BLEEDING KANSAS and Murder on the MARAIS DES CYGNES


 For many years I’ve driven by Trading Post Kansas, near the Marais Des Cygnes river (and now reservoir and wildlife refuge) without paying much attention to why it was named Trading Post. This was a trading post that was established specifically to trade with the Osage Indians. I did stop one time to read a historical marker about some murders that took place there. Now I’m a bit more interested in the history of Kansas.  This incident is also known as the MARAIS DES CYGNES MASSACRE, and the whole incident is a part of the meme of this blog. 

 The bloodiest single incident in the Kansas-Missouri border struggles, 1854-1861, occurred May 19, 1858, when 25-30 Pro-slavery Missourians seized 11 Kansas ‘Free-State’ men near Trading Post and marched them to a creek-bed nearby. The eleven men were lined up ‘execution style’ and promptly shot, apparently for no other reason than occupying land in a Free State. Five were killed and five wounded.  Weeks afterward, John Brown arrived and built a two-story log “fort”, about 14 x 18 feet, which he occupied with a few men through that summer. John had other armed and fortified encampments near the border. Ossowatamie is one location, and some reporters referred to John as “Ossowatamie Brown”. That December he led a raid into Missouri and liberated 11 slaves, killing one white man in the process.

 A Brown follower , Charles C. Hadsall, bought this property in 1858. Later, at the site of the fort, he built a stone house which still stands there today. The building and grounds are now part of a State Historical Site. This area, and some residents, were also part of the famous “underground railway”.

 The following is one of Brown’s many letters, documenting the turmoil in “Bleeding” Kansas. This letter was addressed to the Lawrence Kansas newspaper, the Lawrence Republican.

Trading Post, Kansas, Jan., 1859

Gents:–You will greatly oblige a humble friend, by allowing the use of your columns, while I briefly state two parallels, in my poor way.

Not one year ago, eleven quiet citizens of this neighborhood, viz.: Wm. Robertson, Wm. Colpetzer, Amos Hall, Austin Hall, John Campbell, Asa Snyder, Thos. Stilwell, Wm. Hairgrove, Asa Hairgrove, Patrick Ross, and B.L. Reed, were gathered up from their work and their homes, by an armed forced (sic) under one Hamilton, and without trial or opportunity to speak in their own defence, were formed into a line, and all but one shot–five killed and five wounded. One fell unharmed, pretending to be dead. All were left for dead. The only crime charged against them was that of being Free-State men. Now, I inquire, what action has ever, since the occurrence in May last, been taken by either the President of the United States, the Governor of Missouri, the Governor of Kansas, or any of their tools, or by any pro-slavery or Administration man, to ferret out and punish the perpetrators of this crime?

Now for the other parallel. On Sunday, the 19th of December, a Negro man called Jim, came over to the Osage settlement, from Missouri, and stated that he, together with his wife, two children, and another Negro man were to be sold within a day or two, and begged for help to get away. On Monday (the following) night, two small companies were made up to go to Missouri and forcibly liberate the five slaves, together with other slaves. One of these companies I assumed to direct. We proceeded to the place, surrounded the buildings, liberated the slaves, and also took certain property supposed to belong to the estate.

We however learned, before leaving, that a portion of the articles we had taken belonged to a man living on the plantation as a tenant, and who was supposed to have no interest in the estate. We promptly returned to him all we had taken. We then went to another plantation, where we freed five more slaves, took some property, and two white men. We moved all slowly away into the Territory for some distance, and then sent the white men back, telling them to follow us as soon as they chose to do so. The other company freed one female slave, took some property, and, as I am informed, killed one white man (the master) who fought against the liberation.

Now for a comparison. Eleven persons are forcibly restored to their natural and inalienable rights, with but one man killed, and all “hell is stirred, from beneath.” It is currently reported that the Governor of Missouri has made a requisition upon the Governor of Kansas for the delivery of all such as were concerned in the last named “dreadful outrage.” The Marshal of Kansas is said to be collecting a posse of Missouri (not Kansas) men, at West Point, in Missouri, a little town about ten miles distant, to “enforce the laws.” All pro-slavery, conservative Free-State and doughface men , and Administration tools, are filled with holy horror.

Consider the two cases, and the action of the Administration party.

Respectfully Yours,

John Brown

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7 Comments

Filed under AMERICANA, Crime, History, Human Rights, Kansas, Missouri, Native American, WAR

7 responses to “BLEEDING KANSAS and Murder on the MARAIS DES CYGNES

  1. Tracey

    What an interesting series of posts. I had to come back to this one several times, because I had no idea about the proxy war in Kansas at all, so I had to keep reading other background materials. Very interesting and educational.

    When I was a kid we used to sing a folk song, sung to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic. The lyrics were “John Brown’s body lies a’mouldering in the grave, his truth is marching on.” I remember asking my mother who he was, and she said a union leader. I bet for sure it’s this John Brown.

    Thanks.

    • Yes, it is this John Brown. About the song, I always thought that “John Brown’s Body” was written first. But then again, I am from Kansas. I’d have to research this to know which song came first.

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