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Category: Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
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The brethren in Illinois were at the first amazed at what they heard, and did not know what to think or say. Before they could make up their minds, the following editorial appeared in the _Schuyler County Democrat_, published at Rushville:

 

ELDER PARDEE BUTLER,

The gentleman who was placed on a raft in the Missouri River, with a proper uniform for a Northern fanatic, is in Rushville. We saw handbills posted around town stating that he would hold a meeting in the Christian Church. We are informed he will deliver a series of lectures, in which, _of course_, he will give vent to his indignation toward the people of Kansas, Judge Douglas and the Administration. We thought Schuyler county was the last place which a _Northern fanatic_ would visit for sympathy. We hope that those that go to hear his lectures, which differ with him in their sentiments, will not interrupt him or give him any pretext by which he could denounce our citizens.

 

To the above notice of myself I made the following reply:

[For the Prairie Telegraph.]

MESSRS. EDITORS: _Sirs_--I find the above notice of myself in the last issue of the _Schuyler Democrat_.

While in Kansas I diligently worked six days of the week, and on Lord's day spoke to my neighbors, not in reference to affairs in Kansas, but in reference to our common interest in a better and heavenly country. I do not know that I indicated my political proclivities, in any word or allusion, on any such occasion, But I did, in private conversations with my neighbors, avow my intention to vote for Kansas to be a free State, and gave my reasons for so doing. _This was my only offence._

What must you think of yourself, sir, in this notice you take of this transaction? And you pretend to be a conservator of public morals! If there is in town a clergyman that will consent to teach you a few lessons upon the items of justice and gentlemanly behavior, I suggest it may be to your advantage to put yourself under his tuition. You may perhaps learn that it is neither just nor gentlemanly gratuitously to insult a man, because you have _surmised_ that he will show some resentment at the ruffianism of a Kansas mob, with which you seem to sympathize.

Since I came into Illinois I have steadily declined to make any statement of this affair in any public address. Still it is perhaps due to the world to know some additional facts. How the mob deliberated among themselves. . .

I have never yet made war on Judge Douglas. It is true that the Missouri Compromise, being a time-honored covenant of peace between North and South, I would much rather it had been suffered to remain; but now I am rather indignant at the clear and palpable violation of the principles of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, in the attempt made by border ruffians to drive out peaceable citizens from the free States. I am still more indignant that a Northern editor can be found to wink at such flagrant and unquestionable wrong. Judge Douglas may well exclaim, "Save me from my friends!"

Perhaps, upon reflection, you may be convinced of three things: First, that I am not a fanatic, and have not deserved the treatment I have received; second, that your friends may be trusted not to create any disturbance at my meetings; and, third, that instead of seeking to stir up against me the prejudices of ignorant partisans, you may safely devote yourselves to the more honorable employment of seeking to restore in our unhappy country the supremacy of law. Very faithfully,

PARDEE BUTLER. RUSHVILLE, Sept. 11, 1855.

 

The final result was much more favorable than could have been expected, and the brethren gave me an invitation to remain with them through the winter.

I tarried six weeks in Illinois, and then returned to Kansas with Mrs. Butler and our two children, of whom the eldest is now Mrs. Rosetta B. Hastings. Milo Carleton had already reached the Territory, direct from the Western Reserve, Ohio. He was Mrs. Butler's brother, and it was determined that the two families should spend the winter together, while I should return to Illinois.

We will now pause in our personal narrative and tell what had been going on the preceding summer in other parts of the Territory. A delegate convention had been called by the free State men to meet during the preceding September at a place called Big Springs, on the Santa Fe trail, midway between Lawrence and Topeka. Here the free State men agreed on a plan, to which they steadily adhered through all the sickening horrors that gave to "bleeding" Kansas a world-wide and thankless notoriety. They resolved that they would not in any way, shape or manner, recognize the legality of this so-called Territorial Legislature, nor the machinery it should call into being for the government of the Territory. They would bring no suits in its courts; they would attend no elections called by its authority; they would pay no attention to its county organizations; and yet, as far as in them lay, they would do no act that might make them liable to the penalty of its laws. In short, they would be like the Quaker, who, when drafted into the army, replies: "Thee-must not expect me to fight with carnal weapons;" and when amerced in a fine for non-compliance with the laws, makes the reply, "Thee must not expect me to pay money for such carnal uses, but thee can take my property." Nevertheless, there was superadded to these peaceful resolutions an un-Quaker-like intimation that under certain contingencies they would fight.

Beyond the Wakarusa, and about eight miles from Lawrence, was a placed called Hickory point. Here were some timber claims, and here resided Jacob Branson, a peaceful and harmless free State man. Beside him lay a vacant timber claim, and he invited a young man named Dow to take it, Dow boarded with Branson. When the Missourians came into Kansas the preceding March, many of them staked out a claim which they pretended to hold. One William White, of Westport, Mo., pretended, in his way, to hold this claim. There was not a particle of legality in his proceeding. Notwithstanding, certain pro-slavery men, among whom were Coleman, Hargis and Buckley, determined to drive off Branson and Dow. They sent threatening letters to Branson, and cut timber on Dow's claim; and this made bad blood. One day an altercation took place between Dow and the above-named pro-slavery men at a blacksmith shop, and Coleman followed Dow and shot him. Dow was unarmed, and held up his hands and cried, "Don't shoot," but Coleman lodged a load of buckshot in his breast, and he fell dead, and his body lay in the road till sundown. Then Branson came and took up the body and buried it. This murder created a prodigious sensation; and a public meeting was called, at which there was violent and threatening talk by the free State men. The three above-named pro-slavery men were all present when the murder was committed. They fled, and their dwellings were burned. Coleman went to Westport and gave himself up to "Sheriff Jones." This introduces us to the man that was able to achieve an infamous pre-eminence among that band of conspirators that put in motion a train of causes that issued in the death of half a million of American citizens, and which covered the land with mourning from Maine to Florida, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. This Jones is described by the free State men as a bully and a braggart, as only brave when he was not in danger, and as one of the most noisy and obstreperous of the pro-slavery leaders. Though living in Westport, Mo., he was made sheriff of Douglas county, fifty miles from his place of residence. Buckley swore out a peace warrant against Branson--he swore that his life was in danger. Sheriff Jones took with him these three men, who were parties in the murder of Dow, and arrested Branson, dragging him out of his bed at night. He had also associated with himself eleven other men. The news spread like wild-fire among the free State men. This Jones was supposed to be capable of any atrocity, however horrible, and a company of sixteen men was gathered up for the rescue of Branson. Of this company Sam Wood, of Lawrence, was the leader. They met Jones and his company at Blanton's Bridge, on the Wakarusa River, where Jones was crossing to go to Lecompte, and called a halt. Jones demanded: "What's up?"

Sam Wood replied: "That's what we want to know."

Wood asked: "Is Jacob Branson in this crowd?"

Branson replied: "Yes, I am here and a prisoner."

Wood replied: "Well, come out here among your friends."

Jones threatened with oaths and imprecations to shoot. The rescuing party leveled their guns and said: "Well, we can shoot, too." Nobody was hurt, no gun was fired, and Jacob Branson, coming out from among his captors, walked away.

It will be seen that this was a clear and palpable violation of the plan of procedure which the free State men had agreed upon among themselves, and this act made Kansas for three years a dark and bloody ground, and concentrated on this Territory the eyes of the whole nation. Of the rescuing party only three were citizens of Lawrence. Sam Wood was in his element. He was a man overflowing with patriotism, yet succeeded in doing more harm to his friends than to his enemies. He possessed unmistakable talent; he was a clown and a born actor, and as a public speaker was sure to bring down the house; he was a pronounced free State man; yet in this act he made himself the marplot of his party.

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