Affairs between the proslavery and antislavery white colonists in Kansas did not go smoothly in general. Nothing that had happened in the territory’s short, stormy history pointed toward happy coexistence. Osatwatomie fit perfectly with the rest of the territory, maybe more so courtesy of outspoken antislavery men like the Browns in close company with similarly outspoken proslavery men like the Doyles and Shermans. August Bondi found that out the hard way when, new to Kansas, he called on the former as a fellow German. On learning his antislavery politics, they told him that he’d best get lost or he might get lynched.
That conversation put Bondi in touch with the Browns, who promised to have his back if the Shermans ever followed through. For a long time, they and others like them proved all talk. That began to change in the spring of 1856, just about the time that Cato opened his court and John Junior and the Pottawatomie Rifles made their scene. According to George Grant, who shared his recollections in 1879:
There was a company of Georgia Border Ruffians encamped on the Marais des Cynges, about four miles away from us, who had been committing outrages upon the Free-State people; and these proslavery men were in constant communication with them. They had a courier who went backward and forward carrying messages.
When news of the new threat against Lawrence came to the area, the free state men prepared to go to the town’s rescue. Frederick Brown visited a store run by a Michigander down at Dutch Henry’s Crossing, where the Shermans lived and operated their tavern. Frederick bought twenty or thirty pounds of lead, then took it over to Grant’s father’s house on a Sunday morning. Frederick and the Grant kids, including young George, spent the day making bullets from the lead.
Heading from old Squire Morse’s store to the Grant home took Frederick past Dutch Henry’s house. There he found several proslavery men, including James Doyle and sons and Dutch William, Henry’s brother. Seeing a known free state man with a load of twenty or thirty pounds of lead got them wondering if he meant it for something. Frederick told them his business, which “much incensed” them.
The next day, the Browns and other armed men started for Lawrence. That left no one around to keep the proslavery party in check and
a number of these proslavery men-Wilkinson, Doyle, his two sons, William Sherman, known as ‘Dutch Bill’- took a rope and went to old Squire Morse’s house, and said they were going to hang him for selling lead to the Free-State men.