The Hunt for Jacob Branson, Part One

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

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, 5, 6, 7

We left off at Hickory Point with John Banks returned home to find a mob still hunting Coleman. They had come together where the latter show free state man Charles Dow, who then lived with Kansas Legion officer Jacob Branson. The mob drew up some resolutions, for which I have searched in vain. However, one can get a sense of free state feeling on the matter from the Herald of Freedom. George Washington Brown printed the same item reporting Dow’s murder in three consecutive issues, under the heading “Murder Most Foul.”

Our town was thrown into a high state of excitement on Thursday last by intelligence from near Hickory Point, in this Territory, that Chas. W. Dow, a young man about twenty-two years of age, was most barbarously murdered by a party of demons who rejoice in the appellation of “border ruffians.” Mr. Dow had been to a blacksmith shop where several of these demons incarnate were congregated. One of them drew a rifle on him, and threatened to shoot him on the spot, but finally set down his weapon without injuring any one. Mr. Dow started to leave, and got a few rods when his attention was directed towards the shop by the explosion of a percussion cap. Looking around he received a charge of buck shot in his bosom from a wretch named Colman, [sic] and fell dead upon the spot.

The business at the blacksmith shop seems to refer to a confrontation between Dow and Harrison Buckley, who many free state men initially thought had show Dow. Brown further pledged

The people will assemble on Monday, and execute summary punishment upon the entire party who were present, and accessories to the murder, if they can be found. We wait with anxiety for further developments.

By this point, however, Coleman, Buckley, and Hargis traveled Kansas with Sheriff Samuel Jones. They went in search of a magistrate, at Governor Wilson Shannon’s instructions, and found Hugh Cameron at Lecompton, the seat of Douglas County. I before speculated that the party saw Shannon twice, but can now confirm them. It slipped my mind that Coleman’s testimony to the Howard Committee mentions separate meetings.

At Lecompton, Buckley swore an affidavit to Cameron regarding the threats to his life that Branson had made. According to Jones’ later affidavit, reprinted in Brewerton:

on the 26th day of November, A.D. 1855, he received from the hands of Hugh Cameron, a legally appointed justice of the peace for said County of Douglass, a peace-warrant issued by said justice of the peace, and to him directed as sheriff, […] and immediately after receiving said warrant he summoned a posse of ten men and proceeded to the house of said Branson

Jones’ posse included Buckley and Hargis, but it appears that Coleman remained in Lecompton. The hunt for Franklin Coleman thus gave way to a hunt for Jacob Branson.

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