KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


JEFFERSON COUNTY, Part 3

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

EARLY POLITICAL TROUBLES.

From the very earliest settlement, there was a contest as to whether the political affairs of the county should be controlled by the Pro-slavery or Free-state party. At first the Pro-slavery men gained the ascendance, from the fact that is was very easy to run over men from Missouri to take part in the elections. Party feeling and fanaticism was extreme on both sides. Each party regarded the other as having no rights they were bound to respect. At the first elections, lawless Pro-slavery men took possession of the pools, and prevented a fair ballot, after which there was little respect for law and order on either side. After the outrages at the first elections, the parties participated but little. Each side held a separate election, an refused to acknowledge that of the other as legal.

A Territorial Free-state Convention was held a Topeka in September, 1855, and an election for delegates to a constitutional convention was ordered to be held the following October. The voting places in Jefferson County were fixed at Grasshopper Falls and at Pleasant Hill. The latter named was a town that had been laid out by the Free-state men on the farm of Jacob U. Brown, on the west side of Grasshopper River, and about one mile west of Osawkie. Jefferson County was allowed two delegates. The election was held at the appointed time, and the result was as follows: At Grasshopper Falls, Geo. S. Hillyer, 43 votes, and Wm. Griggsby, 41 votes. At Pleasant Hill, Wm. Hicks received 43 votes, and J. Whiting 42 votes. Hillyer and Hicks were declared elected.

The Free-state Constitutional Convention met at Topeka October 23, framed a constitution, which was submitted to the people for ratification, Dec. 15, 1855. Two clauses outside of the body of the constitution were submitted, one relating to the establishment of a general banking law, and the other regarding the exclusion of free Negroes from the Territory. The election was held in Jefferson County, uninterrupted by the Pro-slavery party, and resulted as follows. For the constitution there was no opposition; for the exclusion of negroes, 95 votes; against, 3 votes; for the banking law, 56 votes; against, 40 votes.

At the election of State officers and members of the legislature by the Free-state party on January 15, 1856, George S. Hillyer was elected Senator from Jefferson County, and Wm. Crosby, Isaac Cody, and Wm. Hicks, members of the lower house. On meeting, this legislature ordered an election on March 30, for the election of a delegate to Congress. Jefferson County cast 99 votes.

The first term of district court convened at Osawkie he (sic) last week in March, 1856, with Samuel D. Lecompte the presiding judge. The greater part of the term was taken up with the prosecution of Free-state men on various charges. The troubles between the Free-state and Pro-slavery citizens had now become serious, and a great many depredations had been committed by each party, but as the courts were in the hands of the Pro-slavery men, of course only Free-state men were prosecuted, and many of them on trumped-up charges. About fifty indictments were found against Free-soilers, charged with stealing hogs, treason, and other crimes. A lawyer named Hutchison labored hard in the interests of the accused, but indictments were promptly found. During the session of court, an armed company of Free-soilers were stationed a a point about four miles from Grasshopper Falls to guard against any outrages that might be committed by the reckless and excited Pro-slavery men; but they were content with securing indictments on charge of some crime. There was a shadow of truth in the charge of hog stealing, as semi-wild hogs without an owner were frequently found; as stock was allowed to run at large, whenever a man wanted more meat, he would go out and shoot a hog, caring very little as to whom it might belong, asserting that it was wild.

During all this time, trouble had been brewing between the two parties, and many depredations on each other had been committed. There was constant trouble between the settlers, besides which the location of the county made it a convenient skirmishing ground for the armed bodies of men from other parts of the Territory. At times, when large bands of armed Pro-slavery men were in the county, it was unsafe for a Free-soiler to be caught by them. Many a Free- state man lost his life during these raids.

But while robberies and murders were so fearlessly committed by the "border ruffians," it must be recorded that the Free-soilers sometimes retaliated in an inexcusable manner. No law was respected or obeyed. Might alone made right, and there were many to be found who were glad to take advantage of the reigning lawlessness to commit crimes for the purpose of plunder. Others, earnest in the efforts to drive Pro-slavery men from the county, and believing honestly in the righteousness of their cause, and irritated by the many outrages committed upon them by the border ruffians, regarded the condition of affairs as justifying retaliatory measures.

The first term of district court convened at Osawkie the last week in March, 1856, with Samuel D. Lecompte the presiding judge. The greater part of the term was taken up with the prosecution of Free-state men on various charges. The troubles between the Free-state and Pro-slavery citizens had now become serious, and a great many depredations had been committed by each party, but as the courts were in the hands of the Pro-slavery men, of course only Free-state men were prosecuted, and many of them on trumped-up charges. About fifty indictments were found against Free-soilers, charged with stealing hogs, treason, and other crimes. A lawyer named Hutchison labored hard in the interests of the accused, but indictments were promptly found. During the session of court, an armed company of Free-soilers were stationed at a point about four miles from Grasshopper Falls to guard against any outrages that might be committed by the reckless and excited Pro-slavery men; but they were content with securing indictments on charge of some crime. There was a shadow of truth in the charge of hog stealing, as semi-wild hogs without an owner were frequently found; and as stock was allowed to run at large, whenever a man wanted more meat, he would go out and shoot a hog, caring very little as to whom it might belong, asserting that it was wild.

During all this time, trouble had been brewing between the two parties, and may depredations on each other had been committed. There was constant trouble between the settlers, besides which the location of the country made it a convenient skirmishing ground for the armed bodies of men from other parts of the Territory. At times, when large bands of armed Pro-slavery men were in the county, it was unsafe for a Free-soiler to be caught by them. Many a Free-state man lost his life during these raids.

But while robberies and murders were so fearlessly committed by the "border ruffians," it must be recorded that the Free-soilers sometimes retaliated in an inexcusable manner. No law was respected or obeyed. Might alone made right, and there were many to be found who were glad to take advantage of the reigning lawlessness to commit crimes for the purpose of plunder. Others, earnest in their efforts to drive Pro-slavery men from the county, and believing honestly in the righteousness of their cause, and irritated by the many outrages committed upon them by the border ruffians, regarded the condition of affairs as justifying retaliatory measures.

So troublesome had the boarder ruffians become, that the Free-state settlers having rapidly increased in numbers, it was determined on the part of the advocates of several measures, to drive the most offensive of the Pro- slavery settlers, who had harbored and aided the ruffians in their outrages, from the country. On Sunday, June 8, 1856, Jones and Fielding, from near Hickory Point, were driven away. Both parties among the settlers soon organized bodies of armed men, and skirmishes were frequent.

A. T. Pattie, a Pro-slavery man, had built stores at Grasshopper Falls, but would not even recognize the rights of the town company, and erected his buildings on the streets. So bold had be become that the Free-sate party drove him out of the country. Early in 1856, Wm. and R. H. Crosby located at Grasshopper Falls, and erected a store. On September 8, 1856, the town was raided by an armed body of ruffians, who drove into town, shooting in all directions. Unable to resist such overwhelming numbers, and being taken completely by surprise, the abled bodied men all fled, leaving only the old men, women and children, who were unable to get away. For this flight they have been accused of cowardice, but they believed the enemy would not injure the defenseless, and knew that to remain and attempt to defend the town would be useless, beside which there was little double but that the Free-sate leaders would have been lynched. The town was sacked, and Crosby's store burned. Dr. Lorenzo Northrup had a small stock of drugs, and his library and surgical instruments in one portion of the Crosby building, and these too were burned. The doctor had about $500 in gold at the store that he was anxious to save, and mounting his fleet horse stared on a run for the timber along the river. At first he kept out of the way of his pursuers, but on arriving at a thicket of hazel brush, the horse stopped, and the doctor jumped off and took to the brush. His pursuers, stopping to secure the horse, he made his way safety to the river, and hid his bag of gold under a fallen tree. He had just secured a place of safety in a tangled thicket, when the ruffians came in on all sides, but he eluded them.

Several amusing incidents took place at this time. "Pap" Weiser, an old and infirm man, unable to run, had just purchased a sack of flour at the store, and coolly shouldered it and started for home. The invaders began shooting at him, and told him to drop his flour and run, but he kept on and coolly told them that he "could not run, and that they could shoot, and be d--d."

Wm. Crosby and a companion took refuge in the timber and fled up the river, but a little dog that was with them would set up barking every time they stopped. Afraid that this would result in their capture, they caught the dog and held him under water until they thought he was dead, but he was soon all right again, and followed them, keeping up a more constant barking than before, and all the efforts to get hold of him again were unavailing. They escaped, however. No one was killed, and the greatest damage done was the plundering and burning of the town.

Prior to the burning of Crosby's store at Grasshopper falls there was a Free-state organization there under the leadership of a man by the name of Clark. Among his men were a number from Crooked Creek, Foss, Crobarger, Simmons and others, who had joined him for personal safety. During the absence of these men at the Falls, a Pro-slavery man by the name of Jackson, visited their houses, insulting the women, and threatening to pull down the houses over their heads. Clark and his men threatened vengeance on Jackson and a person by the name of Beeson, and made a raid a few nights afterwards. On reaching the residence of Jackson, he was called to the door, and upon appearing, was shot through the body by some member of the party. They then carried him in to his family and placed him on the bed. A search was made for Beeson, but he could not be found. He was hidden under the bed, however, and suffered so much form fright that his hair during the night changed from dark to perfectly white. It is claimed that in retaliation for their outrage of Clark and his men, Grasshopper Falls was visited and Crosby's store burned.

Both parties were now armed, and the county was visited by Gen. J. H. Lane and his men, and by the border ruffians and Kickapoo Rangers. One of the first encounters was on Slough Creek, a short distance north of the present town of Oskaloosa, which had been laid off as a town early that year. The boarder ruffians started out from Lecompton, and Col. Harvey and Capt. Hull were sent out, each in command of a division of men, to intercept them. The two divisions came together near Springdale, and camped in a two-story log house. The next day they removed to a point about ten miles east of Oskaloosa, where they camped. In the night Jesse Newell, one of the founders of Oskaloosa, came in with reports of a number of outrages committed by a company of South Carolinians in the vicinity. He had been dragged around by a rope and had been hanged, but was let down before life was extinct. Col. Harvey and his men at once started, and found the South Carolinians camped on the north side of Slough Creek. They were surrounded and taken completely by surprise. At three o'clock in the morning of September 11, the attack was made.

The Pro-slavery men were commanded by Capt. F. G. Palmer, and were en route form Lecompton to Atchison. There was but very little firing on either side, the enemy trying all the time to escape. finding this impossible they all surrendered except Capt. Palmer and Lieut. A. G. Morall, who succeeded in getting away. There were no serious casualties. Col. Harvey was slightly wounded in the finger, and one of the South Carolinians were shot in the neck. Sixty stand of arms, two wagons, some provisions, ad number of fine horses were captures. A flag as also captured which is now in the possession of the State Historical Society.* on promising to leave the territory, the prisoners were released. This was on the morning of September 11.

BATTLE OF HICKORY POINT.

The next event in the troubles of 1856, was the battle of Hickory Point, which occurred on the 13th and 14th of September. Though termed a battle it was but a mere skirmish. Gov. Beary had just arrived in the Territory, and his proclamation was issued ordering all armed parties to disband.

Gen. J. H. Lane was at, or near Topeka, and did not hear of the order to disperse. He, with a small party of men, was about starting out on the Lane road toward Holton, when he was met by messengers from the neighborhood of Osawkie, who informed him that the Pro-slavery men were committing outrages in the neighborhood, that Grasshopper Falls was burned, and that it was intended by them to burn Pleasant Hill and other Free-state places, and drive the citizens from the country. His assistance being solicited, he marched to Osawkie at once, where his force was recruited by the Free-state settlers near there. They then proceeded to retaliate for the burning of Crosby's store at Grasshopper Falls. Osawkie was a Pro-slavery town, and many outrages on its citizens were committed. Among others, Dyer Bros'. store was broken into and robbed. Having quieted the Pro-slavery men there, and driven many from the neighborhood, Lane and his men, learning that a large party of armed Pro- slavery men were collected at Hickory Point, marched to that place intending to capture them or force them to leave the country. Hickory Point was situated on the northwest quarter of Section 5, town 90, Range 19 east, on the north side of the military and freight road, on the land now owned and cultivated by Andrew Wilson. At that time, three log buildings, a store, hotel, and blacksmith shop, were located there. Lane and his men on their arrival found about one hundred Pro-slavery men, thoroughly armed and ready for a fight. The greater number of them were settlers in the neighborhood, who had assembled for the purpose of protecting the property of H. A. Lowe, the owner of Hickory Point.

Capt. Lowe was assisted by about forty of the South Carolinians who had been committing outrages throughout the country. They were commanded by Cap. Robertson. An attack was made, but the Pro-slavery men were found too securely fortified in the log buildings to be dislodged. Therefore Gen. Lane sent to Lawrence for re-enforcements, and for Capt. J. C. Bickerton to come with the now historic cannon "Sacramento." This was on Saturday, September 13, 1856. On the arrival of Lane's messenger at Lawrence, a company of recruits was at once formed under command of Col. J. A. Harvey. The order was for them to go by the Topeka road, but they took a direct route, starting that evening and marching all night. When at Newell's Mills, now Oskaloosa, they stopped long enough to cook breakfast, when they again resumed the march, arriving at Hickory Point about half past ten o'clock, on Sunday forenoon.

* This flag is a crimson banner of cotton cloth, in size four by six feet, having in the center, and shown on both sides, a single large white star; on one side the inscription "South Carolina." and on the other the words "Southern Rights." The flag was originally brought to Kansas by a company of South Carolinians who located in Atchison, and in the spring of 1856 organized themselves into a military company, known as the Palmetto Guards, of which F. G. Palmer, one of their number and a graduate of the South Carolina Military Academy was captain. The company was conspicuous among the invaders of Lawrence, May 1856, their red flag being hoisted on the Herald of Freedom Office, and on the Free-state Hotel. It next made a public appearance at a banquet in Atchison, where the most ultra Pro-slavery toasts were given, and the subjugation of Kansas by the victors of Lawrence, was spoken of by the jubilant Southerners as a thing achieved. Then came Slough Creek, which left the young Carolinians minus the inspiring flag, somewhat thoughtful and subdued, and, as the Squatter Sovereign dolefully remarked, "unable to take the field for lack of equipments (sic)." Among the Free-state men were, Judge John W. Day, F. G. Adams, Secretary of State Historical Society; Henry Relsner, John Armstrong and Capt. H. L. Dunlap. Soon after the capture of the flag it was given by Capt. Harvey to Col. E. B. Whitman, of Lawrence; was afterward in the custody of Rev. Edward E. Hale, of Boston. In 1878 again passed into the possession of Col. Whitman, who forwarded it to Secretary Adams, for deposit among the relics of the days of 1856.

In the meantime Gen. Lane had heard of Gov. Geary's order to disperse, and started for Topeka, expecting to meet Harvey and Bickerton with men on that road.

When Harvey and his men came up, the Pro-slavery men tried to run, but were soon surrounded and driven back, when they once more took refuge in the log buildings. Harvey ordered his wagons driven up within about three hundred yards of the buildings, where they were halted.

Over the cabins occupied by the enemy three flags were floating, that over the blacksmith shop being a black one. No message was sent on either side, but the cannon was placed in position about two hundred yards south of the blacksmith shop and firing began at once. The cannon were supported by about twenty men armed with United States muskets. The "Stubbs' company was stationed about two hundred yards to the southeast, in a timbered ravine. The first canon shot passed through the blacksmith shop, struck and killed Charles G. Newhall. About twenty more shots were fired, but without effect, as the occupants of the shop kept close watch, and when the gun was about to be fired, threw themselves on the ground, allowing the balls to pass over their heads. A constant firing was kept up on both sides, with rifles, but at so long range, that but little harm was done. The store and hotel were close together, and having plenty of whisky (sic), the occupants became reckless, and frequently passed from one to the other. One of these, who was wounded in the thigh by a rifle ball, was Evans, the blacksmith, and brother to the first Free-state treasurer of the county. Finding it impossible to dislodge Capt. Lowe and his men, Harvey ordered a wagon to be loaded with hay and backed up to the blacksmith shop, then to be set on fire, and for the men to retreat under cover of the smoke. This plan worked nicely until the wagon was within a short distance of the building, when its occupants began shooting under the wagon, hitting the men in the legs, until they were glad to jump up on the tongue for safety. After remaining there some time they set fire to the hay, and got away under cover of the smoke. Soon after a white flag was sent out for the shop. This was for the purpose of arranging for several non-combatants to leave the buildings. Harvey sent a message back by the carrier. Firing now ceased altogether, and messages passed back and forth. A compromise was soon arranged by which each party was to retire peaceably, and to give up all plunder, and all non-residents in each party were to leave the county. The compromise was effected about five o'clock, after which both parties came together and the Pro-slavery men having a large quantity of whisky (sic), all had a jolly time, and soon all animosity was forgotten in the passing pleasures of the hour. The casualties were as follows. One Pro-slavery man was killed and four wounded. Of the Free-state men, three were shot in the legs, one got a badly bruised head, and a boy, fifteen years old was shot through the lungs.

After the fight, the Free-state party moved to where Oskaloosa now stands, where they camped for the night. Col. Harvey went to the cabin of Jesse Newell to stay overnight. Patrick and Porterfield started to take the wounded men to Lawrence that night, but when about one mile from camp they were met and captured by United States soldiers. The company of soldiers then proceeded to the camp. Before learning who they were, preparations for defense were made, and Capt. Bickerton was about to fire the cannon. Learning who they were no resistance was made, and the entire party were captured, except about twenty-five of the cavalry who were camped in the hazel brush, a short distance further down the creek. There was no attempt made to capture Pro- slavery men. The only man killed was a young Pro-slavery man named Grayson, who had acted as a guide in bringing the soldiers to the camp. After the capture, he started to ride away to warn his own party, and being mistaken for an escaping Free-state prisoner, he was shot and killed. His body was then thrown into a feed box attached to a wagon and carried to Lecompton, where the prisoners were taken. On the road a few got away by dropping out of the ranks when passing through the brush in ravines.

At Lecompton, they were kept out on the open prairie, about two miles south of town for two weeks, waiting for the Pro-slavery courts to indict them for the murder of Newhall. There were tent accommodations for only about one- fourth of their number and there was a great deal of suffering from cold and hunger. One dark and stormy night a plan was devised for the escape of a number. Two guards were bribed to let them roll out one at a time. By this plan six prisoners got away. Lieut. Spicer rolled out with his rubber overcoat on, and so frightened a number of horses that they ran away, and alarmed the guard, preventing the escape of the others.

Other prisoners from Osawkie, Jefferson County, were soon brought in. They were Ephraim Bainter, Harry Hoover, Nathan Griffith and Henry Bowles. Of these Bainter was tried and sentenced to six years in the penitentiary, but got out on furlough, and was that fall elected Sheriff of Jefferson County. Hoover pitched his guard into the river and escaped. The arms of the prisoners were given to the Pro-slavery men. On examining them Judge Cato shot himself in the ankle, which afforded fun for the men. Many times it was proposed to massacre the prisoners, but during their stay only one death occurred.

The trial of the prisoners began in October. Ten men were selected, tried and acquitted. Then twenty men were tried and sentenced to the penitentiary for five years. One of these was Thomas Varner, now living near Winchester. They were afterward pardoned. Fifty-nine prisoners remained, and on November 15 they were removed to the Tecumseh jail where they were crowded in two basement cells. Here they determined to escape on account of severe suffering. They secured an old bayonet and dug out through the bricks and earth, and one dark night all escaped except fourteen, who chose to remain and stand trial. They were afterward acquitted. A. G. Patrick was one of these.

By order of the Territorial Legislature, an election was held in June, 1857, for delegates to a Constitutional Convention. The Free-state men took no part whatever, in Jefferson County.

In August, 1857, a Free-state election took place for State officers and members of the Legislature. From Jefferson County, Geo. S. Hillyer was elected Senator, and Dr. S. S. Cooper and Henry Owens, representatives. A. G. Patrick, of Jefferson County, was elected Clerk of the Supreme Court.

In September, a Free-state mass convention was held at Grasshopper Falls, to discuss the contest for the control of the Legislature. The members of the party from the north side of the Kansas River favored a contest, while those south opposed it. After a boisterous session it was determined to put a full ticket in the field. Immediate action was taken. The convention for Jefferson County was held the same month, at Osawkie.

The Pro-slavery party put a ticket in the field headed by C. A. Buck, and the election was held in October. There is no record of the election, but the nominees of the Free-state party were elected, it is claimed, by about one hundred majority. They were A. G. Patrick, member of the Territorial Council; S. S. Cooper and Henry Owens, Representatives; Robert Ward and John Hughan, County Commissioners; J. L. Spear, Probate Judge; Ephraim Bainter, Sheriff; Henry Evans, Treasurer; John W. Day, Recorder; Jacob A. Boucher, Corner; Newell Colby, Surveyor and Lewis A. Cobb, Assessor. This was the first election in which the two parties participated to any extent, and the first at which Free-state men were elected to county offices.

The general Free-soil victory at the above election, throughout the Territory, inspired them with so much confidence that they concluded to elect a Legislature under the Lecompton Constitution. In Jefferson County the same ticket was elected as in October. Thus Cooper and Owens were members of the three contesting Legislatures at the same time. The vote on delegate to Congress gave the Free-state men 155 majority in Jefferson County. On December 21, the Lecompton Constitution was submitted, and carried in the county, as the Free-state men took no part. This constitution was soon submitted, and defeated, the Pro-slavery men then taking no part.

On March 9, 1858, Jefferson County elected Edward Lynde, J. C. Todd, Jas. Monroe and A. W. McCauslin, members of a convention to form a State Constitution.

On August 2, 1858, the citizens of the Territory voted on the Lecompton Constitution as provided by the English bill, and with the following result in Jefferson County: 151 votes for, and 441 votes against.

On October 4, 1858, Jefferson County elected as members of the Legislature, Edward Lynde (Free-state), and Franklin Finch (Independent Democrat).

In June, 1859, delegates were elected to a constitutional convention, to be held at Wyandotte. The result in Jefferson County was as follows: C. B. McClellan (Independent Democrat), 278 votes and H. Buckmaster (Republican), 249 votes. The former, who was elected and helped frame the constitution, is still living as Oskaloosa, where he is one of the leading merchants.

On October 4, 1859, the Wyandotte Constitution was submitted to the people and received thirty-nine majority for, in Jefferson County.

The fall of 1859 was the first time there was a regular contest between the Republican an Democratic parties under those names. There was an exciting contest, and some of each ticket was elected. Of the former party, Edward Lynde was elected Representative; J. H. Bennett, Clerk, and Joseph Cochrane, Judge. The latter elected Marion Christison and Thos. A. Blake, Representatives; S. C. Gephart, Register of Deeds; G. B. Carson, Treasurer, and J. F. Hinton, Sheriff.

The homestead law was also submitted, and received a majority of 214 votes.

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