Two Axemen in Missouri: The Escape of Andrew Reeder, Part One

Andrew Reeder, in disguise

Andrew Reeder, in disguise

The Hunt, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Reeder’s diary.

Andrew Reeder left Kansas Territory ahead of an order for his arrest, on the plausible grounds that had he gone quietly he would have soon gone to join the Choir Invisible. Proslavery men had killed Reese Brown after arresting him; they looked set to wipe the free state movement out entirely. As the one man among them who had any national name recognition, Reeder would have given the cause a martyr but also deprived it of its most effective advocate. He spent more than a week closeted in a hotel room in Kansas City, before finally getting clear just as it seemed a mob had come to seize and destroy his hotel. May 22, 1856 found him or the first time enjoying a moment outdoors at a house some miles from Kansas City, out near the edge of the woods.

His relief proved short. On the twenty-third, Reeder ended up shut inside “a stifling room.” Proximity to Kansas City, the urgency of his mission to alert the nation and solicit help for the antislavery cause, and probably his comfort pushed Kansas’ free state delegate on. He hatched a plan to get “a small skiff” and start down the river ahead of a boat coming down. Somewhere downstream he would meet up with that boat and take passage, still using his Irishman disguise. Nine that night, Reeder and a companion set out “each with an ax.” Those axes would provide a handy alibi as well as helping the disguise, aside their obvious use in self-defense if it came to that.

Reeder and his friend, Adams, had trouble finding his other friends with the skiff. While they cast about, someone saw them in the distance. Reeder’s friend went over and chatted the man up, but nothing came of it. Soon after the stranger departed, the skiff arrived. The two men “floated quietly down the river to Randolph landing.” Neither of them knew the place, so they had trouble finding it at night. They ended up about a half mile beyond the landing, where the put in and slept in the woods until morning.

May 24 saw Reeder and Adams take up their bundles and axes for the walk to Randolph, a metropolis of a few houses. Landings like Randolph served mainly to feed the riverboat trade with both fuel and passengers. Steamboats burned through wood at a prodigious rate, making steady work for woodchoppers. Naturally, someone there saw two men with axes and guessed their trade. Adams confirmed that he and Reeder considered their axes more than a fashion statement.

Had we got a job engaged? I whispered to Adams to say “Yes,” but it was too late. He said “No.” The man then walked out into the road and offered us a job.

Adams had stepped in it. I don’t know if Reeder could have chopped a cord of wood or not, but he didn’t have the time for the attempt. To refuse a man who knew they had no work would only raise suspicion. But Reeder had the quick thinking to ask the wage and then insist that they had heard they could do considerably better elsewhere. If they had heard wrong, they might come back and oblige.

Reeder and Adams found a place out of sight of the road and waited, as Reeder had waited back in Kansas City, for a boat to come. It should have passed about ten, but they waited until noon before it did put on an appearance. The boat for Kansas City blew its whistle then, but not any going the other way. Half an hour passed. The two men split their provisions and agreed on a cover story, then got to a hill where they could see the river for a few miles out.

Saw the boat coming, but could not make out her name till she was so near that we had to run down the road. She hauled up to the landing full of passengers, and as the plank was run out I went on board panting with heat, fatigue, and thirst. Passed back among the deck passengers, where, according to my dress, I belonged

Reeder paid for his ticket and spent the afternoon suffering; he didn’t get a drink until evening. When the delegate refreshed himself, he learned that some of the men on the boat with him had come fresh from the sack of Lawrence. A few of the ringleaders had taken deck passage with their rank and file, putting them in close proximity to Reeder.

Among them I saw Henry L. Rout, a lawyer of Liberty, Mo., who picked up my pipe which i had dropped in the berth, and made some jocular remark to me. I was confident that he knew me, and was very uneasy, especially as we were to lay that night at Lexington.

Lexington had captured Charles Robinson. If Rout knew Reeder, then he could raise a mob there and add another antislavery man to the town’s collection.

“I lit my pipe and walked boldly” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Twelve

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Reeder’s diary.

The proslavery mob had yet to come for Andrew Reeder, but he expected them on May 22, 1856. He had hidden in Kansas City for eleven days, been seen at least once, and closeted in the same hotel for long enough that anyone hanging about might have noticed something off. With the free state hotel in Lawrence ruined, the Missourians aimed to come back and finish the job. Reeder and his friends thought that, whether they knew of him or not, the proslavery men would probably ransack his hotel on general principles. Consequently, they planned to get him to a private residence that night. Kansas first governor shaved his whiskers, dirtied his face, and dressed as an Irish laborer for his escape.

Then he had to wait for the evening to slowly pass. A bit before six, Kansas City threw a mass meeting. The mayor ran the show, where

It was ascertained that not more than 60 men could be raised to defend the house, and arms for not more than 25 or 30; and the Mayor informs Edward Eldridge that he cannot undertake to defend it, unless he can show the papers to prove that it does not belong to the Emigrant Aid Company.

The hotel might not have belonged to the Aid Company, but Colonel Eldridge (not Edward) handled all its business and he had the paperwork with him at Lawrence. On top of that news, Reeder got another scare when a man carrying water came into his room. The free state delegate had thought the door locked and could only pretend to sleep while the man did his work.

Reeder’s time came before the mob. At eight thirty his accomplices told him that they had all in readiness, including his new host, Brown, ready to take him home. Reeder opted out of going in his company. He doesn’t say why, only that he determined to join Brown somewhere on the road. His friends left him and Reeder made his exit:

I lit my pipe and walked boldly down the front stairs, through the office, which was crowded with people. Elbowing through them, I passed into the bar-room and out on the steps. Dozens of people were sitting and standing about the door and on the sidewalk, many of them the most obnoxious men, and who were well acquainted with me.  I stood quite unconcerned on the steps until I saw a vacant chair, and went to it and sat down.

Maybe Reeder discovered some ice water in his veins at just that moment, but earlier in the day he seems almost manic with despair. I suspect he polished his manly bravery while recalling the moment, but he could just have had that good of a disguise. He shaved his whiskers, and the governor had a conspicuous set. As a bearded person myself, I can tell you that I look different without mine. Those who knew Reeder might not have recognized him just on that account, let alone his dressing down and dirtying his face.

Still, the delegate didn’t leave it all to his disguise and the press of humanity. He had arranged for his friends to single out the “nearest and most dangerous” of the crowd, who they should chat up and distract. It worked. Reeder sat in his chair for a few minutes, then

walked deliberately up the road, unmolested and unrecognized, with a great sense of relief.

Reeder met up with Brown and they walked to his house up on the edge of the woods, some ways from town. There, for the first time in more than a week, Andrew Reeder

Sat out of doors and enjoyed the freedom and fresh air.


“My throat chokes and my eyes fill” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Eleven

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Reeder’s diary.

Andrew Reeder heard of another boat that might take him away from Kansas City on Wednesday morning, May 21, 1856. He had hidden in a hotel there for ten days and seen many boats come and go. The Converse had come to Kansas City and its captain promised to take Reeder along, provided the free state delegate would agree to remove to Weston or Lexington. The boat would not remain at Kansas City to allow a night boarding, but it regularly stayed over at those towns. Reeder would not hear of it:

What nonsense! Drive 43 miles to Weston or Lexington, through most dangerous neighborhoods to dangerous places.

One can’t fault Reeder for that caution. Even without proslavery men abroad on their way to Kansas, the captain asked him to go either to where enemies took Charles Robinson or to the doorstep of Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow. Reeder might have poor judgment now and then, particularly when he stood to profit from it, but he knew better than to risk his neck on that gambit. He asked his emissary to out him to the captain and promise $200 to either linger in Kansas City Saturday night or come early Friday, but the boat had gone missing in the interim.

The next day Reeder got more dire news out of Lawrence, where the proslavery men had struck. His captivity wore on him. He missed his wife and despaired that if the proslavery men caught and killed him, she would learn it from the newspapers:

God have mercy on her and my dear, dear Ida, my own fond Emma, and my three loved and precious boys, whose hearts are filled with the image of their father, and whom, next to their noble, generous, inestimable mother, I love with deepest affection. How these ties drag me down! If not for them how boldly and proudly could I not denounce and defy my pursuers, and die in conflict with a thousand of them.

Nineteenth century writers, especially men, love to put on a show of bravado. Some probably meant it, but these things always have a degree of performance about them. Yet here Reeder appears in genuine despair, frustrated by constant missed boats and more than a week closeted in a hotel room he left only to move to another. He hid far from home and alone under great strain, by now thinking that any chance of revival might hang on his getting clear of Kansas City. The proslavery men had destroyed the free state hotel in Lawrence and now Reeder thought they might come for him:

The Pro-Slavery boarders are leaving and taking away their families and baggage. Persons in the secrets of the Pro-Slavery party come privately and warn their friends in the house. […]

Mr. Leonard Arms come in to say that it is beyond all question the intention to destroy this house as soon as they get back from Lawrence, but he thinks that if I can get out by 8 or 9 o’clock, I can get away. Sad chance!

Reeder thought he might find a new hiding spot in town, but it could only last him a few days and he would still need to get out of Kansas City somehow. He expected that if the drunken mob took him, Kansas’ first governor would survive less than an hour. Hoped he could keep his family from his thoughts when they came, so he might die bravely,

But when I recur to them, my throat chokes and my eyes fill.

Risk or not, to stay meant death. Reeder arranged to go to the home of a Brown. He disguised himself around five in the evening, in

the dress of an Irish laborer. Have cut off my whole beard and soiled my face with cork, burnt. The ladies, and Mr. Edward and Monroe Eldridge, have been in, and we had a hearty laugh over it, although it is a matter of life and death.

Then Reeder had to wait. While he did, a proslavery mob came and crossed the river, threatening the American Hotel “whooping and yelling like Indians” and firing guns. Reeder drew “a hasty last will” and left it and his diary with Mr. Coates.

“This is very awkward” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Ten

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Sorry for the delayed post, Gentle Readers. Scheduling error on my part.

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Reeder’s diary.

Andrew Reeder came to Kansas City on May 11, 1856. He had wanted out of the town ever since he arrived, but the fates conspired against his escape. Boats came down in broad daylight, which made a discrete nighttime boarding impossible. Parties of armed men passed through town daily, or near enough, aimed at eliminating his antislavery allies in Kansas Territory. On May 17, someone probably saw him hiding in his hotel room and Kansas first governor became more determined still to get clear. He expected capture might mean his life and it would surely end his mission to raise support for the free state cause in the North. Finally, Reeder’s thoughts seem to have often turned to his wife.

Come May 20, Kansas City’s most anxious white visitor missed his second boat due to its arrival after sunrise. Around eleven in the morning, he got another scare. The women who had helped hide him got Reeder out of his room to clean it. They put him in another room, which had no luck, then

the chambermaid stepped in, and, though called back at once, probably saw me. Afterwards she knocked at the door and I opened it and met her face to face. She stepped back and said she would come again. This is very awkward and makes it necessary for us to decide whether we will trust her in full and bribe her.

Words and money tend to bind better than words alone. Reeder’s accomplices spoke to the chambermaid and felt sure of her, but they urged Reeder to abandon his plan to take a boat down the Missouri in favor of posing as an emigrant heading to Kansas, a plan they intended to try themselves. Reeder didn’t think that at all safe, just as he had previously rejected plans to get out by land. He had news of a boat set to arrive at night and remain at Kansas City until morning. The cloudy sky would make it an ideal time to take his chance, so the free state delegate asked for Mr. Coates to arrange things.

Coates had gone off to Westport to see Charles Robinson, the captured free state governor, at Robinson’s request. That put Reeder in the hands of a Conant, who he reached through Monroe Eldridge. Conant refused to help Reeder arrange escape on the grounds

that he is afraid of the consequences to himself and his store if it should be known, and he considers it too dangerous to approach the captain with any proposition.

Proslavery violence often targeted dissenting whites; Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow railed about them in Negro-Slavery, No EvilConant had good reason to fear retaliation for doing something so potentially public as asking a captain if he would smuggle an antislavery fugitive from Kansas off to safety. Reeder pleaded with Conant to just go and ask the captain’s politics, so Reeder might send for the man and ask himself. Conant again refused. The delegate ran down the list of his allies: “sick,” “gone,” and “not well.” Monroe Eldridge might have helped, but “has the whole business on his hands.” Reeder doesn’t say what he meant there, but it sounds like Eldridge served as the free state party’s main agent in Kansas City and compromising him would do too much damage to the cause. Someone had to run the guns.

A Mr. Taylor “agreed at once” and learned that an Alabaman captained the Edinboro. Border ruffians had gone on board “talking and drinking with him.” Reeder mused that he might have given bribing the captain a try anyway, but opted not to risk it. He just could not watch a break.

“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.

More Bad News: The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Eight

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

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

Reeder’s diary.

May 15, 1856 found Andrew Reeder still closeted in a hotel in Kansas City, “elaborately cared for” by various ladies who would bring him food, flowers, “and attend to all my comforts.” All in all, Kansas’ free state delegate to Congress found it downright comfortable if he set aside the great issue of the day. He needed to be off raising support for the free state cause, not stuck in western Missouri. He also missed his “idolized, noble wife” and “precious, dearly-loved children.” That he had sent G.P. Lowrey ahead of him to bring news to his family, as well as lay down a false trail that might help Reeder escape wore on him as well. When Lowrey delivered his news, they would know their patriarch as a man on the run and in danger.

Reeder had news that the dragnet continued to tighten around Kansas. G.W. Brown remained a prisoner at Westport. Proslavery men stopped ordinary travelers on the road and stopped the mail for searching.

One traveler, coming down from Lawrence, was stopped on the road, and ordered to open his carpet-bag to see if he had any letters or dispatches from Lawrence, and, as he refused to be searched, it was cut open by the ruffians.

It would not do for the free state party to get news of their plight out in person or paper. More worrying still:

About 100 young men from the South, said to be from South Carolina and Georgia, arrived, as I am told, last evening, all armed and equipped after the fashion of Buford’s men, who, from their appearance, equipments, acts, and conversation, have evidently come, not as emigrants, but only to fight. About half of them went on to Leavenworth, and the residue landed here and went into the Territory, leaving their trunks here with Mr. Taylor, and saying that they did not want them along, as the fight would probably be over in a few weeks, and then they would go back.

Buford’s men, or a very similar group, had work ahead of him. That evening, Reeder got word secondhand from a member of the Blue Lodge that they had another invasion in the offing. They hoped to get together two thousand men and raze Lawrence for good, entering Kansas in small groups and avoiding the major roads to avoid notice until they arrived. They would take the town at night and under the pretext of enforcing indictments against its leaders. Samuel Lecompte had given them those indictments and proslavery men had come to Kansas back in December allegedly to maintain law and order. Thwarted then, the proslavery men would likely press far harder now.

Misdirection and Another Capture: The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Seven

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

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

Reeder’s diary.

We left Andrew Reeder hiding out in a hotel in Kansas City, where he received news of Charles Robinson’s capture on May 13, 1856. Knowing that the proslavery dragnet reached further into Missouri than just the immediate border can’t have settled the delegate’s mind. Up to this point, Reeder had the company of G.P. Lowery. He advised Lowery to leave without him, on the first available boat and in a disguise. But before Lowery departed, the two arranged some misdirection. Reeder

had him to write a letter directed to me at Chicago, and mail it loosely sealed, to induce the belief that I was in the States, by the way of Nebraska and Iowa, as we were confident they would open it. I instructed him also, if he got safe to St. Louis, to telegraph up here that he had heard from me and that I was safe in Chicago.

Nineteenth century postmasters did open and scrutinize mail, most famously to hunt down antislavery publicans for destruction. Settled precedent dating back to Andrew Jackson’s administration blessed such business. Since postmasters received their jobs through patronage rather than from a professional civil service, even any inclined against such censorship had strong incentive to keep in line.

Reeder remained shut up in his room, though it seems that he had plenty of attention. He writes that no less than four ladies “most kindly waited on” him and “took a lively interest in my safety.” Come evening, Colonel Eldridge brought Reeder less enchanting company: the posse which had came for him at Lawrence had arrived at the hotel. The governor turned delegate assured Eldridge that they had a warrant for Reeder valid in Kansas, but not Missouri. Their authority ended at the border and no harm could come to him from helping Reeder out. However, should they come with a Missourian officer and process in hand, then Eldridge should give Reeder up to keep himself out of trouble.

Expecting them to come, I concealed this diary, and made preparations. I remained up, till midnight, and there was a constant running up and down from the street to their room. At 12 o’clock I went to bed and slept soundly.

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

Kansas’ first governor has sterner nerves than I do. He woke on the morning of the fourteenth to more welcome news. Eldridge came up and told Reeder that the posse had said nothing of him, but instead came for Grosvenor Lowery and Samuel Pomeroy, the latter an agent of the Emigrant Aid Company. But the good news came with some bad:

G.W. Brown, accompanied by Jenkins, had started for Lawrence, and had been stopped on the road by M’Gee’s party of Missourians (without any process, of course), and made prisoners. Have not learned what is done with them.

That day also brought a boat up to Kansas City which departed with great cheers from the town. Reeder thought that Robinson must have come through, but learned instead that Kansas City cheered a marshal’s party starting for Leavenworth. It says something for Reeder’s state of mind that news of an armed band heading into Kansas from Missouri came as a relief, though probably also to the fact that Andrew Reeder consistently stood for the party of Andrew Reeder. He had joined the free state movement late, when deprived of other means for political advance in Kansas, and under the condition that they make his grievance over shady land deals their own.

After a while, Reeder changed rooms for the second time. Things had quieted and the proper residents of the room had been out of it for some time. Anybody could start to wonder. At this point, Reeder hoped no one believed him present and so he might safely move on as soon as he could find a boat with a willing captain, which would remain docked through the night so he could quietly board. With Robinson captured, he needed to get moving regardless. It fell now to him to take up the governor’s mission and seek out the executives of Ohio, Michigan, and maybe even Iowa and Wisconsin to come to aid the free state cause.

“They will kill you if you go” The Capture of Charles Robinson, Part One

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

The Hunt for Andrew Reeder: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Reeder’s diary is in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 3

We left Andrew Reeder on the lam in Kansas City. A proslavery mob had come to his hotel in search of George Washington Brown, editor of the Herald of Freedom. They didn’t seem to know that Kansas’ free state delegate to Congress hid out under the same roof, though some thought to look for him all the same. A mob narrowly missed both men and lingered around the building for some time before dispersing. They must have thought Brown and/or Reeder still present, as they set watchers on the building before leaving. Reeder spent the night without so much as a candle in his room.

Tuesday, May 13, 1856 brought bad news. Charles Robinson and his wife, Sara, had left Kansas ahead of Reeder. Neither took the precaution of a disguise. According to the Governor’s Kansas Conflict they carried with them, on the advice of Howard and Sherman of the Committee,

the testimony already taken by the Congressional Committee as there was great danger that it might be seized and destroyed.

The Robinsons assumed that, since no indictment had yet come for them specifically, they could probably get clear of Kansas without trouble. They left by way of Missouri, which brought them to trouble. It happened that a proslavery convention had lately finished its work at Lexington, which Robinson believed involved planning for a new invasion of Kansas. The convention knew or suspected that Robinson would soon have an indictment against him.

The free state’s first family made their way through Kansas city without incident, boarding a steamboat there. The Governor took a nap and

was thus occupied when on arriving at Lexington he was aroused by loud raps at the door of his room. On opening it he was confronted by some gentlemen, who informed him they were appointed a committee to notify him that he must leave the boat at that place.

Robinson had come as far as Lexington, Missouri but would go no farther. They believed him a fugitive and intended his arrest. The Governor protested that he knew of no indictment against him and had not traveled under any subterfuge. Fugitives simply don’t behave like that. Improvising, Robinson tried to get up a mob. He learned that the boat housed many people “drinking freely” and asked to plead his case to them. Should the Governor convince the mob, then they would protect him.

That asked a great deal of a mob in Missouri’s slave country, but Robinson had few options. The committee come to arrest him refused to let him try, claiming that mobs would listen to no reason and the reason of a known antislavery man least of all.

It appearing that force would be used if necessary, Robinson referred the matter to Mrs. Robinson, whether use such means of defense as he had-one revolver-or to go with the committee, when she promptly replied, “They will kill you if you go, and you may as well make a stand here.”

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.