Kansas State Historical Society.

The Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) online

. (page 22 of 59)
Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 22 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

rectness of a like report.

Respectfully, BAT CARP .5

1. See the section on Henry Brown for reprints of these two articles. 2. See, also,
the Caldwell Commercial, July 13, 1882. 3. See, also, ibid., October 12, 1882. 4. Cald-
well Post, Caldwell Commercial, December 28, 1882. 5. Caldwell Journal, September 13,


Tom Carson was temporarily appointed to the police force of
Abilene during that town's last trail-driving season. The marshal
of Abilene then was Wild Bill Hickok. On June 14, 1871, the city
clerk of Abilene recorded Carson's appointment in these words:
"Thomas Carson appointed as policeman pro tern with the under-
standing that he should be appointed regularly his pay dating from
the time he commenced work." 1

Carson was appointed a regular member of the force on June 23,
1871. 2 In less than a week he was in trouble with the city authorities
over a difficulty he had with fellow policeman J. H. McDonald.
The official records of the city carry this entry dated June 28, 1871:

The Hon Mayor of the City of Abilene. You are hereby requested to call
on the evening of the 28th day of June 1871. For the purpose of investigating
a certain affray occurring between Thomas Carson and J. H. McDonald police-
man of said City on the 28th day of June A. D. 1871. "Signed"

J. A Gauthie

S. H Burroughs

J. A Smith

Dr Boudinot

Samuel Carpenter [members of the city council].


Whereupon it is hereby ordered by J. A. Gauthie acting president that a
Meeting be held on said evening. On Motion the Council proceed to make an
investigation as aforesaid. J H McDonald Thomas Carson Jessee Moon.
Thomas & Craiman were duly sworn to make true statements in regard to said
controversy. The Council after having heard the testimony moved that the
said officers be sent forth again to their duty, after being first reprimanded by
the President (Carried) J. A. Gauthie then proceeded to advise the officers
& to admonish them that if brought up again they would be discharged. . . . 3

While Abilene was having its last cattle driving season in 1871,
Newton, a new town sired by the Santa Fe railroad in Harvey
county, was having its first. And it was in Newton that Thomas
Carson next showed up as a police officer.

Born in March, the town of Newton was a lusty, brawling adoles-
cent in August. By then it was reported that ten "dance" houses
were running full blast and three more were under construction.
One writer said:

. . . I have been in a good many towns but Newton is the fastest one I
have ever seen. Here you may see young girls not over sixteen drinking
whisky, smoking cigars, cursing and swearing until one almost looses the
respect they should have for the weaker sex, I heard one of their townsmen
say that he didn't believe there were a dozen virtuous women in town. This
speaks well for a town claiming 1,500 inhabitants. He further told me if I
had any money that I would not be safe with it here. It is a common ex-
pression that they have a man every morning for breakfast. 4

Early Sunday morning, August 20, 1871, Newton suffered a gun
battle which left nine men dead or wounded. Referred to by many
as "Newton's General Massacre," it was described in The Kansas
Daily Commonwealth of Topeka, August 22, 1871:



While at Newton, a few days ago, we were informed that inasmuch as a
man had been killed there on the morning of the day of our arrival, a week
would probably elapse ere another killing scrape would occur; that usually
after a killing in that town no events of any moment, saving an occasional head
breaking or an unimportant stabbing affray, occurred for a week or so. That
information was correct for just a week sped by before a season of bloodshed
and slaughter was again inaugurated. On Sunday (which is the devil's
favorite day for big operations in that town) last, the demon of discord was
again let loose, and riot, blood and murder was rampart to an unusual degree.
It seems as if the week of respite had sharpened the appetite of the devil and
given him additional vigor and disposition to riot in a carnival of blood. The
following particulars are furnished us by an eye witness:

Ever since the shooting affair between McCluskie and the Texas man,


Bailey, which resulted in the death of the latter, a great dissatisfaction has been
not only felt but expressed on the part of Texas men and "war" was declared
to the bitter end against McCluskie should he ever again venture to put in his
appearance in the town. But as the natural result of all such broils, McCluskie
was to come and McCluskie did come and McCluskie saw but did not conquer.
The affair started at one of the dance houses about 2 o'clock A. M. on Sunday
morning. McCluskie was warned that his life was in peril, but thinking him-
self proof against powder and ball, scorned the warning and went into the
dance to come out a dead man. A great many shots were exchanged before
any serious damage was done.

John Martin, a Texan, was the first man killed and the only one that was
killed instantly, and he received an accidental shot as he was trying to effect
a reconciliation between the parties. Martin was a general favorite among all
the boys and was called "good natured Martin." McCluskie received three
wounds, any one of which would probably have proved fatal. He only live[d]
a few hours. Since he died, another wounded Texan has died whose name we
did not learn. Two railroad men were hit by chance shots, who were not in
the muss at all but were hit by shots intended for others. One was a foreman
on the track named Hickey. He was shot through the calf of the leg making
only a flesh wound; the other was a brakeman on the freight train named Pat
Lee; who was wounded quite seriously through the abdomen. Three men are
now dead. Six others were wounded, and some of them quite seriously. One
Billy Garrett, a Texas man, was shot in the arm, and it is thought, was in-
ternally injured by some blow. He lies in a very critical state, and is not ex-
pected to live. Many are inclined to blame the Texas men for all the trouble,
but it is the opinion of our informant that others are just as much to blame as
they are, and that in very many instances more so. How all this will end
is a problem that must yet be solved. It seems to be a great mistake that a
town can only be incorporated and get an organization in the three first months
of the year, as something seems to be quite necessary in Newton a good
efficient police force and a set of officers that mean business and will take some
measures to make it safe for people to walk the streets. It is worse than "Tim
Finnegan's wake."

Since the foregoing was in type we received at 11 P. M. yesterday, by the
night train on the A. T. & S. F. R. R., the following full and graphic account
of the Newton tragedy, from the pen of a correspondent of the N. Y. World.
We publish it to the exclusion of our usual variety of local matter, knowing that
it will be read with interest by our readers:

NEWTON, Aug. 21, 1871.

The air of Newton is tainted with the hot steam of human blood. Murder,
"most foul and unnatural/' has again stained the pages of her short history, and
the brand of Cain has stamped its crimson characters on the foreheads of men
with horrible frequency.

The cessation of travel on the railroad and the want of telegraphic com-
munication from this town on the Sabbath, have prevented the data contained
in this letter from reaching you until the present date; but with the exception


of a single dispatch transmitted yesterday to the mother of McCluskie in
St. Louis, announcing his death, no particulars have passed on the wires, and
your readers will consequently have as prompt and complete a narrative of
the tragedy of Sunday morning as is possible under the circumstances.

Your exhaustive and highly graphic article of a few days since, in which
Newton, and particularly that part of it known as "Hide Park," appeared as
the central figure, created a flutter of excitement in this community, and, not-
withstanding the caustic, even stern criticisms on the general looseness of
morals and disregard of both state and municipal laws, the almost unanimous
verdict was that it was "true, temperate and unbiased." Nay, more than that:
the wish has been loudly and earnestly expressed that the Editor of the COM-
MONWEALTH had been an eye witness of the tragedy in order that, with its
horrible features ever fresh in his recollection, his indignant pen might be
persuaded to cut still deeper into the rottenness which underlies and pervades
the social and political system of Newton. I may be pardoned for the state-
ment that the opportunity is yet a golden one, and for the hope that it will
not be thrown away.

It will be remembered that about ten days since a Texas desperado by the
name of Baylor, a man who is reputed to have killed at least two men in
drunken brawls, met his death while murderously assaulting one McCluskie,
lately in the employ of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad. The com-
mon belief is, and the probabilities are, that McCluskie fired the fatal shot;
whether true or not, however, such was the impression that obtained among
the Texas men, nearly all of whom in this vicinity, are cattle owners or drivers.
These latter are a large and distinctive element of the population, and though
generally of a rough and forbidding exterior, still show some sterling qualities
of character; standing by one another with a dogged obstinacy that might be
called chivalrous, were it not so often exercised in a bad cause. The deceased
was popular among his fellows. Good natured, generous, dangerous only when
maddened by liquor, his bad qualities were forgotten and Texas sympathy was
oblivious to ought but what endeared him to them. Sympathy, strengthened
by bad counsels, intensified itself into rage; rage feeding on itself, verged into
revenge; revenge, muttered and whispered and finally outspoken, culminated
in murder. Of murder we have now to deal. It was past midnight. The
moon had sought her couch, and the stars alone were nature's watchers.
Away out on the prairie from among a cluster of low-roofed houses, twinkled
lights and issued sounds of revelry and mirth. The town was buried in repose
and naught animate was visible save an occasional pedestrian, hurrying home
or the ghostly outline of a distant horseman returning to his camp.

To the casual looker-on, the scene was bewitching; bewitching through its
quietness and natural beauty; bewitching through its promise of quiet and
rest. Of a sudden, however, the scene changes. Groups of men walking
hastily and conversing in low, hurried tones, are seen approaching the town
along the road leading to the place where the lights still twinkle and the sound
of mirth flows on unbroken.

Of what are they talking?

"There will be a fracas to-night, boys, and Mac is a dead man," says one,
a heavily bearded man, around whom his companions cluster in respectful
attention. "Texas is on the rampage to-night in dead earnest, and before


morning there will be lively music over yonder," pointing with his thumb to
the place they had just left. "We haven't more than quit in time. I would
have told Mac, but they were watching me, and I didn't get a chance."

Another group crosses the railroad track and pauses to look back. "I shouldn't
wonder but what there will be shooting at Perry's before long," remarks one.
"I know it," says another; "and I," "and I," so echo the rest. "The boys have
sworn to kill McCluskie, and they are going to do it to-night; You see, if they
don't," says a bushy-haired man, with two revolvers in his belt, and a huge
bowie knife protruding from his shirt front. These were Texans, who knew
what was on foot, but who by their criminal silence, have made themselves
"accessories before the fact."

Still groups and stragglers came along the road, the majority talking in the
same vein, and nearly all actuated by the one motive of self preservation.
They wanted to take no risk of chance bullets, and they hurried away. But
did any one try to avert the impending danger? No, not one. "It's no business
of mine," was the common sentiment. "Every one for himself, and the devil
for the hindmost." "I'm sorry, but it can't be helped."

A walk of a few moments brings us to the dance houses, one kept by Perry
Tuttle, and another, the Alamo, by E. P. Crum. They are but thirty yards
apart, and around them are the other houses, built and used for purposes which
the reader can divine without unnecessary explanation. Women are the at-
traction and . The grass is stubbed and yellow hereabouts, and dim lanes,
worn by the feet of customers, radiate in every direction. Men are continually
crossing from one house to the other to seek occasionally a change of music,
but oftener a fresh partner. The proprietors of these houses are all men who
have many friends, and who by their personal qualities are universally popular.
Quiet, never intoxicated, and generous to a fault, their constant aim has been
to keep quiet and orderly establishments; and they or their employees have
always suppressed any signs of tumult or disorder immediately on their in-
ception. It must be said, to their credit, that no disturbance would ever occur
could their efforts quell it. One of the houses, the Alamo, had closed shortly
after midnight. The music had been discharged, and business for the night was
over. In the other house the dance was prolonged until after 1 o'clock, when,
the crowd thinning out, the proprietor gave the signal for closing.

Now begins the tragedy. The victim was ready and the sacrificial priests
stood waiting to receive him. The victim was Mike McCluskie, or, as he after-
wards on his deathbed stated his name to be, Arthur Delaney. The priests
were all Texans, Hugh Anderson, Solado, Belle county, Texas; Jim Martin,
Refugio, Texas; Wm. Garrett, Solado, Texas; Henry Kearnes, Texas, Jim Wilker-
son, Kentucky, and J. C. U., Solado, Texas. One of the priests sat talking to
the victim with the evident intention of distracting his attention in order to
allow one of the order to give the death blow. The order stood back watching,
and waiting for the entrance of the high priest, their eyes roving alternately
from the victim to the door. The high priest enters, and striding along the
room, confronts his victims and begins the death song. His weapon is in his
hand, with death looking grimly from its muzzle. His words come hot and
hissing, beginning low and rising with his passion until they are shrieked out
with demoniacal force. "You are a cowardly s-n of a b h! I will blow the
top of your head off", are the words that fall from his lips, at the same time
the hammer falls, and a ball goes crashing through the neck of the victim.


The latter rises partially to his feet and presenting his weapon full at the
breast of his adversary, presses the trigger. Malediction! The cap hangs fire,
and the victim, bathed in his own blood, but still discharging his weapon, falls
to the floor. The high priest now gives the death stroke and reaching over,
again taps the fountain of life by sending another bullet through the back
of the prostrate man. The work is done, that is partially.

As the leader rises to his feet, the attendant priests discharge their weapons.
Whether they found another victim, no one can say. Murder has already ac-
complished its mission, and the days of McCluskie are numbered. But there is
an avenging Nemesis on the track. A stalwart figure suddenly appears on the
scene. For an instant he remains motionless, as if studying the situation. Then
a sheet of flame vomits forth, apparently from his hand, and a Texan staggers
from the room across the area and falls dead at the door of the "Alamo."
Another and another and another shot follows, until six men, all priests, have
bowed to his prowess. 5

There were others injured, one, Patrick Lee, a brakesman on the railroad,
who was a quiet and inoffensive looker on, shot through the bowels, and an-
other, Hickey, a shoveler on the same road, wounded in the leg.

There was work enough for the doctors. The only two in town were im-
mediately summoned. They were Drs. Gaston and Boyd, and they were un-
tiring in their professional efforts.

By the time they arrived, the dead man, Martin, had been taken into the
Alamo, where he lay saturated with his own blood. McCluskie had been
taken upstairs as soon as he was shot. Both dance houses were turned into
hospitals. The dying and wounded have received every care and attention.
The women nursed them with touching assiduity and tenderness. The floors
and sides of both halls were everywhere sprinkled with blood, and the gory
stains yet remain. The magistrate of Newton declares his intention to sup-
press all dance houses in the future. Many question his authority to do so,
but the citizens will nearly all support him in case a demonstration is made
to that effect. Coroner C. S. Bowman held an inquest over the remains of
Martin and McCluskie yesterday morning, and a verdict was returned that
Martin came to his death at the hands of some person unknown, and that
McCluskie came to his death at 8 o'clock a. m., this 20th day of August, by
a shot from a pistol in the hands of Hugh Anderson, and that the said shooting
was done feloniously and with intent to kill McCluskie. A warrant was ac-
cordingly issued and served by Marshal Harry Nevill upon Anderson. It is
ascertained what will be the fate of some of the wounded men. Two at least,
it is thought, will die. The following is a list of the names of the sufferers in
the fracas: Arthur Delaney, St. Louis, neck, back and leg, dead. Jim Martin,
neck, dead. Hugh Anderson, high priest, thigh and leg, doing fairly. Patrick

Lee, bowels, critical. Jim Wilkerson, nose, slight. leg, slight.

Hickey, leg, slight. Henry Kearnes, right breast, fatal. William Garrett,
shoulder and breast, fatal.

Last evening, some of the Texans having made threats that they would
kill Tom Carson, a nephew of the late Kit Carson, if he were appointed on the
police, a large number of the citizens went about thoroughly armed to pre-
serve the peace. No disturbance arose, however, and never is likely to arise,
as the number of law abiding citizens is fully equal to that of the desperadoes,


and the latter unless they think they have an overwhelming majority, will never
initiate a disturbance.

By to-morrow's mail I hope to be able to send you further particulars.


In the Abilene Chronicles report of the affair, August 24, 1871,
it was stated that Mike McCluskie had been appointed to the New-
ton police force after the shooting of Bailey. The Chronicle also
included this paragraph on Carson's appointment:

On Monday evening last threats were made, by many desperadoes, that
in case Tom Carson, late a policeman in Abilene, was placed upon the police
force, that they would kill him. He was, however, appointed a police officer,
and that evening patroled his allotted beat as unmolested as if he were in
Abilene, no disturbance whatever occurring.

Further news appeared in the Commonwealth on August 23, 1871:




From passengers on the night train of the Santa Fe railroad, who arrived
at Topeka last evening, we learn that three more persons who were woimded
during the murderous affray at Newton on Sunday morning last, died yesterday.
Lee, the brakeman on the Santa Fe railroad, was one of the unfortunate victims.
His body arrived on the train last night and will be buried in Topeka to-day.

This is the most terrible tragedy that has ever occurred in Kansas during
civil times. It is a burning shame and disgrace to Kansas, and measures should
at once be adopted to prevent a repetition. It will be remembered that New-
ton has no municipal government, and then it is dependent upon its township
authorities for protection. As they are inadequate to govern such a lawless and
reckless class as predominates in that town, we believe it would be an act
of humanity for the military branch of the government to take possession of it
and control it until a civil organization can be formed, and in which there is
strength enough to offer protection to its people. Let us have no more of such
sickening and shocking tragedies.

On August 27, 1871, the Commonwealth reported some progress
toward the enforcement of law in Newton:










The wave of agitation set in motion by the late terrible tragedy at "Hide
Park" has not yet spent its force, although the oil of peace has been freely
poured forth, and the clouds of danger have dissipated and scattered, and left
the horizon once more clear and bright. The "seven day's excitement," which
the popular saying attaches to everything which runs out of the ordinary groove
of every day experience, and which partakes of a morbidly interesting nature,
has yet to run its course, and the dead and the wounded, and the incidents
which led to their condition, are as freely, though more calmly discussed, as
they were on the morning of the day of the tragedy.

In my first letter I stated that a warrant had been served on Hugh Ander-
son for the murder of Delaney. This turns out to be partially incorrect. A
warrant was filled out and handed to the marshal, but in the condition in which
the wounded man then was it was not deemed advisable to serve it, as any un-
usual excitement (it was going out) would prove fatal. This proved to be sim-
ply a dodge to get Anderson out of the way, for three nights since he was
secretly removed from town, and it has been impossible to ascertain his where-
abouts. Some say he has been taken to Kansas City or St. Louis, while others
are positive that he is now in the Indian territory. If the latter surmise be
correct, he is far from being safe from arrest, as a United States marshal can
serve the warrant at any moment, and cause him to be brought back to trial.
There have but four men died of those who were wounded. Lee and Garrett
were buried on successive days. Anderson's wounds will no doubt prove fatal,
and Kearnes is in a very critical situation. The others are doing well, and will
shortly be about. . . .

All parties, and particularly the Texans, who own at least a third of the
town, are keen and unyielding in the determination to preserve peace and the
majesty of the law. A meeting was held a few days since, at which it was
resolved to bury all past difficulties, and to appoint a police force composed of
Texas men and Newtonians. It departed amid a burst of enthusiasm and good
feeling, which showed how sincere was the common wish for, and the de-
termination to, maintain a peaceable, law-abiding town. The few desperadoes
who have been in the habit of making their neighbors uncomfortable by a
bravo display of pistols and knives, have wisely taken to the prairie, and an
ordinance is published and rigidly carried out which disarms any and all per-
sons who may be found carrying dangerous weapons within the township of
Newton. There has been considerable talk about the propriety of applying for
a company of soldiers with which to keep order. The suggestion is by no
means a necessary one. Ten days ago it might have been well timed, but
with the increase of the police force by the appointment of five deputies, the
town may be considered as able to protect itself. By to-morrow evening a
calaboose will have been erected, capable of containing any reasonable num-
ber of prisoners. There has been nothing of the kind heretofore. Judge Muse,
who seems to be the head and front of the peace movement, declares that the
history of Newton is now to begin afresh. Who will not rejoice to hear of it?

Last evening a mass meeting of the citizens was held to take steps to form

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 22 of 59)