Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

One circumstance at last brought to a sudden close Gov. Geary's term of office. When he had disbanded the three thousand "Law and Order" militia that were to attack Lawrence, that part of them known as the Kickapoo Rangers were returning home by way of Lecompton. One of this number went into a field where "a poor, inoffensive, lame young man" named David C. Buffum was plowing, and demanded his horses. Buffum protested against this robbery, but the wretch shot Buffum and took the horses. The unhappy man gave the following account of the matter:


"They asked me for my horses. I told them I was a cripple--a poor lame man--that I had an aged father, a deaf and dumb brother, and two sisters, all depending on me for a living, and my horses were all I had. One of them said I was a Abolitionist, and, taking me by the shoulder, he shot me."

Gov. Geary was returning to Lecompton, and hearing of what had been done, he called with Judge Cato at Buffum's house, and by the Governor's direction Judge Cato took the dying man's deposition. Gov. Geary was terribly shocked, and said to himself, "I never witnessed a scene that filled me with so much horror." Mr. Geary sent a detective on the track of the Kickapoo Rangers, and found that the murderer was one Charley Hayes, living in Atchison county. He had the horses still in his possession. The Governor ordered his arrest, and the Grand Jury found a bill against him of murder in the first degree. Meantime the Free State men came to the Governor making a bitter complaint of the persecutions they were suffering. They said, "Our relatives and friends are arrested and confined for weeks and months in a filthy prison, not fit for dogs to live in, and are kept without proper food or clothing, and are not allowed to give bail even for bailable offenses; while murderers of the other party are allowed to go at large and no attention is paid to them." They said, "The murderers of Dow, Barber, Brown, Phillips, Hoppe and Buffum, have not even been arrested or examined."

The Governor replied that he had already ordered the arrest of Hayes, and that a grand jury of Pro-slavery men had found a true bill against him, and that Hayes should be tried for his life. But while he was yet speaking a messenger brought word that Judge Lecompte had released Hayes on bail, and that Sheriff Jones had gone on his bail bond, a man notoriously not worth a dollar; and this when the crime of murder in the first degree, for which Hayes had been indicted, was not a bailable offense. The Governor was terribly indignant, and ordered Hayes to be re-arrested. But while he was absent at the land sales at Fort Leavenworth, Judge Lecompte a second time set this wretch at liberty. Mr. Geary was provoked beyond endurance, and wrote to the President that he would not remain in office and allow such a scoundrel to be kept in a position to pervert the ways of justice. President Pierce nominated C. O. Harrison, of Kentucky, to take Lecompte's place, but for some unexplained cause the appointment was not confirmed in the Senate, and Judge Lecompte retained his place, and in unspeakable disgust Gov. Geary resigned, making his resignation take effect on March 20, 1857. Thus he had spent a winter in the chamber of death of the wicked old Blue Beard, but did not lose his official head till spring.

The writer was acquainted with the family of this Charley Hayes. They were decent sort of people; but when a young boy Charley went on the plains, where he became a brutal ruffian. A good many years ago there was a story current in Atchison county, that when this Hayes was acting as wagon-boss on the plains, in a train owned by Russell, Majors & Waddell, that one of the teamsters having offended him he tied him up to a wheel of one of the train wagons, and, holding a pistol in one hand, he cowhided him with his black-snake whip with the other. And this teamster was a white man.

But there are avenging furies that follow a man, even though the law does not reach him. There is a man now living in Atchison county whose truthfulness has never been questioned, and he stated that he spent a winter in the Missouri River bottoms, sleeping in the same cabin with Charley Hayes, and that it seemed as if the devil had a mortgage on the ruffian's soul, and tormented him in his sleep with images of the horrors that awaited him in the future world. That it seemed as if he was wrestling in mortal struggle with the men he had maltreated and murdered, and that they were choking him to death. Hayes afterwards died of a consumption presumably brought on by his dissipated habits and by his debaucheries.

Meantime the writer had started for Illinois the preceding summer, had been prostrated for four weeks with a fever, and late in the autumn of 1856 had returned to Kansas, there to remain. The times were becoming quiet, the peaceful counsels of such leaders as Stringfellow and Abell were beginning to take effect, and it evidently would be safe for the writer to go to work on his claim. But he needed a supply of corn, and had to go over into the Missouri River bottoms to buy it. A heavy snow had fallen. I had a heavy, well-trained yoke of oxen, and my faithful riding horse was obedient in every place. Myself and brother-in-law had made a heavy Yankee sled that would hold all the load that was put on it. I borrowed from my neighbor, Caleb May, two additional yoke of oxen, but they only knew how to pull in a big freighting team, and were not leaders. But putting my own heavy oxen behind, my wild steers in the middle, and my horse in the lead, I made out a good freighting team. But I had to pass through Atchison. The business men of the place had already made this overture to me. They had said: "You can come to Atchison during the day time and we will guarantee that you shall not be molested, but we would rather you should not be here in the night. The South Carolinians are here, and there are other desperate characters here, and in the night we do not know what might happen." And so, on the strength of such an agreement, I had done business in Atchison, and to get my corn across the river had gone over one day and back the next.

I had yet one more load of corn to haul. There had been a thaw, and then the snow had frozen again, making it in many places slippery traveling. The river bank, from the top of the bank down to the ice of the river, was about twenty feet, and very steep; and this by much traveling had become a perfect glare of ice, so that teams could not hold their footing at all. I had gone over for my last load one day, intending to return the next day, but I had found unexpected hindrances, and when I got to the east bank of the river opposite Atchison, it was sometime after dark. I got down as best I could and crossed over on the ice to the Atchison side of the river, and I was now to get up that bank of glare ice. [6] I placed my sled load of corn at the bottom of the bank, and taking my team up in an unfrequented place, I stationed them on the top of the bank directly above my load of corn at the bottom. Before coming over I had cut a long, slender pole in the timbered bottoms, and in view of this contingency had also brought extra chains from home, and by means of the chains and this long pole I hitched my team on the top of the hill to my load of corn at the bottom. The thing worked well, and I had my load well on the top of the bank on the level ground; but here the road turned suddenly to the left close along the river bank, and my horse, too eager to get home, turned too soon, and this brought my sled with a sudden crash against a rock, and down went my load to the bottom of the bank again. A chain had broken, and now my load of corn was left in such a position that I evidently could not get it up again without help. In the hindrances to which I had been subjected it had come to be 9 o'clock. I looked about and saw no light save in a saloon that had been built under the bluff to catch custom, for this was the ferry landing. I do not usually visit saloons, but "necessity knows no law," and I walked in; and whom should I find but Grafton Thomassen, the man that made the raft on which they sent me down the river, sitting and playing cards with a number of South Carolinians! They were thunderstruck, and I have to confess that I was almost as much taken aback as they were. But I spoke to them and said, "Gentlemen, good evening." Then I explained, as well as I could, what had befallen me, and that I had come in for assistance. But they were dumb--they never spoke a word. I waited till my position became embarrassing, then said, "Well, gentlemen, you seem to be busy, and I don't want to interrupt; I will go somewhere else." I had already opened the door when Grafton Thomassen found his voice and said, "Boys, it is not right to leave Butler without help. Let us go and help him." "Yes! yes! yes!" they all cried at once, "we will go and help him." And, springing to their feet, and hastily putting on their overcoats, hats and gloves, they came rushing to the door, saying, "Yes! yes! We will help you. What is it we can do for you?"

I went with them to the river bank, pointed out my sled loaded with corn on the ice, and explained to them it had to be brought up the bank. They asked incredulously, "An' kin ye haul that thar slide up that slippery bank?"

I said, "Yes, I have done it once," then I explained how the chain had broken, and how my load of corn had gone down onto the ice again.

They exclaimed, "O! Well now! We have come all the way from South _Carliny_ to see a Yankee trick an' haint we got it?"

They were eager to help, so as to see the fun. When everything was ready I gave my horse in charge of one of them, saying to him he must in nowise let the horse turn till the load of corn was well up and in the traveled road, then gave the word to start. My team was eager to pull, for they were getting impatient; and in fine style they brought the load up on the level ground, and then immediately were in front of the saloon, and I called a halt. When we got everything fixed I said to them, "Gentlemen, I thank you. You have done me a real kindness. But the night is cold."--and handing one of them a piece of silver, I said, "Please take that and get something to warm you."

He took it and with something of hesitation said, "Won't you come in and drink with us?"

I replied, "Please excuse me. You know me; you know I don't drink. But all the same I want you to take it."

He said rather proudly, "We did not work for you for pay. We did it to oblige you."

But I insisted. I said, "You did me a real kindness, and I want to do you a kindness in return. I want you to take it." Then they bade me good night and went into the saloon.

The wind had been rising, and the snow was drifting; and it was evident that in many places the road would be obliterated, and I had a long stretch of prairie to travel over on which there was not a human habitation. It was dangerous to undertake it, and I had to stay in Atchison. I found an empty corral, where my teams would be decently sheltered, and went to the only hotel in town. The sleeping room they assigned me was separated from the bar-room only by a thin board partition, and I could hear every word that was said. This hotel was the boarding-place of the South Carolinians, and they soon began to drop in from about town, and word was passed among them that Butler was in the house. Then one fellow, who was decidedly drunk, got turbulent, and protested, with terrible oaths, that such a man should not stay in the house, but that he would go in and drag him out of bed. Then another company came in and demanded: "What's all this fussing about?" These were my friends, the South Carolinians from under the bluff They heard what this fellow had to say, then said: "This thing has to be dried up." They then told what had happened down at the river, and concluded: "Butler is a gentleman. He talks like a gentleman; _he treats like a gentleman_; he came into this house like a gentleman, and we will show him that we are gentlemen." And when the drunken fellow became uproarious they hustled him off to bed.

I was evidently among friends, and slept soundly and without apprehension till morning. I never saw my South Carolina friends again. They returned home at an early day.

They had not made Kansas a slave state, but they had seen a Yankee trick.