Today we get back to John Doy, the Kansas Territory Underground Railroad conductor who was ambushed with his 13 freedom-seeking passengers south of Oskaloosa in late January 1859.
Doy had been making his way to the home of Jesse Newell, cofounder of Oskaloosa and likely a Jayhawker for the antislavery cause. Newell’s place was to be Doy’s first stop on the dangerous trip for the enslaved and free African-Americans trying to make their way to northern states and safety. North of Oskaloosa, still in Jefferson County, Doy had planned to stop at the home of the Rev. Josiah B. McAfee at Grasshopper Falls, now Valley Falls, for aid.
But Doy’s capture that January night by slave-catchers and kidnappers, border ruffians and other armed proslavers crushed those plans. The Underground Railroad train never made it to the Newell or McAfee homes. Instead, Doy and his son, Charles, and the 13 freedom-seekers were hauled east across the Missouri River and jailed in Missouri.
(Note: A future blog post will share accounts of this catastrophic result for the two free and 11 likely enslaved people from Missouri who did not get away to the north on the John Doy trek. I have not researched many of the bigger questions and stories linked to the John Doy story because this blog is micro-focused. However, others have studied some of these topics and I will forward some of their published findings.)
Now, six months later on July 23, 1859, John Doy sat in a St. Joseph, Missouri, jail. He had been convicted of enticing a slave away from his Missouri owner, Weston Mayor Benjamin Wood., who was in the ambush group. Doy had been jailed for six months and was about to be transferred to the state penitentiary in Jefferson City for five years of hard labor.
Kansas friends viewed Doy’s ambush by Missourians in Kansas Territory that January as an outrageous kidnapping. They further rejected the Missouri jury’s June decision that Doy had “enticed” the enslaved man called Dick away from the Weston mayor’s ownership. Doy’s defense, paid for by the territorial legislature, argued, with the support of witnesses, that Doy was not in Missouri at the time he was accused of persuading Dick to leave slavery behind.
While Doy was locked up in Missouri, rumors hinted that fighting Kansas men would try to rescue Doy from jail or the state prison. As July waned, James B. Abbott, a free-stater with experience from Bleeding Kansas days, was asked by some of Lawrence’s abolitionist and Underground Railroad leaders to do precisely that.
Abbott selected nine other Kansas Territory men he knew could do the job, many of them likewise tested during the slavery and free-state struggles of 1855-1856. On July 23, with small boats secretly tied to the dark riverside, a tall tale to trick a jailer and discreet plans to blend into crowds exiting the town’s theater, the Kansas men walked out of the jail and headed toward the river and Kansas.
On their return trip, the rescuers and John Doy would travel through Jefferson County, where we meet again some of the Jefferson Countians who had agreed to help enslaved people get free.
After their rescue work was finished, the ten Kansas Territory men were hailed as “The Immortal Ten.” The rescue was a masterpiece of covert operational planning and execution. The men had liberated Doy and spirited him back to Lawrence without harming anyone in their way.
Abbott 30 years later presented a speech about how The Immortal 10 had succeeded in their cunning and precise operation. You’ll find it here. It’s a gripping read
He tells of a (smaller) role played in this important Kansas story by some Jefferson County settlers. No, they were not among the Ten. But their aid and willingness to stand up again was another puzzling example of a story that didn’t make it into Jefferson County’s history narratives. Back in the picture with Doy are Rev. McAfee and Jesse Newell, and this time Jesse Newell’s got a rifle company.
Here, Abbott describes the last one-third of trip back to Lawrence from the northeast Kansas point where Abbott’s men, with a weakened Doy in tow, had crossed the Missouri River from St. Joseph.
“…About ten o’clock that night we found our way to a farm-house situated a little off from the road, near what was then known as Grasshopper Falls, owned and occupied by Rev. J.B. McAfee, now known as Hon. J.B. McAfee, present member of the Legislature from Shawnee county, at which place we were well fed and made very comfortable. Thinking that it was more than likely that the horseman who followed us would endeavor to get reinforced at Lecompton and try to recapture Dr. Doy, word was sent to Captain Jesse Newell, of Oskaloosa, to furnish an escort; and when we arrived at his place we found the Captain on hand with the following-named officers of his rifle company, to wit: Jerome Hazen, First Lieutenant; J. I. Forbes, Second Lieutenant; John Newell, Gil. Towner, Robert Newell, James Monroe, Resolve Fuller, M. R. Dutton – privates; and eight or ten others. And without delay we passed on, most of the escort going to within a few miles of Lawrence, and the captain and a few of his men going the whole distance, where we arrived about six o’clock in the evening, and where we also found the streets lined with people…”
We will get to know some of these Jefferson County settlers in upcoming posts. Our first nearly forgotten Jefferson County Freestater from the John Doy experience will be Josiah B. McAfee, whom guest blogger Wendi Bevitt has come to know quite well.
 John Doy and his lawyers argued that Doy was not guilty of enticing the Weston mayor’s enslaved man away from Missouri because Doy had not been in Missouri to do so. It was not uncommon for enslaved people to get themselves to Lawrence, well-known as an Underground Railroad town, to find help. Missouri’s slavery laws from the 1850s are explained here: https://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/education/aahi/earlyslavelaws/slavelaws
The Grasshopper newspaper’s account of “The Battle of Grasshopper Falls,” printed nearly two years after the burning of the town’s store, is pretty straightforward.
Freestaters had been guarding Grasshopper Falls, but the proslavery rangers charged in during a break on Sept. 12, 1856. They burned and plundered. The Grasshopper Falls freestaters didn’t have time to rally and defend their town. But no one was killed or injured, it appears.
I don’t think there’s an official, fact-checked account of what happened during Jefferson County’s Bleeding Kansas week, which blew up in fights at Osawkie, Grasshopper Falls, Hickory Point and on Slough Creek near Oskaloosa. That leaves us a lot of choices for pondering the Grasshopper Falls destruction because the news reports of the day were magnificently varied. Let’s start with my favorites, the story as told by someone getting off a steamboat in Missouri.
Same boat, different story, below.
Palmyra Weekly Whig, from the Polar Star
In Palmyra, Missouri, the Palmyra Weekly Whig ran the news “FROM KANSAS” on page 2 of its Sept. 25, 1856, edition. The story said that the newspaper was indebted to one of the officers of the Polar Star steamer for the information, which was gathered when the boat landed at Atchison (Kansas).
“The day before the battle at Hickory Point, Capt. Robinson went to Grasshopper Falls and defeated a force of about one hundred Insurgents under the command of one Crosby. Cap. Robinson also captured all their stores and ammunition, consisting of property stolen by the Insurgents. Two of these men were killed, and they all left their horses, which were taken by the Law and Order men.”
Northrup and the Crosby Brothers
A few years later, Congress collected stories of financial loss suffered by Kansas Territory settlers during Bleeding Kansas, defined as November 1855 to December 1856. About 500 claims resulted, among them these from The Battle of Grasshopper Falls.
Dr. Lorenzo Northrup had his office in Crosby’s building in Grasshopper Falls. When the building was torched by the proslavers, Northrup lost $1,120, he said. That’s $575 worth of drugs and medicines, $150 in surgical instruments, $345 in books, $50 in office furniture. He said between about 30 men, who he thought had come from Atchison, entered Grasshopper Falls in the morning.
“…they crossed the creek below the [saw] mill and came up to the town with their horses on a run, giving a whoop or scream as they came up… I was about 100 yards from Mr. Crosby’s store at the time, and immediately started for my horse, which was picketed a short distance away but was pursued by two men from the party, and my horse taken by them before I could secure him; and for my own safety went down to the bank of the creek and remained there until the party left town, which was less than an hour, I should think.”
Rufus H. Crosby and his brother ,William, owned the store and building that burned that day. They told the claims panel that they lost $3,359.50, a figure that includes a horse, which was stolen. The store contained boots and shoes, caps, hats, tinware, hardware, stationery and books, clothing, bedding, dry goods, groceries and provisions, a stove and the Crosby brother’s account books.
The Squatter Sovereign
The ultra-proslavery newspaper of Atchison, The Squatter Sovereign , gave extensive coverage in several editions to the Jefferson County events of September 1856. Edited by J.N. Stringfellow and R.S. Kelley, the Sovereign jumped right in with its coverage on Sept. 16. The paper reported that Capt. Robertson  took 24 men to Grasshopper Falls to fight “Lane’s hirelings.”
“They rode in a trot until within about a mile of town, when they charged with a yell that struck a panic in the ranks of the white-livered Yankees. Not a shot was fired at them, though one man snapped at Capt. R and was shot on the spot for his temerity. At the time of the attack, Capt. Crosby’s company numbering about thirty, were on parade, but scattered like a flock of startled sheep without firing a gun. So terror-stricken were they that numbers of them lay in cornfields and permitted our troops to pass within a short distance of them without firing a gun.
“Crosby’s store, with all its contents – consisting chiefly of provisions and supplies for the band of thieves whose rendezvous was at that point – was burned to the ground. Some arms and horses, stolen during the depredations of Crosby’s gang, were brought away, but everything else that could be used to sustain the midnight assassins was destroyed. Two or more of the abolitionists were killed, but not a scratch was received by any of our men. This much accomplished, the company returned to Hickory Point.”
The Valley Falls New Era in 1876 published a lengthy history of Jefferson County and included a streamlined version of The Battle of Grasshopper Falls, taking pains to explain the freestater defeat. Since the town defenders were surprised by the attack they vamoosed so the proslavers would not attack the defenseless old men, women and children left behind. The account focuses on the oddities of the rout and notes that no one was hurt.
“Among the invalids around town was old Pap. Weiser. He had purchased a sack of flour of Mr. Crosby, was in the store at the time it was set on fire, was unwilling to lose it, sought the Captain of the [Ruffian] company and obtained permission to take it out. Mr. Weiser rushed into the store, shouldered his flour and was making off with it, when some of the Carolinians pointed their guns at him and cried out, ‘Run old fellow or we will shoot you!’ Mr. Weiser responded, ‘Just you shoot and be d—-d. I cannot run any faster than I does.’ The pluck and courage of the old gentleman not only won the day, but the admiration of all.”
 This captain more likely is a Capt. Robertson, who led the southerners and Missourians in 1856 Kansas Territory.
 Insurgents, meaning freestaters. But 100 freestaters stationed as Grasshopper Falls??
Forget for the moment Bleeding Kansas, fraudulent elections, Border Ruffians and murderous abolitionists. Kansas Territory, having fought off slavery from 1854 into 1859, was about to slip into the Union as the 34th state.
“HAIL! YE SOVEREIGNS!,” crowed The Oskaloosa Independent in its January 30, 1861, edition. “LATEST. – We learn from a private source that a telegraph was received in Leavenworth at three o’clock yesterday (Tuesday) announcing that Kansas is admitted into the Union as a sovereign State.”
Cause for joy, all right, but on that same page we have this: “Beyond all question, we are on the brink of a terrible chasm; it may be [our] destruction as a nation. No one can look the danger fairly in the face, and not feel a cold tremor run through the frame. War! Bloody, relentless, fratricidal war stares us in the face!”
Not so celebratory, and here’s a refresher about why that was.
Kansas Territory voters finally sent a free-state constitution to Congress and the president on October 4, 1859. Kansans had wrangled through three other proposed constitutions with opposing positions on slavery before settling on the Wyandotte Constitution, which barred slavery. Note that date.
In the spring of 1860, enough U.S. House of Representatives members stamped the legislation OK by them and sent Kansas statehood to the U.S. Senate. Despite effort from northern senators, the legislation went nowhere. Southern slave states didn’t like slavery-free states and they had the votes to paralyze the legislation. The Kansas question was shoved down to a committee. Congress adjourned.
Abraham Lincoln, the Republican, was elected president November 6, 1860. Within five days, South Carolina’s two senators dismissed themselves from the U.S. Senate, their state about to secede from the Union.
Mississippi’s two senators, then Alabama’s, then Florida’s all quit the Senate January 21, 1861, their states having quit the Union.
With the southern senators’ departing footprints fresh on the ground, Kansas backers saw their chance and quickly brought up the Kansas bill, which finally passed the Senate. Having a pack of “no” votes disappear with secession gave Kansas the passage numbers it needed.
The Kansas legislation make a quick flight back to the House to check a minor amendment, approved Jan. 28, 1861. The next day, the outgoing slavery-supporting president, James Buchanan, signed the bill.
Editor John Wesley Roberts and his associate John W. Day had it right in their Oskaloosa newspaper that day. Happy that Kansas was a state, they saw what the seceding southern states would bring in a Civil War. Still, Kansas had became a free state and that was cause for elation.
“The President has signed the bill, and we are now citizens of the United States,” read The Emporia News on February 2, 1861. “The joyful news was received here on Thursday afternoon, and soon was communicated to all within hearing by the booming of the ‘big gun.’ A national salute of thirty-four guns was fired – one for each State and a ‘tiger’ for Kansas.”
The Kansas National Democrat, the proslavery newspaper based in Kansas Territory’s slavery-backing HQ, Lecompton, agreed to be glad Kansas was a state in its February 7, 1861, edition. “No one can fail to notice that the admission of Kansas as a State is producing much interest among the people of the country. Our brethren of the Republican school – including editors of Kansas journals – are all at the height of glorification.”
And, finally, there was outrage from a Kansas supporter relieved at the new free state’s admission, The Evansville Daily Journal (Indiana) of February 1, 1861: “The states which endeavored to thrust a blighting institution on her, failing in their work, are now madly rushing to destruction on account of the same institution that they tried to force on her.” And, “We confidently believe that the day will come when the whole secession scheme with all of its attendant horrors will be stigmatized as the work of the maniacs of South Carolina.”
I had not known that the 1856 Border War attack on Grasshopper Falls carried a name.
Yes, we knew that the Crosby brothers’ general store and Dr. Lorenzo Northrup’s books, medicines and surgical instruments were torched in a September 12 raid by proslavery rangers. That arson and the weak resistance by Grasshopper Falls freestaters was part of a lickety-split succession of clashes over slavery in Jefferson County, Kansas Territory, in a week’s time.
But accounts of the raid have hung in dimness and contradiction, probably because a). The freestaters were utterly routed, b). No one died and c). Nobody has seemed to know much about it. Well.
“Duringthe Fall of ’56, when the Blood Hounds of the South were making such desperate efforts to crush out the Free State men of Kansas, the citizens of Grasshopper Falls and vicinity being almost unanimously of the latter class, united in a company...”
Joseph A. Cody,[i] editor and proprietor of The Grasshopper newspaper, as it turns out, ran a story, [ii] “The Battle of Grasshopper Falls,” in his June 12, 1858, here. His stirring account of Bleeding Kansas in Jefferson County and Grasshopper Falls (now Valley Falls) brought a new bit of information, at least to me, along with its glorious hyperbole. It explains why the Grasshopper Falls freestaters bumbled their defense, and it was written about two years after the event. That’s closer than the decade and decades-old remembrances written later.
The war over slavery for Kansas had raged south of the Kansas River. Flashpoints included four-square abolitionist Lawrence in Douglas County, John Brown’s terrorizing of Franklin County, and back-and-forth between bands of freestaters and proslavers in Miami and Linn counties. Bands of Missourians, who wanted their neighbor state to embrace slavery, were joined by young men sent up from South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia.
Now, the violence was picking up north of the Kansas River. The South Carolinians and friends, imported by Jefferson Buford of Alabama, kept a base at Atchison and they were aligned with the “Kickapoo Rangers,” Missourians for the most part.
In mid-September 1856 these groups had had already succeeded in clearing Leavenworth, Jefferson County’s neighbor to the east, of its free-state men. By all appearances, they were set to procure a nice homebase at Hickory Point in Jefferson County, which sat between slavery capital Lecompton to the south and proslavery Atchison to the north. These proslavery bands had suffered a few defeats south of the Kansas River in recent weeks, and now regrouped for yet another attack on Lawrence, the Douglas County center of Kansas anti-slavery immigrants.
Below is the transcribed article from The Grasshopper, the text broken into shorter paragraphs than printed in the original. The footnotes are my addition.
Grasshopper Falls, Kansas Territory
The Grasshopper, June 12, 1858,
J.A. Cody, Editor and Proprietor
“The Battle of Grasshopper Falls
This, though but a bloodless skirmish, deserves a brief and truthful history – for here where now the evidences of Free State progress are to be seen on”… [Several words are illegible.]… “powerful engine of Freedom now echoes the joyful tiding of our deliverance, the myrmidons of Slavery once supposed they had entirely obliterated the last vestige of freedom. During the Fall of ’56, when the Blood Hounds of the South[iii] were making such desperate efforts to crush out the Free State men of Kansas, the citizens of Grasshopper Falls and vicinity being almost unanimously of the latter class, united in a company of some twenty-five or thirty for the mutual defense of their homes.
A slight fortification was established on the bank of the Grasshopper[iv], where the main body would remain at night, while a strict watch was kept by means of scouts. For several months threats of destruction had been frequently brought to us from the border, and now a violent pro-slavery resident, who was in knowledge of the secret places of the Ruffians, had joined them for purposes well known to us. Our scouts brought intelligence of an encampment of some 150 of Shannon’s militia[v] at Hickory Point, distant some eight miles from the Falls. For several nights we slept on our arms, and … [One line of copy illegible] …during the day time.
On the morning of September 12th, our company being fairly worn down , and no fresh demonstrations being made at Hickory Point, that part of our company who resided out of town were allowed to pay a short visit to their respective homes.
At about 10 o’clock an alarm was given that the enemy was upon us. When first seen, they were but a few rods distant on the opposite bank of the Grasshopper. All that were in town able to bear arms, amounting to the number of 8 or 10, rallied to man and proceeded in haste to gain if possible, the fortification on the bank of the river, for the purposes of cutting them down as they crossed.
But we came too late; for as we gained the open bottom, the enemy, to the number of 30 well-mounted men, dashed up over the bank and with a savage yell, galloped upon us. A few shots were exchanged, without effect, when we were compelled to beat a hasty retreat.
The ruffians then entered town, and forced open the Store of Crosby & Brother,[vi] then supposed by them to be the head outfitting quarters of Gen. Lane[vii] and the Abolitionists. After plundering to their satisfaction, they applied the match and the building was soon enveloped in flames. They then beat a hasty retreat to their headquarters at Hickory point.
That night we received the joyful news that Gen. Lane had come to our rescue, and was advancing upon Hickory Point. We immediately joined him and the next day attacked them. They were so well fortified in their several block houses; and having no cannon we could make but little impression upon them. Word was dispatched to Col. Harvey,[viii] at Lawrence, to come with all haste with a cannon to our aid.
Soon after, a message was received from Gov. Geary,[ix] to the effect that all armed bodies must be disbanded and he would pledge safety to the settlers. Upon this, General Lane thought proper to countermand the order just sent to Col. Harvey, and immediately retired from the field. The countermand, however, did not reach Col. Harvey, and that night we heard the cannon booming at Hickory Point. We soon learned of the capitulation of the enemy, with the understanding that they should leave after giving [us?] all their stolen horses. Col. Harvey then proceeded on his return to Lawrence but was intercepted by the U.S. troops, and his whole company taken prisoners[x], while the Ruffians still encamped at Hickory Point and fresh from [their?] pillage and burning of Grasshopper Falls, were with full … [One line of text illegible.] … and return to their dens on the border. Thus closed the drama of that eventful campaign of Slavery against Freedom.”
By way of background, nearly all of Jefferson County’s outright Bleeding Kansas conflicts occurred between Sept. 8 and Sept. 15, 1856. Led by James H. Lane, freestaters around Sept. 8 plundered Osawkee (now Ozawkie), the Jefferson County county seat and proslavery stronghold. On Sept. 11, Jesse Newell, a radical freestater, led J.A. Harvey and his free-state militants to a camp of South Carolinians on Slough Creek north of Oskaloosa. They ambushed the South Carolinians, took their weapons and horses, victorious in the Battle of Slough Creek. The Grasshopper Falls raid was the next day, Sept. 12, apparently. After that, the two sides collided for two days at Hickory Point, Sept. 13 and 14.
Other, hugely varied accounts of the Grasshopper Falls attack will follow in the next post.
The June 5 and June 12, 1858, editions of The Grasshopper are on microfilm reel V 25 in the archives of the Kansas State Historical Society. [Update: These two editions of the newspaper have been added to the online collection of newspapers.com. This link is for the Battle of Grasshopper Falls clip in the June 12 edition. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/23322139/battle_of_grasshopper_falls_harvey/ ]
[i] Joseph A. Cody and his brother, Isaac Cody, were freestaters. Isaac Cody, father of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, was one of the builders of a mill in Grasshopper Falls and was elected to the freestate legislature in 1856.He died in 1857 at least partly from complications from a stab wound inflicted by a proslavery man in Leavenworth County in earlier years. Joseph A. Cody was in James H. Lane’s Frontier Guard that set up in the White House and scouted Washington to protect the nation’s new president Abraham Lincoln in April 1861 (The 116: The True Story of Abraham Lincoln’s Lost Guard by James P. Muehlberger).
[ii] There is no byline attached to the article. It is my supposition, possibly incorrect, that Joseph A. Cody wrote the article.
[iii] Refers to proslavery militants/Border Ruffians from slave state Missouri and southern states who came to Kansas to make it a slave state and who also might claim the inexpensive land on offer with the opening of the Territory to settlement. They sometimes called themselves “law and order” men who feigned keeping the peace by attacking and retaliating against freestaters from the east and “west” (Ohio, for example, was a western state at that time). These freestaters wanted Kansas to enter the Union without slavery and they were claiming land, building towns in advance of elections and legislation that would erase the codes pushing Kansas to slavery. Freestaters, too, had formed their own military units.
[iv] The Grasshopper River, now the Delaware River.
[v] Gov. Wilson Shannon, one of 10 Kansas Territory governors and “acting” governors appointed by the U.S. president to govern the territory between mid-1854 and early 1861, when Kansas entered the Union as a free state. Cody’s newspaper’s “militia” reference here is a sort of swipe at the South Carolinians and other southern state men brought to Kansas in the spring of 1856 by Major Jefferson Buford of Alabama to secure Kansas for slavery. These southerners had been active on both the north and south sides of the Kansas River. The “militia” label also referred to Border Ruffians from Missouri (some were Kickapoo Rangers based in Atchison County) who were camping at Jefferson County’s little proslavery town near the military road, Hickory Point, also called Hardtville.
[vi] Rufus H. and William Crosby, free-staters from Hampden, Maine. They operated a general store.
[vii] James H. Lane, Kansas Territory political and military leader and U.S. senator. He was loved and hated perhaps nearly equally but was an extremely skilled recruiter leader to the free-state cause. Right after Sept. 13, 1856, after the first day’s battle at Hickory Point, Lane left Kansas Territory for the north to organize more freestate support. In Kansas Territory, he was on the proslavers’ and government most-wanted list.
[viii] J.A. Harvey, leader of free-state units, had just arrived in Kansas Territory Aug. 13. He came to Kansas with the “Chicago Company,” a group of settlers, freestaters aided by the Kansas National Committee led by wealthy New Yorker Thaddeus Hyatt.
[ix] Territorial Gov. John W. Geary had just started his new post as Kansas Territory’s latest governor on Sept. 9, 1856.
[x] Harvey himself was not captured by the U.S. troops who arrested the free-state fighters resting near what is now Oskaloosa. Harvey had been at the nearby home of Jesse Newell and had escaped out the back. (Thaddeus Hyatt Collection, Kansas State Historical Society, microfilm reel MS 87.) U.S. troops had been sent into Jefferson County because of complaints from Jefferson County proslavers.
Jesse Newell’s strange denial letter ran in Lecompton’s proslavery newspaper, the Kansas National Democrat, on March 24, 1859. The settler and 10 other men had just been outed as partners in John Doy’s plan to move freedom-seekers through a short stretch of Kansas Territory via the Underground Railroad.
Newell, the co-founder of Oskaloosa, had written his letter in response to the articles revealing his name in Kansas and Missouri newspapers. Exposure like that would be poison to the secret operations of the Underground, which thwarted the Fugitive Slave Law’s command against helping enslaved people escape. And while participants were considered heroes in some quarters, they were thieves and lawbreakers in others.
Had Newell, a radical freestater in Jefferson County, been threatened or endangered by people who objected to the Underground Railroad’s interference with slavery? Is that why he or someone writing for him would publish a letter denying involvement? I can’t say.
In the next county over, Jackson County, another man whose name was revealed alongside Newell’s was beaten severely at a political party meeting at Holton on March 12. The articles naming 11 men who had agreed to help in the Underground Railroad were published as early as Feb 19, so Martin Anderson’s proslavery neighbors could have learned of his Underground Railroad involvement. Already, Anderson was helping to build the Republican party in Jackson County, making him an opponent to Democrats who were slavery supporters. Anderson was beaten unconscious and several Democrats were hurt at the meeting, described in the press as an affray, a riot, a row, a melee, a difficulty. Was Martin attacked because of his Underground Railroad ties?
Anderson’s name, like Newell’s, had been published in newspapers from notes that John Doy apparently wrote outlining his planned Underground route through Jefferson and Jackson counties and naming the men set to help.
“March 12, 1859, Mr. Anderson was instrumental in forming the first Republican organization in this Territory,” an 1897 obituary said. ”He called a meeting for that object which was held in the school house in Holton, only twelve men participating.
“After the organization was completed and the meeting adjournment the little party was assaulted by a mob of drunken proslavery ruffians. Major Anderson was struck in the back of the head with an oak stick three feet long (the heart of a clap-board bolt) in the hands of a burly ruffian; he fell to the ground and the ruffian deliberately emptied his revolver at the prostrate form, but without further injury.”
As was nearly always the case, a deep chasm sat between one side’s “facts” and the other’s, at least in the newspaper accounts I read.
Proslavery-leaning newspapers told of four Democrats who were first assaulted by Republicans. Angered by the loss of conservative men to the Democrats, the Republicans attacked these Democrats at the meeting and then went to a nearby abolitionist’s house where anywhere from 50 to 70 Sharps rifles were stored, arming themselves.
Later, these Republicans drove the four men from their Kansas Territory homes and back to Platte County, Missouri. Those accounts don’t mention Anderson, who was a probate judge at the time, or anyone injured by Democrat ruffians. The Republican accounts do mention the four men injured and driven back to Missouri, but portray the violence as defense.
Considering the unease in Kansas Territory, March 1859, Anderson’s attack merited a double-take. I had not read of the Holton “difficulty” before in my narrow (Jefferson County) research over the past five years. The story, although nothing I read connected Anderson’s injuries to an Underground Railroad, got a lot of ink, as violent tales from Kansas Territory usually did. My quick look at online newspapers found Holton coverage in Kansas and Missouri, and Ohio, Kentucky, Washington D.C., Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Iowa.
Important elections were on the horizon, although it was by then understood that proslavery rule was kaput. Kansas Territory was on its way to joining the Union as a free state, one that outlawed slavery. Defeated, Democrats (and perhaps some freestate conservatives) were working up their next big campaign: keeping all people of African descent out of Kansas.
Yes, times were caustic. The Fugitive Slave Law had just been validated by the U.S. Supreme Court against attempts to nullify it, meaning it was still against the law to help enslaved people escape bondage by any means. That meant offering food, providing secret harbor, acting as a rifle-toting escort for a covered wagon full of fugitive slaves and even refusing to inform a marshal of a fugitive slave’s whereabouts, if one held that information.
Also at the time of Newell’s letter and Martin Anderson’s injury, Kansas Territory and Missouri slavery supporters were furious over the latest Underground Railroad activity. Of particular aggravation was the violent abolitionist, John Brown, who had just winged it out of Kansas Territory (via a Holton area stop) with 11 fugitives, and John Doy, who had attempted to do so, both events near the end of January 1859.
Yes, the stories were vigorously at odds over whether Democrats or radical Republicans started the fight and assaulted their opponents. Some newspapers even ran both versions of the story, noting the chasm between one side’s “facts” and the other’s.
But some of the proslavery newspapers widened the context of the Holton sensation by dropping John Brown, John Doy and other freestate leaders, fighters and Jayhawkers into their stories. John Brown, while long gone from Kansas, was controlling these Kansas Territory happenings from afar, they charged.
Supremely evident regarding the charges of who started what at Holton on March 12, however, was the star plank in the Dem’s new agenda: making Kansas a free white state, blocking all people of African descent from living in Kansas.
Local Democrats, in campaigning for more party members, maintained that the radicals, or “Black Republicans” — people who wanted to abolish slavery and advocated “negro equality,” among other then-radical ideas– were extremist troublemakers. They were destroying the peace of Kansas Territory and they were unpopular among conservative freestaters. These Democrats hoped to attract those freestaters to build up sentiment (and votes) to keep people of African descent out of Kansas.
The Kansas National Democrat, Lecompton, Kansas Territory, March 31, 1859. Image from newspapers.com
“The Free State men rallied at once, secured their [Sharps] rifles and drove the ruffians from the town and across the river into Missouri.” Martin Anderson’s obituary said nearly 40 years after the Holton trouble. “One of the ruffians was shot through the mouth as he mounted his horse to leave and another lost his good right arm as the result of another shot from a [Sharps] rifle.”
Martin Anderson was unconscious for three days, his obituary said, and he didn’t recover completely for six months. An ardent freestate supporter, Anderson had settled in Grasshopper Falls, Jefferson County, in 1857 but moved to Jackson County in 1858. A probate judge and later Kansas state treasurer, Anderson was a major in the 11th Regiment, Kansas Volunteer Cavalry in the Civil War.
 John Doy’s Underground Railroad “train,” two horse-drawn wagons, was ambushed in Jefferson County about eight miles south of Jesse Newell’s home at Oskaloosa, Jefferson County, Kansas Territory, Jan. 25, 1859. According to notes Doy appears to have carried with him the night he was abducted, Newell’s place was to be the first stop for aid on that treacherous trip. The notes named 10 other people between Oskaloosa and just past Holton, in neighboring Jackson County, travel stop by travel stop, who were lined up to help once Doy got to Oskaloosa. It was at Oskaloosa that Doy would get his escort guard to protect the train. He had had to travel from Lawrence without protection. But he and the African-Americans he carried with him never made it to Oskaloosa. [Oskaloosa guard information is from Doy’s book, The narrative of John Doy, of Lawrence, Kansas, “A Plain Unvarnished Truth.”] Slave owners and slave-hunters captured Doy’s party about 8 miles south of Oskaloosa and 12 miles north of Lawrence , taking all to Missouri. In March when “The Holton Difficulty” occurred, Doy was still in jail in Missouri accused of inducing a slave to leave Missouri with him. As early as February, a few area newspapers (most of them proslavery) had published the names of the men who were to participate with Doy in the Underground Railroad, an illegal act under the Fugitive Slave Law. Such exposure could be dangerous, of course, and Jesse Newell’s name had appeared in a letter in which he appeared to deny planning to help fugitive slaves. Newell’s letter was published March 24, although it was dated earlier, March 2, 1859.
 Day, Judge John W., “Selected Sketch, Scrap of Kansas History,” The Oskaloosa Independent, April 2, 1881, p1, referred to Jesse Newell as a radical freestater..
 Jesse Newell’s letter is in Part V of this “Underground Railroad Ambush” series. John Doy’s written notes transcribed into a newspaper article include the names of men he had enlisted to help him move 13 freedom-seekers from Lawrence to Holton. That article is in Part IV. After studying Newell’s letter and a collection of linked information, I believe Newell was involved in the Underground Railroad, at least he would have been had Doy not been ambushed in this instance. Newell’s letter contains a touch of snark, and the last portion is written to include language from the Fugitive Slaw Law itself. One possibility for the careful letter is that Newell contended he had signed up to help free persons of color escape the area, not slaves. Doy had indicated that all of the 13 were free persons, although that was not the case.
 Calhoun County’s name was changed to Jackson County by the Kansas Legislature in February 1859. Some newspapers hadn’t yet made the change to “Jackson” in their news columns. Golden Silvers, another man on John Doy’s Underground Railroad roster, had been the legislator proposing the change.
The Topeka Daily Capital, “Martin Anderson. Death of One Who Helped Make Kansas History”, 10 July, 1897. See the full obituary at the bottom of this post.
 The freestaters’ weapon of choice, the Sharps rifle, was legend in Kansas Territory. It was an innovative breech-loading weapon, more accurate and rapid-firing than other arms of the day. The “Mr. Ray” mentioned was Abraham Ray, another freestate proponent who named a son James Lane Ray for the fiery Kansas militant, politician and Jayhawker, U.S. Sen. Jim Lane.
I interrupt John Doy’s badly ending Underground Railroad trip to introduce you to Jesse Newell, whose Oskaloosa homestead Dr. Doy had failed to reach. I will introduce you to Mr. Newell the same way I met him about five years ago.
We had just figured out that a badly declining property in Oskaloosa, Kansas, had once been Jesse Newell’s homestead plot and we wanted to find out more about him. Local and state compiled histories revealed practically nothing.
A simple web search captured a glimpse of Mr. Newell and showed him to be a Kansas character beyond what our aged historical portraits had told us: co-founded Oskaloosa, had a saw mill, moved to Kansas from Iowa.
My first illuminating encounter with Jesse Newell, then, sprang from an essay written by Mary-Sherman Willis in the literary journal archipelago, http://www.archipelago.org/vol6-3/willis.htm. Her essay, “The Fight for Kansas: The Letters of Cecilia and John Sherman,” reveals a critical moment in the warfare that led to Kansas statehood, told in letters written by her ancestors Cecilia Stewart Sherman and Ohio Congressman John Sherman.
Mrs. Sherman’s letter shows us Jesse Newell travelling from Topeka to Lawrence with a son, John Newell, his brother-in-law Joseph Fitzsimmons and Dr. Robert Gamble. It was May 17, 1856, and Newell had just arrived in Kansas Territory from Iowa. He was annoyed.
Over and again, Newell and his company were stopped, harassed, interrogated, all OK’d by proslavery authority at Lecompton to stop people from getting to Lawrence, home of eastern slavery opponents. The proslavery partisans were cutting off Lawrence to suppress a “rebellion” by antislavery settlers there who resisted the proslavery government’s outrageous and illegally enacted laws.
Exasperated, Newell rode for Lecompton, roughly half way between Topeka and Lawrence on his 25-mile trip. Lecompton was the proslavery crowned capital of the territory. A native of Ohio, Newell found fellow Ohioan Wilson Shannon, the current governor of Kansas Territory. Cecilia Stewart Sherman’s letter, written to a sister on May 19, details what Newell said of his visit with Gov. Shannon. Mrs. Sherman wrote:
“… Mr. Jesse Newell, formerly from near Olivesburg [Ohio] & immediately from Iowa with his two sons & a son-in-law, is looking through the country for a location. He arrived [in Leavenworth] today and gave us an account of his adventures for the last two or three days. He was stopped several times before he got through. He was going from Topeka to Lawrence on Saturday but after having been stopped once or twice he turned around and went to Lecompton, the headquarters of the enemy, to see Gov. Shannon whom he knew. He spied him in a crowd upon the street and accosted him thus: ‘I would like to know what these bands of armed men who are going round the country mean stopping peaceable citizens on the high way—&c &c. I am a free man & thought I was in a free country till I came here,’ he said.
“Shannon got angry & told him there was no use in his getting mad—&c—that the whole Territory was under military law. He then turned to go into his office. Mr. Newell called to him, ‘Shannon it’s me[,] and you are not going to treat me thus. I’ll know what these things mean.’ Shannon then told him to follow him in. He did so & he gave him a permit to pass unmolested through the territory. He then started again for Lawrence but was stopped twice by one party of ten—-& another of fifteen armed with rifles & fixed bayonets; they questioned as to where he was from, when he came, what town he had been, where he was going.
“He told them, and they said he had been travelling in d—d abolition towns all the time. They supposed he was going now to Lawrence to help fight the Border Ruffians, and he couldn’t go. He told them he had started for Lawrence, there he intended to go. They told him they would take his mules for the use of the army. Says he, ‘These mules cost eleven dollars & before you get them you’ll take my scalp.’ He showed them his permit then & they let him go, but Shannon & they too told him there was no use to go, that he wouldn’t get into the town, it was guarded & in arms. But he said he went on & when he came near the town he saw men planting corn & women in the garden. He went on down town & there were little girls jumping the rope, stores were open, the men at their usual work & all was quiet. He didn’t know what to make of it after the stories Shannon had told him about the citizens of Lawrence all being in arms &c. No doubt Shannon thinks they are. The pro-slavery tell him so in order to bend him to their measures & he never goes out of Lecompton so he can find out himself.”
Included in the national news about the Kansas struggle for freedom were stories about the severing of simple freedoms by the proslavery powers at Lecompton, and they included stories about Jesse Newell and his pass.
Well, maybe not yet were they identified with the “troubles” of the territory; that came a few months later when Newell was fully invested in the free-state cause. Newell and Joseph Fitzsimmons, the brother-in-law with him for the pass, went on to start the town of Oskaloosa, naming it for Oskaloosa, Iowa. Dr. Gamble, born in Pennsylvania and later an Ohio man, likewise had come to Kansas Territory from Iowa. After serving in leadership positions around the town, Gamble had moved on to California in the later 1860s.
Eleven years later the Oskaloosa Independent newspaper published a long-running series of reminiscences by Jefferson Countians about the Civil War and the territorial strife that preceded Kansas statehood in 1861. John W. Day, who arrived in Kansas Territory in May 1856, was present for various territorial skirmishes and political clashes and in June 1867 wrote about events of 1856.
He noted Newell’s pass, setting up his story by detailing how settlers had to carry written passes from the government to ensure their safety on public thoroughfares. Mr. Day, who edited the Oskaloosa Independent for a time, wrote:
“I think it was in June or July of 1856 that at the store of Nelson McCracken, in Leavenworth, Jesse Newell, who had been traveling through the Territory looking for a location to settle and build a mill, exhibited to myself and several other persons, a pass furnished him by Wilson Shannon, then governor of the Territory of Kansas. This pass was obtained from the Governor on the ground of old acquaintanceship in Ohio when both were Democrats in the Buckeye State.
“I solicited the document to file away as a memento, but Mr. Newell replied: ‘No, sir; I cannot part with it. I expect, sir, to carry that pass to the judgment day’.”
 The Shermans were in Kansas Territory because John Sherman was on a three-person congressional committee assigned to investigate the 1855 and 1856 “troubles” in Kansas, including voting frauds by out-of-state proslavers and violence through the territory. The committee produced the Report of the Special Committee Appointed to Investigate the Troubles in Kansas; With the Views of the Minority of Said Committee. Report No. 200, 34th Congress, 1st Session, 1856. Mrs. Sherman’s letter is held by the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library in Mansfield, Ohio, in the (John) Sherman Room Collection.
 The first sacking sacking of Lawrence occurred a few days later, on May 21, when proslavery militia, supported by men from southern states, marched on Lawrence and destroyed the Free State Hotel, ruined the printing presses of two newspapers, the Herald of Freedom and the Kansas Free State, and burned the home of Charles Robinson, future Kansas governor. Before the burning began, a red flag bearing the words “Southern Rights” on one side and “South Carolina” flew briefly over Lawrence.
 Mrs. Sherman’s letter was illuminating because it told a story that, as far as I have figured out, was unknown in Kansas. It was the first “new” bit of information we had found about Jesse Newell. And for a moment in May 1856 Jesse Newell’s experience in Kansas Territory had made national news.
 Oskaloosa Independent, June 22, 1867, page one, series “Heroes of the Border and the War for Liberty and Union”
 Jesse Newell a Democrat, the party associated with slavery? That, to me, was a new label for Jesse Newell. Later descriptions of Newell, including one by Mr. Day, called him a Radical Republican, meaning someone who was not only an opponent of slavery in Kansas, but of slavery all together and was a proponent of rights for black people. Others who came to Kansas Territory and fought against slavery, including Kansas’ U.S. Sen. James H. Lane, the orator and top free-state recruiter, came to the state as Democrats.
Somewhere on the Delaware Reserve, Jefferson County, Kansas Territory
We left John Doy and his Underground Railroad train deep in trouble on the Missouri side of the river. But since my task is unearthing Jefferson County history, let’s head back to the place where Dr. Doy and friends were ambushed, wherever that was.
Doy, a Lawrence abolitionist, two helpers and 13 African-American passengers had been snared by armed slave catchers as they travelled from Lawrence north toward Holton, a rough wagon ride of about 50 miles. By Doy’s description, the calamity happened about 12 miles north of Lawrence in Douglas County and 8 miles south of Oskaloosa in Jefferson County on the Delaware (Indian) Reserve.
Two wagons carried the passengers. Doy rode a horse, his son Charles drove Doy’s wagon and young Wilbur Clough drove a second wagon. Well on their way to Oskaloosa, the travelers advanced down a long decline. At the bottom of the hill, on the right, sat a bluff. As Doy’s party turned at the bluff about 20 armed, mounted men emerged and captured the group.
A second description, with only the tiniest bit more information, comes from the Rev. Ephraim Nute, a Lawrence minister strong for abolishing slavery. Nute wrote a letter detailing the ambush and lamenting the high cost of the failed effort, both in the tragedy of the 13 freedom-seekers and in the money it took to put the effort on, and now the money it would take to pay for the imprisoned Doy’s legal bills. It’s possible that Nute obtained the information from a jail visit or from Clough, whom the Missourians didn’t imprison.
“… they took the road toward Oscaloosa [sic] & about an hour after entering a sort of defile between the bluffs & ‘the timber’ found themselves surrounded by a party of armed & mounted men,” Rev. Nute wrote.
Rev. Nute did refer to a road in his letter. Because roads and passable trails were few in the county a road might show up on an old map . But it wasn’t enough to find the spot.
Hilly, timbered landscapes are not a rarity in southern Jefferson County, and if we wanted to find the location of this disaster — and I had never known of the place being identified — we would need more information.
Stunningly, our best location clues ended up being clues that never should have been revealed at all, and they came from John Doy.
Riding in the Underground Railroad was secretive and dangerous work for all involved. Brave enslaved people and free African Americans had everything to lose if they were caught fleeing slavery or its threat. Escaped slaves could be pursued and caught in other states and returned to slavery; free black people were not safe from kidnappers who would ignore their free status and sell them into slavery. Those who assisted in UGRR efforts faced jail and fines. Missouri was a state that allowed slavery and a good share of Missourians wanted to extend slavery to Kansas when it would become a state.
Names of Underground Railroad conductors and agents, and their “stations” for hiding freedom-seekers along the route, naturally, were strictly secret. But Dr. Doy had made a dry run of his planned UGRR route from Lawrence to Holton. He had jotted down the names and places he had arranged to hide his passengers and obtain escorts for each leg of the slow trip north.
Doy apparently carried a journal containing those names and places with him when he was ambushed Jan. 25, 1859. Worse, an excerpt was published in a Missouri newspaper, the St. Joseph Weekly West in its June 26, 1859 edition. Here’s how the transcript opened:
“Bought bread and cheese, 20 cents, before starting. Paid 25 cents Monday ferried over Kaw river [Kansas River] at Lawrence; took the road west up the river, crossing Buck creek, keeping the left-hand road till the creek is crossed, then the right-hand; arrived at Oscaloosa [Oskaloosa] that night, opened my subject to Mr. Newall [Newell], who laid out town. He accepts at dark; went to Mr. Barnes, from Ohio; also accepts the appointment of conductor; will feed and assist them.…”
And on he went to name three people who would help at Grasshopper Falls (now Valley Falls, Jefferson County) and another half dozen people in or near Holton in Calhoun County (now Jackson County).
Colossal mistake aside, Doy did probably take that same route on January 25. For his dry run, he crossed the Kansas River at downtown Lawrence and followed the river to the north and west. He turned off to go north around the point where Buck Creek meets the Kaw. If he followed a trail or road like the Lawrence-to-Oskaloosa road, it wasn’t long until he was about 12 miles north of Lawrence and about 8 miles south of Oskaloosa.
Still not enough information, however, to find the spot, so we will continue our quest in the next post.
Plat map by the U.S. Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska for Township 11 south, Range 19 east of the Sixth Principal Meridian, in southern Jefferson County. Buck Creek and the road to Oskaloosa are visible on this map, with survey dates, from Kansas Memory, the Kansas State Historical Society. Item No. 223914, page 7. Copy and reuse restrictions apply.
 Doy, John, The Kansas Narrative, A Plain, Unvarnished Tale, (Thomas Holman, book and job printer, New York, 1860), 24. Doy reported eight men, three women and two children as his cargo. Two men were free persons of color, coming from Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the rest had shown Doy’s son, Charles, their free papers before the trip, according to Doy’s book. Other accounts dispute the free status of the 11, contending they were runaway enslaved persons.
 Holton, in Jackson County, was an Underground Railroad hub. From Holton, the UGRR travelers would go north into Iowa and often on to Canada..
 Nute, Ephraim, Letter, [E. Nute] to [Unidentified recipient], February 14, 1859; Kansas State Historical Society Item No. 102720, John Brown Collection, #299, Box 2, Folder 1.
 Jesse Newell and Joseph Fitzsimmons were co-founders of Oskaloosa, arriving there in May 1856 and later naming the town for Oskaloosa, Iowa.
 St. Joseph Weekly West (newspaper); 26 June, 1859, 2. Microfilm, State Historical Society of Missouri. Knowledge of the existence of this extraordinary newspaper clipping — vital to tracking Jefferson County history — was generously shared with me by a Lawrence author and researcher of the Underground Railroad in Kansas, Judy Sweets.
The gravel roads in southern Jefferson County, Kansas, are silent about where an Underground Railroad catastrophe played out 158 years ago. No roadside signs mark the hill where Dr. John Doy’s attempt to help 13 African-Americans elude slavery rolled to a tragic stop eight miles south of Oskaloosa.
Not that it’s the sort of historic fact a Kansas county would want to celebrate. But the ambush, and the sensational events that followed, attach Jefferson County, Kansas Territory, to the relay of secret links helping brave freedom-seekers move north to free states and Canada.
Doy, a New Yorker, moved to Kansas Territory in 1854 with the Kansas-Nebraska Act and worked to ensure Kansas joined the Union deeming slavery illegal within its borders. Almost five years on, Kansas Territory had emerged from the violent Bleeding Kansas slavery clashes between Missouri border ruffians and their southern friends, and those opposed to slavery in Kansas.
Finally, the slavery opponents, free-staters, pulled ahead with majority sentiment. More work remained, however, and free-staters did what they could to break slavery’s back.
The dark morning hours of January 25, 1859, found Doy on horseback negotiating a primitive road that connected Doy’s hometown Lawrence to Oskaloosa and points north.
Accompanying Doy in two covered wagons were eight men, three women and two children who hoped to leave behind the threat of enslavement, which was still legal in many states including Missouri. Doy’s son Charles, and a young wagon driver, Wilbur Clough, completed Doy’s party. What Doy did not have was outriders or escort guards to watch for slave hunters and other enemies along the way.
The little group was 12 miles into the 20 it needed to cover to reach its first stop, Oskaloosa, and most likely the home of Jesse Newell, a radical free-stater who had come from Iowa and was willing to fight to block slavery in Kansas. There, Doy would pick up his escort to help continue the trip northwest to Holton, a major taking-off point in Kansas Underground ventures. Doy had dry-run his proposed route about a week earlier, taking notes on “conductors” who would help along the way. He listed Jesse Newell’s wooded place on the south edge of Oskaloosa as the first stop in what he planned would be a five-day journey.
The night of the trip, Doy had departed Lawrence heading north, crossed the Kansas River into Jefferson County and followed Buck Creek up through the Delaware Reserve. 
“When about 12 miles from Lawrence, and eight from Oscaloosa [sic], having ascertained, as I supposed, that the road was clear, I requested the men to get into the wagons, as we had quite a long descent before us, and would go down it at a brisk pace. They did so, and then, excepting myself, all the party were in wagons, which were covered and thus effectually prevented them from seeing what occurred immediately afterwards, and from defending themselves.
“At the bottom of the hill, on the right of the road, is a bluff; from behind this, as we turned it, came out a body of some twenty, or more, armed and mounted men. Eleven of them approached with leveled rifles and ordered us to halt; they keeping, however, at a safe distance from our revolvers.”
Doy saw that he was overpowered and quickly persuaded his son not to shoot at the assailants. Recognizing several of the men, including “notorious ruffian and kidnapper” Jake Hurd from around proslavery Lecompton, Doy began his arguments.
He knew what could happen to the 13 African-Americans in the wagons if taken by Hurd and his posse. Under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 slave owners could pursue runaway slaves to other states and return them to slavery. Slave hunters for hire prowled Kansas Territory, close to free states like Iowa to the north, to capture slaves who had bolted from Missouri and elsewhere.
Worse, some of them kidnapped free black people and sold them into slavery, despicably profiting from human misery. People who engaged in the dangerous work of helping fugitive slaves escape such fates faced fines and prison (officially) and bodily harm.
Doy asserted that all the African-American adults in his group except two had free papers proving they were not slaves. The other black two men were known to be free men who had been working as cooks at the Eldridge hotel in Lawrence.
To no productive effect, Doy demanded that Hurd and the other attackers show proof that the 13 African-Americans were slaves sought by slave owners and to state whether those owners were in the armed crowd. His questions were met with curses, violent threats and drawn weapons. Doy’s claim that his passengers were free people were ignored.
Somewhere, about eight miles south of Oskaloosa not far from Buck Creek, Doy, his two conductors and 13 African-Americans freedom-seekers were seized, taken to the Missouri River’s edge, put on a ferry to Weston, Mo., the next night, and locked up in Missouri. Jesse Newell and nine others prepared to assist Doy’s planned Underground Railroad venture welcomed no freedom train in late January 1859.
“The sufferings, both physical and mental, of the poor trembling creatures around us, no words can describe,” Doy wrote in his book. “The chill wintry blast penetrated their thin clothing, and there seemed to be nothing between them and a life-long slavery. All hope must have been dead in their souls.
“Even now I can hear the sobbing ejaculations of the poor mother, as she tried to hush the wails of her half-clad babes. In spite of the commands of the ruffians not to stir, I jumped up, tore off the wagon-cover, and gave it to her to wrap around her children.
“The memory of that night will never be effaced from my mind.”
 Portions of Doy’s journal, or memorandum book, described the route in some detail. Transcriptions from the journal were published in the St. Joseph Weekly West (newspaper) on June 26, 1859, page 2, column 6. Microfilm copy held by the State Historical Society of Missouri. The journal was used against Doy in the Missouri court case against him on the charge of helping slaves escape their masters.
 “The Kansas Narrative, ‘A Plain, Unvarnished Tale’,” written by John Doy and published 1860 by Thomas Holman, book and job printer, New York, p 25.
Upcoming posts will examine where that ambush took place, based on a couple of descriptions from 1859, and look into the people Doy had lined up to help him once he would reach Oskaloosa and continue the journey.