1894 Robley's History of Bourbon County, Kansas


78HISTORY OF BOURBON COUNTY.[1857

CHAPTER XI.

LECOMPTON CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION.

IT was now the beginning of autumn. The spring season had opened favorably for the farmers, and wherever they had been permitted to stay at home and work, the prospect was good for abundant crops. Everything seemed to be reasonably quiet in this part of the Territory, although it was a forced quiet, and there was much feeling of unrest and apprehension among the people.

The political talk was about the approaching Pro-slavery convention to frame a State Constitution, which was to be held at Lecompton.

As has been noted, the Legislature had passed an act providing for the election of delegates to this convention, on the 15th of June, 1857. The Free State men had, with something like concert of action all over the Territory, let the election of these delegates go by default. They felt that there was no chance for an expression of Free State opinions, and no guarantee that it would be anything but a repetition of the villainous frauds and outrages which had heretofore taken place under the name of "election."

The Free State men, however, began to realize that


1857]LECOMPTON CONVENTION.79

immigration had in reality now placed their party in the majority. Their confidence and courage were strengthened, and hope renewed. But the delegates were already elected.

If the Free State men had taken prompt and vigorous measures to contest the election of June 15, attended to the registration and seen to it that the lists were corrected, and then mustered their forces at the polls with a determined front, it is possible that they might have elected a majority of the delegates, obtained control of the Lecompton Convention, presented a Free State Constitution to the people, who would have sustained it, and the State have quietly passed into the Union, and the pages of Kansas history been altogether changed.

The Convention met at Lecompton on the 7th of September, 1857. Blake Little and H. T. Wilson were the delegates chosen from this District. Little was chosen President pro tem. of the Convention.

After several adjournments the Convention finally completed their work on the 3rd of November, guarded by 200 U. S. troops. It was provided that the election on the adoption of this Constitution should be held on the 21st of December; that the question should be divided and that the ticket should read: "For the Constitution and Slavery," and "For the Constitution without Slavery."

The time for the regular meeting of the Territorial Legislature was January 4, 1858, but Acting Governor Stanton called an extra session which met on the 7th day of December, 1857, and passed an act providing for a vote on the entire constitution—a straight proposition


80HISTORY OF BOURBON COUNTY.[1857

for or against—to be held January 4, 1858, and providing more thoroughly against fraud.

The elections were quite numerous this fall and winter, and somewhat confusing unless attended to in their regular order.

THE ELECTION OF OCTOBER 5, 1857.

The election for members of the Territorial Legislature and for Delegate to Congress was held on the 5th of October.

E. Ransom, of Fort Scott, ran against Mark Parrott, the Free State candidate for delegate.

At this election there were again some indications of fraud, especially at the Oxford and Kickapoo precincts, and in McGee county. McGee county, for instance, "cast" 1202 Pro-slavery votes against 24 votes for the Free State ticket. Fraud was patent to every body. There were not a hundred legal voters in the county, all told. The original returns from McGee county were seen by one or more of our Fort Scott men before they were doctored and sent on to Lecompton. The lists contained a total of exactly eighty-three names.

At this election Bourbon County voted as follows: Drywood precinct, Ransom 9, Parrott 3; Russell precinct, Ransom 12, Parrott 2; Fort Scott precinct, Ransom 99, Parrott 24; Sprattsville precinct, Ransom 33, Parrott 47; Osage precinct, Ransom 22, Parrott 20. Total, Ransom 175, Parrott 96.

The Governor issued a proclamation on the 22d of October, rejecting the returns of the election precincts


1857]MORE TROUBLE.81

where the most glaring frauds had occurred. This reduced the total vote for Ransom to 3,799, as against 7,888 for Parrott, and the certificate of election was issued to Parrott, and he took his seat in Congress the next December.

George A. Crawford was the Democratic candidate for Territorial Council from this District, which consisted of Bourbon and seventeen other counties, McGee among them. Mr. Crawford went to Lecompton at once, and in a conference with Governor Walker and Secretary Stanton he advised the throwing out of the fraudulent votes, although such action defeated his own election.

MORE TROUBLE.

The wave of Free State immigration which had rolled in over the northern part of the Territory now began to reach down into Southern Kansas, and to be felt in Bourbon County to a greater extent than ever before. And the troubles which had prevailed in the North for so long a time were to be also transferred to the Southeastern border.

The Free State men who had been driven out in the summer and fall of 1856, now began to return—many of them coming back armed—and as they found that their strength had been materially increased by the considerable number of new settlers coming into the county they had confidence that by organization they could now maintain themselves and recover their claims and much of their other property. Among their leaders


82HISTORY OF BOURBON COUNTY.[1857

were J. C. Burnett, Samuel Stevenson, Captain Bain and Josiah Stewart.

Notice was served on those who had wrongfully taken possession of cabins and claims that they must leave. Many did so at once, but others relying on aid and assistance from the "Blue Lodges" of organized Pro-slavery men which existed in Fort Scott and along the border, refused to vacate.

As an illustration of those difficulties, the case of Stone and Southwood is given. William Stone had been driven off of his claim on the Osage, and his claim and cabin were taken possession of by a man named Southwood, a Southern preacher. When Stone returned to assert his rights Southwood refused to vacate. The Free State men, after considering the case, built Stone another cabin, near Southwood's, and moved his family into it. The women of the two families, of course, got into a small border war over the well of water. This helped to aggravate matters and the Free State men finally ordered Southwood to leave by a certain time. Just before the time fixed to leave, Southwood gathered a large number of his friends from Fort Scott and along the border with the purpose of driving Stone off. But the Free State men were right on hand, and gathered at Stone's to resist the expected attack. It was a first-rate opening for a good fight, but the Pro-slavery party, after a feint of an attack that night, drew off. They made much big talk, but they found the Free State party too strong and determined, and Southwood left.

The opposing forces, or factions, came near a col-


1857]SQUATTER'S COURT.83

lision several times after that. Things looked ugly. But for some reason the Pro-slavery men declined to open the ball, and the Free State policy was to await an attack.

Finally, a resort was had to the forms of "law." A term of the U. S. District Court was commenced on the 19th of October, 1857. It was held in the south room of the land office building, Judge Joseph Williams presiding, S. A. Williams, Clerk, and J. H. Little, Deputy U. S. Marshal. This court was in full sympathy and control of the Pro-slavery party. Claimants throughout the District took their cases before this court, and Judge Williams in most of the "claim cases" decided against the Free State man.

Free State men were often arrested on some trumped-up charge and were held for excessive bail or refused bail altogether. These arbitrary proceedings were very aggravating to them and they instituted a "court" of their own.

SQUATTER'S COURT.

What they called a "Squatter's Court" was organized for the District. A full complement of officers, Judge, Clerk, Sheriff, etc., was appointed. The first "court" was held at what was called "Bain's Fort," a large log house on the Osage river, a little northwest of the present town of Fulton. It was built by old John Brown and Captain Bain. Dr. Rufus Gilpatrick, of Anderson county, was Judge, and Henry Kilbourn, Sheriff. Here they tried causes in due form of law, and meted out justice according to their best light.


84HISTORY OF BOURBON COUNTY.[1857

The only reasonable ground for "exceptions" to be taken to the proceedings was, perhaps, that as there was no family Bible handy the witnesses were sworn on "Dr. Gunn's Family Physician." But as this was a court from which there was no appeal, exceptions, though often taken, were rarely noted.

The existence of this rival court was not to be tolerated by Judge Williams and his friends, and on the 12th day of December, 1857, he ordered Deputy Marshal Little to organize a posse and dissolve it. Little went up there with a few men but the court failed to dissolve. On the 6th he again advanced on the works with a posse of about fifty men. When near the fort he was met by a party with a flag of truce headed by D. B. Jackman. They held a parley, and were finally informed by Little that if they did not surrender at once he would fire on them. The truce party warned Little that if he advanced it would be at his peril. They then returned to the fort, and Little advanced to the attack and opened fire. Several volleys were exchanged. The attack was repulsed. Some of Little's men and horses were slightly wounded. He then returned to Fort Scott. On the next day he increased his force to 100 men and returned again to the attack, but he found, on arriving at the fort, that the garrison had escaped during the night, and the court "adjourned."

One of the posse was named James Rhoades, who started back to Marmaton, where he had been employed in Ed. Jones' saw-mill. On the road he met a Mr. Weaver, a Free State man, and they got into a


1857]A PROTECTIVE SOCIETY.85

quarrel. Weaver was unarmed. Rhoades carried a loaded gun and was himself well loaded with that same old Missouri whiskey. In the quarrel he attempted to shoot Weaver, but Weaver got the gun away from him and killed him with it.

A little before this time a difficulty began between two of the Osage settlers. It was a claim fight. In 1856 a man named Hardwick came in there and took a claim. Isaac Denton and his sons, James and John Denton, came in about the same time. Hardwick permitted James Denton to occupy a cabin on his claim with the understanding that he was to vacate at a certain time. When the time came around Denton refused to vacate. Hardwick was threatened, his cabin was fired into, and he was forced to give up his claim and get out. Soon after this Isaac Denton and a friend and neighbor named Hedrick, were killed. Hardwick was suspected of the crime and he fled the country. A year or two afterwards he was arrested in Missouri for this crime and delivered to John Denton to be brought to Kansas for trial. On the way Denton shot Hardwick dead. Denton, in his turn, was killed at Barnesville, by Bill Marchbanks, for the killing of Hardwick.

A PROTECTIVE SOCIETY.

Geo. H. B. Hopkins settled on the Osage in September, 1856. He lived neighbor to Hedrick when the latter was called from the bed-side of his sick wife and shot down in his own door. The Dentons also lived in the same neighborhood. The killing of Hedrick


86HISTORY OF BOURBON COUNTY.[1857

and Denton on account of the threats of the Pro-slavery men that no Free State man should be allowed to raise a crop or stay on his claim, caused Mr. Hopkins and his neighbor, Mr. Denison, to start out and organize a "Protective Society." A large meeting was collected. Squire Jewell was made chairman. Hopkins, Jewell and Denison were chosen a committee to draft by-laws.

At a second meeting, three days later, James Montgomery of Linn County was present, but took no part until the men present at the meeting showed their hands by passing the following resolution:

"Resolved, That we, the members of this organization, pledge ourselves to protect all good citizens in their rights of life and property irrespective of politics."

Montgomery then arose and in a speech said: "I am now with you and will be to the end. Some men must be active in defense while others work. We have a hydra-headed monster to fight, and I for one will fight him and with his own weapons, if necessary." And from that time dated the activity of Montgomery as a partisan leader of the Free State men. He now proposed to take the saddle.

After Isaac Denton and Hedrick were killed, old man Travis, also a settler on the Osage, was arrested charged with having something to do with their murder. He was taken before the Squatter's Court at Mapleton and there found not guilty. On his way home he stopped at Dr. Wasson's, and that night the house was attacked and he was killed. Dr. Wasson was also shot in the arm and crippled for life. This was done or instigated by Jim Denton.

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Transcribed from History of Bourbon County, Kansas : to the close of 1865 by T. F. Robley. Fort Scott, Kan.: Press of the Monitor Book & Print. Co., 1894.


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