The Hunt for Jacob Branson, Part Four

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, 5, 6, 7

The Hunt for Jacob Branson: parts 1, 2, 3

Sheriff Samuel Jones and his posse relented and let Jacob Branson put on some pants, and a coat, before hauling taking him away. The posse left Branson’s claim on horseback, but it seems they only had a mule for their charge. He testifies that previous to him, Franklin Coleman rode the animal.

Then the posse went to Harrison Buckley’s house. Buckley’s deposition doesn’t shed any light on this, but presumably he asked for a side trip to check on his claim. Given his land and Branson’s both abutted Coleman’s, they wouldn’t have had to go far out of their way. According to Branson:

Buckley, and I think one or two others, then got off and went into the house, and got a bridle, and caught another horse. There were several trunks set outside the house; some of them were open; Buckley pushed one back into the house and said that the damned Yankees, or abolitionists, I do not recollect which, had been robbing his house, and that was the way he had found it when he got home.

Whoever fired Buckley’s home didn’t commit the arson until near dawn.

Buckley mounted up on his own horse and the posse rode to the home of a Mr. Freeland. Two remained outside to guard Branson, while the rest went in.

They remained in there for some time, I think from half an hour to an hour. They brought some liquor out to the other men in a jug, and gave me some. I was almost frozen-very much chilled, as it was a clear cold night.

Good thing they let Branson put some pants on. Pants or otherwise, he got to stew outside while the posse had their drinking session. Sufficiently lubricated, the posse continued along. They came up to Blanton’s bridge. It appears that only then did Jones make his business, aside the fact that he put Branson under arrest, known to his prisoner:

Sheriff Jones, who called himself the high sheriff of this county-the one that first presented the pistol to me in my house and called me his prisoner-claimed to be the leader of the company. He never showed me his warrant, and did not tell me for what I was arrested, until a short time before I was rescued. He then rode up to where I was, and I asked him what great criminal act I had been doing, that he brought so many men to take me?

Given Branson couldn’t Google Jones and get a look at his picture or see him on television, I can believe that he didn’t know the man on sight. He says as much later in his testimony. But could he really have gone this long in doubt of just why a bunch of proslavery men came to arrest him? Possibly. It’s obvious to us that the Coleman-Dow affair led to all of this, but from Branson’s perspective, Jones could just as likely have come simply because Branson served in the Kansas Legion. Jones explained that he had a peace warrant against Branson, which naturally led to the next question:

I then said, it took a great many men to come after an old man like me. He said, “these men that came along with me we expected would have a little fun; we heard that there were about a hundred men at your house to-day, and we hoped to find them there to-night, as we wanted to have some sport with them;” and said he regretted they were not there, and that they were cheated out of their sport.

Jones likely would not have relished the odds of about a dozen vs. a hundred, and Branson has every reason to paint him in the worst light, but this sounds to me like fairly ordinary frontiersman bluster. The sheriff certainly assembled his posse with the expectation of trouble and he and his deputies probably did hope for a little action, if not to take on an enemy that outnumbered them ten to one.



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