William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]


After the invasion of March, 1855, by Missourians, to participate in the election of the 30th, Bourbon County enjoyed comparative peace until July, 1856. At that election, there were about three hundred armed men at the Fort Scott precinct from Missouri, who cast most of the votes that were cast for Joseph C. Anderson and S. A. Williams on that day. At the time, there were probably not more than thirty legal voters in the precinct.

In the early spring of 1856, a party of about thirty men from South Carolina came to Bourbon County under a leader named George W. Jones, all under the auspices of the Southern Emigrant Aid Society, and in furtherance of the scheme of making Kansas a Slave State. Upon their first appearance in the county, their manners were mild and conduct that of gentlemen. They visited most of the Free-State settlers, made inquiries as to where they came from, what their views were upon the pending issues of the day, how they were off for arms and ammunition, and what kind of land there was in this part of the Territory; and informed them that they were looking for a good location for a colony from South Carolina. Some of the Free-State men were themselves from South Carolina, as was the case with Josiah Stewart, who had settled in what is now Mill Creek Township in 1855; and without suspecting the final ends these pretended forerunners of a colony had in view, gave them full information not only as to the country itself, but as to their own political opinions and means of defense. It thus became easy to make a complete list of the leading Free-State men, with full particulars regarding them, which was done; and then commencing in July, and continuing on through the fall, those on the list were taken prisoners, taken to Fort Scott, and, in some cases, while thus held, advised by some "friend" among their captors, that, if they had any regard for their personal safety it would be best to "skip out" and leave the Territory. In this and other ways nearly all Free-State men were driven out during the year, and a Pro-slavery man put upon each Free-State man's claim.

Besides these operations, there was but one other important historic event that occurred during the year. That was the arrival at Fort Scott from Texas of a party of "Rangers," in August, who, in company with a like number of citizens of Fort Scott, under command of Capt. William Barnes, formed themselves into a company of upward of one hundred, all under the command of the Texas leader, and marched north toward Osawatomie, for the purpose of having "some fun." When camped on Middle Creek, in Linn County, about eight miles south of Osawatomie, they were attacked by Capts. Anderson, Shore and Cline, and most ingloriously defeated. (See history of Linn County.)

This battle of Middle Creek, although not very important in itself, has an interesting sequel. The parties engaged in it on the Pro-slavery side, who were not taken prisoners, made the best time possible--some to Missouri, others to Fort Scott, imagining themselves closely and hotly pursued the whole distance, by the "Abolitionists."

"Those who took to their heels arrived home about midnight yelling: 'The Free-State men are upon us; the Free-State men are upon us; the buildings will be burned;' etc. The surprise was so sudden that resistance on the part of those who had remained at home would have proved of little account, and their only salvation was to save what they could and make the best of it. A party consisting of five or six families, with Col. H. T. Wilson as pilot, started for Mr. Brantley's residence about one-half mile from the Fort. They found Mr. Brantley's family in bed fast asleep, but when awakened by the voice of Col. Wilson, asking for shelter, Mr. B. concluded that something of unusual importance was on foot, and so jumped up and opened the door, when a general inpouring took place, and the room was soon filled with frightened women and crying children. Confusion was no name for it. Mr. Brantley's sons were at the Fort, but when the Free-State men were announced, hastened home to alarm the household and to prepare for fight. They reached home shortly after the arrival of the Colonel's party and brought the report that everything was being destroyed, and that this was their next point of attack. What was to be done? Destruction and death stared them in the face. One of the ladies suggested a season of prayer. A circle was formed, and Mr. Brantley, who was a very devoted Baptist, commenced to pray. We will leave them on their knees, and return to the Fort, and see what became of the other people. Mrs. Dr. Hill who resided on the East Block, was in the act of retiring, when the news reached her that the Free-State men were going to burn the buildings. Her husband and son were away at the time, with the horses, and what to do she hardly knew. She called together the remaining portion of her household, informed them what was up, and after offering prayer, told them to take care of themselves as best they could. She then ordered her servants to bring her carriage around to the front door, and, seating herself in it, ordered the negroes to draw her away to some secluded spot. In the rear of her house was a deep ravine, and an almost impassable road, even in daylight, wended its way to the bottom. Down this road they went "a-flying" regardless of expenses, and not until they had reached the thick underbrush, did they stop for further orders. After remaining here for some time she involuntarily clasped her hands to her head, and discovered that in her haste she had forgotten to take her "night cap" off. The first impression that entered her mind after the discovery, was that the "cap" (being white) would attract the attention of the "Abolitionists," and they would shoot at it, so she took it off and put it in her pocket. She remained in the buggy all night, her servants acting as her body guard. The next morning the wanderers returned. We are unable to learn whether it was the prayer offered up at Mr. Brantley's that kept the Free-State men from making a raid into the place, or whether Mrs. Hill was drawn back home, but we do know that when Col. Wilson and wife returned, Mrs. Hill rushed over, and told Mrs. Wilson and several other ladies that had assembled at the Colonel's residence, of her exploits.

"After this scare it was thought best by those having families here to send them away. George W. Jones, who hailed from South Carolina, took an active part in this movement. He owned a large wagon (Noah's Ark, No. 2), with a capacity too numerous to mention. He 'took in' all the women and children in the country that he could hear of, who had no other means at their command, and started for the States, drawn by four yoke of oxen." (This quotation is from a history of Fort Scott by C. Rollin Camp.)

In 1857, the Free-State men, driven from their homes the year before, began to return. A considerable number of new settlers entered the county this year, so that with increased strength they acquired increased confidence in their ability to maintain their rights. As a preliminary step to the regaining possession of their stolen stock and claims they organized themselves into a "wide awake" society, in opposition to the "dark lantern lodge" of the Pro-slavery men. Among the leaders of the "wide awakes" were such men as J. C. Burnett, Capt. Samuel Stevenson, Capt. Bain, Josiah Stewart and Benjamin Rice. This organization of "wide awakes," was accustomed to meet at different settlers' cabins at different times, as a precaution against surprise and attack by their "dark lantern" neighbors. When everything was in readiness, the Pro-slavery usurpers were notified that they must relinquish the claims they had wrongfully seized. The greater part now realizing the fact that resistance on their part would result certainly in defeat, and possibly in bloodshed, left the appropriated claims on receipt of the notice, but other, more tenacious of these "rights," had to be driven out by force of arms. As an illustration of these difficulties, the case of Stone against Southwood will suffice. Southwood was a preacher of the Methodist Church South, who had taken possession of Mr. Stone's claim and cabin. Upon Mr. Stone's return he endeavored to assert his rights, but the Rev. Southwood refused to vacate. The Free-State men thereupon built Stone a cabin near the one occupied by Southwood, into which Stone moved his family to await the opening of the land office. Soon a difficulty arose about a well of water, which led to an assault by Mrs. Southwood upon Mrs. Stone. This assault led the Free-State men to order the Rev. Southwood's family off the premises by a certain fixed time. On the day before this order was to be carried into effect, the Rev. Southwood's Pro-slavery friends, to the number of about 200 armed men, prepared to move Mr. Stone off the claim. The Free-State men thereupon collected in Mr. Stone's cabin and awaited the attack of the Rev. Southwood's friends. The attack was made at night but failed, the attacking party retiring to Fort Scott, threatening to return with increased numbers, and to hang every Free-State man found on the premises. The Free-State men then increased their number to sixty, and awaited the second threatened attack which was made according to promise, but which resulted in failure as had the first. As the result of the whole movement, Rev. Southwood left the premises before his time expired and Mr. Stone was reinstated.

Similar difficulties were of frequent occurrence, and it is certain that the Free-State men did not in every instance have the law and the right upon their side, as a six months' abandonment of a claim worked a forfeiture of legal title to it under the pre-emption laws. At any rate they were frequently arrested on various kinds of charges, and harassed in every conceivable way. The District Court was presided over by Judge Joseph Williams. Claim questions were for a time referred to his court for decision, but the Judge being a Pro-slavery man very generally decided in favor of the Pro-slavery claimant, and the Free-State men indicted for the most part for imaginary offenses were either required to give excessive bail, or refused bail altogether. The Free-State men were of course universally dissatisfied with such a state of things, and Montgomery determined if practicable to bring Judge Williams to his senses. To this end he arrested a certain Pro-slavery man, kept him in custody long enough, and treated him severely enough to make him think when released that he had been in great peril and was exceedingly fortunate in being released at all; incidentally mentioning in his hearing his own intention of marching to Fort Scott and forcibly releasing the prisoners held and refused bail. Montgomery's Pro-slavery prisoner, upon being set at liberty, immediately set out for Fort Scott, and lost no time in informing Judge Williams of Montgomery's programme; whereupon the Judge suddenly discovered that to refuse bail to prisoners under such circumstances was a thing unheard of in law and in itself absurd. The prisoners were at once released without bail, and upon their own recognizance.

On account of the dissatisfaction of the Free-State men with the decisions of Judge Williams' court, they organized a court of their own, calling it the "Squatters' Court." Dr. Gilpatrick, of Anderson County, was made Judge, and Henry Kilbourn, Sheriff. The proceedings of this court were regular and dignified, its decisions impartial and just, and rigidly executed, by its most efficient Sheriff.

The proceedings of this squatter's court were as distasteful to the Pro-slavery men, as were those of Judge Williams to the Free-State men, and in consequence, on the 12th of December, 1857, an expedition was organized, and started out under the command of Deputy United States Marshal Little, of Fort Scott, to capture the court. This attempt was a failure, and on the 16th of the month Marshal Little organized a posse of about fifty men, for a second attempt. As Little approached the "fort," Capt. Bain's house, in which the "court" was sitting, he was met by an embassy from the "court," consisting of D. B. Jackson, Maj. Abbott and Gen. Blunt. This embassy had been sent out, as Marshal Little was advancing, under a flag of truce. At the close of the parley that ensued, Marshal Little informed the embassy that if the "court" did not surrender in thirty minutes he "would blow them all to hell." Thereupon the embassy returned to the "fort," which the "court" promptly placed in condition of defense by removing the chinking from between the logs for port holes. Those who had shotguns remained inside, while those who had rifles stationed themselves near the "fort" behind trees. Maj. Abbott then warned Little that if he advanced beyond a certain line he would be fired upon. Little advanced, notwithstanding, and received a volley from Maj. Abbott's rifles and muskets. The Marshal's men returned the volley, and then wheeling beat as precipitate a retreat as possible to the distance of one-half a mile. Here they halted and learned that four of their number had received slight flesh wounds, and that B. F. Brantley's horse had been shot through the neck. Little re-formed his line, and asked all who were willing to make a second attack upon the "fort" to step aside with him. Ten men responded, and Little at their head made a second advance, with the same result as before, except this time none of his men were wounded. None of the Free-State men were wounded in either charge. Finding it impracticable to take "Fort Bain," the Marshal led his posse back to Fort Scott. On the following day, as Marshal Little was approaching "Fort Bain," with forces increased to about 150 men, he was informed by William Hinton, "that his birds had flown." This upon reaching the fort he found to be true, the court having retired during the night to the Baptist Church at Danford's Mill. Here their numbers were increased to about 300. On the following Sunday they returned to "Fort Bain," and held a "jollification" over the victory of the previous Tuesday. They then returned to the Baptist Church, disbanded and went to their homes.

Prominent among the members of this "Squatter's Court" were Capt. Bain, Col. Phillips, P. B. Plumb, Gen. Lane, and Maj. Abbott, who was military commander. One of Marshal Little's posse, James Rhoades, who was at the time engineer at Ed. Jones saw mill, after returning to Fort Scott, started back to the mill, up the Marmaton. On the road he met a Mr. Weaver, a Free-State man, with whom he engaged in a controversy. Weaver was unarmed, Rhoades had a gun he had in some way obtained possession of which belonged to a Free-State man in Linn County, and besides being armed he was under the influence of intoxicants. He attempted to shot Weaver, but Weaver seized the gun, wrenched it from his grasp, and shot him through the head, killing him instantly. He was buried on the 20th, with Masonic ceremonies. Weaver retained possession of the gun, and thereby came near getting himself into serious difficulty. It had an individuality of its own, and was well known to many Free-State men of Linn County and when it was discovered by some of them in Weaver's possession, he was at once adjudged a Pro-slavery man, and had to prove himself innocent before his personal safety was re-assured.

About this time began what may be called the Denton difficulty. In the year 1856, a Pro-Slavery man named Hardwicke settled on the Little Osage, and later in the same year, Isaac and James Denton, father and son, and also Pro-slavery men, came to Bourbon County from the South. Hardwicke permitted James Denton to settle on a claim of his, upon the condition that in the spring that he should look up a claim for himself. When the time arrived for Denton to vacate the claim, he refused to do so, and referred his case to the "Squatter Court," which sustained him. Hardwicke's cabin was fired into, and himself and family forced to leave the claim; but he himself lurked around the country for some months. About the last of March, 1858, Isaac Denton and Hedrick were shot and killed. Davis' house was fired into and he wounded in the hand. Hardwicke and some of his friends were suspected of the crime and fled the country. He was subsequently arrested in Missouri, placed in irons and delivered to John Denton, another son of Isaac's, to be brought to Kansas for trial; but on the way Denton shot Hardwicke dead. Denton in his turn was shot and killed October 25, 1860, at the State Line Grocery, near Barnesville, by William Marchbanks in retaliation for the killing of Hardwicke.

Toward the close of the year 1857, Montgomery's band, on account of their operations on the Little Osage, became known as the "Osages," and the pro-slavery element, as the "Pro-slaveries." The people of Fort Scott during this time were constantly subject to alarms, by reports that the "Osages" were coming to attack the place. The Fort Scott people were composed of three classes of persons--Free-State, Pro-slavery, and Border Ruffians of the worst class. Among the latter were such men as George W. Clarke, W. B. Brockett and the Hamiltons. Against these men the "Osages" entertained an undying hatred, and it was because they were harbored in the city against the wishes of the Free-State and other peace-loving citizens that these annoyances and alarms were of such frequent occurrence. The Free-State men in the city did most of the guard duty, and from the peculiarity of their position were almost constantly between two fires; or at least they had to serve as a kind of bulwark, over which the "Osages" from without had to fire, or through which they had to break, in order to reach the Border Ruffians within.

On account of these constant alarms, a public meeting was held in Fort Scott, Sunday December 13. Gov. E. Ransom was Chairman, J. Kennedy Williams, Secretary. A committee on resolutions was appointed, consisting of Charles P. Bullock, H. T. Wilson, George W. Clarke, D. F. Greenwood, Dr. Hill, S. A. Williams, J. W. Head, John H. Little, J. Cummings, William Gallaher, Mr. Harlan and B. F. Brantley. Gov. Ransom was afterward added to the committee. At an adjourned meeting held in the afternoon, the following resolutions were reported and adopted:

Resolved, That the Sheriff and Deputy Marshal be requested to make affidavits to the facts touching the matter now under consideration, and that the same be conveyed by express, accompanied by a communication to the Governor of the Territory for military aid.

Resolved, That a committee be appointed, consisting of five persons, to be denominated a 'Committee of Vigilance,' under whose authority and directions a military organization shall be had, with a view to aid when necessary the civil authorities in the execution of warrants, and any other legal process, and in the due execution of the laws; and it shall be the further duty of the committee to organize a night patrol for the security of our town, and its citizens and their property.

The Vigilance Committee appointed consisted of H. T. Wilson, B. Little, T. B. Arnett, George A. Crawford and J. W. Head.

The following resolution, offered by George W. Clarke, was also Adopted:

Resolved, That we recommend to the good citizens of the Territory to abstain from all retaliatory acts, and not to allow themselves to be drawn into illegal combinations or conduct by the acts of lawless men, but in all cases to maintain their rights under and by the laws of the land.

The following communication accompanied the affidavit of the Sheriff:


Sir: As Sheriff of Bourbon County, I feel it my duty to report to you that in consequence of an organized and armed resistance to the civil authorities by a body of armed men in this county aided and assisted by men equally lawless, I am unable to serve processes, make arrests, or otherwise perform my official duties; and I have the honor to ask that you have a body of United States troops sent to this point to aid me in enforcing the laws, and to give quiet to the disturbed state of things in this region. Herewith I send my affidavit and the concurrent statement of Marshal Little.

Sheriff of Bourbon County.

In response to this appeal, Secretary Stanton sent Companies E and F, First United States Cavalry, to Fort Scott, under command of Capt. Sturgis, they arriving there December 21. Their presence had the effect to restore and maintain quiet for several weeks. But on January 10 the troops were removed to Fort Leavenworth, and it was not long before the old troubles broke out afresh, and guard duty was resumed. At that time, "Old Ganter," as he was called, a German, was living on Mill Creek, on a claim which he had bought in that part of the county. One night in February, 1858, he came into Fort Scott, and reported the enemy in his neighborhood, saying, he "vish der tam Abolitionists get frost bite mit der feet!" "Old Ganter" was somewhat of a character. He owned a slave of whom he took good care, and obliged his wife to do all the heavy work. At one time he was asked by Ed Jones if he thought it was right to drive the Free-State men off their claims as was then being done by Pro-slavery men. His reply was, "Oh, vell! By Tam, der vill pe so many less to vote." But when his time came to be driven out by the Free-State men, with characteristic inconsistency, he sought the protection of the very men of whose expulsion he had previously so emphatically approved. Ganter was afterward shot and killed by bushwhackers during the war.

[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]