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


[TOC] [part 8] [part 6] [Cutler's History]


The city of Leavenworth was honored in the State Convention, which assembled at Lawrence on December 22, by the choice of two of her citizens as candidates for high positions. Mark W. Delahay was chosen as the Congressional nominee, and H. Miles Moore as the candidate for Attorney General. The Pro-slavery element, however, was so strong in that community, that the more timid of the Free-state citizens hesitated about holding the election for State and county officers, on January 15. In fact, several days before the election was to take place, a few weak hearts met and resolved that one should not be held. Mayor Slocum (Free-state) had resigned his office, and his course was followed by several members of the Council. The day before the Free-state election, which was fixed for January 15, De. J. H. Day, President of the Council, issued a municipal order forbidding it to take place. The document is still preserved as an evidence of the timidity of many members of the Free-state party. No polls were opened, but a capacious old stocking was presented to Free-state voters, and very generally patronized, so that the election took place, although, perhaps, not in "due form."

At Easton, an attack was made upon the polls, which were so vigorously defended by Free-state voters, commanded by Stephen Sparks, of Alexandria Township, that a Pro-slavery man (Mr. Cook) was mortally wounded. Several fights occurred, in which the Pro-slavery men were worsted. Among the Leavenworth people who attended the election at Easton, to see that the voting was fairly conducted, and who assisted in defending the polls, were Capt. R. P. Brown, member-elect of the Legislature, Henry J. Adams, senator-elect, J. C. Green, Joseph H. Byrd, and two or three others. The next morning they were returning in a wagon to Leavenworth, and when about half way to their destination they were met by a company of Kickapoo Rangers, under Capt. Martin, and Capt. Dunn's company from Leavenworth, who were on their way to Easton to avenge the treatment of their Pro-slavery friends. There were some fifty troops altogether. The Leavenworth party were made prisoners, turned back to Easton, and confined in a store, where they were guarded for a time by the noisy, drunken crowd of soldiers. Their spite seemed to be particularly concentrated on Capt. Brown, many of them having known him and learned to fear him in Leavenworth. Finally they managed to get him into an adjoining building, and organized a court for his trial. Capt. Martin, finding it was impossible to control the men any longer, allowed all except Capt. Brown and Mr. Byrd, to escape. The latter was being examined as a witness in the "trial." While this mock trial was going on inside, the more drunken wretches without became impatient, broke in the door, and, led by Robert Gibson, broke up the "court." Gibson then rushed upon Brown, and struck him in the head with a hatchet, before anyone could prevent the brutal assault. Shortly afterward his almost lifeless body was carried in a wagon to Cole McCrea's home and thrown into his house. Capt. Brown's poor wife and several neighbors did all they could to relieve his sufferings, but he died in a few hours afterwards, and was buried on Pilot Knob the next day. Capt. Brown was a brave, noble man, and his murder was one of the most heartless of any perpetuated during these cold-blooded, hot-blooded times.

The story of his brutal treatment is told by Cole McCrea, a neighbor of Capt. Brown's, and whose wife was one of several kind friends who attempted to revive the injured man: "They then (after the assault) tossed Brown into a lumber wagon and drove on to Merrill Smith's saloon on Salt Creek. The rough wagon, driven over hard, frozen ground, make the wounded man groan, when the ruffian kicked him in the face, neck and breast to make him keep still. Eli Moore, putting his foot to his cheek, twisted his neck so as to put a tobacco spit into is wound, saying that would ease any d____d abolitionist. Thus abused and kept in the bed of the wagon some seven hours, they drove over to my cabin. Coming up so that the tail end of the wagon would come opposite my door, they flung it open, saying 'Here is Brown!' there being no one at the house but our wives and infant children, Charley Dunn and Pap Taylor undertook to bring him into the house. They first dragged him out of the wagon by the feet, letting his body fall at full length upon the hard, frozen ground. The thud which the husband's body gage against the hard earth echoed in the faithful, loving heart of the wife, and she fell to the floor. Returning consciousness only to find her a helpless maniac, and she so continued till my wife delivered her over to her brother at Chicago, who had come from Cass County, Mich., to receive her. The two ruffians then dragged Brown into the cabin as far as his knees. They then staggered and stumbled through the cabin, upsetting the water bucket. My wife could not drag the dying man further in, or close the door, that 18th of January night, one of the coldest ever known in Kansas. The helpless women and children and dying man were left exposed till David Brown, a Tennessean, came over from the adjoining claim, Capt. Brown died about three hours after being brought home."

As the words "Pilot Knob" will frequently occur in this history in other connections than as being the last resting place of brave Capt. Brown, it may be well to digress here and give the truth of its origin. "Pilot Knob" is situated about one mile and a half south west of the business part of Leavenworth. It was so named by the Indians who occupied this country. There used to be a huge pile of stone on the extreme south point of the Knob. There were similar mounds of stone on all the high points between the city and the ford of the Kaw River at Lawrence - the Indian trail over which the Sac and Fox, Miami, and other tribes of Indians in the south and southwestern part of the Territory passed in their visit to Fort Leavenworth and Weston. These stone mounds were put up by them as guides. Most of them have since been taken down by land owners. Pilot Knob was one of the most prominent of these stone guides.

Thomas A. Minard, of Easton, at whose house the election was held which was the prime cause of Capt. Brown's murder, narrowly escaped injury at the hands of a mob a few days afterwards. He barricaded his doors, however, and lived to be elected Speaker of the Free-state Assembly which convened on the 4th of March.

Mayor Murphy was inaugurated on the 21st, and as he was one of the strong "law and order" kind, in view of the subsequent events, his address to the Council is a curiosity:

"Gentlemen," (he said) "we are called together here merely as guardians of the interests of our fellow citizens, and it behooves us to cause wise and judicious counsels to prevail among us, in order that we may well protect those interests; and while it is my duty, it will at the same time be by pleasure to co-operate with you in the adoption of every measure that shall tend to advance the interests and promote the happiness and prosperity of our young and growing city. The obligations of the solemn oath you have just heard administered to me shall be kept steadily in view, and no effort on my part shall be wanting, faithfully to comply therewith. By virtue of the office I now hold I am a conservator of the peace, and in my daily intercourse with my fellow citizens I shall endeavor to impress upon them the necessity of cultivating feelings of amity and good will one toward another, believing that thereby this part of my duty will be made light. It is by a faithful execution of laws, tempered with that justice and mercy which the real spirit of the law requires, that we must expect as a community to get along harmoniously and prosperously; and in the discharge of my duties I feel assured that their love for order and good government will cause them to curb passion, respect the laws, and obey the legally constituted authorities." (Territorial.)

The 4th of March seemed to have been marked out by Gen. Atchison and other Pro-slavery leaders as the one day destined to he "big with events," when the hordes from Missouri should march through the Territory of Kansas to Topeka, sweeping away from their path every vestige of "Free-soilism." But the Convention met, the new State officers were sworn in, and resolutions were passed upon the cruel murder of Capt. Brown. Two days after the assembling of the Convention word reached Topeka of the plan by which President Pierce proposed to punish the members of the new State government - a government erected in opposition to his territorial pet.

From this date commenced a general and unrelenting persecution of Free-state men. In Lawrence, in April, the unprincipled tool of the Pro-slavery party being the ubiquitous Sheriff Jones, after some smaller fish had been successfully "hooked," an attempt was made upon the person of Ex-Gov. Reeder, who was before the Congressional Committee investigating his claims to a seat in Congress, and also examining into the state of the country. The Governor had made his fortune escape down the Missouri River before Judge Lecompte, for the United States District Court, sitting at Delaware City, commenced to grind out his batch of indictments against the Free-state officers. In May, Gov. Robinson, the head of the Free-state organization, was arrested at Lexington, Mo., on the pretext that he was "fleeing from an indictment." The indictment for treason had not yet been found against him, but within a week this was accomplished. He was brought to Leavenworth on the 24th, and during the week that he remained in Leavenworth at McCarty's Hotel, the most astute would not have risked an opinion from day to day, as to whether he would be rescued by his Free-state friends or be hanged by a Pro-slavery mod. Rumors were a broad of attempts to be made by both parties, while some believed, as proved to be the case, that nothing rash would be attempted by either. To some extent the Pro-slavery officials who had him in charge considered that their honor was staked upon his safety. Much of the time, therefore, Gen. Richardson stayed in the same room with him, while Judge Lecompte guarded his door like a faithful, common sentinel. Upon orders having been received from Gov. Shannon he was removed to Lecompton, the Territorial capital, on June 1. The Investigating Committee, or at least Messrs. William A. Howard, of Michigan, and John Sherman, of Ohio, were conducting themselves in a manner which did not meet with the approval of Gen. Whitfield's friends. On May 26 they found upon the committee room door the following card, addressed to them:

SIRS: With feelings of surprise and disgust we have been noticing the unjust manner in which you have been conducting this investigation. We wish to inform you that you can no longer sit in this place. We therefore request you to alter your obnoxious course, in order to avoid consequences which may otherwise follow.

Capt. Hemp.

(In behalf of the citizens.)

H. Miles Moore, the attorney of ex-Gov. Reeder, was a target for much of this bitter and dangerous feeling. The next day, after the above notice was posted, a squad of Kickapoo Rangers filed into the room with muskets. Messrs. Sherman, Howard, and Moore, however, were not men to be easily frightened, and the Rangers soon retired, leaving their Lieutenant behind to warn Mr. Moore that he was making himself too prominent in the investigation for his own safety. The next day, at noon, as Mr. Moore and Marc Parrott were sitting together in their law office, the former being engaged in conversation with John Sherman, the two were arrested and marched down Delaware and Second streets to the warehouse of Russell, Major & Waddell, on Cherokee street. The squad of soldiers, under command of Col W. D. Wilkes, of South Carolina, then marched to the Leavenworth Hotel, leaving a strong guard behind, and arrested Robert Riddel. Other arrests followed. In the afternoon Mr. Parrott was taken before the investigating committee as a witness, and Gen. Whitfield and Judge Halderman ran him off to Leavenworth under the promise that he should be banished the Territory. Mr. Moore, Mr. Conway, clerk of the Investigating Committee, and George Weibling, the Lawrence mail contractor, were kept in confinement, with the crowd howling outside, demanding that the prisoners should be hung. The Pro-slavery fanatics considered Mr. Moore as about their worst enemy, as he had formerly been an owner of slaves himself. But the lengths to which his party had gone within the past few years had driven him into the ranks of the Free-state party. His former friends could not appreciate his true position, and the more bitter partisans looked upon him as a traitor to their cause. It seemed, surely, as if his last day had come, not withstanding his guards were faithfully performing their part. The mob howled around the warehouse all night. The next day (May 29) Mr. Moore's two companions were discharged upon promising that they would leave the Territory. Quite early in the morning a rush was made upon the only remaining prisoner, a rope found in the warehouse placed over a joist, and an attempt was made, under the leadership of Capt. T. A. Scott, brother-in-law of Col. A. J. Isacks (the Attorney General) to lynch Mr. Moore. The attempt would have been successful had not he been rescued by Col. Clarkson, the commander of the city militia. Although no further personal demonstrations were made against Mr. Moore or the committee, Mayor Murphy deemed it advisable to call a meeting at Reese & Keith's warehouse, on May 31. All citizens were called who were in favor of "sustaining and enforcing the laws of the Territory of Kansas and the Constitution and Union of the United States, and of restoring peace and quiet in the community." At the meeting a vigilance committee was appointed, and a very bitter spirit evinced toward the investigating committee. The gathering was dissolved in confusion, however, by the temerity of Rev. H. P. Johnson, who dared to offer a resolution that "we believe there are a good many Free-state men in the Territory who are good , true and law-abiding men, and would aid in enforcing the laws of the Territory." The Free-state men of Leavenworth were "not out of the woods" yet, by any means, as is evident when it is told that Mr. Moore was arrested, June 4, upon a bench warrant from Judge Lecompte's court, charged with assuming the office of Attorney General of Kansas. He was taken before J. A. Halderman, Judge of the Probate Court, and admitted to bail in the sum of $1,000, to appear before the Hon. Samuel D. Lecompte, on the third Monday of August at Delaware. In the meantime the vigilance committee, appointed by the Mayor, which was to "restore peace and quiet in the community" had been increased to fifty, and on June 5, (the day after Mr. Moore's arrest, by "due process of law,") they gave Rev. J. B. McAbee and Senator H. J. Adams notice to quit the Territory by the first boat. A few days after, William T. Marvin and George W. Witherell were arrested for being judges of election during the previous spring. The proclamation of Gov. Shannon, ordering the disbanding of all committees organized for the purpose of driving settlers from the Territory had the effect of breaking up the vigilance committee, so that the Free-state men were protected from that danger.

The sacking of Lawrence in May, followed by the John Brown war, the published reports of the investigating committee and Gen. Whitfield's rage, the marching of Whitfield's troops into Kansas, the report of Gen. Lane's advance from the North with his Abolition army, etc., etc., all served to keep alive the hot fires of political feeling, and drew on the ruffian element to the commission of bloody crimes. Leavenworth was not exempt. In fact one of the most heathenish (because so coolly premeditated, with no provocation whatever) occurred near the south line of he city on August 19. A Missouri ruffian named Fuget had made a bet of six dollars against a pair of boots, that in less than two hours he would bring Leavenworth an Abolitionist's scalp. Starting out on his inhuman errand he met a young man named Hoppe, who had just arrived from Illinois a few day ago, and was returning from Lawrence, where he had taken his wife to visit a sister. He was shot dead from his carriage by Fuget, who scalped his victim and left him in the road. He then carried the reeking scalp with him to the house of his cousin, Mrs. Todd, situated on the Lawrence road, about a mile from where the crime was committed wrapped up its shocking evidence in a newspaper and fled to Missouri. In May, 1857, he was arrested in Leavenworth, tried for murder and acquitted! Fuget's act was applauded by Capt. Fred. Emory and his gang of Regulators, but an innocent German, who expressed horror at the spectacle was shot himself. The chief parties to this terrible affair were comparatively unknown, and in case is merely adduced to show what must have been the feeling in the breasts of the lower class of Pro-slavery men towards all Abolitionists. The ruffians of the Pro-slavery party had sworn it, that no Free-state man should travel on the road between Leavenworth and Lawrence. Capt. A. B. Miller and his gang therefore kept a close watch over the Devil's Highway, as they might have called it. On the 27th of August, Rev. Mr. Nute, the Unitarian minister of Lawrence, Mrs. Hoppe, his sister-in-law, wife of the murdered man, and John Wilder, a merchant of Lawrence, started with teams to obtain provisions at Leavenworth. When near the city they were all taken prisoners by Emory's gang. Mrs. Hoppe was released and got passage down the river, and thus disappeared from the scene of her husband's heartless death. The others were held prisoners of war, until released by order of Gov. Geary. A reign of terror had again commenced in Leavenworth. Armed bodies of men were stationed at all points along the river and turned every boat back which brought suspected Free-state emigrants. Bands of ruffians were also organized, principally in Missouri, to drive away actual settlers guilty of Free-state opinions. Among the most noted of these bands was that which ravaged Leavenworth under the command of Captain Frederick Emory, a United States mail contractor. In the name of "law and order" they entered the houses and stores of Free-state people and drove them into the street, without regard to age, sex or previous condition. On the Sunday night preceding the election for Mayor, (September 1,) about forty men went through the streets of the city crying out for all who would not take up arms to enforce the territorial laws to leave Leavenworth immediately or suffer the consequences. The next day, after committing many outrages, the Regulators, under Emory, approached the house of William Phillips, the lawyer, who in May, 1855, had been tarred and feathered, ridden on a rail and subjected to other indignities in the streets of Weston. Says one account of the outrage: "Phillips, supposing he was to be driven out of house and home, resolved not to submit to the indignity, and bravely took the initiative himself. Standing boldly out upon the veranda of his house, when the ruffians drew up in front of it, he fired upon them, killing two of their number. They instantly directed a volley of bullets at him and the house, and Phillips fell pierced in a dozen places, the door casing being literally riddled with the leaden storm. He expired almost instantly in the presence of his wife and another lady. His brother, who was with him, had his arm so badly broken with bullets that he was compelled to submit to an amputation. Fifty of the Free-state prisoners were then driven aboard the "Polar Star," bound for St. Louis. On the next day a hundred more were embarked on board the steamer "Emma." For two days, September and 2, Emory and his 800 Regulators paraded the streets of Leavenworth, and having collected a sufficient batch of Free-state criminals, shipped them out of the Territory to St. Louis, without any provisions whatever, and having previously confiscated all their goods. Many citizens fled from the city, some escaping to the fort and placing themselves under the protection of the United States.

The arrival of the new appointee, Gov. Geary, was most opportune, as Capt. Emory and his gang were holding high carnival in and around Leavenworth. They had just captured three Free-state settlers and confiscated their property when the Governor arrived at Fort Leavenworth, on September 9, and this, notwithstanding the emigrants were under the protection of a United States officer, Capt. Emory was captured, his prisoners set at liberty, and was in turn released himself. The Governor left Leavenworth on the 10th for Lecompton.

The arrival of Gov. Geary in the Territory, may be said to mark the commencement of the end of the terrible conflict which had raged in Kansas for two years. Upon the day of his arrival, he addressed a letter to Hon. Wm. L. Marcy, in which he says:

"The town of Leavenworth is now in the hands of armed bodies of men who, having been enrolled as militia, perpetrated outrages of the most atrocious character, under shadow of authority from the Territorial Government. Within a few days these men have robbed and driven from their homes unoffending citizens; have fired upon and killed others in their own dwellings, and stolen horses and property, under the pretense of employing them in the public service. They have seized persons who have committed no offense; and, after stripping them of all valuables, placed them on steamers and sent them out of the Territory. Some of these bands, who have thus shamefully violated their rights and privileges, and shockingly misused and abused the oldest inhabitants of the Territory, who had settled here with their wives and children, are strangers from distant States, who have no interest in, nor care for, the welfare of Kansas, and contemplate remaining here only so long as opportunities for mischief and plunder exist.

By October of 1856, peace virtually reigned in Leavenworth, the "Regulators" of this city being the last to abandon their organization, and only then after they had received an unmistakable order from the Governor, addressed, on the 1st of that month, to Mayor Murphy. It reads as follows:

"I regret to inform you that since the receipt of your letter, I have received numerous complaints from persons claiming to be your citizens. It is said there exists in your city an irresponsible body of persons, unknown to the law, calling themselves 'Regulators;' that these persons prowl about your streets at night, and warn peaceable citizens 'to leave the Territory, never to return, or they may be removed when least expected.'

"This thing, Mr. Mayor, will never do, and can not be tolerated for a single moment. These 'Regulators' must be disband, and leave the government of the city to yourself and the authorities known to the law."

The Mayor then issued his proclamation, declaring that he would rigidly enforce the law against the outlaws, and the excesses were checked.

Another murder because of political opinions, and one which caused great excitement, was the killing of James T. Lyle, City Recorder, by William Haller. Mr. Lyle, a Kentuckian by birth and a bitter Pro-slavery man, had been in the front rank of those who persecuted those of Free-state proclivities. Haller himself had been obliged at one time to flee the Territory with his family, and there was, undoubtedly, a bitterness of long growth between them. The latter was from Ohio, a watchmaker by trade, industrious and respected, but deep rooted in his opinions, having been the means of saving the lives of several men who thought as he did and were not afraid to express their sentiments. At the election, which occurred June 29, 1857, a number of voters were gathered at the First Ward polls, and Eli Moore offered a Pro-slavery ballot to a German, who indignantly tore it up. This raised a commotion and Haller took the part of his political friend, the German. This angered Lyle; Words between him and Haller lead to a fight, in which Lyle was stabbed in the back. He died from the effects of the wound. Haller was arrested, and a Pro-slavery mob threatened to lynch him. He was protected by his friends, however, and held for trial upon a charge of murder, being confined at Fort Leavenworth. In August he escaped.

But organized oppression and cruelty because of political opinions were really dispelled in Leavenworth. The city, however, was still infested by many Missouri roughs and disreputable characters, and the citizens saw that some powerful remedy was necessary to keep them in check. An occasion offered in July, 1857, when James Stephens was foully murdered and robbed of $108 near the river. His murderers, John C. Quarles and W. M. Bayes, were taken from the jail and lynched on an old elm tree near the sawmill, despite the protestations of Judge Lecompte and other law-abiding citizens. He was threatened with personal violence himself, as also was the United States Marshal, who got on a box before the mob of over a thousand people and attempted to pacify them. The City Marshal and police were hustled out of the way. The crowd battered down the door of the Jail with a stick of timber, dragged Quarles forth and hung him to a tree. The noose was not properly tightened and for a moment the man managed to grasp the rope with his hands, but a heavy-set, brutal ruffian caught him by the feet, threw his whole weight upon him and strangled his victim to death. When the mob returned for Bayes there was more protesting by authorities, and Mrs. Bayes, fought them off line and infuriated beast, as she was. Bayes, however, followed in the steps of Quarles, except that he allowed his hands to be tied behind him and was swung off into eternity in a less horrible manner. William Knighten, a weak-minded young man, and Bill Woods, a counterfeiter, and alleged accomplices in the murder, were taken to Delaware City, tried, and finally discharged. This lynching affair seemed to check the reckless spirit of crime, which heretofore pervaded the city, and thereafter Leavenworth was more free from lawlessness than most of the other towns.

The fire of July 15, 1858, was a blow to Leavenworth. It originated in the theater, corner of Third and Delaware streets, over the Market House. After enveloping several buildings on that side of the street, it leaped over to Dr. Park's drug store, on Delaware street, sweeping down both sides of the that street for some distance. Had it not been for the heroic efforts of the citizens, seconded by a tremendous rainstorm, almost the whole city might have been destroyed. As it was, a strong south wind was blowing, and in about an hour over $200,000 worth of property was destroyed, upon which there was an insurance of not more than fifteen per cent. Thirty-two stores were burned, and much property not destroyed was stolen. It was a gloomy time for Leavenworth, and many persons departed, never to return. Many of those who remained were in the most destitute circumstances.

In January, 1859, considerable commotion was occasioned by the kidnapping of Charley Fisher, an alleged fugitive slave from Louisiana. He had resided in Leavenworth for some time, conducting himself as a quiet, intelligent citizen. On the 13th of that month, Frank Campbell, Deputy United States Marshal, came to Planters House and attempted to force Mr. Smith, the landlord, to allow him admittance, that he might take off Fisher, employed at the hotel, claiming that he was a fugitive slave. Being refused, he obtained a ladder, and putting his head through the window, threatened to blow Mr. Smith's brains out. The door was opened, and he, in company with Frank Harrison, handcuffed the negro. The assistance of another man was also obtained and Fisher was finally taken across the Missouri River in a boat. While his captors were sleeping, he escaped to the Kansas side, about four miles below Leavenworth, and filed off the handcuffs. Warrants were issued for the arrest of his kidnappers, who, after eluding the officers for some days, were examined before Recorder Adams, in February, and all three bound over in $2,000 bonds for trial before G. W. Gardiner, Probate Judge. During the preliminary examination there appeared on Hutchinson, who claimed to have bought Fisher as a Louisiana slave, in 1854, giving him a written permit to hire his own time on any boat running on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and St. Louis, and on any boat on the Missouri River. Fisher was to make a traveling barber-shop of himself, and pay Hutchinson $10 a week for the privilege, Fisher himself to receive the balance. It was in this capacity that he traveled through portions of Illinois, and finally came to Kansas. While Fisher was attending the trial before Judge Gardiner, Hutchinson sought to have him arrested as a fugitive slave, under a writ issued by Judge Lecompte, but the court refused. In protecting him from arrest, the City Marshal kept him in such close confinement that at one time he was guarded by a force of 400 men, and seemed to be in fact a prisoner. In March, the three defendants were taken before Judge Lecompte on a writ of habeas corpus, and found guilty of the crime of kidnapping a slave but as the law did not provide for punishing such an offense, they were discharged. Fisher was brought back to the city, and was rescued from his strong guard by a party of citizens who believed him to be a free man. He escaped, and is subsequently heard of as a State Senator from Mississippi. Both the city and judge Gardiner were sued in the Federal Court for $1,000 damages each, for hindering an alleged master in the capture of his slave. The cases never came to trial.

[TOC] [part 8] [part 6] [Cutler's History]