Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life by Sara Robinson



EVERY succeeding day's fresh enormities clearly show the base intention of the pro-slavery men. Major Richardson, Buford, Donaldson, and others, who are foremost in this cruel war upon the free-state men, often dined at the hotel in Kansas city. The threats of Buford's men against him were neither few nor mild. Many of them, without hesitation, said "they would shoot him the first chance they could get," and he at last went down the river. His men came in, every day, worn out and sick. A free-state man, pitying the utter wretchedness of one of them, took care of him a few days, and sent him down the river. I saw him frequently carrying some little nourishment from the hotel to the store where the sick man was. A gentleman in from Chicago reported help near. He brought letters from well-known friends of Kansas. The rumor spread abroad. Its soothing effect upon the overwrought passions of the border men could not escape notice. Their anxiety in the matter was intense. One of them, a native of Burlington, Vt., of fine family, but who has been connected with a rabid pro-slavery paper here, though now apparently leaning to the other side of the question, had his seat next me at the table. This gentleman said to me, "It is said two thousand men are coming from Chicago; but I think the trouble is confined here; it reaches but a little distance." The reply made was, "You cannot have been East lately, for there is intense feeling throughout the North, and they will not be backward in sending many times that number, if emergencies require it." A report of five hundred men coming from Wisconsin also had a wonderfully subduing effect upon the Leavenworth law-and-order men, and soon after Col. Sumner disbanded their Vigilance Committee. For many days the ferry-boat had been plying busily backwards and forth across the river, bringing over the Clay County boys. As they landed but a few rods below the house, and I saw their besotted, rough, unintelligent faces, I wondered less at the barbarities we heard daily. The intellectual was blotted out, the animal, the sensual part of human nature alone remaining, rendering them fit instruments, in the hands of a corrupt administration, in aiding and abetting the interests of the slave power. They came back in two days, and went on the boat quietly, no yells resounding through the grand old woods on the further shore, as when they came over. Col. Sumner had at last driven them out. There were Wyandots returning drunk, who yelled in front of the hotel, and brandished their pistols, daring one another to fight. One of my husband's guard at Westport was at the hotel, and desired to see me. He seemed to be a man of kind heart, and evidently thought he was conferring a favor by telling me how much "the guard thought of Gov. Robinson; that he was a gentleman, and they treated him as such; that Capt. Martin was very much attached to him, and declared no injury should come to the governor in which he did not share." As we were talking familiarly, I asked him "how it happened that Gov. Shannon was so long in sending for my husband." He said, "I suppose they had to wait for papers to be made out." "Then they found there was no indictment when we left Lawrence?" And he was forced to say there was none at that time. He was very anxious to get to Lecompton, but pretended to think the people of Lawrence would attack him if he attempted to pass there, and, if I would go with him, he would protect me by their camps, while my presence would be a safeguard for him at Lawrence. The mutual advantages of the arrangement did not strike me so forcibly as him, and I preferred to stay longer here to getting into a worse place. Gov. Shannon came to Kansas city on the 9th. It was known that he met a large party of Georgians at Westport, just arrived; and the streets were full of the noisy, drunken crowd. He stated his intention to go down the river. Poor man! he feared for his own safety. He was despised by both parties, and a curse to himself. As a man who had lost his cattle was speaking to the governor, trying to get some redress, it was amusing to watch the expression of his face. There was a look of utter weariness, of inability to do anything, of incapacity to know what to do. Instead of going down the river, he took the first boat to Fort Leavenworth, and the next day sent a sealed despatch to the President. Gov. Shannon was frightened, and, as he repeated some things about the invasion to Col. Sumner, the colonel grew angry, and talked plainly to the governor, telling him "he would have driven out the ruffians long ago, had he had the power, and now he had, he would drive them over the state line, or to h--ll." The colonel, with Shannon under his wing, started off with another company of dragoons, three brass six-pound field-pieces, and a quantity of stores. Col. Sumner was very indignant at the Osawattomie affair.

The investigating committee had also arrived on the 9th, having finished their laborious work in the territory, and their last sittings at Leavenworth and Westport being in the midst of war, arrests of their clerks, their witnesses, and in a general confusion. Every day at Westport armed bands of infuriated, drunken men, were marshalled in the streets. Their threats were open and violent against the committee. Whitfield had left his position before the committee to carry fire and sword into the territory. The last afternoon there was an effort made to create a disturbance, but the firmness of the majority of the committee effectually quelled it.

The people of Westport soon began to grow weary of the troublesome men whom they had invited into their midst. Not content with robbing free-state people, the Westport people said, "No man was sure, when he hastened his horse and went into a store, that he would find it on his return." Such an experience was a little troublesome, so they called a meeting to express their disapprobation of this invasion into the territory, to state that they had no sympathy with it. But the insincerity of the movement was expressed by the total failure of the meeting, only six persons remaining until its close. They probably forgot that at the same time a call was in all the papers, signed by one of the most influential citizens of Westport, for "provisions and horses to carry on the war." A few days after, another meeting was called, and a resolution was passed to the effect that they had taken no part in this invasion upon the territory, in the outrages, such as murder, hanging, etc. A man, who shot Mr. Cantrell, voted for this resolution. Another man, more honest at least, arose and said he was of a party which had gone through a mock hanging; but the resolution passed.

Business was dead at Kansas city. For the few last days I was there nothing was stirring where before, for the press of teams, a person could pass with the greatest difficulty; scarcely any one could be seen. The warehouse men had received word from Lawrence that all freights in their houses, consigned to merchants there, must be shipped to Leavenworth. This made them anxious, for through their pockets their feelings had been reached. They said they would call meetings expressive also of their disapprobation; but they were assured the move was too late; that it would not be regarded as sincere; that eastern capital was timid cautious; that it would not be convinced; that money, which would have come in here, would go where life and property are safe; that eastern trade would leave the Missouri river for a northern route.

One man, who brought the governor's proclamation down to Westport and Kansas city, was on the way, through the border town, to raise more men for the war. Wm. Donaldson, several days after, was at Independence, endeavoring to induce men to go up and attack Topeka. The following letter from Independence states the fact:

"INDEPENDENCE, Mo., Thursday, June 12, 1856.
"POSTMASTER, LAWRENCE, K. T.: There were some men here yesterday trying to get men to go with them to the territory, for the purpose of going to Topeka to burn it up. Now, for God's sake, send an express immediately to that place, and get the people there to send for the United States troops to protect them. One of the men that were here was named William Donaldson (brother of Postscript D.), and he said that Shannon had left the territory and gone home leaving Secretary Woodson as acting governor, and that he would let the pro-slavery party do as they pleased, and that now was the time to burn out, kill and drive every free-state man from the territory.
"I am a pro-slavery man myself, but I want things done honorably, and give you the warning now. Do not delay, for they will be in Topeka in a very few days. Respectfully,"
            "JAMES BROWN.
"P. S. -- This is not my proper name, but what is said is true."

Several women, whose lives had been passed amid the influences of slavery, were a novel study. One who had boarded in the hotel, a lady in manner, seemed anxious to know all that was transpiring in and round the house, and to gain such knowledge did not hesitate to listen at the doors of other people's rooms. One evening, three several times she was found standing in the dark passage-way near a room, where several of the free-state people were chatting socially.

Another, a young girlish thing, full of quick wit and ready repartee, though as uncultivated as the unhewn rock, occasioned us many a laugh. She was a native of this far west, and it seemed to be as natural for her to swear as to breathe. Almost every sentence, besides the oath, either began or finished with the assertion "I am real border ruffian." She talked a good deal of a proposed visit to her husband's parents in Vermont, and wondered "what they would say when they saw a live border ruffian."

There was another person, whose languid airs and affected manner of speech would entitle her, in the great world of fashion, to the name of lady. The subject of temperance lectures being one day incidentally introduced, she said, "It was not because her husband was a seller of liquors that she never attended such lectures, but where she had lived it had not been considered respectable for ladies to attend them." She concluded by saying "that in these days of isms she supposed some would attend them."

There was another woman, native-born, who came to the house, occasionally, at the time it was passing into new hands. She owned one of the colored "boys," who was hired in the hotel. She came to make some arrangement with the new proprietor. She was a maiden lady, considerably on the down-hill side of life, large, portly, with most expressionless face, but she had "raised" the "boy," and she "wanted him treated kindly." She said, "she thought she would let him have what wages he made through the summer." When the proprietor, quite harshly, said, "it did not do to treat negroes well," she said "she had never struck the boy a blow in her life, an she would have him well treated; he could stay a month, and if he did not like he could leave."

In a conversation with a little daughter of the former proprietor, she said, "Where are you from?"


"What county is that in?"

"Massachusetts is a state," timidly replied the sensitive girl, not liking to show any superiority of knowledge.

"Yes, I know that; but what county is it in?"

There seemed to be a confusion of ideas. She knew she lived in Jackson County, and to her, probably, that comprised all Missouri. As far as native intelligence went, the colored boy was her superior, and she evidently regarded him with the same affection she would a white boy whom she had reared.

A most forcible display of the evil passions aroused and strengthened by the system of slavery, and the effect which absolute power over one's fellow-creature has upon the character, was made one day at dinner. A stranger unfortunately had taken the seat which the boarder usually occupied. He came late to his meal, and saw the seat was occupied, and, as he stood in the doorway, looking up and down the table, turning his head this way and that in most furious manner, there was in his face scarcely one expression of the "human face divine." He was an intemperate man, and now, when his passions were aroused, his appearance suggested wild animals, a whole menagerie. Seeing his strange actions and looks, we supposed he was looking for some one at the table, against whom such wrath had concentrated, but he finally turned and told the proprietor, "he should leave the house before the sun-setting, and he would have it torn down; not another night should it stand." Thus he raved all that afternoon, in the house and out of the house, endeavoring to gather a crowd; but toward evening another dram gave him a quietus for the night and the next day, and the matter ended.

It was at last decided by Col. Sumner, that, for the present, he would keep the prisoners at Lecompton, as so many of his forces must be drawn away from the fort. It was impossible to get to Lawrence by way of Westport, and all travellers thither must go up the river to Leavenworth, and across the Delaware Reserve. The boats were getting scarce. One came up heavily loaded with Mormons; every place on the upper deck was crowded with large emigrant-wagons, and the living freight packed in at every corner. Dirt and filth were visible, and the looks of these women, "sealed" to the Mormon faith and their tyrannical husbands, was one of utter misery. About the same time, one of the down boats carried, as passengers, two of the Mormon elders on their way to Washington, on business relating to the admission of Utah as a state. Several ladies on board were able to distinguish them, among the crowd, from their coarse, brutal looks.

At last the Keystone came, and, on the evening of the 13th, in company with a gentleman and lady from Massachusetts, whose intelligence and pleasing ways had contributed much to the comfort of my detention in Kansas city, I left for Leavenworth, and they for a summer stay at Council Bluffs.

On the boat we overheard a conversation between a Kentucky lady and a lady from Missouri. The former said,

"They are having exciting times in Kansas!"

"Yes; a great many have gone over from the border counties."

"Well, Kansas will be a free state in the end. The Yankees have determined upon it, and when they have determined upon a thing, they have so much more energy than the Southerners, they will accomplish it."

The idea did not seem to please the Missouri lady, but she replied, "If I lived in Kansas, I would want it a free state; but to live in Missouri, I want it a slave state."

"We had some slaves in Kentucky, but we preferred to come to Kansas, because we know property is more valuable in a free state, and its institutions are more desirable. Many people in Kentucky are of the same mind."

The rudder of the boat was slightly damaged by running into the bank in the fog of the morning, and, becoming more dense every moment, it was impossible to keep the boat under way. Hence, when we reached Leavenworth, the stage had gone to Lawrence. The next day was Sunday, and it rained heavily, and all the morning of Monday , but an acquaintance was over from Lawrence, and "if I would risk getting a drenching," he said, "we would start." I was enough of a water-fowl not to mind rain, and, to the surprise of the peasant Kentucky family with whom I stopped I appeared all ready for a drive when the little blue bit of sky was continually varying form the size of one's hand to that of a yard square, and the sun was playing "hide-and-seek" with the dark clouds. Save the driving out of our way at one time, and the slippery state of the roads, we had a pleasant ride through the beautiful Delaware country. It needs only some pleasant houses, grouped among the clumps of trees, to give it the look of a long-settled country.

Leavenworth, situated on the Missouri, has the finest landing for many miles. The site of the town is broken with small hills, and some fine swells in the distance invite residences. Tasteful hands prepared the town-site, and left many trees and shrubs standing. The advantage Leavenworth has over the other settlements, in procuring pine lumber directly from St. Louis, shows itself in the good-sized dwellings built with porticos and piazzas, and yards neatly fenced. There are, at present, no large public buildings. Thirty stores stand near the levee, and have done a large business. The present state of things in the territory has produced a general depression in trade, and none feel it more than people at Leavenworth. The majority of the settlers are free-state people, mostly from Pennsylvania. Owing to its nearness to Missouri, and ease of access to the border men, they have come over in crowds, and, uniting with the few "fire-eaters" in and around Leavenworth, have controlled everything, making mob-law the rule. Leavenworth must, unavoidably, be a large commercial point in the West, and now holds the first rank in size in the territory.

As the evening was fast coming, we emerged from the heavy timber on the north bank of the Kansas, and waited for the ferry-boat on the other side of the river.

Desolation sat in the despoiled city; the one broken wall of the hotel was yet standing; there was no home on Mt. Oread; plunder and fire had wrought the ruin there, and the destructiveness of the mob had only been satiated by the girdling of every tree transplanted there.

Still there was a home-feeling in getting back to Lawrence, notwithstanding my husband was in prison and myself homeless. And most heartily were the glad assurances of welcome and interest, from many friends clustered around, reciprocated.

There was a new excitement in Lawrence. A man, by the name of Hopkins, had been shot the evening before. He was found dead in the house of a new comer, named Haney. The circumstances seemed to prove that, in attempting to rid the world of a monster who had boasted of having killed three men and four Indians, he was himself shot. The immediate cause of the feeling against Haney was, his having acted as deputy sheriff of Douglas County in the arrest of David Evans, familiarly known as "Buckskin." This Evans was the man who effectually cowed the pro-slavery men, and especially the Hungarian doctor, in the case of the free black man, the summer before. Evans, being a Missourian, and a free-state man, was exposed, as all other free-state men coming from slave states are, to the intense bitterness of the border ruffians. The dragoon government was set in motion. Haney, with fourteen dragoons, stopped and inquired for "Dave." He being the one accosted, and suspecting some foul play, told them he was "round there." As they went to look for him, "Dave" was fast nearing the ravine; but they espied him, and with a loud halloo, hastened after him, while Haney shouted, "Shoot him! shoot him! shoot the d---d rascal!" The officer in command cried, "Don't shoot," but at the cry, "shoot him," Dave had stopped. Haney demanded his arms, but Evans, disdaining to notice him, said to the officer of the dragoons, stepping near him, "I can't give my pistol to that d--d rascal, but if you want it, captain, here it is." Lecompton was the destination of the prisoner, and he rode by the side of the officer, declaring, "he would not keep company with the d--d sneaking scoundrel." Haney showed no writ and the threat, "I'll subdue you," was carried out by the U. S. dragoons. Evans was taken to Lecompton, and put in chains, like a felon.

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