The Hunt for Franklin Coleman, Part Five

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, 3, 4

We left Franklin Coleman, Josiah Hargis, and Harrison Buckley at Shawnee Mission in search of Wilson Shannon’s protection. They found Douglas County Sheriff Samuel Jones instead. Coleman promptly “delivered himself” to Jones. His murder of Charles Dow happened within Jones’ jurisdiction and he probably couldn’t have missed hearing of Jones proslavery bona fides in the months he’d lived in Kansas. The man who burst into the polling place at Bloomington with gun in hand and told the judges of the election they had five minutes to take anyone who offered to vote or take his bullets would surely not hand Coleman over easily to a free soil mob.

Coleman says little about what happened at Shawnee Mission, but Hargis, Buckley, and then the returned governor fill in some of the blanks. Shannon told Brewerton:

When I returned, Coleman had surrendered himself to the Sheriff of Douglas County (Jones), who happened to be at the mission. Buckley and Hargis stated their grievances to me, and informed me that a man named Branson, of the Free State party, and one of the residents at Hickory Point, with whom Dow (the person killed) had resided, was the leader of the band who had threatened and endeavored to extort false evidence from them.

Shannon told Buckley and Hargis they should swear out affidavits and get a peace bond against Branson. They returned to Douglas County for that, presumably to secure a magistrate with the proper jurisdiction. On the way there, Jones, Buckley, Coleman, and Hargis received

an express from Hickory Point, which had ridden all night, advising Coleman and his two friends not to return to that settlement, as they would certainly be killed by the Free State party.

The governor doesn’t name the express rider, but they must have met John Banks. The latter went out specifically to find and warn Coleman against return and narrates their encounter in his testimony:

I started down, and I started early the next morning, Saturday, down to see Coleman. I met Mr. Coleman about seventeen miles from Hickory Point, returning with Mr. Jones, the sheriff, who had him in custody, as the governor had told them had better go back before a justice of the peace, and have the matter investigated. I told them I thought they had better not go up there then, as there was considerable excitement, and many men were there under arms. Mr. Jones said he did not know what to do, but he thought he could go up there in safety. I told them again, I thought the better plan was not to go there at present, as I had seen some thirty or forty armed men hunting for Coleman.

Jones apparently didn’t like his odds against thirty to forty men under arms, so everyone went back to Shawnee Mission to consult with Governor Shannon again.

Or possibly they had no instructions to go to a justice of the peace before, and intended to go straight to Hickory Point for an investigation. Banks makes it clear that Coleman’s party went twice to Shawnee Mission, but the other testimony seems ambiguous to me. It seems to makes more sense if Coleman went, Hargis and Buckley followed, and the three of them met with Jones. They together agreed to go back to Hickory Point, Shannon probably not then present. On meeting Banks they learned they had a larger problem than Charles Dow dead, houses burned, and Jacob Branson making threats. Then they returned to Shawnee Mission, where Shannon had himself returned, and got instructions from him to go to Lecompton to swear their affidavits and get the peace warrant.

I think it happened that way, but one could probably read the accounts differently and come to other conclusions.

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