The Hunt for Jacob Branson, Part Eight

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, 6, 7

With Jacob Branson out of his control, at least for the moment, Douglas County Sheriff Samuel Jones saw fit to identify himself and state his business. He had a warrant for Branson and the law on his side. Samuel Wood and his free state men had to yield. If Jones expected that argument to work, he hadn’t paid much attention to the news. For months, antislavery Kansans promised defiance of Kansas’ established authority and laws, declaring them not binding on any free state man thanks to the numerous undemocratic impositions entailed in those laws and in electing the officials who put them in place. He got from Wood’s men exactly the answer he probably expected:

He was told that we knew of no Sheriff Jones; that we knew of a postmaster at Westport, Missouri, by that name, but knew of no Sheriff Jones. We told him that we had no Douglas County in Kansas, and what was better, we never intended to have.

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

Jones could take his sheriff’s commission and his county and repose them in the customary place. But the group did allow Jones to try to arrest Branson, if he really insisted. The sheriff pointed to his warrant again. What did they expect, for him to just ignore his lawful duty?

S.N. Wood said he was Branson’s attorney; that if he had a warrant to arrest him, he wanted to see it, and see if it was all right. Jones said he had it, but refused to show it. Wood asked him if it had been read or shown to Branson. Jones admitted that it had not, when he was told that, until he produced the warrant, Branson could not go with him.

Wood had the legal training to assess the document, whether he meant the request seriously or not. Either way, he went back and forth with Jones for more than an hour. Wood declines to narrate it, save for the end where Jones and his men leave. Branson can’t shed any further light on the conversation, since his rescuers told him to go inside Abbott’s house. Wood continues with the reaction his men had to their victory. They “immediately organized” and appointed officers. Wood became Captain Wood.

We had eight guns and two revolvers. I shook hands with the most and counted the opposite party. There were fifteen of them, each with a rifle and revolver. I made a memorandum of the above names [of his party] at the time. I was the only citizen of Lawrence engaged inn the rescue.

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

As matters concluded, several other antislavery Kansans rode up. Wood had gone on ahead without some reinforcements. They must have caught up with him. Together, the party rode the remaining five miles to Lawrence and arrived at dawn.

For the time, an organized free state group had done what they for so long promised. While they had before proclaimed their defiance of the bogus laws and bogus legislature, but their defiance lived in the realm of rhetoric. They had written a constitution and established a provisional government. George Brown broke the law and dared proslavery men to come for him. But now a group of antislavery Kansans had done the deed in person, looking in the eyes of their enemy, and come out the victors.


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