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


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

The following extract from our History of the State of Nebraska, published in 1882, will interest at least all those citizens of Miami County who remember Cyrus Tator as an early Probate Judge. It gives the facts regarding his trial and execution.


Early in the summer of 1863, a tragedy was enacted below the city (Omaha), the facts of which are as follows: On Friday, June 19, the dead body of an unknown man was found in the bend of the river opposite Sulphur Springs, about three miles below Omaha. He had evidently been murdered and thrown into the river, and for some days no one could be found to identify the deceased. Finally he was recognized as Isaac H. Neff, an emigrant who, in company with Cyrus Tator, was journeying West, and had encamped near a place known as the "Saratoga Springs" in the vicinity of which his remains were discovered. A combination of circumstances led the authorities to suspect Cyrus Tator of the murder and resulted in his arrest, while he was making preparations to escape. He was arraigned for trial before W. P. Kellogg, Judge of the District Court, at the June term thereof. Charles H. Brown, Prosecuting Attorney, with W. A. Little and A. G. Poppleton, counsel for the defense. The examination continued several days, resulting in the conviction of Tator of murder, and his sentence to be hanged, the latter event fixed for August 21, 1863, or two months almost to the day, from the date of the commission of the crime. Exceptions were taken to the rulings of the Court during the trial, which were over-ruled, a write of error denied by the Supreme Courts, and the accused hanged on Friday, August 21, 1863, on the very spot where his crime had been committed. Before the fatal knot was adjusted, Tator called God to witness that he was an innocent man; that he had not murdered Isaac H. Neff and was ignorant of the author of the deed. The trap door of the scaffold was sprung at 1 o'clock precisely, and Tator was launched into eternity. He died almost immediately and after hanging twenty-two minutes his body was lowered, placed in a coffin, and awaited the demands of the his friends. He left a wife and child.


The following incident is given as illustrative of the attitude of the Free state men assumed toward Slavery and the laws designed for its protection. It was in the fall of 1858. The postoffice at Mound City, Linn County, had been robbed, and Cyrus Shaw, of Paola, was requested by the postmaster at Westport to go down to Mound City with the necessary blanks, affidavits, etc., for the postmaster there to sign in order to satisfy the Department it was a case of robbery. On his way down, when in the northern part of Linn County, he met three Missourians. As was customary with them in those days, they inquired of him where he was going, and what his business was. Mr. Shaw gave such answers as seemed to him to suit the occasion and at last took a small flask of whisky out of an inside pocket, of which he invited his Missouri friends to partake. Up to this time they suspected Mr. Shaw of being a Free state man, which in fact he was; but at the sight of the whisky they were instantly reassured, and one of them swinging his arm shouted out:"Oh, by G-d, boys, he's all right, he's all right," thus unwittingly paying a handsome compliment to Free-state men. To drink whisky was one of the characteristic virtues of a Border ruffian. They then informed Mr. Shaw of the object of their visit to Kansas. One of them had lost a slave, and the slave was suppose to be near Osawatomie. Mr. Shaw, desirous of closing the interview as early as practicable, assented to the possibility of their surmise being correct, and soon each party was pursuing its respective journey.

The slave-hunting party upon arriving in the neighborhood of Osawatomie, discovered the hiding-place of the fugitive, and informed an old and trusted Missouri friend residing there, of the object of their mission. Suspicion was in some way excited in the minds of the Free-state men as to what that object was. Several members of the Underground Railway Company were immediately notified of the interesting condition of affairs. They promptly rallied their forces, proceeded at once to where the fugitive slave was staying and took him directly to his master at the house of the latter's Missouri friend.

To the great surprise of the master, the slave was brought in and introduced to him. The object of the call and introduction was not, however, for the purpose of surrendering up the fugitive, as the master, his companions from Missouri and his resident Missouri friend very quickly discovered; but it was to inform them in the first place that the Dred Scott decision was null and void in Kansas and that the soil of Kansas should not be made the hunting ground for the slave owner; and in the second place, that the owner of this slave should aid him on his way to Canada instead of taking him back to Missouri. Accordingly the master was compelled to hand over his former "chattel" his overcoat, undercoat and vest, next his pocket-book, from which about $300 was taken, then he was obliged to exchange his pantaloons for those of the negro and then off came a fine pair of boots, which were also involuntarily exchanged for an old pare the negro had on. The negro was then asked by Captain Snyder, who was in charge of the affairs of the Underground Railway Company just at this time, if there was anything else he would need on his trip to Canada, to which "Washington" replied that his old hat did not correspond well with the rest of his suit, and upon being instructed by his liberators to do so, he selected from the head of one of his pursuers a fine silk stove-pipe hat, which added very much to the dignity of his person. He was then told to go to the stable and select a horse, saddle and bridle belonging to the slave-hunters, with which he could pursue his journey to Canada with celerity and comfort. Thus equipped, thanking his friends for their timely and kindly assistance, he resumed his journey toward Freedom, while his pursuers, crest-fallen, poorer and much wiser men, retraced their steps to Missouri to relate the story of their wrongs, and to dilate upon the utter disregard of the rights of property manifested by the "jayhawkers" of Kansas.


On the 16th Of April 1856, a meeting was held at Osawatomie, at which resolutions were adopted against the payment of taxes assessed under the Bogus Laws. At this meeting, John Brown, Sr., made a speech. At the term of court for the Second Judicial District which began at Paola on the 27th of May, a grand jury was impanelled and an indictment found against John Brown Sr., John Brown Jr., O. C. Brown, O. V. Dayton, Alexander Gardner, Richard Mendenhall, Charles A. Foster, Charles H. Crane, William Partridge, and William Chestnut, in which it charged that they "did unlawfully, and wickedly conspire, combine, confederate and agree together to resist the enforcement of the laws passed by the Legislature for the collection of taxes." After the Pottawatomie tragedy, companies of militia from Lykins and Linn counties, under command of Maj. Gen. Coffey, went to the scene of the murders and gave the bodies of the victims as decent internment as was possible under the circumstances. On the return march a number of prominent Free-state men, were taken prisoners. Against none of them, however, was made any charge of participation in the massacre, with the possible exception of John Brown, Jr., and it is certain that he was with his company in camp near Capt. Shore's in the northern part of Franklin County at the time. The prisoners arrested were taken to Paola during the term of court mentioned above, and all but eight discharged. Among these eight were: John Brown, Jr., Jason Brown, H. H. Williams, William Partridge, Hugh Kilbourn and James Townsley. They were taken from Paola to Osawatomie and placed in custody of a company of United States dragoons, who treated them with considerable severity. The charge against them was that they were guilty of "high treason". After having been alternately in the hands of the United States troops and the Marshal's posse, until November, most of them were discharged at Lecompton by Judge Lecompte. As showing what was required to constitute "high treason" in Kansas in those days, it may be stated that the basis of the charge against H. H. Williams consisted in his having been elected a member of the Free-state legislature, and Captain of the Pottawatomie Rifle Company.

Partridge, Townsley, and Kilbourn were held for some time after the others were released. Kilbourn had been sentenced to twelve months confinement for stealing a horse or two from a band of Missourians who a few days before had burned his house and robbed him of all he possessed. Townsley was charges with having participated in the Pottawatomie tragedy. Partridge was charged with having bought a stolen wagon, with grand larceny and with conspiracy against the Territorial laws. He had a trial on the second charge on the 16th of December before Judge Cato. His lawyer was Johnson of Leavenworth, commonly called "red-eyed Johnson" a strict Pro slavery man. Johnson told the prosecuting attorney all the points in Partridge's defense and then left his client and the town. Judge Cato forced Partridge to an immense trial, giving him no time to produce witnesses or to procure other counsel. The jury was packed to suit the judge, as many Free-state men put on as could be thrown off by preemptory challenges, and several Pro-slavery men kept on who admitted in court that they had already formed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the prisoner. About this time, Col Johnson, of Kansas City, and M. J. Parrott happened to come into the court room. Several witnesses were introduced, but, with one exception, none of them knew of Partridge ever having committed any crime. This one, a Mrs. Totten, testified that he had once passed her house, stopping in the road to view it a moment, then going on; and that a another time he had come into the house at night and inquired for Mr. Totten. Upon being informed that Mr. Totten was not at home he remarked that it was d--d strange. This was the sum total of the evidence adduced against him; yet it was sufficient to prove to the unbiased and intelligent jury before which he was tried the guilt of grand larceny; and of grand larceny he was convicted. The astute and righteous judge as a fitting climax to the farce of a trial, sentenced him to ten years imprisonment! So enraged at this result was Col. Johnson that he commenced cursing the court, jury and all concerned, declaring that all had been done through bribery from beginning to end. Even "Postscripts Donaldson" declared it a "damnable outrage and deserving of sever punishment."

Below is a copy of the indictment against Partridge for "conspiracy". It is a great document and shows what a man can do when he "combines, confederates and agrees together," and aids himself with

Territory of Kansas County of Lykins,

"In the United States Court of the Second Judicial District setting in and for the county of Lykins and territory of Kansas, May term, A. D., 1856, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six.

The grand jurors summoned, empanelled and sworn to inquire in and for the body of Lykins County in the Territory of Kansas, on their oaths present that William Partridge, late of said county, being persons of evil minds and dispositions, on the (16th) sixteenth day of April, 1856. Eighteen hundred and fifty-six, and on divers other days and times both before and after that day, in the County of Lykins and Territory aforesaid, did unlawfully and wickedly conspire, combine confederate and agree together mutually to aid, support one another in a forcible resistance to the enactment of the laws passed by the legislature of the said Territory of Kansas be the attempts to enforce said enactment come from--what source it may--and the grand Jurors aforesaid do further present on their oaths aforesaid that the said William Partridge, of said county, on the sixteenth day of April, 1856, and on divers other days and times both before and after that day in the county aforesaid did unlawfully and wickedly conspire, combine, confederate and agree together, forcibly to resist and oppose the assessions and collection of taxes in and for the county and territory aforesaid and to use all the means and force necessary to prevent the execution of the law of said territory authorizing the assessment and collection of taxes to the evil example of all others, and against the peace and dignity of the Territory of Kansas.

William Barber
Pros. Atty. Pro Tem"

After receiving his sentence, Partridge was taken from the Tecumseh jail and turned over to the master of convicts, Capt. Hampton, at Lecompton. On the 15th of January following, he together with Cushing and another Free-state convict made good their escape.

Gov. Geary had said that Partridge "was one of the worst men and one of the principal agitators in Kansas, and should receive no sympathy from him;" but afterward saw cause to change his opinion, and was very desirous to have him return that he might be reprieved and "be at liberty with none to molest him." He was a brother of George Partridge, killed at the battle of Osawatomie.

With regard to young Kilbourn, it may be added, in explanation of the charge against him of horse-stealing:--During the latter part of August, 1856, the Missourians burned the house and barn of Hugh Kilbourn, among others, on Pottawatomie Creek, destroying and driving off everything he had. In the company with several others, Henry Kilbourn, son of Hugh, followed the invaders to the west line of Missouri and took property enough from them to partially cover his father's loss. He was arrested, brought into court and sentenced to one year's solitary confinement in the county jail.

The organization of the Republican Party in Kansas, occurred on the 18 of May, 1859, at Osawatomie. It was the most notable and important political event of the year. The Convention was called to order by T. D. Thacher of Lawrence; Henry Fox, of Shawnee County was elected temporary chairman, and T. D. Thacher, Secretary. The following was the Committee on Credentials: E. Heath, A. Danford, P. Shepard, James L. McDowell, John A. Martin, William Spriggs, and A. J. Shannon. The Committee on permanent organization, consisting of Branscomb, Fearl, Lawrence, Fletcher, Delahay, McKay, Larzelere, Rapp, Burnett, Pomeroy, Gilpatrick and Shannon, reported as follows; President, O. E. Learnard; Vice-Presidents Nathan Price, S. C. Pomeroy, Thomas Ewing, Jr., Joseph Speck, E. Heath, Henry Fox, D. W. Houston and E. G. Jewell; Secretaries D. W. Wilder, T. D. Thacher, J. F. Cummings and John A., Martin. After the organization was effected, the Convention was addressed by Horace Greeley, one of the purest and noblest of American statesmen. In the course of his address, Mr. Greeley was made the following allusion to the first martyr President; "the able and gallant Lincoln, of Illinois, whom we had hoped to meet and hear today, has happily illustrated the Squatter Sovereignty principle, thus: If A. wants to make B. a slave, C. must not interfere to prevent him." Mr. Greeley, closed with the following grand and prophetic peroration: "Freemen of Kansas! I would inspire you with no unwarranted, no overweening confidence of success in the great struggle directed before us. I have passed the age of illusions and no longer presume a party or cause destined to triumph merely because I know it should. On the contrary, when I consider how vast are the interests and influence combined to defeat us__the Three Thousand Millions of property in human flesh and blood__the subserviency of commerce to this great source of custom and profit__the prevalence of ignorance and of selfishness affecting the many millions prodigally lavished by the wielders of Federal authority-the lust of office and the prevalence of corruption-I often regard the struggle of 1860, with less of hope than of apprehension. Yet, when I think of the steady diffusion of intelligence, the manifest antagonism between the Slavery extensionists and the interest of free Labor--when I consider how vital and imminent is the necessity for the passage of the free Land bill-- when I feel how the very air of the Nineteenth Century vibrates to the pulsations of the great heart of Humanity, beating higher and higher with aspirations for Universal freedom, until even the barbarous Russia is intent on striking off the shackles of her fettered millions. I cannot repress the hope that we are on the eve of a grand beneficent victory. But whether destined to be waved in triumph over our next great battle-field, or trodden into the mire through our defeat, I entreat you to keep the Republican flag flying in Kansas, so long as one man can anywhere be rallied to defend it. Defile not the glorious dust of the martyred dead whose freshly grassed graves lie thickly around us, by trailing that flag in dishonor or folding it cowardly despair on this soil so lately reddened by their patriotic blood. If it be destined in the mysterious Providence of God, to go down, let the sunlight which falls lovingly on their graves catch the last defiant wave of its folds in the free breeze which sweeps over these prairies; let it be burned, not surrendered, when no one remains to uphold it, and let its ashes rest forever with theirs by the banks of the Marais des Cygnes."


Company D, of the Tenth Regiment, was raised mainly in Miami County. Of this company Eli Snyder, of Osawatomie, was mustered in as Captain, and resigned May 27, 1862. He was followed by John Downing, of New Lancaster, George D. Brooks, of Kansas City, and F. A. Smalley, of Osawatomie, were successively, First Lieutenants, and F. A. Smalley and R. W. Wood, of Osawatomie, Second Lieutenants.

The Twelfth Regiment of Infantry was mustered in at Paola, September 30, 1862, and mustered out at Little Rock, Ark., June 30, 1865. Its Colonel was Charles W. Adams, of Lawrence, who was promoted Brevet Brigadier General, February 13, 1865; Lieutenant Colonel Josiah E. Hayes, Olathe. Companies C and D were recruited principally in Miami County. Nick L. Beuter, was Captain of Company C. After the assassination of Captain Beuter, April 2, 1864, at Hot Springs, Ark., by bushwackers, First Lieutenant William O. Hubbell, of Paola, was promoted Captain, July 19. After William O. Hubbell, William R. Nichols, of Stanton, and William A. Wells, of Osage, were successively, First Lieutenants of Company C, and William B. Nichols and Samuel S. Kirkham, of Paola, Second Lieutenants.

Of Company D, George W. Ashby, of Prairie City, was Captain, mustered in September 25, 1862 and resigned May 29, 1865. Henry Shively, of Stanton, and Alferd Johnson of Peoria, were successively, First Lieutenants; and Alfred Johnson, and William H. Baker, of Berea, Second Lieutenants.

Company F, of the Fourteenth Regiment Cavalry, was raised mainly in Miami County. Of this company, Albert J. Briggs, of Paola, was mustered in as Captain, August 26, 1863 and promoted Major, June 3, 1865. The next day John A. Huff, of Paola, who was mustered in as First Lieutenant, August 26, 111863, was promoted Captain, and William D. Parish, Second Lieutenant, was promoted First Lieutenant, June 7.

Company C, Fifteenth Regiment Cavalry, was raised partly in Miami County. Benjamin F. Simpson, of Paola, was mustered in as Captain of this company, October 6, 1863 and promoted Major, June 7, 1865. James H. Young, of Olathe succeeded as Captain. Joseph Phillips, of Paola, and John Murphy were successively First Lieutenants of this company, and Isom Smith, of Rising Sun, and Ralph J. Farnsworth, of Paola, Second Lieutenants.

Miami County suffered, perhaps less than some other border counties from rebel raids during the war. The most important incident was the passing of Quantrill through the county within two miles of Paola on the afternoon and night of the 21st of August, after the massacre and burning of Lawrence. Upon learning of his approach, measures for defense were speedily taken. A force was speedily organized under command of Major B. F. Simpson, afterwards of the famous Fifteenth Regiment who, at the time, was at home recruiting soldiers, and stationed in ambuscade on the Stanton road, to await the approach of Quantrill and his men. Quantrill, becoming aware of the preparations for his reception, turned northward, when two miles west of town, crossed Walnut Creek, and proceeding northeastwardly, camped on the west side of Bull Creek, near Rock Ford, five miles north of Paola. Col. Plumb had been following Quantrill from the vicinity of Lawrence, all day, and, missing his trail, came upon Major Simpson's ambuscade about dusk, his horses, upon reaching Bull Creek, rushing down into it to quench their famishing thirst. Had not Major Simpson fortunately recognized Col. Plumb's voice, it is probable that the latter's men would have been badly cut to pieces, by the former's mistaking them for Quantrill's. Quantrill's camp was discovered some time before midnight. A plan of attack was drawn up and men and officers were eager to carry it into effect, but Col. Clark, the ranking officer, declined to give the order to advance. Capt. Nick L. Beuter, Company C, Twelfth Kansas Infantry, arrived at Paola about midnight, by forced march from West Point, Mo. He immediately reported to Col. Clark, and, with Major Simpson, asked for orders to advance on Quantrill. Such orders being withheld, he then asked permission to take his own Company C, and make the attack. This being refused, no further attempt was made, until Quantrill had left his camp on Bull Creek and taken up his march for Missouri. The only a few of his stragglers were overtaken and killed.

It is safe to assume that had a brave and efficient officer been in command at Paola on the night of the 21st of August, 1863, and one having his heart in his work, Quantrill and his whole band of murderous ruffians would have been intercepted and slain, with "no quarter" for the battle cry, and thus been made to pay the just penalty of the diabolism in Lawrence in the morning of that ever-memorable day. Had Capt Beuter been in command this consumption, then so devoutly to be wished, would have been accomplished. E. W. Robinson, in his history on Miami County, pays the following tribute to brave Capt. Beuter: "He was the very man to fight Quantrill*****he was a 'model soldier of the Republic', and the brave men he commanded, many of whom are yet residents of the county, hold dear the memory and deeds of their vigilant, active and faithful Captain, who sleeps well his last sleep in ground returned to and retained in the Union by the patriotic self-sacrifice of Nick L. Beuter, and thousands, who like him, fought treason to its overthrow, and re-established the authority of the Government at the expense of life itself. Capt Beuter, while acting in the capacity of Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Brigade, Seventh Army Corps, was assassinated while in the discharge of his official duty. He died a hero, with his armour on. His remains were buried on a round mound, six miles north of Hot Springs, Arkansas, on the 3rd of April, 1864." On account of what seemed to many citizens of Kansas, inefficiency on the part of the Generals commanding on the border at the time, and smarting under the escape of Quantrill, a convention assembled at Paola, of which T. A. Osborn was President, which adopted resolutions asking for the removal of Generals Schofield and Ewing, and the establishment of a new military department. It would appear, however, that this convention were in a predicament very similar to that occupied by Mr. Lincoln, as described by himself, when he apologized to an applicant passing though the lines, for not granting the pass, by saying that he "had very little influence with the administration."

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