“The fates seem to be against us” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Nine

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Reeder’s diary.

 

Andrew Reeder, Kansas’ first governor and presently delegate to Congress for the free state government, remained in hiding in a hotel in Kansas City. He got scattered news of events in the territory, both of free state men suffering arrest and proslavery men crossing the border with an eye to destroying the movement to keep Kansas clear of slavery and black Americans. That news got more dire in the evening of May 15, but we will come back to events around Lawrence in time. For now, let’s stay with the delegate.

Come Friday, may 16, 1856, Reeder complained of the “monotony” of hiding out. He had only the women helping conceal him for occasional company. Reeder’s frequent informant, Colonel Eldridge, had gone off to Kansas and did not return as expected. The boredom could not last forever, though. That morning, Reeder relates that

the ladies had great difficulty in waiting on me. Mrs. E—- and Mrs. W—-, and a new-comer, all seemed as though their suspicions were excited, and they were on watch. Mrs. Coates and Mrs. Monroe Eldridge were in my room, and it was a long time before they could leave it. Mrs. Eldridge was probably seen to come out.

Reeder has changed rooms a few times now. It sounds like he presently occupied one officially vacant. With that story compromised, they moved him to another with the plan to let the room remain visibly open long enough for everyone to decide nothing unusual went on there. But either the unnamed newcomer or “Mrs. S.”, spotted Reeder during the move. She may not have known him as Andrew Reeder of Kansas fame, and rumors current put him captured at Leavenworth, but she had to know some odd man skulked about.

Boat after boat passes down before my window, and my confinement begins to be more and more galling and chafing. I must leave here soon, at all risks. My wife, to whom I dare not write, and could give no consolation if I did, must be alarmed at the newspaper accounts and Lowrey’s report, and I must get away from here.

Martin F. Conway

Martin F. Conway

Kansas first governor pleaded with Mrs. Coates “to have her husband get me off as quick as possible.” Coates obliged, promising that he would try to get Reeder on the Amazon when it arrived on the night of the eighteenth.

That Sunday brought M.F. Conway and P.C Schuyler, both free state men headed into Kansas. Conway resigned his seat in the Kansas legislature rather than wait for the proslavery men to expel him. Neither knew that they had their delegate to Congress just across the hall, but they talked loudly enough of their plans for him to overhear. Sunday did not bring the Amazon, which did not arrive until Monday at noon. It went off without Andrew Reeder, as he could hardly risk boarding it on broad daylight. Even ample moonlight had him worried. Nor would he risk going to hide in a private house as his accomplices asked of him.

Reeder held out his hopes for the W. Campbell, but it also let him down. It arrived only at seven thirty Tuesday morning. She came with few passengers and had a quick passage from Leavenworth, which would have made for an ideal escape had the boat arrived in the dark. Reeder despaired:

The fates seem to be against us.

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