The Fifth District, Part Three

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

The Fifth District, part 1, 2

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.

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