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


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


The first raid by the Missourians into Linn County, was made in the fall of 1856. The party was headed by the notorious George W. Clarke, and consisted of about four hundred men. This party went to the old town of Paris, at that time a Pro-slavery settlement. There they were joined by confederates, among whom was the almost equally notorious James P. Fox. From Paris, the party went to Sugar Mound, the objective point of the expedition. Here they burned down some houses, and robbed Ebenezer Barnes' house, store and post office. Many depredations were committed, and quite a number of Free-State families started back to the East, among them William Hobson's and Ebenezer Barnes' family, to Illinois. Mr. Barnes himself remained. Montgomery was at the Mound at that time, and was also an object of desire to the Missourians, but he managed to escape, and started, as they supposed, for home. Instead of going home, he went to Missouri for the purpose of gaining information as to who composed Clarke's band. Like almost every other settler in Kansas, at that time, he had the ague. Upon reaching Missouri, he went to the house of Capt. Burnett and sought admittance. He was taken in and cared for by Mrs. Burnett, Mr. Burnett not being at home. Some time afterward, Mr. Burnett, who was out with Clarke on his raid, returned, and found Montgomery, whom he did not know, at his house. He found Montgomery to be a very intelligent man, on his way from New York to Kansas, and desirous of finding a school to teach during the winter! Mr. Burnett found him a school, which he taught about two weeks, during which time he learned all he desired to know as to the identity of Clarke's raiders. He now returned to his home, and formed a company of seven men to go into Missouri and bring back the property stolen by Clarke's band, or its equivalent. Upon arriving in the neighborhood of Burnett's, his party secreted themselves in the timber. The Miami Indians were then still living on their reservation, and were in the habit of going into Missouri and stealing horses. The Missourians, in the neighborhood of Burnett's, upon discovering the presence of Indians in the vicinity, were accustomed to report the fact to Mr. Burnett. Montgomery, having his party in the timber, disguised two of them as Indians, mounted them on one horse, and sent them around throughout the neighborhood to create the impression that Indians had come, and to cause all who should see them to report to Mr. Burnett! His two Indians having returned, Montgomery, with all his men, moved forward and took possession of Burnett's house, Mr. B. not being at home.

Presently the neighbors began to come in on horseback one at a time. As each approached, one of Montgomery's men would go out to meet him, "get the drop on him," lead him into the house a prisoner, disarm him and place him under guard, at the same time securing his horse. In this way twenty-one prisoners were captured. Burnett himself was similarly secured. Montgomery's men then broke the guns of their prisoners, took $250 in money, selected eleven good horses and returned to the Little Sugar. Upon arriving at Sugar Mound, Montgomery, leaving his men with the horses in the timber, went to the house of Ebenezer Barnes, to have supper prepared for himself and his men, but Mr. Barnes' family had not returned, and there was nothing to eat in the house. He then went to Judge Cannon's house, but the Judge, although a Free-State man for Kansas, declined to provide supper, as he disapproved of what Montgomery had done, and did not desire to be identified with him in such operations.

Within twenty days most of the settlers returned. Some of their cabins had been burned, others were found to have been undisturbed. But a large amount of property had been carried away or destroyed. Judge Cannon found his cabin and its contents as he had left them, while Isaac Dement found his two little cabins burned down, but his household goods had been previously removed, and remained piled up on the ground when here turned.

Claim difficulties were of frequent occurrence during the latter part of the years 1856 and in 1857, and they were often sprung upon the settlers as a mere pretext, in order to create difficulties; most of the troubles of 1856, in Linn County are laid at the door of G. W. Clarke, who, it is said, "in the summer of 1856, plundered, robbed and burned out of house and home nearly every Free-State settler in Linn County, while his hands were steeped in innocent blood and the light of burning buildings marked his course." But this is an exaggeration. Clarke burnt only three of four buildings in Linn County, in 1856. It was difficulties of this kind that caused Montgomery to take to the brush, and having entered upon this course he became the most powerful friend of the Free-State men, and the most hated and feared by the Pro-slavery men. At first he fought single-handed, then was joined by a few, and was afterward aided by few or many as circumstances required. His operations may be classed as defensive, preventive and retaliatory, and it is doubtless true that he did many things which, when judged of outside of their immediate and remote causes and connections, would not stand the test of the moral code. With six men he made an attack on Briscoe Davis, a Pro-slavery man, and Captain of a company of Territorial militia, with the view of making Davis prisoner, and securing the company's arms. Davis, however, was not at home, and all that was secured at his house was one prisoner, Brown, a number of arms and some ammunition. While Montgomery was engaged in secreting the arms, Brown made his escape. On this account Montgomery abandoned his design of attacking and disarming the Pro-slavery men on Big Sugar, and, in order to avoid the Territorial Militia which was in force, under Gov. J. W. Geary, eight miles south, on Little Sugar Creek, made a wide detour south into Bourbon County, coming in sight of some Texan Rangers. The Rangers immediately fled to Fort Scott, and gave such an exaggerated report of the number of Montgomery's men, that the inhabitants of the town deserted it in a panic.

In the fall of 1858, Old John Brown appeared upon the scene in Linn County. He had been invited into the county by Augustus Wattles to assist in fighting the Pro-slavery men. Mr. Wattles, who had formerly lived in Douglas County, had known the old man there. Mr. Wattles was one of the pioneers of Kansas. He was born in Lebanon, Conn., in 1808; moved to Ohio in 1833; to Douglas County, Kan., in 1855; to Linn County in 1857, and died December 19, 1876.

Mr. Wattles introduced Brown to his friends and others as "Subel Morgan," and it was by that name that Brown was generally known while he was operating against slaveholders and other Pro-slavery men, with Linn County as his base of operations. Only a few of his immediate friends knew that it was Old John Brown. His personal safety required that he should conceal his identity, and often times also his whereabouts. As illustrative of the truth of the latter statement, we introduce the following incident: On one of Brown's visits to Wattles' house, in Douglas County, he was overtaken by a squad of troops under Lieutenant Carr, although the Lieutenant did not know he was so close upon Brown's heels, otherwise the sequel would doubtless have been different. After the troops had encamped for the night, Lieutenant Carr approached Mr. Wattles' house, and engaged in conversation with Mr. Wattles. During the conversation, he informed Mr. W. of the object of his expedition, and told him how great would be his satisfaction if he could capture the old man, etc. During this interview, Brown was secreted in the loft of Wattles' house, and could thus see and hear all that was going on, and his men were secreted in the bushes not far away. A few days afterward Brown quietly slipped away, went into Missouri and liberated seventeen slaves.

While in Linn County, Brown usually made his headquarters at Mr. Wattles' house, and here as elsewhere was followed by a few men upon whom he could depend even under the most desperate circumstances. His work was continued throughout the balance of this year, many slaves being freed as the result. His determined opposition to the incursions into Kansas of the Missourians, and his own determined incursions into Missouri awakened the bitterest hostility against him. The Governor of Missouri offered a reward of $3,000 for his arrest, and President Buchanan offered a reward of $250 for his head. When Brown heard of the President's offer he retorted by saying that, although he did not consider Buchanan's body worth $2.50, yet he would give that sum to any one who would deliver it to him. He also said that he would offer a like sum for the head of Gov. Medary, but that he feared some of his men would earn the reward.

On the 20th of December, Brown's men in two parties, one under his own command, and the other under command of J. K. Kagi, went into Missouri to liberate slaves. Brown's party liberated ten slaves and returned. Kagi's party liberated one slave, and killed the owner, a German, who could neither understand nor speak English. This murder caused intense excitement throughout the country, and was the immediate occasion of the offering of the above-mentioned rewards. The liberated slaves were taken into Franklin County and secreted for a month in an old cabin about four miles southwest of Lane, during which time the number was increased by birth to twelve. At the end of the month, Brown went north with the negroes, and when near Holton an attempt was made by some Pro-slavery men from Atchison to rescue them, which attempt ended in failure and a precipitate retreat of the Atchison men. This retreat is called "The Battle of the Spurs."

John Brown's Parallels. - While these eleven slaves were thus secreted in the old cabin, John Brown, in another old cabin, a correct account of which may be found in the sketch of Franklin County, wrote his famous "Parallels," dating them at the Trading Post for the purpose of shielding from suspicion his friends who were assisting him to secrete the fugitives, and of rendering his effort to free them a success.

TRADING POST, Kansas, January 3, 1859.

GENTLEMEN : You will greatly oblige a humble friend by allowing the use of your columns while I briefly state two parallels in my poor way. Not a year ago, eleven quiet citizens of this neighborhood, viz., William Robertson, William Colpetzer, Amos Hall, Austin Hall, John Campbell, Asa Snyder, Thomas Stillwell, William Hairgrove, Asa Hairgrove, Patrick Ross, and B. L. Reed, [footnote: The names are given correctly in our account of the massacre.] were gathered up from their work and their homes, by an armed force, under on Hamilton, and without trial or opportunity to speak in their own defense, were formed in line and all but one shot, five killed and five wounded, one fell unharmed, pretending to be dead. All were left for dead. The only crime charged against them was that of being Free State men. Now I inquire what action has ever since this occurrence in May last been taken by either the President of the United States, the Governor of Kansas, or any of their tools, or by any Pro-slavery or Administration man, to ferret out and punish the perpetrators of this crime?

Now for the parallel. On Sunday, December 19, a negro man, called "Jim," came over to the Osage settlement from Missouri, and stated that he, together with his wife, two children, and another negro man, was to be sold within a day or two, and begged for help to get away. On Monday, the following night, two small parties were made up to go to Missouri and forcibly liberate the five slaves, together with other slaves. One of these companies I assumed to direct. We proceeded to the place, surrounded the buildings, liberated the salves, and also took certain property, supposed to belong to the estate.

We, however, learned before leaving that a portion of the articles belonged to a man living on the plantation as a tenant, and who was supposed to have an interest in the estate. We promptly returned to him all we had taken. We then went to another plantation, where we found five more slaves, took some property and two white men. We moved all slowly away in the territory for some distance, and then sent the white men back, telling them to follow us as soon as they chose to do so.

The other company freed one female slave, took some property and, as I am informed, killed one white man, the master, who fought against the liberation. Now for the comparison. Eleven persons are forcibly restored to their natural and inalienable rights, with one man killed, and "all hell is stirred beneath." It is currently reported that the Governor of Missouri has made a requisition on the Governor of Kansas for all such as were engaged in the last named "dreadful outrage." The Marshal of Kansas is said to be collecting a posse of Missouri (not Kansas) men, at West Point, in Missouri, a little town about ten miles distant, to enforce the laws. All Pro-slavery, conservative free-State, and dough-faced men are filled with horror. Consider the two cases, and the action of the Administration party.

Respectfully yours, JOHN BROWN.

These "parallels" were sent to the Lawrence Tribune and New York Tribune for publication.

The Marais des Cygnes Massacre. - This massacre occurred on the 19th of May, 1858. It was one of the most deliberate, inexcusable and atrocious massacres recorded in the annals of history. While the people of Linn County were quietly planting corn and unsuspicious of danger, a band of thirty Missourians, under command of Capt. Charles A. Hamilton, about 8 o'clock in the morning, one mile below Choteau Trading Post, captured Patrick Ross, who was going from the Post to his farm near by. Upon arriving at the Post with their prisoner, Capt. Hamilton's party arrested John F. Campbell, a store keeper there, and two or three others, who were released. Elder B. L. Reed was captured one-half mile north of the Post, while standing in the road talking about taking the school. At the same time and place, William A. Stilwell, who was on his way from Mound City to Kansas City in his wagon, was taken. Upon his driving up, Hamilton asked him if he knew Montgomery, to which Mr. Stilwell replied that he had seen him, but was not acquainted with him. Hamilton then commanded, "Get out and march in here." Stilwell got out of his wagon and took his position with the other prisoners, leaving his team standing in the road. Some other persons were then taken and released. This occurred near Mr. Nichol's house, which was searched for arms and for Mr. Nichol himself, but he was absent. Mr. Stilwell was searched for money and arms, and the following letter found upon his person, which was read aloud: "Messrs. Chick & Co., Kansas City, Mo.: I have sent you $200 to pay freight on goods. Please deliver to Mr. Stilwell what he can bring and I will send you the balance soon. J. W. GARRETT" Three or four of Hamilton's men were next sent to bring in Asa Hairgrove, and another party was sent after Austin and Amos Hall, the main body marching on toward Hairgrove's house, about two miles from the Post. There Amos Hall, who was nearly blind, and Mr. Hairgrove were brought in, the latter from his corn field. At the same time, William Colpetzer was captured. They then went in a northwesterly direction and brought in M. Robinson and Asa Snyder, who had a short time previously arrived from Illinois. Capt. Hamilton with seven men then started out to arrest Capt. Eli Snyder, the blacksmith, and bring him in, the main body proceeding on about one-half mile to the top of a high mound (Priestly Mound), from which elevated position the whole country for miles around could be overlooked. The latter party watched with considerable interest the attempt to arrest Capt. Snyder, which, on account of his courage and quickness in handling his musket, resulted in failure, and in some of Capt. Hamilton's men being severely wounded. Returning to the main body, Hamilton ordered a forward march, and the prisoners were led down to a canon or gulch by a by-path between rocks, single file, when the commands were given, "Halt," "Front face, " "Close up," to the prisoners; and his own men were formed in line in front of them on a shelf or rock about as wide as a good wagon road and somewhat higher than the prisoners' heads. Deliberately the orders were given by Capt. Hamilton, "Make ready," "Take aim," but before the order "Fire" could be uttered, one of the worst of the border ruffians, Brockett by name, turned his horse away, whereupon Hamilton said to him, "Brockett, G---d d---n you, why don't you wheel into line?" Brockett said, "I'll be d---d if I'll have anything to do with such a G---d d---d piece of business as this. If it was in a fight I'd fire." At this, Hamilton took out his revolver and fired at the prisoners, giving the order to his men to fire at the same time. Alvin Hamilton's gun, which was aimed at L. B. Reed, missed fire the first time; Reed, not being hit, turned partly round to see his companions fall, and, Hamilton's gun being immediately re-cocked and fired, received the ball on one of his ribs and fell. Thus all these innocent, brave men were brought down. On their part, there was no flinching nor begging for quarter. Mr. Hairgrove, just before the order to fire was given, said: "Gentlemen, if you are going to shoot us, take good aim."

After waiting a few minutes, Hamilton gave the order to his men to go down and see who were dead, and to shoot those who were not. Two of the ruffians went down among the fallen and fired three shots at different ones who gave signs of life. Amos Hall was shot through the mouth. One said "Old Reed ain't dead yet," and a shot was fired, when the remark was repeated, "Old Reed ain't dead." "Which is him?" was asked. "Why, there the old devil is, looking at you." But Pat Ross got the balls and he was killed. Another ruffian said, "See that man humped up, he ain't dead." The man "humped up" was Austin Hall, and his body was perfectly rigid. One of those who were finishing the butchery, kicked Mr. Hall, rolled him over, and remarked, "He's as dead as the Devil," and so let him alone. Mr. Hall was the only one not hit. One of the ruffians said, "There's a man that's got $200," meaning Stilwell; but they did not fine the $200. It had been hid in the wagon by Mr. Stilwell at the time of his capture. Another said, "There's a fellow that's got a good watch," meaning J. F. Campbell. The watch was taken. Hamilton and his men then rode away in squads, six or seven at first, then twelve, and soon after the balance, leaving their victims all for dead. The result of the shooting was that five were killed, five wounded and one unharmed. The killed were, John F. Campbell, William Colpetzer, Patrick Ross, William Stilwell and M. Robinson; the wounded, Amos Hall, William Hairgrove, Asa Hairgrove, B. L. Reed and Asa Snyder.

The body of William Stilwell was taken to Mound City for burial, those of the others were all buried in one grave, some distance south of the scene of the massacre. The wounded all recovered.

It has been a query why any of those captured were released, and why Brockett at the moment of command to fire, refused to do so. From the best information obtainable it is believed that some were released on account of their youth, others because they were believed to be Pro-slavery, and still others because they gave the Masonic sign of distress, which all good Masons must recognize. It is also believed that Brockett refused to fire upon recognition of the same sign made by Mr. Stilwell, who was a Mason.

All the men who were captured were peaceable, conservative citizens, who had from design ever since they came into the Territory, held themselves aloof from participation in the troubles upon either side, hoping thereby to insure their safety by not incurring the displeasure of either party. The sequel proved the vanity of their hopes.

Capt. Hamilton had prepared a list of from sixty to seventy Free-State men whom he had proscribed, and this massacre was the first of a contemplated series of massacres which was to be continued until the whole list had been slain. Happily it chanced to be the last as well as the first. Montgomery was advised of the general plan, and had been furnished with a list of the proscribed men. He determined to kill Hamilton at the first opportunity. To this end, about the first of May he approached Hamilton's house, a log one, with a party of men for the purpose of capturing him; but finding he could effect nothing in the way of an attack with rifles alone, he sent a squad of men to bring the howitzer. But before its arrival a body of United States troops, on their way to Leavenworth, were called to Hamilton's relief, and Montgomery was obliged to disperse his men. Montgomery then went to the Sheriff of Linn County, acquainted him with Hamilton's designs, showed him the list of the proscribed Free-State men, and received assurances from that official that the men so proscribed should be protected from all harm.

The descent when made was made unexpectedly. Montgomery was away in Johnson County. He returned in the evening of the day of the massacre. The next evening a force of about two hundred citizens, under Sheriff McDaniel, Col. R. B. Mitchell and Montgomery, approached West Point, Mo., to which place it was believed the murderers had retired. Before entering the town a consultation was held, at which, against the remonstrance of Montgomery, it was decided to send forward a deputation and ask the leading citizens to come out to a conference. While this deputation was delayed, men were seen to leave the town from the opposite side, Montgomery and his men gave chase, captured one prisoner, against whom nothing could be proved, and so released him. The citizens when they finally came out to the conference, deplored the massacre, denied all knowledge of the whereabouts of the murderers and refused to aid in their apprehension.

The citizens retired discomfited, and separated into two divisions to watch for the re-approach of Hamilton in case he should further pursue his murderous designs against the Free-State men of the Territory. They remained on duty until superseded by Capt. Weaver in command of a body of regular militia. This body of troops so vigilantly guarded the border all summer that Capt. Hamilton never again made his appearance.

During the summer one of the murderers, Charles Matlock, was arrested, but while at Paris awaiting his trial, escaped from the guard and was never re-captured. Another of Hamilton's men, William Griffith, was arrested in Platte County, Mo., in 1863, and taken to Mound City, Linn County, Kan., for trial on an indictment against Charles A. Hamilton et al. for murder in the first degree. Griffith plead "not guilty," and set up as defense the "Amnesty act," approved February 11, 1859, alleging that the murder grew out of "political differences of opinion." The jury, "good and lawful men," not satisfied with the plea as a defense, brought in the following verdict: "We, the jury, do find the defendant, William Griffith, guilty." A motion for a new trial was overruled, as was also a motion for arrest of judgment, and the Judge, Solon O. Thacher, pronounced the sentence that the said William Griffith, on the 30th day of October, A. D. 1863, between the hours of 9 A. M. and 2 P. M., be hung by the neck until he be dead." The sentence was duly carried into effect, and, with almost poetic justice, Mr. William Hairgrove, one of the survivors of the massacre, acting the part of executioner.

The following named gentlemen composed the jury: Jacob Holderman, John Burdue, Josiah Sykes, James Barrick, William Crozier, John P. Wheeler, N. T. Smith, W. Farris, Perry Bland, Ira Hale, Amos Durbin and Benjamin Bunch.

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