mountain howitzer. The most of the rifles were distributed among the free-
state militia, but the major kept the bulk of the ammunition under his own
control until it should be needed. Of the disposition of it I will speak later on.
As I was plowing in the field one day for a pro-slavery neighbor named
Sebastian, on the north side of the Wakarusa, p^nd about a quarter of a mile
east of Blanton's bridge, five mounted men rode past me, riding leisurely along
until they reached the bridge, and disappeared on the other side. Soon I heard
a gun shot, and almost instantly the five reappeared, riding as hard as their
horses could run, until they had passed me a short distance, where they met a
band of 27 armed men on foot. There they halted for a few minutes, apparently
in consultation, when the horsemen went on to the east, while the footmen
marched on past me, within a stone's throw, disappearing across the bridge
and passing down the south side of the creek, back to their camp below Frank-
lin, a town on the Wakarusa, southeast of Lawrence.
As I returned home that evening, passing over the same bridge, I found that
a neighbor boy named John Jones, about 20 years of age, who lived with a wid-
82 Kansas State Historical Society.
owed mother alone on a claim one mile east of father's, had been shot down in
cold blood by the ruffians who first passed me, and was dying in the most intense
agony, having been shot through the bowels. He was returning from town, car-
rying a sack of meal on horseback, when overtaken by the five men. So long as he
kept his revolver they did not dare attack him, although threatening loudly; but
as soon as he gave it to Mr. Blanton, in compliance with their promise to let him
pass on unmolested if he would do so, they fired the cowardly shot that took his
young life, and left his widowed mother alone in the world.* That was a fair
sample of the work done by the border ruffians during 1855 and 1856.
Much may have been written about the "border-ruffian war" that was over-
drawn or untrue; but, on the other hand, I believe much of the truth has never
been told and never will be, for the reason that many men came or started here
alone and unknown, and as no one knew them, no one missed them if they were
waylaid and murdered. True, eastern friends, if they had any, might after a
time miss them, but in the chaotic condition of society here it was not an easy
matter to trace up and find a stranger.
After my experience in the tent during the storm of May 14, I did not like to
stay there alone of nights, if there was any appearance of a storm ( most of our
storms came at night that summer), and so I got in the habit of going to Major
Abbott's when father was away. They lived in a little box house of one room
one mile north of us. While the major was gone east his wife and little child
were left alone most of the time, and as father was gone a good deal too, as a
matter of mutual accommodation I spent the most of my nights there, and the
habit was kept up after the major's return, for a long time. And so it came
about that, on the night of the "Branson rescue," which took place at Major
Abbott's place, and with which all readers of Kansas history are familiar, I hap-
pened to be there and to be a participant in the events that transpired at that
time. I have, I believe, the distinguished honor, or dishonor, just as you like,
of being the only one there who did not have to " hide out " for awhile to avoid
arrest by the United States marshal for resisting an officer of the government.
I always attributed my exemption to the fact that I was considered too small to
be worthy of notice.
At the time of the "Branson rescue," Sheriff Jones threatened to return be-
fore morning with 300 men and wipe us out, if we refused to return Mr. Branson and
allow him (Sheriff Jones) to proceed unmolested. While that was considered
"mere bluff," we knew it was possible that he might return, as we knew there was
a large pro-slavery camp below Franklin, It was deemed prudent to remove Bran-
son to Lawrence that night. While Jones did not return as threatened, it soon be-
came evident that the pro-slavery men were terribly enraged at this act of "open
rebellion," and held the entire free-state party responsible for it. Although the res-
cue had been conceived and executed by a mere handful of men, without consulting
anybody but themselves, yet the act was generally approved and defended,
thereby making it the act of the whole free-state body. Both sides began gath-
ering and concentrating their forces and preparing for conflict. Meantime Major
Abbott having disapjjeared, as well as all the others engaged in the Branson
rescue, excepting myself, I became uneasy about the ammunition stored in the
major's house, lest it should fall into the hands of the enemy.
About this time, Capt. John E. Stewart, a neighbor living on what is now the
Douglas county poor-farm, called one evening to see how Mrs. Abbott was getting
* The bullet which killed young Jones, extracted by Dr. S. B. Prentiss, of Lawrence, who
attended the dying victim, is among the relics in the museum of the State Historical Society.
Addresses! before the Society. 83
along. I spoke to him about the ammunition, and asked him what had best be
done about it. After considering and rejecting a number of plans, we finally
concluded to bury it for a time in a small field some 40 rods from the house.
This plan we put in execution that night. We put it all into a large trunk, dug
a hole, put the trunk in with plenty of hay around it for dryness, and then cov-
ered the whole with earth, as far as possible removing all traces of our work.
This was done in the dark, no one but Captain Stewart and myself knowing of
The call to arms had been responded to promptly, not only by the free-state
men near Lawrence, but by those of Topeka, Burlingame, Prairie City, Osawato-
mie, and other points in the territory, until our army numbered about 800 men.
All were at once put to work building blockhouses, throwing up breastworks at
street-crossings, and also building a fort on Mount Oread.
Meantime, the governor of the territory. Gov. Wilson Shannon, was doing
wiiat he could by proclamations to assist the pro-slavery men in raising an army
to "put down the rebellion." It was not long before they had gathered forces of
2,000 or 3,000 in their camps near Franklin and Lecompton. An attack was ex-
pected at any moment, either night or day, and the air was full of exciting ru-
But day after day passed and no attack was made. The time was improved
in multiplying and strengthening the defense of the city. It was during this
period that I was eye-witness to an incident that I have never seen referred to
in print, but which I think ought to be recorded for two reasons: First, because
it will give the present and future generations a clearer insight of the unre-
corded difficulties and dangers of that time; and second, because it displayed
the rare tact and marvelous magnetic power of a man who, later on, succeeded in
making himself what no other man ever did, the central figure around which for
years, the entire political system of Kansas revolved. I refer, of course, to Gen.
James H. Lane.
Although at first our men had come quickly to the rescue, and would doubt-
less have fought bravely had they then been attacked, there had, from various
causes, been developing a spirit of discontent in our ranks, which, if allowed to
materialize, might have wrought more serious disaster to our cause than an at-
tack from the enemy. The most serious cause of discontent was the fact that
the families of very many of the men were left to shift for themselves in their
uncomfortable little cabin homes scattered over the prairies, lacking often the
barest necessities of life, entirely unprepared for winter and unprotected from at-
tack shovild the ruffians see fit to molest them. The condition was a serious one
and well calculated to make men restless. Many could not even hear from their
The incident to which I refer, and of which I was a witness, was in this wise :
A detail of men were at work on one of the earthworks on Massachusetts street.
General Lane came around, in a quiet and unostentatious way, to inspect the
work. He made some little suggestions about it, to which some one replied in a
gruff voice : " We all had better be at home fixing up for winter, than fooling
our time away here." To this remark the general made some good-natured and
Instantly the smoldering fire of discontent seemed to burst into a flame, and
several men spoke up at once, all taking the same view the first man had. With
the instinct of a born leader. Lane took in the situation and recognized its
gravity. Instead of remaining on a level with the men and wrangling or arguing
with them, where -he would most certainly have been out-talked, he sprang upon
84 Kansas State Historical Society.
the embankment and commenced making a speech. By this shrewd move he
obtained "the floor," and silenced his opponents. He commenced in a low,
smooth tone, calculated to eooth and not ruffle the feelings of the discontented
men. In a few minutes the street was full of men, who had come on a run to
hear the news, thinking some fresh word had been received regarding the move-
ments of the enemy. As the audience grew, the fervor of the speaker arose. He
comprehended the magnitude of the occasion. The army must be held together ;
the words he must now utter must accomplish that end. He became afire with
eloquence. Off went his large, circular military cloak, next liis hat, soon his
coat, as he saw his appeal was telling ; then his vest followed. The general, as
well as his hearers, was indeed getting warmed up : and his necktie was soon
lying with his other clothing on the ground, his shirt was unbuttoned down the
front, while shouts and cheers of applause went up from the men.
Next his shirt-sleeves were unbuttoned and rolled above his elbows, and as he
paced, like some wild animal, rapidly back and forth on the embankment, with
the perspiration standing in great beads upon his face, notwithstanding it was a
sharp December day, he poured forth a stream of eloquence, the like of which I
have never heard, although I am now an old man and have listened to many of
America's most-noted orators. The men by this time were in a perfect frenzy;
yelling and cheering, jumi:)ing about, shaking hands, slapping one another on the
back, and acting in a ridiculous manner generally. But General Lane knew, as
he came down from his perch and put on his discarded clothing, that he had won
an important, although bloodless victory. I verily believe, if he had asked that
body of men to follow him through fire and blood knee deep into the very heart
of Missouri, not one would have refused.
But I imagine I hear some one say, after reading this sketch, "What a fool
Lane was. Why didn't he arrest and punish those men for insubordination in-
stead of making a speech ?" Hold on, my friend ; not so fast ! James H. Lane
at that time was only general by sufi'erance of the free-state people of Kansas.
He held no commission from any recognized authority, either territorial or na-
tional. He was in law a rebel, and the active leader of an army of insurgents.
Had we failed in resisting that siege of Lawrence, Lane wovild have suffered the
fate of a traitor. Had our little army been allowed to disintegrate at that time,
instead of "hanging together," we might, not a few of us, have been "hung
Along about the middle of December, it was discovered that, although
very strongly fortified and much better armed than the enemy, we had but
very little ammunition. We were in a practical state of siege, the enemy
guarding all the roads approaching the city. Why this condition of things
existed I do not know; except that Kansas was an isolated region, and actual
war had not been apprehended.
According to the statement made by Mrs. Brown, read at this annual
meeting, and corroborated by Mrs. Wood, it would seem that General Lane,
up to this time, did not know of the existence of the ammunition which Cap-
tain Stewart and I had buried. If that be true. Captain Stewart had certainly
guarded our secret too well; and that it was true is indicated by the fact that
he had arranged to take a squad of men and go for the ammunition himself
without consulting his commanding ofTicer, General Lane. But as Captain
Stewart was forbidden to leave ihe city with his escort at that critical time,
there was but one alternative, if the ammunition was to be secured, and that
was, that "the boy" who had helped Captain Stewart to bury the ammunition
Addresses before the Society. 85
must go and dig it up for the brave ladies who had volunteered to go out and
While I was regularly enrolled in Co. E, third regiment, and required to
report for drill at stated periods, I was employed as a kind of errand boy;
and being sent out to our claim every few days to look after the stock, it was
my duty also to make the circuit of the neighborhood, and look after the
wants of the neighboring families. I walked out and back; and as I had never
been molested, when Captain Stewart called on me and asked me if I was
willing to go out and dig up the ammunition we had buried for some women to
bring in, I did not hesitate to do it.
When my father found I was going, he told me to drive in a yoke of our
oxen, to be used in plowing about the fortifications being thrown up. I went
out as usual, afoot and alone, seeing nothing to excite alarm. I found the
oxen, yoked them up, and returned as far as Major Abbott's place. Here I got
my dinner, and then, with Mrs. Abbott's help, proceeded to dig up the ammuni-
tion and bring it to the house, watching to be sure we were not observed. In
this we had no trouble, except the hard work, for the trunk was heavy and did
not come out of the hole as easily as it went in.
Soon Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Wood returned from Mrs. Gleason's, and, after
warming and resting a little while, they proceeded, with the help of Mrs. Abbott
and "the boy," to load up. There was powder, lead in bars, bullet-molds, cart-
ridge sticks on which to wind the cartridges (that was before the day of "fixed
ammunition," gunwipers and primers â€” in tape form, 50 in a roll â€” not very agree-
able baggage to have stowed around one's person. But it was piled on until the
ladies could find no room for another bit. With their loads they could scarcely
walk, and could not get into their wagon without help. There were still three
packages left which I promised to take. Had I been wise I would have had the
ladies take those three packages and leave some other things of far less im-
poi'tance. Each one of those small packages contained 1,000 primers, without
which the powder and lead would be of little use. Those primers (or percussion
caps) were the "key-stone" to the arch, so to speak, and should have gone by
the safest conveyance.
Bidding us good-by, the two ladies started out for Lawrence, five miles
away. How they got through and the reception they met they have told the
world in their own graphic language.
With a farewell to Mrs. Abbott, as brave and kind a woman as ever lived and
a worthy companion to the gallant major, I followed, driving the oxen before me.
As I was to pass out of sight, a quarter of a mile or more from the house, on looking
back I saw her still watching me, as though uneasy about me, while on my part,
having no fear for myself, a feeling of sadness came over me as I thought of her
and her little child, left alone both night and day in discomfort and danger, fear
and uncertainty. x\mong the hundreds of similar cases, hers was one of the
saddest, for her husband was a special object of hatred to the pro-slavery men,
for he had taken a leading and conspicuous part in many ways. He had pro-
cured in the East many of the Sharpe's rifles with which the men in Lawrence
were armed, and the 12-pound howitzer, which had just arrived. He had drilled,
as well as armed, companies of men, and he had been a leader in the " Branson
rescue." He was liable to be killed at any time, whenever a border ruffian could
Crossing the Wakarusa at Blanton's bridge, I soon passed out through the
narrow skirt of timber on the north bank into an open bottom prairie about IX^
miles wide. Before leaving the timber, I took a look in every direction for pos-
86 Kansas ^tate Historical Society.
sible signs of danger. Excepting the ladies in advance of me, I could see no one
as far as the eye could reach. Being now sure of a clear coast, I pushed on as
fast as I could make the oxen travel. But it is the unexpected that often hap-
pens. Those oxen were the direct cause of getting me into trouble that day.
Had it not been for them I could have easily crept into the high grass at the first
sign of danger and made my way into town without being seen by the enemy.
But now I could be seen as far away as a man on horseback. After getting
about half a mile from the timber, I saw two horsemen riding rapidly from a
point about a mile east to intercept Mrs. Wood and Mrs. Brown. Knowing my
turn would come next, my first thought was to retreat to the timber, but as I
turned back I saw three other men riding up the creek along the edge of the
timber towards me. Escape was impossible. What was to be done? Had the
question been put to me five minutes earlier I should have had no answer. But
like a flash of inspiration came the thought, " play the role of a simple." The
two men were now interviewing the women a mile ahead of me, while the three
were a little further aw^ay in another direction. Hastily secreting my three pack-
ages of primers about my person, when, a few minutes later, five heavily-armed
men closed in on their " quarry," all they found was a small boy, jabbering and
playing carelessly along the road, enveloped in a cloud of dust created by scuf-
fling feet along the dusty road. With a gruff order to halt and the muzzle of
their guns looking me in the face, they commenced a rapid fire of questions, as
to where I came from, where I was going, what I was going for, what I knew
about Lawrence and " Jim Lane," and a whole volume of " leading " questions.
As I glanced up at first and recognized in one of the men one of the most
desperate characters on the border, whose brother was contesting for a claim
within a mile of where we were standing, my nerve came near failing me. But as
the glance assvired me that I was not recognized, my heart dropped back to place,
and "Richard was himself again." How long they held me there, whether five
minutes or half an hour, I cannot say, as I was not counting time, and my an-
swers in detail! do not propose to give. Suffice it to say that the answers were
sufficiently foolish to convince the interviewers that I did n't know anything, and
was a harmless and useless piece of humanity. After talking about taking me
to their camp and taking the oxen for beef, the scouts let me go, cattle and all,
without having discovered anything "contraband of war," but advising me to
keep away from Lawrence. They said I was liable to get hurt if I did n't, as
there was going to be a big fight there very soon. Had they had the faintest
suspicion of what I actually knew about the situation in Lawrence they would
have put me to torture in some form, until they had forced me to tell it.
After being permitted to move on I sauntered along very leisurely, as if not
caring whether I ever got anywhere, until the men had entirely disappeared in
the direction whence they came, and then I made fast time until I reached the
city, where I was received as one risen fi-om the dead, one who had brought a
blessing with him from the spirit land. The ladies who had preceded me had
reported me captured and doubtless killed outright, or at the best taken to their
camp, whence I could never return. As I demurely followed my oxen through
the main street, being discovered, the air rang and reechoed with shouts and
cheers, while I was overwhelmed with a deluge of questions as to how I escaped.
But on that subject I was not communicative. Passing quietly on, I went im-
mediately to "headquarters" and delivered my three precious packages safe and
sound. This caused surprise and joy â€” surprise that I had passed the border-
ruffian pickets with such valuable material for "the rebels," and joy in the as-
surance that now we were prepared to make a stubborn and effective fight. I
Addresses before the Society. 87
went directly home to tnother, where I was received with great joy; for after the
arrival of Mrs. Wood and Mrs. Brown, the news of my capture had become im-
And now my story is told, for history has already recorded how, by a rare
stroke of diplomacy, Governor Shannon was induced to visit Lawrence; how he
was "dined and wined": how by means of certain peculiarly mellowing influ-
ences he was induced to commission Charles Robinson and James H. Lane as
officers of the "Kansas territorial militia," with authority to organize and equip
the same, thereby with a stroke of the pen transforming our whole force from a
band of insurrectionists or rebels, into lawful citizens: how, as a direct result of
that maneuver, the border-ruffian forces were disbanded, and returned whence
they came; how at last the brave boys in Lawrence were permitted to return to
their long-neglected families, in their little cabin homes scattered over the bleak
Kansas prairies; and the angel of peace settled down over the besieged city for
the winter, and until grass had grown in the spring, when the conflict broke out
fiercer than ever.
Since that eventful period which I have been attempting to portray by select-
ing a few typical cases that came within my personal knowledge, 40 years have
passed. The old landmarks are rapidly fading and disappearing. Soon none of
the active participants in those scenes will be left to tell the tale. Of our party
of 45, I only know of one besides myself still living in Kansas. That one is Ira
Brown, of Lawrence.
Since I commenced writing this paper, I have cut the following items from a
newspaper dated October 17, 1895, telling the fate of two prominent characters
of Kansas in 1855. Baldwin's Ferry was an institution that for soiue years every-
body had to patronize, since it was the only means of crossing the Kansas river
at Lawrence or for many miles either above or below. As the miller's rule was
adopted, "first come first served," I have frequently had to remain in line with
my team for hours waiting my turn to be set across the "raging Kaw."
Rev. S. Y. Lum was one of the few to bring his family and all his worldly
possessions to Kansas in the fall of 1854, to establish a home in the wilderness.
He was a gentleman of culture and refinement, a strong man physically, men-
tally, and morally; genial, clear-headed, and courageous, active, energetic, and
alert; as ready to shoulder his gun and fall into line in defense of the principles
of freedom when endangered as to preach them from the pulpit. With such a
character he easily took front rank, and no man stood higher in the estimation of
the Kansas pioneers at the time of this story's commencement than he. After a
long life spent in preaching the gospel of liberty and peace, he has met a violent
death on foreign soil. Here are the slips referred to:
"Lyndon Journal, October 17, 1895: Mary A. Baldwin, 76 years old, who set-
tled in Lawrence in 1855, died in Denver September 29, leaving 10 grown chil-
dren, all of whom attended her funeral. Her husband was a gvmner in the first
Kansas battery, and was killed at Elm Springs, Ark. He ran a ferry at Law-
rence before Babcock built the bridge.
"Lyndon Journal, October 17, 1895: The Rev. S. Y. Lum, 73 years old, who
conducted the first religious services held in Lawrence, and who organized the
Congregational church there, was killed by a train at Rutherford, N. S., last
88 Kansas State Historical Society.
TRAILS IN SOUTHERN KANSAS.
Written by Hon. J. R. Mead, of Wichita, for the annual meeting, January 17, 1893.
I have been requested to write something of an historical nature relating to
Kansas, and, on applying to your Secretary for a suitable subject, he suggested
"Trails in Central and Southern Kansas," a subject which should have been as-
signed to an older resident and abler writer than myself. However, I will attempt
to write something of the trails of the bison, the Indian, the explorer, and the