LEGENDS OF KANSAS

 

History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs

 

Historic People of Kansas - "B" - Page 1

 

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Willis Joshua BaileyWillis Joshua Bailey (1854-1932) - U.S. Representative and 16th Governor of Kansas, Bailey was born in Carroll County, Illinois on October 12, 1854. He was educated in public schools before continuing hi education at the University of Illinois, where he graduated in 1879. Soon after completing college, he accompanied his father to Nemaha County, Kansas, where they engaged in farming and stock raising, and founded the town of Baileyville. He also became active in politics, casting his lot with the Republican Party. In 1888 he was elected to represent Nemaha County in the State Legislature; was re-elected in 1890; was president of the Republican State League in 1893; was the Republican candidate for Congress in the First District in 1896, and in June, 1898, was nominated by the state convention at Hutchinson as the candidate for Congressman at large. After serving in the Fifty-sixth Congress he retired to his farm, but in 1902 was nominated by his party for governor. At the election in November, he won by a substantial majority, and began his term as governor in January, 1903. At the close of his term as governor he moved to Atchison, where he worked as a Vice-President and Manager of the Exchange National Bank. Shortly after his retirement from the office of governor he was prominently mentioned as a candidate for United States Senator, and in 1908 a large number of Republicans of the state urged his nomination for governor. Bailey was always interested in the welfare of the farmers of the country, and from 1895 to 1899 he was a member of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture. He  was elected a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri in 1914 and lived in Mission Hills, Kansas until his death on May 19, 1932. He was interred in Mount Vernon Cemetery, Atchison, Kansas.

 

Thomas W. Barber (??- 1855) - A Free-State martyr in Kansas, Barber was a native of Pennsylvania and a son of Thomas and Mary (Oliver) Barber. In the early 1830's he moved to Richmond, Indiana where he was engaged for some time in operating a woolen miIl. Soon after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, he moved to Kansas and settled on a claim some seven miles southwest of Lawrence. Being a sober, honest and industrious citizen, he made friends among his neighbors. Early in December, 1855, when the pro-slavery forces were threatening Lawrence, Barber decided to go to the assistance of the town. He had no children but his wife, who seemed to have had a premonition of impending danger,  begged him to remain at home, but he laughed at her fears and set out on horseback for Lawrence. On the morning of December 6, 1855, in the company of his brother Robert and and a man named Thomas M. Pierson, he started for his home, unarmed, promising to return as soon as he had arranged matters  to permit his absence.

When about four miles from Lawrence, on the California Road, they saw a party of 14 horsemen approaching, two of whom rode on in advance of the others for the purpose of holding a parley with Barber and his companions. These two men were George W. Clark, agent of the Pottawatomie Indians, and a merchant of Weston, Missouri, by the name of Burns. They tried to induce the Barbers and Pierson to join them, and meeting with a positive refusal, one of them drew his revolver and fired twice, mortally wounding Thomas W. Barber. He concealed the fact that he was shot until they had ridden about a hundred yards, when he informed his brother, who at first thought such a thing impossible, but a few minutes later the wounded man was seen to reel in his saddle. His associates eased him to the ground, where a little later he breathed his last breath.

James G. bluntJames G. Blunt (1826-1881) - Physician and abolitionist, Blunt rose to Union Major General during the Civil War. He was born in Hancock County, Maine on July 21, 1826 and lived on his father's farm until he was 14. His restless disposition then led him to run away from home, and for the next four years he worked as a sailor upon the high seas, visiting ports in many parts of the world. In 1845, he gave up the sea to take up the study of medicine and on February 20, 1849, he graduated from the Sterling Medical College at Columbus, Ohio. The following January he moved to New Madison, Ohio, where he practiced his profession until late in 1856. He then moved to Kansas, settling in Anderson County. He quickly became an ardent Free-State supporter and when the Civil War broke out in 1861 he enlisted as a private in the Third Kansas Regiment, subsequently being promoted to lieutenant-colonel. He served under General Lane at the Battle of Dry Wood and then commanded a force that penetrated far into the Indian Territory and broke up a notorious band of rebels, killing the leader. In April, 1862, he was commissioned a brigadier-general and placed in command of the Department of Kansas.

At once he began active operations in Missouri and Arkansas, distinguishing himself for bravery and military skill in the battles of Cane Hill, Prairie Grove, Boston Mountains, Fort Van Buren, Honey Springs and Newtonia. After the war, he settled in Leavenworth and engaged in business, spending a large part of his time in Washington, D. C. About 1878 symptoms of softening of the brain appeared and he was taken to an insane asylum in Washington D.C., where he died on August 3, 1881. General Blunt was not a brilliant man, but he won and retained the confidence of the men under his command and rendered Kansas important service as a soldier.

 

Justin De Witt Bowersock (1842-1922) - U.S. Congressman and businessman from Lawrence, Bowersock was born at Columbiana, Ohio on September 19, 1842. He was educated in public schools, after which he went to Iowa City, Iowa, where he engaged in business as a grain merchant. In 1877 he moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where he saw the possibilities of water power. He built a dam across the Kansas River, and with the power thus developed established several manufacturing plants. He was later made president of the Kansas Water Power Company; organized the Douglas County Bank (later the Lawrence National) in 1878, and was elected president of the bank 1888. He was also president of the Bowersock Mills & Power Company, the Kansas Water Power Company, the Griffin Ice Company, the Lawrence Iron Works, the Lawrence Paper Manufacturing Company and the Kansas & Colorado Railroad Company. He always took an active part in municipal affairs and in 1881 was elected mayor of Lawrence, which position he filled until 1885.  On September 5, 1886, he married Mary C. Cower, of Iowa City, Iowa and the same year was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives. In 1894, he was elected to the State Senate. In 1898 he was nominated by the Republican Party of the Second District for Congress, and in November was elected. His record during his term commended him to the people of his district, who honored him with four re-elections. He was not a candidate for re-nomination in 1906, and returned to his banking and manufacturing business in Lawrence. He died on October 27, 1922 and was interred in Oak Hill Cemetery. 

 

Charles H. Branscomb - Along with Charles Robinson, Branscomb was one of the founders of Lawrence and a free state advocate. A native of New Hampshire, he grew up to attend Phillips Academy in Exeter before attending Dartmouth College, where he graduated in 1845. Subsequently he studied law at the Cambridge Law School, was admitted to the bar and practiced for six years in Massachusetts. Upon the organization of the Emigrant Aid Society, Branscomb became one of its agents. He came to Kansas in July, 1854 and went up the Kansas River as far as Fort Riley to select a location for a town, but finally agreed with Dr. Charles Robinson on the site of Lawrence. On July 28, 1854 he conducted the pioneer party of 30 persons sent out by the society to Lawrence, where they arrived on August 1st. The second party, also conducted by Mr. Branscomb, arrived in October. He continued to act as agent for the aid society until 1858, when he permanently settled in Lawrence and opened a law office. He immediately began to take an active part in the political life of the territory; was elected to the Territorial House of Representatives; was a member of the Leavenworth Constitutional Convention. He later moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he was a member of the Missouri Legislature.

Jacob Branson - One of the early settlers of Douglas County, Branson settled at Hickory Point, about ten miles south of Lawrence on the old Santa Fe Trail. It was a very beautiful tract of land, part heavy timber and the rest fertile prairie. Many of the early settlers came from Indiana, some of whom took claims and returned to the east temporarily. Others never returned. Missourians and new settlers took up these abandoned claims and sometimes laid claim to others which were afterward resumed by the original settlers. Jacob Branson, who was the leader of the Free-State men in the area, encouraged like-minded men to settle at Hickory Point and the pro-slavery advocates endeavored to get as many men of their faction to settle close to them. Most of the difficulties in Kansas during the territorial period arose over the question of slavery, but disputes about claims in many cases precipitated the quarrels. The antagonistic elements brought into daily conflict could not long remain without open violence; one of the most serious occurrences of this kind taking place at Hickory Point. A man named Franklin Coleman was among the second claimants at Hickory Point and a dispute arose between him and Charles W. Dow, who had also settled on an unoccupied claim. Coleman was prominent in the neighborhood as a pro-slavery man, while Dow lived with Branson, the acknowledged leader of the Free-State party in the Wakarusa District. Coleman trespassed on Dow's claim and was warned that he must stop. The feeling between the two men was rapidly tending toward a crisis, when on the morning of November 21, 1855, Dow met Coleman and some other pro-slavery men, among them Buckley and Hargus, at the blacksmith shop at Hickory Point. They denounced Dow and unfortunately Dow and Coleman met on the road going toward Dow's claim.

The rescue of Jacob BransonDow left Coleman at his claim and just after he passed up the road Coleman fired at him. When the gun miss fired, Dow begged for mercy but Coleman shot him and he died in the road. Immediately, Coleman started for Westport, Missouri to give himself up to the governor, but not finding him, surrendered to Samuel J. Jones, the sheriff of Douglas County, who was a friend of the pro-slavery party. After Dow's funeral the settlers of Hickory Point held a meeting, when resolutions of condolence were passed and a committee was appointed to take steps toward bringing the murderer to justice. At this meeting, Branson advocated radical measures with regard to Coleman and his companions, Buckley and Hargus. Sheriff Jones, in the meantime was on his way to Lecompton with his prisoner, but on the way was met by some of Coleman's neighbors. Buckley told of the threats made against him by Branson and the sheriff concluded to make another arrest. A warrant was sworn out by Buckley who said that he feared for his life. Justice Cameron issued a peace warrant for the arrest of Branson. It seems that the pro-slavery party expected the Free-State men would attempt to rescue Branson, but believed they would do so in Lawrence, after the prisoner was taken there, under which circumstances there would be an excellent excuse for assaulting that stronghold of the abolitionists.

 

Armed with this warrant and accompanied by Buckley and some fifteen pro-slavery men, Jones went to Branson's house on the evening of November 26 and arrested him. This posse had been met before they served the writ by Samuel F. Tappan of Lawrence, a Free-State man, who learned of their mission, and immediately informed Branson's friends of the intended arrest; a young man who lived at Branson's also aroused the neighbors as soon as Jones and his party left. The sheriff with the posse did not ride at once toward Lawrence, so that considerable time elapsed before they started north. In the meantime, the friends of Branson were aroused and planned his rescue. Phillips, in his Conquest of Kansas, said,  "the intention was to have Branson rescued in Lawrence," but Tappan and the young man who had left Branson's had both been busy; about 14 of the Free-State men were gathered at Abbott's house near which the posse would have to pass on the way to Lawrence. They had gathered so quickly and Jones was so slow that for a time, the party at Abbott's began to think they had taken a different road or gone to Lecompton, when the alarm was given by the guard on the road. The party in the Abbott house rushed out and Jones attempted to evade them by going off the road. This was prevented by the Free-State men spreading out. Jones demanded what was the matter, to which the Free-State men replied that was just what they wanted to know. The Free-State men told Branson to ride over to them, which he did; both sides declared that they would shoot but neither did. Jones tried in every way to induce the Free-State men to give Branson up, but this they refused to do. Finding that nothing availed but to fight, and not being willing to shed blood, Jones was obliged to leave Branson in the hands of his friends and returned to Franklin. The numerical strength of the contestants in this bloodless encounter was about equal, as it is estimated that there were about 15 men on each side. Later in the night the rescuing party having been augmented by a few men, rode into Lawrence, where they told of the threats Jones had made against the abolitionists of Lawrence. The arrest of Branson was both violent and irregular and it is doubtful whether any legal officer would have sustained the arrest had the rescue been questioned. There were only three Lawrence men concerned in the rescue, and Charles Robinson  saw that it would not do for the city to take any action in the rescue or harbor the rescuers. A meeting of the citizens of Lawrence was called and Mrs. Robinson in writing of it said, "Mr. Branson said at the meeting that he had requested to leave Lawrence, that no semblance of an excuse existed for the enemy to attack the town, with tears streaming down his weather-beaten cheeks he offered to go home and die there and be buried by his friend." To this, the Free-State citizens would not hear but after the Wakarusa camp was established, Tappan, Wood and Branson moved there as a precautionary measure, as Wood had taken such a prominent part in the rescue.

 

 

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