This whole Bleeding Kansas topic is a hard one to follow. One minute Kansas was a free-state territory, the next pro-slavery, only to find themselves free-staters again. Problem was most of the pro-slavery population weren’t even Kansans, they were Missourians and South Carolinians and whateverians. They weren’t there for the long haul, they were there to see Kansas admitted into the union as a pro-slavery state and then leave. Now, granted, when Kansas opened up for settlement emigrant aid societies formed in the East helping free-staters to settle. Settle, as in stay, live, work the land.
One such group settled in Lawrence, KS August 1, 1854, only fifteen short days after leaving Massachusetts. Lawrence was named for Amos Lawrence a major financial supporter to the New England Emigrant Aid Company. Other settlements were popping up all over, most were free-staters, some weren’t.
On November 21, 1855 Charles Dow, a free-stater was killed over a land dispute with Franklin Coleman, a pro-slavery man. He’s the first reported death during the Bleeding Kansas conflict. Thomas Barber, a manufacturer of woolen cloth, was killed on December 5, 1855 by George W. Clark, an Indian agent and a member of the pro-slavery party. Barber was on his way to help fight in the Wakarusa War. His death caused an uproar and he became a martyr for the free-staters in Lawrence. A poem was even written by John Greenleaf Whittier in his honor in which became a call to arms. Here is a small portion. To read the poem in it’s entirety go here.
Frozen earth to frozen breast,
Lay our slain one down to rest;
Lay him down in hope and faith,
And above the broken sod,
Once again, to Freedom’s God,
Pledge ourselves for life or death,
That the State whose walls we lay,
In our blood and tears, to-day,
Shall be free from bonds of shame,
And our goodly land untrod
By the feet of Slavery, shod
With cursing as with flame!
Plant the Buckeye on his grave,
For the hunter of the slave
In its shadow cannot rest;
And let martyr mound and tree
Be our pledge and guaranty
Of the freedom of the West!
I’d love to tell you that these two deaths were the only ones, but unfortunately they were the first of many more to come. After Dow’s death Jacob Branson, a friend, became outraged over the lack of justice and threatened to kill Franklin Coleman himself. Branson was arrested by Sheriff Samuel Jones. Remember the ‘bogus sheriff’ from my previous post? Yep, that’s him. Anyway, Jones had hoped Branson’s friends would try to rescue him near Lawrence, giving Jones and his buddies prime opportunity to sack the free-state settlement. Branson’s friends were onto Jones and rescued him outside of Lawrence. Stories told say Jones had fifteen men and the free-staters had about the same. Not wanting bloodshed, Jones let them go but as we’ll see next month, he wasn’t happy about it. His actions led to a battle that some call the real start of the Civil War.
This post was written by Christina Rich and originally posted on Christian Fiction Historical Society.
Photos were taken by Christina Rich at Fort Scott