KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


LINN COUNTY, Part 2

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

EARLY POLITICAL TROUBLES, PART 1.

The first convention in the county was held at Sugar Mound February 20, 1855. The object of the convention was to nominate candidates for the Territorial Legislature, the election for which was to be held March 30, following. The convention was called by James P. Fox, and met at a small Pro-slavery or whisky grocery kept by Mr. Miller. As Mr. Fox was instrumental in calling the convention, as the nature and action of the convention were mainly determined by the course of Mr. Fox himself and the opposition thereto by others, and as we refer to him only incidentally in other portions of the history, we introduce here a brief sketch of this somewhat remarkable man. He was one of the earliest settlers in the county, and settled on a claim, which, in the early part of 1856, he skillfully managed to have selected as the town site of Paris and the county seat. He was by nature and education a Pro-slavery man, and evidently en rapport with the leaders of the Pro-slavery party. It was their determination to elect a Pro-slavery Legislature, and his desire to be elected a member of that Pro-slavery Legislature. There was an understanding between them and him in regard to his candidature. He was to secure the nomination, and they were to furnish votes enough, from Missouri if necessary, to elect him. His name was Fox, and he had Indian blood coursing in his veins. Had the Indians named him, following their general rule of applying names from the most pronounced characteristics, they would doubtless have chosen "Fox" for his surname, from the slyness and cunningness of his nature. Most of the voters in the district were free-State men, and most of them, too, although temperance men, loved their dram. No prohibitory laws were in force, neither did public opinion require their enactment. Fox was well aware of this falling of his neighbors, and for some weeks prior to the convention was accustomed to meet, on Saturday of each week, at Miller's grocery at Sugar Mound, such of the thirsty souls as might chance to come in on that day from their claims. On these occasions, news was disseminated, jokes were cracked, neighborhood matters were discussed, politics were debated and whisky flowed freely at the expense of Mr. Fox.

At last the day of the convention came. it had been heralded abroad by nailing a written notice three days beforehand on Miller's grocery door. On account of the limited time given, many living even in the vicinity failed to hear that a convention had been called. On the day appointed the convention met, and Mr. Glover was made chairman. James Montgomery, who lived but five miles west of Sugar Mound, and not heard of the calling of the convention, but happening to come to town that day was chosen Secretary. Mr. Glover stated the object of the convention to be that of nominating candidates for the Legislature. Names were submitted, and immediate balloting favored by some. Fr. Fox delivered a speech, carefully couched in language calculated to keep out of sight the one issue, slaver, in which all were most deeply interested, or to allay their solicitude in regard thereto, by assuring them that the time to raise that issue would not come until a convention should be called to frame a State constitution. Mr. Turner, who was a Free-State Democrat, and who desired himself to be a candidate for the Legislature, saw plainly that, as the convention was constituted, he stood no chance of a nomination; so moved a postponement until the district could be notified. Mr. Fox, in a vigorous speech, opposed postponement, and it was voted down. Montgomery, who, up to this time, had been a silent but by no means disinterested observer of events, perceived what were the crafty designs of Mr. Fox, and resolved, if possible, to defeat them. Accordingly he arose to address the convention, and said in substance that the Missourians had resolved to make Kansas a Slave State; that they were making extensive preparations to accomplish their designs; that the Organic Act conferred upon the settlers the right to determine the character of their own institutions; that for himself he was in favor of making it a Free State; that in order to make it a Free State it was necessary to elect Free-State men to the Legislature, and that in his opinion candidates for nomination to the Legislature should be required to express their opinions on the vital issue of the day. Other speakers followed in a similar strain, and finally Mr. Fox, seeing no way left to secure the nomination but by openly favoring making Kansas a Free State, publicly pledged himself to labor, if elected, to that end.

Montgomery having carried this point, next attempted to secure the adjournment of the convention to some future day, on the ground that as but few of the settlers were aware of the convention having been called, few of them were present, and that it would be best to adjourn, publish the re-assembling of the convention, and thus secure a general attendance of the people. In this also he was successful. At the second convention, the issue of Free or Salve State was put squarely before it. Col. Coffey was present, and made a speech in favor of a Slave State, full of the usual Pro-slavery sophistry of the day. At its close the Pro-slavery men were jubilant, the Free-State men despondent; Montgomery arose to address them, and with a master hand cleared away the cobwebs of Col. Coffey's argument, triumphantly established the principles of freedom and the policy of making Kansas free. James P. Fox and M. G. Morris received the nominations by the Free-State party for Councilmen, but at the election, March 30, 1855, A. M. Coffey and David Lykins, of Miami County, were elected. There were two precincts in Linn County at that election - Big Sugar and Little Sugar. At the first, there were cast for the Pro-slavery candidates 74 votes, and for the Free-State candidates, 17; of these, 32 were legal and 59 illegal. At Little Sugar precinct the Pro-slavery candidates received 34 votes and the Free-State 70, all legal votes. The voting place in the latter precinct was at Sugar Mound; in the former at "Keokuk," twelve miles northwest.

At the election held May 22, to fill vacancies occasioned by Gov. Reeder's withholding certificates from certain parties on account of frauds in the election of March 30, Augustus Wattles and William Jessee were elected Representatives from the Second District; but, on arriving at Pawnee, they were refused seats in the House.

To the Lecompton Constitutional Convention Linn county sent three delegates- J. H. Barlow, S. H. Hayze and George Overstreet. The number of voters in the county at the time of taking the census preparatory to this election, was 413; but the highest number cast was for H. H. Barlow, who received 124, the others each receiving 118. The Free-State men generally failed to vote, which was doubtless a great mistake. When it came to voting on the election of officers under that Constitution, there were 380 votes cast for the Pro-slavery candidate and 360 for the Free-State, and on the question of adopting the Constitution 510 votes were cast against it, 1 for it with slavery and 3 for it without slavery. At the election for officers under the Lecompton Constitution, an incident occurred at Sugar Mound which illustrates the feeling of a portion of the Free-State party toward that instrument. The question throughout the Territory was whether to vote for officers under it. A convention assembled at Lawrence December 2, for the purpose of considering this question, at which resolutions were adopted repudiating the Lecompton Constitution, and denouncing the proposed elections of December 21 and January 4. A second convention to further consider the same question was held December 23, at which a resolution was adopted declaring that "The Free-State party will not participate in the election." The conservative element of this convention feeling that this result had been brought about unfairly by the peculiar tactics of Gen. Lane, immediately called a "mass convention," resolved to participate in the election, and nominated a "State" ticket, upon which G. W. Smith was the candidate for Governor. The proceedings of this "Bolter's Convention," as it was called by the radical Free-State men, were published in the Herald of Freedom as the proceedings of the regular convention, and extra numbers of the paper quite extensively distributed throughout Linn County. The voters at Sugar Mound were mostly radical, and received the supposed decision of the regular convention with disappointment and many remonstrances; but as they came up to vote, being assured by the judges of election that the convention at Lawrence had decided to go into the election, they voted for the officers nominated at the "Bolter's Convention." Thus, they were really the victims of a misrepresentation.

About noon Montgomery arrived at the polls, and found in the post office, addressed to himself, a copy of the Lawrence Republican, containing a full history of the Lawrence Convention, both regular and "Bolters." He immediately saw what was the true state of affairs, and became exceedingly enraged. he determined to expose the imposition, and addressed the settlers present substantially in the following language: "Freemen of Linn! I have defended your rights in the past, and I am here to defend them to-day. The ballot is to express the sentiments of free men, and the ballot box is sacred only when the ballots it contains are deposited without restraint by those who are so entitled to deposit them. When it does not contain such ballots it is no more the exponent of the will of the people than if it were surrounded by armed invaders who deterred the legal voters from the exercise of their legal rights. How is it with the ballot box before us? Does it express the sentiments of the voters of Sugar Mound? No; you have been deceived! There is nothing legal in support of that ballot box but the Lecompton Constitution which to treat with contempt you deem a virtue; and the moral law, which would otherwise interfere to protect it, has been shorn of its power and majesty by the foul deceit practiced upon you. This ballot box, falsely expressing your sentiments, I will destroy; and those wishing to vote for State officers can afterwards proceed as though it were a new election. Thus, Freemen of Linn, I right you." With the concluding sentence, he advanced to the table, seized the ballot box and threw it on the ground, breaking it to pieces and scattering the ballots to the four winds.

For this act Montgomery was indicted but was never brought to trial. It should be added that the immediate cause of Montgomery's destruction of the ballot box was that, after learning of the deceit attempted upon them by the Herald of Freedom, one of the voters desired to get his ballot out of the box, but by the judges of election was refused permission to recall it. Montgomery thereupon released not only this one ballot but all that had been cast. The election on the "English Bill" was held August 2, 1858. Linn County cast 422 votes against it, to 43 for it, ten to one against the measure.

On the 9th of March, 1858, delegates to the Constitutional Convention which finally met at Leavenworth, were elected from Linn County, as follows: A. Danford, Thomas H. Butler, R. B. Mitchell and Robert Ewing.

The first election under the Wyandotte Constitution movement was held March 28, 1859, at which Linn County cast 341 votes for a Constitution and State Government, and six against them. The election for delegates was held the first Tuesday of June, J. M. Arthur and Josiah Lamb being elected from Linn County, receiving 455 and 446 votes respectively. The Wyandotte Constitution was adopted October 4, the vote in Linn County being 549 for it, and 157 against; while the homestead exemption clause to the Constitution received 455 votes and was opposed by 169 votes. On the 8th of November, a delegate to Congress was elected; Linn County casting 373 votes for the Democratic candidate, Saunders W. Johnson, and 563 for Marcus J. Parrott, the Republican candidate.

James M. Arthur came from Indiana to Linn County early in 1855. He was a Free-State Democrat, and as such was subject to persecution by Pro-slavery men. He was threatened with death, his home was burned, his property carried away, himself driven from home, and his wife so shamefully abused that for two years she was insane. On account of his persecutions he was elected by the Free-State men a delegate to the Topeka Constitutional Convention, and as a member of that Convention voted against striking the word "white" out of the Constitution. This constitution was submitted to the people December 15, 1855. At Big Sugar Precinct eighteen votes were cast in its favor and two against it; at Little sugar Precinct forty-two votes were cast for it, and eighteen against it.

At the election for officers under the Topeka Constitution, James M. Arthur, D. W. Cannon, John Landis and David Rees, were elected members of the Legislature from Linn County.

One of the incidents of the year 1855 was the arrest of Elihu Fairbanks, of Mansfield, by Marshall (sic) Russell, formerly of Arkansas. The marshal had writs against a number of others, but succeeded in executing only this one. Fairbanks was ironed, taken to Paris, where he was kept in confinement several days, and then taken to Lawrence, where he was released by the people. Marshal Russell had under his command a very large posse, which remained in the county a considerable time, during which it was supplied with provisions by William Hobson. Hobson's bill for the same was nearly $2,000 and was never paid for by the Territorial Government, on the ground that the marshal was acting without authority. At the election for delegate to Congress, October 9, 1855, A. H. Reeder received at Big Sugar Creek 28 votes, at Little Sugar 41.

The Battle of Paris. - This battle occurred about December 1, 1859, and was fought between the forces of Mound City, under C. R. Jennison and those of Paris, over the removal of the county records to the former place. Mound City had won on November 8, in the contest for the county seat, but notwithstanding this, the clerks of the Probate Court, of the County Court and of the District Court refused to remove the records to the new county seat. The Probate Judge had no influence over these refractory clerks. The time for the meeting of the courts was approaching. No court could be held unless the county seat and the records could be brought together. It was impossible to move the county seat to the records, and it seemed impossible to move the records to the county seat. How to bring them together was a knotty problem. finally an Alexander arose in the person of John T. Snoddy (afterward Major), who went to the Probate Judge, D. W. Cannon, and proposed that, if armed with an order for the records, he would bring them to Mound City in time for the opening of court. Judge Cannon wrote the order and handed it to the doughty Major. A company of about fifty men was organized, to march on Paris. In order to render resistance on the part of the Parisians absolutely useless and ineffectual if made, Dr. Trego was dispatched with his team to Osawatomie after a cannon that was there, the Abbott howitzer so famed in Kansas history, and with this managed by Wright alias "Pickles," the Mound City forces marched in the night upon the doomed city of Paris, arriving there just before daylight, and planting their cannon so as to rake the court house and principal business blocks, in case the records were not immediately forthcoming on demand. A fire was built near the cannon in order to render rapid firing possible in case it should be come necessary to bombard the town. That the artillerists were entirely without ammunition was of secondary consequence to them. The Parisians, upon arising from their beds and coming out upon the streets, were taken completely by surprise. They at once saw that resistance was hopeless, but some of the officers, still unwilling that the records should be removed to Mound City, denied all knowledge of their whereabouts. The denial was not believed, and time was given within which the records must be produced. At the expiration of the time, if they were not produced, firing would be opened from the howitzer, and the town blown to atoms. Just in time to prevent this dire calamity the coveted records were drawn out from under a bed by the officer who had himself placed them there, and then most strenuously denied all knowledge of them. Thus was Paris saved and Mound City victorious.

The Battle of Middle Creek. - This battle occurred on Middle Creek, in Liberty Township, August 25, 1856. Up to this time, the settlers in Linn County and enjoyed comparative quiet; but henceforward troubles of various kinds were frequent. All along the border, the Missourians were massing armed forces - Atchison and Reid at Little Santa Fe, and G. W. Clarke further south. On the date above given, a portion of the latter's forces, numbering about one hundred and fifty, having come up from Fort Scott, under Capt. Jesse Davis, with John E. Brown and James P. Fox holding subordinate positions, encamped on Middle Creek, about nine miles southwest of Osawatomie. Capts. Anderson, Cline and Shore, with an aggregate of about one hundred and twenty men, encamped in that neighborhood the same evening. On the next morning, scouts brought in four prisoners, who said that fifty of Davis' men were absent from camp. An attack was therefore immediately determined upon. Capt. Anderson made a detour, in order to cut off Davis' retreat, and Cline and Shore marched upon him in front. In the advance, they captured five prisoners, and released a Free-State man. Upon approaching within range, the Missourians promptly retired, leaving most of their camp equipage, a good dinner already prepared, and two wounded men upon the ground. One of the wounded was Lieut. Cline, of Fort Scott. He was taken to Osawatomie, and, on the 30th of the same month, when Gen. Reid burned the town, was taken charge of by Gen. Reid's forces, and died on their hands, at Westport.

Montgomery observed armed Pro-slavery forces marching towards Osawatomie, and himself went up that way, but arrived too late to render any assistance. He, therefore, returned home, and remained quiet for several days, with the view of not creating any alarm; but, in a few days, upon going to Mound City, he found the settlers consulting as to leaving the Territory. The report was circulated, and gained credence to some extent, that George W. Clarke intended to arm the Miami Indians, fill them with whisky, and turn them loose upon the Free-State settlers. This report, although doubtless wholly false, increased their alarm to such an extent, that some, who would otherwise have remained, left their claims, cabins and personal effects to be pillaged and burned, as they expected, by the border ruffians and Miami Indians.

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