The first raid by the
Missourians into Linn County, was made in the fall
of 1856. The party was headed by the notorious
George Washington Clarke, and consisted
of about 400 men. This party went to the old town of
Paris, a pro-slavery
settlement. There, they were joined by other Confederates, among whom was the
almost equally notorious James P. Fox. From
Paris, the party went to Sugar
Mound, where they burned down several houses and robbed Ebenezer Barnes' house,
store and post office. Many depredations were committed, and quite a number of
families started back to the East, among them William Hobson's and Ebenezer
Barnes' family, to
Mr. Barnes himself remained.
Colonel James Montgomery was at Sugar Mound at that
time, and was also an object of desire to the Missourians, but he managed to
escape, and the border ruffians thought he had started for home. Instead,
Montgomery went to Missouri for the purpose of gaining
information as to who composed Clarke's band.
However, by the time
he arrived he was ill and went to the house of Captain Burnett and sought
admittance. He was taken in and cared for by Mrs. Burnett, Captain Burnett not
being at home. Some time afterward, Mr. Burnett, who was out with Clarke on a raid, returned, and found
Montgomery, whom he did not know, at his house. Montgomery told him that he was on his way from New
York to Kansas, and desirous of finding a school to teach during the winter.
Soon, Burnett found him a school, which he taught for about two weeks, during
which time he learned all he desired to know as to the identity of Clarke's raiders. He then returned to his
where he formed a company of seven men to go into Missouri and bring back the
property stolen by Clarke's band, or its equivalent. Upon arriving in the
neighborhood of the Burnetts, the men hid in the woods. The Miami Indians were
then still living on their Kansas reservation, and were in the habit of going
into Missouri to stealing horses. The Missourians, also in the neighborhood of Burnetts, upon discovering the presence of Indians in the vicinity, were
accustomed to report the fact to Burnett. Montgomery, having his party in the timber, disguised
two of themselves as Indians, mounted them on one horse, and sent them around
throughout the neighborhood to create the impression that Indians had come, and
to cause all who should see them to report to Burnett. His two "Indians"
having returned, Montgomery, with all his men, moved forward and took
possession of Burnett's house, when Burnett was away.
Soon, the neighbors began to come in on horseback one at a time. As each
approached, one of Montgomery's men would go out to meet him, disarm him,
take his horse and lead him into the house as a prisoner. In this way, 21
prisoners were captured. Burnett himself was similarly secured. Montgomery's men then broke the guns of their
prisoners, took $250 in money, selected 11 good horses and returned to the
Little Sugar Creek In
Kansas. Upon arriving at Sugar Mound,
Montgomery, leaving his men with the horses in the
timber, went to the house of Ebenezer Barnes, to have supper prepared for
himself and his men, but Mr. Barnes' family had not returned, and there was
nothing to eat in the house. He then went to Judge Cannon's house, but the
Judge, although a Free-State
Kansas Montgomery had done, and did not desire to be
identified with him in such operations.
Eventually, most of the settlers returned. Some of their cabins had been burned
and a large amount of property had been carried away or destroyed. Judge Cannon
found his cabin and its contents as he had left them, while Isaac Dement found
his two little cabins burned down, but his household goods had been previously
removed, and remained piled up on the ground.
Colonel James Montgomery soon became one of the most powerful friends of the
Free-State men, and
the most hated and feared by the pro-slavery men. Though his
operations were classed as defensive, preventive and retaliatory, it
is doubtless true that he did many things which would not stand the
test of the moral code. With six men he made an attack on Briscoe
Davis, a pro-slavery man and captain of a company of Territorial
Militia, with the view of making Davis prisoner, and securing the
Davis, however, was not at home, and all that was
secured at his house was one prisoner, a number of arms and some ammunition.
While Montgomery was engaged in secreting the arms, the
prisoner made his escape. On this account Montgomery abandoned his design of attacking and
disarming the pro-slavery men on Big Sugar Creek, and, in order to avoid the
Territorial Militia which was in force, under
Geary , eight miles south, on Little Sugar Creek, made
a wide detour south into Bourbon County, coming in sight of some
Texas Rangers immediately fled to
Montgomery's men, that the inhabitants of the town
deserted it in a panic.
In the fall of 1858, Old
appeared upon the scene in Linn County.
He had been invited into the county by Augustus Wattles to assist in fighting
the pro-slavery men. Wattles, who had formerly lived in
to his friends and others as "Subel Morgan," and it was by that name that
was generally known while he was operating against slaveholders and other
pro-slavery men, with Linn County
as his base of operations. Only a few of his immediate friends knew that it was
actually John Brown.
His personal safety required that he should conceal his identity, and often
times also his whereabouts. While in Linn County, Brown
stayed at Wattles' house, working through the
end of year freeing slaves. His determined opposition to the incursions into
of the Missourians, and his own determined incursions into
Missouri awakened the bitterest hostility against him. The Governor of
reward of $3,000 for his arrest, and President James Buchanan offered a reward
of $250 for his head. When Brown
heard of the President's offer he retorted by saying that, although he did not
consider Buchanan's body worth $2.50, yet he would give that sum to any one who
would deliver it to him. He also said that he would offer a like sum for the
Medary, but that he feared some of his men would earn
On December 20th, Brown's
men in two parties, one under his own command, and the other under command of J.
K. Kagi, went into Missouri to liberate slaves.
party liberated 10 slaves and Kagi's party liberated one slave, and killed the
owner, a German, who could neither understand nor speak English. This murder
caused intense excitement throughout the country, and was the immediate occasion
of the offering of the above-mentioned rewards. The liberated slaves were taken
into Franklin County and secreted for a month in an old cabin about four miles
southwest of Lane. At the end of the month, Brown
went north with the freed slaves, and when near Holton an attempt was made by
some pro-slavery men from
Atchison to rescue them. But their attempt failed and
the men retreated in what was called the "The Battle
of the Spurs."
Cygnes Massacre occurred on the May
1858. It was one of the most deliberate, inexcusable and atrocious massacres
recorded in the annals of history. While the people of Linn County
were quietly planting corn and unsuspicious of danger, a band of 30
Missourians, under command of Captain
Charles A. Hamelton , about 8 o'clock in the
morning, one mile below Choteau Trading Post, captured Patrick Ross, who was
going from the Post to his farm nearby. Upon arriving at the Post with their
prisoner, Captain Hamelton's party arrested John F. Campbell, a store keeper
there, and two or three others, who were released. Elder B.L. Reed was captured
one-half mile north of the Post, while standing in the road talking about taking the school. At the same time and place, William A. Stilwell, who
was on his way from Mound City to Kansas City in his wagon, was taken. Upon his
Hamelton asked him if he knew
Montgomery, to which Stilwell replied that he had
seen him, but was not acquainted with him.
Hamelton then commanded, "Get out and
march in here." Stilwell got out of his wagon and took his position with the
other prisoners, leaving his team standing in the road. Some other persons were
then taken and released. This occurred near Mr. Nichol's house, which was
searched for arms and for Mr. Nichol himself, but he was absent.
Three or four of
Hamelton's men were next sent to bring in Asa Hairgrove, and another party was sent after
Austin and Amos Hall, the main body marching on toward Hairgrove's house, about
two miles from the Post. There, Amos Hall, who was nearly blind, and Asa Hairgrove were brought in. At the same time,
William Colpetzer was captured. They then went in a northwesterly direction and
brought in M. Robinson and Asa Snyder, who had a short time previously arrived
with seven men then started out to arrest Captain
Eli Snyder, the blacksmith, and bring him in, the main group proceeding on about
one-half mile to the top of Priestly Mound, from which elevated
position the whole country for miles around could be overlooked. The latter
party watched with considerable interest the attempt to arrest Captain Snyder,
which, on account of his courage and quickness in handling his musket, resulted
in failure, and in some of
men being severely wounded.
Returning to the main body,
ordered a forward march, and the prisoners
were led down to a gulch, single file, when
the commands were given, "Halt, front face, close up," to the prisoners;
and his own men were formed in line in front of them on a rock shelf about as
wide as a good wagon road and somewhat higher than the prisoners' heads.
Deliberately the orders were given by
Hamelton, "Make ready,
but before the order "Fire" could be uttered, one of the worst of the border
ruffians, a man named Brockett by name, turned his horse away, whereupon
him, "Brockett, G---d d---n you, why don't you wheel into line?" Brockett said,
"I'll be d---d if I'll have anything to do with such a G---d piece of
business as this. If it was in a fight I'd fire." At this,
took out his
revolver and fired at the prisoners, giving the order to his men to fire at the
same time. Alvin Hamilton's gun, which was aimed at L.B. Reed, missed fire the
first time; Reed, not being hit, turned partly around to see his companions fall,
gun being immediately re-cocked and fired, received the ball on
one of his ribs and fell. Thus, all these innocent, brave men were brought down.
On their part, there was no flinching nor begging for quarter. Hairgrove,
just before the order to fire was given, said: "Gentlemen, if you are going to
shoot us, take good aim."
After waiting a few minutes,
Hamelton gave the order to his men to go down and
see who were dead, and to shoot those who were not. Two of the ruffians went
down among the fallen and fired three shots at different ones who gave signs of
life. Amos Hall was shot through the mouth. One said "Old Reed ain't dead yet,"
and a shot was fired, when the remark was repeated, "Old Reed ain't dead."
"Which is him?" was asked. "Why, there the old devil is, looking at you." But
Pat Ross got was killed instead. Another ruffian said, "See that man
humped up, he ain't dead." The man "humped up" was Austin Hall, and his body was
perfectly rigid. One of those who were finishing the butchery, kicked Hall,
rolled him over, and remarked, "He's as dead as the Devil," and so let him
alone. However, Hall was actually the only one not hit.
Hamelton and his men then rode away in squads, six or seven at first,
then twelve, and soon after the balance, leaving their victims all for dead. The
result of the shooting was that five were killed, five wounded and one unharmed.
The killed were, John F. Campbell, William Colpetzer, Patrick Ross, William
Stilwell and M. Robinson; the wounded, Amos Hall, William Hairgrove, Asa
Hairgrove, B. L. Reed and Asa Snyder.
The body of William Stilwell was taken to Mound City for burial, those of the
others were all buried in one grave, some distance south of the scene of the
massacre. The wounded all recovered.
Hamelton had prepared a list of from sixty to seventy
men whom he had proscribed, and this massacre was the first of a contemplated
series of massacres which was to be continued until the whole list had been
slain. Happily, it chanced to be the last as well as the first. Montgomery was advised of the general plan, and had
been furnished with a list of the proscribed men. He determined to kill
Hamelton at the first opportunity. To this end, about the first of May he approached
Hamelton's log house with a party of men for the purpose of capturing
him; but finding he could effect nothing in the way of an attack with rifles
alone, he sent a squad of men to bring the howitzer. But before its arrival a
body of United States troops, on their way to Leavenworth, were called to
Hamelton's relief, and Montgomery was obliged to disperse his men.
Montgomery then went to the Sheriff of Linn County,
acquainted him with
Hamelton's designs, showed him the list of the proscribed
men, and received assurances from the sheriff that the men so would be protected from all harm.
Montgomery, who had been away at the time of the
massacre, returned that evening. The next evening a force of about 200 citizens, under Sheriff McDaniel, Colonel. R B. Mitchell and
Montgomery, approached West Point, Missouri, to which place
it was believed the murderers had fled. Before entering the town a consultation
was held, at which, it was decided to send forward a
small group to have a conference. In the meantime, several men were seen leaving town and
Montgomery and his men gave chase, captured one
prisoner, against whom nothing could be proved, and so released him. The
citizens when they finally came out to the conference, deplored the massacre,
denied all knowledge of the whereabouts of the murderers and refused to aid in
During the summer one of the murderers, Charles Matlock, was arrested, but while
Kansas awaiting his trial, escaped from the guard and was never re-captured.
Hamelton's men, William Griffith, was arrested in Platte County,
in 1863, and taken to Mound City, for trial on an indictment for murder
in the first degree. Griffith plead "not guilty," and set up as defense the
"Amnesty act," approved February 11, 1859, alleging that the murder grew out of
"political differences of opinion." The jury; however, not
satisfied with the plea as a defense, found him guilty. William Griffith was
hanged on October 30, 1863. William Hairgrove, one of the survivors of the
massacre, was the executioner.
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.