The Two Lawrence Parties

Sara Robinson

Sara Robinson

Gentle Readers, I’m sorry to say that gotten confused again. It seems that Lawrence hosted two parties at the end of the Wakarusa War. At the first, a tipsy Wilson Shannon got news of an impending attack and signed a commission for the free state militias. That took place on the night of December 9, 1855. The gathering didn’t have a fraction of the eight hundred or so that Charles Robinson told his wife and the other presumed-upon women of Lawrence to provide for. Those festivities took place the next day. Governor Shannon, having learned that no force threatened Lawrence after all, took his leave before it began. The date of a party doesn’t make for a huge error, but an error all the same. Either way, Sara Robinson’s delight at the short notice holds true.

The larger party consumed the better portion of Sara’s day:

Early morning finds us busy in the culinary department. The making of seven loaves of bread and five of cake, with other necessary work, leaves only a few stray moments in which to finish a letter

Keep in mind that Robinson did this without the benefit of kitchen appliances. Even with them, bread baking can make for a demanding task. She conscripted a pair of young men to help her carry her wares to the festivities, and on arrival found herself

astonished by the huge baskets of provisions which were provided. Had the Missourians looked in upon the well-filled tables prepared on so brief notice, they would have given up the idea of starving us to terms; and had New England added her presence among the welcome guests, with her well-filled pockets and stocks in trade, she would have realized that, in the large open-heartedness and freedom from conventionalities of her frontier children, there is much of the real, true enjoyment of life.

And they worked damned hard to see to it, she might have added.

Not everyone appreciated the spread. Governor Shannon might have gone, his enthusiasm for Lawrence dampened by the failure of the promised army to appear, but Sheriff Samuel Jones appeared. Sara Robinson remarked that some besides Jones

did not cherish that spirit of forgiveness and conciliation, which makes man magnanimous in the treatment of an enemy; and the general’s party at one time came near proving anything but a “peace party.” There was a spirit there full of ambition, and a desire for office. And while the murder of young Barber was fresh in the minds of his friends; while the voice of poor, weak human nature would say revenge if the right chord was touched; and while “Sheriff Jones,” and officer of the territorial courts, was an invited guest of Gen. Robinson, and political capital could be made; with what wonderful ingenuousness it wrought to keep alive this spirit of revenge in their breasts!

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

According to Nicole Etcheson’s Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era, a fair amount of boasting took place on the part of the proslavery men. Boasting also came from the other direction, in the form of retelling the late war’s stories, per Robinson speeches ran heavily in that direction:

The bringing of the cannon through the enemy’s country, and of the powder by the ladies, had honorable mention.

The matter of the cannon requires no further explanation, but I passed over the powder previously. Lois Brown and Margaret Wood smuggled gunpowder and ammunition past the proslavery cordon hidden in voluminous layers of petticoats. Robinson doesn’t mention them by name, but she does refer to a pair of women who got two kegs of gunpowder through. The patrols stopped them, but on seeing they had only two ladies in a buggy let them pass without examination. On their return, neither woman could disembark for the weight and so required lifting out.

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