Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life by Sara Robinson



THE second month of spring was quickly passing away, and quiet reigned -- a quiet which seemed almost fearful from the very stillness. Since the threats of arrest in the early part of March, the voice of Missouri had been mostly silent. Save the oaths and imprecations which still fall on the ear, on passing her citizens, and an occasional opening of boxes designed for the territory, at Kansas city, there has been no outrage, and the press is silent as to her plans. Notwithstanding the persevering efforts of Douglas, the champion of the slave power, and the no less zealous exertions of Missouri's representatives, who hesitated not to utter untruths, declaring that no one came from Missouri to vote, -- one of them, at least, being present at the election, -- a committee has been appointed to investigate the wrongs of which Kansas has complained to Congress. We, as well as our eastern friends, anticipated that quiet would continue while the investigation was entered into; that, from motives of policy alone, the enemy would hide in their lair, and attempt to gain the favor of the committee by a present show of fairness. Emigration was again pouring into the territory; a company of one hundred, from Ohio, had just arrived, while the camp-fires at evening, and the white-covered wagons of the western emigrant, dotting the highways, told of a general desire to make one's self a home in Kansas.

About the 17th of April the commissioners arrived. The hotel, which we had long waited for, was nearly finished, and rooms for their accommodation were put in order by our people, before the proprietor of the hotel could get his furniture up from Kansas city. The commissioners went to Lecompton, and spent two or three days in copying the records of the elections from official books kept there.

On the 19th, Sheriff Jones, who has from the first seemed to be the apple of discord among us, his presence at once making tumult of quiet, again appeared in our midst, and attempted to arrest S. N. Wood, just returned from Ohio, after a winter's sojourn. He said to Wood, "You are my prisoner."

"By what authority?" was the very natural reply.

"As Sheriff of Douglas County."

"I do not recognize such authority," said Wood, adding, however, that he would go with him if he would allow him to go to his house, only a few steps distant, first.

This the sheriff refused, and Wood declared, "Then I'll not go with you at all!" and very coolly walked away.

Jones walked away also, minus a pistol, which had passed from his pocket. The whole affair only lasted two or three minutes.

The next day Jones came in town again to disturb the Sabbath's quiet, and arrest somebody. He was accompanied by four men from Lecompton, and he called upon a number of our citizens standing by to act as a posse, in assisting in the arrest of Wood. These citizens were looking on, simply, and it was an established fact, whenever Jones was seen in the streets of Lawrence, that something rich would happen, and, involuntarily, almost, they gathered around to see.

Jones looked for Wood in his house; but he was not there. Seeing T., another of the Branson rescuers standing by, and who had made the attempt to carry his own case to the Supreme Court, but had never been able to get a hearing at Lecompton, Jones pounced upon him. He took hold of him so fiercely, T. thought it was his intention to knock him down; so, forgetting his non-resistance, he struck Jones, whereupon the bold sheriff, with his comrades, left for Lecompton, muttering, however, "he would bring in the troops, and the arrests should be made. He had now some forty names on his paper, against whom warrants should be served."

The following letter, written by Jones to Marshal Donaldson, shows that the attempt to arrest Wood was made without a shadow even of territorial law:

"Lecompton, April 20, 1856.
"MAJOR J. B. DONALDSON, -- My dear Sir: Samuel N. Wood is now in Lawrence, and I wish you to send me the writ against him. I arrested him on yesterday, and he was rescued from my hands by a mob. The governor has called upon Col. Sumner for a company to assist me in the execution of the laws. I will have writs gotten out against Robinson, and some twenty others.
          " In haste, Yr obs.

            "S. J. JONES."

The committee of investigation finished their work at Lecompton on Tuesday, the 22d, and returned to Lawrence the afternoon of that day. This first effort of theirs, showing clearly that the work of investigation would be carried on systematically, struck terror into the heart of the wrong-doers. That all their labors hitherto might not be foiled at one blow, they felt that a desperate effort must be made to break up the sittings of the committee, and the plan unfolded itself.

Also, on the afternoon of the 22d, word came into Lawrence that a band of men were encamped in the timber across the river. Two messengers immediately went out from Lawrence to see if there was truth in the statement, and returned, not only to verify it, but the bloody character of the gang. One of our messengers was fired upon, and only escaped falling into their hands by quickly plunging into a ravine until they, in their search, had passed by. They were men from Lecompton and vicinity, and were stationed there to intercept any persons who should attempt to escape from the bogus sheriff.

On Wednesday, 23d, the committee commenced examining witnesses in reference to the invasions. Dr. Stringfellow, Capt. Martin, of the Kickapoo Rangers, and others of like character, were in town. Some twelve came with Gen. Whitfield. In the afternoon of the 23d, the redoubtable sheriff, with authority vested in ten soldiers, under command of Lieut. McIntosh, following, again came into Lawrence. Without the least resistance on the part of any, six men, not implicated in the rescue of Branson, but having arrested no one to place in Mr. Jones' custody, were taken prisoners. They were lodged in a small building on the street, under the guard of the dragoons, and the sheriff occupied the tent of the officers, instead of going to the Cincinnati House, as usual.

In the evening the choir met at our house for a rehearsal. At about nine and a half o'clock T. came in. As the rest were singing, and scarcely noticed his coming in, I said to him, "Why, where did you come from? I thought you were in a safer place than Lawrence for rescuers."

He replied, "I have been out of town to-day; but I thought I would come over the hills to-night, and write a letter."

So, quickly getting him stationery and a light, he went out into another room to write. There was laughing and jesting among the singers, as they left soon after; a doubt arising whether they would all get to their homes safely, they having been on the street the day of the attempted arrest, and, as Jones had forty names, there was little reason to hope theirs were not in the list.

Doctor carried two ladies to their homes, each two miles from ours, and a mile apart. Just after they had gone, two gentlemen came from town. One was a stranger to me, and the other was W. He too had been from town during the day, and had gone home for a night's rest, when he was aroused by the other gentleman. They said "Good evening," and walked in. W., espying T., who had finished his letter, and was about leaving for a safer residence than ours, said, "Well, T., our best friend is shot."

"Who?" was the question asked simultaneously by several voices; and W.'s reply, in the same solemn manner, "Sheriff Jones," startled us. Not because for him we had any esteem, any respect; but who was there in Lawrence that would take a brother's blood? Unlike the Missourians, who shot down inoffensive people with no more compunctions than they would a wild partridge, they feel there is a sacredness in human life, and would not rashly assume the power of the avenger.

The silence which momentarily followed was broken by the question, "Will he die?" "They say he cannot recover."

The gentleman waited until the doctor returned, and then went back to town. He at once recognized in it a plan to involve our people in difficulty. It was either to be made the occasion of a new invasion, or at least to break up the sittings of the committee.

Jones, while sitting in the tent, the outline of his figure being clearly revealed by the light inside, was shot in the back. He fell to the ground, saying, "I am shot!" Some little time passed away before any physician saw him. At length Dr. Stringfellow was sent for, and the sheriff was removed to the hotel, into one of the rooms so lately fitted up, at the door of which a soldier stood on guard. Some physicians of Lawrence examined him that night and in the morning. The wound was between the right shoulder and spine. Though constantly groaning, Jones was able to turn himself in bed. Notwithstanding Gen. Whitfield's express to Missouri the next morning, with the intelligence that Jones was in a dying condition, he was removed to Franklin in the afternoon of the same day, accompanied by Gen. Whitfield and the friends who came with him, with an escort of dragoons. Gen. Whitfield declared it was not safe to remain in Lawrence; their lives were in peril; and he attempted to persuade the commissioners also to remove, upon the plea that Lawrence was an unsafe place to hold their sessions; that his witnesses could not come into town without risk of losing their lives. He did not hesitate to say, "The commission was at an end; they might as well return to Washington." The brave general stopped a few days at Franklin, then went to Lecompton, and finally returned to take his seat before the committee, positively asserting that "he did not leave Lawrence through fear."

Early in the afternoon of the day Jones was shot, a party of troops, who had been out in the Indian country, passed through town, and, having crossed the river, camped on the other shore. After the shooting, Lieut. McIntosh sent an express for them to return to Lawrence, which they did that night or the next morning.

The morning after the attack, our citizens called a meeting to take steps in regard to it. Speeches were made in reference to the whole matter, and the following resolutions, expressive of the sense of the meeting, were passed:

"Resolved, That the attempt made in our town, last evening, upon the life of S. J. Jones, Esq., while claiming to act as the sheriff of the county, was the isolated act of some malicious and evil-disposed individual, unexpected and unlooked for by our community, and unsustained by any portion of them.
"Resolved, That, in the opinion of this community, it was a cowardly and atrocious outrage upon Mr. Jones, and an insult and injury to the public sentiment and reputation of our town, and a crime deserving condign punishment.
"Resolved, That notwithstanding the unpleasant relation which existed between Mr. Jones and our citizens, if the attack could have been foreseen, or considered at all probable, we would have neglected no means to prevent or defeat it. We deeply sympathize with the wounded man, and will afford him all the aid and comfort in our power.
"Resolved, That we deeply regret that the perpetrator of this deed is unknown; and, if known to us, we would unhesitatingly expose and denounce him as the criminal.
"Resolved, That it is due to the reputation of our town, and loudly demanded by the deep and universal indignation which pervades our community, that the guilty author should, if possible, be sought out and surrendered to justice.
"Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed, whose duty it shall be to investigate the circumstances connected with this deplorable occurrence, and, if possible, to ferret out the guilty agent; and pledge ourselves that, although not responsible as a community, though not responsible for this act of a depraved individual, we will use our best efforts to show the world that we have no sympathy for crime in any shape, and prepared to treat the perpetrators with that stern justice which shall not stop to inquire whether they are friends or foes."

No sympathy was manifested for the cowardly act, and a committee was appointed to ferret out the assassin. Before the six prisoners were taken to Lecompton, efforts were made to arrest others of our citizens, in which they failed. Sam Salters acted as deputy sheriff. Some laughable incidents occurred, in consequence of these efforts.

This attempt to arrest our citizens for no crime but looking on, with hands in their pockets, when Jones calls upon them to assist him, -- the person he wishes to arrest being missing, -- is an outrage which arouses their indignation. They are not willing to be taken from their business, from their homes, to be imprisoned, or to recognize his authority in vexatious suits at law, by giving bail. Neither will they resist the United States government by an open resistance to the army and navy, which President Pierce says shall enforce these laws; a course, however, which the territorial authorities have earnestly and anxiously desired they should take. The only way then left to escape from such arrests was to keep out of sight of the troops; and this for several days was done most effectually.

Two young men, who had been stopping out of town for a day or two, came in one morning, thinking not to leave again, and were just flattering themselves of their present safety from molestation, when they saw the troops, with the notorious deputy, coming towards them. They quickly left all, and struck into the ravine west of the town; and, once in its friendly covert, they took different directions. The one whose course the troops followed, dropped his pistol as he ran, and, stopping to pick it up, he saw the deputy in advance of the troops, upon whom he was calling loudly to run. Mindful of the dignity of the United States uniform, the blue coats marched steadily on, not heeding his cry, and seeing the pistol again in the hand of the pursued, the sheriff seemed to regard the present as an opportune moment to take breath, and waited for them to come up. Whether the sight of the pistol may not have suggested such action, was but little doubtful. Be it as may, sufficient time was given by the delay for our friend to make good his escape, and in the intricacies of the ravines find a safe retreat.

The same day another of the fugitives was sitting on the side of the hill above us, and did not perceive the troops until they were just upon him. He immediately started for our house, the sheriff calling, "Stop, or I'll shoot you!" Quickening his pace, he replied, "Shoot then!" and was soon at the house. As he passed through the back room, whose doors were opposite, he said, "I want to leave my rifle here, for I can't run with it."

The troops were in sight; there was only time for me to ask, "Will they take rifles if they see any here?" and for him to reply, "Yes, the sheriff may order them to."

As the dragoons came so far down the hill that the house obstructed their vision of what was passing beyond, he slipped down the side hill north of us, and entered a little house, partly built, at the base. His wife, learning of his whereabouts, carried him his dinner, which he was leisurely enjoying, when the six prisoners, escorted by some eight or ten dragoons, passed by, on their way to Lecompton.

As soon as he left the house, we saw the troops, with Salters at their head, were fast coming, and E. and I stowed away the rifles, -- several being in the house, as the guard were again on their watch at night. I called to E., who was noting their progress then, and asked, "Are they really coming?"

"Yes, they have taken the road leading to the house."

"Will I have time to change my dress?" The question was prompted by a desire to appear in proper costume before such dignitaries.

She replied, "No; " but had scarcely pronounced the word, before she said, "They are not coming. Salters has turned his horse down the hill." Running to the window, there they were, -- President Pierce's army of subjugation, -- going into the prairies. Salters had concluded to postpone his call upon us until some other day.

The next morning, before all of us had eaten breakfast, some who had come in late, and spent the night, thought they could venture down street thus early, and one of them had started down the hill. The others looking out, already saw the troops on the prairie, about a mile distant. A tap on the window, and a look in the direction to which a friendly hand pointed, was sufficient to bring the youth back. Hastily crowding into the pockets of the two cold meat, bread, cake, and apples, for their dinner, should they be where no dinner could be had, they started in an opposite direction from the one they had proposed earlier. By taking a circuitous route, they reached another house, where their welcome was always sure.

Soon a gentleman came up on horseback. The movements of the troops could be seen so far from our house, that it was a good standing-point for observations. He had scarcely seated himself, before the dragoons, their sabres flashing in the sunlight, came prancing out of town, and took the road which led near his house. He rose hastily, saying, "I'll call again some other day. I must go and tell the boys, now."

Mounting his horse, he was soon dashing along at a wild rate. Horse and rider were down through the valley, and over the summit of the hill, a half mile distant, as the dragoons came into sight around the brow of the hill north of us. The hills are in such a position that they did not notice the swift horseman, and as he rode up to his own door, more than a mile away, we knew that the fugitives were safe.

We at all such times left our doors unlocked, so the guard could come in for luncheon, or a short nap, and often in the morning we found as many again had slept beneath the roof as we supposed there would be on retiring.

The family of one of the men so savagely hunted for, removed from town to a little cabin a mile or two out. On coming home one night from a retreat still further in the country, about eleven o'clock, thinking to see his family for a short time, as he approached the house he heard a horseman coming slowly, then a voice from the ravine said something to him, and they held a low conversation. His suspicions were at once aroused. Could they have learned where his family are, and were they looking for him? are the quick suggestions of these circumstances, and, heeding the voice of prudence, he took another route, without going to the house, and came to ours.

The night was dark, and very wet, the rainy season having fairly set in. I had left fire and light burning, and had just gone up stairs. Hearing the door open softly, I went down again, and so perfect was the disguise of this familiar friend, that, without recognizing him, I said, "Good-evening;" and was only sure of his identity, though I took the extended hand, when he said, "You don't know me?" The life of this friend would not have been one moment safe had he fallen into the hands of the foe. They swore vengeance upon him hourly, and it was decided that, as his life was precious, not only to his family and friends, but to the free-state cause, he risked too much by remaining here, and he must leave. He had had several narrow escapes; at one time, driving near a house, and dismounting, while the enemy were in hot pursuit, he taking a footpath into a ravine close by, while a friend near put spurs to his horse, outstripped the enemy, and effectually misled them.

The house of Mr. Speer had been repeatedly searched for him. Sam. Salters went again with some dragoons, a few days since, and entreated them that they would do the despicable work for him. They refused to do so, as it was beyond the province of their duties. So, striking around with a hammer, which he picked up, to show his valor, he at last declared, "he would go in," and, opening the door, was greeted by a dish of hot water in his face.

Mrs. Speer then said, "I have respect for the United States troops. You can search the house, but, as for this puke of a Missourian he shall not come in." The troops enjoyed this unceremonious salutation, given by the Ohio lady to the brave official.

Over at the Wakarusa, something like the following colloquy passed between the troops and Salters. They had approached a house where Salters was hoping to find one of the rescuers. Salters said to them, pointing to different localities, "You stand at those points." The design evidently was to intercept any one who might attempt to pass from the house.

The dragoons replied, "It is not our business to arrest citizens."

With oaths, the sheriff again told them to take the places designated; but their reply, "We are here to protect you, and how can we do it, if we are stationed so far away?" mollified his anger somewhat, as he remembered he had not had his life insured.

His courage, too, was exemplified by an attempted arrest of one of the rescuers last winter. He called at the house of one of the men on the Wakarusa, against whom he had a process, and Mrs. A. opened the door. Salters inquired, "Where is Mr. A.?"

She knew the sheriff by sight, and was determined he should not see Mr. A., and said, very calmly, "He is in the house."

"I want to see him."

"What do you want to see him for?"

"I have business with him."

"Well, you can't come in."

Some other like conversation followed, when Salters turned away to report that Mrs. A. had a pistol in her hand, and he had been in danger of being shot. When he knocked, Mrs. A. was putting wood in the stove, and went to the door with a little stick in her hand. Thus are our people continually harassed at the instigation of the administration. For several days the troops were about, attempting to find some one to assist the sheriff in arresting; although, in the manliness of their hearts, they loathed such service, and sympathized in the expression of one of them, on their first arrival at Lawrence, "We have never been ashamed of the United States service until now. We never were in such vile work before." Indignation fires the hearts of many of our people. The feeling is so strong, that continual efforts, on the part of the leading men, are necessary to restrain the men from resistance, and the danger is imminent that some one, pressed beyond the verge of human endurance, may, in an unguarded hour, yield to his impulses, and a hasty but ill-judged resistance bring on us the horrors of civil war.

Called, a few days since, upon a friend, who was living in a house, which was scarcely a shelter from the storms, and whose husband had been trying to make it more comfortable by his own efforts, when he was driven away by these villains, under the cover of law. The lady had been telling me, how, amid discouragements, this house had been erected; how she had been hoping to have it finished, so the rains would not beat in; and, just as the lumber was sawed, her husband, leaving her ill, had to flee out into the country.

She said, that morning she placed the rifle in the window, and told a young girl in the family, if she saw Salters coming, to let her know, and she would shoot him before he reached the house. By the determination of her countenance, I have no doubt she would have carried the resolution into effect. Yet, naturally, she was not a bold woman, but one of a timid, sensitive nature, to whom the change from the refinements and ease of city life to pioneer privations was enough to bear.

While I was there the husband came in, saying, as he sat down his rifle, and wiped the moisture from his brow, "I will not run again."

"But what will you do?" was the simultaneous query of us both. "I will protect myself," was the bold, defiant reply.

"And resist the troops?"

"Yes, I will fight anybody. If I live under a government that does not protect me, then I will protect myself, Frank Pierce or no Frank Pierce."

This reveals the state of feeling as well as mere words can. It is intense, and every hour deepens it.

No clue has been found to the intended murderer of Jones. All efforts in that direction have proved futile. The safety of all our people demands that perpetrators of such deeds should be brought to justice. Many feared, at first, that the act was committed by some free-state man, who had been goaded on to vengeance by wrongs unparalleled under forms of law, which leave the wrong-doer to go unwhipt of justice, and oppress innocent and peaceable men. The impression prevailing now, in reference to the attempted assassination of Jones, is, that some fellow-gambler sought his life, and, by making the blow upon him in Lawrence, thought to screen himself, and fasten the odium of the dastardly act upon this oppressed people. The suggestion, too, made some, that, as the killing of a free-state man in the fall proved a failure in causing a war of extermination, now the pro-slavery ranks must furnish a victim, that the crusade may meet with success, has some show of reason.

Reports are fast circulating through Missouri that Jones is dead, with handbills, of flaming character, calling upon them to the rescue, and their papers are full of the most vile fabrications, whole columns devoted to sentiments like the following: "Reeder and Robinson were the aiders and abettors in the deed, and, at the time, were in some gully behind the town, setting on their accomplices." And some of the papers are exceedingly bitter in their denunciations of the commissioners; all of which looks like exciting the people to another invasion.

The only thing which has been learned, in reference to the attack upon Jones, is the following. Early on the evening of the twenty-third, two men riding upon horseback, one very tall, and the other very short, stopped at a house about a mile from Lawrence, and not far from the Lecompton road. Their first question was, "Is Jones in Lawrence?"

The gentleman replied, "I believe he is."

The taller man then said, "I am a pro-slavery man, but Jones shall never leave town alive."

They left immediately, taking the direction towards Lawrence. A little time after, these men, marked by the differences in their stature, fastened their horses in front of a provision store in Lawrence, and walked hastily down the street towards the tents of the soldiers. Soon after, the firing was heard, and they, quickly mounting their horses, drove off furiously. Who they were has never been ascertained, and they were strangers to the few who noticed them.

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