1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 28 Part 2

The day of the burial of Dow, Saturday, the 24th, a large number assembled for the funeral. There was much indignation, and it was determined that Coleman should be apprehended and punished. A meeting was appointed for the next Monday, the 26th, at the house of Jacob Branson. The people met at Branson's as agreed, but immediately adjourned to the place where Dow had been murdered. There they assembled in a circle about the bloody spot where Dow had fallen and died. There were at least one hundred present. Feeling ran high, and violent speeches were made. Resolutions were passed denouncing the murder and condoling with the relatives of Dow. as follows:

Whereas, Charles W. Dow, a citizen of this place, was murdered on Wednesday afternoon last, and whereas, evidence, by admission and otherwise, fastens the guilt of said murder on one F. M. Coleman, and whereas, facts further indicate that said individuals and parties are combining for the purpose of harassing and even murdering unoffending citizens, and whereas, we are now destitute of law, even for the punishment of crime, in this Territory, and whereas, the aforesaid individuals have fled to Missouri, therefore -

Resolved, That we deeply sympathize with the family and relations of the deceased.

Resolved, That we regard F. M. Coleman, and those connected with him, as wilful murderers, who should be treated as such by all good citizens.

Resolved, That we are ready to stand by and defend any and all of our fellow-citizens, in protecting their lives and property; and consider it our duty to spare neither time nor expense in ferreting out, and bringing to condign punishment, all connected with this infamous crime.

Resolved, That a vigilance committee of twenty-five be appointed, whose duty it shall be to bring the above-named individuals, as well as those connected with them in this affair, to justice.

Resolved, That we stamp with disapprobation, the actions of those persons, who knowingly permitted the body of the deceased to lay by the roadside, without giving information in regard to it.

A committee was appointed "to ferret out and bring the murderers and accomplices to condign punishment." It was proposed to go at once and burn Coleman's house. Two men burst in the doors and fired the house, but the others put out the fire. Some witnesses were examined but nothing new was ascertained as to the whereabouts of Coleman and Buckley. The meeting adjourned late in the afternoon, and those from Lawrence returned to that town. Sometime in the night members of the meeting re-assembled and burned Coleman's house, and just before daylight the next morning they burned Buckley's house.


COL. SAMUEL N. WOOD
[Copy by Willard
of Portrait in Library
of Kansas State
Historical Society.]

Samuel F. Tappan and S. N. Wood of Lawrence, and J. B. Abbott on the Wakarusa had attended the meeting and taken an active interest. Wood had been in that vicinity before and his course had been such as to inflame the Pro-Slavery settlers. It was at the time when Mr. Farley was having trouble. Wood said, in substance, "that if he was a nigger he would not serve his master an hour after he came into the Territory; that it was a free country and niggers were free the moment they were fetched there." Horatio Owens, to whom he was talking, "told him if he was a nigger and belonged to him and attempted to cut up any shines, he would whip him and make him behave himself." Wood's wife then begged him not to say anything more and to not cause a disturbance.

THE RESCUE OF BRANSON

Hearing that Branson was the leader of the party searching for Coleman, and having gone with Coleman to the Shawnee Mission, Buckley was afraid to return to Hickory Point without protection. He appealed to Sheriff Jones. As Branson was the Free-State leader, he was to be held responsible, and Buckley desired his arrest. It was necessary to secure a warrant in Douglas County. Sheriff Jones had a commission for Justice of the Peace signed in blank, which he carried with him, on Monday, when he and Buckley visited Douglas County. Hugh Cameron, later known as the Kansas Hermit, consented to act as Justice of the Peace in this matter, and his name was inserted in the blank commission carried by Jones. After this "appointment" Buckley made an affidavit charging Branson with having threatened his life, and upon this affidavit Cameron issued a warrant for the arrest of Branson.

Branson had gone home Monday night and retired shortly after 7 o'clock. His wife woke him up in a short time and informed him that there were a good many persons coming toward the house. By the time Branson had raised himself up in bed, there was a rap at the door. He demanded to know who was there. Some one replied, "Friends." Before he could tell them to come in, the door was broken down and the room filled with men. One of these men asked him if his name was Branson, and he replied that it was. He then drew his pistol, cocked it, and presented it at Branson's breast and said, "You are my prisoner, and if you move I will blow you through; don't you move." Others cocked their guns. They finally permitted Branson to dress himself, when they took him from his house and mounted him on a mule, which they said Mr. Coleman had been riding around. The party then went to the house of Buckley, which had not yet been burned, where they secured another horse. Jones then took his prisoner over to the house of Mr. Freeland. There they imbibed a jug of whiskey. The party then set out for Lecompton.

In October, 1854, a very peculiar man settled on the Wakarusa, south of Lawrence, where the old Fremont Trail crossed the stream. His name was Napoleon Bonaparte Blanton. By the squatters he was called "Bony" Blanton. He was of French extraction, and he had little to say. He came from Missouri, but he was not a Pro-Slavery man; neither did he act with the Free-State men. He kept his own counsel. And he must have had some means. By the middle of March, 1855, he had erected a comfortable hewed-log house, having stone chimneys, after the Southern style. He also had a substantial bridge over the Wakarusa, well under way, and this he finished early in the summer of 1855. It was a toll bridge, and the only one across the Wakarusa. It became widely known and was well patronized. In the summer of 1855, Blanton also erected a store building, and engaged in the grocery business, possibly selling whiskey also. His house was a sort of country hotel where many people stopped.


JAMES B. ABBOTT
[Copy by Willard
of Portrait in Library
of Kansas State
Historical Society.]

About three-quarters of a mile south of Blanton's bridge, on what fell to be the southwest quarter of Section 19, Township 13, Range 19, of the public survey, lived James B. Abbott, who came to Kansas in 1854 from New York City. He lived on the east side of the trail or road from Hickory Point to Lawrence. His residence was a box house, twelve by fourteen feet square, with a door in the east side and a small window in the west side. The house was built of native undressed lumber, and Mr. Abbott had not yet had time to nail battens over the joints. In this house lived Major Abbott with his wife and little daughter. On Monday, November 26, Abbott had gone to the meeting at the house of Branson to investigate the murder of Dow, and did not return until late. Soon after night had fallen, Blanton appeared at the house of Abbott and reported that Sheriff Jones had been at his place about noon that day. He was accompanied by a body of men, all well armed with double-barreled shotguns. revolvers and knives. They had come from the direction of Franklin, the Pro-Slavery town midway between Lawrence and the Blue-Jacket crossing on the Wakarusa. They remained at Blanton's until it began to grow dark, when they left, going south, which was in the direction of Hickory Point. Blanton inquired if the party had passed the Abbott residence, and upon being assured they had not, he seemed puzzled, but said they must have gone toward Blue Mound after striking the high prairie.

Sheriff Jones had a redoubtable resident deputy, one Sam Salters, with whom Blanton had been acquainted in Missouri. In confidence he told Blanton that the party intended to arrest Branson, and Blanton, knowing all that had transpired at Hickory Point, believed they intended to kill him. Blanton went home after requesting that it be not told abroad that he had given this information.

He had been gone but a few minutes when a Mr. Allen and Mr. Hughes, who had also been attending the Dow meeting, arrived at Abbott's house. When told what Blanton had said they were sure there was some mistake about the matter, as they had just come from Hickory Point and had neither seen nor heard of Jones, nor had they met any one going that way. Very soon S. F. Tappan and S. C. Smith, of Lawrence, arrived. Upon being informed of what Blanton had said, they concluded that as Branson was a witness against Coleman, that it was their intention to murder him in the interest of Coleman. Mr. Abbott and S. N. Wood came in soon afterward. After discussing the developments, it was determined that Allen and Hughes should go into what was called the Illinois settlement and assemble as many men as possible. Wood and Abbott went back to Hickory Point to search for Jones and his party. They were well armed, part of their equipment being large knives. It was their intention to slip quietly up and "hamstring" the horses of Jones' party, if they found it possible to do so.

The men to be rallied by Allen and Hughes were to meet at the house of William Estabrook, and Smith and Tappan left Abbott's house and went there. The men at Estabrook's were to go to the house of Abbott as soon as the strength of the neighborhood had assembled. Blanton's bridge was guarded and the three fords between the bridge and Franklin were picketed.

It was about eleven o'clock when Wood and Abbott returned. They were much disappointed. They had gone back to Branson's house, some six miles, only to find Branson gone and his wife in frantic distress. She described the manner in which Branson had been arrested. How Jones had disappeared was a mystery. They were encouraged, however, to find so many of the settlers assembled at Abbott's house ready to do what they could to save Branson.

The moon was a little past the full, and while the first part of the night had been very dark, it was as light as day when the moon rose in the heavens. The air was clear, and there was no wind. Charles H. Dickson and J. R. Kennedy were on guard on the Hickory Point road. Dickson was lying flat on the ground scanning the road and surrounding prairie, when he observed moving objects about two-thirds of a mile away. As they came nearer it was plain that they were a body of men. Dickson and Kennedy ran at full speed to Abbott's house and gave the alarm. The delay of Jones had been caused, as we have seen, by his leading his men to a Pro-Slavery house to get whiskey. They had remained there drinking until the moon was high.

The men at Abbott's house rushed out upon receipt of the intelligence that Jones was approaching. They stood in the shadow of the house until Jones and his company were near, then they formed themselves across the road. Philip Hupp was the first man to cross. The next was Paul Jones, and they were armed with squirrel rifles. Captain Philip Hutchinson followed, armed with a handful of heavy stones. Kennedy and Dickson followed Hutchinson. The Jones party rode up, halted, and some one of their number asked "What's up?" To this Major Abbott replied, "That is what we want to know," and fired his revolver. Again the question from Jones' party, "What's up?" Kennedy told Abbott to inquire if Branson were there. Branson said that he was, and that he was a prisoner. A number of the Free-State party called out for Branson to "come out of that." This Branson feared to do, saying "They will shoot me if I do." S. N. Wood, said, "Let them shoot and be d__d. We can shoot too." This encouraged Branson and he said, "I will come if they do shoot," and he rode over to the Free-State side. When Branson started, the Pro-Slavery men cocked their guns and raised them to their shoulders. The Free-State men did the same. When Branson came over, he dismounted, and Wood inquired if that was his mule. Branson said it was not. Wood then gave the mule a kick and said "Go back to your master, d__n you."

At this point Jones advanced and said that he was the Sheriff of Douglas County, with a warrant for the arrest of Branson, and must serve it. The Free-State men said they knew of no such man as Sheriff Jones; that they knew a postmaster at Westport, Missouri, by that name. Wood said he was Branson's Attorney, and if Jones had a warrant, he should like to examine it. Jones refused to show the warrant. The parties stood facing each other about an hour, when Jones, seeing that nothing could be accomplished, and that his prisoner was irretrievably lost, turned his company about and bade the Free-State men good-night.

The rescue of Branson was planned by Elmore Allen, Joshua Hughes, Samuel F. Tappan, Samuel C. Smith, Samuel N. Wood, James B. Abbott, Mrs. Abbott and Charles H. Dickson. Those who responded to the alarm and became members of the rescue party were Rev. Julius Elliott, Collins Holloway, John R. Kennedy, Captain Philip Hutchinson, Philip Hupp, Minor B. Hupp, Edmond Curless, Paul Jones, John Smith, B. Hitchcock, Isaac Shaffer, Ad. Rowley, Harrison Nichols and L. L. Eastabrook.

The rescuing party decided to take Branson to Lawrence. This they did in military style. Abbott owned a drum, sword and other military trappings. He was the only drummer in the party. Wood was decorated with the sword and given command of the company, which entered Lawrence about daylight and marched up Massachusetts street to the stirring tattoo of the drum, stopping in front of the residence of Charles Robinson. They reported what they had done and asked counsel. Robinson discouraged them, saying that it was their own matter; that they should not have come to Lawrence; and that he did not want the town involved in their transactions. He also said that they should not expect Lawrence, or any citizen in it, to have anything to do with their plans. They left Robinson's house and continued to parade the streets. Gathering a crowd of citizens in a meeting, they considered the situation. Wood was made President of this meeting and recited the story of what had occurred at Hickory Point and at the house of Abbott. Branson was called on. He went over the story of Hickory Point with tears coursing down his face, ending with an allusion to his wife alone in her cabin and himself without knowledge of her fate. He declared that he would leave the town if the citizens thought it best for him to do so, as he did not wish the residents to suffer the consequences of what had happened at Hickory Point and Abbott's house. Nobody acted on his suggestion, and the meeting proceeded. It was certain that Jones would make an effort to secure his prisoner. It was also believed that he would hold the town of Lawrence responsible for the rescue, and perhaps attack it, as it was said that he had made threats to destroy Lawrence. A resolution endorsing the course of the rescuing party was offered but unanimously rejected. It was the sentiment of the meeting that no action should be taken on the rescue. It is said that this course was adopted at the suggestion of Robinson. A committee of ten was finally appointed to take into consideration the entire matter and report at an adjourned meeting to be held in the afternoon. The whole proceeding has not been preserved; that portion of the utterance of the meeting on record being as follows:

We, the citizens of Kansas Territory, find ourselves in a condition of confusion and defencelessness so great, that open outrage and mid-day murders are becoming the rule, and quiet and security the exception. And, whereas, the law, the only authoritative engine to correct and regulate the excesses and wrongs of society, has never yet been extended to our Territory - thus leaving us with no fixed or definite rules of action, or source of redress - we are reduced to the necessity of organizing ourselves together on the basis of first principles, and providing for the common defense and general security. And here we pledge ourselves to the resistance of lawlessness and outrage at all times, when required by the officers who may from time to time be chosen to superintend the movements of the organization.

A paper or compact was presented to each member at the adjourned meeting for his signature. It was recommended that the citizens so organized should hold themselves apart from any other organization, that they might be ready to defend the town and not be involved in any demonstrations that might be made. The committee of safety (of ten) was continued.

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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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