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


[TOC] [part 4] [part 2] [Cutler's History]


At the time the forerunners, under George W. Jones of the South Carolina "colony," were making their selection of claims, Josiah Stewart was advised by Jones as a "friend" to leave the Territory. Mr. Stewart acted on this advice. In 1857, he returned and took possession of his claim. In June, 1860, Nathaniel Boylston returned from Texas to Kansas through Missouri. In passing through Fort Scott, some of his Pro-slavery friends told him they knew of a good claim they wanted occupied by a good Pro-slavery man, and acting on the advice of a lawyer, Boylston moved onto the claim then belonging to and occupied by Mr. Stewart. The next morning, which was Sunday, Mr. S. heard some one chopping in the timber, and with one of his boys, went out to learn who it was and why. Upon approaching Mr. B., whom he did not know, he inquired of him why he was there, and what he proposed to do. Mr. B. replied "You will see in time. I propose to pre-empt this claim." Mr. Stewart thereupon sent his son back to the house after a shot gun and revolver, and upon their arrival went down to Mr. Boylston, who had his ox-team and wagon and family with him, and some other man also for a witness to the fact of his having made his "improvement" on the claim. As Mr. Stewart came near the party, and demanded of Mr. B. what he meant by attempting to pre-empt a claim already taken by himself, Mr. Boylston stepped from the opposite side to the rear of the wagon, brought his gun to his shoulder, and attempted to fire on Mr. Stewart; but the gun failed to go off. Stewart then raised his gun and fired upon Boylston, wounding him so that he died in about thirty days. Stewart gave himself up to await the result of the shooting. Upon the preliminary trial, the doctors testified that the wounds were not necessarily mortal. In the following fall, the grand jury failed to find an indictment against Mr. Stewart, and he was therefore never brought to trial. Mrs. Boylston contested Mr. Stewart's claim, but did not succeed in securing it.

On the night of the 10th of February, 1858, scouts reported that the "Osages" were coming to the city, and were certain there was now no mistake about it. Montgomery had been appealed to for assistance by a Mr. Johnson, who had suffered from the Border Ruffians of the city. He at once set out at the head of about forty men, to execute writs which had been procured against the offenders. He was met by a deputation of citizens at the outskirts of the town. Of this deputation he demanded the persons for whom writs were held, and received the reply that they should be surrendered upon condition of being tried in Fort Scott, but that otherwise they would not be surrendered without a fight. Montgomery promptly decided to fight and put his command in motion for the town, preceded by the more rapid movements of the deputation among the members of which were Judge Williams and George A. Crawford. All the leading Pro-Slavery men suddenly discovered that important business interests in Missouri demanded their immediate attention, and when Montgomery arrived, the birds he sought were flown. The hospitalities of the city were extended to, and accepted by, the "Osages," after which they quietly took their departure.

On the 15th, the runaways returned, and a serious difficulty arose at the Fort Scott Hotel, on account of an attack by W. B. Brockett on Charles Dimon. Mr. Campbell, proprietor of the hotel, was, however, equal to the emergency, and by his determined bravery, prevented bloodshed. On this same day two companies of the First United States Cavalry were ordered to Fort Scott, to report to Judge Williams or Deputy Marshal John H. Little, They arrived on the 26th, under command of Capt. George T. Anderson and Lieut. Ned. Ingraham. Montgomery always desired to avoid a conflict with United States troops and now as Fort Scott was defended by them, he operated against the Pro-slavery men in the country, with the object of driving them into the city. Many families, some say as many three hundred, were thus broken up and ruined. Capt. Anderson could afford them no security at their isolated homes, and the only recourse was to flock to the city, which they did. During these raids, much property and many horses were stolen. John Brown had a fine horse, which belonged to Mr. Poyner, and Montgomery had one belonging to J. J. Farley, which he offered, some time afterward, to permit Judge Wright to ride home to its owner, but on account of the horse being "too wild," the Judge declined. During these raids, on the 28th of February, a party of Montgomery's men, under command of Rev. John E. Stewart, alias Levi W. Plumb, approached the house of Van Zumalt, a Pro-slavery man living on the Little Osage, and in attempting to enter it shot and badly wounded him. He, however, recovered and left the Territory.

After the killing of Denton and Hedrick, Travis was arrested and tried for complicity in the murder. He was a harmless old man, about sixty years of age, and without marked political proclivities. The "squatter court" before which he was tried found him "not guilty." On his way home he stopped at Wasson's, where, on April 1, he was shot and killed, some say by James Denton and others of Montgomery's men.

On the 21st of April, Montgomery, with a small party of his men, were in the valley of the Marmaton. Word was brought to Capt. Anderson that a party of "Osages" were up the valley robbing and plundering. Capt. Anderson immediately started in pursuit. On his way, he passed Jones' saw-mill, where a meeting of Free-State men was being presided over by John Hamilton. Anderson invited Hamilton to accompany him in pursuit of Montgomery, but he was "too busy" just at that time to leave. Anderson soon came in sight of Montgomery, who, upon discovering the presence of United States troops, retreated at full speed up Paint Creek, closely pursued. Arriving at a narrow defile, Montgomery dismounted his men and assumed the defensive. Capt. Anderson's troops were fired upon as they approached, one of their number mortally wounded, Capt. Anderson's horse killed, and the troops defeated. An armistice followed, to remove the Captain from under his fallen horse, and the "Osages" beat a timely retreat, having but one of their number slightly wounded. The wounded soldier, Alvin Satterwaite, a young man of good family, and exemplary habits, died on the 23d and was buried on the 24th, with military honors.

It is impossible to imagine, much less to appreciate and describe, the bitterness of feeling which existed in the hearts of the two classes of the people that then inhabited the Territory against each other. Insult and wrong provoke retaliation, and the retaliators seldom cease when they have merely dealt out justice. Revenge continues to spur them on, and it is natural to desire to put the enemy hors du combat, so that he shall no longer be dangerous or a disturber of the peace. It was in some such spirit as this that a portion of Montgomery's men, calling themselves "the committee of safety," met the next day after the encounter with the troops and passed the following resolutions, believing as they did that the Pro-slavery residents of Fort Scott had instigated the attack upon them by the troops.

WHEREAS, A body of Government soldiers and border ruffians did, on the 21st inst. fire upon some Free-State citizens, who were peacefully and inoffensively traveling on the common highway, and being incited to commit said outrageous and unlawful act by other ruffians living in Fort Scott;

Resolved, 1. That Judge Joseph Williams, the corrupt tool of slavocracy, be required to leave this Territory in six days; after that period he remains at the peril of his life.

2. That Dr. Blake Little, J. C. Sims and W. T. Campbell, the traitors who were elected by fraud and corruption to the bogus Legislature, be required to leave within six days--an infraction of this order at their peril.

3. That H. T. Wilson, G. P. Hamilton and D. F. Greenwood, the infamous swindlers of the Lecompton Convention, who forged an infamous constitution, be hung to death if they are caught in this Territory ten days from date.

4. That E. Ransom and G. W. Clarke, the holders of the two "wings" of the pretended National Democracy and the corrupt fuglemen of a corrupt President, have six days to leave this Territory, under penalty of death.

5. That J. H. Little, James Jones, Brockett, B. McDonald, A. Campbell, Harlan and the ruffians who accompanied the soldiers to assist and witness the massacre of Free-State citizens, be sentenced to death.

6. That Kennedy Williams and D. Sullivan, who stole by legal forms horses of Free-State citizens, be sentenced to whipping and branding and then be driven from the Territory.

7. That after the departure of the Judge and Marshal, no other official officers shall be allowed to administer the law but those elected under the Free-State constitution.

8. That Judge Griffith, Maj. Montgomery and Capt. Hamilton be directed to carry out the orders of this meeting.

9. That Capt. Anderson shall be hanged to the highest tree in Bourbon County, and every soldier put to death wherever he may be found.

10. That a copy of this notice be served on the people of Fort Scott.

No effort seems to have been made to carry out these resolutions.

As early as March of this year, a feud developed itself in the Fort Scott Town Company. George W. Clarke was continually concocting some scheme to its injury, and on several occasions in Trustee meetings an angry debate occurred, in which George W. Clarke and George A. Crawford were the principal opposing disputants. On the 27th of April the feud came to a head. Dr. G. P. Hamilton and Brockett notified by letter George A. Crawford, Charley Dimon and William Gallaher to leave town within twenty-four hours, under penalty of being shot on sight.

It was now plain that Crawford & Co. or Hamilton & Co. must go. Crawford & Co. decided to stay, let the consequences be what they might. It was not long before the new state of affairs was generally understood, and a force of about twenty-five well-armed men collected to prevent the execution of the Brockett-Hamilton programme. On account of the killing of young Satterwaite the week previous, it was feared the soldiers would take sides with Hamilton's crowd, but investigation proved that only three had been induced to do so. J. H. Little and B. F. Brantley arrayed themselves on the side of Mr. Crawford, as did also Capt. Anderson and all of his soldiers except these three. Next morning, when they were found to be missing, a Sergeant with a guard was detailed to find them. The Sergeant proceeded to the Western Hotel, where he found Brockett and demanded of him the deserters. Brockett at first flatly refused to surrender them, but the Sergeant, who with his men was well armed, told Brockett he should have the deserters, even if he had to tear down the hotel to get them. Brockett yielded, the men were taken to camp, given their breakfast, and ordered by their comrades to leave town within one hour, under penalty of death. This order they promptly obeyed. The original parties to the feud remained mutually besieged until next day, when Brockett, Hamilton, and most of the other border ruffians left Fort Scott for good, and were not again heard of there until after the Marais des Cygnes massacre, in which they played the leading part.

The next event of importance was the arrival of troops under command of Major, subsequently Maj. Gen. Sedgwick. This was May 6, the troops consisting of one company of dragoons, one of heavy artillery and a section of T. W. Sherman's battery. On the 17th all the troops, except the heavy artillery and battery, left for Fort Leavenworth, those remaining being in command of Lieut. Shinn. Soon reports of the Marais des Cygnes massacre were circulated throughout the country, and of retaliatory robberies by Montgomery's men. All was excitement and false alarms for a number of days, until on the 29th of May, Deputy U. S. Marshal Samuel Walker, of Douglas County, reached Raysville on his way to Fort Scott with writs for the arrest of Montgomery and others who of his men. He had been sent down by Gov. Denver, who feared that bloodshed would result from the terrible state of excitement in Southeastern Kansas, and who thought it could be prevented by the arrest of a few of the Free-State leaders. Gov. Denver had offered Marshal Walker all the troops he might need for the execution of the writs, but the Marshal knowing that Montgomery would not arrest him if he went alone, and that if he went with a body of troops, Montgomery could not be found. He reached Raysville accompanied only by Maj. Williams. Upon his arrival there he found assembled about 200 men, who were being addressed by Montgomery in favor of going to and burning Fort Scott. A Mr. Oakly, who was the only one of the crowd that knew the Marshal, asked him why he was there, to which he replied, "To arrest Montgomery." Mr. Oakly advised him not to attempt it, as it could not be done. Montgomery in his address told his friends that a Deputy U. S. Marshal was coming down to arrest him, that the authorities would arrest Free-State men, but that they would not arrest Pro-slavery men and advised the expedition to Fort Scott, which finally was the decision of the meeting. After the speaking concluded, Marshal Walker arose to address the meeting. He informed them that he was a U. S. Marshal, and that if they would get out warrants for Clarke and others who were believed to have been participants in the Marais des Cygnes Massacre, and furnish him with a posse he would go to Fort Scott and arrest them. The reply to this proposition was that the Judges would not issue the warrants. The Marshal then told them to get warrants from Justice of the Peace, and that, although he, as a U. S. Marshal, had no right to serve a writ issued by a Justice of the Peace, yet in this case he would do it. So armed with his writs for the arrest of George W. Clarke and others, and escorted by a posse of seventy-five mounted men with Montgomery in command, the Marshal entered Fort Scott on Sunday morning May 30. Among the first in Fort Scott to discover the Marshal's presence was George W. Clarke. He seized his Sharpe's rifle, ran in his shirt sleeves and with face exceedingly pale to the hotel and gave the alarm, and then ran to his house. The Marshal soon arrested a few that he wanted and proceeded to Clarke's house. Clarke closed his house and refused to surrender. Montgomery drew his men up in line in front of the house, Clarke's friends to the number of 300 quickly assembled and drew themselves up in line on the sidewalk in front of Montgomery, and not ten feet distant, every revolver and rifle on both sides on the cock. The Marshal seized a tongue belonging to a Government wagon, and was on the point of breaking down the door when Clarke put his head out of an upper window and said that if any one would assure him that Marshal Walker was in command of the posse he would surrender. Mr. Oakly assured him of that fact, and in a moment Clarke opened the door and came out, his wife on one arm and daughter on the other and a carbine in his hand. He asked to see the Marshal's writ, which the Marshal refused to show, knowing that Clarke would refuse to surrender to him on such authority. Walker drew his pistol on Clarke, told Maj. Williams to hold his watch and count two minutes, and then told Clarke that if during the two minutes he did not surrender, he should fire upon him, whereupon Clarke dropped his carbine and gave up.

Immediately upon Clarke's surrender, Capt. Campbell, a Deputy United States Marshal, of Fort Scott, came forward with a warrant for the arrest of Montgomery, and said to Marshal Walker, "Montgomery is in command of your posse, here is a warrant for him, now arrest him!" Walker replied, "Arrest him yourself; if I had a warrant for him I would arrest him."

As soon as Montgomery heard Campbell speak, he ordered his men to "shoulder arms," "about face," and "double quick for their horses," leaving Marshal Walker and Maj. Williams alone with their prisoners. Matters now became pretty warm for the Marshal. He was in a tight place, in a "bad fix," and in order to get out of it he persuaded Marshal Campbell to furnish him with a horse that he might pursue and arrest Montgomery. Upon overtaking Montgomery, he induced him to surrender, and took him back to Fort Scott, when all the people turned out to see the unusual sight of Montgomery a prisoner.

Marshal Walker, then turned Clarke and his other prisoners over to Capt. Lyon, who was stationed there and was present when the arrest was made, on condition that Capt. Lyon should send them the next day to Lecompton for trial, and himself started for Lecompton with his prisoner, Montgomery. The next day, upon arriving at Raysville, he was overtaken by a courier from Capt. Lyon, bearing a dispatch stating that he had just released Clarke and the other prisoners on a writ of habeas corpus. This news vexed Marshal Walker so much that he promptly released Montgomery and told him "to stay and fight it out," and when he was through to report to Lecompton, all of which Montgomery promised to do.

Upon the authority of Capt. Lyon, it may be stated that had not Clarke surrendered, and had he been shot by Marshal Walker, as he undoubtedly would have been, Walker himself would have been immediately riddled by more than one hundred bullets.

On the morning of June 7, an attempt was made by some of Montgomery's men to burn the Western Hotel, Fort Scott, by piling a quantity of hay against it and igniting it, and a number of shots were fired into town from the southwest. No one was hurt, and the fire was extinguished before any harm was done. Capt. Nathaniel Lyon was stationed in the city on the 10th, for the purpose of protecting the place. On the 13th, Gov. Denver arrived, and on the 14th a public meeting was held with a view of arriving at a basis of peace. Speeches were made by Govs. Denver, Robinson and Ransom, Judges Wright and Griffith, and B. F. Brantley. Gov. Ransom, at the request of Gov. Denver, made a speech expressing his views as to the cause of the troubles, and as to the course the Territorial Government should pursue. He said that Montgomery, Jennison, Brown, and their men were guilty of robbery and murder, and should be brought to trial and punished. Judge Wright opposed Gov. Ransom's sentiments and plan; feeling ran high, and serious difficulty for a time was feared. But by the judicious and firm course of Gov. Denver, peace was restored, and the meeting adjourned until next day.

The adjourned meeting was held at Raysville, of which Gov. Denver assumed control. He made a brief address to the assembled settlers, during which he said in substance that his purpose in visiting Southern Kansas, was to assist to removing difficulties then existing, that he should treat actual settlers without regard to past differences; that he believed both parties had been to blame; that his mission was to secure peace, and as a basis for an agreement, proposed the following conditions:

  1. The withdrawal of the troops from Fort Scott.
  2. The election of new officers in Bourbon County by the citizens thereof, without regard to party lines.
  3. The stationing of troops along the Missouri frontier to guard against invasion from that State.
  4. The suspension of the execution of old writs until their legitimacy could be properly authenticated.
  5. The abandonment of the field by Montgomery and his men and all other bodies of armed men, on both sides.

As soon as the Governor had concluded his address, numerous calls were made for Montgomery. His appearance had the effect to reduce the assembly to breathless silence. The most intense interest was manifested in what he had to say, as he was universally recognized as the leading spirit of the party with whom the Governor was making a compromise. Montgomery said in substance, that he accepted the terms the Governor had proposed, and thanked him for the spirit of justice by which he appeared to be actuated; that justice, which for so long had been a stranger to the Free-State party, was what of all things it most desired; that he should with the sincerest pleasure, return to his home, and that when the Governor redeemed the pledges he had that day made, he would disband the three hundred men that followed his banner and his fortunes and retire to his cabin home, there to remain.

Tranquillity was thus restored, and both parties seemed to strive for some months to preserve the peace. Under date of June 25, Capt. Lyon wrote to Gov. Denver, that the agreement up to that time was fully observed; and on August 5, Gov. Denver wrote that the troops are no longer needed at Fort Scott. But notwithstanding this quietude the embers of turmoil were not extinguished, only temporarily smothered and liable to burst forth into flame at any moment on the least provocation. The Pro-slavery men and many who were Free-State men were much dissatisfied with Gov. Denver for making a compromise with Montgomery, believing with Gov. Ransom that he and his "banditti" ought to be brought to punishment; and a difference of opinion developed as to what were in fact the terms of the compromise. Montgomery's men claimed that although it was not so stated in the treaty, yet it was the distinct understanding that no arrests should be made for any offenses committed prior to June 15, the day upon which the compromise was effected, that "by-gones should be by-gones," and that all would do their best to preserve the peace. The Pro-slavery party claimed on the other hand that the compromise did not mean that there should be entire immunity from punishment for all crimes committed prior to June 15, but only that private individuals should refrain from inflicting punishment according to their own code and pleasure; and that it was an article of that compromise that all such offenses should be referred to the Grand Juries of the proper counties; that that compromise only pledged immunity from punishment for political offenses; that it could not and did not condone crimes against the law. Thus the Denver compromise left room for wide differences of opinion, disputes and difficulties. What the Free-State men and Jayhawkers called a "by-gone" the Pro-Slavery men and sometimes officers of the law did not call a "by-gone." What the former called a "political offense," the latter called a "crime against the law."

In the meantime, however, George W. Clarke, who had been so long in the land office at Fort Scott, who was one of the worst, if not the worst of the evil geniuses of the border, and for whom there are even now few, if any, to speak well, had been got rid of, to the great joy of all the citizens. In August, the President had appointed him to the position of Purser in the Navy, and he left Fort Scott under an escort, which conducted him safely into Southwestern Missouri.

[TOC] [part 4] [part 2] [Cutler's History]