John Speer and Samuel Jones Reminisce

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

On the night of April 23, 1856 Sheriff Samuel Jones caught two bullets. The first passed through his pants. The second took a detour through him. The men he came to Lawrence to arrest must fall under suspicion, as they had a better reason to want Jones gone than anybody. Furthermore, everyone Jones had come into Lawrence to take had a history of violence against him. He first sought the just-returned Samuel Wood, who had let an armed band against Jones to rescue Jacob Branson. The sheriff assembled his second slate of victims from those men who seized him and prevented his arrest of Wood by main force.

We don’t know who fired the shot. Anybody might have done it; Jones had made enemies of any who lived through the siege back in December. But if you want to narrow it down, then the men Jones came back to arrest make a fair group of suspects. Fleeing down during the day didn’t preclude a nighttime return to ventilate Jones. Jones deputy thought John Speer might have pulled the trigger. He might have visited the homes of everyone in the group, but Speer wrote his story down.

Jones and Speer both survived Kansas. Twenty-five years later, they met up again. Jones had gone to Texas and then on to Arizona, where he would die. But he came back to Kansas at least once, visiting Leavenworth. There he saw a man he recognized at Planter’s House:

“Is not this Mr. Speer?” He was Sheriff Jones. we passed out onto the veranda, and had a long and pleasant talk over old times. I asked him if he ever imagined it possible I could have had anything to do with the attempt on his life. Most emphatically he replied: “No. I always recognized you as a gentleman; and that was a dastardly attempt at assassination. With pleasant memories, and hearty congratulations, we parted, never to meet again.

I don’t know from being shot, thank you, but I did have my wrist remodeled in a violent clash many years ago. I remember the event quite well. Though the perpetrators suffered no more than a questioning by the school principal, I put a fair bit of effort into working out just what happened. I can’t imagine Jones got shot and didn’t devote at least some energy to the question down the years. He might have excused Speer or dismissed vague suspicions in the name of politeness, but would he have done so for a man he strongly suspected had put the bullet in him? Probably not.

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