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Skagit River Journal

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Bloody Kansas, a first person account and
Sedro-pioneer Lewis Kirkby's role in it

Journal introduction . . . Lavina Gates Chapman's 19th century memoir

Journal introduction to Bloody Kansas and some of
the players, including Sedro-pioneer Lewis Kirkby
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      Journal ed. note: Lewis Kirkby was one of the earliest Sedro pioneers, in the 1889-90 period. He became a key member of the community and led the fund-raising for the Free Methodist church. You will find links below to various stories about him or referring to his pioneer role. He played a much more dramatic role nearly three decades before, when he took a heroic swim across a river and Kansas, to save his very young baby. That was Bloody Kansas then, in the days before and during the Civil War, and we know from extensive research that Kansas was the source state for a large plurality of Sedro-Woolley and Skagit Valley pioneers in the 1880s and '90s — 75 transplants from Lincoln, Kansas alone. And the most famous assassinated (unsuccessful result; he survived) San Francisco mayor Isaac Kalloch was a businessman extraordinaire in Ottawa, Kansas, pre-San Francisco, and he wound up living in Sehome at the end of his life.
      After the territory was opened to settlement in 1854, it quickly became a pawn in the attempts to use Kansas as a plus for either side. Abolitionist Free-Staters from New England and the Atlantic Seaboard, and pro-slavery settlers from neighboring Missouri bought raw land in the territory and used the "absentee law's" provisions to vote in Kansas Territory even though they were still residing in their home states.
      Lawrence, Kansas, plays a key part in this story, as well as Kansas history, as the scene of the famous Quantrill raid of Aug. 21, 1863. although it was not the only Missouri town to be sacked by the raiders, Lawrence was destined to become the backdrop for the slavery wars in the territory. Five years before the war, on May 21, 1856, Sheriff Samuel J. Jones led a pro-slavery posse that burned the Free-State Hotel, trashed both newspapers, and looted opposition-owned businesses — that became known as the "Sack of Lawrence." Some historians claim a connection between that early event and Abolitionist John Brown's nearby Pottawatomie Massacre three days later, on May 24.
      Quantrill had volunteered for the Confederate forces early on in 1861 but he soon became a renegade when he decided that the South was not prosecuting the war up to his bloody standards. Biographers point out the violence in his youth, when he shot pigs through their ears to hear them squeal and nailed lived snakes to trees. On August 15, 1862, Quantrill and his pro-slavery raiders in Missouri were officially mustered into the Confederate army under the Confederate Partisan Ranger Act and his troops soon ranged west into Kansas, as they ambushed Union patrols and supply convoys along the way, seized mail and currency shipments, and attacked towns on either side of the border if Quantrill determined they were a nest of pro-Union sympathizers. The James brothers and Younger brothers included members who rode with Quantrill. And family lore in your editor's family have his great-grandfather riding either with combinations of these three units as a Confederate sympathizer from Missouri.
      In the Confederate Army Quantrill formed a renegade band called the Quantrill's Raiders, which was never officially sanctioned but which fought alongside regular soldiers in attacks on Independence, Missouri, and Olathe and Shawnee, Kansas, in the fall of 1862. In the latter town, the guerillas captured a dozen unarmed men, all but one of whom were found with bullets through their heads.
      The pressure cooker at Lawrence built up a head of steam after the Redlegs and Jayhawkers, pro-Union and anti-slavery forces, pushed into Missouri. In July 1863, family members of Quantrill's Raiders were incarcerated in a vastly overcrowded Kansas City prison. Historians generally agree that Quantrill organized the Lawrence Massacre of 1863, the target being what Quantrill spied was the headquarters for the Union forces. In the early morning of the raid, bands of partisan guerillas rode from both sides of the border, up to 300 miles to Lawrence, to rendezvous on nearby Hogback Ridge, between the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers. The ridge became famous for being the day's staging area and it was later officially named, Mount Oread, and is now the location of the University of Kansas.
      Quantrill's Raiders burned somewhere between a quarter and a third of the town's businesses, and killed somewhere between 150 and 300 men and boys — the highest estimate being that of our featured author below, Lavina Gates Chapman. If Quantrill expected any congratulations from Jefferson Davis and Co., however, he would have been disappointed. Confederate military leaders were shocked by the raid. Quantrill's Bushwhackers would not get no logistical support. So, during the winter of 1863-64, Quantrill's were assigned instead to Texas, behind Confederate lines, to round up deserters.
      In early 1864, the guerrillas that Quantrill had led to Texas began to return to Missouri, small units at a time, without Quantrill at their overall head. The captain was on the run in Indian Territory, chased by his own forces on the charge that he had plotted to kill a fellow officer. Meanwhile, Union forces had hired a fellow guerilla to track and Quantrill and they caught up with him, literally napping, in Taylorville, Kentucky, on May 10, 1865. He died on June 6, still paralyzed from his wounds.
      Lavina Gates Chapman brings this whole period to life. She was one of most prolific memoir-authors of the 1870s and 1880s, describing her own hair-raising experiences and interviewing other pioneer wives for theirs. In this case, she starts her autobiography/memoir in 1859 and builds to a climax, which stars our Sedro pioneer, Lewis Kirkby. We have slightly edited the transcript we have received and we do not yet have its exact provenance, but we will add that information in a later draft this year. We suspect that the transcription was done under time constraint because it is rough, with misspellings and an avoidance of commas that would make Gertrude Stein sit up and yell her approval. For all you comma-ists out there.

Pioneer Short Stories and Memoirs, 19th Century
By Lavina Gates Chapman, transcribed and annotated by Noel V. Bourasaw
      In the year of 1859, my husband, myself and three children — Mary, aged seven; Irena, aged five; and Oscar, aged three, left Adams County (near Kilbourn City), Wisconsin, to seek a warmer clime. We came south, crossed the Mississippi near Alton, Ill., then started up the Missouri river and went through St. Charles. We went as far as Dosier's Landing, where Mr. Chapman banked wood for steamboat purposes.
      There was a small store on the Missouri river close to the house we lived; one part of the house was used for a blacksmith shop. Our landlord's name was Dosier. He had a son-in-law by the name of Sheffer, who was of German descent. His wife's name was Almyra and when she married, her father gave her several bondsmen and women and children. The women were to do indoor work and the men were to work outdoors. Mrs. Dosier said Mr. Sheffer was a tyrant. He made anyone work in the field who could work at all.
      There came a snowstorm one day. The slaves were poorly clad and the women had no shoes, so one woman took her children that night, all barefooted, and struck for their old master's. When Sheffer found they were gone, he came down to Dosier's and demanded his property. Dosier said, "You can take them by shoeing them."
      Sheffer was on horseback and was going to drive them back like he would cattle, but Dosier would not let them go till he furnished them shoes. Sheffer got them shoes and clothes and all went back. I think in February there came a sleet, rain, and snow. Sheffer's overseer would not work them. He made them work till in the afternoon he took sick. He went to the house and told his wife to make some hot tea as quickly as she could. She made the tea and sent for a doctor to come at once. When the doctor came he pronounced his illness the black-tongue and said he could not live. We were 20 miles from St. Charles [Missouri]. They sent post-haste for the best doctor in St. Charles. He came, took a sharp knife, put it into Sheffer's mouth at one side, ran it up over till he reached the middle of the tongue and cut down and continued to slit the tongue 'til it was in ribbons. He remarked, "Oh how good it feels." His tongue was swollen and his mouth wide open. He could not shut his mouth; his tongue was swollen. The doctor said, "You can't live." Sheffer said, "I will give you $20,000 if you will save my life.
      "None but God can save you, it is not in my power. The more quiet you are the longer you will live," the doctor said. He jumped out of bed and started to the fireplace, but dropped dead before he got halfway there. They had many cases all around there.

Headed towards Texas
      We wanted to get out of Missouri, so we started the last of April [1861] for Texas. We came across some parties coming from Texas and they said they were hanging all Northern men, so we struck for Kansas. It was just before the war we crossed into Kansas. May 12, 1860, we took Santa Fe highway and came to Black Jack.
      Ran across a man and he sold us a present Indian claim. We were three miles from Lawrence and one-half from Black Jack [Douglas County, east central part of the state, across the border from Missouri]. We found there was an absentee [land-owner, with voting rights by joining us, so we moved [onto] the absentee's [property]. the year of 1960 we raised nothing but fodder. If Chapman could get 35 cents per day we were glad. Sometimes he would get $1.05 per week.
      We bought a pig, thinking to make our meat. It grew tall and long. After keeping it six months it would not weigh more than 75 pounds. We dressed it, salted it and hug it up in the chimney to smoke. The next year we raised good corn. Dry goods were high. For instance, corn, 10 cents per bushel, and calico, 30 cents per yard — one load of corn for ten yards of calico.
      The war broke out [1861] and Chapman joined the state militia. He was put in as orderly sergeant. A Mr. Emery was put in as sergeant. Well do I remember August 1863, when Sergeant Emery rode in and said, "What are you doing?" Chapman was on top of a cane mill, fixing to hitch to it to grind cane to make molasses. He answered, "If the Lord is willing I will have molasses before night."
      "Get your horses and order out your men," Emery shouted. "Can't you see Lawrence burning?" [August 21, 1863] Chapman straightened up to look. The sergeant said, "They are coming this way, see that every man is mounted; everyone to meet at Baldwin." Emery then turned to me and said,
      "You can see the progress they are making. They fire every building they come to. If you have anything you want to save, carry it out and tramp it in the deep grass." I carried my goods out and dropped them in the high grass in a swail not far from the house. The grass was high and my things were scattered promiscuously, anywhere to get them out of the way.
      Well, they did not come within a mile of our place. They went to Baldwin. The militia rushed into a cornfield, dismounted not far from Prairie City and lay down to await their coming. As they came in close range, Captain Bell had instructed his men to rise to their feet at a given signal and they were to fire when he cried "Fire." The Guerillas' [William Quantrill's Raiders] horses plunged forward on the run. Capt. Bell cried, "Mount and Charge!" and when they came in range pretty close to the guerillas they would fire, Cantrell's men that were heavily laden, he kept in front.

Skirmish with Quantrill's Raiders
      They lightened up their best horses to skirmish with. They cut the packs from their backs and dropped many bundles of goods. As our men came to the bundles they were going to pick them up. The Captain said,
      "If any man stops to pick up a thing I will run a saber through him." They passed some dead. The Negroes followed in their wake on foot and picked up horses that fagged out. Teams also followed to pick up the spoil. As they neared the Missouri line it was a skirmish all the way along. Quantrill called out,
      "Boys we are out of ammunition. Every man for himself." They scattered as they crossed the line into Missouri and Capt. Bell said, "We are out of ammunition. Retreat." As they were on the back trail, they came across dead men nude. There had been powder put in their eyes and on their faces and burnt off. The Negroes had done the work. When they knew he was a "secesh" they would strip him of all that was worth taking.
      Mr. Chapman was gone three days. He went back to the corn field for his coat. There was a new rail fence. He said that the fence was well slivered up from both sides. Rebels and Union men. We furnished three horses. Chapman rode one and Lewis Kirkby rode one. Have forgotten who rode the third. They were all swollen next to the forelegs and we thought they would surely die, but by bathing them they all got well. The men could not sleep in the house. There would be squads from Missouri in some part of the country [hereabouts] every night to steal horses and if resistance was offered they would shoot them down.
      After the horses had rested up we went to Lawrence to an aunt of mine by the name of Bissell. They lived the suburbs of Lawrence in a two-story brick house. They heard firing and Cousin said, "Quantrill is in town. We will bury our money and all valuables." They soon made way with same and awaited the results. By and by they saw a squad coming. Cousin Henry went to the door. They said,
      "We will trouble you for your money." Cousin said, "You would not take all the money a man has?" He was easily persuaded when a revolver was placed at his head and breast. Now said they, "We will relieve you of your watch." Of course he handed it over and then they turned their horses and rode off.

Fire visits the Chapmans too
      Well, he thanked god that he got off so easily, but the town was on fire. Behold, there came another squad. Aunt had a porch the full length of her house facing town. They rode up on the porch, all that could get on and all around the house; drunk enough to be devilish, too drunk to load their guns. They snapped their guns at my cousins, then took the butt of the revolver and beat him over the head. He had on a heavy chip hat or they would have killed him. He finally got away into a path of corn back of the house. They then called for matches. Aunty and cousins said they would not give them to them.
      They said they were going to burn the house. My eldest cousin, Bell, could not stand up. Aunty said, "You commenced this war, you fired the first gun." The girls tried to stop her but could not. Sophia followed them upstairs. They took clothes from the closets and put them on the beds, set fire to them, opened up the windows to make a draft, went from one room to another and fired every room. Sophia followed right behind and took feather beds and tried to smother the fire.
      They took hold of her and jerked her around, took her out on the porch and sat her down, then went in and fired bedroom downstairs. She was completely worn out. They set fire to the barn. Sophia looked at the horses on the porch their counterpanes, silk dresses and all their valuable goods were strapped on those horses. She got up and tried to pull them off, but they were too firmly bound. The cry rung out above the din,
      "Forward March!" and they went as fast as their horses would do. We looked and behold, the barn was on fire. Sophia rushed to get the horses out, but they had taken them all. Men who were hidden in corn patches around came to help and they got out of the buggy and harnesses. There were three hundred widows left in Lawrence that day. One of Mr. Bissell's horses came back that night — did not travel fast enough for them.

The unfortunate Griswoods
      I will mention a family — I have forgotten the name. They saw Lawrence was burning. The lady had her husband go down cellar through a trap door. The guerillas came to burn the house. She begged for them to spare her house. They said, "No!" "Oh, my carpet, the only thing my father gave me! Let me take that up. It is all I have that he gave me." Let me take that up. It is all I have that he gave me." They said they would give her time to take it up and out. she went to work, took it up, gave the signal to her husband to be ready, then she drew it over the trap door and he crawled under the carpet to a place of safety upon a woodpile. She carried one end over her shoulder and he crawled close to her. She sat down to see that no sparks burned her carpet and thanked God for the privilege of saving her husband.
      I will give you another heart-rending case that is indelibly stamped upon my mind. Griswood, I believe was his name. He was a druggist in Lawrence. He had some money coming to him in the East, so he thought he would go and collect it. He and wife went and were coming around by Iowa to visit some friends before coming home. He made his collection, went to Iowa, made his visit, wanted to stay a few days longer, but his wife was homesick, so they came home. They got home in the evening.
      Quantrill's men came the next morning. Of course there were rebel sympathizers that knew all about the money. They took him out in the yard and the word was, "Your money or your life." He said, "Life is sweet, get the money, I can earn more money." Mrs. Griswood got it and gave it to her husband who handed it to them saying, "Here is all we have." It was tied up in a bag. They received it and filled him full of bullets.

"Bloody Jim" Lane and leaving for Ottawa
      The night before [the raid of August 21] there had been a big political meeting and [Kansas U.S. Senator] Jim Lane, as they used to call him, was the speaker of the evening. He spoke so encouragingly, saying that Quantrill could not muster men enough to take Lawrence. Quantrill was in the congregation. Jim went to bed that night. The next morning he heard the screaming and went out the window to see what it was.
      He saw a [Quantrill] squad in his yard. He ran to the back door in his night clothes and escaped by getting in the brush and timber. Raids came thick and fast. Well do I remember the first time I saw Jim Lane. With all the hard times, times were never so hard but what we could have political meetings. Jim spoke at Baldwin. I shall never forget his speech. He came in, pulled off his coat and vest, took off his necktie and commenced. Some things I still remember. This burns in my mind: "Don't think for a minute that those rebels can whip us, if they did rob the United States Treasury. Only one dime was found, and that escaped the by being under the corner of a carpet." He was a wonderful speaker.
      Times grew worse, and after the burning of Lawrence, got no better. I said I would rather live among the Indians than in Douglas County. Captain Bell said we could go west, but not east. There was fear of the Indians coming in from the West, to help the South, so we started for the Solomon Valley. We found it would soon be winter and knew the men could not sleep out of doors as they had through the summer. Squads would come in every week, sometimes three times a week and ask for Chapman, but would not molest women or children. I never knew where he was. He might be in the corn field or under some tree or brush, or in the deep grass in a swail. Many a poor man lost his life after it became cold and they had to sleep in the house. Bushwhackers would ride in, surround a house, find the man and shoot him down like a dog.
      So the middle of September we started for Ottawa County and arrived there in October 1863. We constituted the tenth family on the river. Husband said, "This is no place for a family." I said, "What do you see?" He said, "Look," I looked and said, "What do you see?" He said, "Look," I looked and said, "What is that yonder and he said, "Buffalo." The hills were covered with buffalo. The next day four or five men started for high land for fresh meat and returned with ham and sirloins of buffalo, the best meat I ever tasted and I thought we had struck in Eden.
      We went across the river and dug a dug-out and put up for the winter, cut our hay and hauled corn from Abilene to carry us through. We selected our location for a house and began a block-house. In the meantime Martin Jones came in and filed on land and our block-house was on one forty [acres], on which he filed, so we added to the 120 [acres, making a full quarter section of 160 acres]. Our block-house now stands on one of the forties. And we still live in it.
      In the first part of the winter, Seymour Ayers came and located on Lindsey Creek, near where the swinging bridge and built a log house not over 16x16 feet. He went into the mercantile business, using his small room for a dwelling, post office and store, our mail being brought from Solomon a distance of 20 miles, before the post office was established, anyone going to Solomon brought the mail for the settlement.
      In 1864 they built a fort near the river called Fort Solomon, the place now known as the Wolfersberger farm. Seymour Ayers then got up a petition and sent it to the Postmaster General for a post office, which was granted. The mail being carried on horseback from Solomon to Ayerburg or Ayersville. The post office consisted of a dry-goods box nailed to the wall between the bed and the door, Mrs. Ayers acting as postmistress. Post office, grocery dry goods, kitchen and bedroom were all in one room, 16x16.
      The first missionary was Brother Holly. Seymour Ayers went to Junction City and had the promise of a missionary if anyone would open their doors to him so we said our door was open to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the people were notified that there would be services at our dugout on a Sabbath at 11 o'clock. Our dugout was 14 by 16.
      We placed four holes and legs in a puncheon to make seats for the occasion as the rooms were full. We organized a class of ten the first Sabbath, also Sabbath school. The members of the class were as follows: Seymour Ayers, Margaret Ayers, J.E. Carson, Jane Carson, Jesse Richards, Amanda Richards, Martin Jones, Jane Jones, S.B. Chapman and Lavina M. Chapman. This was the first class organized in Ottawa County, the first religious body in the county.

Sedro pioneer Lewis Kirkby swims across a river with his baby
      The neighbors would flock to our house or dugout for refuge when the Indians made a raid. One time they were on the warpath and coming down the river and everyone was much frightened. The Kirkbys and Fallibers lived across the river from us, said, "The Indians are coming, we will go to Chapman's dugout. So they took Mrs. Kirkby's young baby, only three days old, And Mrs. Falliber took two other children, one on her back and one in her arms, and struck out for the river. Mrs. Falliber saying for them to wait till she took the two children over, then she would come back for the baby.
      She plunged in and had almost reached the opposite side when she heard a splash and looking around, Mrs. Kirkby's head coming out of the water. Mr. Falliber being so frightened by thinking he heard a war-whoop told Mrs. Kirkby to get on his back while he carried the baby in his arms. He bravely started over and probably would have crossed all right but his feet became entangled some way and he stumbled and fell, the baby underneath. But they got up and scrambled for shore all being thoroughly wet but no one seriously injured as I gave them dry clothes as soon as they reached the dugout and put Mrs. Kirkby to bed and gave her a ginger and she was all right. I spread quilts on the floor that night for beds and all that could get on a quilt bed where, while the men were watching for the coming of the savages. I cooked breakfast the next morning for 52.
      In February 1865, husband was going with some neighbors to kill buffalo for their hides. Husband would buy the first day's meat. In the evening of the first day Chapman said there were Indians in the country and we would start for home in the morning but would like two more buffalo, then he would have a full load to market in Junction City and Manhattan, as it made it possible for us to live in the Solomon Valley by trading meat for flour at those two cities. We started out and ran across two more buffalo. They ran across Salt Creek and he killed one this side of Spring Creek, on the hill. When we were almost to the buffalo we heard so many shots on the creek just below us and there was such a heavy fog that you could not see one rod before you. Chapman cried,
      "Indians, run!" and I said, "No, we will skin the buffalo." So we did, then took the hams and sirloin and put it in a pile away from the carcass and covered it over with the skin, and weighted it down with stones then started on the double quick for our wagon. I prepared some dinner while Chapman leaded up his meat that we had laid out to cool.
      When all was ready he led the way as there were no roads, he said, "Follow me." He went like a race horse. We had a pretty good team so I thought I would keep up. I had one horse on the canter and the other was trotting when he turned and said for me to come. I brought the whip down on the other horse so both were on the lope — at this Mr. Chapman waited until I came up with him and said, "This will not do," so he got on the wagon, took the reins and drove home.
      We got home at midnight and told the children not to disturb us in the morning but to let us sleep. In the morning they quietly arose and went to the river. While there a man who been out with us, a Mr. White, by name, hollered from the other side asking where their . . . [end of transcription].


1. Jim Lane
      James Henry Lane (1814-1866) was an Indiana native, who first passed the bar back there in 1840, following his father as an attorney. He served with the Indiana Volunteers during the Mexican War, from 1846-48. After returning home, Lane followed in his father's political footsteps too. He was elected the Indiana Lieutenant Governor, serving from 1849-53, when he moved up to be U.S. Congressman from the state.
      Just a year into his House term he voted for the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which was designed to put the slavery question to a Kansas Territory local vote. Thus the influx of polarized "settlers" to the territory, but they could vote as "absentees" even after they returned to their home state and farms. Lane moved to Lawrence in 1855, where he let the Jayhawkers of the Free-State movement. He became a local hero almost immediately, by organizing the defense of Lawrence during what became the Wakarusa War in December 1855. And his evolution to Bloody Bill began, as he became a ruthless demagogue as a super-abolitionist.
      He moved up again, becoming one of the first U.S. Senators from Kansas, in the year when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. In December 1861, he raised a Frontier Guard, and commanded the Kansas Brigade, which later took his eponymous name. He went so far in enlist the First Kansas Colored Volunteers, the first such Black troops to experience battle during the Civil War.
      He is best known for his statement he made by leading his brigade in the fire-bombing of Oscela, Missouri, on Sept. 23, 1861, supposedly based on the intelligence that caches of Confederate supplies and money were hidden underneath and around the whole town. So they burned everything in their path, including the pro-Union property. After even the Union Military hierarchy condemned Lane's sack of Oscela, his fortunes went downhill, and Lane eventually lapsed into a near-despondent state. On July 1, 1866, he shot himself in the head and fell or leapt from his carriage in Leavenworth, Kansas, and died and was buried there ten days later. [Return]

2. City and County of Ottawa, Kansas
      The city of Ottawa, Kansas ( as opposed to Ottawa County, which is to the west of the town of Ottawa, in central Kansas) will play a key role in the upcoming Journal series on the amazing Kalloch family, starring Isaac S. Kalloch, who was a city father in Ottawa — as signatory on the town's original charter, in the 1860s, before moving to San Francisco and becoming mayor on the West Coast in 1879. Ottawa is about 25 miles south of Lawrence, as the crow flies, in Franklin County, and Lawrence is in Douglas County. Topeka was 25 miles to the west, and nearly 200 miles to the west is Lincoln Center, the tiny town that sent 75 of its emigrants to Sedro-Woolley and Skagit Valley, following George Green and Emerson Hammer. We have also been contributing some ideas about the Northwest and the Kallochs, who eventually settled here in Whatcom and Skagit counties, to Paula Thomas, who is finishing a historical novel based on Mayor Isaac, the once-defrocked abolitionist preacher from Maine, then Boston, who had an eye for the ladies. This will be a fun series, guaranteed. [Return]

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Story posted on May 25, 2011
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