The Fifteenth District, part 1
One could leave the Fifteenth District right here, but the testimony includes some novelties worth noting. These come to us by way of Joseph Potter. E.R. Zimmerman told us how each group of Missourian filibusters who arrived received cheers and heard speeches. Zimmerman, however, remained inside the polling place all day and so didn’t catch the speeches himself. Potter did:
I saw Major Oliver there, from Ray county, and I think Laban Withers, from Platte County. [...] Major Oliver made us a fine speech.
The Howard Report helpfully identifies Major Oliver:
Many of the Missourians were known and are named by the witnesses. Several speeches were made by them at the polls; and among those who spoke were Major Oliver, one of your committee
Awkward. Mordecai Oliver eventually authored the Howard Committee’s minority report. You can see him in the picture, sitting on the left. His name appears several times posing questions to witnesses, so he must have sat in the room and heard Potter tell him to his face what he had done in Kansas the year before. The testimony does not include the questions he posed, but to judge from Potter’s answer in the following, he asked for a summary of his words that day:
The first position Major Oliver took on that occasion was, to guaranty peace to us all. He was called on to speak by a number. I think the Major urged upon all present to use no harsh words; expressed the hope that nothing would be said or done to wound the feelings of the most sensitive on the other side. I think the speech was a first-rate speech, and was a peace speech. [...] I took no exception to anything the Major said in his speech. The Major made a very fine speech, and a peaceable speech; and said that he felt that all were brothers, whether free-State or pro-slavery men, and that all had an equal right to vote; and undertook to guaranty that if there were free-State men there, they would be protected in their rights, as would the others.
Big of Oliver, but in reading this we must remember that no free-State ticket existed to vote for in the district that day. You could come up and vote for the Missourians proslavery ticket or you could come up and vote for the Missourians’ proslavery ticket. Lest one think Oliver just trying to avert violence and make the best of a bad situation, Potter made clear Oliver’s politics:
Major Oliver gave us some grounds, I think based on the Missouri compromise, in regard to the right of voting. I was in no fix to listen to a speech as a man ought to, for I was somewhat sick and did not pay attention.
But even sick, Potter recalled enough:
I think Major Oliver excused the Missourians for voting, but I do not recollect upon what grounds.
In light of this, we clearly have Oliver getting up and cheerfully inviting everyone to come vote for the ticket he himself prefers. Though it may take us great struggle, I think we could all achieve such a heroic feat of magnanimity.
That said, Oliver got his way. Potter testified that he
saw no one prevented from voting. I heard no threats made in regard to voting.
Edmund R. Zimmerman reported to his post as judge of the election for the Fifteenth District the afternoon before the election. He stayed the night and saw the campfires of the small legion of Missourians who came to vote. Come morning, only one of his two counterparts appeared.
The strangers commenced crowding around the polls, and insisted upon having the polls opened. The residents left when the crowd came up.
Legal voters or no, Zimmerman and his fellow judge had a job to do. They settled on a third man to join them and appointed a pair of clerks. But then trouble began anew:
I had considerable difficulty in getting the other judges to commence the election. They would go out and whisper to the crowd outside; both of the other judges were pro-slavery men. I finally told them there was no necessity for deferring the matter longer, and we should open the polls.
One wonders what they hoped to gain by dragging things out. Maybe they intended to have the crowd riled enough to get Zimmerman to resign? Or maybe they were coordinating with the crowd on how to handle the actual voting? Zimmerman gives us nothing to go on. Either way, they had yet to reach the controversies over oaths and the like which had stalled other districts. The judges passed over those difficulties quickly, agreeing not to scrutinize votes excessively and settling on a short oath for dubious voters.
The first man who came up, when the oath was put to him, answered, “I’m here.”
This satisfied the proslavery judges, but not Zimmerman. To appease him, they insisted that the man swear to his actual residency in the district. In other districts, this kind of thing courted violence. In the Fifteenth, the voter grumbled and swore. Precedent set,
A number would come up, and when the oath was put to them, would say they had a claim, or held a claim, or owned a claim, or was there, or something of that sort.
All then took the oath anyway.
As they came up from their wagons they had hemp in their button-holes, and the pass-word that day was, “All right on the hemp.” A greater portion of the time there were men stationed where the votes were received and would examine the men as they came up, and would announce that they were “all right on the hemp.” I do not recollect that a man voted that day but what had hemp in his button-hole, or on his hat, or some other place where it could be seen. I did not go out to see any of the delegations coming in, but I heard it announced that delegations were coming in, and I would hear cheers, &c.
The plantation belt in Missouri grew mostly hemp. If that obvious inference doesn’t suffice, then Zimmerman provided more direct evidence of the border ruffians’ politics:
There was a great deal of drinking and swearing that day; cursing the abolitionists'; and some intimated at the polls that I ought to be taken out, but none interfered with me further than threats.
They needed go no further as the only candidates on the ballot stood on the proslavery ticket. Briefly two tickets existed, one of proslavery men chosen by Kansans and one proslavery men chosen by Missourians but, as in the Fourteenth District, the Missourian proslavery ticket prevailed. The free-staters thought about organizing a campaign, but knowing full well that the Missourians would swamp out their legal votes they abandoned the idea.
The Missourians did, however, have to suffer crushing disappointment:
Not finding any abolitionist to fight that day, having expressed a strong desire to find one to whip, they got fighting among themselves. I saw one old grey-headed man, about fifty-five or sixty years of age, and a boy about ten years of age by his side crying. The old man was all bloody, having been beaten. Those men were armed, and one of them brandished a pistol in the window before my face. The man was drunk, and put the pistol in the window, with pointing it at me, though he said he would like to kill him an abolitionist.
They threw a fight and no one came, so they had to make their own fun.
The remaining precinct of the Fourteenth District, Doniphan, brought no former senators pledging to kill every abolitionist in the territory. Nor did the Missourians who came there try to bring a house down on the election judges. It appears nobody even got shot at or beaten. Richard Tuck testified that
There were no political fights or disturbances that day.
The Missourians still came and still stole the election, of course. Both sides claimed that they had a majority of the genuine settlers in the precinct, suggesting a fairly even split. In such a situation, even a few fraudulent voters could change the outcome. Missouri provided two to three hundred reliable proslavery men.
They came, as elsewhere, in a group that told of considerable organization and investment:
They had tents, wagons, and plenty of arms. Their arms were double-barrelled shot-guns, pistols, bowie-knives, and rifles. Each man seemed well armed. They had plenty of provisions, and whiskey and brandy together. They had either three wagons of provisions, or drove up one wagon three times.
None of that sets them apart from other groups of border ruffians, but I’ve let the point pass for a while and thought it worth reemphasizing. An organized, planned campaign stole the election. The occasional references to military ranks among the leaders of the Missourians may have referred to past appointments, but also spoke to the fact that the rank and file constituted willing members of a paramilitary expedition. They deserve the name filibuster as much as anybody who went off to Cuba, Mexico, or Nicaragua.
With regard to those guns, Tuck told the Howard Committee
They did not tell me why they brought so many arms.
They stacked their arms up under the house they voted in. They voted in Mr. Foreman’s store. It was a frame building, a foot and a half high from the ground. They staid [sic] there all day, until they got ready to go home in the evening. They commenced stacking their arms under the building, and filled the space so well, that if there was any more room there I did not see it.
And whilst voting
They had as many arms as they could well carry; some of them had their pockets full of pistols.
With regard to the presence of firearms, one must make allowances for the nineteenth century frontier. Those allowances can go too far, though. Tuck came from Missouri himself and he clearly thinks the Missourians unusually well-armed. When someone hailing from essentially the same gun culture declares the border ruffians armed to the teeth, we should take that seriously. They didn’t just come packing, they came loaded down even by contemporary standards of the state they hailed from.
In such a situation, one can well imagine that few people raised a stink about the occasional enthusiast who thought one vote did not suffice:
Sometimes a man would go up and vote, and then go back and change his hat or coat, and sometimes both, and then go up and vote again. They would halloo out a different name every time. I saw some of them vote as many as eight or nine times, and one man might have voted a dozen times. Some three or four men were pursuing this course of voting.
By Tuck’s estimate, only thirty to forty of the men at the polls had a legal right to vote in the territory. Three extra voters alone gave the proslavery side a minimum of twenty-four extra votes.
G.A. Cutler told us that no less a figure than David Rice Atchison himself came over to the Wolf River precinct of the Fourteenth District to ensure the election of proslavery men to the legislature. He and his Misosurians also convinced the local proslavery men to change their support to the Missourian’s preferred candidates, including Atchison’s lieutenant’s brother, J.H. Stringfellow. Cutler didn’t see or didn’t recognize Stringfellow’s brother Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow, but other witnesses put him in the Fourteenth District that day as well. Cutler also testified that he saw no violence.
Maybe at Wolf River everything went fine. Bleeding Kansas or no, the Missourians did not necessarily have to conduct themselves violently to get their way. Success through intimidation gave them far less cause to do so. But the Fourteenth District had other precincts. A.A. Jamison saw more at Burr Oak, beginning with the Missourian’s arrival:
There was a firing of fire arms during the evening until late in the night. I saw them passing as I was at the road. The next morning the firing begun again.
Jamison does not say that, at least so far, the Missourians shot at anything and people, then and now, do sometimes shoot their guns in celebration or to signal to one another. But firing off guns in large numbers sent a message about the group’s willingness to use them more deliberately. Continuous fire of guns sounds much more like a ballistic telegraph spelling out ‘we mean business and will shoot you if you get in the way’ than a group of well-lubricated men simply having a good time.
The free staters withdrew their ticket, but the Missourians resolved to make the withdrawal stick. Jamison testifies that
There was a party selected towards evening of good fighting men to stand and protect the polls until they were closed and they saw that all was right. Their reason for forming such a fighting party, as they said themselves, was, that they were afraid the free State men would come in and vote towards evening.
The free state men might vote in the election. Obviously, this could not stand. Did those men, or any others, see any action? Apparently so:
The threats I heard after the free State ticket was withdrawn, were not to take life. I saw some fighting by fisticuffs. I saw a man about five minutes after he had been shot, but I did not see it done. I saw others who had their heads badly cut with clubs and stones.
Fights happen and the Missourians had enough alcohol to lubricate their fists, but this sounds a bit beyond regular brawling. Jamison didn’t see the fights themselves and didn’t testify to how they came about, but from context he seems to believe they came out of the political dispute. I wouldn’t call that conclusive, but it certainly looks bad for the Missourians.
David Rice Atchison and his personal army of Missourians succeeded in convincing the proslavery Kansans of the Wolf River precinct to support his candidates instead of their own, including the brother of his favorite lieutenant, John H. Stringfellow. The other Stringfellow, of course, helped Atchison establish the organization that facilitated the Missourian election stealing and other, not always successful, efforts to police white antislavery sentiment. That job done, most of them moved on to other districts. All of this took place on March 29, 1855, the day before the elections for territorial legislature.
Dr. G.A. Cutler continues the story:
The next day the election commenced at Wolf river in very good order, and everything went on right for about two hours. The ice was running in the Missouri river, and none could get across till ten or eleven o’clock.
The usual story began thereafter. A Missourian named Felix Blakely came up to vote and a judge refused him.
There was a great deal of disturbance; Mr. Richardson [the refusing judge] was threatened considerably; they threatened to whip him if he would come out of doors, and wanted to do it in where he was, and he finally resigned.
Applying the punishment of slaves to a white man communicates very well the depth of the Missourians’ loathing for anybody with a whiff of antislavery about them. Richardson took the hint and resigned. The Missourians put up the usual proslavery judge who took every vote without question. Cutler, who stood for election as a free state man, saw no sense in remaining at the polls and left. He even told friends not to bother, since the Missourians had the numbers to steal the election anyway.
What about contesting the election?
I heard a great many threats in regard to contesting that election. Major General Richardson said, in a crowd in Doniphan, that myself and office should be thrown into the Missouri river if I contested the election or sent a protest against it. We all believed that if a second election was held it would be a bloody one. I afterwards heard threats against the governor of the Territory-that if he failed to sign the certificates he should not live two hours. I heard these threats in Doniphan and in Missouri. I also received an anonymous letter, stating that if I contested the election I should be put out of my misery, or something to that effect. These threats were frequent.
But those threads did not see execution:
I saw no violence offered to any voter, except doubling up of fists, &c.; no blows struck.
Of course the proslavery men got their way. We know that in other districts they had it in them to do the violence they threatened, if not quite to the point of cleansing the territory of abolitionists. We can’t know if the Missourians at Wolf River would have gone the whole way if further frustrated, but Richardson took them seriously enough to resign and Cutler himself opted not to contest the election. In light of that, it makes more sense to take the threats as credible statements of intent.
Much of this series has repeated the same story over again: Missourians flooded over the border into Kansas and stole its elections by casting illegal votes. When opposed, they escalated things to threats and pointed to the large stockpiles of weaponry they brought with them. If that didn’t work, and it appears that the threats of violence alone usually sufficed, they would escalate further to actual violence. At times they manhandled people. At times they opened fire. Once they even tried to bring a house down on top of recalcitrant judges of the election. The Howard Committee couldn’t tell what happened in the Eleventh District. Though common, Missourian electoral hooliganism did not extend everywhere. It did not reach the Twelfth District at all. The Howard Committee reported that
The election in this district was conducted fairly. No complaint was made that illegal votes were cast.
The Thirteenth District reverted to type. When the judges would not take dodgy votes, the Missourians threatened to tear down the house. The judges took the better part of valor and left, which freed the Missourians to set up their own judges. They did so and then all went smoothly. The free-state voters stayed away.
Which brings us to the Fourteenth District and its thirty-five witnesses. I have to slow down and take this one in more detail for reasons that shall soon become obvious. There the Missourians came, as usual, and Dr. G.A. Cutler testified that at the Wolf River Precinct
There was considerable whiskey demolished. They were all armed to the teeth.
Firearms and alcohol go together exceptionally well, if one’s goal is mayhem. Fairness, however, requires us to keep in mind that most nineteenth century gatherings of men involved quite a bit of alcohol. Cutler quickly moves beyond the tired old news and into something novel:
This crowd was under the command of General Atchison.
Atchison, as in David Rice Atchison Missouri’s very recently former Senator who helped make all of this possible and saw in Kansas a way to save his career as well as his slaves. Atchison and the Missourians would not leave Kansas to the Kansans. They wouldn’t even trust the territory to the proslavery Kansans:
The proslavery citizens there wished to have Mr. Thomas Vandersluyee and Joel Ryans; and Atchison’s company wanted Stringfellow and Kirk elected. They could not agree very well.
An Atchison wanted a Stringfellow for elected office? One might think he meant Benjamin Stringfellow of Negro-Slavery, No Evil (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) fame. Atchison instead preferred John H. Stringfellow, Benjamin’s brother. That Stringfellow then lived in Kansas, at the town of Atchison.
Both sides of the dispute, good proslavery men, knew they had a common interest. Why not come together?
A man got up and made a speech and as near as I can recollect his words, he said: “Gentlemen, we want to unite on one ticket. There are 1,100 coming over from Platte county, and if that ain’t enough we can send you 5,000 more. We came to vote, and we are going to vote, or kill every God-damned abolitionist in the district. I think he said “district” but it was “district” or “territory”. I asked a man nigh to me, a stranger, who that was, and he said it was old Davy Atchison.
Atchison and his people came here to save slavery? Can’t you good proslavery sorts see that? And if they can’t vote, they and their thousands will kill all the abolitionists. What more can they do? Why not vote for their candidates? This apparently convinced the proslavery Kansans, as Cutler tells us that they settled on Stringfellow and Kirk.
In keeping with my new policy, I shall pass over the Tenth District quickly. The Howard Committee found ten men who lived on the Wyandotte reservation who voted proslavery. They appear to have had the legal right to vote, but not in that district. Eleven Pennsylvanians, who the committee found had not properly established residences before the election, also voted. They opted for the free state ticket. The judges questioned both parties under oath and let both vote. The votes of neither party changed the outcome of the election, which the committee declared “conducted friendly.” They further noted that the Tenth constituted “the only one to which the invasion from Missouri did not extend.”
The Eleventh District stretched out over the middle of nowhere, even by the standards of the nineteenth century frontier:
This election district is sixty miles north from Pawnee, and one hundred and fifty miles from Kansas City. It is the northwest settlement in the Territory, and contained, when the census was taken, but thirty-six inhabitants, of whom twenty-four were voters. There was on the day of the election no white settlement about Marysville, the place of voting, for forty miles, except that Marshall & Bishop kept a store and ferry at the crossing of the Big Blue and the California road.
One might hope the middle of nowhere would offer a cleaner election. The committee determined, as best they could, that Marysville returned all of seven legal votes…and three hundred twenty-one fraudulent of the illegal kind.
Would such a dramatic fraud make for eager actual Kansans flooding the committee with damning testimony? It might have, but things did not turn out that way:
Your committee were unable to procure witnesses from this district. Persons who were present at the election were duly summoned by an officer, and among them was F.J. Marshall, the member of the House from that district. On his return, the officer was arrested and detained, and persons bearing the names of some of the witnesses summoned were stopped near Lecompton, and did not appear before the committee.
Lecompton later became home to the proslavery Kansas legislature and loaned its name to the infamous constitution they drew up in 1857. That the witnesses, or people sharing their names, found themselves stopped nearby looks very suspicious. That goes double in light of the arrest of the officer carrying the summonses. Regrettably, the Howard Report appears to contain no testimony from him either. I’d quite like to know what happened, aside the obvious. Did the proslavery forces do something especially egregious and cover it up, or did the Eleventh District witnesses just present a useful target of opportunity as part of a broader campaign to interfere with the committee’s work?
A secondary source might have answers here, but I’ve yet to acquire one. Do any readers know of a good book on Kansas before the war? It appears that Nichole Etcheson’s Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era surveyed the subject most recently. Jonathan Earle’s and Diane Mutti Burke’s Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border sounds interesting, but as a collection of essays probably works better as a companion to a survey than in lieu of one. I can read both, and that sounds like something I would do, but it can take me quite a while to get through a single book, let alone two.
A programming note first, Gentle Readers:
I got myself thoroughly confused with the testimony on the Sixth District and previously claimed that only a few Missourians illegally voted, forgetting that the Howard Committee counted somewhere around 250 illegal votes, while simultaneously ruling that even had only legal voters gone to the polls the election would have come out the same. I’ve edited Friday’s post to reflect that.
Also the next few districts have uneventful summaries, so I shall move quickly through them.
The Howard Committee collected no testimony of violence in the Seventh District, but the Missourians came two to three hundred strong. Two of Andrew Reeder’s chosen judges declined to serve and the Missourians replaced them with more amenable men. They refused to take the oath Reeder set out, but instead made up their own. Likewise they declined to make any Missourian swear to his residency in Kansas. One man asked that they at least swear unknown voters to having a claim in Kansas, but the judges opted not to. Some genuine residents, seeing hundreds of Missourians lined up against them, did the math and realized voting would only waste their time. Of those who did vote legally, a majority went for the free-state candidate. The other guy, Mobillon McGee, rode to victory on the back of illegal votes. He had an actual claim complete with saw mill and house in Kansas, but actually lived in Missouri “where he owns and conducts a valuable farm.”
The Eighth District earns itself no more than four lines in the Howard Report. Though legally distinct, Andrew Reeder joined it with the Seventh for purposes of the election.
its vote was controlled by the illegal votes cast there. [Tn the Seventh District] The census shows 39 votes in it;’ 37 votes were cast, of a whom a majority voted the free-State ticket.
The Ninth District held the seat of government at the time. Neither the committee’s summary nor the testimony report any violence or threats. However, all five witnesses called testified that a large number of Pennsylvanians, many hailing from Reeder’s home town of Easton, came into the district shortly before the election and left shortly thereafter. They appear to have had their expenses paid by Aid Societies. Two witnesses related to the committee claims that each Pennsylvanian had $25, possibly from Andrew Reeder’s wife, to cover their expenses out to Kansas.
Reeder may very well have brought them, the closest thing to pauper abolitionist mercenaries of Missourian nightmares that the Howard Report has yet offered up. He had the business of setting up facilities for the government, including a capitol and trying to arrange lodging for the legislature when they arrived. Nineteenth century crony capitalism could certainly include hiring people from way back east to come out to do the work. Reeder and some local Kansans around Pawnee appear to have thrown in on real estate speculation, which would do much to explain why Reeder wanted the seat of government out in the middle of nowhere at Pawnee instead of more centrally located. Fewer people meant less competition and cheaper land.
More of the testimony concerns this real estate deal than the election itself. Reeder or his confederates apparently induced the local military garrison to clear out a group of Irish settlers, tearing down their houses and then tearing the roofs off the sod huts they made to replace the structure. They took a strong interest in buying one man out and apparently tried to give shares in their enterprise to members of the legislature at a discount to induce them to vote for keeping the government at Pawnee. It didn’t work, though, and later on they found out that the whole area sat inside the military reservation and so nobody could stake claims there.
The men who came from Pennsylvania, whether they came at Reeder’s bidding or not, did largely go and vote. Does that make them just like the Missourians? Not necessarily. The Howard Committee satisfied itself that many of the Pennsylvanians came out with full intent to settle. The witnesses seem to agree, testifying that they came on Reeder’s word about the wonders of Kansas, including iron mountains, and discovered the hard way that he misled them. So they resolved to leave, but had motives that sanctioned their voting. If they made that decision before the election and still voted, then they had no right to do so. In the absence of statements on that count, we can’t say. One might argue that they came as government employees, and some did, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act specifically allowed even men at military posts to vote in Kansas’ elections provided they intended at the time to stay in the territory.
What does all of this boil down to? It seems that some Northern, free-state men might have cast illegal votes for a change but we don’t have any way to know for sure. They could have still intended to settle when they voted, only thereafter deciding that the land did not justify their remaining. Even without mountains of iron, the frontier had its attractions. Either way, the few people in the Ninth District seemed more concerned with their real estate speculation than with the politics of the day.
Something odd happened in Kansas’ Sixth District. Witnesses all agree that no violence took place. They testify that at most, only a few fraudulent votes made their way into the ballot box. (The Howard Committee disagreed and counted no more than 100 of the 350 votes tabuleted as legal.) Missourians came, but most seemed to behave themselves. Nobody reported them deterring anybody from voting. All three of Andrew Reeder’s judges appeared and remained in place for the whole day. John Hamilton, who ran for the lower house as a free stater and lost, testified that
There was no disturbance at the polls.
I know of no double voting that day.
Hamilton almost reported something serious.
Mr. Loring and Mr. Richardson, when the polls were closed, came to me and said they came to me as friends, to know if I intended to contest the election. I stated that if I had a majority of the legal votes in the district I should certainly contest it. They said if I did it would certainly be detrimental to the interests of myself and family. They said nothing further.
Nothing came of the threat. Ultimately Hamilton said
I was not induced to any course of conduct by any threats made towards me. I had repeatedly stated I should contest that election if I thought I had a majority of the legal votes there then. I did not contest it at that time, because there was not time enough to contest it; and I believed at the time a majority of the votes were against me. [...] I never have ascertained that I received a majority of the legal votes there
If anybody had reason to complain, Hamilton did. He clearly thought instead he lost fair and square. Other witnesses say that he told them on the day of the election that his own friends voted for other candidates.
Joseph C. Anderson, who ran for the House and won, disagreed with Hamilton on one small point. He knew that some voted fraudulently:
I heard one man I can name, who was from Missouri, say he had voted, but I did not see him vote. My present impression is that I heard another Missourian say so. Mr. Loring was one of them. I tried to keep him from voting. I remarked to him, “Mr. Loring, you are not going to vote?” The object of my inquiry was dissuasive. I told him I did not want him to vote; that I did not want men known to be citizens of Missouri to vote there, for the reason that everybody was voting for me, and I did not want to have my election contested, or have any trouble about it.
I used every argument to prevent him from voting that I could think of at the time.
William Barbee goes some way toward explaining how things went so well at Fort Scott. He took the census of the area and
Governor Reeder took me to be a free-State man, and requested me to hunt up suitable free-State men for judges of election, when I took the census, and said that he aimed to appoint two free soilers and one pro-slavery man for judges of election. He did do that in our district, and in the districts in which I took the census, which was over half the Territory in extent, so far as he could.
Barbee’s words have a kind of studied ambiguity about them. Reeder took him for a free-state man. Later Barbee expands slightly, saying
I passed for a free-State man with him, and that was the way I got the appointment to take the census.
Barbee’s late residence in Illinois might have helped too, but notice that he never calls himself a free state man. He ran for the legislature as a proslavery candidate. He also says that Reeder’s safeguards fell into place only so far as Reeder could manage. That scans as an allowance for less than perfect success, but added together with Barbee’s admission that he only allowed Reeder to think him antislavery, at least suggests that Barbee may have passed off some proslavery judges to Reeder as antislavery men. That might have stolen the election before the polls ever opened.
But Anderson and Hamilton both agree that the district had a proslavery majority of legitimate voters. It hardly needed stealing, as Anderson admits. It appears to have come by that majority honestly, even if a few Missourians voted illegally. Samuel A. Williams tesitified:
From the time I went into the district the emigration was very heavy from Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas, up to the time of the election, and settled on the Neosho and the streams in that neighborhood, and the district.
That fits well with the geography of the district, which ran all the way to Kansas’ southern border. One would expect people coming from south and east of Kansas to concentrate in just that spot.
Having delved into the Pottawatomie, Big Sugar, and Little Sugar precincts we come at last to Bull Creek. The Howard Committee received testimony on events there from Dr. B.C. Westfall, who began by telling them that he had no legitimate business at the election of March 30, 1855 as he did not move to Kansas until January of 1856. He did, however, come extremely close:
I had resided for three years previous at New Santa Fe, Jackson county, immediately on the Missouri line, within ten feet of it.
Westfall went off to the election in Kansas all the same, coming to Bull Creek at the request of his neighbors and in a company of thirty or so. They made their camp with other Jackson county men, many of whom Westfall knew from his ten previous years living in the Missouri hinterlands.
The evening we arrived there Mr. Park, from Kentucky, and Mr. Payne, from Missouri, claiming to be two judges appointed by Governor Reeder, came to me and told me that the third judge the governor had appointed would not be at the election, and requested me to act as judge with them, as they had the appointment of judge in the absence of the other. I told them I would serve.
Andrew Reeder named John J. Parks, J.J. Clark, and Stephen Wright judges of the election for the Bull Creek precinct. Given Westfall worked from memory, he probably misremembered Parks’ surname. One can hardly confuse a Payne for a Clark or a Wright, though. Whoever came up to him with Parks lied about his credentials.
The night passed and some of the Missourians left Bull Creek for Pottawatomie, on the grounds that they lacked sufficient men then to steal the precinct away, but sixty went off to remedy that and in due course morning came. With it came the question of what the three judges would do about all these Missourians who came to vote, and how that would square with their oath as judges? Parks and Payne resolved the dilemma by refraining from swearing themselves or Westfall to any such oaths.
Someone else did swear on their behalf, though. After the polls closed, the judges went about preparing the returns.
the magistrate, or one who called himself a magistrate, certified to the governor that he had sworn the judges
That makes the score here one person lying about having an appointment from Andrew Reeder as election judge and one more claiming to be a magistrate, who in turned lied and said that the three judges had taken Reeder’s oath. Let’s add another really obvious lie to the list:
One gentleman by the name of Samuel wade, near New Santa Fe,. called out his name and we took it down. Shortly after he voted he came back and called out Jim Wade’s name, and I am pretty confident that was taken down. Jim Wade was a son of the old gentleman, some nine or ten years old at that time. I asked Mr. Wade afterwards why he had called out Jimmy’s name as a voter, and he said he had made him a claim on Bull creek, adjoining his own, and he expected Jemmy would become a resident of the Territory and a voter.
This races past blatancy almost to the point of parody. Jim Wade would not, under the Kansas-Nebraska Act’s provisions, have any right to vote in Kansas until 1865 at the earliest.
They did have some consciousness of the need to make things look good, though. Westfall found
upon the poll books some memoranda under the names of several persons- “Rejected, refusing to swear.” This was all got up for effect, as some free State men were looking on. It was all understood between the voters and the judges. When one of them would come to the window and the judge would say, “I think you live in Missouri, do you not?” To which the man would reply, “I have a claim in the Territory.” The judge would ask them if they would be sworn that they were residents of the Territory, at which they would pretend to get angry and threaten to whip the judges, and refused to be sworn. The matter, however, was all arranged beforehand. No one was sworn that day.
Westfall also commented on the candidates the Missourians preferred. He recognized the name of Henry Younger:
Henry Younger is a man of considerable wealth and has much land and many slaves in Jackson county, Missouri. I have known him since the fall of 1847, and he resided near Independence at that time. I do not know that he had moved into the Territory, and I do not think he has ever changed his residence since I knew him.
At least Westfall had no violence to report. They staged a show. They lied freely. But these particular Missourians didn’t shoot at anybody. They had no need with matters so well in hand.