The Hunt for Franklin Coleman, Part Three

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

Trouble at Hickory Point: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

The Hunt for Franklin Coleman: part 1, 2

We left Franklin Coleman headed for the Shawnee Mission to turn himself in to Governor Wilson Shannon for the killing of Charles Dow. His friend and claim partner, free state man John Banks, went out to find him at Mrs. Coleman’s request. She suspected that the mob which had gone around Hickory Point looking for Coleman would find him on the return trip and hang him. This all transpired in the second half of the week of November 21, 1855, though sorting out precisely what happened when presents some difficulties given the witnesses couldn’t agree on the dates or days of the week.


Before pressing on, I have one more thing to say about the delay. I have relied heavily on proslavery sources for the first part of Coleman’s story as the antislavery sources purposefully neglect it. In doing so, I missed that, William Phillips does address the issue of the delay in official action against Coleman for Dow’s murder as a factor in motivating antislavery men. Past concerns about the timeline apply all the same, and we should read Phillips with some caution here, but in the interests of fairness:

By the 26th of the month no action had been taken by the authorities, and, as the inference was that the murderers would go unpunished, a meeting of the settlers was called at Hickory Point, and assembled on the day in question. The action of the meeting was marked by no violence; they merely passed resolutions deploring and condemning the murder, and appointed a committee, whose duty it should be to take steps to bring the murderers to justice. As some of of the more indignant of the settlers were in favor of burning the houses of the murderers, a resolution was passed, condemning and deprecating such an act, even against these men.

That meeting and its resolutions will come back in a later post.

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Phillips adds the story that Coleman took his family off with him the night of the killing, setting out for Missouri and only later coming back to Kansas. Banks has things otherwise, with Coleman leaving his family with his neighbors. Phillips might simply have things confused. Wilson Shannon told told George Douglas Brewerton that other proslavery families from Hickory Point fled to Missouri at about the same time. However, Shannon testifies

In the meantime, Buckley, Hargis, and Coleman -who had fled so soon as they could to escape from the band who were threatening their execution-made their way to the Executive office at Shawnee Mission, K.T., to have an interview with myself. I was absent at the time.

The last word I had of Buckley and Hargis, unless I’ve missed something, put them both still at Hickory Point. Coleman left for the governor’s protection by himself. While he might have omitted his companions to make himself sound less frightened, John Banks testified to seeing Hargis the day after the shooting. By that point he should have gone if he went with Coleman. However, subsequent testimony makes it clear that Buckley and Hargis arrived at Shawnee Mission some time prior to Coleman and Sheriff Jones setting out for Hickory Point. They must have gone there. Shannon, not present for their arrival, might just have conflated them without realizing.





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