Morris County, Kansas
Like many other Kansas
counties, Morris County had its share of
issues during Kansas'
fight to become a
Free-State which continued on into the
After the commencement of hostilities between the North and the South, the
people of Morris County were kept in a
constant state of feverish excitement by perpetual threatened invasion from
on the south and west, and by incursions of
after committing all manner of violence in the eastern portion of the state,
were working to the mountains and plains of
where they could prey upon trains crossing the plains, and murder all the
defenseless people who favored the Union. It was during one of these
bushwhacking raids in 1862, by
Bill Anderson and his followers, that Judge A.I.
Baker, one of the most respected citizens of the county, and his
brother-in-law, George Segur, were murdered at Baker's home on Rock Creek.
began, the Anderson family lived in Kansas
not to far away from the Bakers. Natives of
they had moved to Kansas
before it became a state when it was thought Kansas
could be made a slave state by colonizing largely from the South.
The people of
the neighborhood looked upon the family as hard characters, and it was an open
secret that they had committed several murders. To kill, steal, and plunder was
their business, and they became quite a terror to the community. The breaking
out of the Civil War
opened up to them grand opportunities for carrying on their hellish business, of
which they were not slow to take advantage. About this time several other
desperate characters joined them, among them one Lee Griffin, and a notorious
scoundrel, named Reed. They established their headquarters at
Council Grove, and
from this point would sally out and commit all manner of depredations, including
murder, rape and horse-stealing. In one of these marauding excursions they stole
two horses from George Segur, who was father-in-law to Judge Baker.
On hearing of this,
Baker, with several others, started in pursuit and overtook the party on the
Santa Fe Trail,
some distance west of Council Grove. The
horses were recovered, and Baker swore out a warrant of arrest against the
Andersons. This coming to the knowledge of old man Anderson, he swore he would
take Baker's life, and arming himself with a rifle, and with murderous intent,
he went to Baker's house. Baker having been previously informed of Anderson's
design, met him prepared, and before the latter could carry out his murderous
purpose Baker shot him dead.
The following night
the young Andersons, with Griffin and Reed, went to Baker's house, intent on
killing him, and called him out, but Baker, apprehensive that something of the
kind would occur, had secured a friend or two to stay with him, and when he made
his appearance, it was with the friends. Finding themselves thwarted in their
purpose to kill Baker that night, they retired to the brush where they lay
concealed watching for an opportunity to dispatch their victim. After thus
waiting for a week or two without finding the opportunity they sought, they
departed for Missouri.
More than a month
passed by without anything being heard of the Andersons and their gang, and a
faint hope began to be entertained that they had seen the last of them in the
neighborhood, when on the morning of the July 2, 1862, the Andersons were
discovered skulking in the vicinity of Baker's house. They had returned the
previous evening, and with them was another villain, a stranger, unknown to
anyone in the community. Learning of Baker's absence from home, the Anderson
gang secreted themselves in the neighborhood, leaving the stranger to watch
Baker's house and apprise them of his return. On the evening of July 3, Baker,
with his wife, returned from Emporia, which fact was immediately communicated by
the stranger to the Andersons.
At that time Baker
kept a supply store near the Santa Fe Trail,
which stood about seven or eight rods from his house. The Andersons were not
long in perfecting their plans. The stranger was sent to Baker's house,
instructed to tell him that he was "boss" of a train that was camped a short way
off, and that he desired to purchase some supplies. Baker, never having seen the
stranger before, and this being a usual occurrence, was entirely free from
suspicion, but yet in those unsettled times when every man on the frontier went
armed, he took the precaution to buckle on a pair of revolvers, and thus
prepared, and accompanied by his brother-in-law, George Segur, he went with the
stranger to the store. It was now well into evening, so that under the darkness
the Andersons could station themselves close to the store without running much
risk of detection.
Baker had just about
finished putting up the stranger's order when the Andersons, with their partners
in crime, rushed into the store and fired, wounding both Baker and Segur in the
first discharge. Taken by surprise, and being outnumbered two to one, Baker and
Segur in their wounded condition sought shelter in the cellar, where the
murderers sought to follow them, but Baker, firing through the cellar door,
wounded Jim Anderson in the leg, breaking his thigh bone. The Andersons then
withdrew from the building and set fire to it. In the cellar Baker told his
brother-in-law that he was mortally wounded and could not live long, and advised
Segur to escape through the cellar window, which, after much difficulty, he
succeeded in doing. While the store was being devoured by the flames, the
desperadoes watched outside lest Baker should escape, and thus one of the most
respected citizens of Morris County was burned
to death in the cellar of his own store by this gang of cut-throats, after
having been mortally wounded at their hands. Segur died from his wound on the
following day. After finishing their hellish work in Morris County, the murderous gang returned to
to guerrilla warfare and bushwhacking.
Although Colonel S.N.
Wood had, by authority of the Secretary of War, and of the Governor of
organized the Morris County Rangers in the early part of 1863, guerrillas were
not deterred from making plundering and murderous incursions into the country.
On the May 4, 1863, Dick Yeager and his band of guerrillas encamped in the
Council Grove. No
doubt his intention was to sack the town, but the people armed themselves and
posted sentinels each night and frustrated his plans. After domineering over the
citizens for some time with high hand, and using threats and insults, he
withdrew with a portion of his band to Diamond Springs, where, without either
ceremony or provocation, they shot and killed a citizen named Augustus Howell,
and severely wounded his wife.
Another thing that
tended to save Council Grove and its
people from the ravages of Yeager, was the fact that Captain Rowell, with a
company of the Second Colorado Regiment, was stationed close to the town to
guard the mail and Santa Fe trains. Throughout 1864, the people were kept
constantly on the alert. Now it would be a guerrilla raid that would call them
to arms, and now a visit from hostile
Many were the depredations committed that year by marauding bands of both whites
but the people, knowing the insecurity of life and property in those harassing
years, were always on the alert, and while the depredations perpetrated in the
adjoining counties were quite serious, Morris County
escaped with but few, and these were of a trifling character.
In 1867 occurred the
lynching of one of the guerrillas, and the affair caused a great deal of
excitement in Council Grove. In the
fall of 1866 a man named McDowell came from Missouri
and made Council Grove his
stopping place. During the Civil War, McDowell had been a bushwhacker, and when the
war was over he became an outlaw. He boasted of his crimes and seemed to take
pride in telling how many men he had killed. People paid very little heed to his
boasting at the time and set it all down to braggadocio. At that time one W.K.
Pollard kept a livery stable in Council Grove, and one
day McDowell went to the stable and hired a team, ostensibly for the purpose of
going to Junction City. When McDowell didn't return, Pollard became suspicious
and started after him next morning. On reaching Junction City he found that
McDowell had gone farther, and was, by that time, probably out of the State. His
next step was to procure a requisition from Governor Crawford, after which he
started in pursuit of the thief, and succeeded in overtaking him at Nebraska
City, where he arrested him and brought him back to Council Grove. Here,
he had a preliminary examination and was held for trial at the District Court.
While McDowell was in
jail he was visited by a Shawnee County Deputy Sheriff named Cunningham
who attempted to smuggle him a gun. Cunningham was detected in the act, however,
and before McDowell had an opportunity of using the gun, it was taken from him.
When word got out about what Cunningham had done, a group of resolute men
threatened to hang him. As Cunningham pled for his life a rope was prepared, but
in the end, the vigilantes let him go and Cunningham left town never to be seen
again. McDowell; however, would not be so lucky. The men then seized
McDowell from the jail and carried him to the center of the bridge that crossed
McDowell begged and pleaded and screamed for mercy, but all his pleading fell
upon deaf ears, for he was about to taste of that kind of mercy that he, by his
own boasting, had shown to his helpless victims when they appealed to him.
end of the rope was fastened around his neck and the other end secured to
the railing of the bridge. Up he was lifted and over he was dropped, and
there he was left dangling until the next morning. An inquest held on his
body rendered a verdict of death by strangulation.
A few days after this
occurred, the whole community was thrown into considerable excitement by a rumor
that members of William Quantrill's and Bill Anderson's bands, to which McDowell had belonged,
were on their way to take revenge upon the people of Morris County, and Council
particular. However, lucky for the people of Council Grove, It
turned out to be mere rumor.
Compiled and edited by
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.
About this article:
The primary content is from William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, first
published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, Illinois. Note that the article is
not verbatim as corrections and editing have occurred.
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