The Storming of the Second District Polls, Part Two

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

The judges of election that Andrew Reeder appointed refused to recognize any right of the non-resident Missourians to vote in Kansas territorial elections. In the First District (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), numbers and threats alone sufficed to overwhelm such objections. Samuel J. Jones, later a sheriff, did not take well to rejection. He would not swear under oath and penalty of perjury that he resided and intended to reside thereafter in Kansas. Nor did he think that they should receive the vote of any man who swore an oath. That would rule out even genuine new arrivals to Kansas who the judges did not recognize, but leave the polls wide open to Missourian interlopers.

Jones offered the judges of the election a chance to resign. They declined.The Missouri mob then declared

that if we did not do so [resign] they would tear the house down and kill us.

The Missourians, who had probably as much alcohol in them as weaponry on them, charged the window. They smashed it in, glass and sash alike, and jammed logs under the corners of the house. They put other logs beneath them to use as fulcrums and jacked the walls up, then let them drop.

One judge chose the better part of valor

At that moment one of the judges, Mr. Ellison, gathered up the ballot-box and rushed to the door, and said that if we did not close the polls there would be one hundred shots fired in here in less than fifteen minutes, and we would all be killed. He opened the door and ran out into the crowd, taking the ballot-box with him, and hurrahed for Missouri.

John A Wakefield

John A Wakefield

A clerk assisting with the election, William Jessee,  gives us more reason to take Paris Ellison’s prediction seriously:

There were, I should think, a dozen pistols cocked and pointed to the judges at the window, and they swore they would blow their brains out if they did not receive those votes or resign. I did not count the number of times these pistols were presented, but I should think it was from eight to a dozen times.

With the door open and window broken, border ruffians charged the polls. Harrison Burson testified that

At that moment numbers rushed in the door as fast as they could come in, with revolvers drawn and bowie-knives in their hands. They now filled the house; and Jones, one of the first who came in, requested us to resign; that if we did not resign they would kill us. Jones drew from his pocket his watch, and gave us five minutes in which to resign or die.

Where the First Distract dealt mostly with intimidation and threats, the Second graduated to armed robbery, election-style. According to the other judge, Nathaniel Ramsay, at least six and possibly eight men with guns and knives crowded in. Ramsay specified that the border ruffians

had their revolvers ready to shoot and their knives in their hands ready to stab.

The two judges who remained stood their ground. Jones gave them one more minute.

About the expiration of the one minute, I [Burson] was called out to see Mr. Wakefield, telling Jones I would give him an answer about resigning when I returned.

Readers might remember a John A. Wakefield from the November election. He stood for office again this time around and again had things to say to the Howard Committee about the conduct of Kansas’ elections.


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