hugoton. They organized a rescue party and went back into No Man's Land. Robinson has slipped away from Short's men and joined his rescue party. On July 25, 1888, they came across Sheriff Cross' men asleep in their camp and killed four of the five in what became known as the Hay Meadow Massacre. Robinson and his friends went back to Hugoton, and thinking that they had killed all five men, reported that the men had been killed in a shootout. The surviving Woodsdale man and a group of haymakers who had witnessed the shootings gave a different story. They said that the Woodsdale men had been captured, disarmed, and then executed. The state militia was called out and the Hugoton men were arrested, but it soon became apparent that no court had jurisdiction in the case. Samuel Wood decided that he would see to it that the killers would be brought to trial. After much wrangling, the men were put on trial in the United States Court for the Eastern District of Texas, at Paris for the Hay Meadow killings. Wood served as lead prosecutor. A man named Jim Brennan testified for the defense in the trial, and "his evidence had been sharply criticized by Wood in his argument to the jury… ." Seven of the men were convicted of murder and sentenced to death. In 1889, Kansas Governor Lyman U. Humphrey appointed Theodosius Botkin judge in a newly established judicial district in the far southwestern corner of the state. Botkin was known to be intolerant of any opposition, and instead of remaining neutral on issues, would take sides on issues that came before him. His actions on and off the bench did nothing to lessen the conflict between Woodsdale and Hugoton. He had run-ins with Wood, who would not shrink from a fight if the cause was just, in both political and legal matters. Wood gradually came to be regarded as the anti-Botkin leader, and he began suffering the wrath of Botkin and the interests he controlled. Wood was serving as the clerk of the Kansas House Judiciary Committee, and attempts were made to have him arrested in Topeka on trumped-up charges. The men convicted of the Hay Meadow Massacre had appealed their convictions to the United States Supreme Court, who, ruled on January 26, 1891, that the United States Court for the Eastern District of Texas had erred in trying the case, as they had no jurisdiction. The convictions and death sentences were overturned, and the men all went free, never again to be tried for the deaths they caused. The Kansas House Judiciary Committee brought impeachment proceedings against Judge Botkin, and the full House impeached him. He was then tried in the Senate, and although a majority voted for conviction, the needed two-thirds majority was not reached and Botkin was acquitted. Botkin and his supporters blamed Wood for having instigated the impeachment attempt. They tried again to get Wood arrested, this time on a charge of bribery, and were successful. He was released on a bond to appear in court in Stevens County in the next term of court, which was to begin on June 23, 1891. Wood, his wife Margaret, and a Mrs. Carpenter drove in a buggy from Woodsdale to Hugoton the morning of the 23rd. They arrived at the church where Judge Botkin was holding court. As they arrived, court was adjourned until two in the afternoon. As Wood entered the building to look at some records, Botkin and most of the other people inside, including Jim Brennan, who had testified at the Hay Meadow trial and been criticized by Wood, exited the building. He stood waiting outside the door until Wood exited the building, and as Wood took hold of the buggy to get back in, Brennan pulled out a revolver and shot Wood in the back. Wood screamed and began to run away, when Brennan shot again, striking Wood in the right hip. Margaret jumped out of the buggy and tried to interfere. Brennan pulled a second pistol out and shot a third time, missing Wood. He looked back at his attacker, and as he did, Brennan shot a fourth time, the bullet striking Wood below the right eye and coming out behind the left ear. Wood was carried to the church where he died in Margaret's arms a half hour later. Brennen was taken into custody, charged with murder, and held without bond. Wood was buried in Prairie Grove Cemetery in Cottonwood Falls, where his family had first settled in 1859 after leaving Douglas County. The authorities began to prepare for a trial, and the prosecution in the case was to include Charles Curtis, a thirty-one year old attorney who would later become Vice President of the United State under Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first term as President, but due to the fact that nearly every person qualified to serve on a jury in Stevens County had been a partisan on one or the other side in the county seat conflict, it was determined that an unbiased jury could not be assembled. Under Kansas law at the time, only the defense could request a change of venue, so the prosecution was stymied. Another Kansas law provided that if someone was held without bond and had not been tried during two regular sessions of a court, that person should be released from custody, so knowing that a trial could not be held in Stevens County, the defense sat tight. After two regular sessions of the court went by with no trial, Brennan was released from custody and moved to the newly opened Oklahoma Territory "where he became a prominent and prosperous rancher." One unconfirmed account reported that he was even elected sheriff of Kiowa County, Oklahoma. On November 6, 1894, an election was held in M County in the Cherokee Outlet(3) that renamed the county Woods County in honor of Wood. In the late winter of 1911, David William Wood, Samuel Wood's grandson, traveled to Gotebo, Oklahoma, in an attempt to get Brennan sent back to Kansas to be tried for his grandfather's murder. It was reported that Brennan was in jail there, but was too sick to be taken away. The younger Wood also visited Oklahoma Governor Lee Cruce, who assured him that Brennan would be returned to Kansas when he had recovered sufficiently. For whatever reason, that never happened, and Brennan died in Gotebo on October 31, 1916, never having been brought to justice for having murdered The Fighting Quaker, Samuel Newitt Wood.

(1) County seat wars were an off times violent confrontation between two or more towns over which would become the county seat of a particular county. They occurred in a number of western states including Kansas.

(2) In the 1880s and 1890s, the area that would become the panhandle of Oklahoma when it became a state in 1907 was not part of Colorado, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico Territory or Indian Territory. Since it was not part of any state or organized territory, its status as far as who controlled it and whose laws were enforceable there was unclear at best. As such, it was known as the Neutral Strip or No Man's Land, a place where there was no law.

(3) In 1836, the Treaty of Echola assigned land in what would eventually become Oklahoma to the Cherokee Nation, as part of their forced removal from the eastern United States. Around 1890, the United States Government was able to coerce a part of the land lying just south of the Kansas Border and east of "No Man's Land", known as the Cherokee Outlet, away from the Cherokee Nation. Prior to opening that land to white settlement, the Government organized the land into counties designated by letters of the alphabet. One of these counties that lay directly south of Comanche County, Kansas, was designated "M County."

(From: Memorial of Samuel N. Wood, by Margaret L. Wood, Hudson-Kimberley Publishing Company, Kansas City, 1892; Col Samuel Newitt Wood, Find-A-Grave website; Esther Ward Mosher Wood, Find-A-Grave website; David Wood, Find-A-Grave website; Samuel Newitt Wood, Wikipedia website; Free Soil Party, Wikipedia website; Samuel N. Wood, Kansapedia website; Margaret Walker Lyon Wood, Find-A-Grave website; Samuel N. Wood, KansasBogusLegislature website; Nathaniel Lyon, Wikipedia website; County Seat Controversies in Southwestern Kansas, by Henry F. Mason, Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 1, (February, 1933), pp. 45-65; No Man's Land, Oklahoma Territory, rootsweb.ancestry.com website; Woodsdale Sentinel, Vol. 5, no. 16 (June 26, 1891), p. 1; Woods County , Oklahoma, Wikipedia website; Salina Evening Journal, Vol. 26, no. 54 (March 4, 1911), p. 6; and, More Oklahoma Renegades, by Ken Butler, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc., Gretna, Louisiana, 2007, pp. 47-59. Published 4/15.)  Back to top of page

May 2, 1857 - Robert Carey is murdered on Washington Creek - With the signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854, Kansas Territory was opened up for white settlement. The Act left the question of whether Kansas would come into the Union as a state that allowed slavery up to a vote of the residents of the Territory. Men poured into Kansas, many with opposing views on the controversial issue, and violence between them soon broke out, so much violence that the Territory came to be known as "Bleeding Kansas". Though much of the violence in Kansas could be directly attributed to the division over slavery, some of it was the result of other disputes between settlers. One of these incidents was the killing of Charles Dow, a Free State man, by his neighbor Charles Coleman, a proslavery man, in November 1855 over a land dispute. Although the murder was not over slavery, the fact that it involved men on either side of the issue resulted in a significant escalation of tensions that nearly lead to a shooting war in Kansas Territory. Another such incident involved a man known as Robert Carey. Very little is known of Carey, his age, where he was from, his family ties, when he came to Kansas, etc. What is known is that by 1856, he had a land claim near Washington Creek in southwestern Douglas County, Kansas Territory. That spring and summer proved to be the most violent time in the struggle over slavery in Kansas, and the Washington Creek area did not escape that violence, evidenced by the Fort Saunders/Hoyt incident. Early that summer, a group of proslavery men had constructed a large, well-built log cabin in the Washington Creek area on land owned by a man named Saunders. Known both as Fort Saunders and Camp Saunders, the building 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 frightened settlers applied for assistance to Lawrence, Kansas Territory, the headquarters of the Free State movement in Kansas, and the officials there determined that a messenger should be dispatched to find out what were the intentions of the men in Fort Saunders. David Starr Hoyt volunteered to be the messenger, and went to Fort Saunders on August 12, 1856. He spoke with the men there, staying until after dinner. When he left to return to Lawrence, he was followed by several men from the fort. Hoyt had not gone far on his journey home when the men shot him dead through the back of the head and buried the body in a shallow grave. The murder was observed by several boys and word of it reached Lawrence. A party of Free State men from Lawrence found Hoyt's grave and exhumed his body. The men were incensed by the murder, and marched on Fort Saunders on the 15th with the intent to attack and destroy it. The men occupying Fort Saunders got word of the Free State men marching on them and abandoned the fort, so when they arrived, the attackers found an empty building. They proceeded to burn the structure to the ground. Violence in the Washington Creek area subsided, but the tension the settlers were under did not. In the fall of 1856, Robert Carey sold his claim on Washington Creek to a man named Sutton. There is no evidence as to where the two men stood on the issue of slavery in Kansas, so there is nothing to suggest that there was any animosity between them over the issue. The terms of the sale of Carey's claim are not known, but apparently required Sutton to perform some tasks in lieu of or in addition to cash payments. Instead of complying with any of the terms of the sale, Sutton left the area and was absent all winter. He returned in the spring of 1857 and demanded the claim. Carey would not give up the claim on the same terms agreed to the previous fall, and a dispute arose. On Saturday, May 2, 1857, Carey was observed going in the direction of Sutton's house. As reported in the Weekly Lecompton Union, "… when next seen [Carey] was lying dead in the house, having been shot twice through the body." The victim's pistol was found with him, and although one chamber was empty, it was determined that the weapon had not been fired recently. The newspaper observed that this was "… the third instance of the kind which has occurred in Douglas County, within the last two or three months." Aside from one short article in the newspaper, there appears to have been no other reaction to the shooting. Given the militant reaction to the killings of Dow and Hoyt, the fact that neither side in the slavery issue made anything out of the killing of Carey indicates that it was likely just over a land dispute and had no political overtones. Sutton was sought by the authorities, but he managed to escape capture, and apparently was never forced to answer for the murder of Robert Carey.

(From: Weekly Lecompton Union, v. 1, no. 45 (May 9, 1857), p. 2. Published 5/15.)  Back to top of page

June 24, 1914 - Lawrence, Kansas, attorney Lizzie Shoemaker Sheldon becomes the first woman to file for election to the Kansas Supreme Court - Elizabeth Shoemaker, known to everyone as "Lizzie," was born in Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, on March 15, 1851, the second of four children of Thomas C. Shoemaker and Tennessee Shoemaker, née Pierce. It is reported that Mr. Shoemaker studied law in the office of Abraham Lincoln(1), after which he began practicing law. Shoemaker was a personal friend and political supporter of fellow Democrat Stephen Douglas, senior senator from Illinois. Douglas wished to open up the territories out west to settlement and statehood as rapidly as possible. To those ends, he began crafting a bill that came to be known as the Kansas-Nebraska Act. One provision of the bill would be to leave the question of whether a new territory would allow slavery up to a vote of the residents of that territory, thereby changing how this had been handled for more than thirty years. On May 30, 1854, Kansas Territory was created with the signing of the Act by President Franklin Pierce(2). Trouble quickly began to brew between partisans on either side of the issue who were coming into the territory. Since there was no government in Kansas Territory, President Pierce began appointing individuals to fill needed Federal positions there. The President was a northern Democrat who feared that if slavery was not accommodated nationally and allowed into new territories, southern states would secede and the national union would break up. He appointed men who, if not proslavery themselves, at least believed in the programs of the Democratic Party. Through his association with Douglas, Thomas Shoemaker was appointed by Pierce as Receiver of Public Monies for Kansas Territory. Shoemaker packed up his family, including his young daughter Lizzie, and brought them to Kansas Territory. Exactly when he did is unclear. One account has it being in late 1854, while another has it in April or May 1855(3). Regardless of when they actually arrived, when they did, they settled in Leavenworth. At first, Shoemaker was "one of the strongest administration Democrats in the territory," but as things began to unfold there, he began to change his mind. He believed that the decision over slavery in Kansas should be made in free and open elections, but the first elections had massive voter fraud perpetrated by the proslavery factions in Kansas and Missouri. Instead of repudiating the fraud, the Federal Government not only accepted the fraudulent results, but appeared to be participating in it in favor of Kansas becoming a slave state. The proslavery faction was also becoming more and more violent in the furtherance of its goals, and the Federal Government seemed to be ignoring the violence, if not actively aiding it. Shoemaker began to become disenchanted with the government and to look favorably on the Free State cause. He was described by H. Miles Moore, a friend of his who knew him at the time as, "… one of the bravest, boldest, outspoken man I ever met, true as steel, bold as a lion, independent in thought and action, a man of untiring perseverance and great energy of character; at times a little reckless and imprudent for his own welfare." These qualities may have been too much at odds with the politics surrounding his position as Receiver of Federal Monies, as he was fired in 1856(4) and replaced with William Brindle, a proslavery advocate. Shoemaker then practiced law in Leavenworth. Freed from the constraints of having an official governmental position, he "openly espoused and urged with all his zeal and energy the making of Kansas a free state." He became known to and disliked by the more militant proponents of slavery in Leavenworth. One of these men was William E. Murphy, who was mayor of Leavenworth. Under circumstances not entirely clear, Shoemaker was attacked(5) on February 5, 1857(6), "by some half dozen Irishmen who set upon him for abusing Mayor Murphy." They "broke his skull with an iron poker & beat him to a jelly." Shoemaker died of his injuries, leaving his wife Tennessee alone with Lizzie and her three siblings, all of whom were under the age of ten. A trial was held, but "the accused were discharged, amid applause accompanied by a speech from Mayor Murphy threatening a similar fate to all future assailants of his fame." Shoemaker was buried on February 7th in Pilot Knob Cemetery outside Leavenworth. It is not known how Tennessee supported her children for the years following Thomas' murder, but eventually she married Abraham Brown, an attorney who was originally from Virginia. The couple began a family of their own, and the Brown and Shoemaker children lived together with Tennessee and Abraham. Brown was executor of Thomas Shoemaker's estate, which apparently led to problems between the Shoemaker children and their mother's second husband. He claimed part of the estate as payment for his administration of it, and the children filed an unsuccessful suite seeking to block this. Lizzie attended the Episcopal Female Seminary of Topeka and was valedictorian of her graduating class. On June 21, 1871, she married Joseph Lemi Sheldon, a Civil War veteran, and the couple settled in Topeka. A daughter named Junia was born in 1872, followed by Marian in 1874, Carl in 1876, Roderick in 1879, and Ruth in 1885. Joseph worked in the music industry and tuned pianos to support his family. Lizzie was interested in following in her father's footsteps, and began studying law in the State Library in Topeka. Joseph became ill, and the family moved from Topeka to Lawrence. Exactly why they did so is unclear, but this gave Lizzie the opportunity to enroll in the University of Kansas School of Law, which she did. She graduated from there in 1900 with her J.D. and was admitted to the bar. Lizzie opened a law practice in Lawrence, and joined the Kansas Bar Association in 1901. She became interested in politics, and especially the cause of women's suffrage. Joseph also had an interest in the law, and after the children were all grown, he left Kansas in 1907 and moved to Boulder, Colorado, to study law at the University of Colorado, graduating from there with honors two years later. In 1910, he and daughters Marian and Ruth moved to Oregon to homestead there. It is unknown whether Lizzie and Joseph remained married, but she continued her law practice in Lawrence and was referred to as Mrs. Sheldon for the remainder of her life. Lizzie wrote the text of an amendment to the Kansas Constitution to give suffrage to women in the state. It went before the legislature in 1912, and she worked hard for its passage in both houses. Her efforts were successful, and the amendment passed, giving the women of Kansas the vote eight years before women gained suffrage nationwide. Two years later, on June 24, 1914, Lizzie again made history by becoming the first woman to file for election as a justice on the Kansas Supreme Court, which was an elective office at the time. Although she received 156,000 votes in the November 3rd election, the total was not sufficient to for her to be elected to office. Joseph died February 26, 1917, and was buried in Oregon. Lizzie continued to practice law in Lawrence. She died there on March 23, 1942, at the age of 91, the oldest member of the Douglas County Bar Association. She was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence.

(1) No direct confirmation of this has been found. Both Lincoln and Shoemaker's father-in-law lived in Springfield, and they both served in the Black Hawk War. They likely knew each other, and this connection could have led to Shoemaker reading law in Lincoln's office. In addition, there is a reference in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln that Mr. Lincoln was aware of the death of Shoemaker and that he "got very pathetic" over it, indicating that he knew or at least knew of Shoemaker, and that his death troubled him.

(2) There is no indication that Tennessee Pierce and President Franklin Pierce were related.

(3) In census records for 1860, the family's third child, Charles, was listed as five years old and having been born in Illinois. If correct, this would indicate that the family came to Kansas in 1855 after his birth.

(4) One account has this occurring in September, but this has not been verified.

(5) It appears that the incident occurred at a public location where there were a number of people present. One account has it taking place during a "barroom brawl," while others hint that it may have occurred at a political gathering.

(6) Different sources have the date as February 6, 1856; April 1857, February 6, 1859, and August 1863. An important primary source referring to the incident is a letter from Marcus Parrott, written in Leavenworth, to his brother Edwin in Ohio. In it, Parrott records that he observed the funeral procession of his friend Shoemaker who had been murdered on the Thursday before the letter was written. The month and date of the letter are clearly February 9th, but the year is indistinct. It has apparently been interpreted by other authors as 1856, but this is incorrect. The murders of William Phillips and R.P. Brown are referred to in the letter. Although Brown was killed in January of 1856, Phillips' death did not occur until September 1, 1856, so the letter cannot have been written in February of 1856. The letter also refers to William E. Murphy as "Mayor Murphy". Murphy resigned from the office of Leavenworth Mayor on March 25, 1857, to be appointed Federal Agent of the Potawatomi Indians, so the letter could not have been written after that date. The only February 9th that occurred after September 1, 1856, and before March 27, 1857, would be February 9, 1857. Supporting evidence is a second letter, also addressed from Marcus to Edwin, but this time from Washington, D.C., that is clearly dated February 11, 1856, just two days after the letter in question has been assumed to have been dated. Considering the limitations on travel in 1856, it would have been impossible for Parrott to have been in Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, on February 9th and in Washington, D.C, on February 11th. The February 11th letter also mentions an attempt to remove Shoemaker from office, so even if Parrott had somehow made it halfway across the country in only two days, he would not have been writing on February 11th about attempts to remove Shoemaker from office if he had written about his murder just two days earlier on February 9th. Taking all this into consideration, one must come to the conclusion that the correct date of the letter recounting Shoemaker's death is February 9, 1857. That was a Monday, so since the letter records that Shoemaker died on the previous Thursday, the date of his death was February 5, 1857.

(From: Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 86, no. 71 (March 24, 1942), p. 1; Tavner B. Pierce, Genealogical and Biographical Record of North-Eastern Kansas, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1900, pp. 147-148; Tennessee Shoemaker, 1850 U.S. Census, Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, 10/17/1850; Early History of Leavenworth City and County, by H. Miles Moore, Samuel Dodsworth Book Co., Leavenworth, Kansas, 1906, pp. 102-104, 214, 271; Charles [Shoemaker], 1860 U.S. Census, Leavenworth City, Leavenworth County, Kansas, 6/21/1860; Letter, Marc [Parrott] to Dear Edd [Edwin Parrott], February 9, 1856, Territorial Kansas Online website; Letter, Marc [Parrott] to Dear Edd [Edwin Parrott, February 11, 1856, Territorial Kansas Online website; Municipal Organization, William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Leavenworth County, Part 8; Showmaker v. Brown, Kansas Reports, v. 10, pp. 383-394; College of the Sisters of Bethany, Wikipedia website; Joseph Lemi Sheldon, Find-A-Grave website; Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 58, no. 150 (June 24, 1914), p. 1; and, Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 58, no. 167 (July 14, 1914), p. 3. Published 6/15.)  Back to top of page

July 8, 1936 - Retired District Court Judge Charles A. Smart dies - Robert Smart and Euphemia McArthur were natives of Scotland. They were married there in 1847, and their first child, Andrew, was born in 1848. Elizabeth came next in 1849, and that same year Robert immigrated to the United States. It was common for the husband to come over first, establish a way to make a living, and arrange for shelter before the rest of the family came over. Euphemia and the children followed Robert to America in 1850. The Smarts settled in Porter, Rock County, Wisconsin, where Robert took up farming. Their first child was Frank, born in 1852, followed by James in 1855. On January 5, 1858, Charles Arthur Smart was born, followed by Ellen in 1860, Arthur in 1863, Winfield in 1868, and finally Effie in 1870. The young Charles grew up, eventually attending Milton Academy in Milton, Wisconsin, a town about 15 miles east of Porter, from 1877 to 1882. It was reported that "he taught eight terms of school during that period." After leaving the Academy, Charles moved eight miles southwest to Janesville, where he read law in a law office there. He joined the Wisconsin Bar in 1883, but did not practice long in his home state. Charles Smart moved to Kansas in 1884, where he was advised by Judge Solon O. Thacher of Lawrence, Kansas, that he should open a law office in Ottawa. Kansas. He took the judge's advice and opened an office there on April 7, 1884. Smart was made Ottawa City Attorney in 1885. He traveled to Wisconsin that same year to marry Lola Sophia Sherman Bedford, daughter of James Bedford, Jr., and Mary Jane Bedford, née Taylor, on April 28, 1885. Smart brought his new bride back to Kansas, and a daughter, Georgia Ethel., was born to the newlyweds on March 19, 1886. A second daughter, Lola Lucille., was born January 31, 1888, and later that year, Smart was elected as County Attorney of Franklin County, whose county seat was Ottawa. Euphemia Mary joined the family on March 11, 1890, and later that year Smart was defeated in his bid for a second term as Franklin County Attorney due to the power of the Populist Party in Kansas. A fourth daughter, Charlotte Ellen, was born to the Smart family on April 3, 1892. In 1896, Smart ran on the Republican ticket for election as judge of the 4th Judicial District that included Anderson, Douglas, and Franklin counties. He was declared the winner in a close election on November 3rd, and began hearing cases after being sworn in in January 1897. Each of the three counties in Judge Smart's judicial district had specified terms when the district court would be in session in those counties during the judicial year. Douglas County had terms that began on the first Monday in February, May, and November of each year, and Franklin and Anderson County would alternate court terms on other months, all avoiding the hot summer months. Judge Smart's challenger in the November 1896 election, Samuel Agnew Riggs, contested the results of the election to the Kansas Senate. The Senate was dominated by the Populist Party, which put Judge Smart at a disadvantage. Although Judge Smart had already presided for one court term in each of the three counties, the Senate voted to overturn his election in favor of Riggs, who then became judge in the 4th Judicial District. The Smart family received another blow that year, when Lola delivered a baby girl on September 6th that died unnamed soon after her birth. Judge Smart ran again for district court judge in 1900, and this time won "a majority that left no room for a contest" in the November 6th election. He took office in 1901. On April 25th that year, a sixth daughter named Carolee Bedford was born, thereby completing the Smart Family. After serving four years on the bench, Judge Smart was reelected in 1904. In addition, he served as President of the Kansas Bar Association for 1905. On September 5th of that year, Judge Smart was handed a hot potato when a petition was filed in Douglas County District Court concerning custody of "The Incubator Baby", a nationally famous case that began in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904 and kept being revisited in various jurisdictions for a decade. On January 25, 1906, Judge Smart ruled in favor of the adoptive mother in the case. Upon an appeal of Judge Smart's ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned his decision on October 6, 1906, and issued a writ of mandamus to grant the birth mother a new trial. Despite the fact that his ruling in the Incubator Baby case was overturned and had subsequently made national news, the voters in his judicial district did not think any less of him for it, and he was reelected as district judge in 1908, 1912, and 1916. In early 1920, Judge Smart declared that he would not seek another term as district judge. Then in September, Lola became ill. His tenure as district judge ended when he retired in January 1921, having served twenty years on the bench. After leaving the bench, Judge Smart and Lola moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where he opened a law practice. During his time on the bench, he had served on the boards of several banks in the area, and he continued to be associated with the banking industry the rest of his life. Lola died on October 24, 1927, and was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Lawrence. Judge Smart married Gertrude Standing on February 10, 1929. On the evening of July 8, 1936, Judge Charles A. Smart died at his home in Lawrence. His obituary reported that "He possessed rare charm as an orator and was in great demand for public gatherings of many kinds. As a speaker on patriotic occasions he had few equals." Judge Smart was buried next to Lola and their unnamed baby daughter in Memorial Park Cemetery.

(From: Robert Smart - Euphemia McArthur, kenbower.com; Smart, Robert, 1900 U.S. Census, Milton Town, Rock County, Wisconsin, 7/7/1900; Smart, Robert, 1870 U.S. Census, Porter, Rock County, Wisconsin, 7/8/1900; Judge Charles Arthur Smart - Lola Sophia Sherman Bedford, kenbrower.com website; Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 80, no. 164 (July 9, 1936), p. 1; Charles A. Smart, Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co., Chicago, 1912, Vol. 3; Milton College, Wikipedia website; Smart, Charles A., 1910 U.S. Census, Ottawa, Franklin County, Kansas, 5/13/1910; Lola S. Smart, Find-A-Grave website; and, Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 65, no. 7 (January 8, 1921), p. 2. Published 7/15.)  Back to top of page

August 11, 1895 - Judge Solon Otis Thacher dies - Solon Otis Thacher was born on August 31, 1830, in Hornellsville, Steuben Co., New York, the third child of Otis Thacher and Hannah Kennedy Thacher, née Graves. Thacher was a farmer, but eventually read law and was admitted to the bar. Hannah and he were abolitionists, and with the aid of relatives, operated a safe house in Hornellsville for escaped slaves fleeing along the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada. In 1840, Thacher was appointed county judge of Steuben County. As Solon grew, his early education was in the common schools of Steuben County. When he was old enough, he attended Alfred Academy in Alfred, New York, approximately ten miles southwest of Hornellsville. After graduating from the Academy, Solon enrolled at Union College in Schenectady, New York. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed and signed into law. Its strict enforcement of the rights of slaveholders caused problems for those helping escaped slaves, but it caused more problems than average for Solon's father, Judge Thacher, as sometime after its passage, the elder Thacher was appointed as a deputy United States Marshal. The Act required all government officials to actively seek out, capture, and return escaped slaves to their masters, which put Judge Thacher's duties as marshal in direct conflict with his beliefs and previous actions. How he handled this conflict is unknown. Solon graduated from Union College with a degree in classics, and then enrolled in Albany Law School in Albany, New York. He not only followed in his father's footsteps in the law, he was also a strong opponent of slavery. Solon was a delegate from his county to the 1855 New York convention held to organize the Republican Party in that state. The party was being organized to oppose the extension of slavery to the new territories that had been made possible by the passage and signing into law of the Kansas-Nebraska Act on May 30, 1854. 1856 proved to be a busy year for Solon Thacher. In the spring he was awarded a diploma by the law school and was admitted to the bar to practice law. Then on September 10, he married a woman he had been courting named Sarah Gilmore(1). He took an active role in the election that fall, making speeches in support of the campaign of John C. Fremont, the first Republican Party candidate for President. If that was not enough, Thacher also ran for the state legislature and was elected as a representative from his district. He served in the legislature over the winter of 1857, but moved to Chicago in the spring of that year to open a law office there with his uncle, Andrew Akin. Sarah apparently did not accompany Thacher on his journey to Chicago, as she was pregnant with their first child, and likely remained with family in New York until the birth on September 11, 1857, when a daughter named Mary Hannah came into the world. Ever since Kansas Territory had been opened to white settlement by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, there had been significant trouble there between the forces wanting Kansas to be a free state and those who wanted it to be a slave state. That trouble had often centered on the attempts by one side or the other to write a constitution for the territory that would bring it into the Union as a state. By the summer of 1858, there had been three separate constitutions proposed, two of which were still under consideration, the proslavery Lecompton Constitution and the anti-slavery Leavenworth Constitution. Thacher had been following what was going on in Kansas, likely through communications with his cousin, Timothy Dwight Thacher, who had come to Kansas in April 1857 and settled in Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free State movement. Upon arrival there, Timothy Thacher had begun publication of the Lawrence Republican, a Free State newspaper. Solon Thacher became determined to go to Kansas and help the Free State cause. He left Chicago in July 1858 and brought his family to Kansas Territory(2), also settling in Lawrence. He purchased a half interest in the Lawrence Republican and became associate editor with his cousin. The Lecompton Constitution was rejected in a vote on August 2, 1858, and support for the Leavenworth Constitute also faded away, leaving Kansas Territory without a constitution. The Free State faction in the territory slowly gained the upper hand, so when a new constitutional convention was called in 1859, it was assumed a constitution coming from it would outlaw slavery in Kansas, but how it would do that and what else it would or would not include was unknown. Solon Thacher was elected as a delegate from Lawrence to the convention to be held in Wyandotte, a town in Wyandotte County. The convention was convened in July 1859, and delegates went about the task of writing a constitution. It was agreed early on that slavery would not be allowed, but the status of black men and women in what would become the State of Kansas was hotly debated. One of the delegates made a proposal "to make this not only a free State, but a free white State. We do not propose that this State shall be the receptacle of free negroes and runaway slaves … believing that God Almighty, for some high purpose, has established … [the] inferiority of the black race, and stamped an indelible mark upon them. Between the two races there is an unfathomable gulf that cannot be bridged." If enacted, this proposal would exclude all blacks from Kansas, and there were a number of delegates at the convention that supported it. Solon Thacher was not one of them. In his short time in Kansas, he had become known as a strong supporter of some of the raids and other overt actions carried out by Free State men against proslavery supporters, and his activism and liberal attitudes made him a radical voice at the convention. He made an impassioned speech against the exclusionary language, concluding with "Shall Kansas, which has just come out of such an alembic of persecution and suffering, with her garments yet crimsoned with the blood of her martyred sons, and her soil yet blackened with the embers of her burned homes, frame a Constitution that does not glow and radiate in every line and syllable with the glad light of liberty and freedom to all? For the sake of the Great Father of us all, who loves purity and hates oppression, let me hope that this fundamental law of our land will be true to humanity and true to God." The exclusionary proposal was defeated. The convention went on to deny universal suffrage for blacks, women, and Indians, but affirmed separate property rights for married women, provided for women’s equal rights in the possession of their children, and guaranteed women's rights to participate in school elections. The convention ended after having produced a document that became known as the Wyandotte Constitution. It was put to a vote in Kansas Territory on October 4, 1859, and was approved by a nearly two-to-one majority. Solon and Sarah became parents again on March 1, 1860, when a daughter named Nellie Green was born. The following month, the United States House of Representatives voted 134 to 73 to admit Kansas into the Union under the Wyandotte Constitution, but the proslavery faction in the Senate prevented a vote on it in that body. On May 19, 1860, Thacher left his position with the Lawrence Republican. It is unclear whether he sold his half interest in the newspaper or merely stopped serving as associate editor. After Lincoln was elected President of the United States on November 6, 1860, southern states began seceding from the Union, beginning with South Carolina on December 20, 1860. By January 21, 1861, five southern states had seceded, and their senators had resigned from congress, enabling the by then antislavery majority in the Senate to pass the bill previously passed by the House to admit Kansas to the Union as a free state under the Wyandotte Constitution. President Buchanan signed the bill into law on January 29, 1861, making Kansas the 34th state and the Wyandotte Constitution the Constitution of the State of Kansas. The new state government quickly began to organize, and elections were held for various offices, including those for judges in the state's judicial districts. An election was held for judge of the new 4th Judicial District of Kansas, which at the time included Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Douglas, Franklin, Johnson, Linn, Lykins (soon renamed Miami)(3), and Wyandotte Counties. Solon Thacher won the election and was sworn in as district court judge. In 1862 he was nominated for Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, but declined the nomination on account of a constitutional provision against serving as both a district court judge and as a justice on the Supreme Court. Around dawn on August 21, 1863, around 400 Confederate guerillas under the command of William Clark Quantrill rode into Lawrence, and over the next four hours sacked and burned the town, killing around 200 unarmed men and boys. Being a government official, Judge Thacher was on the list of Lawrence men to kill that was carried by the raiders, but he and his family were able to get safely across the Kansas River. They watched as their house was looted and their horses were driven away by Quantrill's men. In 1864, Judge Thacher resigned from his office as judge in the 4th Judicial District to run for Kansas Governor that year as an anti-Lane candidate(4). Although he made a vigorous campaign for the office, he was unsuccessful in his bid for the governorship. Judge Thacher then settled into a lucrative law practice in Lawrence. In 1867 he was a candidate in the special election to fill the unexpired term of the United States Senate seat made vacant when James Henry Lane committed suicide the previous year. Although unsuccessful in his bid, he received the second highest number of votes. In 1871, Judge Thacher was on the defense team of John J. Medlicott, a Lawrence physician and surgeon who was on trial, accused of murdering one of his patients, a man named Isaac M. Ruth. The trial was in Anderson County, Kansas, having been moved there on a change of venue request because of the notoriety it had in Douglas County. Moving the trial did nothing to diminish that notoriety, as the case became a national sensation. Many eastern newspapers had reporters at the trial, and daily articles were published all over the country about every aspect of the proceedings. The trial lasted eighteen days, and on October 27, 1872, the jury found Medlicott guilty of first degree murder. He was sentenced to hang. The defense appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, who overturned the conviction and granted a new trial on the grounds that the trial court should not have allowed admittance of certain evidence. The disallowed evidence was all that the prosecution had connecting Medlicott to Ruth's death, so they filed a nolle prosequi in the case and set Medlicott free. Not only did Judge Thacher continue with his law practice after the trial, he served as a Regent of the University of Kansas on several occasions and held the Chair of Equity Jurisprudence in the Law School there. He became associated with the Leavenworth, Lawrence, and Galveston Railroad, serving as attorney for them. Judge Thacher also served for many years as an attorney for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad after it acquired the LL&GRR. In 1880, he was elected to the State Senate, and ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Party nomination for governor in 1884 against John P. St. John, who would go on to lose in the general election that fall. Judge Thacher did not have long to dwell on his failure to receive the nomination of his party, because in July 1884, President Chester A. Arthur appointed him as one of three commissioners from the United States in a delegation to Central and South America to negotiate treaties and do other diplomatic work. It was reported that he "was acknowledged the brains of the commission, and did most of the work." As a member of the commission, Judge Thacher traveled over 34,000 miles. In his travels, he became shipwrecked, and was taken to England before he was able to return to America. It was reported that "He met nearly every ruler in the southern continent, learned a great deal about the conditions existing there, and his report to Congress was so exhaustive that he was called before a special committee to explain his views on reciprocity." Over the years, Judge Thacher acquired "many hundreds of acres of the best Kaw valley farm land, and many pastures in Douglas County", which made him "… one of the largest farmers in Kansas." It was reported that "He experimented with the latest devices in farm machinery, wrote dissertations on the cultivation of the grape, [and] understood the value of moisture artificially applied to the soils…." "When in a corn-field, he would exclaim, 'This is clean money!'" Judge Thacher was active in the Kansas Bar Association, serving as its president for 1887. In 1892, Judge Thacher ran again for State Senate and was successfully. He tried to become the Republican Party's nominee for United States Senate in 1894, but failed. Judge Thacher then ran for reelection to his seat in the Kansas Senate and won in the November 1894 election. In early 1895, he was appointed as President of the Kansas State Historical Society. Later that year, Judge Thacher began feeling unwell and traveled to Colorado for his health. In late July, he decided to come home. Part way through the journey, the train he was riding was delayed for many hours by floodwaters, which caused him and the other passengers significant hardships. When he finally arrived home, he was in such bad shape that he was confined to his house. As the days passed, Judge Thacher seemed to get better and began going to his office. Then on August 2nd, he had a severe attack. His Lawrence physicians called in specialists from Kansas City, and the diagnosis was a severe case of Bright's Disease, an acute form of kidney disease. He began a gradual decline and became weaker and weaker. Around 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 11, 1895, Judge Solon Otis Thacher died, leaving his wife Sarah and his two married daughters. He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence. At the 1896 annual meeting of the Kansas Bar Association, Judge Thacher was memorialized, and a resolution passed officially regretting his death and offering sympathy to his family. Others noted that he was the "acknowledged leader of the bar of Kansas for nearly half a century." Sarah lived another sixteen years, dying on July 8, 1912, and was buried next to her husband in the family plot.

(1) Some sources give Sarah's middle name as Abbott, and others as Mary. Her mother's name was Mary, so she may have been named after her, or this might have caused confusion over Sarah's middle name. There is also the possibility that Sarah actually had two middle names.

(2) Although it is likely that Sarah and Mary had joined Solon in Chicago before his decision to go to Kansas, no definite information to that effect has been found. Sources refer to him bringing his wife and infant daughter to Kansas. This language implies that they were together before the beginning of the journey to Kansas, and not that they would have come there separately, which would have been the case if Solon had come from Chicago and Sarah and Mary had come from New York.

(3) The county was originally named for David Lykins, a Baptist missionary to the Wea, Piankeshaw, Peoria, and Kaskaskia Indians whose mission was located just east of modern day Paola, Kansas. Lykins was a proslavery supporter who had served in the Kansas Territorial Council, the equivalent of the Senate in the Kansas Territorial Legislature. The legislature was known as the "Bogus Legislature" by Free State supporters because of the fraud surrounding its election in 1855. After Kansas entered the Union as a free state, Lykins moved to Missouri. On June 3, 1861, Lykins County was renamed Miami County in honor of the Miami Indians. It was one of several counties in the state that were renamed after the beginning of the Civil War because of the proslavery or pro-Confederate sympathies of the men for whom the counties had originally been named.

(4) There were several factions in the Republic Party during the 1860s, one of which opposed James Henry Lane, the controversial United States Senator for Kansas who had earned the name "The Grim Chieftain" during the troubles in Kansas Territory in the 1850s. At the same time he was serving as Senator, Lane acted as a general in the Union Army and was accused of numerous excesses in his military campaigns in Missouri during the War. Many Republicans in Kansas were vehemently opposed to him and his style of politics, which lead to a rift in the Party.

(From: Judge Otis Thacher, thacherfamily.org website; Judge Solon Otis Thacher, thacherfamily.org website; The United States Biographical Dictionary: Kansas Volume: …, S. Lewis and Co., Chicago, 1879, pp. 523-524; Thacher (Otis and Hannah Kennedy Graves) Family, The Underground Railroad: An Encyclopedia of People, Places, and Operations, by Mary Ellen Snodgrass, M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, N.Y., 2008; Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1897-1900, Volume 6, W.Y. Morgan, Topeka, 1900, pp. 206-219; New York Republican State Committee, Wikipedia website; The Wentworth Genealogy: English and American, Volume 1, Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 1878, p. 364; The United States Biographical Dictionary: Kansas Volume: …, S. Lewis and Co., Chicago, 1879, pp. 14-16; Kansas Constitutions, Kansapedia website; Kansas Constitutional Convention: A reprint of the proceedings and debates of the convention which framed the constitution of Kansas at Wyandotte in July, 1859, Kansas State Printing Plant, Topeka, 1920, pp. 178-181; Wyandotte Constitutional Convention, 1859, Cast of Characters, by William Addison Phillips, Shared Stories of the Civil War Reader’s Theater project; Wyandotte Constitution, Wikipedia website; Lykins County, Kansas [defunct], Kansas Counties, Kansas Historical Society website; Lawrence Daily Journal-World, v. 80, no. 71 (March 23, 1936), p. 1; History of the State of Kansas …, A.T. Andreas, Chicago, 1883, p. 249; Solon Otis Thacher, Kansas Counties, Kansas Historical Society website; Solon Otis Thacher, A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, Volume 3, William E. Connelley, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1918, p. 1239; Seventh Annual Meeting of the Kansas Bar Association, Reed-Martin Printing Co., Topeka, 1890, [p. 3]; Lawrence Daily Journal, v. 27, no. 191 (August 12, 1895), pp. 2, 4; Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Kansas Bar Association, Crane and Company, Topeka, pp. 8-11; and, Wyandotte Constitution, A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, Volume 2, William E. Connelley, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1918, p. 946. Published 8/15.)  Back to top of page

September 1854 - Franklin M. Coleman comes to Douglas County, Kansas Territory - Franklin M. Coleman was born around 1822. The 1850 U.S. Census for Iowa records his birthplace as Ohio, but in a later narrative attributed to him, he indicated he was a native of Brooke County, Virginia. He married Sarah A. Coleman, maiden name unknown, who was born around 1832 in Virginia. In 1849, Coleman moved to Louisa County, Iowa. Sarah gave birth to a son, Clark N., in December that year. The 1850 Census records that Clark was born in Virginia, so if this is correct, and if Coleman was accurate in indicating he came to Iowa in 1849, then either the family braved the trip in the cold of December with a newborn baby, or Coleman traveled to Iowa alone, leaving his pregnant wife in Virginia to give birth there before she and the baby joined him later in Iowa. At least for a while, the family lived in the large household of John Wilson, a farmer. What, if any, connection the Coleman family had with the Wilson family, other than rooming with them, is unknown. Coleman was recorded in the census as being a merchant. In April 1854, Coleman moved his family from Iowa to Kansas City, Missouri, and was proprietor of the Union Hotel while there. This was one month before the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed into law on May 30th. The Act opened the new Territory of Kansas to white settlement, and left the question of whether it would become a state that allowed slavery when it was admitted into the Union up to a vote of the residents of Kansas. Prior to the passage and signing of the Act, the decision as to the slave status of new states had been the prerogative of the United States Congress, but that had now changed. Supporters from both sides of the slavery issue, Free State and proslavery, began coming to Kansas to insure that their side was successful. It is not known if Coleman moved to Kansas City in anticipation of Kansas being opened for settlement. In September 1854, the Union Hotel was sold to the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company, who planned to use the establishment to house newly arrived Free State men and women(1). That same month, Coleman moved with his wife and six-year-old son to Hickory Point, a small settlement on the Santa Fe Trail, also known locally as the Santa Fe Road, in what would become Douglas County, Kansas Territory, approximately ten miles southeast of Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free State movement. There was a second settlement also named Hickory Point in what would become Jefferson County, but it does not figure into this story. Coleman favored Kansas becoming a slave state, and so was at odds with the Free State supporters in the territory. Since Kansas had only been opened to white settlement the previous May, it 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 claim was a risky business. Someone else could "jump" your claim, that is, take it over. There were a number of land claims in the Hickory Point area, some occupied by their claimants and others lying unoccupied. There were several vacant claims held by men from Indiana that were jumped by proslavery Missouri men. The absentee Indiana men soon arrived and demanded their claims back. The issue went to an arbitration committee made up of men residing in the territory. The committee decided in favor of the Missouri men. Coleman related that on the strength of this, he and another person, identified by him as a Free State man named John M. Banks, jumped the claim of a man named Frasier. Jacob Branson, a Free State man from Indiana who had recently been living in Missouri, arrived and asserted that he had purchased the claim from Frasier for $50. He wanted possession of it. After some difficulty, the case was put up for arbitration, and the decision of the arbiters was to divide the claim in half, with half going to Coleman and Banks and the other half to Branson. Neither Coleman nor Branson was satisfied with the outcome. A parcel of land that abutted Coleman's claim on the east and Branson's on the south had previously been 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, one of them in Hickory Point. He had built a cabin on the claim, but left and went back to Missouri. In February 1855, White's cabin burned to the ground. At about the same time, Charles W. Dow arrived at Hickory Point and jumped White's claim. Dow was an abolitionist from Ohio, and the circumstances surrounding his jumping the claim led Coleman to charge that Branson 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. 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. Trouble between the Free State and proslavery advocates in Kansas began to worsen. In the election for the territorial legislature on March 30th, thousands of Missourians came into Kansas and voted, which resulted in a proslavery legislature known to the Free State proponents as the "Bogus Legislature" because of the fraudulent nature of the balloting. The actions of the legislature and the governmental officials appointed by it, along with the appointment of proslavery sympathizers by the Federal Government, led Free State men to organize to protect themselves from what they perceived as a hostile government. This increased the tensions in the territory. When the boundary of the land reserved for the Shawnee Indian Tribe, the so-called Shawnee Reserve Line, was surveyed, Free State settlers in the area began recognizing the location of land claims based on that line. This resulted in the north-south boundary lines between all claims in the area, including Coleman and Dow's, moving two hundred and fifty yards to the west. As with other proslavery men, Coleman did not recognize this as the official government survey, and so did not recognize any changes resulting from it. He continued to cut timber on land that Dow now thought to be his. A dispute arose. On the morning of November 21, 1855, Coleman was working on the disputed land with a man named Moody. Dow and Branson went to confront Coleman. Branson was armed but Dow was not. On the approach of Dow and Branson, Coleman stopped cutting timber and left. Seeing Coleman leave, Dow went on to a blacksmith shop located along the Santa Fe Trail to get some repairs made to a wagon skein, a heavy metal cone that fits on the end of a wooden axel around which the wheel hub rotates when in use. He arrived there around noon. Upon leaving the disputed claim, Coleman first went to his proslavery neighbor, Josiah Hargis, and then to his cabin, where he got his shotgun that was loaded with buckshot. He returned to Hargis' house and spoke with a proslavery man named Harrison W. Buckley, who was there with Hargis. Buckley and one or two other proslavery men had supposedly agreed to help Coleman and Hargis that afternoon to determine the exact boundary between their claims. This is where accounts of what happened next begin to differ. According to a book published in early 1856 that included an interview with Coleman giving his account, Buckley informed Coleman that he was going to a whisky store opposite the blacksmith shop, and that he should not wait on him. Before Buckley left, the three agreed to meet at Coleman's cabin. Coleman left alone and headed home. On his way, he went by the house of William McKinney and stopped to talk. Dow stayed at the blacksmith shop until the repair work was completed and then began walking home down the Trail, carrying the repaired skein. Coleman left McKinney's, and as he entered the Trail, he encountered Dow. The two men talked while they walked, discussing the disputed claim. They stopped near Coleman's house, that he said was 75 yards off the road, where they continued the conversation. Eventually the conversation ended and the two parted. Dow began to walk away. According to Coleman, "Dow walked on his way for a few paces, and then turned round and recommenced quarrelling, high words passed, and Dow advanced upon me with the wagon-skien [sic], which he was carrying in his hand, raising it as he did so, in an attitude to strike. I leveled my gun as he came on, brought it to bear on him, and pulled the trigger; the cap exploded but not the charge. Dow then paused, and turned as if to go away. Seeing this, I put my gun down upon the ground, which Dow had no sooner perceived than he faced towards me, and again advanced upon me with the skien [sic], at the same time crying out, with an oath 'You've bursted [sic] one cap at me, and you'll never live to burst another;' hearing this, and believing that my life was in danger, I again leveled my gun and fired upon him, as he came rushing on; the shot struck him (as I have since ascertained) in the neck and breast, and he fell--dead." Coleman's account of the shooting concludes with his observation that the shooting was observed by Hargis and Moody, who were referred to by Coleman as friends of his, and by a man named Wagoner, who Coleman referred to as an enemy of his. An account written by John H. Gihon, M. D., private secretary to the third Kansas Territorial Governor John W. Geary, and published in late 1857, presents a picture of the incident different form Coleman's account. In Gihon's account, Buckley did not go alone to the area of the blacksmith shop. Hargis, and Coleman went with him, and all arrived there together. They confronted Dow, and Buckley cocked his gun and pointed it at him. Dow implored that he not shoot. Buckley did not shoot, and Dow left, walking down the Santa Fe Road on his way to Branson's cabin. At that time, Dow was boarding with Branson. Coleman, Buckley, and Hargis followed, with Coleman in the lead and the other two keeping a short distance behind. Coleman caught up to Dow, presumably in the vicinity of McKinney's house, and the two walked on together to the vicinity of Coleman's house. Coleman stopped and Dow walked on. Coleman raised his shotgun, aimed at Dow, and pulled the trigger. The percussion cap exploded but the gun did not discharge. Dow heard the noise and turned to Coleman, motioning with his arms and imploring him not to fire. Coleman replaced the exploded cap with a fresh one, aimed, and pulled the trigger again. The gun fired and Dow dropped dead in the road, having been hit in the chest by at least nine lead slugs. Buckley and Hargis came up to Coleman, and the three "appeared to rejoice" over the death of Dow. Dow was left lying for most of the afternoon, until Branson got word of it, came to claim his friend's body, and took it back to his cabin. Gihon's account of the shooting concludes with a report that in addition to Buckley and Hargis, Moody and a wagoner(2) witnessed the incident. Fearing retaliation from Dow's friends, Coleman fled to the Shawnee Mission in Johnson County, which was serving as the Territorial Capitol at the time, hoping to find sanctuary with Territorial Governor Shannon. The governor was absent, but Coleman turned himself in to the sheriff of Douglas County, Sam Jones, who was in the area. Like Coleman, Jones was a proslavery man. He took Coleman to Lecompton, the headquarters of the proslavery movement in the territory and at the time the county seat of Douglas County. He was released on $500 bail. Coleman then moved his family to Westport, Missouri. He had been up for appointment to the office of Justice of the Peace, and received a commission for it on November 24th, but he never took office because of the shooting of Dow. The killing of Dow infuriated Free State men, as did the apparent lack of action by the authorities to secure Coleman for trial. This sparked off a series of confrontations between Free State and proslavery supporters. Coleman's house was burned on November 26th. Proslavery men believed it was done by friends of Dow, and some Free State men said that it was done by proslavery men in order to falsely implicate Free State men. Branson was arrested just after midnight on November 27, 1855, by Sheriff Jones, for supposedly making threating comments about Coleman. Before dawn that same morning, a group of Free State men forced Sheriff Jones to free Branson. They took him to Lawrence, and Governor Shannon ordered a large force of proslavery men to march on the town to suppress its rebellious activities. The town fortified itself, and instead of attacking, the proslavery men put Lawrence under siege. Governor Shannon brokered a peace treaty that was signed on December 8, 1855, ending the incident that became known as the Wakarusa War. In the spring of 1856, the violence in the territory began increasing. Lawrence was attacked by a large posse of proslavery men led by Sheriff Jones on May 21st. Over the night of May 24th/25th, five proslavery men were killed by men led by the abolitionist John Brown in what became known as the Potawatomie Massacre. As a result of the Massacre, a 24-year-old Virginian named Henry Clay Pate was appointed as a deputy United States Marshal to "get Old Brown." He recruited as his posse a militia from Westport, Missouri, that called itself the Westport Rifles. Coleman also joined the posse, but whether he was a member of the Westport Rifles or joined on his own is not known. The militia changed its name to Shannon's Sharpshooters in honor of the Governor when he issued federal firearms to them out of the federal arsenal in Liberty, Missouri. They proceeded to scour the countryside looking for Brown. As they did so, they confronted Free State supporters and attempted to coerce them to leave Kansas. Brown and his militia were also looking to confront Pate's militia. They met on June 2, 1856. Pate had camped the night of June 1st at Black Jack Springs, a campground along the Santa Fe Trail in southeast Douglas County, when two Free State militias, one led by John Brown, attacked them early the following morning. After an intense three-hour battle, Pate and his men were defeated and taken prisoner. As it became apparent that the proslavery militia was going to be defeated, Coleman decided to kill the Free State men who Pate and his men had earlier taken prisoner. As Coleman approached the tent where the prisoners were being held, they bolted, running for their lives. One, a Dr. Graham, ran towards the Free State lines. Coleman fired, and Graham was wounded twice, once in the thigh and once in the back, but he made it to safety. The injuries were not life threatening, and he would recover from his wounds. After taking Pate, Coleman, and the rest of the proslavery militia prisoner at the conclusion of the Battle of Black Jack, Brown and his men took them to Prairie City, a town on the Santa Fe Trail three miles west of Black Jack. They then traveled eight and a half miles southwest to camp on land along Middle Creek owned by Brown's friend Tauy Jones. On June 5th, a troop of dragoons from Fort Leavenworth arrived and forced Brown to release his prisoners. After that, Coleman disappears from the historical record(3). He was never tried for killing Dow, or for any actions taken in his support of the proslavery cause in Kansas.

(1) The word proprietor usually indicates ownership, so if Coleman was owner of the Union Hotel while he was in Kansas City, Missouri, and sold out to come to Kansas to promote the proslavery cause, it is ironic that the buyer was the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company, later the New England Emigrant Aid Company, the most well know organization who brought Free State emigrants to Kansas. S.C. Pomeroy was the company's agent who conducted the transaction, so if Coleman was the owner, he may not have known to whom he was actually selling the hotel, as Pomeroy may not have divulged that information. There is also the possibility that Coleman did not own the hotel, but was only serving as the manager.

(2) There was obviously confusion over the identity of the fourth man to witness the shooting. Coleman's account reports that the man's name was Wagoner, while Gihon's account has him being an unnamed wagoner, that is, someone who drives a wagon. Since Coleman identifies the man as an enemy of his, he likely knew his name. Gihon could easily have mistaken the man's name for his occupation when he was told the story. There is always the possibility, however remote, that the man was a wagoner named Wagoner, and both men were correct. To further complicate the matter, another account of the incident has the man's name spelled Wagner.

(3) There are two local legends about Coleman. One has it that while he was being chased by Free State men sometime after the murder, he took cover in a cave that collapsed on him due to his own gunfire. The other legend is that Coleman was attacked not by Free State men after the killing of Dow but by robbers as he was returning from the Pike's Peak Gold Rush. He supposedly took cover in the cave, which then collapsed as in the other legend. The gold rush lasted from July 1858 until roughly February 1861, which would have been at least three years after the killing of Dow. By this time, the Free State movement had all but won out over the proslavery cause, so if this legend were true, why would Coleman not avoid the area instead of coming back from the gold fields through an area where he might be attacked or arrested for murder? If either legend were true and a man as important to the early history of Kansas and Douglas County as Coleman was did meet his doom in the cave, purported to be located near Eisenhower Street in Baldwin City, Kansas, there should be significantly more information on it than that contained in local legends.

(From: Franklin M. Coleman, 1850 U.S. Census, Jefferson Township, Louisa County, Iowa, 9/10/1850; The War in Kansas: A Rough Trip to the Border, Among New Homes and a Strange People, by George Douglas Brewerton, Derby and Jackson, New York, 1856, pp. 223-232; Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, Embracing the Third and Fourth Biennial Reports, 1883-1885, Volume 3, Kansas Publishing House, Topeka, 1886, p. 290; The Murder of Dow, A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, Volume 2, William E. Connelley, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1919, p. 484; Letters of Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, 1854-1859, edited by Lela Barnes, The Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 3 (August 1937), Note 31; S. C. Pomeroy and the New England Emigrant Aid Company, 1854-1858 [Part One], by Edgar Langsdorf, The Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 7, No.2 (August 1938), p.232; Geary and Kansas: Governor Geary's Administration in Kansas ...., by John H. Gihon, M.D., J.H.C. Whiting, Philadelphia, 1857, pp. 49-51; Pike's Peak Gold Rush, Wikipedia website; and, Charles W. Dow, Wikipedia website. Published 9/15.)  Back to top of page

October 1857 - Eighty-nine Free State men held for trial in Lecompton, Kansas Territory, charged with murder in the Battle of Hickory Point - The violence between Free State and proslavery men that had been growing in Kansas Territory since the Kansas Nebraska Act opened the territory to white settlement in 1854 began to increase dramatically in 1856. The Act had left the decision as to whether Kansas would allow slavery when it was admitted to the Union up to the residents of the territory, and that had proven to be a source of significant conflict. The trouble in 1856 began on January 17th when a proslavery man murdered a Free State man with a hatchet in Leavenworth County, Kansas Territory. Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free State movement in Kansas, was sacked and burned by proslavery forces on May 21st. This was followed on the night of May 24th/25th by the Pottawatomie Massacre, in which five proslavery men were killed with broadswords. The Battle of Black Jack occurred on June 2nd, and the first Battle of Franklin on June 4th. Free State supporter David Starr Hoyt was murdered by proslavery men on August 11th, which resulted in the second Battle of Franklin on August 12th. The Battle of Fort Titus was fought on August 16th near Lecompton, the territorial capital and headquarters for the proslavery movement in Kansas Territory, followed on August 30th by the Battle of Osawatomie, when a large force of proslavery men attacked and burned that Free State town. On September 8th, an armed body of proslavery men raided and burned Grasshopper Falls, a Free State settlement approximately 15 miles north of Lawrence in Jefferson County. A day or so later, General James Henry Lane received word of problems at Ozawkie, a predominately proslavery town also in Jefferson County some 12 miles northwest of Grasshopper Falls. Lane was a lawyer and politician who had come to Kansas in 1855, and had eventually allied himself with the Free State movement. Known as "The Grim Chieftain," he had been appointed a General in the Free State Militia and was known to have a fiery temper. Lane led a company of Free State militia toward Holton, which was a good distance northwest of Lawrence, when he received a message from Free State men who lived in Ozawkie, requesting that he come and stop the proslavery men in the town from preying on them. Lane abandoned his plans to go to Holton, and instead led his men to Ozawkie. Having restored order in the Ozawkie area, Lane's men were joined by a number of local Free State men. Lane then learned that an armed force of over 100 proslavery men was at Hickory Point, a small settlement in Jefferson County. He determined that he would march there and capture the men. Hickory Point consisted of a few log buildings on the Fort Leavenworth-Fort Riley military road. Captain H.A. Lowe was the owner of Hickory Point, and had recruited around 100 proslavery men, mostly settlers in the area, to defend his property. They had been joined by a force of around 40 South Carolinians commanded by a Captain Robertson, who had been harassing Free State settlers in the county and were suspected of having been the men who had burned Grasshopper Falls. Lane and his men arrived on September 13th, and proceeded to attack the buildings there. The attack was repulsed, and Lane realized that the buildings were too heavily fortified for him to be able to take without assistance. He sent messages to Colonel James A. Harvey and Captain Thomas Bickerton in Lawrence, ordering Harvey to bring up reinforcements and Bickerton to bring up "Old Sacramento," a bronze cannon that had been used by Free State forces in the Battle of Fort Titus following its capture from proslavery men in the second Battle of Franklin. Lane directed them to come to Hickory Point by the long way through Topeka. Harvey assembled a force of about 125 men and set out that same evening for Hickory Point, accompanied by Bickerton and "Old Sacramento." Instead of taking the road west to Topeka as Lane had ordered, Harvey marched his men on the direct route north from Lawrence. After Lane had dispatched his orders to Harvey and Bickerton, he received word that John W. Geary, the new territorial governor, had issued a proclamation that all militias disband immediately. Lane abandoned his plans to attack Hickory Point and led his men towards Topeka. Because he had ordered Harvey and Bickerton to take the Topeka Road, he expected to run into them and so be able to stop their advance, but since the reinforcements had taken another route, the two groups did not meet. Therefore, Harvey and Bickerton did not know that the attack had been called off. After having covered the 24 miles from Lawrence by marching all night, they arrived at Hickory Point at around 10:30 on the morning of the 14th. Upon the approach of the Free State men, the proslavery men tried to retreat, but instead were compelled to fall back into the log buildings. The Free State men found that Lane and his men were nowhere to be found. Not knowing that the attack had been called off, Harvey had his men surround the log buildings and ordered the cannon be brought up and readied for firing. It was, and the first shot from "Old Sacramento" passed through the blacksmith shop and killed Charles G. Newhall who was inside. About 20 more shots were fired but without effect. A steady rifle fire was kept up by both sides, but because of the distance between the two, there were few casualties. The Free State men attempted to set the blacksmith shop on fire by pushing a wagon up next to it and setting the hay in it on fire, but were unsuccessful. Soon after, the proslavery men displayed a white flag, and both sides ceased firing. Messages went back and forth between the two sides and at around 5:00 p.m., a compromise was reached. It was agreed that both sides would retire peaceably, give up all plunder that had been taken, and that all non-residents would leave the county. Besides Newhall, who had been killed by the cannon ball, four other proslavery men had been wounded. Three Free State men had been shot in the legs, one had a head wound, and another had been shot through the lungs. The Free State men left Hickory Point and headed back toward Lawrence, traveling about five miles before making camp for the night. Several men continued on with the wounded, trying to get them home that night. They had only gone about a mile when they met a troop of United States Dragoons under orders of Governor Geary, who took the men into custody. The dragoons followed their trail back to the camp and arrested all the Free State men they could find. None of the proslavery men who had participated in the Battle of Hickory Point were arrested. After their capture, the prisoners had their weapons confiscated, and were marched to Lecompton. A number of the Free State men had managed to avoided capture, and a few were able to escape during the march to Lecompton, but 101 of them were still captive when they arrived in the capital. On September 20th, the prisoners were brought before Sterling Green Cato, who was a United States District Court Judge for Kansas Territory and Associate Justice on the Kansas Territorial Supreme Court. Judge Cato had been born in Hancock County, Georgia, in 1817, and eventually moved to Eufaula, Alabama, where he was in law practice with his brother Lewis. Cato was a member of the Eufaula Regency, a group of lawyers who were dedicated to promoting the expansion of slavery and countering threats that might limit it. They believed that if it became necessary, secession as a viable option in protecting slavery. There were many politically influential men in the Eufaula Regency, which likely led to Cato being appointed to the Federal and Kansas Territorial benches. His opinions about slavery and the men who opposed it seemed to influence the way he conducted himself in Kansas. It was reported that the first interview that Governor Geary had with Judge Cato was in the proslavery camp at Franklin, where Geary found him "doing duty as a soldier." The Free State men soon became convinced that Judge Cato was no friend of theirs. At their first court appearance on the 20th, the Hickory Point prisoners were charged with murder and remanded into custody. They were brought into court again on the 22nd, but moved for an adjournment until the following day. It was granted. Judge Cato then held an evidentiary hearing on the 23rd, and after hearing testimony from both sides, bound the Free State men over for trial in the court's October term on the charge of murder. For the first week of their imprisonment, the defendants had been in the custody of the dragoons, but around the time that they were bound over for trial, Colonel Henry T. Titus, a proslavery supporter and leader in the movement, took charge of the prisoners. They were locked in a small building that was extremely overcrowded. It was reported that they had to take turns sleeping on the bare floor, as there was not room for all of them to lie down at the same time. Many of the prisoners became ill, and one whose name was William Bowles died in what some were calling the "Great Political Prison" in Lecompton. Marcus Parrott became the defense council for the men, and began preparing his case. In a letter to his father, he indicated that he was not optimistic about the outcome. After the death of Bowles, several of the prisoners managed to escape. The trial of the prisoners began in October. By that time of the trial, there were only eighty-nine defendants remaining. Ten of the men were tried and acquitted. Then twenty more men were tried, convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to the penitentiary for five years at hard labor wearing a ball and chain. The fifty-nine remaining prisoners were moved on November 15th to the Tecumseh, Kansas Territory, jail, where they were crowded in two basement cells. The conditions there were so bad that many of the prisoners decided to escape. They were able to acquire an old bayonet and use it to dig out through the bricks and soil. One dark night, forty-five escaped. The remaining fourteen chose to remain and stand trial. When they did, they were acquitted. It was reported that Sam Jones, the proslavery sheriff of Douglas County, had wanted to hang the defendants, so he was not pleased by the verdict. He wanted to carry out the sentences to their fullest extent and impose harsh corporal punishment on them, including attaching a ball and chain to each prisoner. Jones made a request to the Governor that he be issued them. Geary wanted a more lenient, conciliatory policy, and remitted the ball and chain penalty. This angered the Sheriff, and a dispute between Jones and Geary ensued. In December, the remaining prisoners were placed in the custody of Captain L.J. Hampton, who had been appointed by Geary as Master of Convicts. Although Hampton was a proslavery man from Kentucky, he was described as possessing "an honest heart and generous disposition." He, "treated the prisoners as though they were human beings, and with as much kindness and consideration as their relative positions would permit. He soon gained their confidence, and having no proper place for their safe confinement, and being required to keep them at work when labor could be obtained, he allowed them to go at large without a keeper, relying upon their own promise to return to his charge at any specified time." For this he suffered the wrath of other proslavery men, the most violent condemnation coming from Sheriff Jones. Jones dispute with Governor Geary ended on January 7, 1857, when he resigned as Sheriff. Three of the men in Captain Hampton's charge either escaped or were released, because by March 2, 1857, only seventeen men remained in his custody. On that day, Governor Geary issued full pardons to all seventeen, noting that prior to the attack at Hickory Point, all had "maintained good reputations; that the offence for which they were convicted, was committed in one of those political contentions, in which a great portion of the people of the territory took an active part, many of whom, though equally, if not more guilty, were still at liberty, and could never be brought to punishment; that they had already suffered an imprisonment of nearly six months; and that their continued punishment could neither subserve the ends of justice, nor the interests of the territory." With the issuing of the pardons, the Hickory Point case was closed. Judge Cato eventually left Kansas, and was living in Kansas City, Missouri, by 1860. Soon after resigning as sheriff, Sam Jones left Kansas Territory for New Mexico Territory. On March 12, 1857, President Buchannan fired John W. Geary as territorial governor of Kansas effective March 20th, and he left Kansas the next day. Some of the men who had been tried for their actions a Hickory Point stayed and became permanent residents of Kansas, while others eventually left for greener pastures elsewhere.

(From: Hickory Point, Battle of, Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912, vol. 1; Early Political Troubles, William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Jefferson County, Part 3; Geary and Kansas: Governor Geary's Administration in Kansas with a complete history of the Territory until July 1857…, by John H. Gihon, Charles C. Rhodes, Philadelphia, 1857, Chapter XXXII; Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, Embracing the Fifth and Sixth Biennial Reports, 1886-1888..., Vol. IV, Kansas Publishing House, Topeka, 1890, pp. 573-584; CATO-L Archives, Rootsweb website; Eufaula Regency, Encyclopedia of Alabama; and, Letter, Marc [Parrott] to Dear Father [Thomas Parrott], October 7, 1856, Territorial Kansas Online website. Published 10/15.)  Back to top of page

November 17, 1856 - Judy steals herself from George W. Clarke - George W. Clarke was appointed as Indian Agent for the Potawatomi Indian Agency by President Franklin Pierce in 1854. The Potawatomi Agency was in Kansas Territory, which had just been opened for white settlement by the signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act on May 30, 1854. Clarke brought his family to Kansas Territory to assume his duties as Agent. The issue of whether Kansas would become a slave state or a free state when it was admitted into the Union was being left up to the residents of the territory, and Clarke was a strong supporter of slavery. He quickly became involved with the proslavery party in Kansas and became known to the supports of Kansas becoming a free state as someone who would go to extreme measures to support the proslavery cause. Clarke became Treasurer of a town company that was eventually named the Lecompton Town Company for its President, Samuel D. Lecompt, himself being the Chief Justice of the new Kansas Territorial Supreme Court. The town site was located in the northwest corner of what would soon become Douglas County, Kansas Territory. The town was the headquarters of the proslavery movement in Kansas. Clarke settled his family in Lecompton, which was soon made the Territorial Capitol. He became associated there with Henry Titus, another strong supporter of slavery in Kansas. Clarke and Titus were not only supporters of the concept of slavery but also owned slaves themselves. Clarke owned a woman named Judy and shared ownership of another woman named Ann with Henry Titus(1). Whether Clarke brought Judy and Ann into Kansas with him when he and his family came, or whether he acquired ownership of them after arriving there is not known. On November 21, 1855, Free State supporter Charles W. Dow has killed by Franklin Coleman, his proslavery neighbor, over a land dispute. Jacob Branson, a Free State friend of Dow's was accused of making threating comments against proslavery men, and around midnight of November 26th, Branson was arrested by the proslavery Sheriff of Douglas County, Sam Jones. A number of Branson's friends got word of the arrest and confronted Jones and his men early on November 27th, eventually forcing them to release Branson. They took him to Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free State movement in Kansas. On December 1st, a force of nearly two thousand proslavery men came into Kansas under the command of Jones and marched on Lawrence. The residents of Lawrence were able to fortify the town, and instead of attacking, the proslavery army put the town under siege. Clarke was among the men besieging Lawrence. On December 6th, Robert and Thomas Barber and their brother-in-law Thomas Peirson, slipped out of town and headed home to chop wood for their families. They had gone only a few miles when they were stopped by Clarke and another proslavery man who rode up to them. There was a brief exchange, during which Clarke ordered Thomas Barber to come with him. Barber refused, saying that Clarke had no authority over him, and when he began to ride off, Clarke and the other man pulled out pistols and fired at Barber. A bullet, late determined to be from Clarke's gun, found its mark, and Barber fell dead off his horse. Clarke later claimed that Barber was riding a horse that had been stolen from him. Neither he nor the other shooter was ever arrested or tried for the killing of Barber. John Greenleaf Whittier, the noted 19th-Century poet, wrote a poem memorializing Barber titled Burial of Barber. By May of 1856, the trouble in Kansas was escalating. Clarke had assumed command of two proslavery militias, the Doniphan Tigers and the Kickapoo Rangers, and some were referring to him as "General" Clarke. United States Marshal Israel B. Donalson began assembling a force of men to assist him in serving warrants on several Free State men in Lawrence. Since Lawrence was a Free State town, the men who chose to serve on the posse were proslavery. Clarke and the men under him in the two militias joined up. On the morning of May 21st, the posse ate breakfast and then assembled to hear Donalson give them their orders, to march into Lawrence and enforce his warrants. Next to speak was David Rice Atchison. Atchison was a United States Senator for Missouri. He had served as President pro tempore of the Senate for six years and had requested that Senator Stephen Douglas introduce the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 which sparked the struggle over slavery there. Atchison was strongly in favor of Kansas becoming as slave state, and bitterly opposed the Free State men in Lawrence. He made a fiery speech to the assembled proslavery posse, excoriating the town of Lawrence and urging them on in "crushing out the last sign of damned abolitionism in the territory of Kansas." The posse then marched into Lawrence and took over the town. After serving his warrants, Donalson left Lawrence, and command of the posse devolved to Sam Jones, the proslavery sheriff of Douglas County. Under Jones, the men proceeded to sack and burn the town. Clarke and his men were active participants in the destruction. Even with all his work for the proslavery cause in Kansas, Clarke still found time to perform at least some of the duties of Indian Agent. On August 6, 1856, Clarke wrote to Benjamin F. Robinson, Indian Agent for the Delaware Agency, concerning the difficulties in removing squatters from the Kansas lands that had been designated for the so called "half-breed" Indians. John W. Geary took office as the new Kansas Territorial Governor on September 9, 1856. He wanted to stop the violence in the territory that his predecessor, Wilson Shannon had failed to do. That fall, Clarke led upwards of 400 proslavery men into Linn County, Kansas Territory, and raided Free State towns and homesteads, burning and robbing as they went. Geary called on President Pierce to remove many federal officials in Kansas because "I am now made aware of a most insidious and foul conspiracy formed for the purpose of dissolving this Union and of defeating my policy as the means by which it will be cemented and perpetuated. This conspiracy includes among its members Atchison, Stringfellow, the two Territorial Judges, Secretary of State, District Attorney, Marshal, Surveyor General, [and] Clark[e] the agent for the Pottawatomie Indians, the last named is stained with murder and arson and all the rest aiding, abetting and giving official countenance to crimes and enormities of the deepest dye not excepting murder." Clarke's troubles were increasing, and on November 17, 1856, Clark's slave Judy stole herself from him. Slaves were considered the property of their "owner", and so anyone who removed a slave from their master's possession was considered to have stolen the slave, and this included the slave herself, so a runaway slave was a thief of her master's property. If losing Judy was not enough, a special messenger from President Pierce arrived in Lecompton on December 10th with the news that the President had granted Geary's request and removed Clarke from his position as Indian Agent(2). Clarke ran an advertisement(3) in the December 11, 1856, edition of The Lecompton Union, offering a reward for the return of Judy. In the ad, he noted that "She is no doubt lurking in or near Lawrence, if she has not already secured passage on the under-ground railway to Chicago." The New York Tribune got wind of Clarke's predicament, and printed his original ad from the The Lecompton Union along with a mocking and rather scathing article(4) on Clarke himself. There is no indication as to Judy's eventual fate, other than that she was never returned to Clarke. Her experiences on her journey to freedom are also unknown, but one can get a feeling for them through the experiences of Ann, Clarke's other slave woman that he owned with Henry Titus. Following in Judy's footsteps, Ann ran away from Clarke's home sometime in late November or early December 1856(5), and her trials and tribulations are documented by one of the men who helped her get away. After leaving Clarke, Ann went to the house of a Free State man named Howard, who lived about two miles southeast of Topeka, Kansas Territory. He had trouble securing her passage on the Underground Railroad, and she had been at Howard's about five or six weeks when a group of proslavery men discovered her and took her back to Clarke for the reward he had offered. It was evening when they arrived at Clark's place at Lecompton, and finding Clarke not at home, they sent word out into the country for him to come and pay the reward. Ann went out into the kitchen to wash up. The men had given her some cakes to eat, but instead of eating them, she put them in a small pouch she had with her. The men were drinking and having a merry time anticipating their reward, and only the women of the house were watching Ann. It had gotten dark outside, and when the women watching her were off their guard, Ann ran outside and up a heavily wooded ravine. She hid in thick brush, laying there until almost morning. Realizing Ann had escapes, the men came out of the house after her. They searched for her, at one time coming very near to where she lay. As it began to get light, Ann moved southeast along the ravine, eventually coming out onto the top of a hill on the edge of the prairie. It was daybreak, and she could see around to get her bearings. She eventually saw a man at a distance walking along the road that went to Lawrence. Ann could see that he was carrying a book, and assumed that anyone with a book must be a Free State man. She went up to him and asked who lived in the area. He identified himself as Dr. Barker, presumably Dr. Francis Barker, and a neighbor of Clarke. He had been visiting a sick woman and was on his way home. Ann asked him to take her to his house and help her to get free. Dr. Barker told her to go farther south, to walk down the ravine and come up back of his house, which she did. After a day or two, Dr. Barber had Ann get in the back of a wagon, and after covering her so no one could see her, took her to a house near Lawrence, identified as belonging to the father-in-law of George Earle, and left her there. The father-in-law then took her to John Armstrong in Topeka. Armstrong was living in the boarding house of Mrs. Caroline Scales, and was reportedly courting one of her daughters. He and Mrs. Scales hid Ann in the cellar inside a sugar hogshead, an immense barrel which had been used to ship things from back east. They put some straw, clothes, and blankets into the hogshead to make Ann comfortable. She was so well hidden that it was a week after her arrival before William Scales, Caroline's husband, discovered her there. When the boarders were out during the day, Ann would come up into the kitchen and do housework for Mrs. Scales. One morning she was helping wash the breakfast dishes when one of the boarders, a Captain Henry, came in on her. Captain Henry was reported to be a strong proslavery man, but Mrs. Scales supposedly said "you can keep a secret," and he apparently did, as he never gave them away. Armstrong kept Ann hidden there for about six weeks while he could finish making plans to take her to Iowa. He borrowed a closed carriage from a Reverend Burgess and a team of mules from another man. He raised a total of $70 to pay the expenses of the trip, $10 from Charles Robinson, $5 each from Major James B. Abbott and John Ritchie, and the rest in $1 contributions. Armstrong and Ann were accompanied by another escaped slave woman whose name is not known(6) and a Mr. Mills who went along to assist Armstrong. They began the trip at the end of February(7), following the Lane Trail north through Kansas and into Nebraska Territory, and then across the Missouri River into Iowa, eventually arriving in Civil Bend where Armstrong turned Ann over to Dr. Ira D. Blanchard. Civil Bend was a known abolitionist town and waystation on the Underground Railroad, and Dr. Blanchard was a strong supporter of the cause. He sent Ann on to Chicago, where she stayed safely for a number of years(8). Clarke moved to Fort Scott, Kansas Territory, a town in Bourbon County around 90 miles southeast of Lecompton, in 1857, and worked in the U. S. Land Office there. He continued his proslavery activities and had frequent run-ins with Free State men. Clarke was suspected of participating in the Marais des Cygnes Massacre on May 19, 1858, in which around 30 proslavery men rounded up 11 Free State men, marched them to a spot approximately four miles northeast of Trading Post, in Linn County, put them in a gully, and fired upon them, killing five and seriously wounding five more. Clarke was arrested but was not charged. He was released, and finally left Kansas in August 1858. What his fate was after leaving Kansas is not known.

(1) Ann was described as being about forty or forty-five years old, weighing about 175 pounds, and being of medium color.

(2) The exact date when Pierce removed Clarke as Indian Agent is not known.

(3) The full text of the advertisement in the The Lecompton Union reads: "Fifty dollars reward. Left my premises, near Lecompton, K. T., on Tuesday, the 17th day of November last, my negro woman Judy. She is about 35 years old, 5 feet 3 or 4 inches high and corpulent, weighing about 225 pounds. She is very black, with several teeth out in front; and speaks intelligently and plausibly. She has been seen at several houses in the neighborhood, and when last seen was traveling towards Lawrence. She is a good cook and washerwoman, and in other respects an excellent house servant. She is no doubt lurking in or near Lawrence, if she has not already secured passage on the under-ground railway to Chicago. I will give $25 for information that will lead to her apprehension, or $50 to any person who will deliver her to my residence. Geo. W. Clarke, December 2, 1856."

(4) The full text of the New York Tribune article reads: "Misfortunes, they say, never come single; and in the case of Mr. George W. Clarke, late an Indian Agent in Kansas, and credited by fame with the murder of Barber during the first siege of Lawrence, this saying seems to come true. We noticed a little while ago that, in spite of his eminent service to the cause of Border-Ruffianism, the President had removed him from his Indian Agency. It appears by the advertising columns of a late number of The Lecompton Union that he has not merely lost his office, but what perhaps comes still nearer home to him, "his negro woman Judy," "good cook, washerwoman, and excellent house-servant." As, possibly, Judy may apply for employment somewhere within the range of our circulation, we give her the benefit of the excellent character from her late master contained in the subjoined advertisement: [The Lecompton Union article from footnote 3 appears here] Whatever may be the views of Mr. George W. Clarke on the Kansas question, it would seem that at least one member of his family or of his late family is bent upon making that territory a Free State. But though he loses in one direction he may gain in another. His double loss of his office and his Judy ought to go far to secure him the clerkship of the Bogus Legislature now shortly about to meet--a berth for which we see he is an applicant."

(5) There is no record of when Ann first escaped from Clarke, but using subsequent events one can narrow it down significantly. See footnote 7.

(6) It is intriguing to wonder if the escaped slave woman whose name Armstrong could not remember was Judy, the other woman who had escaped from Clarke.

(7) If Armstrong is correct that he and Ann began the trip to Iowa the end of February 1857 after she had stayed in Topeka for six weeks, then Ann would have arrived at Mrs. Scales' boarding house in Topeka in mid-January. Since she had escaped from the slave catchers a few days before she arrived at Mrs. Scales' house, she would have done so in early to mid-January 1857. Prior to having been taken by the slave catchers, she had spent five to six weeks at the home of Mr. Howard after she had run away from Clarke. Five to six weeks before early to mid-January 1857 would be late November or early December 1856, so that is when she had first run away from Clarke's house.

(8) Ann wrote to Armstrong offering him $500 to go to Lawrence County, Missouri, and free her daughter, who was enslaved there.

(From: From: Potawatomi Indian Agency (Kansas), FamilySearch website; Sack of Lawrence, A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, Volume 5, William E. Connelley, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1918, Chapter 29, Part 4; Lecompton, William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Douglas County, Part 31; Reminiscences of Slave Days in Kansas, by John Armstrong, Territorial Kansas Online website; A Fragment of Kansas Land History: The Disposal of the Christian Indian Tract, by Paul Wallace Gates, Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 6, no. 3 (August 1937), p. 228; "No Propriety in the Late Course of the Governor": The Geary-Sherrard Affair Reexamined, by David E. Meerse, Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 42, no. 3 (August 1976), pp. 237 to 262; Early Political Troubles, Part 2, William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Linn County, Part 3; The Lecompton Union, vol. 1, no. 29 (December 2, 1856), p. 2; New York Tribune, vol. 16, no. 4,899 (December 31, 1856), p. 5; Civil Bend, Iowahistory.org website; Cool Things - Proslavery Leader's Desk, Kansapedia website; and, [CLARKE] George W. Clarke, Rootsweb website. Published 11/15.)  Back to top of page

December 1, 1855 - Lawrence, Kansas Territory, is put under siege by a Missouri posse - Although there had been some sporadic incidents before, the trouble that had been brewing between Free State and proslavery factions in Kansas Territory since the Kansas-Nebraska Act had opened it up to white settlement in 1854 was beginning to escalate by late 1855. On November 21st, slavery supporter Franklin Coleman shot and killed his Free State neighbor Charles Dow over a land dispute. Friends of Dow perceived what they thought was inaction by the authorities to capture Coleman, which led to a heightening of tensions. Jacob Branson, one of Dow's friends, was alleged to have been overheard making threating remarks about Coleman and other proslavery men. The proslavery sheriff of Douglas County, Sam Jones, organized a posse and went to arrest Branson late on November 26th. They took him prisoner and intended to bring him to Lecompton, the headquarters of the proslavery movement in the territory. A group of friends of Branson got word of this, and around 1:00 a.m. on the 27th they confronted Jones and his posse. After more than an hour of armed standoff, during which threats and insults were traded back and forth, Branson's friends were able to get Jones to release his prisoner. Branson was taken to Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free State movement, which was already the focus of much of the proslavery men's wrath. Jones sent word to his father-in-law, Colonel Boone, in Westport, Missouri, asking for aid in recapturing Branson. Word also was sent to Territorial Governor Wilson Shannon requesting 3,000 troops to put down what was being characterized to him as a rebellion in Lawrence. Without first determining what was actually happening, Shannon issued a proclamation calling out the militias in Kansas to put down the rebellion. In response to Jones' and Shannon's actions, close to 2,000 men came into Kansas from Missouri "fully equipped and expecting to fight." Shannon later observed "Missouri sent not only her young men, but her gray-haired citizens were there. The man of seventy winters stood shoulder to shoulder with the youth of sixteen. There were volunteers in that camp and with them were not only their sons, but their grandsons to join in the fray." Word quickly spread of what the Free State men saw as an invasion, and the residents of Lawrence began making preparations to defend their town. All the men who had participated in the rescue of Branson were asked to leave Lawrence to show that the town had had no part in the rescue. A committee of safety was appointed that organized the citizens into guards of 15 or 20 men in a squad. Free State men from all over the territory rushed to Lawrence, eventually raising the number of defenders to nearly 800. Future Kansas Governor Charles Robinson was appointed commander-in-chief of the men. Five temporary forts were built out of mud and logs at key locations commanding every approach to the town. In addition to the guns the Free State men brought with them, a cannon was smuggled into town. The men in the proslavery posse who were marching on Lawrence became aware of how the town had been fortified, so instead of attacking immediately upon their arrival, they instead surrounded Lawrence and put it under siege. The siege began on December 1, 1855. The main camp of the besiegers was near Franklin, about 3 miles southeast of Lawrence, and the other camp was near Lecompton. The defenders spent most of their time drilling and strengthening their position, while the invaders waited for the command by Sheriff Jones to move on Lawrence. The weather had turned bitterly cold, and the proslavery men had trouble keeping warm while living outside in such harsh conditions. Governor Shannon became increasingly alarmed by the whole situation and sent for Colonel Edwin Sumner, commander of the dragoons at Fort Leavenworth, to bring a force of men to Lawrence. Sumner refused to do so without orders from Washington. A delegation from Lawrence managed to get out of town and went to Shannon to advise him of the true nature of the situation there, that the men in Lawrence were not being belligerent but merely were organized to defend themselves from what they saw as an unwarranted assault. He at first did not believe them, but eventually agreed to go to Lawrence and assess the situation himself. On December 6th, Robert and Thomas Barber and their brother-in-law Thomas Peirson, slipped out of Lawrence to go home to chop wood for their families. They had gone only a few miles when they were stopped by two proslavery men, George W. Clarke and James Burnes. Clarke ordered Thomas Barber to come with them, and when he refused, Clarke and Burnes pulled out pistols and fired at Barber, killing him. The next day, December 7th, Shannon arrived in Lawrence. The defenders tried to reinforce what the men in the delegation had told him. Among the evidence they gave was the fact that Jones had been allowed to come into Lawrence during the siege, and that he was able to leave town unmolested. Shannon realized that the true nature of things was not what he had been told before he called out the militias. Shannon then called for a truce to negotiate an end to the crisis. Both sides stood down, and a delegation of proslavery men, including Sheriff Jones' father-in-law, Colonel Boone, were given safe conduct into Lawrence for the negotiations being held in the Free State Hotel, the same building where Thomas Barber's body was laid out in one of the rooms. After some heated negotiations, the two sides came to an agreement and a peace treaty was drawn up. At this time a company of Free State men from the Pottawatomie area arrived in Lawrence under the command of the abolitionist John Brown. The peace treaty was signed on December 8, 1855, ending the siege, and the Missouri men went home for the winter. The treaty ended the siege but not the troubles, which began again early in the new year of 1856, the year that would prove to be the most violent one in the "Bleeding Kansas" era.

From: Wakarusa War, Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co., Chicago, 1912, Vol. 2, pp. 855-857. Published 12/15.)  Back to top of page

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