SLAVERY AND THE UGGR IN KANSAS
Most slaves in Kansas Territory were brought here from Missouri during the early years,
1854-1856. Life was different for most Missouri and Kansas slaves than for those in the
Deep South. There were fewer slaves per household--often just one--and they tended to
work alongside their owners in the fields and kitchen. Some slaveholders hired out their
slaves to work at businesses miles from home. These slaves had more independence than
those not hired out. A few even saved money and bought their freedom.
Still, slavery deprived all slaves of basic human rights. They were not U.S. citizens. They
could not legally be married. They could not own property. And--especially disturbing--
they had no control over what happened to themselves or their families.
While the story of territorial Kansas often focuses on the struggles and politics of White
settlers, African Americans also were an important group--although a small one.
The name "Kansas" meant freedom to many African Americans. They truly perceived it
as a land of opportunity. In reality, though, Kansas was something of a paradox for
Blacks. Most people in the territory opposed slavery, but not on moral grounds.
Freestaters believed slavery limited economic opportunities for Whites. They did not
want to compete with slaveholders for land, and feared slavery would drive down wages
for everyone. Some even favored excluding Blacks from the territory entirely.
Despite these attitudes, both slaves and free Blacks lived in Kansas Territory. In the early
years escaped slaves passed through on their way to freedom in Canada. Later, many
decided to stay in Kansas instead of fleeing north. Like the Whites who moved here, they
hoped to be successful either as farmers or businessmen.
How many slaves lived in Kansas Territory?
There weren't as many slaves here as in neighboring Missouri, and certainly not as many
as in Southern states with large plantations. Also, the slave population undoubtedly
fluctuated during the seven years of the territorial period (1854-1861). It was higher in
the early years when the slavery issue was still unresolved, and proslavery settlers were
moving here with their slaves. In later years, though, there were fewer slaves because it
had become clear Kansas would enter the Union as a"free" state.
UGRR Kansas Route
The underground system extended from Kentucky and Virginia across Ohio and from
Maryland through Pennsylvania, New York and New England to Canada. The field
extended westward, and the territory embraced by the Middle states and all the Western
states east of the Mississippi was dotted over with "stations," and "covered with a
network of imaginary routes, not found in the railway guides or on the railway maps."
Lines were formed through Iowa and Illinois, and passengers were carried from station to
station till they reached the Canada line. Kansas was associated with the two states just
named as a channel for the escape of runaways from the southwestern slave section. The
Ohio-Kentucky routes probably aided more fugitives than any other routes. The valley of
the Mississippi was the most westerly channel until Kansas opened a bolder way of
escape from the southwest. The route through Kansas entered the state from Missouri
near Bain's fort, and important stations on the line were at Trading Post, Osawatomie,
Lawrence, Topeka, Holton, Horton and Albany, near which last named place an entrance
was made into Nebraska.
From the first settlement of Kansas Lawrence was known as an abolition town, and as a
chief station on the Underground Railroad gained considerable notoriety. The reputation
of the place reached the ears of the slaves in Missouri, and whenever one of them was
able to make his escape he came direct to Lawrence, whence he was sent on his way
rejoicing to Canada. In the four years—from 1855 to 1859—it is estimated by F. B.
Sanborn, an active agent on the line at that place, that nearly 300 fugitives passed through
and received assistance from the abolitionists at Lawrence.
John Brown in Kansas
One of the leading incidents connected with the history of the Underground Railroad
through Kansas was the famous raid of John Brown into Missouri in 1858. After his
return from the Eastern states to Kansas in 1858, he and his men encamped for a few days
at Bain's fort. While there Brown was appealed to by a slave, Jim Daniels, the chattel of
one James Lawrence of Missouri. His prayer was for help to get away, because he was
soon to be sold, together with his wife, two children and a Negro man. On the following
night (Dec. 20) Brown's raid into Missouri was made, and the following is his account of
it: "Two small companies were made up to go to Missouri and forcibly liberate five
slaves, together with other slaves. One of these companies I assumed to direct. We
proceeded to the place, surrounded the buildings, liberated the slaves, and also took
certain property supposed to belong to the estate. . . . We then went to another plantation,
where we found five more slaves; took some property and two white men. We all moved
slowly away into the territory for some distance and then sent the white men back, telling
them to follow us as soon as they chose to do so. The other company freed one female
slave, killed one white man (the master) who fought against liberation. . . ."
The company responsible for the shooting of the slave-owner, David Cruse, was in
charge of Kagi and Charles Stephens, also known as Whipple. Jean Harper, the slave-
woman that was taken from this house, said that her master would certainly have fired
upon the intruders had not Whipple used his revolver first, with deadly effect. When the
two squads came together the march back to Bain's fort was begun. On the way thither
Brown asked the slaves if they wanted to be free, and then promised to take them to a
free country. With his company he tarried only one day at Bain's fort; then proceeded
northward by way of Osawatomie to the house of Maj. J. B. Abbott, near Lawrence, then
by way of Topeka, Holton, Horton and Albany into Nebraska. At Holton a party of
pursuers, two or three times as large as Brown's company, was dispersed in instant and
ridiculous flight, and four prisoners and five horses were taken. The trip, after leaving
Holton, was made amidst great perils, but under an escort of seventeen "Topeka boys"
Brown pressed rapidly on to Nebraska City, where the passage of the Missouri was made
on the ice, and the liberators with their charges arrived at Tabor, Iowa, in the first week of
February. At Springdale, Iowa, the negroes were stowed away in a freight car bound for
Chicago, and on March 10 they were in Detroit, practically at their journey's end. On the
12th they were ferried across the Detroit river to Windsor, Canada, under Brown's
direction. The trip from Southern Kansas to the Canadian destination had consumed three
The manner in which this result had been accomplished was highly dramatic, and created
great excitement throughout the country, especially in Missouri. Brown's biographer,
James Redpath, writing in 1860, speaks thus of the consternation in the invaded state:
"When the news of the invasion of Missouri spread, a wild panic went with it, which in a
few days resulted in clearing Bates and Vernon counties of their slaves. Large numbers
were sold south; many ran into the territory and escaped; others were removed farther
inland. When John Brown made his invasion there were 500 slaves in that district where
there are not 50 negroes now."
The story of the adventure was not unlikely to penetrate the remote regions of the South,
find lodgment in the retentive memories of many slaves and increase the traffic on the
Kansas branch of the "Underground Railroad." The success of the expedition was well
calculated to increase John Brown's determination to carry into operation the plans which
met with a dismal failure a short time afterward at Harper's Ferry.
The Underground Railroad movement was one that grew from small beginnings into a
great system, and it should be reckoned with as a distinct factor in tracing the growth of
anti-slavery opinion. It was largely serviceable in developing, if not in originating, the
convictions of such powerful agents in the cause as Harriet Beecher Stowe and John
Brown, and it furnished the ground for the charge brought again and again by the South
against the North of injury wrought by the failure to execute the law, a charge that must
be placed among the chief grievances of the slave states at the beginning of the Civil war.
The period sometimes designated the "era of slave-hunting," contributed to increase the
traffic along the numerous and tortuous lines of the underground railroad, which,
according to the testimony of participants, did its most thriving business in all parts of the
North during the decade from 1850 to 1860. When John Brown led his company of slaves
from Missouri to Canada despite the attempts to prevent him, and when soon thereafter
he attempted to execute his plan for the general liberation of slaves, he showed the
extreme to which the aid to fugitives might lead. The influence of his training in
Underground Railroad work is plain in the methods and plans he followed. While Kansas
was but sparsely populated, and in the midst of the throes of a border warfare, her
citizens, who opposed slavery, conducted an important branch of the railroad.
This site has been established to encourage a wider awareness of the historical
significance of the Free State town of Quindaro, Kansas Territory and the Underground
Railroad that operated there from 1857 till the end of the Civil War. The first conductors
in the Underground Railroad in Kansas Territory and elsewhere were themselves escaped
slaves who risked their lives to return to slave territory and help rescue other captives of
the "curious institution." Some, like William Wells Brown, left written records, but
thousands of others, including the majority of those who escaped through Quindaro,
remain unidentified by documents left in their own handwriting, (after all the legal status
of slaves as mere 'property' precluded their being offered a formal education). Some have
been documented through their descendants as is the case for Mr. James S. 'Jimmie'
Johnson. Through Johnson’s research of slave bills and Civil War military records, we
learn about the escape of his great grandfather George Washington through Quindaro and
his contribution to history. Others are remembered through oral histories, such as the
story told by Jesse Hope about his great great grandfather, Robert Monroe. Many other
stories are being compiled about these unsung 'fugitives' from the peculiar institution.
From 1844 the interracial European/Wyandot couple Abelard and Quindaro Guthrie
offered slaves shelter on their farmland playing an early role in Underground Railroad on
the frontier, and later in making Quindaro history in Kanzas Territory. Their farmland
and those of 12 other Wyandot Indian families would be purchased for the town site of
Quindaro through the assistance of Mrs. Guthrie. Quindaro's location, just across the
Missouri River from the proslave state of Missouri made it an ideal station for escaping
slaves on their route to freedom. Slaves crossed where ever the opportunity presented
itself, but conductors from Quindaro had close relationships with Parkville, Missouri
sympathizers to a Free Kanzas. Especially close were relationships to George S. Park, the
founder of Parkville. The Parkville escape route was one of the most practical routes to
the network of terminals on the eastern Kanzas underground network. From Quindaro
well traveled roads, paths, and forest covered lands lead inland to the stations at
Lawrence, Leavenworth, Topeka, and finally to Lane's trail north to freedom.
Quindaro resident and the first well known feminist of Kansas Territory, Clarina Nichols,
called Quindaro "the Canada of the escaped slave." The Quindaro ruins represent a link
with other underground railway destinations which helped free over 70,000 slaves
throughout the country. Mrs. Nichols's 1882 account of life in Quindaro which outlined
operations of the underground railroad there, including her own home, a bluff top safe
house called 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and other locales, could have been at first doubted and
considered a series of highly articulate and 'romantic' recollections. However, the
discovery of the Benjamin Franklin Mudge letter and most especially Richard Sheridan's
re-discovery of the Samuel F. Tappan letter have reinforced her account. Nichols's
writings are not only articulate and entertaining, they are generally reliable historical
resources. Certainly her 1882 letter to the Gazette is one of the most, (perhaps 'The'
most), colorful and accurate descriptions of Quindaro's life and times that survive.
Clarina Nichols's complete contribution to abolitionism and feminism is yet to be fully
The mystery, drama, and excitement surrounding this once booming Missouri River
Freeport is captured in the story of the Underground Railroad which operated there;
European, Native American, and African Americans joined together to free slaves from
bondage. Quindaro is a significant model of courage, commitment and community for
our common future together on the planet.
IMPORTANT UGRR LOCATIONS - KANSAS
Built on a five-acre plot, the 19th-century two-story red brick home, livestock barn and
carpenter's shop is a dream for its owners, Judy and Dennis Dailey.
"When everything is growing in the summer, it's like an oasis back here," Judy Dailey
Originally known as the Robert Miller House and Barn, the Lawrence property was an
oasis for blacks fleeing slavery, who hid in a smokehouse on the Underground Railroad
The Miller House and Barn, 1111 E. 19th, is one of seven Kansas locations with strong
links to the Underground Railroad. Four are in Lawrence and one each is in Osawatomie,
Kansas City, Kan., and Wabaunsee, according to a 1995 study by the National Park
A bill signed July 21 by President Bill Clinton establishes the National Underground
Railroad Network to Freedom program to highlight the network and offer limited aid to
"The history (of the house and property) continues to intrigue us," Judy Dailey said,
adding "people just show up" to photograph the place.
The house was built in 1858, and a kitchen, attic and part of a basement were added in
1863. Today only the foundation of the smokehouse remains.
Other sites in Lawrence are Joel Grover's Barn, 2819 Stone Barn Terrace; Capt. John
E. Stewart's log fort, S. Haskell Street and the Wakarusa Bridge; and Quantrill Trail
Historical Marker near 31st and Louisiana streets.
Some walls from the Joel Grover Barn, where slaves hid, became in the 1970s part of
what is now Lawrence Fire Station No. 4 in southwest Lawrence. Grover kept a diary as
he built the barn from 1857 to 1858.
"In one place in the diary, he mentions going to a railroad meeting," said Judy Sweets,
who wonders whether that refers to the Underground Railroad because a conventional
railroad wasn't built in Lawrence until 1864. Sweets is registrar and exhibit coordinator at
the Watkins Community Museum.
Stewart, a former minister known as the "Fighting Parson" and the "Fighting
Methodist," came to Lawrence in November 1854. Disguised as a peddler, he would
travel to Missouri, where he would visit slaves in their quarters, hide them in his wagon
and bring them to Lawrence. Nothing remains of the fort.
Why did Lawrence, a bastion of abolitionists, need secret locations to hide slaves?
"They weren't necessarily safe in Lawrence," Sweets said. Pro-slavers would hunt
fugitive slaves and even kidnap free men, hustle them out of town and sell them back into
slavery in Missouri or further south, Sweets said.
The largest Kansas site is the Quindaro Ruins on Sewell Avenue from 27th Street north
to the Missouri River in Kansas City, Kan. Some building foundations remain on the 206-
acre site, but the historic site hasn't been developed, said Marvin Robinson, cultural
interpreter for Quindaro Ruins/Underground Railroad Exercise 99.
Started in January 1857, Quindaro was a boom town known for its steamboat travel.
Slaves hid in a cabin near the town, which had several stone buildings but was abandoned
Other Kansas sites are:
• The Adair Cabin State Historic Site, which is administered by the Kansas State Historic
Society, in the John Brown Memorial Park in Osawatomie.
• Wabaunsee, on K-18 west of K-99, is home to the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church.
Only 20 houses and the church, which was renamed the Wabaunsee Congregational
Church in 1971, remain today.
• Built from 1859 to 1862, the stone church got its name from Henry Ward Beecher, an
abolitionist who pledged 25 Sharpe's rifles to help defend the town's people.
The John Brown Cabin
John Brown (1800--1859) came to Osawatomie from his farm in upstate New York in
October 1855 after three of his sons, who had arrived earlier in the year, appealed to him
for help against proslavery forces in the area. While in Kansas, Brown was involved in a
number of skirmishes in the so-called Bleeding Kansas" era, including the "battle" of
Osawatomie on August 30, 1856.
The John Brown Cabin was built in 1855 by Samuel Glenn, who sold it to Samuel Adair,
Brown's brother-in-law. Brown frequented the cabin and occasionally used it as a
headquarters for his abolitionist activities. Built about a mile west of Osawatomie, the log
cabin was dismantled and reassembled in its present location, John Brown Park, in 1912.
A stone pavilion was constructed around the cabin in 1928, however the interior of the
cabin remains much as it was when Brown was a frequent visitor and contains much of
the original furniture. John Brown only lived in Kansas for about 20 months, but his
abolitionist activities, leading up to his infamous raid on Harper's Ferry have been closely
associated with the state.
"The captain dozed in one of our two chairs by the stove in which he kept a slow fire
-- Charles Smith
The "captain" in this quote was abolitionist John Brown.
In the early hours of a cold January morning in 1859, John Brown arrived at "Smith
Station" with nearly 30 people--among them ten slaves liberated on a raid into Missouri
just a few weeks earlier. The previous day Brown had triumphed in the Battle of the
Spurs, an infamous but bloodless encounter between abolitionist and proslavery forces.
During this "battle," a band of slavery supporters blocked the John Brown party at
Straight Creek in Brown County, Kansas. The proslavery party's intent was to stop
Brown from escorting the fugitive slaves to Canada, but the Brown party passed safely
because only words--not gunfire--were exchanged.
Escaping slaves could choose from several different routes through Kansas, depending on
their location within the territory. Many slaves escaping from Missouri most likely made
their first stop at Quindaro in Wyandotte County. Established in 1844, this town became
an Underground Railroad station about 1857 and remained so until the start of the Civil
War. The next stop on the route often was the free-state town of Lawrence. Slaves then
made their way to Topeka and turned north. The last leg of the route through Kansas, and
the best known, was the Lane Trail.
James H. Lane originally laid out this trail so free-state immigrants coming to Kansas
Territory could avoid proslavery settlements along the Missouri River. Marked with rock
piles known as Lane's chimneys, the trail began in Topeka and continued north through
Jackson and Brown counties (along today's US Highway 75) and ended at the Kansas-
Nebraska border. By 1856 its usage as an immigrant trail had fallen off while runaway
slave traffic increased. Because of the need for secrecy, records were not kept on exactly
how many slaves used the 136-mile route through northeast Kansas.
The Underground Railroad is reported to have existed in America as early as the 1700s. It
reached its height of operation after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which
made it a federal crime to aid escaping slaves. It consisted of a network of trails with
"stations" or safe houses where runaway slaves could stay and receive food and shelter.
People who aided the fugitives on their journey north to freedom were referred to as
conductors. Conductors came from all occupations including farming, business and the
Charles Smith, the Kansas farmer who owned this chair, settled in the Locknane
Township of Brown County, Kansas in 1856 with his wife and 3 children. The family
home, also known as Smith Station, was located in the lower southwest section of Brown
County on the Lane Trail. According to an account written by one of Smith's sons, J.
Albert, food and shelter were provided for the John Brown party the night they arrived at
Smith's door. Smith Station was only a one-room cabin with few places to sleep,
including the bare floor or one of two chairs. Brown, being a famous abolitionist, was
offered this chair for the night (see close-up image of its splint seat at lower left).
The demand for an Underground Railroad route in Kansas lessened with its admittance to
the Union as a free state in 1861. James Lane became one of the first U.S. Senators from
Kansas, but died by his own hands in 1866. John Brown was hanged after an aborted
attempt to take over the U.S. arsenal at Harper's Ferry later that year. Charles Smith lived
the rest of his life quietly in Brown County
The Underground Railroad In Kansas
"Every slave for a hundred miles knew the way, knew the stations, and knew their
-- Rev. Richard Cordley, Lawrence, 1903
Although estimates vary, hundreds of people may have passed through Kansas Territory
via the Underground Railroad (a secret system of people who helped slaves escape and
used railroad terms to disguise what they were doing). There were Underground Railroad
routes all over the country.
Escaping slaves crossed over the Missouri border into Kansas in increasing numbers after
1857. They came here hoping to start new lives in freedom. But even in Kansas, they
were never completely safe. Bounties were offered for their return, as in an 1860 reward
poster for two escapees heading for "K.T." (Kansas Territory).
People who helped escaping slaves also were in danger. In Kansas Territory, the 1855
legislature passed a law that anyone aiding a fugitive could be put to death. Even the
federal government punished people for helping slaves escape. The Fugitive Slave Act of
1850 imposed a prison term of six months and a $1,000 fine.
Despite these penalties, many people who opposed slavery on moral grounds were
willing to help fugitives escape bondage. In 1860, a Missouri blacksmith was asked by a
neighbor to help rescue an abused slave. Together they cut the shackle from the slave's
leg so he could escape, probably to Kansas.
Free But Penniless
"They were free but penniless in the land which they had made rich."
--Henry Clay Bruce, Washington, D.C., 1895
Why did fugitive slaves come to Kansas? Because they believed Kansas to be a land of
opportunity. They had heard slaveholders curse John Brown, the residents of Lawrence,
and other abolitionists in Kansas. These activities were widely known throughout the
nation. One Kansan even called Lawrence "the best advertised anti-slavery town in the
world." Blacks all over the South came to equate Kansas with freedom.
Once here, though, they found that living free required adjustments. People struggled to
find jobs, get food and clothing, and set up homes. Although some slaves had acquired
skills while managing their owner's affairs, most didn't know how to read or write. They'd
never had to look for work, find a place to live, or manage money. The reality was that
many Blacks struggled with their new lives, at least at first.
Henry Clay Bruce was one escaped slave who found refuge in Kansas. In 1895 Bruce
published an autobiography, The New Man: Twenty-Nine Years a Slave, Twenty-Nine
Years a Free Man in which he explained his situation:
"For the first few weeks I was well pleased with the pay I received, and thought I would
soon have plenty of money, but now I had a new problem to solve, which was to support
and clothe myself and a wife and pay doctors' bills, which was something new to me. I
had never been trained in the school of economy, where I could learn the art of self-
support, as my master had always attended to that little matter from my earliest
recollections. . . . I had lived to be twenty-eight years old, and had never been placed in a
position where I had occasion to give this matter a single thought."
The city of Leavenworth, on the Missouri River, was a major destination for fleeing
slaves. Although originally settled by proslavery people, Leavenworth had become
predominantly free-state by the late 1850s. The town also had a large African American
population by this time. Blacks were attracted to the town by the military protection
provided by the Union Army at Fort Leavenworth, particularly after the start of the Civil
The Civil War
"When the Union army came close enough I ran away from home and joined."
After decades of failed compromises, the issue of slavery couldn't be solved short of war.
When Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election in late 1860, Southern states began
seceding from the Union. With the absence of Southern representatives to block its
admission, Congress voted to admit Kansas as a free state. Kansas entered the Union on
January 29, 1861, and the first shots of the Civil War struck Fort Sumter on April 12.
The First Kansas Colored Infantry fought under this flag.
Missouri slaves had crossed into Kansas for years, but once the Civil War started they
poured over the border. Many settled in the anti-slavery towns of Lawrence, Leavenworth
and Fort Scott. Union army forts at the latter two towns offered protection for escaped
slaves. They also offered opportunities for employment.
More than 2,000 Black soldiers enlisted in Kansas, joining the first African American
regiments organized in the North for the Union army. They believed in the free-state
cause, and the military offered them a way to make a living and support their families,
even though they received less pay than Whites.
Other escaped slaves didn't enlist, but worked for the army. They also worked in cities
and rural areas as barbers, cooks, farmhands, and domestics. Some started businesses of
their own--all while they were still legally slaves.
When Kansas Territory was created in 1854, it quickly became the center of the nation's
attention as people battled over whether the state would allow slavery within its borders.
Some people came here to fight for a cause, but most were ordinary folks seeking new
opportunities. Those who tried to remain neutral often had to choose sides, and
individuals who stuck to their beliefs could become targets of violence in "Bleeding
"Le Marais du Cygne"
Kansas from 1854 - 1861 was the scene of a bitter struggle to determine whether the
territory should enter the Union as a free or a slave state. The principle of popular
sovereignty embodied in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which created the territory,
provided that this decision should be made by a vote of the people. Consequently, free-
state and proslavery adherents became rivals for majority control, and strife and bad
Numerous instances of lawlessness occurred. Men were attacked, beaten, and
occasionally killed, often for no reason except their views on slavery. In Linn and
Bourbon Counties, on the eastern Kansas border, raids were frequently carried on by
This situation continued through 1857 and 1858. On one occasion a leader of the free-
state group rode into Trading Post, which had become a rendezvous for a proslavery
gang, and--so the story goes--cleaned out the headquarters by dumping several barrels of
corn whiskey into the road. Then he notified the proslavery people to leave the territory.
No one was hurt and no property was destroyed, except the whiskey.
A leader of the proslavery faction was Charles Hamilton, a native of Georgia who had
come to the border area in 1855 to help make Kansas Territory a slave state. After
Hamilton and his friends were forced to leave, he is reported to have sent back word to
other proslavery sympathizers "to come out of the territory at once, as we are coming up
there to kill snakes, and will treat all we find there as snakes." Shortly thereafter he kept
On May 19, 1858, some thirty men under Hamilton's leadership crossed into Kansas.
They arrived at Trading Post in the morning and then set out on the road back toward
Missouri, capturing eleven free-state men along the way. None of these men was armed,
and it was said that none had taken part in the fighting. Most were former neighbors of
Hamilton and had no thought that he meant to do them serious harm. However, they
were hurried along and into a defile surrounded by the mounds that characterize the
area. There they were herded into line, and Hamilton's men formed another line on the
side of the ravine.
To his men in line, Hamilton gave the order to fire, sending off the first shot himself. The
victims fell. Then Hamilton dismounted his firing squad to finish the job with pistols.
Five free-state men were killed; Hamilton and his gang departed swiftly for Missouri.
Only one of them paid the official penalty for the crime; William Griffith of Bates County,
Missouri, was arrested in the spring of 1863 and hanged October 30. Hamilton returned
to Georgia, where he died in 1880.
Intense excitement followed the massacre. The nation was horrified, and John Greenleaf
Whitter wrote a poem on the murder, "Le Marais du Cygne," which appeared in the
September 1858 Atlantic Monthly.
Locally, wrathful indignation accompanied feelings of shock. John Brown, arriving at the
scene toward the end of June, built a "fort" some 220 yards south of the ravine. It was
reported to have been two stories high, walled up with logs and with a flat roof. Water
from a spring ran through the house and into a pit at the southwest corner.
The land on which the fort was built belonged to Eli Snider, a blacksmith. Later he sold it
to Brown's friend Charles C. Hadsall, who agreed to let Brown occupy it for military
purposes. Brown and his men withdrew at the end of the summer, leaving the fort to
In later years Hadsall built a stone house adjoining the site of Brown's fort, enclosing the
spring within the walls of the first floor. In 1941 the Kansas legislature authorized
acceptance of the massacre site, including Hadsall's house, as a gift to the state from the
Pleasanton Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars. In 1961 it provided funds for the restoration
of the building, and in 1963 the entire property was turned over to the Kansas Historical
Society for administration. A museum was established in the upper floor of the building
Andrew Johnson of Tennessee
United States House of Representatives, December 12 1859
The circumstances are stated in the evidence of Mr. Harris, which will be found in a
report made by a committee of Congress, and republished in the Herald of Freedom of
Kansas - a paper that has at its head for President, the name of a Republican, Mr. Chase,
of Ohio, and Mr. Banks, of Massachusetts, for Vice President:
"The circumstances attending William Shermans's assassination are testified to by
James Harris, of Franklin County, Kansas. Mr. Sherman was staying over night at the
house of Harris, when, on the 25th of May, at about two o'clock, Captain John Brown
and party came there, and after taking some property, and questioning Harris and
others, Sherman was asked to walk out. Mr. Harris, in his affidavit, says: 'Old man
Brown asked Mr. Sherman to go out with him, and Sherman then went out with Brown. I
heard nothing more for about fifteen minutes. Two of the "northern army," as they styled
themselves, stayed with us until they heard a cap burst, and then these two men left.
Next morning, about ten o'clock, I found William Sherman dead, in the creek near my
house. I was looking for him; as he had not come back, I thought he had been murdered.
I took Mr. William Sherman (body) out of the creek and examined it. Mrs. Whiteman
was with me. Sherman's skull was split open in two places, and some of his brains were
washed out by the water; a large hole was cut in his breast, and his left hand was cut off,
except a little piece of skin on one side.'"
This was the 24th of May. I will read from the same paper another extract:
"When the news of the threatened siege of Lawrence reached John Brown, jr., who was a
member of the Topeka Legislature, he organized a company of about sixty men and
marched toward Lawrence. Arriving at Palmyra, he learned of the sacking of the town,
and the position of the people. He reconnoitered for a time in the vicinity, but finally
marched back towards Ossawatomie. The night before reaching that place, when only a
few miles away, they camped for the night. Old John Brown, who, we believe, was with
the party, singled out with himself, seven men. These he marched to a point eight miles
above the mouth of Pottawatomie creek, and called from their beds, at their several
residences, at the hour of midnight, on the 24th of May, Allen Wilkinson, William
Sherman, William P. Doyle, William Doyle, and Drury Doyle. All were found the next
morning, by the road side, or in the highway, some with a gash in their heads and sides,
and their throats cut; others with their skulls split open in two places, with holes in their
breasts, and hands cut off."
He seems to have had a great passion for cutting off hands:
"No man in Kansas has pretended to deny that old John Brown led that murderous foray
which massacred those men. Up to that period not a hair of old John Brown's head, or
that of his sons, had been injured by the pro-slavery party.
"It was not until the 30th of August, three months after the Pottawatomie massacre, that
the attack was made on Ossawatomie by the pro-slavery forces, and Frederick Brown, a
son of old John, was killed."
To show all the facts in regard to the massacre of the 24th of May, I will read to the
Senate the affidavits of some of the eye-witnesses of the transaction. Allen Wilkinson was
a member of the Kansas Legislature - a quiet, inoffensive man. His widow, Louisa Jane
Wilkinson, testified that on the night of the 24th of May, 1856, between the hours of
midnight and daybreak, she thinks, a party of men came to the house where they were
residing and forcibly carried her husband away; that they took him in the name of the
"northern army," and that next morning he was found about one hundred and fifty yards
from the house, dead. Mrs. Wilkinson was very ill at the time of measles. She says
"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 some one to wait on me; told them that he would not run off, but he 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,' and 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 would not let him.
They then took my husband away."
"After they were gone I thought I heard my husband's voice in complaint." * * * "Next
morning Mr. Wilkinoson's body 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 side. Others said he was cut in the throat twice."
Mr. Doyle and his sons were murdered on the same night with Sherman and Wilkinson;
and Mrs. Doyle's deposition gives this account of it:
"The undersigned, Mahala Doyle, states on oath: I am the widow of the late James P.
Doyle. 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 upon
Musketo creek, about one mile from its mouth, and where it empties into Pottawatomie
creek, in Franklin county. On Saturday, the 24th of May, A. D. 1855, about eleven o'clock
at night, after we had all retired, my husband, James P. Doyle, myself, and six children,
five boys and one girl - the eldest is about twenty-two years of age; his name is William.
The next is about twenty years of age; his name is Drury. The next is about seventeen
years of age; his name is John. The next is about thirteen years of age; her name is Polly
Ann. The next is about eight years of age; is name is James. 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 eleven
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. Wilkinson, and where he lived. My husband said he
would tell them. Mr. Doyle, my husband, and several came into the house, and said 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 then prisoners. The men were armed with
pistols and large knives. They first took my husband out of the house; then took two of
my sons - 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
"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 our 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. They were buried the
next day. On the day of the burying, I saw the dead body of Drury. Fear for 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 and went to the State of Missouri."
HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS on Brown's trip in the winter of 1858-59 are readily
available including an account by Brown himself, but overall written records on the
railroad's operation are scarce locally.
Steve Jansen, directory of Elizabeth M. Watkins Community Museum, said evidence of
the Underground Railroad's operation here is scant partly because it was illegal. It
violated the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which called for both fines and imprisonment of
people who helped runaway slaves. Slave hunters, who were paid $200 for each returned
slave, proved ruthless in their quests.
Those who helped black people escape to freedom put little in writing to incriminate
themselves. To succeed, the universal working orders on the Underground were 'silence
and no questions asked.'
Also, Jansen said, the term 'Underground Railroad' is taken too literally by many people
today. It was not a smoking, whistling iron horse running on real iron rails above or
"Some people think the railroad here consisted of tunnels under the 600 block of
Massachusetts and over the Elgin (Woody) baseball field near the hospital, but that
wasn't the case either."
THE RAILROAD was made up of people's homes and outbuildings, Jansen said. The
community museum's collection contains some solid documentation on the places and
people who hid runaway slaves. Oral history points to a few others.
Along with some information gleaned from local historians and libraries, and the Kansas
State Historical Society, a sketchy picture of Lawrence's "U.G.R.R.'s" operation, as it was
often referred to, comes into focus.
The most important local hiding place probably was the big stone Grover barn - today
preserved as part of Fire Station No. 4 at 2819 Stone Barn terrace.
A paper on that barn titled "Significance as an Underground Railroad Depot" by Craig
Crosswhite is in Watkins' collection, and information from local historian Katie Armitage
reveals some of the building's abolition-era secrets.
Crosswhite wrote that the abolitionist sprit permeated Lawrence from the earliest days of
it founding in the summer of 1854. "The New England Emigrant Aid Society specifically
saw its purpose as establishing a bastion of ant-slavery sentiment near the border of pro-
slavery state Missouri."
JOEL GROVER, a New Yorker, came to Lawrence in September 1854 with the second
party sponsored by the New England Emigrant Aid society out of Massachusetts.
"It is rare," Crosswhite wrote, "to find personal accounts of participation in the
underground railroad in Kansas in the 1850s...(but) there is a rich oral tradition still
alive that states that the barn that Joel Grover built in 1858 was used as such a station.
The barn served primarily as a "last stop" locally, he said. "Fugitives, who were often
hidden in various persons' homes in town, could be brought to Grover's when the time
was near to send a group on to Topeka or Valley Falls without anyone observing the
Crosswhite uncovered two oral history accounts of such activity. One was taken in the
1890s by Zu Adams of the state historical society from Elizabeth Abbott, wife of Major
James A. Abbott, a well-known free-state leader of the 1850s.
The other was from Mrs. S. B. Prentiss whose father aided fugitives. Mrs. Prentiss' story
was published by the Kansas City Star in 1929 as part of a series celebrating the 75th
anniversary of the Kansas Territorial Act.
MRS. ABBOTT told how two teen-age boys stayed at their Lawrence home, and how the
youngest, 14, determined to go outdoors after several days of hiding in the house. "It
seemed pitiful to see their desire for liberty," she said.
Perhaps because of the risky excursion outdoors, both boys were taken that night to "the
next stopping place," which Mrs. Abbott said she thought was Joel Grover's barn.
Mrs. Prentiss' story centered on John Brown's famous, and last, foray in Kansas with
about a dozen runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad to Canada. She recalled
the group stayed at her family's cabin one night and then went on to "Mr. Grover's stone
barn." where they hid for several more days.
Mrs. Prentiss was the great-aunt of Anne Hemphill, Rt.2, and raised Mrs. Hemphill's
mother and aunt. Mrs. Hemphill said last week that her great-grandfather, Amasa Soule,
came in the same Emigrant Aid party as Grover, and also was reported to have been
active in the Underground Railroad. He hid runaway slaves at or near his cabin, which
sat along a branch of Coal Creek in the Vinland area.
She said her grandfather, William Lloyd Garrison Soule, also was said to have been
If a fugitive [fleeing the slave states] succeeded in crossing the line into Kansas Territory
where there were strong antislavery communities, he or she could expect to receive
assistance from operators on the Underground Railroad. This was a system by which
Northerners helped escaped slaves to reach their goal of freedom. It was neither
underground nor a railroad, but was so called because its activities were conducted in
secrecy and because railroad terms were used in the conduct of the system. It consisted
of networks of "stations" kept by "conductors" or "station keepers" who provided food,
shelter, and wagon transportation from one station to another along the line of travel to
freedom. Slaves were hidden in secret rooms, basements, attics, barns and other
outbuildings. They were usually transported at night to avoid proslavery kidnappers.
Communities that had active Underground Railroad stations in Kansas Territory
included Mound City, Osawatomie, Garnett, Quindaro, Pardee, Lawrence, Vinland,
Palmyra, Wakarusa, Bloomington, Clinton, Twin Mound, Kanwaka, Topeka, Holton and
Highland." - Richard Sheridan, in Preface to Angels of Freedom by Martha Parker,
edited by Christine Reinhard, 1999, pp. iv-v.
volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions,
industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc.
Kansas Historical Society- www.kshs.org