“To Save Your Husband or Die” The Hunt for Jacob Branson, Part Six

Samuel Newitt Wood

Samuel Newitt Wood

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, 4, 5

On the night of November 26-27, 1855, on his way back to Lawrence from a meeting to discuss the murder of free stater Charles Dow by proslavery man Franklin Coleman, heard of an armed band of proslavery men headed the way he came. Wood, himself involved with the free state militia, saw trouble and dispatched riders to raise the alarm. He and his traveling companion, J.B. Abbott rode back to Hickory Point to see what would transpire, as he told a correspondent two years later:

Never shall I forget that seven miles’ ride. Almost the whole distance was passed in silence. Just as we came to the timber I turned and inquired what we should do if we found the rascals at Branson’s.

Nineteenth century Americans did not understand rascal as a playful description. Rather they took it as a dire insult which might only be wiped clean with bloodshed. Given Wood understood Samuel Jones’ posse as aimed at Jacob Branson, and sent out the call for his own band to gather before setting out himself, he clearly foresaw the potential for the kind of treatment rascals deserved.

Abbott answered Wood tactfully. As the leader here, Wood should decide what they would do.

With tightened rein, revolvers in our hands, we galloped into the thicket, and in a moment were at the door of Branson’s. Dismounting, I hastily inquired for Branson. His wife, an old lady, in choking accents replied, ‘Twenty armed men have got him and gone.’ ‘Where?’ I asked. ‘Towards Lawrence,’ she replied, and at the same moment said they would ‘murder him,’ which I believed true, and spring into the saddle, and to the inquiry, ‘Where are you going?’ replied, ‘To save your husband or die.’

Wood surely knew that Branson held a rank in the Kansas Legion. He probably did the same, as the newspapers have Wood in command of a free state military company all the way back in July. He had one of his own to protect. If he didn’t, he might very well find himself next on Sheriff Jones’ list.

Wood and Abbott went out under a bright moon, looking for traces of the posse and asking passers-by if they’d seen Branson, Jones, and the posse. In a footnote, Wood explains that the posse went off-road to visit a proslavery man’s home for drinks. Branson confirms that. Two hours’ search availed them not, so “discouraged and dispirited” they split up, with Abbott heading for the agreed-upon rendezvous point to meet their reinforcements while Wood questioned a few more locals before riding to meet parties headed into the area. They came together at Abbott’s with about a dozen men gathered by Wood, Abbott apparently returning empty-handed as he “did not wait for the men on foot.”

The party debated what to do next, having gotten up their mob and found no one to sick it on.

we were about sending messengers to the pro-slavery town of Franklin for information, when all at once some one announced, ‘They are coming.’ Pell-mell we rushed out of the house and got into the road ahead of them, they halting within two rods of us.

 

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