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.

1894 Robley's History of Bourbon County, Kansas




THE regular election for member of the Territorial Legislature was held on October 4, 1858. Bourbon County was in the 12th District. Thomas R. Roberts was elected the member for this county. On the 10th of October Governor Denver resigned, and Hugh S. Walsh became Acting Governor until the appointment of Samuel Medary, of Ohio. Governor Medary arrived at Lecompton on December 17th and assumed the office of Governor.

The truce agreed to in June had been generally observed and nothing objectionable to any party occurred until in November, when stealing commenced again. The houses of Poyner and Lemons, two farmers living north of Fort Scott, were robbed, and many other depradations were committed. It is not known who committed all these robberies, but they were generally laid onto "Montgomery's men." Some of the robberies were probably committed by men who had, at some time or other, been with Montgomery. There was no "politics" in it more than there would be now days in any plain case of stealing, nor had it anything what-


ever to do with the amnesty agreement further than a tendency to "stir things up."

About the 17th of November, 1858, a man named Ben Rice, who had figured more or less as a Jayhawker was arrested on old indictments for crimes committed before the amnesty. It was said one indictment was for the murder of old man Travis who had been killed on the Osage nearly a year before. The arrest of Rice, although it was made by a Free State officer, on an indictment found by a grand jury, partly, at least, of Free State men, was regarded by many as a deliberate rupture of the treaty of peace and amnesty, which would be followed by the indictment and arrest of all who had been active in the border difficulties, and that the revival or resumption of the execution of old writs for past offenses of a political nature would fall only on men of the Free State party, as most of the men of the Pro-slavery party who were liable under the law for crimes and misdemeanors had been driven out or had voluntarily left the Territory.

Montgomery also regarded the arrest of Rice on such an indictment as a violation of the agreement with the Governor of June 15th. He argued that all offenses committed prior to that date should be "amnested." The other side claimed that the agreement was, substantially, that for past offences no arrests should be made except on duly authenticated indictments by grand juries. Such in fact was the real spirit and intent of the Denver agreement.

Then followed a couple of weeks of uneasiness and growing dissatisfaction, when a meeting was called at


Rayville to endeavor to quiet things down again. W. R. Griffith was president, J. C. Burnett and Rev. M. Brockman, vice-presidents, and J. E. Jones, secretary.

Montgomery, in a speech interpreted the June agreement, claiming that amnesty was of the essence of that treaty, etc. A motion that offenses committed prior to June 15th be referred to grand juries of the proper counties was lost. On the other hand, a motion to forcibly release Rice was also lost. There was some further discussion, but it was impossible to agree on any line of action, and Montgomery determined on the release of Rice.


On the night of the 15th of December, 1858, a party with the purpose of releasing Ben Rice from custody assembled at the house of old man Wimsett, about three miles west of Fort Scott on the Marmaton river. The leaders present were old John Brown, Montgomery and Jennison. These men had with them their lieutenants and particular followers which they had brought down with them from Linn County, of about fifteen men each. On the Osage they were joined by some twenty more and five or six were added to their force on the way down through the county, making the aggregate number at Wimsett's sixty-eight or seventy men. They also brought down a small cannon, then owned by the Mound City people—now in possession of the State Historical Society—which they called "Betsy." Alec Howard, of Osage, hauled Betsy down in a two-horse wagon.


A general council was then held by the prominent men to arrange details. The question of who should command the expedition came up. Brown wanted to lead. He claimed he was the oldest man and oldest in the border war and should have command. He defined his plan of campaign as the absolute destruction of the town and the killing of all who resisted. Hazlett, Whipple, Kagi and some few others supported Brown. Montgomery claimed that he should lead; that the people of the Osage country, in both counties looked to him and relied on him, and he knew their wishes; that he had been their representative in the Denver agreement, and in all the public meetings at Rayville and other points; that the sole and only object of the expedition was the release of Rice, and that not a single house should be burned or a man killed, and finally, in the most arbitrary manner he declared that he was and would continue in command. Jennison had nothing to say. He was there to go in with anybody and run his chances. He afterwards, in a published "sketch of his life" claimed that he was the leader, but his leadership began after the store was broken open and the goods in sight. The party then started for Fort Scott, crossing the Marmaton at the California ford. Brown remained at Wimsett's. The affair had assumed too insignificant proportions for the great "Liberator" to fool with, especially if he couldn't boss the job.

After their arrival at the edge of town, at the house of J. N. Roach, called "Fort Roach" by the boys, which was a log house near the present corner of National avenue and First street, they halted and there formed


into three squads of twenty men each. It was now just daylight, between six and seven o'clock. On reaching the Free State Hotel, where they had previously ascertained Rice was kept, the first division passed quietly by the right to the rear of the house, the second squad to the left, and the third mounted the big flight of stairs in front and passed on up to the third story, where they found Rice and quickly released him. While this was going on a tragedy was being enacted in the building just across the alley from the hotel. This building, still standing, was built by the Government for quartermaster's stores. It is a long, one-story frame house, and was at this time occupied by Little & Son as a general store. A partition had been run through lengthwise, and the part next to the hotel was the storeroom, and the other part was occupied by the Little family. The store had a front entrance and also a side door. John Little and George A. Crawford, for that night, were sleeping in the store. The noise made by the rescuing party aroused their attention. Just then they heard some one cry "Jayhawkers!" Then Little grabbed his gun, opened the front door a few inches and, seeing an armed mob, fired on them, lodging a load of duck-shot in the heavy overcoat worn by Hazlett. Kagi, standing near Hazlett, instantly fired at the door, putting a ball through it just above Little's head. Little then locked the front door and went to the side door, placed a goods box against it and mounted it in order to see through the transom what was going on. The glass in the window was dusty and he took his white handkerchief and was


cleaning a spot so he could see out better, when Capt. Whipple, standing about at the corner of the hotel, seeing the handkerchief moving, fired at it with his Sharp's rifle. The bullet struck Little in the forehead, and he dropped to the floor and expired in a few minutes. Then the uproar commenced. The Jayhawkers thought there were armed men in the store. The cannon was brought up to bear on the house. Some one shouted that there were women and children in the house. Then the doors were all opened or broken down, front and rear. They found no one in the front part of the store but Mr. Crawford and the dying Little. They assisted Mr. Crawford in carrying Mr. Little around to the part of the house in which the family lived.

In the meantime several citizens had made their appearance, and as fast as they did so they were arrested. Colonel and Mrs. Wilson, in the next house to the hotel, came out on the porch and were ordered down on the sidewalk among the other prisoners. Alec McDonald, living in the next house to Colonel Wilson's, came out. Jennison, standing on the sidewalk in front of Wilson's, ordered him to surrender and come down there. McDonald declined the invitation and darted inside the door just as Jennison let go at him with his rifle. The ball is in the door now.

Montgomery, seeing Mrs. Wilson, thought he saw in her face a resemblance to Dr. Hogan, who had once befriended him when they all lived in Missouri. On ascertaining that Dr. Hogan was her brother, he at once released her and the Colonel and promised that


their store should not be disturbed, but "requested" that the Colonel furnish some of his men with breakfast. The Colonel ordered breakfast at the Western Hotel for thirty, but the men did not stay to eat it.

The jayhawkers on breaking open Little's store, seeing the dry goods, boots, saddles, etc., began to help themselves. Jennison was in there. He took one of the new saddles, turned it over on the floor and piled dry goods and things on it, then buckled the surcingle over them, poked his gun through the bundle, shouldered it and walked off. He looked liked the cuts in newspapers and hand-bills of those days advertising slaves.

C. F. Drake, Crawford and others went to Montgomery and tried to have him stop the stealing. He did try to, but the fellows had got a taste and he could not control them. He did, however, succeed, like in time of a big fire, in "confining it to one block."

Little made a fatal mistake in firing the first shot into the mob. While it cannot be stated without question that if there had been no resistance or show of arms there would have been no bloodshed or firing on unarmed citizens by the rescuing party, it is altogether probable that such would have been the case. There was a bad element along, headed by Jennison, who only awaited an excuse like being first fired on to shoot at any body they saw, or commit any depredation.

George Stockmyer, Mr. Tabor and Mr. Johnson, living in the neighborhood of Dayton, learned of the proposed attempt to release Rice the day before, and with a view of preventing probable trouble, started that night for Fort Scott with the intention of inform-


ing the proper officers and getting them to release Rice in advance of the mob. But they were prevented for some reason, and did not get in until too late.

The tragic death of John H. Little was much regretted by all who knew him, not only in town, but throughout the country where he was well acquainted. Every body knew "Little & Son," and Little's Store. He was a man of strong Pro-slavery prejudices, but of late he had nothing to do with politics, but was attending strictly to the business affairs of the store.

The right name of the man who shot Little was Aaron D. Stevens, who was then going under the assumed name of "Capt. Whipple." He had a singular history. At the age of fifteen he went into the Mexican war and, young as he was, he distinguished himself for undaunted courage. After the war his command started home across the plains. One day an officer was grossly abusing a private soldier. Whipple witnessed it as long as he could stand it and then turned in and whaled the officer nearly to death. For that Whipple was sent to Leavenworth, tried, and sentenced to be shot. But he escaped. In January, 1856, he turned up at Topeka, got in with the boys, and was made Captain. Later he joined John Brown and died with him for the Harper's Ferry business, as did also the men called Kagi and Hazlett.