OVERNOR J. W. DENVER, on the 9th day of June, 1858, left Lecompton for a trip down the border, with a view of making a personal effort for the conciliation of the people. He was accompanied by Charles Robinson, Judge John C. Wright, A. D. Richardson and others. On their road down they visited James Montgomery at his home in Linn county, and he joined their party there.
They arrived at Fort Scott on the 13th. On the next day, the 14th, a public meeting was held on the Plaza, in front of the Free State Hotel. The people had generally been notified that the Governor would be here for the purpose of trying to arrive at a basis for a treaty, and if possible to conclude terms of peace between the factions, and to agree on an amnesty for all past political offenses against the law by men of both parties. It seemed like every man in the county was there. The Governor had asked to meet them, and they came, but they, as well as the people of the town, were distrustful and excited.
Governor Denver made the first speech in a quieting and conciliating tone and manner, which had a good
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effect. He was followed by Judge Wright, of Lawrence, and B. F. Brantley, of Fort Scott, in the same strain. After they got through Gov. E. Ransom took the stand. Ransom was quite an old man. He had been Governor of Michigan, and was a man of more than ordinary intelligence, although narrow-minded and bigoted in his views, and had always been thoroughly Pro-slavery in feeling. He began his speech by a terrific denunciation of the Free State people for having brought on the condition of affairs that then existed. He had only fairly started on this tirade when he was interrupted by Judge Wright who stepped in his front, facing him, and denied the statements he was making in a very sharp and emphatic manner. Governor Denver, whose attention had been called away for a moment, then sprang in between them, and sharply told them that sort of thing must stop, and speaking to Ransom, he said: "Governor Ransom, you are a much older man than I. I did not expect this kind of conduct on your part; I had a right to expect something different from you. You must stop that kind of talk. You must take your seat and be quiet." And he did take his seat, and kept quiet.
This account is in Governor Denver's own words. In an address published by the State Historical Society, Governor Denver continues the account of this day's proceedings as follows:
"To make a long story short, I prevailed upon all the county officers of Bourbon County to resign their offices, and then I told the people, that while I had the right to appoint any man I pleased to fill the vacancies,
that I desired an expression of their wishes in the matter, and that I wanted them to hold an election right then and there, and that I would receive it as instructions as to whom to appoint to those offices. They asked me how they should do it. I told them to set up their candidates, place them out at one side of the public square, one here and another there, and let their friends form a line on the right and on the left. They placed their candidates out, and I gave the word to march. The people then formed. I then appointed two men to count them. They then counted them and reported to me the number they had found for each candidate. The first was for Sheriff; I think. Then for the next office we went through the same ceremony, and the election was held in that way. I gave them a certificate of appointment, and as soon as I got back to Lecompton I sent them their commissions."
This was a critical day in Fort Scott. The men of all parties and shades of politics, Border Ruffian, Jayhawker, Pro-slavery, ultra radical Abolitionists, Free State Republicans and Free State Democrats were all here together and facing each other. Before the speaking they had already began to divide and separate into parties, and at that moment the exchange of hot words or any offensive act would have precipitated a bloody battle.
The officers "elected" that day were as follows: For Sheriff Thomas R. Roberts; for County Commissioners, or County Supervisors, as they were called, Thomas W. Tallman of Fort Scott, M. E. Hudson of Mapleton, Bryant Bauguess of Drywood, Jacob J. Hartley and Joab Teague of Marmaton. These men were given certificates of election by the Governor, who afterwards sent them their commissions from Lecompton.
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At the first meeting of the Board, held soon after, Horatio Knowles was appointed Clerk of the Board, and some townships were organized.
After the election the meeting was adjourned to meet at Rayville on the next day. At Rayville Governor Denver addressed the crowd, and after the speech he proposed the following as a basis for a treaty of peace:
After Governor Denver had concluded, Montgomery was called for. Montgomery was recognized as the party of the second part by the treaty making powers; the leading and representative spirit of the aggressive and self-protecting element of the Free State men of Bourbon County. The men at this meeting were not a band of marauders. They were men who lived and intended to continue to live in this county, and they had determined to have peace if they had to fight for it.
There was a hush of intense interest when Montgomery took the stand.
He immediately accepted the terms of the Governor's proposition. He continued, thanking the Governor for
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the interest he had taken in their affairs, the evident spirit of justice by which he seemed to be actuated; that peace, so long a stranger to this part of the country, was above all things, what he and the people most desired, and that if the Governor redeemed the pledges that day made, he would retire to his cabin and use his best efforts to prevent any further trouble.
The moderate Pro-slavery men, and the more conservative men of all parties were satisfied with the amnesty, as they called it, and for several months all seemed to strive to preserve the peace and tranquility which was thus restored.
James Montgomery in the general estimation of the people, is often rated and classed with J. H. Lane, John Brown and C. R. Jennison. He ought not to be so held. He was a different kind of a man. Their lives were in no ways parallel. He was no coward, assassin, crank, fanatic or murderer.
"He wore no knife to slaughter sleeping men."
His sincere desire was to see Kansas a free State. He was in spmpathy[sic] and co-operation with the men who made Kansas a free State. He was an instrument of the men who were holding at bay that party and that principle which were attempting to force slavery upon Kansas by the most outrageous violation of all personal and political rights. He was of the Free State party who were "holding the fort until the Republican party could arrive."
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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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