Miscellaneous items in Leavenworth County, Kansas History
From: History of Leavenworth County, Kansas
BY: Jesse A. Hall and Leroy T. Hand
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka, Kansas 1921


Kickapoo Cannon. - This famous old bit of artillery occupied no little niche in the early day history of the territory of Kansas as well as Leavenworth County. It was a relic that had been taken into the Mexican War by General Kearney. It has been said that at one time this cannon was given by the military authorities at Santa Fe, New Mexico, to some traders who were to make a trip eastward over the Santa Fe Trail to serve them against any possible attacking parties and that they had to abandon the cannon near where the Santa Fe Trail crossed the Arkansas River; that it was subsequently brought to Weston, Missouri, by some citizens that happened to be returning to the eastward over the trail, and was later turned over to the military authorities at Fort Leavenworth, who refused to accept same. Subsequent to this it was again taken to Weston, Missouri, where it remained for a number of years. During its stay at Weston it was often pressed into service to salute steamboats upon their arrival.

It is definitely known that during the year 1856 when the "Kickapoo Rangers" were planning their raid on Lawrence that the old cannon was stolen from Weston and taken across the river to Kickapoo. After the raid on Lawrence the cannon was returned to Kickapoo, where it remained until a party of Free State men from Leavenworth went out to Kickapoo one night and stole it. At one time it was pressed into use by pro slavery men to threaten the owners of the old Planters Hotel into turning over a runaway slave under penalty of having the hotel blown down by it. After it was stolen from Kickapoo by Leavenworth Free State men it was concealed for a time but was later exhibited openly as sentiment became more and more Free State. It is now a part of the collection of curios at the Kansas State Historical Society at Topeka.

"Kickapoo Rangers." - The term "Kickapoo Rangers" was a name quite early applied to the northern division of the territorial militia of the Territory of Kansas. They numbered all the way from two to three hundred men. The majority of these men were of pro slavery inclination and their leaders were all pro slavery leaders. A great many of the ruffian acts of territorial days were committed by parties of these men under the guidance and leadership of their radical leaders. David R. Atchison, at one time Senator from Missouri, was a leader and advisor among them and urged them on to commit many of their atrocities. In Blackmar's History of Kansas we find the following account of a speech made by Atchison, the occasion being immediately after the entering of Lawrence by this body May 21st, 1856:

"Boys, this day I am a Kickapoo Ranger. This day we have entered Lawrence with Southern rights inscribed on our banner, and not one Abolitionist dared to fire a gun. And now, boys, we will go in again with our highly honorable Jones, and test the strength of that Free State hotel and teach the Emigrant Aid Company that Kansas shall be ours. Boys, ladies should, and I hope will, be respected by every gentleman. But, when a woman takes upon herself the garb of a soldier by carrying a Sharp's rifle, she is no longer worthy of respect. Trample her under your feet as you would a snake. If one man or woman dare stand before you, blow them to hell with a chunk of cold lead."

Both Jones and Atchison above referred to were never citizens of the territory or state of Kansas but merely operated out of Missouri, coming here only when there was an election which they desired to carry or some other bit of work to be done toward the furtherance of the cause of slavery in the territory.

One of the most diabolical acts committed by the Rangers in this county was that committed January 18th, 1856, by a number of the "Rangers" under the leadership of Capts. Martin and Dunn, when they murdered Capt. Reese P. Brown at Easton following an election quarrel in which pro slavery forces had attempted to take by force the ballot boxes from the home of T. A. Minard, at whose place the voting had been done the day before.

Tarring and Feathering of William Phillips. - Another early day atrocity catalogued by H. Miles Moore in his "Early History of Leavenworth City and County" was the tarring and feathering of William Phillips. This took place May 17, 1855.

William Phillips was an early day attorney of the city of Leavenworth. He was an ardent Free State man and his hasty utterances and decisive stand on the burning question of those times brought him into disrepute with the pro slavery elements of the city. He led a fight against this element over several election matters and when the killing of Malcolm Clark occurred a story was started to the effect that it was Phillips who handed McCrea the pistol with which he shot Clark.

Shortly after this killing an indignation meeting was held in the city and resolutions were drawn up requesting and ordering Phillips to leave the territory. A copy of the notice which was given Phillips is here set out as it appears in Mr. Moore's "Early History of Leavenworth City and County:"

"Leavenworth City, April 30, 1855.
"To William Phillips:
"Sir: - At a meeting of the citizens of Leavenworth and vicinity, we, the undersigned, were appointed a committee to inform you that they have unanimously determined that you must leave this territory by two o'clock of Thursday next. Take due notice thereof and act accordingly.


"Signed: Jarrett Todd, John E. Posey, N. B. Brooks, William E. Berry, H. Rives Pollard, Jno. H. McBride, James M. Lysle, A. Payne, Thomas C. Hughes, William Blair."

Upon the day appointed for Phillip's departure a committee called at his house and were informed that he had left the city. Later he was found in the city and arrested and threatened. It is said that he promised to leave as soon as he could get his business affairs straightened up. However, time passed and when Phillips did not take any definite steps toward leaving the pro slavery element decided to take drastic action. Mr. Moore in his "Early History of Leavenworth City and County" tells of the incident which followed in the following way:

"Thursday, 17th of May, 1855. The most disgraceful outrage took place here this P. M. that I ever witnessed. About a dozen men from Leavenworth took a man by the name of Phillips, a lawyer there, whom they had before ordered to leave town on account of his being an Abolitionist, as they charged, but he had returned again. They took him today and brought him across the river, just below Weston, and in a warehouse stripped him to the waist, tarred and feathered him and brought him up into town, mounted him on a rail and had a number of niggers and boys to drum on old pans and ring bells around. After marching through town they put him on a block opposite the St. George Hotel, and Dr. Ransom's old darky, Joe, auctioned him off and bid him in at one cent. They then took him down from the block, and after marching him about town a little longer, our people beginning to show signs and mutterings of disapproval and disgust of the proceedings, they soon started for home again with him.

"He still stuck to his integrity to the last. Thank God it was mostly drunken rowdies from Leavenworth. I recognized one or two men whom I was surprised to see in the crowd, tugging at the rail on their shoulders, on which was seated Phillips, the victim of this vile outrage. * * * Among the crowd who brought Phillips over to Weston and took an active and leading part in the outrage upon him, I saw the following whom I knew personally, Thos. C. Hughes, and Eli Moore * * * John E Posey, deputy United States Court clerk; H. Rives Pollard, assistant editor and W. H. Adams, then one of the proprietors and founder of the "Herald;" J. L. McAleer, engineer and surveyor; James M. Lysle, attorney and partner of D. J. Johnson; Wm. L. Blair, clerk in store; D. Scott Boyle, clerk of United States Court; Bennett Burnham, then a young gentleman of leisure, and some four or five others."

It was not so long after this that a pro slavery mob again attacked Phillips and shot and killed him.

Flood of 1903. - During the latter part of May and the first of June, 1903, incessant rains, for a period of about ten days, throughout the Kaw River basin and the basins of the Solomon and Smoky Hill rivers, tributaries of the Kaw and flowing into the Kaw in central Kansas, caused a congestion of water in the Kaw River between Topeka, Kansas, and Kansas City where the Kaw flows into the Missouri River such as had never before been witnessed even by the oldest settlers. The "June Rise" of the Missouri River was also at its highest point at the time and there had been constant rains along the basin of the Missouri River, for several days, for hundreds of miles toward the north. The fact that the Missouri River was "out of its banks" made it impossible for the water from the Kaw to quickly flow into the Missouri at its mouth in Kansas City, and consequently this checking of the flow of water from the Kaw to the Missouri contributed toward a much greater congestion of water than would otherwise have occurred.

The farmers in the valley of the Kaw from Topeka, Kansas, to Kansas City had planted an unusual number of acres of potatoes in the spring and the prospects for a "bumper" potato crop were unusually encouraging. Many of these farmers lived in the southern part of Leavenworth County where some of the richest potato land in the world was, at that time, and is yet to be found. Linwood, Kansas, in the southern part of the county suffered the most serious damage as a result of this "flood of 1903." This little city of about 600 people at the time was situated in the southern part of the county where Big Stranger flows into the Kaw. Big Stranger had been noted, locally, for occasional floods prior to that time and the general rains had swollen this stream to an unusual size. The huge volume of water in the Kaw "backed up" by the Missouri made it impossible for the water from Big Stranger to quickly and uninterruptedly flow onward into the Kaw. Linwood was situated mostly on the west side of Big Stranger and a little to the north of the north bank of the Kaw.

During the month of May the Kaw reached a point when it was almost out of its banks. Big Stranger, likewise, was about ready to overflow its banks Linwood at that time was on low ground and the city was generally below the level of the tops of the east and west banks of Big Stranger. This was due to the fact that the citizens, when former floods threatened, had from time to time built up the banks in order to keep the water from flowing over the banks and into the streets and over the entire city. In this they had been successful for many years.

On the evening of May 29, 1903, the word was passed around to all the people of the little city that it seemed probable that it would be necessary that they all get out and work most any time to again build up the Big Stranger banks in order to keep the water out. It was not long until the population of the city was generally busy in throwing up the embankments on the east and west sides of Big Stranger. However, at about 4 o'clock on the morning of May 30, the water broke through and began gradually to back into the city. At the time also the water seemed to be rising rapidly. When the water began to "back in" from Big Stranger there did not seem to be much alarm over the possibility of its "backing in" so as to do much damage to buildings and property. The general consensus of opinion was: "It can't get much higher, because it never was this high before." However, about 8 o'clock A. M. of the same day word suddenly came to the people of the little city that the Kaw had broken through on Mr. Tudhope's farm just west of Linwood about one half mile. Hardly had this word been received when on came the rushing water of the Kaw overflown from its banks in an endeavor to make a new channel right through Linwood itself. People, however, were not yet alarmed over the safety of their property and household effects and only a very few yet began to move to higher ground. The Kaw kept rising all that day and on until the next day. Some were fortunate enough to get their household effects on higher ground near the Linwood High School building and in the school yard before it was too late, but there were many who saw their household furniture and personal belongings, the accumulation of years, swept away in the whirling torrent and flood. Many frame houses were swept away in the newly made channel of the Kaw. Some were upturned and were not swept away. Water in places was 20 feet deep over what had been Linwood. The postoffice was completely submerged. The Linwood State Bank and all business buildings were nearly all completely submerged by the water. Lumber from the Linwood Lumber Yard was caught in the channel and swept onward toward the Missouri never to be recovered. The whole city was caught in the main channel of the flood and ruin and devastation was inevitable.

There was sadness and destruction on all sides. Families were rendered homeless in a day. Their personal effects were all destroyed in the same time. However, there were many humorous incidents. Many buildings from up the river came by in the rapidly flowing channel. In some buildings were pigs, calves, dogs, cats, chickens, geese and ducks. Occasionally one would see dogs on top of the buildings.

There is no cloud so dark, however, that it does not have a silver lining. While the Kaw Valley potato crop for the fall of 1903 was ruined and many families were left homeless, nevertheless the rich deposits of alluvial soil greatly benefited the farmers of the valley by enriching their soil so that a larger yield per acre of potatoes is now obtained than ever was known before the flood.

Killing of Malcolm Clark. - Among the more important incidents of early day Leavenworth County and City history recited by the late H. Miles Moore in his "Early History of Leavenworth City and County" was the shooting and killing of Malcolm Clark.

Malcolm Clark was one of the earliest and most prominent settlers of the county. He was one of the members of the original town company and took an active interest in the welfare of the city. When the "Squatters" of the territory held their first meeting at the Riveley store in Salt Creek Valley, Clark was selected by them as marshal of Leavenworth city and territory thereabout. On April 30, 1855, a meeting was held in the city of Leavenworth for the purpose of arriving at some definite policy with reference to "Squatters," who were flocking into the territory and taking up claims in bad faith. The meeting was held in the open air under the "old elm tree" which stood near the corner of Cherokee and Front or Water street. The killing of Clark took place in the following manner as described by H. Miles Moore in his "Early History of Leavenworth City and County:"

"Several speeches had been made and resolutions were being discussed. The excitement was pretty high. Mr. Clark, who as I before stated was a member of the town association, a little passionate when his Scotch blood was aroused, was taking rather an active part in the meeting, as one deeply interested. Mr. McCrea, who was then residing in the country, lately an inmate of the Soldiers' Home, as many of our readers are aware, was reported to have interrupted the speaker once or twice, and it was suggested to Clark that McCrea was not a "Delaware Squatter," as his claim was on the cutoff back of Fort Leavenworth reserve, near the Salt Creek bridge (not far from where the D. W. Powers brick house now stands) and that he (McCrea) was not interested in the matter. Clark went to him and stated that he understood about his claim, and asked him to not again interfere in the meeting, explaining that it was a Delaware squatter meeting. Clark returned and stated that McCrea had not understood it before, but would not again interrupt or say anything. Shortly after the chairman was putting to a vote a resolution before the meeting, and as it was difficult to ascertain the result by sound a division was called for and it was upon this vote that McCrea took part and when the chair announced that the resolution was carried he (McCrea) pronounced the division a fraud.

"To this Clark took exception, and the lie passed between him and McCrea. Clark advanced upon McCrea and stooped down to pick up a piece of board or scantling, and raised it to strike McCrea, who rushed toward Clark and the blow missed him. He then retreated and Clark pursued him and McCrea turned and shot him. He spoke but a word or two and died in five minutes. McCrea ran and jumped down the bank at the edge of the river. Several shots were fired at him while standing there without apparent effect. The excitement was intense, a rope was soon produced and he would doubtless have been hung by the excited crowd had it not been for the cool bravery of Samuel D. Pitcher, an old citizen of the territory at Fort Leavenworth and afterwards here, who suddenly appeared, mounted on horseback and another man. with him, both heavily armed and ordered the driver of a government hack or ambulance, I think, to drive into the crowd, and then approaching McCrea, who was seated on a block near the tree, told him to get into the hack, which he did speedily with the assistance of some friends, and then ordered the driver to push for Fort Leavenworth as rapidly as possible while he and the man with drawn revolvers followed, their movements being so rapid that the crowd was completely thrown off its guard."

McCrea was held in custody at Fort Leavenworth for several months and finally escaped. He did not come back to Kansas until after the Civil War. He was never prosecuted for the killing of Clark, although an indictment was found against him. He spent the latter part of his days at the Soldiers' Home south of the city, where he died.

**** Lansing Skeleton. - Two brothers, Joseph and Michael Concannon, were digging a trench on their farm near Lansing and on March 23, 1902, they unearthed a human skeleton. It was deeply imbedded under a stratum of earth and rock. During the summer Michael Concannon took the skull to Kansas City and gave the particulars of the find to a newspaper reporter. An article was written at the time and aroused the interests of the scientists all over the United States. From all parts of the country they came to the Concannon farm to look over the find. Some advanced the theory that the probable age was all the way from 10,000 to 35,000 years. The residents of the neighborhood were somewhat skeptical and gave it as their opinion that it was the remains of a convict from the State Penitentiary, who had been buried there, as the place had at one time been used as a cemetery and long since had been abandoned. However the discovery was of such importance that the skull now rests in the national museum at Washington, District of Columbia, and the most of the remainder of the skeleton is in the museum at the University of Kansas.

Big Stranger, Its Mills and Bridges. - Big Stranger enters Leavenworth County just south of the town of Potter in Atchison County and runs thence in a southerly direction through Easton, Alexander, High Prairie, Stranger and Sherman townships and empties into the Kaw River just below Linwood. It was known far and wide as a good fishing stream. Along the valley are found some of the finest farms in the county. The valley early attracted settlers on account of timber along its banks and the rich soil adjoining. There are some twenty two bridges spanning the stream. There are three covered bridges, one at Easton, one at Springdale and the other at Jarbalo. They were constructed about the year 1870 and have proven substantial structures. They are in fine condition to this day. The county has long since ceased building wooden structures but it is doubtful if the steel structures of the present day will give as good service as the old covered bridges still in use on Big Stranger.

There were several mills located on this stream that were widely known and patronized. In 1869 John J. Rapp built what was known as "The Stranger Valley Mills" at Milwood. This mill was built under the direction of Mike Lackner, who afterwards ran the Lackner saloon at the same place. It was a three story building of stone with three runs of burrs. It was operated by both water and steam power. A mill race was cut north of the mill to the banks of Stranger at the Collyer farm. Through this channel water flowed to run the mill and when there was not sufficient power this way then the mill was run by steam. A dam was erected across the creek just below where the steel bridge now stands east of the village of Milwood. For miles around people brought in their corn and wheat to have it ground while they waited. Usually the miller took his pay by means of toll and the farmer took the remainder and hauled it in a wagon or carried it on horseback. Mr. Rapp died in 1877 but the mill was run for many years afterwards by his widow and sons. One of the sons, George Rapp, still lives in the vicinity of Easton. The old stone building is all that is left of the once famous mill.

John Wright owned a saw and grist mill just north of the covered bridge on Stranger east of Jarbalo between the years of 1856 and 1861. It was one of the busiest places in that section of the country. People for miles around brought in their corn to be ground and their logs to be sawed into planks for their cabins. The mill was located on the farm of Solomon Buxton, the father of Mrs. Sam Hastings, who now lives at 218 Fourth Avenue, Leavenworth, Kansas.

The engine boiler exploded February 1, 1861, and killed eight people. A number of other people were wounded and the mill completely wrecked. John Wright, the owner, had just completed fixing a belt and was in the act of placing it in position when the explosion occurred. He was thrown about ten feet and landed among some logs but was not seriously hurt Harrison Waymire and R. B. Richards were caught in the main belt and hurled quite a distance against a tree and seriously injured. The lifeless body of one man was almost completely stripped of its clothing. Others were torn into fragments, and pieces of skulls and brains, fragments of human flesh and parts of machinery were scattered for nearly half a mile around. The miller and engineer were killed and several prominent citizens. It was a ghastly sight to behold. It is believed that water was allowed to freeze in the boiler and loosen some of the flues, and when steam was raised the explosion occurred.

Those killed were. A. W. Mason, Andred Calhoun, Henry Broderick, William Trackwell, James K. Black, Peter McKinney, Jesse Richards and George Edon. Relatives of some of these men still live in the vicinity of Jarbalo. Years afterwards while woodmen were cutting down trees within a quarter of a mile of the place of the explosion a large piece of boiler plate fell down out of a tree. John Brune now owns the farm on which the tragedy happened.

In the winter of 1879-1880 Thomas Ashby built a mill in Big Stranger two miles due east of Springdale. It was run by steam power. It was a saw and grist mill. It was well and favorably known. It was built in the midst of what was perhaps the finest white oak forest in Kansas. So thick were the trees that it was necessary to clear out some 15,000 feet of the timber before the mill could be erected. Mr. Ashby and his sons continued to run the mill till 1893, when he moved to Leavenworth, where he continued in the milling business at a location between Tenth and Eleventh on Shawnee street. He moved his mill to the present location between Fifth and Sixth on Oak street in 1898 and is operating the grist mill there at the present time. The old mill on Stranger was taken over by E. J. Evans and run till 1912, when it was abandoned. A fire destroyed it in 1920.

Henry Ready also owned and operated a mill on Big Stranger in Alexandria Township. It did a thriving business as a grist and saw mill. Mrs. E. Davis and Sons owned and operated a flouring mill on Big Stranger four miles southeast of Tonganoxie. It was run by water power and did a good business. They had an original capital of $10,000.

Abraham Lincoln arrived in Leavenworth December 3, 1859. He made two speeches here, one on the third and one on the fifth. The largest political gathering that had ever assembled in Kansas up to that time heard the Great Emancipator. His speech was substantially the same as that delivered at Cooper Institute, New York City, and is recognized as one of the ablest productions of any American statesman. On the 30th of January, 1861, Kansas was admitted as a free state and Abraham Lincoln took part in raising the flag over Independence Hall with the added star of Kansas in the field. On this occasion Mr. Lincoln said: "I am invited and called before you to participate in raising above Independence Hall the flag of our country with an additional star upon it. I wish to call your attention to the fact that, under the blessing of God, each additional star added to the flag has given additional prosperity and happiness to this. country." While in Leavenworth Mr. Lincoln was a guest at the Planters Hotel.

Suicide of James H. Lane. - The suicide of Gen. James H. Lane July 11, 1866, at Fort Leavenworth stirred the State of Kansas. It is conceded that General Lane had his faults but without his vigorous arm and bold heart Kansas would have stood little chance of becoming a free state. He was United States Senator from Kansas at the time of his tragic death. He had secured a leave of absence from his arduous duties in Washington and returned to Kansas. He was in poor health and appeared greatly depressed in spirits but started to return to Washington. On reaching St. Louis his physicians expressed fear of his recovery and were of the opinion that he was threatened with softening of the brain. He returned to Fort Leavenworth and stopped with his brother in law, Captain McCall, on the government farm adjoining Leavenworth. Symptoms of insanity grew worse. On Sunday, July 1st, he expressed a desire to ride out and Captain McCall and Captain Adams accompanied him in a carriage. They stopped to open one of the farm gates and Lane jumped out and exclaimed "Goodbye, gentlemen," and discharged a revolver in his mouth, the ball passing upward through his brain. He was carried to a farm house and remained in an unconscious condition till July 11th, when he died. At one time he seemed to recover sufficiently to recognize friends and called them in a whisper.

The abberation of mind was attributed to various causes, but little is definitely known. He supported the president's veto of the civil rights bill and for this his friends had deserted him. Threats had been made to expose his conduct in regard to government contracts in which he is alleged to have had a personal interest.

Millwood Raid. - One of the most sensational armed raids to take place in the county after the passing of the days of border warfare occurred at the little village of Millwood, which is situated in the north central part of Easton Township, February 19, 1901. On that night the Lackner saloon at Millwood was raided by citizens who are said to have marched from Easton, a small village which is situated a short distance south of the scene of the tragedy. Two parties by the name of John Wilburn and Joe Turner are said to have entered the saloon first and ordered a round of drinks. The other members of the raiding party remained outside. After finishing his drink Wilburn is alleged to have rapped three times upon the bar with his glass. This was apparently a signal to the members of the party outside, as they immediately crowded in. Two of the parties who entered the saloon first were carrying shotguns. One of the members of the Lackner family immediately seized the shotguns and in the scuffle that followed either one or both of the guns were discharged. Rose Hudson, one of the members of the Lackner family, happened at the instant to be entering the room a short distance away and the entire charge of shot from the gun struck her in the head, killing her instantly. With the discharge of the shotgun, the concussion extinguished all lights within the room. A fusilade of shots from the attacking party followed and was answered by members of the Lackner family and friends who happened to be there. William Webb, one of the members of the defending party, was wounded twice in the affray. A number of the members of the raiding parties was wounded. It is reported that at least one of the raiding members never recovered from his wounds, but died some time later. It is an established fact that several of the most prominent citizens of the Easton community left shortly after this and never returned.

The real purpose of the raid has for years been a matter of more or less speculation on the part of citizens living in those above mentioned communities. It occurred at a time when Carrie Nation was very active in the State of Kansas and some believe that the motive which animated the movement was that of suppressing the saloon evil. Others have contended that it was for the purpose of putting the owners in fear - possibly in flight and then plundering the stock of liquors on hand. The Lackner saloon, like many others, had been operating in violation of the Kansas prohibitory law for a number of years and was in bad repute. When four of the members of the raiding patty were tried in the Leavenworth District Court for the murder of Rose Lackner they were acquitted.

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