©2011 Tom Mach
As I did my research for two of my historical novels, I uncovered many facts about the infamous Quantrill raid of 1863 that I suspect many folks do not know. After giving a presentation on some of these facts at the Watkins Museum on Aug. 11, I thought I might share some of those with you. One problem I had, of course, was that very little information exists on the actual words spoken by either the Quantrill terrorists or his victims, that I took the liberty of inserting, based on historical research, what may have been that dialogue.
Kate Clarke King
Research indicates that Kate Clark King was William Quantrill’s common law wife. One thing she had in common with Bill is horsemanship. They both loved to ride horses. Kate apparently also knew about Bill’s plans for revenge. Here is a likely conversation she may have had with one of Quantrill’s men, whom I will call Sam Toby:
“I wish Bill was the same like he was when we first met,” she told Sam. “We’d go on long rides, and we’d talk a lot, but things are different. Right now, he’s got his mind too chock full of killin’ to be thinkin’ about me. Don’t rightly know if it was that Kansas City jail collapse or rumors about General Ewing’s plan to order rebel sympathizers out of Jackson county that did it for Bill. But I’ve never seen his so damn angry before.”
“Kate,” Sam said, “do yah think that maybe the Feds fixed it so that the Longhorn Tavern would fall and kill them lady prisoners?”
She nodded. “I have no doubt about it. You should’ve seen Bill Anderson. He grieved something severe when he heard his sister Josephine was killed.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “The girl was only a year younger than me and she’s dead.” Her face flushed as the heat of her resentment erupted. “Those bastards! They killed John McCorkle’s sister and Cole’s cousin Amelia. Accident, they say? Was no accident! Those blood-thirsty Yankees don’t mind killin’ women.”
A moment of silence passed between them. Sam placed his hand on the revolver in his belt. “Kate, I got no use for those puke scum Yankees mahself,” he growled. “I’d kill every one if I had the chance.”
“You might get your chance sooner than you think,” she said.
Sam stared at her, frowning. “What d’ya mean?”
“You know that meeting he’s planning’ to have this Wednesday with Captain Gregg and the others under his command?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Well, they’re gonna vote on whether or not to attack.”
Fletch Taylor, a Quantrill Spy
A few days before the Lawrence raid, Quantrill met with William Gregg (his second in command) and Fletch Taylor, who had returned to tell the leader what he found out about Lawrence. From what I’ve uncovered, Quantrill gathered his men near the Blackwater River near Columbia, Missouri. Here is a possible conversation Quantrill may have had with Fletch:
Quantrill and Gregg rode on horseback on the small hill, surveying a large group of their men assembled near the Blackwater River below. Quantrill was a young man in his twenties with soft blue eyes and the meek, fresh look of a student. “Hear that?” Quantrill said, looking up into the branches of a peach tree nearby. “That’s a goldfinch. I can tell by the way it sings something like swe-si-iee between chirps. Wonder what sound it’d make it you pulled off its wings. I always wanted to do that.”
“We’ve got more important things right now,” Gregg growled. “We’ve got almost 300 men we’ve got to organize. They’re getting restless just waitin’ for us.”
“You’re right. Where’s Fletch?”
“Fletch Taylor? He’s a-comin’” Gregg waved at a young man trotting toward them on a tan-colored mare. “Make haste, Fletch!”
Fletch greeted Quantrill with a tip of his hat and dismounted. “Good news, colonel,” he said, addressing Quantrill. “I’ve been in Lawrence three weeks and I’ve got to tell you we’re in an excellent position.”
“How’s that?” Quantrill asked.
“They’re like chickens in a coop, ready for slaughter. I even talked to the man himself, James Lane, and he admitted Lawrence is virtually defenseless. Looks like the mayor’s gonna be there tomorrow as well as Lane, Fisher, and most of the men you’ve got on your death list.”
“That’s good,” Gregg said. “What about the town itself?”
“They rebuilt the place since the raid seven years ago. Got a bigger, nicer Eldridge Hotel, wide, clean streets lined with trees, a lot of shops, and neat and comfortable houses.”
“Anything else?” Quantrill asked.
“Yeah. I rode across Lawrence many times, and I think the best way to attack it is from the large park south of town, where there aren’t many houses. We can branch off from there and proceed north. I’m thinkin’ if we took the major streets, like Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, we can proceed straight to the river and plunder and burn as we go. But we need to do this at the crack of dawn before the folks get up.”
Quantrill thanked Fletch for his services and trotted with Gregg down to the throng of men at the riverfront. “We’ll assemble into four companies,” Quantrill told Gregg. “I’m thinking maybe we’ll have Todd, Anderson, Yeager, and Cole in charge.” He smiled, just as he always did when he pronounced a death sentence. “The man I’m gonna personally hang is that butcher, James Lane. He’ll pay for what he did to Osceola. I swear, he’ll pay!”
The Lawrence City Band
Some folks don’t realize that the very first performance of the Lawrence City Band occurred on the evening of August 20, 1863--the evening before the Quantrill raid. Their performance took place in the evening, likely at seven or eight o’clock. They played near the Kansas River and most likely north of 6th and Vermont. No record exists on what songs they played for opening night, but the most popular band songs at that time were: “Hail Columbia!”, “Home Sweet Home,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
A Midnight Meeting in Kansas City
Sometime after midnight on August 21 in Kansas City, Missouri, a courier delivered a message from Captain Joshua Pike….
The courier sent by Captain Pike thanked Pelathe again for accompanying him on this to trip to General Ewing’s office. “I don’t know these trails as well as you,” he told Pelathe, “so I am indebted to your service.”
The tall Shawnee Indian bowed in appreciation. “May I be of further assistance?”
“I’m not sure,” he told Pelathe, “so perhaps you can accompany me when I give my report to General Ewing.”
Pelathe followed the courier to a well-furnished office, replete with two walls of bookcases filled with binders containing military documents, books on war strategy, civil codes, and Indian territory charts and maps, as well as several different newspapers and journals. General Ewing, with a hint of annoyance ion his face, tapped his fingers on the desk as the courier promptly recited what he knew about the Quantrill sighting.
“Perhaps Quantrill is going on one of his many raids across the border,” the general said, looking disinterested and annoyed.
“Excuse me, General Ewing,” another man standing near the doorway interrupted, “but it definitely appears that Quantrill is headed for Lawrence.”
The general pointed toward the door. “Gentlemen,” Ewing said, “this here is Theodore Bartles. As a scout and a Redleg, he probably knows more about Quantrill and his band than anyone else.” Ewing returned his attention to Bartles. “So why are you so sure you know where he’s headed?”
Bartles went to great lengths to describe the hatred Quantrill and his band had for the people of Lawrence. “Events,” he went on, “such as Sheriff Walker’s expulsion of Quantrill from Lawrence in 1860, the Kansas City jail collapse, and your Order Number 10, driving guerilla supporters out of their homes, have probably pushed him over the edge.” Bartles paused and took a couple of steps toward the courier. “I assume that Lawrence has been warned of an imminent attack.”
“No, it hasn’t,” the courier answered.
“I can’t believe it!” Bartles screamed. “What insanity!” He hurried out of the general’s office while the courier remained, awaiting any reply Ewing might want him to deliver to Colonel Pike.
Pelathé took a quick glance at the clock and raced after Bartles. “What can we do at this late hour? Can you beat Quantrill there?”
“I don’t know,” Bartles snapped. “I just don’t damn know! If I’ve got to travel north of the Kansas River to avoid border ruffians, I’ll never make it.”
Pelathé thought quickly. “I know these westward trails very well. Give me a horse, and I’ll do it.”
Mrs. Jennings’s Story: The Kidnapping of a 13-Year-Old Boy
While the exact time and location of the following incident is unknown, a reasonable assumption would be somewhere around thee o’clock in the morning somewhere near Hesper, Kansas. Based of the distance the raiders had to travel and the time they finally entered Lawrence, this would be a good assumption. Here is the story:
Mrs. Jennings, a close neighbor of Joseph Stone, was awakened by the guerrillas pounding on her door of her home. She, her children, and her servant girl, all stared in horror as the men ransacked the house.
“Where are they, woman?” one of them demanded.
“Who?” Mrs. Jennings asked, her voice quivering.
“The men! Where are they?”
“I swear to you there are no men in this household.”
“You are a liar, old woman,” another man snorted.
They continued to search her house, overturning furniture and kicking open doors. Finally convinced she was telling the truth, they decided to leave.
“We wasted too much time here,” one of the men said. “We’ve got to get to Lawrence before daylight.”
After they left, Mrs. Jennings was still shaking. She watched in disbelief as one of the men grabbed a neighbor boy, Jacob Rote, off his horse as he rode along the trail leading to the Stone house. Poor Jacob, she thought. After his father moved from Lawrence last year, only to be brutally murdered by bushwhackers, Joseph had schooled him. This summer, the 13-year-old boy, while living at the Stone house, helped Joseph with early morning chores. Now the men have taken the young lad captive!
She ran outside, shouting at the men to return the boy, but they continued on, riding into the darkness of the night. Mrs. Jennings knew there was nothing she could do, but she looked across the way, at the house of William Guest. Surely Mr. Guest would understand. Not only had these monsters kidnapped that poor boy, but they would be attacking innocent people in Lawrence. William Guest would surely help.
Mr. Guest finally answered the door. “No, I am not going to travel to Lawrence,” he told her after she pleaded with him. “Do you realize what time it is, woman?”
“But I clearly heard them say they were going to Lawrence. We need to warn the citizens. Their lives are in danger. Please!”
“Mine would be in danger too, Mrs. Jennings. You expect me to get on my horse and outrun them?”
“I’ll go,” a voice said from the interior of the Guest home. Henry Thompson, a colored servant for Guest, came to the door. “All I need is a horse. I’m a pretty good horseman, ma’am.”
“Well, I’m not trustin’ you with my horse, Henry,” Guest snorted. “Now go back to bed, woman, and be sensible about this.”
After the guerillas left, Mrs. Jennings was still shaking. She watched in disbelief as one of the men grabbed a neighbor boy, Jacob Rote, off his horse as he rode along the trail leading to the Stone house. Poor Jacob, she thought. After his father moved from Lawrence last year, only to be brutally murdered by bushwhackers, Joseph had schooled him. This summer, the 13-year-old boy, while living at the Stone house, helped Joseph with early morning chores. Now the men have taken the young lad captive!
Jacob Rote rode on William Gregg’s horse, with Gregg in the saddle behind him. His arm shaking, Jacob pointed to a trail bearing to the right. “Lawrence is there, sir.”
“You’ve been a good guide,” Gregg said, squeezing the boy’s shoulder. “It would have been hard to find it without your help, boy. Like I promised, once we get there, I’ll get you a suit of clothes and a horse. Would you like that?”
“I don’t care about that,” Jacob sobbed. “Why did they kill him? He was a good man.”
“I told you not to talk about your friend Mr. Stone anymore’n you’re still doin’ it.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, choking on his tears.
Gregg gave him his handkerchief and another squeeze on the shoulder.
The Murder of Joseph Stone
A man named Joseph Stone was murdered by George Todd prior to the raid on Lawrence. Here’s what happened at a farmhouse about one mile west of Hesper, Kansas--
Joseph Stone came out in his nightshirt when George Todd and several others with the Quantrill gang forced their way into his house. Stone’s face was as white as his thinning hair, and his voice shook as he demanded to know the reason for the intrusion.
Todd glanced at his death list. “Are you Joseph Stone?”
The old man’s eyes darted from Todd to the others in the room. “N-n-no,” he stammered.
A bedroom window creaked open, and two of Quantrill’s men rushed into the room. “Gone!” one of them explained. “I bet it was the Stone’s boy.”
“Look,” Todd said, his voice getting raspy, “I want you to be honest with me. If you tell me you’re Joseph Stone, I’ll let you go. Otherwise, I’m gonna kill you right here.”
The old man wrung his hairless arms and looked back at Todd with pleading eyes. “My name’s Joseph Stone.”
Todd reached for his revolver and thought a moment. “Please step outside, Mr. Stone. I need to talk to you for a minute.” He brushed aside Sam Toby, who was blocking the door.
Once outside, Todd grabbed the man by the shoulders and shook him. “Listen, Stone, I didn’t much appreciate you gettin’ me arrested in Kansas City.”
Stone dropped down to his knees and begged for mercy. Just before Todd pulled out his revolver, Quantrill grabbed his arm. “No, don’t do it, Todd!”
Just when Todd felt that perhaps his leader had gone soft, Quantrill added: “I don’t want the discharge from the gun to awaken anyone. Can’t risk it.”
The old man grabbed Todd’s leg. “I beg you. Please set me free.”
Todd kicked him away. “You sure as hell didn’t show me any mercy. Why should I show you any?” Todd took the musket Quantrill handed him. After getting an approving nod from his leader, Todd whacked away at the man’s head with the barrel of the musket until it was a bloody ball.
“Pay back,” Todd grunted. “Sure feels good.”
Pelathé’s Heroic Run To Lawrence
A Shawnee named Pelathe was a “Paul Revere” trying to warn citizens of impending disaster. Unfortunately, Pelathe never succeeded in getting to Lawrence in time.
Pelathé was worried about this mare. She had already stumbled once and was now breathing heavily, and her pace was lumbering. Pelathé had run a considerable distance already, traveling west along the north side of the river. It was still dark out, but there was enough moonlight to illuminate his trail. By his reckoning of where the river bent suddenly from a southward to a westward direction, he probably had about eighteen miles left to go.
“Don’t quit on me now,” the Shawnee said in his native tongue. “Can’t stop to rest.”
He saw white foam building up all about the horse’s mouth. And the mare was now making loud groaning noises. “Please!” Pelathé shouted. “You must go on. You must!”
Just then the mare stumbled again, and Pelathé jumped off before the animal fell to the ground. Unlike the last time, however, the mare didn’t recover and return to a standing position. She kicked and groaned while Pelathé thought quickly. As a Shawnee, he believed there was often enough energy left in a dying animal that, if it can be revived, it could go on further.
Pelathé emptied the gunpowder from his ammunition into his cartridge box. Taking out a long knife, he held the weapon to the sky, asking the Sacred Winds to breathe more life into this dying animal. With a great deal of effort, he brought the animal upright, got back in the saddle, and in one quick motion, stabbed the mare’s shoulders, causing the animal to rear. While hanging tightly to the bridle, he poured gunpowder from his pistol charges into the open wound and rubbed it in. The animal let out a horrible screech and took off fiercely down the trail, riding faster than she had before.
“I’m sorry.” Pelathé, leaned forward in the saddle, whispering to the crazed horse. “We must get to Lawrence. Please don’t die. Please don’t die.”
The horse did die and Pelathé, never made it to Lawrence to warn the town of the Quantrill invasion.
Henry Thompson — Another Who Tried To Warn Lawrence
Henry Thompson, a colored servant to Mr. Guest, decided to go on foot from Hester to Eudora, a distance of eight miles. A good guess as to when he got to the outskirts of Eudor is somewhere between 4 and 4:30 am.
Henry Thompson made it on foot as far as Eudora. Now totally exhausted, he sat on a tree stump near the main road to town to catch his breath. Although it was still yet dark, the moon gave off enough light for him to see a chaise coming toward him. Immediately, the Negro rose to his feet and stood in the center of the road, waving for the driver to halt.
The chaise came to a stop and a man with a white beard and mustache and dressed in a black frock coat, trousers, and top hat peered at Thompson. “What’s the problem?”
“Help me,” Thompson said, gasping for breath. “Please help me.”
“Help you with what? What in tarnation are you talking about?”
“My name’s Thompson, sir. Henry Thompson. I’m a servant for Mr. Guest in Hester.” He took a deep breath and exhaled. “An hour or so ago, Quantrill’n his men paid a visit to Joseph Stone’n murdered him. Mrs. Jennings, a neighbor, told me she overhead them say that…that….”
“Yes? Go on.”
“That they gonna attack Lawrence.”
The man drew back at the news. “What? Are you certain?”
“Yes, sir. They on their way there right now.”
“It’s fortunate that you found me on this road, Henry. My name is Frederick Pila, and I was just returning home late from performing a marriage ceremony. I’m the justice of the peace.”
“I got to get to Lawrence,” Thompson said. “But I’m dead tired from running all the way here.”
“By Jove! You must be exhausted, Henry. Hester’s more than eight miles away. Take a seat next to me. We best be getting to Eudora to warn the folks there.”
Once Thompson climbed aboard, Pila drove his chaise to the main streets of Eudora, arousing from sleep as many as he could with his shouts and gunfire. A crowd gathered around the chaise. Three men offered to ride to Lawrence to warn the residents there. One of them, the Eudora city marshal, took off immediately, but he had no sooner left the outskirts of town when he was thrown off his horse. The two riders who were following him decided not to stop when they saw that he was not seriously injured.
“Not sure we can make it there, even at a full gallop,” one of the two men shouted.
“We’ve got to try,” the other one hollered back
Just then, the first man’s horse stumbled and fell, crushing the rider. The other man halted immediately and ran back to his friend’s aid. The injured man groaned in pain.
There was a faint white glow coming from the east. The sun would soon be rising. The man left his injured friend on the ground and went back to town to find a doctor.
The Start of the Raid
Since the raid began before sunrise but at a time when the darkness had already lifted, an estimated time for the start of the attack is sometime around 5:15 am. One of the first shootings was that of the guerillas shooting Reverend Snyder as he was milking his cow inside his yard--at a location somewhere near the present South Park of Lawrence. One man who witnessed this murder was Reverend Hugh Fisher. Fisher was unable to sleep well because of his recent illness, sat by his window. His eyes scanned the small plot of land owned by Reverend Snyder. Then he saw Snyder, who walked out with pail and stool, and sat by his cow. Every morning it’d be the same—Snyder milking his cow, then going back to the chicken coop to pick eggs. Today would be no different, Fisher thought. Instead, he witness the murder of his good friend, Reverend Snyder.
Quantrill Meets Bishop Miege
The Quantrill invasion had begun-- 448 men strong, thanks to Colonel Holt joining him with 104 of his own and another 50 men merging with them four miles from the Kansas border.
Twenty minutes earlier, the pounding on the rectory door of St. John the Evangelist Church was incessant. Father Sebastian Favre, roused from sleep, wondered who could be in such distress so early in the morning. He took the watch from his pocket. 5:20 AM. The sun had not quite risen although the eastern sky had turned grayish-white. Bishop John Baptiste Miege and two other priests were probably still asleep, so Favre went to answer the door. What could be so urgent that it would justify such an awful pounding?
A round-faced man with a broad-brimmed black hat excused himself for the interruption. Favre recognized him as Joshua Parkinson, the Quaker minister, who was accompanied by his wife, Ann. Before Favre could say anything, Parkinson pushed his way in, insisting on taking sanctuary in the church because Quantrill and his horde of men were invading the town, murdering its citizens.
Ann was in tears. She grabbed hold of Father Favre Sebastian’s black cassock. “Please help us. Quantrill has a particular dislike for ministers. He’ll kill my husband! I know he will.”
The priest immediately roused Bishop Miege and the two priests from their slumber. “The first thing we need to do,” the bishop told Favre after being informed about Quantrill, “is to hide Reverend Parkinson. How about in the basement of this church?”
Miege and the three priests escorted Joshua to the basement. “He’ll be found here for sure,” the bishop said, surveying the area.
“Not if we roll him up in that carpet in the middle of floor,” Favre replied.
“That is an excellent suggestion,” the bishop said. “Let’s do it.”
Fifteen minutes later, Favre joined the bishop, the two priests, and Ann in the chapel for prayer. Favre prayed that Reverend Parkinson would be safe in that rolled-up carpet against the south end of the basement. While Favre knew he had to believe God would save them all, doubts flooded his mind anyway. What if Quantrill’s men unrolled the carpet? What if they set fire to the building?
The dreadful knock on the door! It had come sooner than expected.
Bishop Miege, his face a ghostly white, rose up to answer it. Another pounding on the door. Ann began sobbing. The two priests had their eyes shut tight, their lips moving in prayer. Favre’s heart hammered inside his chest.
The bishop prayed that his life would be spared because he had so many plans for the Catholic Church in Kansas. As the first bishop assigned to the Kansas territory, he’d be needed to oversee all the churches and missions in the state. But who was he to advise God what to do?
Suddenly a bang, several kicks, and a bump. It sounded as if several men were pounding the door at the same time. The bishop looked at the worried faces of Father Sebastian, two other priests, and Ann. Then he opened the door and met the soulless face of Quantrill himself, grinning back at him—as well as six of his men, all holding revolvers pointed at him. Miege closed his eyes for a moment. Please God, help me!
“Who are you?” Quantrill snarled, challenging him with a steely gaze.
“Bishop Miege. I’m the Catholic bishop here in Kansas on a tour of the churches to give the Sacrament of Confirmation.”
Quantrill peered inside. “Who’s the lady?” he barked.
The bishop swallowed hard, glancing at the minister’s wife. “A Christian woman in prayer. May I be of assistance to you?”
“Everybody up!” Quantrill ordered. “Put your valuables here where I can see them,” he added, pointing to a small table in the entryway. The bishop took the cash out of his pocketbook. Ann removed her ring. The priests emptied their pockets and put the contents on the table.
Quantrill aimed his revolver at the bishop’s forehead and smiled. “Any last words you got ‘fore I kill you?”
“Just one,” Bishop Miege said. He traded words with Quantrill and moments later, Quantrill put his revolver away. The guerilla leader then shot an angry glance at two of his men who began picking up the valuables from the table. “Take your hands off of that!” he yelled. The men immediately dropped what they had.
Quantrill, his face softening a degree, turned his attention back to the bishop and then left.
“C’mon, Colonel,” one of the guerillas pleaded with Quantrill, “let’s take all this loot like you said we’d do.”
“No,” he snapped, sticking his revolver in his belt. He swept his arm across the room. “Let’s leave. Now!”
[--By the way, no one knows what the bishop actually said to stop Quantrill. My source for this information was the archivist with the Kansas City Archdiocese]
The Hugh Fisher Story
What was it like to be a survivor of the Quantrill massacre? Here’s the story of the Hugh Fisher family.
When they heard the gunshots, Hugh and Elizabeth Fisher took their children and headed toward Mount Oread for safety. Two of their older boys, Willie and Charlie, ran ahead of them. Eight-year-old Joey held his father’s hand, while Elizabeth carried their six-month-old infant.
Hugh stopped, gasping for breath, as he leaned against a tree. “I won’t be able to travel that distance, Elizabeth. Not after my illness.”
Elizabeth looked back at their brick house a hundred yards away, at the northwest corner of South Park. She then turned her head toward the west and spotted Willie and Charlie running off with their friend, Bobby Martin. Twelve-year-old Bobby, wearing a suit of clothes made from his father’s blue Yankee uniform, was easy to spot.
Elizabeth worried why her two boys were taking off with their friend, not bothering to look behind them to see where their parents were. She’d run after them if only she wasn’t carrying the infant and if she didn’t have to be concerned about the safety of Joey and her husband.
“Don’t worry about the boys,” Hugh said. “They’re fast runners.”
“But I am worried. They’re just boys and there are insane men out there shooting guns.”
Hugh pressed her hand. “Please, Elizabeth. Trust in the Lord.”
By the time they arrived at their house, dust from the charging horsemen could be seen billowing in the distance, less than a half mile away. “Quick, hide in the cellar,” Elizabeth said, looking around to be sure no one saw him entering the house. “They’re not going to find you there.”
No sooner had Hugh gone down to hide in their unfinished cellar, when there was a rapid knock on the door. While her son Joseph sat on a chair in the dining room, Elizabeth, holding the infant, answered the door. Four rough-looking guerillas pushed their way in. “Let me speak to Reverend Fisher,” one of them demanded.
“He’s not here,” Elizabeth answered. “He left some time ago.”
“I don’t believe you, ma’am.” He strode in with the three others and started throwing furniture about. Joseph, obviously terrified, ran to his mother and clung to her leg. After going from room to room, one of the men came back, his face flushed with anger. “We’ve got orders to see him. Now I’m gonna ask you again: where is he?”
“I’ve already told you he’s not here.”
“You’re a damned liar. Let’s search the cellar, men.”
Elizabeth said a quick prayer while they went down to the cellar. “It’s too dark down there,” one of the men said. “Bring me a lamp, woman!”
Elizabeth’s mind raced. She wasn’t about to give them a lamp to help them find her husband. “It’ll take some time for me to find,” she answered. “I don’t know where it is.” She thought about the new kerosene lamp they had bought. It was an invention that perhaps these bushwhackers hadn’t seen yet. Holding her infant, she went up to the second floor, but stopped at the top of the stairs.
The men came up from the cellar. Three of them began searching the house again. One of them looked up at her. “Hurry up and find it, woman!” Another began racing up the steps, cussing at her.
Elizabeth knew she couldn’t stall any longer. Running into one of the bedrooms, she grabbed the kerosene lamp. “I found one,” she shouted, as she turned down the wick into the coal oil before bringing it to the ruffian waiting for her on the stairs.
The man tried repeatedly to light the kerosene lamp, but failed. He passed the lamp around, but no one seemed to know how to light it. The men were furious when Elizabeth insisted she didn’t know anything about this type of lamp. All the while, she hoped and prayed the delay would give Hugh sufficient time to somehow escape.
“Get me another lamp!” one man demanded.
“I can’t,” Elizabeth said. “I need to watch my child.”
“Damn you! I’ll watch your precious child for yah.” He took the baby from her and ordered her upstairs to look for another lamp.
She brought down a lamp, which the man lit and took with him, racing down to the cellar. All kinds of horrible thoughts went through her mind. What could she possibly do if they discovered him? How could she prevent his murder?
“He must have escaped!” the man yelled, returning from the cellar. “Burn this house down, men! If he’s here, he’ll be a dead man!”
Elizabeth tiptoed downstairs when no one was around. She looked about. No sign of him. But then she heard him whisper, “I’m still down here.”
The fire, Elizabeth thought. They’re setting the house on fire, and Hugh’s still in the cellar!
The Mary Lane Story
Mary Lane was glad her husband James had been prepared for the possibility of an attack. He had told her that in such an event, he would depart immediately to the cornfield in the rear of their Mississippi Street home and hide among the stalks. She knew all too well her husband was a prime target for Quantrill and eventually Quantrill would seek him out.
By the time she awoke to the sound of gunfire and the hooves of charging horses, Jim was already gone. No sooner had she searched the house for him than she heard a terrible pounding on the door.
When she opened it, she recognized Quantrill immediately, although she knew only one of the men behind him—Arthur Spicer, an acquaintance of theirs. Spicer was jabbing his finger at her. “This is the house,” he shouted. “And that’s Mrs. Lane!”
Mary was convinced that Mr. Spicer, a normally polite and friendly sort, must have been forced to play Judas for this mob.
Quantrill, all smiles, tipped his hat and asked to see the general.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Quantrill, but he’s not in,” she said, with all the charm she could muster.
“We’ll see about that. Men, c’mon in!”
A dozen charged into her home and got to work at once, busting up her furniture and racing from room to room. A couple of the men appeared to be drunk, using foul language, and even fighting with each other over possessions they wanted to keep. Quantrill stood by while members of his band went about their business of destruction. He placed his hand on her newly polished piano. “I bet the general bought this from the loot he got from Osceola,” he said, smirking. “Half of this furniture doesn’t even belong to him. He’s a thief!”
He gave a signal to his men, and they tipped the piano to the carpeted floor. Soon they were jumping on the keys and defacing the wood with their knives. One took out his revolver and shot at it several times. Other men took out matches and lit the curtains.
Mary tried putting out the fire, but the men restrained her. “Why are you doing this!” she screamed.
“I’ll ask you a question,” Quantrill retorted. “Why did your husband send his Redlegs to Missouri to wipe out innocent people?”
Everyone left the house as flames roared through the open windows. Quantrill and his men saddled up to leave, grumbling that they couldn’t find Jim Lane. Mary, standing a distance away from the front of her burning home, was more furious than sad that everything precious to her was going up in flames.
Quantrill tipped his hat as he passed her. “Please give Senator Lane my compliments. Tell him I would have been very glad to meet him.”
Mary glared back at him. “He would have been glad to have met you under different circumstances, Mr. Quantrill.”
“Good day, Mrs. Lane. If we find him, we’ll let you know where you can locate his body.”
The Amelia Read Story
Amelia Read was yet another woman having to undergo such persecution by the Quantrill marauders. Here are her thoughts as she may have had them:
I was about to go upstairs to check on Fred when there was a brutal pounding on the door, as if the intruders were attempting to bust it open. When I opened it, several men rushed in, all appearing to be quite drunk and insisting on seeing my husband. After I protested that he wasn’t home, one of them demanded to know who had put the fire out in this house.
“I did,” I said, defiance rising up in my throat, “and I’d do it again.”
“Toby,” one of the men ordered, “restrain that woman so she don’t do a fool thing like that no more.”
Sam Toby grabbed my wrists, squeezing them until I felt like screaming. But I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of letting him see me suffer. I watched helplessly as the others piled up bedding and books against a cotton lounge that they had carried to the window. They then lit a match and shouted in jubilation as the flames feasted hungrily on this new fuel.
Smoke soon filled the room, and the men ran to the porch while Toby dragged me there. “Yah a feisty little tiger, ain’t yah?” Toby said as I tried to loosen myself from his vise-like grip.
The curtains and cotton lounge were ablaze, with flames licking up to the window. Toby finally released me, cursing. “Damn yah, lady, yah can have your home now—if yah can put it out!” He ran to his horse and joined the others. Moments later the ruffians were gone.
I immediately dashed to my smoke-filled bedroom and grabbed two pillows, one in each hand. Then I flew to the burning window and threw myself against the burning sash and frame, falling into the street. I ran back in, snatched some blankets and put the rest of the fire out. Then I dropped onto the porch, exhausted and wrenched with pain from burns and cuts on both arms. I inhaled deeply and gagged from the fumes. This was the longest and most painful morning I, Amelia Read, had ever experienced. But at least I had saved my husband.
The Elizabeth Speer Story
John Speer, the editor of the Kansas Tribune managed to escape from the Qunatrill killers, and so did his family. One of his sons, William Speer, had a rude awakening when he returned to his house…
William Speer and his friend, Frank Montgomery, finally made their way home to Maryland Street on the eastern side of town. “Do you think it’s safe now?” Frank asked, hiding with William behind a stone fence some thirty yards from the partially-burned Speer house.
“Yeah, I think they’re gone now,” William answered, looking at the deserted road. There were only a few homes on Maryland, and they were all on fire. William was surprised their home was still standing, although the outside walls were badly scorched. Surely the ruffians had attempted to burn it down, he thought.
William heard sobbing when he cautiously entered the house. The living room was barren and black streaks across the walls as well as an ash heap made everything unreal. Elizabeth Speer sat on the floor in the corner of the room. Her face soaked with tears, she looked up at her son and his friend. Both her arms had dark red splotches of burn marks. A revolver lay on her lap and her dress was coated with gray ash.
“Oh, William!” she said, attempting to get up. “You’re alive! Thank God! Have you seen your brothers? Are they alive?”
She swept a glance across the empty, filthy room. “They tried to burn the place down and I kept putting the fires out.” She peered up at William. “How did you manage to escape?”
William told how he had crawled out from underneath a wooden plank sidewalk and had to lie when a guerilla asked him his name.
“You did the right thing,” she said. “Your father was probably on Quantrill’s list.” She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “Son, I don’t know if he’s alive or if any of your brothers are alive.” She looked up at William and began crying again.
The boy ran up to console her, but she handed him the revolver on her lap “Here,”. “she said, her voice low and bitter, “this is your father’s gun. I want you and Frank to go out and kill those demons with it.”
“But—” William was shocked. What was his mother saying? He had never heard her talk like this before.
“Go!” she said, almost screaming at him. “Do it!”
The boys ran out of the house. William, holding the revolver, turned to his friend. “I was supposed to go fishin,’ but I guess I’ve got to go killin’.”