An Elusive Meeting: The Arrest of Samuel Wood, Part Three

Samuel Newitt Wood

Samuel Newitt Wood

Samuel Jones had a plan. The last time he tried to arrest people out of Lawrence, Lawrence got up an army to stop him. The good sheriff didn’t intend to allow time for that again, but as he leaves the Emigrant Aid Company’s town, we must linger. In addition to Samuel Wood, Jones’ quarry, Lawrence then hosted the Howard Committee and Andrew Reeder. The events of the day also found Free State Governor Robinson at home. In such a small town news of a politically-charged brawl with such an infamous person as Jones and Wood, a local hero, had to spread fast. They can’t have missed the mass meeting that happened next, which O.N. Merrill, reports in True History of the Kansas Wars:

These threats [against Jones] were made openly, and were known to the whole town. Threats that were thus made publicly and in loud tones, could not but be known to Reeder and Robinson, who undoubtedly, were fully aware of them. Indeed, on the very evening in question, a public meeting was held, in which Reeder and Robinson were prominent actors. They advised the citizens to resist the laws of the Territory; to own no allegiance but a State Government; and not resist the United States lest they might be overpowered. Their language was plain, and to all intents and purposes, was, that the arrest of N. S. Wood, should be resisted even by force, if necessary.

John Speer, who participated in the fight with Jones, doesn’t mention the meeting in his version of events. Nor does a report of it appear in the Herald of Freedom or Squatter Sovereign soon thereafter, though the Herald has a lengthy piece on the Jones affair including word of a later meeting. The Howard Committee, while in town, doesn’t appear to have taken any testimony on the situation. Their investigation ends with the siege of Lawrence.

The meeting might not have happened. Merrill leans proslavery and may simply have invented it to underline the extent of antislavery sentiment in Lawrence. Or he might have confused the timing, willingly or not, of the meeting that the Herald of Freedom reports on a few days later. That he calls out Reeder as prominent could point to that, as Reeder chaired the later gathering.

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

It could also have gone just as Merrill said. Speer and the Herald’s omission might come out of not seeing the relevance, given that no one in Lawrence felt obliged to help Jones. The resolutions wouldn’t have said anything new. Antislavery Kansans seem to have loved nothing more than a public meeting where they denounced the territorial government, its laws, and its officers. By this point they might have gotten away with just resolving the name of the town and leaving the rest as understood.

On the balance, I think it likely that a meeting of some kind took place in Lawrence on the evening of the 19th. It may have come down to a few extemporaneous speeches and a crowd, which wouldn’t necessarily deserve mention in the papers. Even for mass meetings announced in advance and carried on in an orderly fashion, newspaper articles tend to print their resolutions and only make summary sketches of any speech given. Given the choice between printing a more conventional and weighty public meeting and a minor event, the news will understandably prefer the former.

 

 

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