Trouble in Kansas City: The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Six

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

With news of proslavery forces preparing for another march against Lawrence, and word that complying with the subpoena that Samuel Lecompte’s grand jury issued for him might end in his death, Andrew Reeder had quite enough of Kansas for the nonce. His planned escape changed routes repeatedly over the night of May 9-10, 1856. In the end, Kansas’ first governor and present free state delegate to Congress hid out in a house a mile south of Lawrence. He remained closeted there on the tenth, receiving news that whatever posse meant to take him had not appeared.

Reeder and three companions finally got going at nine at night, hoping to get past Westport, Missouri, before daybreak. Showing his face there would surely cause him trouble. Running late, they stayed the night at the home of a man called Fish and took the additional precaution of hiding the horses and carriage. The next day, Sunday,

Many persons passed, through the day, and stopped; among them Milt. M’Gee, who would have given his whole team to know who was up stairs.

I can only imagine how nerve-wracking Reeder must have found that. Sit up as silently as you can, hearing people come and go and knowing one misstep might put him into the hands of men bent on his murder. But he endured, set out again that night, and made it to Kansas City around two in the morning. There G.P. Lowrey and a Colonel Eldridge had a room ready, though Reeder says they had “dangerous neighbors across the passage.”

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

A boat arrived at Kansas City on Monday, the twelfth. George Washington Brown came on it, fleeing his own arrest for running the Herald of Freedom. They had word that a mob might form to take Brown, though if they wanted him then they probably wouldn’t mind Reeder as a bonus. Reeder changed rooms to avoid them.

A mob of 30 or 40 assembled, headed by Milt. M’Gee, who came into the hotel, and going by mistake to O.C. Brown’s room, they dragged him out and took him down town-discovered their error and let him go. Col. Eldridge came up and informed me, that I might be prepared. Sent out for about 50 Michigan emigrants, who had come up to-day and camped near town.

A marshal involved himself then, forming a posse against the mob. Reeder gives frustratingly little detail on that. His marshal sounds like local constabulary rather than a federal marshal. Given he held a public position in Westport, he probably didn’t lean antislavery. He may have intervened on the grounds of public order, particularly if he knew in advance that the mob had the wrong Brown.

Eldridge told Reeder that the mob didn’t know about or suspect they had him near to hand; they just wanted Brown. The delegate doesn’t seem so confident of that. At one point

Looking out of my front windows, however, I saw and heard M’Gee, H.C. Pate, —– Winchester, —– Brockett, and another, in conversation, and Pate was instructing a man to go in and look for someone, and describing me, so that from what I heard I recognized the description.

Regardless, the mob didn’t care to pick a fight with the marshal’s posse, “suddenly” departing. Yet

In the evening it was found that men were posted all around the house to prevent any escapes – all over the hill back of the house and in the hacks and wagons in front, besides those walking up and down the street.

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