The Fifth District, Part One

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

I don’t mean to skip the Fourth District, but the Howard Report summary runs only two paragraphs which only repeat the story of the previous districts (First: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; Second: parts 1, 2, 3; Third: parts 1, 2, 3, 4) without any mention of violence or other unusual activity, save that the Missourians also held an election for governor while present. One of Andrew Reeder’s judges appeared and the Missourians appointed the other two. The free staters, finding the polls swamped, stayed away.

Andrew Reeder’s proclamation divided the Fifth District into four precincts: Bull Creek, Pottawatomie Creek, Big Sugar, and Little Sugar. In the Little Sugar precinct, nothing untoward happened and the election proceeded smoothly.

At Big Sugar, James M. Arthur, Elisha Tucker, and John E. Brown served as judges of the election. The polls opened at Tucker’s house. The Brown named did not deliver any of the fireworks one might expect. So far as I can tell, he only coincidentally shared a name with the famous John Brown of the Harper’s Ferry raid. That Brown had yet to reach Kansas. All three judges had their names listed in Reeder’s proclamation as the judges of record for the precinct. They swore each other in, each using Reeder’s oath.

Arthur told the Howard Committee:

About the time the polls were opened, a large number of strangers came into the yard and demanded to vote. I wanted to swear them as to whether they were residents or not, and they refused to swear. Mr. Brown, one of the judges, told me then, I must take their votes or resign. I asked Mr. Tucker, the other judge, what should be done, and he said he considered them legal voters, without swearing or asking them any questions. I thereupon resigned.

One has to wonder if the famous John Brown ever heard about this John E. Brown and his activities during the election. I imagine he would have had some things to say, possibly with blades and bullets.

Arthur’s resignation, given without apparent threat to his life, made for smooth sailing at Big Sugar. He testifies that he spent much of the day still around the polls and appears to have suffered no harassment during his brief tenure as a judge or thereafter.

At Pottowatomie Creek, William Chesnut (no relation to Senator James Chesnut of South Carolina or his wife, the better-known Mary Boykin Chesnut of Civil War diary fame) had Andrew Reeder’s commission as a judge of the election. He arrived at the polling place around eight in the morning. His fellow Reeder-appointed judge, Allen Wilkinson, disqualified himself by standing for election. The third judge, O.F. Cleveland, did not appear. Chesnut, as the sole judge on the ground, claimed the right to name replacements.

a stranger came forward and told me he was from Missouri. He was armed with a revolver and a knife, and had a rifle in his hand. he told me his party would appoint the judges. I remonstrated with him, and named two persons for judges that I thought were qualified. He told me that if I made any trouble with them they would dispose of me with very little ceremony.

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

But anyway, the stranger went on, “with a kind of sneer,” how would Chesnut like to run the election? Chesnut answered that he wanted to run the election by the rules Andrew Reeder set down. The stranger disagreed with the usual Missourian claims and furthermore that Chesnut

could see they had come well prepared, and would vote, and let the consequences be what they might.

And if Chesnut insisted on remaining, “It would be at his own peril.”

Chesnut did not move, so the stranger went off and came back with a new proposal. He could stay on, but just let everybody vote without asking anything about them or demanding they swear an oath to their residency in Kansas. And by the way, in addition to the Missourians a large party of Bostonians camped out nearby and they planned to come vote too. The Missourians consulted with them and they agreed that no one should have to answer any questions or swear anything. No such party of Bostonians existed, of course.

The Missourians then appointed two judges to share the panel with Chesnut. One of them Chesnut knew lived in Kansas, but in the Bull Creek precinct. The new judge

said that he had his washing done there and was, therefore, a voter.

With the new judges appointed, voting proceeded at a steady clip. Chesnut raised objections and each time another judge said he knew the voter and knew him qualified to vote.

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