1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 24

CHAPTER XXIV

THE BEGINNINGS OF DISORDER

It was to be expected that in the settlement of Kansas Territory, there would be disputes and troubles between the pioneers, even in the absence of the paramount question of slavery. But the slavery issue furnished a source of agitation, discussion and rancorous controversy, which was bound to result in personal conflicts. The course of the Missourians made it inevitable that there would be trouble between Pro-Slavery and Free-State communities and that outrages would be perpetrated on those standing for a free State.

The first homicide to occur in the Territory where the issue of slavery was in any wise involved, occurred on the southeast quarter of section twelve (12), township thirteen (13), range nineteen (19) in what is now Douglas County. On the 29th day of November, 1854, the day of the Territorial election for Delegate to Congress, a party of Free-State men were driving out from the townsite of Lawrence. There were five men in the wagon, among them Lucius Kibbee. They saw four men in the road in advance of them, one riding a mule and three were walking. Two of these men were Henry Davis and J. W. Rollins, Missourians, who probably had claims in that vicinity. The men in the wagon observed one of these Missourians climb to the roof of a small cabin erected by a pioneer settler. The roof was of thatching, probably of prairie grass. Smoke was soon seen rising from this roof, and the men were seen to be tearing the house down as it burned. When the wagon came up to the house, Kibbee, who was driving the wagon, asked Rollins, who was mounted on the mule and who had set fire to the house, why he did it. Rollins drew a revolver and asked Kibbee what business it was of his, saying he would take him from the wagon at the Wakarusa ford and carve him up. Kibbee said he would report him to the civil law. Davis then came up to within fifty yards of the wagon, and exclaimed, "You will report us," using an oath. "I will report you to hell." Stepping back five or six feet he drew a large knife, of that variety known as the Arkansas Toothpick, and struck at Kibbee, missing him by but a few inches. Kibbee told him to go away, that he wanted nothing to do with him. Davis then said he would take Kibbee at the ford and carve him - "yes G__d__n your soul, I will carve you like beef." He then took hold of the wagon and attempted to reach Mr. Kibbee, striking at him twice, saying he would cut his d__d heart out. Kibbee, fearing that he would be killed, drew a revolver and fired at Davis. Kibbee's pistol was loaded with eight small shot. They hit Davis in the stomach. Davis held to the wagon an instant, walked a little way, then fell and expired. A few days after the killing, Kibbee delivered himself up, and after a hearing before Judge Elmore, was committed for trial for murder in the first degree. On the 27th day of December, he was brought before Chief Justice Lecompte on a writ of Habeas Corpus. John Speer, editor of the Kansas Tribune, at Lawrence, attended the trial and reported the testimony offered, which was published in the issue of the Kansas Free State of January 3, 1855.

As showing the intolerance of the people of Western Missouri and their feeling in the matter of the establishment of slavery in Kansas, it is well to mention the destruction of the Parkville Luminary, at Parkville, in Platte County, Missouri, some ten miles above the mouth of the Kansas River. The town was laid out by Colonel George W. Park, a very enterprising citizen. He later organized the Parkville and Grand River Railroad Company, which constructed a railroad from Kansas City to Cameron, Missouri. He also founded Parkville College, one of the best educational institutions in Western Missouri. He had also established the Luminary. He criticised and condemned in mild terms, the actions of the Missouri people in going into Kansas to vote on the 30th of March. It was said that the destruction of the newspaper and the outrages on the proprietors were the result of orders given by Senator Atchison. The best account of this outrage was published in the Kansas Herald of April 20, 1855, which is here given.

Inasmuch as all manner of reports have been rife in our city of the destruction of the office and material of the Parkville Luminary, alias Dog Star, by a number of Missourians, we have taken especial pains to learn the facts of the case. The following telegraphic dispatch, which has been kindly furnished by a friend of ours in Weston, we transfer to our columns for the benefit of our readers:

PARKVILLE, PLATTE CO., Mo., APRII, 14, 1855.

"A large number of the citizens of Platte County assembled here today; sent a committee to Messrs. Parks & Patterson, informing them that at 12 o'clock they would visit their office. Precisely at 12, the crowd commenced pulling down the Luminary press, and forming a line, with a man carrying a pole at the head, with the word 'Luminary' written on the top, over which waved the hemp flag, they marched to the river, where the press was deposited. Resolutions were read to the editors, Messrs. Parks & Patterson, requiring them to leave the place immediately. Patterson required to leave in three days, and Parks allowed three weeks to wind up his business. If they do not comply with the resolutions, they were promised a coat of tar and feathers, and, after being rode through the place on a rail, consigned to the Missouri River! Excitement great.

"The Luminary was destroyed by the Missourians in retribution for a vile, false and unjust charge made against them through its columns - speaking of the result of the late Territorial election. We quote from its obnoxious article:

"'There is virtually no law in Kansas, and no security for life and property, save in the sense of honor and justice cherished by every true pioneer. This may save the country from bloodshed; but the Government is held up to ridicule and contempt, and its authority disregarded - Judges of election have been displaced and others appointed; the polls have, in some instances, been guarded with pistols and bowie-knives, and some of those elected are going to the Governor, swearing that, if he does not give a certificate of election immediately, they will 'cut his throat from ear to ear.' Is the flag of our country to be no longer protected? Or are individuals or companies to declare we will, and it must be so, without regard to law? Is this what the authors of the Nebraska-Kansas bill meant by Squatter Sovereignty?'"

"Every one knows that the polls in no district throughout our Territory were guarded with pistols and bowie-knives, but on the contrary, every one - Pro-slavery, Abolitionist and Free-soiler - was allowed to vote without molestation. The returns of the election clearly prove the Dog-Star's charges to be unfounded. As to the threat that the Luminary says was made the Governor, in case of his refusal to grant certificates of election, we have only to say, it is a palpable lie, and we venture to say that Gov. Reeder would, if asked, give it his most unqualified denial. We know of no language which will more fully describe the iniquity, falsity and injustice of the charges embodied in the Luminary's editorial, than a passage in Lucy Stone's denunciation of the Fugitive Slave Law - "An act so black that no language can describe its blackness."

"Will you leave Parkville, gentlemen, or take the tar and feathers?"

In Leavenworth feeling ran high. The famous Salt Creek Valley resolutions were adopted at Riveley's store in that valley. There were various controversies concerning claims among the settlers in that vicinity. The Salt Creek Valley resolutions were endorsed on the 29th of September, 1854, at Leavenworth. On the 4th of the following November, another meeting was held in Leavenworth for the purpose of requiring all persons who had claims in the reservation of the Delaware Indians to immediately occupy them in person or by tenant. At that meeting a Delaware Squatter's Association was organized. On the 2d of December, 1854, a meeting was held endorsing everything that had been done, and providing a court for the trial of disputes arising out of the conflicting claims of the squatters. Malcolm Clark was the first marshal of the organization. He was a member of the Leavenworth Town Company, and a man of energy - a man of enterprise. In the spring of 1855 there was a large emigration into Kansas from the free States. They found it difficult to secure claims in the vicinity of Leavenworth. They complained that Squatter's Associations were holding and protecting claims for non-residents; these non-residents were, of course. Missourians. The Indian title to the land had not been extinguished, and legally no one had a right to go on the Delaware land and stake out a claim. Many of the claims were indirectly in the hands of speculators, who, for a consideration, would turn them over to settlers. There was some opposition to the manner in which the Leavenworth Town Company had secured title to the townsite.

On the 30th of April, 1855, there was a meeting under the "Old Elm Tree" at the corner of Cherokee Street and the Levee, in Leavenworth City. There was considerable excitement at the meeting. Clark was active at this meeting. Cole McCrea lived south of Leavenworth, where the National Military Home was later established. He asked a question of the chairman of the meeting, John Wilson, of Missouri, and Clark answered that McCrea was not a "Delaware Squatter" and not interested in the matter under discussion. It appears that McCrea had been angered by the address of Wilson upon taking the chair, which is reported to have been a sort of blackguard harangue against Free-State men. McCrea was called on to address the meeting. He started to go to the speakers stand, but hearing threats that he would probably get his friends into trouble, he retired to the back part of the crowd. The question immediately under consideration was an extension of the time for making settlement upon the Delaware lands. Wilson had said that was the only means of embarrassing emigrants from the "d__d abolition North and East. " When this question was put to a vote, two-thirds of the meeting voted against the extension, but the Chairman decided that the vote for extension had been carried. On the announcement of this result, McCrea exclaimed to a Mr. Ames who was standing near, "what a contemptible fraud." Clark happened to be standing near and overheard what McCrea said. He turned to McCrea and called him a vile name threatening to kill him, and rushing at him. McCrea retired some thirty feet from the crowd, but Clark did not give up the pursuit. He started upon him at full speed, holding a two by four scantling. He came up with McCrea in the distance of about one hundred feet and struck him with the scantling. McCrea reeled to the right, but did not fall. He drew his revolver, turned about and shot Clark. Green Todd was also chasing McCrea, trying to shoot him, but was prevented by fear of hitting Clark. When Clark fell, Todd shot at McCrea but the shot only cut the sleeve of his coat. At this McCrea turned, raised his revolver to stop the pursuit, but did not attempt to fire. He then lowered his pistol and dodged behind the corner of a building. He was pursued by three other members of the crowd who went around the opposite side of the building, one of whom had a Colt's revolver drawn, the other two armed with stones. McCrea jumped over the bank of the river, into which he waded a short distance. The pursuer with the revolver continuously fired upon him, and those with the stones were attempting to kill him. McCrea was accompanied by his dog which was trying to help him out of the water. John G. Henderson leaped down the bank and assisted McCrea out. He found that McCrea had been wounded in the face as he came to the surface after having fallen into the river. His tongue was shot through and his teeth shattered. His breast was bruised and his collar-bone broken by the stones thrown at him. Clark had died in five minutes after being shot. This increased the excitement. A rope was secured and the crowd became a mob. McCrea was saved from hanging by Samuel D. Pitcher, who suddenly appeared mounted in company with another man. Both were well armed. Pitcher ordered the driver of a government ambulance to go forward and take McCrea on board, which he did. MeCrea was then driven rapidly to Fort Leavenworth, while Pitcher and his companion kept the crowd back with drawn revolvers. McCrea was imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth several months, when he escaped and left the Territory. He returned after the Civil War. He was never indicted for the killing of Clark, nor in any way prosecuted for it. The body of Clark was taken to his old home at Weston for burial. The matter was given a political turn and the account of the affair appeared in the Leavenworth Herald, May 4, 1855, under the following head.

A FOUL AND DIABOLICAL MURDER

A Useful Man has fallen by the hands of a Villain

In discussing the affair, the Herald said:

We were not present at the meeting, and consequently did not witness this sad and horrible occurrence, but when we heard the report of pistols and saw the rapid flight of the murderer, we hastened to the spot, and never shall we forget the scene there presented. Our very heart sickens, our very blood chills in our veins, when we recall the scene to our memory. We think we see before us the body of the dying man struggling and writhing in the agonies of death. We think we hear his dying cry ringing in our ears. We think we behold the ruthless monster McCrea standing up confronting us with that same hideous and malignant scowl which his countenance bore after the perpetration of this hellish deed. The murderer is now incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, and God grant that the fiend whose murderous hands committed the foul and atrocious crime - the wretch whose hands are steeped in blood - be made to suffer condign retribution. The vile monster McCrea shall meet the just penalty of the law. He shall be hung by a rope of HEMP. This shall be his reward; but no, we leave his fate unpredicted, for it needs no sibyl's prescience to divine that it must be, and will be, as dark as his foul crime.

Vigilance Committee Formed

The organization of a Vigilance Committee grew out of the killing of Malcolm Clark. The meeting at which Clark was killed had been held at two o'clock on the 30th of April. That night there was a large meeting called in Leavenworth, the account of which is taken from the same number of the Leavenworth Herald containing the account of the Clark-McCrea affair, as follows:

At a meeting of the citizens of Leavenworth and vicinity, held on the evening of the 30th of April, for the purpose of taking some action in regard to one William Phillips, who is reported to have been accessory to the murder of Malcolm Clark, D. J. Johnson was called to the chair, and Joseph L. McAleer chosen Secretary.

On motion, the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted:

WHEREAS, BY the facts elicited on the Coroner's inquest, held over the body of Malcolm Clark, as well as from other circumstances that have come to our knowledge, it appears that William Phillips was accessory to the murder of one of our most respected citizens; and, whereas, the conduct of said Phillips heretofore has fully demonstrated his unworthiness, as a citizen or a gentleman; therefore,

Resolved, That in accordance with the expressed desire of the indignation meeting tonight, William Phillips, of Leavenworth, be ordered to leave this Territory by 2 o'clock Thursday evening next; and that a committee of ten be appointed to notify him instanter of the requisition of this meeting.

Resolved, That the notice be written and signed by the committee, who shall proceed immediately after adjournment to the residence of William Phillips and deliver it to himself in person.

Resolved, That the course to be pursued in regard to other Abolitionists, and to the other matters of importance be left to the decision of the meeting of citizens to be held next Thursday.

The committee to notify Mr. Phillips of the action of the meeting was composed of Jarrett Todd, John C. Posey, N. B. Brooks, William C. Berry, Thomas C. Hughes, H. Rives Pollard, Joseph L. McAleer, John H. McBride, James M. Lyle and A. Payne. The meeting then adjourned to meet on Thursday, the 3d of May, and the account of the meeting as published was signed by D. J. Johnson, Chairman, and James M. Lyle, Secretary. The committee appointed to notify Mr. Phillips to leave the Territory acted at once. A notice was written out and signed by each member as follows:

LEAVENWORTH, APRIL 30, 1855.

WILLIAM PHILLIPS:

Sir: At a meeting of the citizens of Leavenworth and vicinity, we, the undersigned, were appointed a committee to inform you that they have unanimously determined that you must leave the Territory by 2 o'clock Thursday next. Take due notice thereof and act accordingly.

(Signed by the Committee.)

Lynch law was inaugurated by the adjourned meeting held on Thursday, as announced, when the following resolutions were adopted:

(1) Resolved, That we regret the death of our esteemed fellow-citizen, Malcolm Clark, and most bitterly condemn the cowardly act by which he was murdered; but we would deprecate any violation of the laws of the land by way of revenge, and stand ready to defend the laws from any violation by mob-violence; that we do not deem the time has arrived when it is necessary for men to maintain their inalienable rights, by setting at defiance the constituted authorities of the country.

(2) Resolved, That we deeply and sincerely sympathize with the family of Malcolm Clark, deceased, in their sad and irreparable bereavement, which has deprived them of an affectionate and doting father, and the community of one of her most useful, enterprising and esteemed citizens.

(3) Resolved, That the interests of our young and lovely Territory have lost in the person of Mr. Clark an energetic and praiseworthy friend; one who was ever ready to put forward his best energies to advance the public weal, and whose sentiments were liberal and at all times expressed with a bold and fearless defiance of the errors of the day.

(4) Resolved, That no man has a right to go into any community and disturb its peace and quiet by doing incendiary acts or circulating incendiary sentiments; we, therefore, advise such as are unwilling to submit to the institutions of this country, to leave for some climate more congenial to their feelings, as abolition sentiments cannot, nor will not be tolerated here; and while we do not say what may be the consequences. for the peace and quiet of the community we urge all entertaining and expressing such sentiments, to leave immediately, claiming the right to expel such as persist in such a course.

(5) Resolved, That in the present state of public excitement, there is no such thing as controlling the ebullition of feeling while material remains in the country on which to give it vent. To the peculiar friends of Northern fanatics we say: "This is not your country; go home and vent your treason where you may find sympathy."

(6) Resolved, That we invite the inhabitants of every State, North, South, East and West, to come among us, and to cultivate the beautiful prairie lands of our Territory, but leave behind you the fanaticisms of higher law and all kindred doctrines; come only to maintain the laws as they exist, and not to preach your higher duties of setting them at naught; for we warn you in advance, that our institutions are sacred to us, and must and shall be respected.

(7) Resolved, That the institution of slavery is known and recognized in this Territory, that we repel the doctrine that it is a moral or political evil, and we hurl back with scorn upon its slanderous authors the charge of inhumanity, and we warn all persons not to come to our peaceful firesides to slander us and sow the seeds of discord between master and servant, for, much as we may deprecate the necessity to which we may be driven, we cannot be responsible for the consequences.

(8) Resolved, That we recognize the right of every man to entertain his own sentiments on all questions, and to act them out so long as they interfere with neither public nor private rights; but when the acts of men strike at the peace of our social relations, and tend to subvert the known and recognized rights of others, such acts are in violation of morals, of natural law, and systems of jurisprudence, to which we are accustomed to submit.

(9) Resolved, That a vigilance committee, consisting of thirty members, shall now be appointed, who shall observe and report all such persons as shall openly act in violation of law and order, and by the expression of abolition sentiments, produce disturbance to the quiet of citizens, or danger to their domestic relations, and all such persons so offending shall be notified and made to leave the Territory.

The vigilance committee appointed was composed of the following named persons:

Hiram Rich, A. Payne, S. D. Pitcher, A. J. Scott, Thomas C. Hughes, William W. Corum, Jarrett Todd, R. E. Stallard, G. D. Todd, M. P. Rively, H. Rives Pollard, James M. Lyle, James Surrett, Joel Hiatt, John C. Posey, G. W. Walker, D. Scott Boyle, E. A. Long, W. G. Mathias, H. D. McMeekin, John Miller, Alexander Russel, Lewis N. Rees, W. L. Blair, D. J. Johnson, L. P. Styles, Nathanael Henderson, Samuel Burgess, H. Long, C. C. Harrison.

In the published account of the meeting, it is said that Samuel D. Lecompte, Chief Justice of the Territory, Colonel James N. Burns of Weston, and D. J. Johnson eloquently addressed the meeting. Many years later Judge Lecompte wrote the following letter to H. Miles Moore explaining the part taken by him in this affair:

The facts are simply these. I was residing at the time with my family at the Shawnee Mission, with Gov. Reeder and other officials of the Territory. A short time before the coming along of the stage to Fort Leavenworth, on the 2d, I was informed of the intended indignation meeting, to be held at Leavenworth the next day, the leading object of which was to inflame the popular mind to taking into its own control the vindication of the law, and then to promptly vindicate it by the summary execution of the alleged culprit.

Short as was the notice, I determined to come up to Leavenworth, and resist, to the utmost, and stop, at all risks, any such movement.

Accordingly, I came up to the Fort, remained there over night, and was at Leavenworth, at an early hour next morning, and saw and conversed with, as far as practicable, every man supposed to be influential in fomenting or suppressing a spirit of misrule, and, by the time the meeting was called, had succeeded, as I believed, in thwarting the purpose of those inclined to a course of violence.

When the meeting was assembled, I mounted, I think an old wagon, and made the most earnest speech within my capacity, in favor of the resolution deprecating "any violation of the laws of the land," defending "the laws from any violation from mob violence." A most violent effort was made, in opposition, to defeat the resolution, but, as I then believed, and now think, it was mainly through my exertion triumphantly carried. I spoke to no other point, and do not recollect that I heard of any other subject of discussion, and most assuredly had no more to do with any other part of the proceedings at the meeting than yourself or any other absent person.

This explanation I had occasion to make, and did make through the St. Louis Republican, when my name was afterward published by the Congressional Committee sent out to inquire into the disturbances in Kansas.

That committee, seeing the same report (Leavenworth Herald), very naturally presumed from it that I had advocated the rancorous resolutions of the second meeting, and denounced such conduct as utterly unworthy of one in my then position.

Such denunciations I most heartily indorse, upon the note of facts as they regarded it. I should have felt myself unfit to exercise the slightest functions of a judicial position, had I participated in any such proceedings.

(Signed) Yours truly,
SAMUEL D. LECOMPTE.

William Phillips seemed to be making no effort to close his business preparatory to leaving Leavenworth. His whole offence was that he was a Free-State man and had protested against the conduct of the Missourians in the Territorial election. On the morning of the 17th of May, a portion of the vigilance committee armed themselves, sought Phillips and arrested him. He was hurried to the river, put into a flat boat and immediately taken to Missouri. At noon the mob appeared with him at Weston. Just below Weston they took him into a warehouse where they stripped him to the waist, tarred and feathered him, mounted him on a rail and marched into the town followed by a rabble ringing bells and beating on old pans. In this way he was carried through the streets. The party came to a halt opposite the St. George Hotel, where Dr. Parsons' old slave, Joe, was forced to auction Phillips off to the highest bidder. There were no bidders, and Joe bid in the lawyer for one cent. He was again placed on the rail and carried about the streets.

The people of Weston soon began to object to this proceeding, saying that if Leavenworth desired to mob their citizens they should do it at home. None of the citizens of Weston took any part in the affair. The action of the mob was denounced by the people of Weston on the following Monday night. Phillips did not leave Leavenworth. He was murdered in his own house, in September, 1856, by some of the persons who had mobbed him.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.

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