Civil War Looms: Searing The American Soul
Frank Yerby: A Victim’s Guilt
Episode One: The Fugitive Slave Law Click Here
Episode Two: The Underground Railroad Click Here
General Ethan Allen Hitchcock
Episode Three: Enslaving Kansas
When a civilization becomes so at odds with the very reason for its existence and barbarians howl at the gates, often a warrior appears with a single-minded purpose to save civilization. Such a warrior was General Ethan Allen Hitchcock. However, the general carried within himself what could be called the “victim’s guilt.” Ethan Allen Hitchcock looked into the mirror and he saw a murderer. Hitchcock had persuaded Zachary Taylor to attack Mexico.
“You have to do it,” Hitchcock had told Taylor, “otherwise Quitman will take California and bring it into the union as a slave state.”
“Quitman!” Taylor shouted. “Always Quitman! First Cuba, now California. Is there no way out of this?”
“Sir, it’s simple. California is closer to Texas, than it is to Washington, D.C. We don’t have any choice. California will become a state, it is up to us to decide whether it will be free or slave.”
Zachary Taylor neither asked for a declaration of war from Congress nor received authorization from President Polk, nonetheless he attacked Mexico. The pain, suffering and blood to win the Mexican war, though ghastly, was necessary if Taylor and Hitchcock were to bottle up Quitman’s slaveholding South.
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The Mexican War made Zachary Taylor a hero. His popularity got him elected the twelfth President of the United States. Taylor’s term started well enough. California was admitted into the union as a free state. But then disaster struck. It all happened so quickly. In February, Zach flew off the handle and told a delegation of southern congressmen and senators that he would hang any secessionist daring to lead any state out of the union. In June, Quitman retaliated by convening his Nashville Secessionist Convention. Nine days later, Zachary Taylor directed a federal grand jury to indict Quitman for his role in Narciso Lopez’s invasion of Cuba. Then on July 4,1850, President Taylor took ill. He died three days later, retching up a mysterious black slime. The pro-slavery planter and Governor of Mississippi had outsmarted them again. And now Quitman’s masonic, pro-slavery thugs would be unstoppable unless Ethan Allen Hitchcock could redeem himself.
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“Who is that white woman living with the coloreds?” Hitchcock asks.
“You must mean Ellen Collins,” the elder replies. “She’s not white; she’s colored and a fugitive slave.”
During the Mexican War. Hitchcock had recruited a number of spies and agents from St. Catharines. They were dependable, committed and intelligent. As a community, the Cathars had been involved in the struggle against the domination of the illuminati for centuries. Hitchcock had been initiated into England’s Order of the Rose, France’s Order of the Lily and Austria’s Order of the Double Eagle. In the United States, Hitchcock sat on the Council of Three for the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis. Hitchcock’s initiations gave him status with the Cathars who fully supported free statehood for Kansas. They welcomed him to St. Catharines to recruit volunteers to further the cause. Observing and selecting prospective recruits, Hitchcock was generally looking for young, unattached males who would fight. But in Ellen Collins, Hitchcock recognized a rare individual ___ someone who was meant to serve the cause.
When Ellen arrived in Canada, the St. Catharines fugitives readily accepted her as one of them. Harriett Tubman, who maintained a residence among the former slaves, finds Ellen fascinating.
“Ellen Collins and I had quite an adventure,” Freddie Douglas confided to Harriett on one of his visits.
“Tell me about it,” she asked.
Freddie relates the whole story. Throughout his narrative, all Harriett can say is, “That poor child! That poor child!” From then on, Harriett becomes Ellen’s second mother. The underground railroad conductor introduces Ellen to the Cathar community’s elder.
“We established St. Catharines for the purpose of assisting fugitive slaves,” the elder explains to Ellen. “We give fugitives plots of land and help them build homes.” The elder is over sixty, but Ellen marvels at how young he appears.
“His family comes from France,” Harriett tells Ellen. “They were some of the first Europeans to settle among and live with the Indians.” The Cathar elder, himself, looks remarkably like an Indian.
“Once the fugitives are settled in their homes,” the elder continues, “we teach them how to read and write.” The elder stares at Ellen for a long time before asking, “How would you like to help teach some of your people, particularly the children, to read and write?”
“I’ve never taught before,” Ellen explains.
“No matter,” the elder says. “You have what is needed.”
“What is needed?”
“Yes,” Harriett Tubman agrees. “What is needed is love. And no one I know needs love more than you.” “You will be helping yourself as much as you’ll be helping anyone else,” the elder adds.
“How is that?” Ellen asks.
“We Cathars believe that by bringing more and more love into your life, you bring yourself joy and pleasure,” the elder says. “Love is nothing more than helping someone become aware.”
“Become aware?” Ellen is puzzled.
“We teach many things: farming, construction, dressmaking and boot making. We teach how to work with metals and how to care for animal. But what we are really doing is making people aware of how they are connected with others and the rest of the universe. You’ll see.”
Ellen throws herself into teaching. Her class is crowded and the work is exhausting. She loves it. The more she teaches the more she learns. The elder provides a cabin to hold classes as well books and writing materials. Teaching her people attracts Ellen to the Cathars’ beliefs. The Cathar religion differs from Christianity. The Cathars build no wondrous church with architecture spiraling skyward in an attempt to impress the very heavens with the foolishness of human pride. The Cathars believe that wonders are found within the soul of man and that beauty is life, itself. The sole purpose of living, the Cathars teach, is to experience and share love. Each evening Ellen meditates upon the Cathar Creed:
The Church of Love has no structure, only understanding.
It has no rivals; it does not compete.
It has no ambition; it seeks to serve.
It has no membership, save those who belong.
It acknowledges all great teachers who have shown the truth of Love.
It has no secrets, no Arcanum, no initiation save that ALL THAT BELONG, BELONG.
By the time General Hitchcock arrives at St. Catharine’s, Ellen had been transformed by her Cathar beliefs. ___ and her transformation is visible. She is no longer weak with guilt; she is now strong and self-confident through knowledge. is the very person that Hitchcock loses no time recruiting Ellen for his crusade.
Despite numerous treaties, the Democrat-controlled Congress passed a homesteading act giving away the Indian lands in Kansas. Using the rules of “squatter sovereignty,” homesteaders can obtain clear title to forty-, eighty- or one hundred and twenty-acre parcels of land that will be worth millions in less than twenty years. From all over the south, gamblers, mercenaries and slave catchers pour into Kansas. Registering with local vigilance committees as being sound on the goose, these men harass and kill ‘free soil’ homesteaders. Gangs of these ‘bushwhackers’ and ‘border ruffians’ file numerous land claims on behalf of large plantation owners as well as for themselves. Agents of eastern banking interests, including Caleb Cushing and his Boston Brahmins also connive to control large parcels of Kansas land. In the face of such daunting competition, Hitchcock and those he represents ____ the Massachusetts Emigrant and the Anti-Slavery Societies ___ recruit free soil homesteaders to go to Kansas, claim land for themselves and work to bring Kansas into the union as a ‘free’ state. So while Hitchcock recruits Cathars in the cause of saving Kansas, he is not expecting to recruit any Negroes. Nevertheless, when Ethan Allen Hitchcock leaves St. Catharines, his band of one hundred ‘free soilers’ includes Ellen Collins, Shields Green and Frank Yerby.
“This is a roundabout way to get into Kansas,” Yerby observes. “Wouldn’t the railroad been a more direct route?” Yerby, Ellen and Hitchcock gather on the lower deck of the River Maiden steaming “up” the Missouri River towards Kansas City where they plan to transfer to another riverboat bound for Lawrence. Ellen didn’t mind river travel. The rocking of the River Maiden butting against the current was therapeutic. During the trip, her nightmares had stopped and for the first time in years, she was getting a full night sleep.
“This is not a roundabout way to Kansas,” General Hitchcock replies. “This is the only way homesteaders with free state sympathies can get into Kansas. No ‘free soilers’ ride the rails across Missouri, unmolested.”
“Howdy, folks!” Shields Green joins the group. Whites and blacks in the third class section are allowed to intermingle freely.
“Hello, Shields,” Ellen smiles. The affection between the two is pronounced. Ellen feels closer to Shields than she does to her own twin brother. “Been talkin’ to some of the boys down in the boilers,” Shields says. “They say that on the last several trips when this here boat stops at Leavenworth, men come on board and take passengers off.”
“Which passengers?” Hitchcock asks.
“They says that its mainly northerners, the ones they call abolitionists.”
Army officers in the first class section on their way to the Fort Leavenworth had told Hitchcock the same thing. “That doesn’t sound good,” Hitchcock mutters.
“Why is that?” Ellen asks.
“It means that a pro-slavery group is blocking free soil homesteaders from getting through Leavenworth.” Hitchcock’s eyebrows knot up. “We’ve got a big problem.”
The Fugitive Slave Law not only authorized slave catchers but also vigilance committees. Under the guise of maintaining law and order, vigilance committees were, in reality, pro-slavery thugs who blocked every route into Kansas. Southern planters grabbing as much free land as they could, by force and populating the Kansas territory with southern sympathizers and their slaves, used these thugs to keep out the free soil homesteaders. Only those “sound on the goose” were allowed into Kansas. Approaching Leavenworth, Hitchcock surveys the river banks.
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“Look there,” Hitchcock whispers. The general motions to the shore opposite the Leavenworth docks. “They’ve installed batteries across the river,”
“What does that mean?” Yerby asks.
“It means that no riverboat captain dares continue upriver without permission from Leavenworth,” Hitchcock says. “It means that we are going to be boarded.”
The River Maiden’s pounding paddlewheel slows and the triple-decker begins angling over towards the docks at Leavenworth. “I’m on my way up to the first class section,” Hitchcock tells Yerby. “Explain to the others that my presence must be kept strictly confidential. Is that understood?”
Hitchcock skips —which was something to see for a man of his age and girth —up to the first class section, where he joins the army officers. They are preparing to disembark for Fort Leavenworth. Colonel Henry Leavenworth established the fort on the Missouri River in 1827 to protect the Santa Fe Trail from the Indians. Now the army is less occupied with protecting white settlers passing through Indian’s lands than protecting whites settling on Indians lands. “Hitchcock wants his presence to be kept secret,” Yerby chuckles to Ellen. He also tells Tom Boone and the other Cathers.
The River Maiden pulls alongside Leavenworth’s wharf. The riverboat had not fully docked before a party of armed men, dressed in every imaginable costume, including Indian feathers and vests, swarm up the gangway. Ignoring the first class passengers, the boarders take control of the lower two decks.
“All the second class and steerage passengers on deck!” shouts a dark-visaged, bearded officer. “Ladies and gentlemen, for those traveling to Kansas City and on to St. Louis, we regret this interruption.” Davy Atchison slaps a short riding quirt to his side. “We understand that a group of troublemakers sent by abolitionists in Boston are on this boat. As representatives of the Vigilance Committee for Leavenworth, we don’t rightly intend to let them continue.” The boarding party searches the passenger cabins and seizes bags and belongings of the free soil homesteaders, pitching them unceremoniously off the riverboat onto the wharf. A slave gang retrieves the homesteader’s belongings and hauls them away.
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“I have a list of names,” Atchison continues. “If you would please disembark this boat when I call your name, it will be a lot easier for all of us. Please remember that, not only do we have your names, but we can identify all of you.” Atchison calls out the names of Hitchcock’s recruits, along with the names of other ‘free soilers.’ Armed men march them down the gangway.
“…Ellen Collins …Shields Green …,” Atchison drawls the last two names. Frank Yerby’s name is not on the list. It’s as if Yerby is invisible. So he just follows after the others. Once the homesteaders are marched off of the riverboat, they are taken to a great muddy pit, sectioned off by empty packing crates and patrolled by armed guards. Coarse, grubby-looking men converge on the muddy pit to leer at the latest crop of free soil homesteaders. The ruffians gather ‘claim’ the homesteaders and their valuables. The ruffians plan to rob them of anything they can use to pay off gambling debts or to purchase rotgut whiskey, a bowl of beans or a piece of meat. Laughing and jabbing at each other, the thugs begin make their ‘claims.’ Before returning their baggage, Davy Atchison and his vigilantes have already rifled through their belongings, confiscating their weapons and stealing their money.
“Don’t ya’ll come back this way or try to get into Kansas agin,” Atchison bawls out at them, “or we’ll skin you, alive.”
Without money or weapons, the homesteaders mill about trying to decide whether to risk continuing the trek into Kansas on foot or find a way back home. “I, for one, intend to continue on to Lawrence,” Tom Boone announces.
Across from where the free soil homesteaders were interned is gambler’s row. Here alcohol, cards and prostitutes control the lives of Leavenworth’s pro-slavery thugs. Most of gambler’s row is seedy and ill-kept. But amid the dilapidated shanties, there is a spacious and well-built hotel. Above the swinging doors, in great bold letters, a sign reads: A. B. MILLER. Miller’s satisfies all of Leavenworth’s vices. It has the town’s best stocked bar and it’s most active gambling parlor. Day and night, the border ruffians guzzle Miller’s rotgut whiskey while gambling at the roulette, faro and poker tables. Though most know that the ‘house’ always wins, they don’t seem to care. Upstairs, Miller’s has rooms where patrons avail themselves of the town’s ladies of the evening. Leavenworth’s vigilance committee is the only law in town ___ a law that is thoroughly “sound on the goose.” Leavenworth’s vigilance committee is headquartered at A.B. Miller’s hotel.
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The Democratic Party chose Miller and his cronies to represent their interests in Leavenworth. All were members of Leavenworth’s King Solomon Lodge #10, affiliated with the York rite. The Boston Brahmins own A.B. Miller’s hotel and just about everything else in Leavenworth.. The Democratic Party provides the alcohol and gambling tables. They provide the weapons, including the artillery battery guarding the Missouri river. Caleb Cushing, now the Attorney General of the United States under President Franklin Pierce, takes a personal interest in the Leavenworth operation. A modern telegraph office connects the Attorney General’s private office directly to Leavenworth and Cushing’s personal representative, Louise Collins.
Inside her private office at A.B. Miller’s saloon, Louise uses binoculars to look over the newest group of ‘free soil’ homesteaders. To her surprise, she spies her aunt standing in the mud with the other detainees. Her heart beats a little quicker. That can ’t be her, Louise tells herself. She sits there, staring at her aunt a long time, trying to think of what to do. Louise can’t believe her eyes.
“Tell Davy Atchison to come here,” Louise finally calls out. The dark-visaged bearded man, who removed the free soil homesteaders from the River Maiden, pushes into Miller’s private offices.
“Did you call for me?” Davy Atchison asks.
“Who’s that woman standing with the other nigger lovers out there?” Louise asks.
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Atchison looks over his lists. “Ellen Collins.”
Louise face lights up with a grin. She goes over to her desk and scribbles out a short note. It reads: Ellen Collins here. Please advise. Louise. “Send this message, priority and secret, to Mr. Cushing’s office,” she instructs Atchison. “Bring me his reply as soon as you receive it.”
“Yes ma’m,” Atchison replies.
After he leaves, Louise looks over at the figure slumped on the sofa in the corner. “Well, Billy boy, my prayers have been answered.”
“What prayers?” the handsome young man on the sofa asks, “Honey, you ain’t no praying lady!”
“I’ve got her!”
“Got who, hon?” Billy Quantrill sits up.
“Ellen Collins,” Louise says. “She’s in that party of nigger lovin’ free soilers that Davy took off the River Maiden.
“Ellen Collins?” Billy whistles, “Your aunt? The one who had your mother killed by those abolitionists?”
“The very one, ”Louise hisses. “Now that I’ve got her and she’s going to pay!”
“Are you going to tell Caleb?”
“Course, doll-baby,” Louise replies. “Sent the telegraph just now. We should hear from him soon.”
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When Louise Collins graduated from the Boston schools, she decided to make her mark in politics. She wrote Chief Justice Roger Taney, praising him for his Dred Scott decision. Taney replied recommending that Louise contact Caleb Cushing. Cushing had never met a woman like Louise. First he made the precocious teenager his mistress and then his apprentice. Cushing taught Louise the art of politics, from the perspective of its dark underside. Louise learned to deceive and betray. She acquired and passed on information by preying on an individual’s petty vices ___ gambling, drinking and sex. When Louise proved more than capable at learning all he had to teach, Cushing sent her to Leavenworth as his personal representative. “Your job is to prevent free soil homesteaders from entering the Kansas territory,” he told his protégé. “We want Kansas to come into the union a slave state. Do you think you can do that?”
“You trained me,” Louise teases.
“I’m depending on you,” Caleb Cushing told her.
“I won’t let you down, Sugar Lamb.” Louise Collins had kissed the Attorney General of the United States on top of his bald head before setting off on her great adventure.
John Quitman also had an agent for Kansas. He recruited Billy Quantrill. Quitman knew the Quantrills of Kentucky as well as he knew the Crittendens. Though Cushing swore both Louise and Billy in as federal agents, he suggested that Louise could gain more control over Billy Quantrill if she seduced him. It would also give Cushing some leverage over his grand master. Of course, he would never use it. In Leaveanworth, Louise and Billy drive away homesteaders, steal parcels of land, poison wells and ruin crops. But despite the foulness of their deeds and the hurt they impose on so many innocent white people, Louise and Billy love each other. Now Louise thinks about her aunt. The pain that she has wreaked on strangers is nothing like the pain she intends to inflict on Ellen Collins.
“If Caleb turns her over to me,” Louise muses, “I’m gonna let our boys have some fun with her awhile. Then I’m gonna work her upstairs, until nobody wants her any more. Then I’m going to throw her out into the street.” The thought of Ellen’s being raped by the scum of Leavenworth and then made to work in Miller’s brothel arouses Louise’s passions. She looks over at Billy and going over to where he sits, she starts playing with his hair. “Caleb’s smart,” she continues. “His plan to stop all them nigger lovin’ homesteaders here in Leavenworth is pure genius. Not only are we turning the nigger lovers around and heading them back to where they came from, but our boys are able to take enough loot off these clod-hoppers to make it worth our while. And we’re making a profit.”
“A profit!” Quantrill laughs. “I’ll say we’re making a profit, especially since these good ole boys keep bringing everything they’ve got right back here to Miller’s.”
Quantrill stares at Louise and says, “Let ’s go upstairs.”
Louise shakes her head. “I told you, Caleb’s sending back a reply. You don’t want Jimmy comin’ upstairs and disturbing us, do you?”
Billy is not happy. Louise drives him wild, but he knows that she’s right. So he decides to pump some information out of her. Whenever Billy goes home, Quitman wants to know everything Louise is planning. Usually Billy doesn’t feel right about reporting on the woman he loves, but needs to tell the governor something.
“We took more Sharp’s rifles from those nigger lovers going to Lawrence, today,” Billy says.
“What are you talkin’ about, Honey Lamb?” Louise replies.
“Why’s Caleb supplying the abolitionists going to Lawrence with Sharp’s rifles and cannon?” Billy asks.
“Caleb is sending rifles?” Louise says. “I don’t know anything about Caleb sending rifles to Lawrence.”
“Some of these homesteaders from Massachusetts,” Billy says, “are carrying Sharp’s repeating rifles.”
“Sharp’s rifles?” Louise repeats. “What are Sharp’s rifles, Honey Lamb?”
“Why the Sharps rifle is about the best rifle in the territory,” Billy asserts. “The Sharp’s repeating rifle can fire as rapidly as a shooter could cock, insert a bullet into the breech and pull the trigger. A man armed with a Sharp’s rifle can hold off twenty men or more.”
The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher has provided so many Sharp’s repeating rifles to the homesteaders recruited by the Massachusetts Emigrant Society to settle in Kansas that the vigilance committees began referring to the Sharp’s repeating rifles as Beecher’s Bibles.
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“Well, doll, you said it yourself,” Louise purrs. “It’s like those nigger-lovin’ abolitionists are hand-delivering those Sharp’s rifles directly to us, except they can’t be traced to us. If the government wants to know where the Sharp’s rifles went, the records say they went to Lawrence.”
“And you can’t have a war if only one side is doing the shootin’, now can you?” Quantrill quips. He watches Louise for a reaction.
“You men,” Louise snipes back, “all you ever think about is war.” Picking up the binoculars, she returns to the window to stare at Ellen. “Assassinations are so much more interesting,” she says remembering her final test which involved her first and only meeting with President Zachery Taylor. Just then there is a knock at the door. The telegraph messenger hurries in and hands Louise a note.
“Interesting …” she muses.
“Well …” Quantrill asks.
“Caleb wants me to let Aunt Ellen and the others continue on to Lawrence,” Louise says.
“He wants them to go to Lawrence!” Billy snorts. “I don ’t think that’s so smart.” Now I’ve really something to tell Governor Quitman, Quantrill tells himself.
“… and he wants me to go to Lawrence with them,” Louise continues. “I’m to report on all the free state activity.”
Dismissing the messenger, Louise looks at Billy. “Go tell Davy Atchison to put all the passengers back on the River Maiden and let them go their way.”
“What about their belongings?” Quantrill asks. “The boys ain’t going to like losing their share of the loot.”
“Tell Davy to give the passengers back their money and belongings,” Louise says, “I’ll pay the boys their shares.” Billy slowly shakes his head. “Besides which,” she reminds him, “we’ll win it all back tonight.” With that she breaks out into a merry laugh. “And when you get back, Billy-boy, you come upstairs with me. We’ve got a lot to do before I leave for Lawrence.”
Stoddard Hoyt migrated to Lawrence before the Kansas land rush. He and other Quakers came to assist the Indians. The vigilantes didn’t recognize any Indian rights ___ neither their right to lands given to them by treaty nor even their right to live. Any Indian land that the whites wanted, they took. Any Indians, remaining on the land, the whites murdered. Any Indians defending themselves, white vigilantes killed not only them, but their families and whole tribes in nearby villages, as well. The Quakers who came to Kansas appealed to the Federal garrison at Fort Leavenworth to stop the massacres, but their appeals were ignored. And there was little else they could do. With the passage of the Kansas homestead act, the Quakers and the other good Christians decided to make Lawrence the center of free thought and white homesteaders’ rights. Because Stoddard Hoyt had an even disposition and sensitive nature, Lawrence’s Christian community selected him to be mayor of Lawrence. But on election day, March 30th 1855, the day set for Kansas voters to elect their territorial representatives, the Democratic party and their law and order vigilance committees decided to prevent Stoddard Hoyt and Lawrence’s free thinking Christian homesteaders from upseting their plans for turning Kansas into a slave state.
Frank Yerby paces nervously about, pausing only occasionally to peek out the door at the hundreds of riders swarming past the schoolhouse.
“There are a heck of a lot of men out there,” he announces.
The continual pounding of the passing horses shakes the one room schoolhouse causing the walls to waver. Attempting to shore up the walls, Shields says, “This school house ain’t gonna stand much longer, iffen them riders decide to start bumpin’ into it.”
“Possibly we’d better head into town,” Yerby suggests. “If those ruffians attack Lawrence, our only escape will be across the Kansas River.” The Kansas River was on the opposite side of town.
“Don ’t be silly,” Louise Collins retorts, “those men aren’t going to attack this schoolhouse. Today we white folks are voting. Those men are coming here to vote just like every other law abiding white person in Kansas.”
When Ellen and the others homesteaders are taken back aboard the River Maiden to continue their journey to Lawrence, to her surprise, she discovers that her niece, Louise, is among the riverboat’s passengers. “Oh Louise, Louise,” Ellen cries, “I am so happy to see you.”
“Hello Aunt Ellen,” Louise responds, pulling away from Ellen’s hug. “Whatever are you doing out West?”
“I’m opening a school in Lawrence,” Ellen replies. Tears of happiness stream down her face.
“A school!” Louise responds. “Fiddle dee dee! I do declare, Aunt Ellen, you do the most interesting things. I can see why my mamma was so taken with you.”
“Oh, Louise, your poor mother!” Ellen cries. “How I miss her.”
“Yes,” Louise replies. “So do I.” Hate smolders in her Louise’s eyes, but Ellen does not see it.
“Oh, you poor child,” Ellen hugs her niece, again. “I know you must miss her terribly.” Ellen keeps chattering to her niece while Louise responds just enough to hide her true feelings and keep Ellen talking. “But what are you doing here,” Ellen asks.
“I’m on my way to St. Louis,” Louise explains. “After I graduated from school, I wanted to see some of the country. I’m sorta working my way from one place to another.”
“Then why don’t you come to Lawrence with me?” Ellen says.
“I don’t want to be a bother, Aunt Ellen,” Louise says. “I miss mother so much, I wouldn’t want my emotional needs to interfere with you are taking such an important position.”
“You could never interfere or be a burden,” Ellen protests. “I couldn’t think of anything more wonderful than for you to join me in Lawrence.”
“Well, if you really want me,” Louise says, “I’ll join you.”
“Oh Louise, I’m so happy,” Ellen says.
“… but if I become a burden,” Louise cautions, “let know and I’ll be on the next riverboat to St. Louis.”
And the two women, assisted by Yerby and Green, go to Lawrence and on the outskirts where the town council has set aside a parcel of land, they build their school. After they establish themselves in their schoolhouse, Louise does not even bother to be cordial. But in organizing Lawrence’s first school, Louise is tireless. Instead of waiting for people to come and inquire about the school, Louise surveys the town and even visits homesteaders outside Lawrence, to see how many school-aged children are potential students. She is often gone for days at a time spreading the news that education has come to Lawrence. When the school opens, children make the trek to Lawrence’s school house from as much as ten miles away as a result of Louise’s enthusiasm. She even suggests that the adults of Lawrence also have learning needs and she takes on the responsibility for teaching adult political education classes, herself.
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Yerby continues his pacing back and forth to the door. “These men are not going to hurt you,” Louise scolds “Why don’t you just sit down and relax …or else go to your cabin. You’re bothering me. You niggers are so afraid of the least little thing. It’s no wonder you need white people to take care of you and a white God to look over you.”
“Then why are these men here?” Yerby asks. His steady brown eyes penetrate through Louise’s pretensions.
“How should I know,” Louise glares at Ellen as if she instead of Yerby had asked the question. “But if you’re so scared, you should take your two darkies and go. As for me, I’ll stay right here, thank you.” And with that, she skips out the door while tying a great bow in the white ribbon she had placed in her hair. “You don’t fool me, Missy. Your daddy’s half black and his momma, your grandmamma, is all black! The same blood running through Shields is running through you, only its been diluted some.”
Outside, the horses send up swirls up dust and dirt, darkening the sky and blotting out the sun. Wave after wave of fierce, heavily armed Missouri ruffians continue to ride into Lawrence. Now it Is too late for anyone to leave the schoolhouse and Louise is forced back inside.
The riders overrun Lawrence, trampling through gardens, crashing through fences, toppling huts and shanties. Displaying the arrogance of an invading army, the ruffians challenge Lawrence’s residents’ with pitiless eyes and menacing weapons. Horses bump against the schoolhouse more frequently now. The walls shudder with each bump. Inside, the dust is so thick that breathing is nearly impossible. Choking and coughing, Ellen finds kerchiefs to filter the dust from to their mouths and noses. The kerchiefs also filter out the pungent odor of horse droppings.
“Do you think the schoolhouse will hold up?” Yerby shouts to Shields over the din of snorting, neighing horses and shouting, yelling men.
“Don’t know,” Shields shouts back, “But I reckon we gonna find out, that’s for sure.” He looks around for something to prop up the wall. Eyeing the long wooden benches used by students, he shouts to Frank, “We can use these benches to brace the walls.” They wedge the benches against the corners, adding much needed support to the buckling walls. “Put your weight against the benches,” Shields yells to Ellen. Frank struggles with a buckling wall. Even Louise joins the effort realizing that being ‘sound on the goose’ won’t matter if the schoolhouse comes crashing down with her inside.
Just as it seems that nothing will keep the walls from collapsing on them, the horses begin to slow from a gallop to a trot and then to a walk. Finally, the horses come to a complete stop and their riders dismount and mill about. Their officers organize the ruffians into companies. Though they don’t look it, these men are thoroughly disciplined. Organized and drilled as units of the Knights of the Golden Circle, they are the foundation of the Confederate army. Most are veterans of the Mexican War. Some even participated in the campaigns to grab land in Canada. All of them have enjoyed the Indian ‘wars.’ Now they bushwhack homesteaders and jump homesteader claims. Riding in packs and fighting like wolves, they are very well trained to by their company commanders, A.B. Miller, Davy Atchison and William Quantrill.
As soon as she can manage it, Louise slips out of the schoolhouse and meets Billy Quantrill on the other side of Lawrence near the Kansas River. “Billy,” Louise squeals, as she flies into his arms. Their lips meet and they hold onto each other in a passionate embrace. When finally they separate and gaze into each other’s eyes, Louise murmurs, “You boys sure know how to make an entrance.”
“After today we’re gonna control Kansas and get rid of every nigger-loving free soiler in the territory,” Quantrill boasts. “The vigilance committee has taken over the polling place and our men are voting by companies.” Quantrill kisses Louise, again. “After their companies vote, Miller and Atchinson will ride back to Missouri. My company will collect all the ballots and take then to Lecompton where we’ll count the votes. Nothing has been left to chance.”
A frown clouds Louise’s face, as often happens when she tries to think of what could go wrong. “What if the free soilers do the same thing in another town?”
“Don’t worry,” Quantrill replies. He retrieves a small cigar from his vest pocket. “We’ve taken over every
polling place in Kansas.”
And so they did. When the election is over and all the votes are tallied, the law and order vigilance candidates affiliated with the Democratic Party win every seat in the Kansas territorial legislature except one. The law and order representatives lose no time adopting Missouri’s state constitution as the model for the Kansas constitution. But their slave codes are even tougher than Missouri’s. The penalty for anyone enticing, decoying or carrying any slave belonging to another out of Kansas is death. The penalty for aiding or helping a slave escape to freedom is death. Anyone convicted of publishing, circulating, printing or writing anything that argues against the right of a person to hold slaves will receive a five-year jail sentence. Anyone holding any opinion opposing the right of whites to own slaves, if convicted, will be jailed for five years. Caleb Cushing, Jefferson Davis and, above all, John Quitman, are overjoyed with their success. Kansas is now safely in their control and will be admitted to the Union as a slave state.
3 3 8 F R A N K Y E R B Y :
Tom Boone comes out to the school to see how Ellen has faired. “Don’t look like they left you much,” he observes, surveying the damage.
“Shields braced the schoolhouse walls and prevented them from collapsing,” Ellen replies. “But the cabins in the rear were crushed and everything inside them was destroyed. They destroyed our vegetable garden. Louise went to Kansas City to get some seed and supplies.”
“So we heard,” Tom responds. “You are not alone. Not one vegetable plot in the whole town survived. Looks like the vigilantes plan to starve us out.”
“Have you heard about the outcome of the election?” Yerby asks Boone.
“Not good,” Boone replies. “The vigilantes took control of the legislature. The mayor wants to discuss it at a town meeting tonight. Hope to see you there.” With that Tom Boone heads back into town.
All of Lawrence’s town folks and many of the free soil homesteaders from the surrounding area attend the mayor’s meeting. “The entire process was a fraud,” Mayor Hoyt announces to the attendees. “There are only 369 registered voters in Lawrence, but 1,034 votes were cast.” Stoddard Hoyt waits for the town folks to absorb the implication of his announcement. “Lecompton is controlled by the pro-slavery law and order party. They have enacted a constitution making Kansas a slave state. What do you think we should do?”
3 4 0 F R A N K Y E R B Y :
“What can we do?” one of the homesteaders asks. “Governor Reeder won’t support us. The ruffians and bushwhackers put him in power.”
“Governor Reeder promised to order a new elections wherever a case of fraud is indicated,” Mayor Hoyt responds, “I believe we have enough evidence to prove that the election here in Lawrence was fraudulent.”
“If there is another election here in Lawrence,” a homesteader shouts out, “what’s to prevent the same thing from happening again?”
“ ___ or worse?” someone else shouts.
There was a pause in the discussion. Everyone knows the answer to that question.
“I came to Kansas to raise my family on my own land,” one stern-faced homesteader declares. “I want to be free to enjoy all the benefits of this great country. I‘m not running away. I’m staying to fight. Who’s with me?”
A great cheer goes up. The people release their pent-up emotions. They cheer and clap and allow themselves the pure joy of believing that, despite everything, they can keep their land. The meeting breaks up with the decision to invite free soilers from all over Kansas to participate in a free state convention.
Months later a free state convention is held in Topeka. The only free soil homesteader elected to the Kansas territorial legislature announces his resignation. “This is not a legislature representing the citizens of the Kansas territory,” he shouts out. “I utterly repudiate it! It degrades the respectability of popular government and insults the virtue and intelligence of the people.”
After several more meetings and conventions, free soil homesteaders from all over Kansas join together to announce a policy repudiating all aspects of slavery and proclaiming Kansas a free state. Dr. Charles Robinson is nominated to become the first governor of the free state of Kansas. In his acceptance speech, Robinson demands: “Let every man stand in his place, and acquit himself like a man. Do your duty!”
“Repudiate the law,” laughs Louise. “You can’t repudiate the law.”
“Why not, dear?” Ellen asks.
“Because the law is the law,” Louise sputters. “It must be obeyed.”
“Lawrence is fully determined to repudiate the political takeover by the slave owners,” Ellen says. “But you are right, dear, we must not violate the law.”
“It sounds like you people are confused,” Louise laughs. “How can you not violate the law if you intend to repudiate it?”
“There is nothing they can do to us if we do not violate their laws,” Ellen replies. “We will keep as far away from the legal machinery set up by the ‘bogus legislature ’ as possible.”
3 4 2 F R A N K Y E R B Y :
Mayor Hoyt meets with the pastors of Lawrence’s Presbyterian, Episcopal and Congregational Churches and appeals to each of the pastors to work together to resolve any disputes between and among members of their congregations. Hoyt asks the ministers to influence their congregations to do everything they can to support Lawrence’s policy of repudiation.
“You are aware,” Hoyt tells each pastor, “that this decision to repudiate the laws of the bogus legislature, will make every free state homesteader in Kansas a target for assassination.
“The law and order party intends to use the bushwhackers and ruffians to destroy Lawrence,” Tom Boone, says, “whether we repudiate the Kansas constitution or not.” Boone also sits on the repudiation commission.
“Perhaps it would be wiser to counsel our flocks to leave before it is too late,” suggests Reverend Bishop, pastor of the Presbyterian Church.
“The consequences of our leaving this land to those people and slavery might end civilization as we know it in America, altogether,” Reverend Cordley of the Episcopal congregation responds. “We already bear the guilt for the millions of slaughtered Indians …”
“As well as Africans and Mexicans,” Mayor Hoyt adds.
“ …but now they are turning on white homesteaders,” Reverend Cordley continues. “It must end somewhere.”
“We have no choice,” the Congregationalist pastor states, “this evil clique is never satisfied; it feeds on weakness and thrives on ignorance. We must stay and fight.”
A V I C T I M ’S G U I L T 3 4 3
“The days before us will be very hard,” Ellen tells the mayor and the pastors when they call upon her. The clergymen want Ellen to chair the repudiation committee. “I don’t know if I am able to do what you ask.”
“But of course you can, Auntie,” Louise tells her. “And I will be here to give you all the help you need.”
Mayor Hoyt beams. “You see, gentlemen, I knew we could rely on these two young ladies.”
Looking first to her niece and then to the religious caucus, Ellen senses that the decision had already been made. Bowing her head she said softly, “Well, I guess you can count on me to help these people
in whatever way I can.” Ellen’s repudiation commission sees that none of the laws passed by the Kansas territorial legislature guide the conduct of Lawrence’s citizens. Lawrence’s repudiation commission agree that citizens will bring no suits to court, bring no probates to judge and bring no complaints before the justice of the peace.
Louise meets with the members of her political education class. “If our policy of repudiation is to work,” Louise tells them, “we’ve gotta be able to defend ourselves.”
“That’s right,” one of them shouts back.
“We need guns and cannon,” Louise says. “We need to organize companies of militia that can be counted on when the time comes.”
Louise and her followers force Stoddard Hoyt to order several hundred Sharp’s rifles and howitzer cannon from Lawrence’s New England friends. Louise alerts Quantrill of the shipment dates and times. The weapons find their way into arsenal at Leavenworth. However, Hitchcock’s double agents in Leavenworth divert some of the weapons back to Lawrence. In this way, Lawrence’s free soilers get possession of some Sharp’s rifles. They even obtained a howitzer cannon. And as Kansas’ pro-slavery and free-state forces square off against each other, Ellen Collins and her niece, Louise, though on opposite sides of the approaching conflict, find themselves squarely in the middle.