Beecher Rifle Company.Early in the fall of 1855, two residents of New Haven, Conn., a Mr. Russell and a Mr. English, commenced enlisting a party of northern men to go to Kansas to settle and help make it a free state. Winter set in before the company could be organized and the project was abandoned until the following spring. On Feb. 7, 1856. Charles B. Lines, of New Haven, announced at a public meeting that he was making preparations for carrying out the proposed plan. The next day men began enlisting and in less than a week 85 names were subscribed, which was increased to 90 by March 7. Mr. Lines was made president of the colony for the first year. A few days before starting far Kansas a meeting of the colonists and other New Haven citizens was held in the North church, where Rev. Henry Ward Beechr delivered a stirring address. At the conclusion of this address Mr. Lines, as president of the new colony gave a short talk, explaining the origin, aim and purpose of the company, and reminding the audience that no provision had yet been made for furnishing the colonists with weapons, and explaining why there was a necessity for calling upon the public to arm them. Prof. Benjamin Silliman, president of Yale College, was the first one to respond to the appeal, heading a subscription list for one Sharp's rifle. Similar subscriptions then came fast. Rev. Mr. Dutton, pastor of the church in which the meeting was being held, then made a statement that Deacon Harvey Hale of his church was a member of the proposed colony, and as his pastor he desired to present him a Bible and a Sharp's rifle. Beecher then made another ringing talk, pledging 25 rifles from his congregation if a like number was raised in New Haven. The meeting closed with 27 rifles assured to the colony. On the evening of March 31 a farewell meeting to the colonists was held, in which a letter from Mr. Beecher to Mr. Lines was read, in which Beecher presented a number of Bibles in the name of one of his parishioners and 25 Sharp's rifles in behalf of several others. At the close of the meeting the members of the colony were escorted to the boat by the Elm City Guards and the Croton Engine Co. No. 1.
A coöperative organization was formed while on the way west, and on their arrival at St. Louis such garden and other tools as were needed were secured and brought with them on the steamboat Clara to Kansas City, where John J. Walter, E. Dwight Street, T. C. P. Hyde, Amos A. Cottrell and Walter Webb were chosen to push on ahead in search for a suitable location. The remainder of the colonists, having secured wagons and ox teams, pushed on, reaching Lawrence the second day, where they remained for two or three days, being rejoined while here by those who had been seeking a location. The site of Wabaunsee being reported favorably to the colonists, the selection was ratified and on April 28, 1856, the colony reached its destination. Of the original number who started from New Haven, twenty never reached Kansas at all, and a number of others who did come, from some reason or other, left shortly after coming. Forty-one of the original number stuck it out and formed the nucleus of the rifle company that was soon formed under the name of the "Prairie Guards." William Mitchell was chosen captain of the company, which embraced the members of the colony, who were supplied with Sharp's rifles, and some of the surrounding settlers, the organization numbering about 60 men. This rifle company saw active service in Kansas shortly after coming to the territory, volunteering to assist in the defense of Lawrence from an attack of border ruffians from Missouri. A few of the original colonists are living in 1911, but the good they accomplished will live after them.Pages 168-169 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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