The Testimony of John A. Wakefield, Part One

John A Wakefield

John A Wakefield

The Howard Report told Congress and the American people what a great many of them already knew very well from the newspapers: hordes of men from Missouri crossed over into Kansas not to settle and stay, but to vote in its first territorial election. They made their man, John Wilkins Whitfield, Kansas Territory’s first non-voting delegate to Congress. The Missourians came over in organized groups, whether as part of a single conspiracy or multiple groups working in parallel. Some of the participants told the committee just that, freely admitting that at least hundreds crossed the border to vote on who should represent Kansas in Congress.

That all took a great deal of doing. Andrew Reeder, Kansas Territory’s first governor, split the territory into seventeen electoral districts. Each would have its own election judges and polling place. The committee that

In the first, third, eighth, ninth, tenth, twelfth, thirteenth, and seventeenth districts there appears to have been little if any fraudulent voting.

Eight of seventeen districts made for a good start, but obviously the Missourians couldn’t go everywhere. Where they did, different scenes played out.

John A. Wakefield, then living in the second district of Kansas and lately from Iowa, set out the 28th of November, accompanied by a Colonel Safford, late of Ohio but also then living in Kansas, to go speak to the people and about how they should elect him when they voted the next day.

We came down in a carriage, and on the road met a number of persons in companies-at least one hundred and fifty in all-on horseback and in wagons. Colonel Safford asked some of them in my hearing, where they were from; and they said “from the State of Missouri, and are going up to Douglas to vote to-morrow.”

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Wakefield also went to Douglas, where he

found a crowd of wagons, and a large gathering of men around the house where the polls were being held. When I got out of my buggy, a man came to me and said, “is there many more of the boys behind?” Supposing he took me to be a Missourian, I said I thought there were a great many. Says he, “by God, half of Clay county will be here to-day. Now,” says he, “old man, I will tell you how to do, if you want to vote. We have a parcel of clerks, and you will see them writing on the heads of barrels. Do you go to them, and tell one of them you want him to register a claim for you.”

At least in the second district, the Missourians wanted to put on a good show. Wakefield testified that he saw many such men writing on barrels. They could use all the fig leaves they could find, as Wakefield testified

That district was newly settled, and there were not exceeding fifty men in it-I think not over forty. I think there were two hundred and sixty-one or two hundred and sixty-two votes polled, and Whitfield got two hundred and thirty-five votes, if my memory serves me right. I got twenty votes, I think, and Flanigan six votes. I do not think there were actually more than thirty-five legal votes that day.

When stealing an election with fraudulent votes, one doesn’t want the risk of making things too close. More than two hundred votes in excess of the voting population of a district sounds like a comfortable, if very conspicuous, margin.

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