Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5 v. (lvi, 2731 p., [228] leaves of plates) : ill., maps (some fold.), ports. ; 27 cm.

1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 30 Part 2


Upon receipt of this letter, John Brown proceeded to raise money to buy arms and ammunition for his sons in Kansas. General Lucius V. Bierce donated a number of broad swords of antique design, which had been left on his hands by a "defunct filibustering company." We shall see that these swords did bloody work later. Taking his son-in-law, Henry Thompson, he set out for Kansas, bearing these arms. At Detroit they were met by Brown's son, Oliver. The three men left Chicago the 23d of August. They drove over the country, crossing the Missouri River at Waverly. John Brown did not like the idea of his grandson remaining buried "amidst the ruffian-like people by whom (for the most part), they were themselves too inhumanely treated in their distress," so he disinterred the body of the child and carried it along to Kansas. An old Missourian meeting Brown's company, inquired from whence they came and whither they were going. Being told that they were from New York, on their way to Kansas, the old man replied, "You won't live to get there." To this warning, John Brown said, "We are prepared not to die alone." He was not further troubled.

On the 7th of October John Brown arrived at the settlement of his children. He found that they were very poorly housed; that the supplies of food were very meager; and that they were suffering from chills and fever. John Brown worked with vigor to remedy these ills. It was his intention to follow the vocation of surveyor in Kansas. The compass which he carried with him was purchased at Troy, New York, for use in the Territory. It is now in the Museum of the Kansas State Historical Society. These Browns had declared themselves in favor of a free State from their first arrival. They had also announced that they were Abolitionists. They were early marked by the Border-Ruffians as men dangerous to the institution of slavery. They attended the meetings of the Free-State people, and were outspoken against the Missourians in their invasion of Kansas and fraudulent voting.

We have noted the appearance of John Brown and his sons at Lawrence in the Wakarusa War, and the organization of a compnay[sic] there with John Brown as Captain. John Brown, Jr., was elected a member of the Free-State Legislature. In the exciting times of the winter of 1855-6, the Browns bore a part. When Lawrence was beleaguered in May, 1854, they were prompt to respond to the call for help, as they had responded the past December. They were now better informed as to the conditions in the Territory. Their participation in the affairs had given them experience and an insight into the Border-Ruffian character and intentions. Early in the spring, Judge Cato, of the Territorial Supreme Court, was at Dutch Henry's Crossing of the Pottawatomie, holding a term of court. John Brown, Jr., was the captain of a company of Free-State men numbering about one hundred. These men passed a resolution warning Cato not to try any one under the Territorial laws. John Brown and John Brown, Jr., were appointed to serve this warning on Judge Cato. Salmon Brown went along to see what effect the warning would have. Cato paid no attention to it. He issued warrants for the Browns and for the members of the Free-State Legislature in that district, two of whom were John Brown, Jr., H. H. Williams. On this subject John Brown wrote:


Dear Brother Adair: . . . Yesterday we went to Dutch Henrys to see how things were going at Court, my boys turned out to train at a house near by. Many of the volunteer Co. went in without show of arms to hear the charge to Grand Jury. The Court is thoroughly Bogus but the Judge had not the nerve to avow it openly. He was questioned on the bench in writing civilly but plainly whether he intended to enforce the Bogus Laws or not; but would give no answer. He did not even mention the so called Kansas Legislature or name their acts but talked of our laws; it was easy for any one conversant with law matters to discover what code he was charging the jury under. He evidently felt much agitated but talked a good deal about having criminals punished, &c. After hearing the charge and witnessing the refusal of the Judge to answer, the volunteers met under arms passed the Osawatomie Preamble & Resolutions, every man voting aye. They also appointed a committee of Three to wait on the Judge at once with a coppy in full; which was immediately done. The effect of that I have not yet learned. You will see that matters are in a fair way of comeing to a head.

Yours sincerely in haste.


To this, Judge Hanway added in after years:

John Brown, Jr. left the court room, and in the yard he called out in a loud voice: "The Pottawattomie Rifle Company will meet at the parade ground," and the company consisting of some thirty men, marched off to meet as ordered. There was not a disrespectful word uttered, nor were there deadly weapons displayed on the occasion - there were doubtless a few pocket pistols, but they were hid from sight. Between dark and daylight, Judge Cato and his officials had left; they journeyed toward Lecompton in Douglas County, which was the Bastile of the proslavery party. This was the first and the last of the pro-slavery court holding their sessions in this section of the country.

A camp of Buford's Georgians had been established some three miles southwest of Dutch Henry's Crossing. In order to determine exactly the attitude of these men toward the Free-State settlers, John Brown took his surveyor's instruments and ran a line through the Georgian camp. The surveying parties in the Territory were composed of Pro-Slavery men, and the Georgians supposed Brown's party to be Government surveyors and Pro-Slavery in sentiment. Salmon Brown carried one end of the chain. The Georgians talked very freely to the Browns. They said "they had come to help themselves first and the South next, but there was one thing they would do - they would annihilate every one of those d__d Browns, and they would stay with Judge Cato until every d__d Abolitionist was in hell." Salmon Brown said that nerved them for future action. - The warrants for the arrest of the Browns and others were put into the hands of Old Man Doyle and his two sons, who were deputy constables. They had the warrants for the arrest of all the Browns and Henry Thompson.

At the time the summons from Lawrence arrived, John Brown was in Osawatomie. The Pottawatomie Rifles, the company of John Brown, Jr., assembled at that place to set out for Lawrence. They left Osawatomie about four o'clock on the afternoon of the 21st of May. They followed what was locally known as the California Road, which passed through the village of Mount Vernon, on Middle Creek. Some two miles south of that point, the Osawatomie Company, under Captain Dayton, came up. A halt of two hours was made at Mount Vernon for the moon to rise. Just at daylight the companies went into camp on Ottawa Creek, just west of the house of Ottawa Jones. There they cooked their breakfast. Before they arrived at that point, a messenger met them and informed them that Lawrence had been destroyed the day before at about the time they left Osawatomie. It was then a question as to whether they should go on to Lawrence and it was finally determined that they would go. They went about five miles farther on the road to Lawrence, which brought them into the vicinity of Captain Shore's claim. There they went into camp. Salmon Brown asserts that his father had a small company of his own which he kept apart from the others, and that this company had gone much father north than the Shore claim. He says:

In the meantime father's little company went back on the road toward Ottawa Jones'. As near as I can remember about half way from the Wakarusa hills and Ottawa Jones' home place we stopped at a little station where they gave meals from a tent. They also had a grindstone.

The point where John Brown stopped with his company must have been the camp of John Brown, Jr.2 as long said that a messenger arrived at this camp with information that there was trouble on the Pottawatomie. In the conflicting statements on this subject, this author in a former work, made H. E. Williams this messenger, which was an error. In any event, discussion arose in the camp as to what should be done. Jason Brown has this account of what was said:

Father cooked for our company. While he was cooking breakfast, I heard him, Townsley and Weiner talking together. I heard Townsley say: "We expect to be butchered, every Free State settler in our region," and Townsley pleaded that help should be sent. I heard their talk only in fragments. Then I heard father say to Weiner: "Now something must be done. We have got to defend our families and our neighbors as best we can. Something is going to be done now. We must show by actual work that there are two sides to this thing and that they cannot go on with impunity."

Salmon Brown has furnished the author this account of what was said at the camp:

There were a good many men there. Among them was H. H. Williams of Pottawatomie, an old comrade of my brother John and later a resident of Osawatomie, I understand. He was a very fine man but got badly cowed after he was taken to Lecompton as a prisoner. Williams knew everybody on the Pottowatomie. My father told him that we were going back to Pottawatomie to break up Cato's court, and get away with some of his vile emissaries before they could get away with us, - "I mean to steal a march on the slave hounds." Williams said "That is just right. I will write down their names," which he did. I stood within two feet of him while he wrote down the names of all the men that were killed and some others. Everybody had implicit confidence in Judge H. H. Williams. We ground up our broad swords on that grindstone and old man Townsley in high glee ventured to haul all of our crowd back in his lumber wagon.


This was on the 23rd day of May. John Brown made up his company about noon. It consisted of four of his sons - Owen, Frederick, Salmon and Oliver - his son-in-law, Henry Thompson, and Theodore Weiner. James Townsley3 consented to the use of his wagon to convey the company back to the Pottawatomie. John Brown informed him that he had just heard that trouble was expected there. When Townsley agreed to haul the party, the time for starting was fixed at two o'clock. The swords were sharpened in the meantime. Baine Fuller, a boy, turned the grindstone. George Grant wished to go with the company, but was rejected by John Brown. Judge James Hanway was a member of the Pottawatomie Rifles and records that as the party was getting ready to leave the camp, he feared something rash would be done and urged caution, which seemed to anger John Brown, who insisted that the word meant nothing but cowardice. Hanway was invited to be one of the party, but when told what was to be done, declined to go. When the wagon pulled out bearing the company of John Brown, except Weiner, who rode his pony, cheers rose from the camp. After the party had crossed Middle Creek, it was met by James Blood, who has left a very peculiar account of that incident. Arriving on the Pottawatomie, they drove up the creek away from the road where they would not be interrupted, and went into camp at the edge of the timber about a mile above Dutch Henry's Crossing. Salmon Brown says they rested in a deep grassy ravine.

Salmon Brown says that the postponement was made for the reason that it would be impossible to take the doomed men in the daytime. Some time after dark, probably about ten o'clock, the party went in a northeasterly direction to Mosquito Creek, striking that stream above the residence of the Doyles. It was the purpose of John Brown to make as short a matter of the work in hand as possible. To this end he divided his party in two bands. In the first party was Weiner and Henry Thompson. In the other were Townsley, Owen, Fred, Salmon and Oliver Brown. John Brown was to run back and forth between the parties to keep himself informed as to the progress made, and to see that everything was thoroughly carried out according to the designs he had formed. Weiner and Henry Thompson were sent to Dutch Henry's Crossing. The other party then went to the cabin of Doyle. Frederick Brown and Townsley were assigned the duty of guarding Doyle's house. This was necessary to keep members of it from escaping and alarming the neighborhood. They were attacked by savage dogs owned by the Doyles. These Townsley dispatched with his broadsword; he claims that there was but one dog. The old man Doyle and his sons were ordered out. They at first refused to come out. Some inflammable balls were lighted and thrown into the house, after which Doyle and his sons came into the yard. Mrs. Doyle afterwards claimed that her husband opened the door and several men came into the house, saying they were from the army and that the husband and boys must surrender - that they were prisoners. According to her story they first took her husband out and later the two sons. They intended to take another son, but he was spared because of her tears. Salmon Brown confirms a part of the account of Mrs. Doyle, saying that some of the party entered Doyle's cabin. When they went in, Mrs. Doyle seemed to know that trouble had entered. Salmon says, "Mrs. Doyle stormed and raved at her men after we had taken them prisoners. 'Haven't I told you what you were going to get for the course you have been taking,'" she said. The husband endeavored to quiet her. The Doyles were taken a short distance from the house and there slain with the heavy swords. Owen Brown cut down one of them, and Salmon Brown killed the other son and the old man Doyle. This he admits. Townsley says, "Here old John Brown drew his revolver and shot old man Doyle in the forehead, killing him instantly." It is denied by all the Browns that John Brown raised his hand against any of the men killed that night. In the statement of Salmon Brown to Mr. Villard, Salmon Brown could not explain why the shot was fired, saying, "It did no possible good as a bullet, for Doyle had long been stone dead." There was a shot, but for what purpose it was fired has never been explained. Henry Thompson says he was three hundred yards away when the shot was fired, adding, "those who were on the spot, told me that it was done after Doyle was dead." The swords were used and the use of fire-arms prohibited that the neighbors might not be alarmed by the firing. This is what Mrs. Doyle said of the matter:

The undersigned, Mahala Doyle, states upon oath: I am the widow of the late James P. Doyle; that we moved into the Territory, that is, my husband, myself, and children moved into the Territory of Kansas some time in November, A. D. 1855, and settled on Mosquito creek, about one mile from its mouth, and where it empties into Pottawatomie creek, in Franklin County; that on Saturday, the 24th day of May, A. D. 1856, about 11 o'clock at night, after we had all retired, my husband, James P. Doyle, myself, and five children, four boys and one girl - the eldest boy is about twenty years of age, his name is Drury; the next is about sixteen years of age, his name is John; the next is about thirteen years of age, her name is Polly Ann: the next is about ten years of age, his name is James; the next is about eight years of age, his name is Charles; the next is about five years of age, his name is Henry - we were all in bed, when we heard some persons come into the yard and rap at the door and call for Mr. Doyle, my husband. This was about 11 o'clock on Saturday night of the 24th of May last. My husband got up and went to the door. Those outside inquired for Mr. Wilkson and where he lived. My husband told them that he would tell them. Mr. Doyle, my husband, opened the door, and several came into the house, and said that they were from the army. My husband was a pro-slavery man. They told my husband that he and the boys must surrender, they were their prisoners. These men were armed with pistols and large knives. They first took my husband out of the house, then they took two of my sons - the two oldest ones, William and Drury - out, and then took my husband and these two boys, William and Drury, away. My son John was spared, because I asked them in tears to spare him. In a short time afterwards I heard the report of pistols. I heard two reports, after which I heard moaning, as if a person was dying, then I heard a wild whoop. They had asked before they went away for our horses. We told them that the horses were out on the prairie. My husband and two boys, my sons, did not come back any more. I went out next morning in search of them, and found my husband and William, my son, lying dead in the road near together, about two hundred yards from the house My other son I did not see any more until the day he was buried. I was so much overcome that I went to the house. They were buried the next day. On the day of the burying I saw the dead body of Drury. Fear of myself and the remaining children induced me to leave the home where we had been living. We had improved our claim a little. I left all and went to the State of Missouri.


After the Doyles had been dispatched, the party went to the house of Wilkinson, who lived about midway between the Doyle cabin and Dutch Henry's Crossing. Salmon Brown told Villard that the forces were divided at Wilkinson's. This could hardly have been the case. The division was evidently made before a blow was struck. The best account of what occurred at Wilkinson's house, was told by Mrs. Wilkinson to Mordecai Oliver of the Congressional Investigating Committee:

I was sick with the measles, and woke up Mr. Wilkinson, and asked if he heard the noise and what it meant? He said it was only someone passing about, and soon after was again asleep. It was not long before the dog raged and barked furiously, awakening me once more; pretty soon I heard footsteps as of men approaching; saw one pass by the window, and some one knocked at the door. I asked who is that? No one answered. I awoke my husband, who asked, who is that? Someone replied, "I want you to tell me the way to Dutch Henry's." He commenced to tell them, and they said to him, "Come out and show us." He wanted to go, but I would not let him; he then told them it was difficult to find his clothes, and could tell them as well without going out of doors. These men out of doors, after that, stepped back, and I thought I could hear them whispering; but they immediately returned, and, as they approached, one of them asked of my husband, "Are you a northern armist?" He said, "I am!" I understood the answer to mean that my husband was opposed to the northern or free-soil party. I cannot say that I understood the question. My husband was a pro-slavery man, and was a member of the territorial legislature held at Shawnee Mission. When my husband said "I am," one of them said, "You are our prisoner. Do you surrender?" He said, "Gentlemen, I do." They said, "Open the door." Mr. Wilkinson told them to wait till he made a light; and they replied, "If you don't open it, we will open it for you." He opened the door against my wishes, and four men came in, and my husband was told to put on his clothes, and they asked him if there were not more men about; they searched for arms, and took a gun and powder flask, all the weapon that was about the house. I begged them to let Mr. Wilkinson stay with me, saying that I was sick and helpless, and could not stay by myself. My husband also asked them to let him stay with me until he could get someone to wait on me; told them that he would not run off, but would be there the next day, or whenever called for. The old man, who seemed to be in command, looked at me and then around at the children, and replied, "You have neighbors." I said, "So I have, but they are not here, and I cannot go for them." The old man replied, "It matters not." I [he?] told him to get ready. My husband wanted to put on his boots and get ready, so as to be protected from the damp and night air, but they wouldn't let him. They then took my husband away. One of them came back and took two saddles; I asked him what they were going to do with him, and he said, "Take him a prisoner to the camp." I wanted one of them to stay with me. He said he would, but "They would not let him." After they were gone, I went to the door, and all was still. Next morning Mr. Wilkinson was found about one hundred and fifty yards from the house in some dead brush. A lady who saw my husband's body, said that there was a gash in his head and in his side; others said that he was cut in the throat twice.

2 In his John Brown, Mr. Villard falls into an error as to the time the Pottawatomie Rifles left Osawatomie for Lawrence. He fixes the date as the 22d of May. Connelley, in his John Brown, makes the same mistake. The correct date is May 21, 1856, the day Lawrence was sacked. Townsley, in his first confession fixes the date as the 21st, saying:

"I joined the Pottawatomie Rifle Company at its re-organization, in May, 1856. At that time, John Brown, Jr., was elected Captain. On the 21st of this month, Lawrence was sacked by a Pro-slavery mob, under Sheriff Jones, and on the day of the sacking, information was received that a movement to that end was in progress. The company was hastily called together, and a forced march to aid in its defense immediately determined upon. We started about four o'clock in the afternoon. About two miles south of Middle Creek, the Osawatomie company, under Captain Dayton, joined us. Upon arriving at Mount Vernon, we halted for two hours, until the rising of the moon. After marching the rest of the night, we went into camp, near the house of

John T. Jones, for breakfast. Just before reaching this place, we learned that Lawrence had been destroyed the day before, and the question arose whether we should go on or return. It was decided to go on, and we proceeded up Ottawa Creek to within about five miles of Palmyra. We remained in camp undecided over night, and until noon of the next day. "

It was at least twenty-five miles from Osawatomie to the house of Ottawa Jones. There the men cooked breakfast. They had marched all night and were tired, no doubt. After breakfast they debated as to the advisability of going on to Lawrence. They decided to go. Then they marched up Ottawa Creek to a point near the claim of Samuel T. Shore, camping at a tent where meals were served, and where there was a grind- stone. The company of Old John Brown had gone much beyond this point, but had returned. They must have been in camp there when the Pottawatomie Rifles arrived, if the memory of Salmon Brown was good.

The Pottawatomie Rifles, the Osawatomie Company - Captain Dayton - and the company of Old John Brown must all have camped at that tent with the grindstone the night of Thursday, May 22d. It was on Friday morning, May 23d, that John Brown began to talk of going to Dutch Henry's Crossing. It would have been noon at least, before the Pottawatomies Rifles could have reached the camp from the house of Ottawa Jones. It was probably about that time on the 22d when they did arrive, rather than on the 23d, as Mr. Villard and Mr. Connelley have it. It is impossible that the men could have done the marching in the time allowed by Mr. Villard and Mr. Connelley. The party of Old John Brown would have been compelled to march to the camp on Ottawa Creek, and from that camp to Dutch Henry's Crossing, in twenty-four hours. This is a distance of at least seventy miles. Townsley's horses could not have made that march. Nor could the men.

The men left Osawatomie about four o'clock, May 21. They arrived at the tent with the grindstone about noon on the 22d. They lay in camp over night. On the morning of Friday, May 23d, John Brown determined to go to Dutch Henry's Crossing. He drove out of the camp about two in the afternoon of that day.

Mr. Villard and Mr. Connelley were misled by the date named in John Brown's letter, dated "Near Brown's Station, K. T. June, 1856."

3 James Townsley was born in Maryland, August 29,1807. He was for eight years a soldier in the regular army of the United States. His first service was three years, in the Fourth Artillery, at Fort McHenry. Then he served five years in the Second Dragoons. He was in the Seminole War, in this service, and was severely wounded in the shoulder in Florida in battle with the Seminoles. He was under General Scott, and for a time was a teamster. He came to Kansas in 1855, and settled on Pottawatomie Creek, in Anderson County, one mile west of Greeley. He first saw John Brown near Lane in the spring of 1856.

On Saturday, the 24th of May, Brown and his company remained inactive in their camp on the bank of the Pottawatomie. Townsley insists that he did not know the purpose of the expedition until after supper. He says that his failure to agree to the plans of Brown, postponed the purpose for which they had come until the night of the 24th. He tried, as he says to withdraw from the party, which John Brown would not permit. He says that Owen Brown and Henry Thompson guarded him with rifles to prevent his escape. When he tried to influence the boys, John Brown declared that it was necessary "to strike straight into the hearts of the Pro-Slavery party." Drawing his revolver, he said to Townsley, "shut up, you are trying to discourage my boys. Dead men tell no tales." When he said that he was ill, John Brown felt his pulse and replied: "You are not sick; all you need is a smell of blood."

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.