Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
Part 1 out of 6
Scanned by Roger Taft, great-grandson of the author.
Produced for PG by Jim Tinsley
[Frontispiece: Pardee Butler]
WITH REMINISCENCES, BY
MRS. ROSETTA B. HASTINGS
AND ADDITIONAL CHAPTERS
ELD. JOHN BOGGS AND ELD. J. B. MCCLEERY.
STANDARD PUBLISHING COMPANY
I have not attempted to write a complete biography of my father,
but merely to supplement his "Recollections" with a few of my own
reminiscences. He was a man who said little in his family about his
early years, or about any of the occurrences of his eventful life. Nor
did he ever keep any journal, or any account of his meetings, or of the
number that he baptized. He seldom reported his meetings to the
newspapers. I think it was only during the few years that he was
employed by missionary societies, that he ever made reports of what he
accomplished. He had even destroyed the most of his old letters. And so,
for nearly all information outside of my own recollections, I have been
indebted to the kindness of relatives and friends.
The later chapters have been written by men who knew my father
intimately, and men whose reputations are such as to give weight to
To all of these friends I now offer my thanks for their kind assistance.
And to the public I offer this book, not for its literary merit, but as
the tribute of a daughter to a loved father, whose earnest devotion to
duty was worthy of imitation.
MRS. ROSETTA B. HASTINGS.
_Farmington, Kansas, April 23,1889._
In this country inherited fortunes, or ancestral honors, have little
effect on a man's reputation; but inherited disposition and early
surroundings have much effect on his character.
My father's ancestors were from New England. His father, Phineas Butler,
came from Saybrook, Connecticut, where the Congregational Churches
framed the Saybrook platform. His mother's people, the Pardees, came
from Norfork, Connecticut. The Pardees were said to have been
descendants of the French Huguenots. Ebenezer Pardee emigrated to
Marcellus, now known as Skaneateles, Onondaga Co., New York. There he
died in 1811, leaving his wife Ann Pardee, (known for many years as
grandmother Pardee) a widow, with nine sons and two daughters. The
eldest daughter, Sarah Pardee, was there married in 1813, to Phineas
Butler; and there my father, who was the second of seven children, was
born, March 9, 1816.
In the autumn of 1818, Phineas Butler, of whom I shall hereafter speak
as grandfather Butler, went to Wadsworth, Medina Co., Ohio. There a
settlement had been begun three years before in the heavy timber, and
there were only a few small clearings here and there in the woods.
My grandmother came on with her brother the following spring. She had
three small children, but they made the journey in a sled, in bad
weather, cutting their own roads, and camping in the woods at night.
Grandmother Pardee came on later. She was a woman of great energy, and
brought up her sons so well that they all became leading men in the
communities in which they lived. Grandmother Butler was also a capable,
fearless woman, and so calm and firm that it was said no vexation was
ever known to ruffle her temper.
Their cabins were built of logs, with hewed puncheon floors and doors;
and on the roof, in the place of nailed shingles, were split shakes,
fastened on with poles and wooden pins. But grandfather had brought a
few nails (made by a blacksmith) from New York, and used them in his
house. When a neighbor died they hewed out puncheons to make a coffin,
and finding only eighteen nails in the neighborhood, grandfather, by
torchlight, pulled fourteen more out of his house to finish the coffin.
Their lives were full of hardship and privation. Grandfather was a
famous hunter, and his well aimed rifle sometimes furnished game that
kept the neighborhood from starvation. He was dependent on bartering
furs at some distant trading post, for his supplies of salt, needles,
ammunition and other necessary articles that could not be made at home.
Often, after a hard day's work, he hunted half of the night to obtain
coonskins and other furs. Father said that one night grandfather and
Orin Loomis were out hunting coons with the dogs, having taken their
axes to chop down coon trees, but no guns, when they found a bear, on a
small island, in the middle of a swamp. But I find his bear story so
well told in the "_Wadsworth Memorial_" that I will quote from
"In the fall of 1823, as Butler and Loomis were returning after midnight
from one of their hunts, and had arrived within a mile or two of home it
was noticed that the dogs were missing. Presently a noise was heard, far
back in the rear.
"'Hark! What was that?' said Loomis. They listened awhile, and agreed it
was dogs, sure.
"'Orr, let's go back,' said Butler.
"'No, it is too late,' answered Loomis.
"'But,' said Butler, 'I'll warrant the dogs are after a bear; don't
you hear old Beaver? It sounds to me like the bark of old Beaver when he
is after a bear.'
"Butler was bound to go back, and so they started. The scene of the
disturbance was finally reached, after traveling two or three miles. The
dogs had found a bear; but it was in the middle of Long Swamp, and the
alders were so thick that there was scarcely room for man, dog or bear
to get through. This did not deter Phin. Butler, however. They got near
enough to find that the bear was stationed on a spot a little drier than
the main swamp, surrounded by alder bushes, and that she was determined
not to leave it. The dogs would bay up close, when the old bear would
run out after them. They would retreat, and then she would run back to
her nest again.
"'We can't kill her to-night,' said Loomis, 'we will have to go home and
come down again in the morning.'
"'No,' replied Butler, 'I am afraid she will get away. We can kill her
to-night, I guess. You can go and hiss on the dogs on one side, and I
will come up on the other; and when she runs out after them, I'll cut
her back-bone off with the ax.'
"They concluded to try this plan, and came very near succeeding. As the
old bear rushed past, Butler put the whole bit of the ax into her back,
but failed to cut the back-bone by an inch or two. Enraged and
desperate, she sprang upon the dogs, who, emboldened by the presence of
their masters, came too close. With one of her enormous paws she came
down on old Beaver, making a large wound in his side, which nearly
killed him. He was hardly able to crawl out of the swamp.
"The fight was then abandoned until morning, as without Beaver to lead
the dogs it was useless to proceed. It was difficult to get the old dog
home, but he finally got well. Early in the morning the hunters were on
the ground. This time they had their guns with them, but found the old
bear was gone. On examining her nest of the night before, her unusual
ferocity was explained. She had a litter of cubs, which, however, she
had succeeded in removing, and must have carried them off in her mouth.
In a short time the dogs had tracked her out. She was found a half mile
lower down the swamp, where she had a new nest. Butler's rifle soon
dispatched her; but her cubs, four in number, and not more than three or
four weeks old, were taken alive, and kept for pets."
Father said that he could remember when they brought the bears home,
growling, snarling--the crossest little things he ever saw.
Strange as it may seem, my father did not inherit grandfather's love for
hunting. I never saw him shoot a gun, and he has never owned one within
Orin Loomis was often heard to say that Phin. Butler was the most
courageous man he ever knew. He was quick-tempered, but warm-hearted,
and full of fun, and as honest and sincere as he was bold and fearless.
One time he was traveling, and stopped at a tavern. The strangers
present were discussing the statement that every man has his price, and
each man was telling what was the least price for which he would tell a
lie. Finally one man said that he would tell a lie for five dollars.
Grandfather's impetuous nature could stand it no longer, and he burst
out scornfully: "Tell a lie! Tell a lie for five dollars! Sell your
manhood! Sell your soul for five dollars! You must rate yourself very
cheap!" And then, they said, he fairly preached them a sermon on the
nobility of perfect truthfulness, and the littleness and meanness of
lying and deceitfulness.
My grandmother was also very conscientious, which was illustrated by the
fact that on her death-bed, after giving some good advice to her
daughters, she charged them to carry home a cup of coffee that she had
An old Wadsworth friend, writing to us since father's death, says of
him: "From a boy Pardee was remarkable for his uprightness, and bold and
strict honesty, and it was a maxim among the boys to say, 'As honest as
Pard, Butler.' He and his father before him were specimens of
puritanical honesty and courage, and had they lived in the days of
Cromwell and in England, would doubtless have been in Cromwell's army."
Scarcely was the settlement begun when a school was taught in one room
of a log dwelling-house. When but three years old, father was a pupil in
the first school that was taught in the new school-house, by Miss Lodema
Sackett, and continued to attend school a part of every year. Books were
scarce, but he was fond of reading, and read, over and over, all that he
The Western Reserve was settled mainly by New Englanders, who were
intelligent and God-fearing men; and religious meetings were held from
the first; printed sermons being read aloud when there was no preacher.
A Sunday-school was organized in Wadsworth in 1820.
The most influential man in the neighborhood was Judge Brown, an uncle
of "John Brown of Ossawatomie." He was noted for the purity of his
life, the dignity of his demeanor, and the firmness with which he
defended his views. He was a bitter opponent of slavery, and, what was
strange in those days, a strong temperance man. Before leaving
Connecticut he had heard Lyman Beecher deliver his famous temperance
sermons, and he came to Wadsworth with his soul ablaze with temperance
zeal. The community was strongly influenced by him, and father said that
he was much indebted to Judge Brown for his temperance and anti-slavery
Even in those early days Wadsworth contained a public library, a lyceum
where the young men discussed the questions of the day, and an academy.
Father took part in the lyceum debates, though he was said to be slow of
speech; and attended the Wadsworth Academy from its beginning, in 1830.
One of its most successful teachers was a shrewd Scotchman named John
McGregor. Father and several young men from a distance, who boarded at
grandfather's and attended this school, spent their evenings studying
their lessons, or reading and discussing some good book. Dick's
scientific works were among the books thus read.
There were many Lutherans, Dutch Reformers, and Mennonites near
Wadsworth, and there was a perfect ferment of religious discussion.
During father's boyhood, Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott had been
preaching the union of Christians on the Bible alone, and there was
Eld. Newcomb, an honored Baptist preacher, together with my grandfather,
and Samuel Green--the father of Almon B. Green and Philander Green--had
been reading the writings of A. Campbell for several years. Almon B.
Green had been made skeptical by the unintelligible orthodox preaching.
But one day, after reading the first four books of the New Testament, he
exclaimed, "No uninspired man ever wrote that book." He read on until he
came to Acts ii. 38, which he took to Eld. Newcomb, asking him its
meaning. "It means what it says," was his reply. In a few days Almon was
baptized by Eld. Newcomb, simply on his confession of faith in Christ,
without telling any experience, as usually required by the Baptists.
Soon afterwards four families, the New-combs, Greens, Butlers and
Bonnels, all Baptists, united to form a church on the apostolic pattern.
Then William Hayden came with his fiery eloquence and wondrous songs;
the people were stirred up, opposition aroused, the various creeds were
discussed with renewed energy, and the church grew and multiplied.
But father and his uncle Aaron, who was eight years older than himself,
had been made skeptical by orthodox mysticism and the disputes of so
many wrangling churches.
In September, 1833, A. Campbell came to Wadsworth to attend a great
yearly meeting held in William Eyle's barn. The following account of
an incident that occurred at that time, I quote from "History of the
Disciples on the Western Reserve."
"An incident occurred at this time which displays Mr Campbell's
character for discernment and candor. Aaron Pardee, a gentleman residing
in the vicinity, an unbeliever in the gospel, attracted by Campbell's
abilities as a reasoner, and won by his fairness in argument, resolved
to obtain an interview and propose freely his difficulties. Mr. Campbell
received him with such frankness that he opened his case at once,
saying, 'I discover, Mr. Campbell, you are well prepared in the
argument and defenses of the Christian religion. I confess to you
frankly there are some difficulties in my mind which prevent my
believing the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.'
"Mr. Campbell replied, 'I acknowledge freely, Mr. Pardee, there are
difficulties in the Bible--difficulties not easy to explain, and some,
perhaps, which in our present state of information can not be cleared
up. But, my dear sir, when I consider the overwhelming testimony in its
favor, so ample, complete and satisfactory, I can not resist the
conviction of its divine origin. The field of prophetic inspiration is
so varied and full, and the internal evidence so conclusive, that, with
all the difficulties, the preponderance of evidence is overwhelming in
its favor.' This reply, so fair and manly, and so different from the
pulpit denunciations of 'skeptics,' 'infidels,' etc., to which he had
been accustomed, quite disarmed him, and led him to hear the truth and
its evidence in a much more rational state of mind. Within a year he
became fully satisfied of the truthfulness of the Holy Scriptures, and
apprehending clearly their testimony to the claims of Jesus of Nazareth
as the anointed Son of God, he was prepared to yield to him the
obedience of his life."
My father was present with his uncle Aaron at that interview with Mr.
Campbell, and he too was led by it to listen favorably to Mr. Campbell's
clear and powerful presentation of divine truth. He followed Mr.
Campbell to other meetings, and listened, read, and investigated until
he, too, became convinced of the truth of the Bible.
His uncle Aaron, who is still living, said in a recent letter: "I
remember going to meeting with Pardee sometime about a year before I was
immersed, when he put some questions to me on the subject of religion,
which were very difficult to answer."
In June, 1835, at a meeting held in Mr. Clark's new barn, my father and
his uncle, Aaron Pardee, confessed their Saviour, and were baptized by
Elder Newcomb in a stream on Elder Newcomb's farm. A brother and sister
of A. B. Green, and a sister of Holland Brown, were baptized at the same
time. Holland Brown had been baptized the previous week. He walked down
to the water with father, and remembers hearing him exclaim, on the way
to the water, "Lord, I believe! Help thou mine unbelief." He also
remembers hearing Elder Newcomb remark, "Now we can take everything; we
have Bro. Butler and Bro. Pardee to fight the infidels, and the Browns
to fight the Universalists." Holland Brown's brother, Leonard, and his
wife--he had married my father's eldest sister, Ann Butler--had been
baptized not far from that time.
Holland Brown relates the following incident, which occurred some time
"Bro. Butler was away from home, and driving a horse, which, though of
fine appearance, was badly wind-broken. At times the horse appeared
perfectly sound, and at one of those times Bro. Butler was offered a
handsome sum for him.
"No," said Bro. Butler, "I can not take that sum for the horse, he is
"Why didn't you take it? the man was a jockey, anyhow;" asked some one
in my hearing.
"'Because,' was the ringing answer, 'I think less of the price of a
horse than of my own soul.'"
About that time father began teaching school in neighboring districts,
which he followed for several years. But all of his spare time was spent
in studying the Bible, church history, the writings of A. Campbell, and
other religious books. It was at that time that he began committing the
New Testament to memory.
Grandfather Butler and Samuel Green were the leaders of the new
organization, as they had been of the Baptist Church, in Eld. Newcomb's
absence--for he was away evangelizing much of the time. They called on
the young people to take part in their social meetings on the Lord's
day, at first only asking them to read a passage of Scripture, afterward
to talk and pray, and, as they gained confidence in themselves, they
were asked to lead the meetings. Thus there grew, in that church, one
after the other, within a few years, eight preachers: A. B. Green, Wm.
Moody, Holland Brown, Leonard Brown, Philander Green, B. F. Perky,
Pardee Butler and L. L. Carpenter.
A. B. Green had been preaching a year or more before father was baptized,
but I do not know which of the others began first, nor do I know the
exact time when father began to preach, but it was about 1837 or 1838.
He was not ordained at Wadsworth, for the church at that time doubted
whether there was any Scriptural authority for ordination. He was
ordained some six or seven years afterward, in 1844, at Sullivan.
In such times of religious excitement it was not necessary for a man to
have a college education, to become an acceptable preacher. But father
saw the advantages of a good education, and resolved to attend A.
Campbell's school, then known as Buffalo Academy, but which was soon
changed to Bethany College. But the means to acquire an education must
be obtained by his own exertions.
About the year 1839 grandfather sold his place in Wadsworth, and moved
to the Sandusky Plains, a level, marshy prairie, in northwestern Ohio.
Part of the Plains belonged to the Wyandotte Indian Reservation, and was
opened to settlement, a few years afterward, by the removal of the
Indians to Wyandotte, Kansas.
Father and grandfather made sheep-raising their business while there.
Father herded sheep in summer and taught school in winter. And, while
herding sheep, he finished committing the New Testament to memory. He
could repeat it from beginning to end, and even in his later years he
remembered it so well that he could repeat whole chapters at once. I
never saw the time that any one could repeat a verse in the New
Testament to him, but that he could tell the book, and nearly always the
chapter in which it was found.
He and his father's family put their membership into the church at
Letimberville, some miles distant; and there he occasionally preached.
He sometimes went back to Wadsworth, and on the way back and forth
stopped and preached for the little church at Sullivan, Ashland Co.
There he made the acquaintance of Sibjl S. Carleton, the daughter of
Joseph Carleton, one of the leading members of the church. They were
married August 17, 1843; and he never had cause to regret his choice,
for she proved to him a helpmeet indeed.
While living there, at the solicitation of his neighbors, he held a
debate with a Universalist preacher, to the satisfaction of his friends
and the discomfiture of his opponent.
Many parts of the Plains were covered with water, and were musical with
frogs in the spring, but in hot weather they dried up, leaving here and
there a stagnant pond. I have heard father tell how one of his neighbors
tried to break a field by beginning on the outside, and plowing farther
in as the land dried up. But the snakes and frogs grew thicker and
thicker, as he neared the center. At length the grass seemed almost
alive with snakes, and his big ox-team became wild with fright, and ran
away, and he could not get them back there again.
Of course, such a country was unhealthful, and father's family was much
troubled with sickness. His parents both died; my mother was nearly worn
out with the ague; and he not only suffered from poor general health,
but from a sore throat, and had to quit preaching. He moved to Sullivan,
but without any permanent benefit to his health. He did not at that time
attribute his sore throat entirely to the climate, but thought it a
chronic derangement that would utterly unfit him for a preacher. Many
years afterward he wrote of that disappointment as follows: "For five
years I saw myself sitting idly by the wayside, hopeless and
discouraged. I felt somewhat like a traveler, parched with thirst, on a
wide and weary desert, who sees the mirage of green trees and springs of
cool water that has mocked his vision, slowly fade away out of his
sight. So seemed to perish my castles in the air. At that time making
proclamation of the ancient gospel was too vigorous a work, and too full
of hardship and exposure to be undertaken by any except those possessing
stalwart good health. If I had been predestinated to the life I have
actually lived, and if it were necessary that I should be chastened to
bear with patience all its disabilities, then, I suppose, this
discipline I actually got might be considered good and useful. If I have
been able to bear provocation with patience, and to labor cheerfully
without wages, and at every personal sacrifice, this lesson was learned
when I saw all my hope dashed in pieces."
In the spring of 1850 father sold his property and decided to go to
Iowa. Shortly before the time of starting, my little sister and baby
brother took the scarlet fever and, ere long, they were both laid in the
old graveyard. Heart-broken as my parents were, they did not give up the
long, lonely journey. Father bought a farm in Iowa, and built a log
house on it, intending to become a farmer. He and mother united with the
nearest church, at Long Grove, sixteen miles distant. Father did not
tell them at first that he had been a preacher, but they questioned him
and learned the facts. As his health improved he occasionally preached
Eld. N. A. McConnell gives the following account of his preaching in
"I first met him at his temporary home in Posten's Grove, in the fall of
1850. During that winter he taught a school in Dewitt, Clinton Co., and
preached occasionally at Long Grove. The next spring he attended a
co-operation meeting at Walnut Grove, Jones Co., at which he was
employed to labor with me in what was called District No. 2. His
district included the counties of Scott, Clinton, Jackson, Jones, Cedar,
Johnson, a part of Muscatine, Linn and Benton, and west to the Missouri
river. He preached at LeClaire, Long Grove, Allen's Grove, Simpson's,
Big Rock, Green's School-house, Walnut Grove, Marion, Dry Creek,
Pleasant Grove, Burlison's, Maquoketa and Posten's Grove, as well as at
numerous school-houses scattered over a large district of the country.
He did excellent work in preaching the word. He was not a revivalist,
nor was his co-laborer, yet there were a goodly number added to the Lord
during the year. I think not less than one hundred. The next year, 1852,
the annual meeting of the co-operation was held at Dewitt, Clinton Co.
At that meeting the district was divided into East and West No. 2. Your
father was assigned to the eastern division and I took the western. His
field included Davenport, Long Grove and Allen's Grove, in Scott Co.;
Maquoketa and Burlison's in Jackson Co., and Dewitt in Clinton Co. He
labored also in Cedar Co., and did a grand work, not so much in the
numbers added as in the sowing the good seed of the Kingdom, and
recommending our plea to the more intelligent and better informed of the
various communities where he labored. You will remember that he held in
mind nearly the entire New Testament, so that he could quote it most
accurately. I think he had also the clearest and most minute details of
the Old Testament history, of any man I ever knew. Nor was his reading
and recollection limited to Bible details; for he was very familiar With
other history, both sacred and profane.
"I call to mind two sermons that he delivered. One was based on the
language of Christ addressed to the Woman of Samaria, at Jacob's
well--John iv.: 'Ye worship ye know not what. We know what we worship;
for salvation is of the Jews.' In this sermon he detailed the history of
Israel to the revolt under Jereboam, the history of Jereboam and his
successors until the overthrow of the ten tribes, and the formation of
the mongrel nation called Samaritans. In this he showed that God's
promise--Ex. xx., 'In all places where I record my name, I will meet
with you and bless you,' was fully realized by the people of God, and
that a disregard of the law in harmony with this promise was followed by
most disastrous results. And that the same is true under the
Gospel--where his name is recorded, and only there, he now meets and
blesses his people.
"The second sermon was on the subject of Justification by faith.' This
was doubtless one of the very best efforts of his life. I will not
trouble you with the details of this grand effort, since it was
published in full in the _Evangelist_ in 1852. The sermon was
published, not by his request, but by the unanimous voice of the State
Meeting held in Davenport that year.
"I am sorry that I can not give more of the details of his grand work in
The winter of 1851-2 was very cold, but father did not stop for bad
weather. I remember that when he started to his appointment one cold
morning mother cried for fear he would freeze to death. The mail-carrier
did freeze to death that day, but father kept from freezing by walking.
The next summer was very rainy, and mother was always anxious when there
were high waters, for there were no bridges, and father always swam his
horse across streams, although he could not swim a stroke.
Then he preached for several years in Illinois, and was gone for months
at a time.
In July, 1854, my little sister--for by that time I had another brother
and sister--after a brief illness, closed her eyes in death. Fortunately
father was at home, to mingle his tears with mother's, over the little
The next spring father sold his Iowa farm.
Before leaving there an incident occurred that I distinctly remember.
The Iowa Legislature had passed some kind of temperance law, and the
people were to vote on it at the spring election. Our country lyceum
formed itself into a mock court, and tried King Alcohol for various
crimes and misdemeanors. Father was appointed prosecuting attorney, and
he went at it in earnest, as he always did at anything he undertook.
He sent for every man in the vicinity who ever drank, or who had good
opportunities to observe the effect of drink on others, to appear as
a witness against King Alcohol. The trial lasted three evenings, with
Increasing crowds. Father's adroitness in drawing facts from
witnesses--often against their will--kept the Audience laughing and
applauding. I remember hearing people say that he had mistaken his
calling; that he ought to have been a lawyer. On the last evening, When
he addressed the jury, he became eloquent. He pictured the terrible
effects of intemperance, the ruined homes, the weeping wives, the ragged
children. He denounced King Alcohol as guilty of every known crime--of
stealing the bread from the mouths of children, of robbing helpless
women of everything they valued most, of brutally shedding the blood of
thousands, and of filling the whole earth with violence, until the cries
of widows and orphans reached to high heaven. When he finished, the
house rang with applause. The attorney for the defense tried to reply,
but the boys said Mr. Butler had spoiled his speech. The jury brought in
a verdict of guilty. The election came off soon afterwards, and people
said that it was strongly influenced, in that township, by father's
The next May, mother, my little brother, and I, went to my uncle
Gorham's, near Canton, Illinois; while father went to Kansas to buy
land, intending, however, to live several years at Mt. Sterling,
Illinois, before moving to Kansas.
MRS. ROSETTA B. HASTINGS.
I came to Kansas in the spring of 1855, having been preaching in that
part of Illinois known as the Military Tract, during the three preceding
years; but my residence was in Cedar County, Iowa, one hundred and fifty
miles from my field of labor, and twenty-six miles to the northwest of
the city of Davenport. I had been employed for one year in Iowa as a
co-laborer with Bro. N. A. McConnell; but the church at Davenport, which
was the strongest and richest church in the Cooperation, determined to
sustain a settled pastor, and this left the churches too poor to support
two preachers, and I was left to find another field of labor.
When I first came to Cedar County I came simply as a farmer; and there
were but nine families in the township in which we settled. But when the
country came to be settled up the result was not favorable to the
expectation that we should have prosperous churches in that region.
Those who have watched the progress of the temperance reform in Iowa
have noticed that, while the prohibitory law is enforced almost
throughout the State, there are yet exceptions in the cities of
Davenport and Muscatine and the adjacent counties. Here the law is set
at defiance. This is owing to the presence of a German,
lager-beer-drinking, law-defying population, Godless and Christless,
and that turn the Lord's day into a holiday. This tendency had begun
to be apparent before I left Iowa.
When it became manifest that I could not any longer find a field of
labor in Southeastern Iowa, I was recommended to the churches in the
counties of Schuyler and Brown, in the Military Tract, Illinois.
My first introduction among them was dramatic, if, indeed, we could give
to an incident almost frivolous and laughable, the dignity of a dramatic
incident; and yet the matter had a serious side to it. I had been
commended by Bro. Bates, editor of the _Iowa Christian Evangelist_, to
the church at Rushville, where I held a meeting of days. The meetings
grew in interest, there were some important additions, and the church
was greatly revived. Twelve miles from Rushville was the town of Ripley,
a small village, where the people were engaged in the business of
manufacturing pottery ware. Here two Second Adventist preachers, a Mr.
Chapman and his wife, were holding forth. This Mr. Chapman was a devout,
pious, and earnest man, and a good exhorter, and had an unfaltering
faith that the Lord was immediately to appear. But his wife was the
smartest one in the family. She was fluent and voluble. She had an
unabashed forehead and a bitter and defiant tongue. It was her hobby to
declaim against the popular idea of the existence of the human spirit
apart from the body. With her this was equivalent to a witch riding on a
broomstick or going to heaven on a moonbeam. Spirit is breath--so she
dogmatically affirmed--and when a man breathes out his last breath his
spirit leaves his body. But it was her especial delight to declaim
against the Pagan notion of the immortality of the soul, and to affirm
that the Bible says nothing of the immortality of the soul. A Bro.
McPherson undertook to contest the matter with her, but, not finding the
scripture he was looking for, she exclaimed with bitter and vixenish
speech, "Ah! You can't find it! You can't find it! It isn't there! I
told you so!" And thus this couple were fast demoralizing the church,
Billy Greenwell, the richest man in the church, being wholly carried
away with this fanaticism. John Brown lived half way between Ripley and
Rushville, but was a member of the church at Rushville. Bro. Brown was a
man of good sense, excellent character, and had been a member of the
Legislature. He attended our meeting at Rushville, and, in the intervals
of the meeting, was full of questions concerning this heresy that had
been sprung on them at Ripley.
Our meeting at Rushville came to a close. It had been a good meeting;
the church had been revived, and there had been important additions. I
took dinner with Bro. Brown, and in the afternoon we rode toward Ripley.
On crossing the ferry at Crooked Creek, "Old Rob Burton," the ferryman,
a tall, stalwart Kentuckian, looking down on me, asked, "Are you the
man that's goin' to preach at Ripley to-night?"
"Wall, don't you know thar's a woman thar that's goin' to skin you?"
"Well, I don't know. We shall see how it will be?"
At Rushville I had done my best, and now, being withdrawn from the
excitement of the meeting, felt exhausted; and determined not to touch
any debatable question that night. The house was crowded with eager and
expectant listeners. My fame had gone before me, and the "woman
preacher" was present, ready for a fight. But, alas! My sermon was a
bucket of cold water poured on the heads of my brethren. At any other
time it would have been accepted as a good and edifying exhortation; but
now, how untimely! The meeting was dismissed and the buzzing was as if a
hive of bees had just been ready to swarm. The woman's disciples were
jubilant; and, above the din and hurly-burly, I heard a thin, squeaking
voice say, "Give that woman a Bible, and she would say more in five
minutes than that man has said in his whole dis-c-o-u-rse." This was
Brother Brown said nothing that night; but the next morning he said to
"Bro. B., the people were disappointed with you last night."
"Why, Bro. B., was it not a good sermon?"
"Yes; but it was not what the people expected."
"Bro. B., did the people expect me, uninvited, to pitch into a quarrel
with which I have nothing whatever to do?"
"Oh, is that it? Well, wait a little and you shall have an invitation."
Bro. Brown went out, and soon returned with a request that I should
discuss the question that Mr. Chapman and his wife had been debating. I
sat down and wrote out a statement of the subjects on which I proposed
to speak in all the evenings of the coming week. The first commanded
universal attention: "Does the spirit die when the body dies?" They had
never thought of that. They had been thunderstruck when this woman told
them that the Bible says nothing about the immortality of the soul, but
beyond this they had never gone. There was probably more Bible reading
that day in Ripley than any day before or since.
At night the house was jammed, and "the woman" was there, Bible in hand.
I began: "The Bible speaks of a man as composed of body, soul and
spirit. The body is that material tabernacle in which a man dwells, and
which Paul hoped to put off that he might be clothed with a house not
made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The soul is that animal life we
have in common with all living and material things. Thus Jesus is said
to have poured out his soul unto death. But what of the spirit? God is
spirit, and God can not die. The angels are spirits, and the angels can
not die; Jesus says so. Man has a spirit, and can man's spirit die? But
spirit sometimes means breath. Yes, and heaven sometimes means the
firmament above our heads, where the birds fly. But does it never mean
more than this? Paradise sometimes means the happy garden where Adam and
Eve dwelt; but does it never mean more than that? So, granting that
spirit sometimes means breath, may it not also mean more than that?
"When Jesus said, 'Into thy hands I commend my spirit,' did he mean,
'Into thy hands I commend my breath'? So, when the disciples saw Jesus
walking on the water and cried out, 'It is a spirit,' did Jesus say to
them, 'This is an old wives' fable; there is no such thing as a spirit'?
Did he not rather say to them,--'It is I; be not afraid.' So, also, when
he appeared to them in a room, the doors being shut, and they cried out,
'It is a spirit,' he said to them, 'Handle me and see; for a spirit
hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.' In all this Jesus
encouraged the disciples to hold the idea which was then popular among
the Jews, that the spirit may exist apart from the body, and after the
body is dead."
I thus discoursed to them for one hour in development of the Bible
teachings concerning human spirits; and in my turn ridiculed the persons
that had ridiculed the ideas that had evidently been held by Jesus and
Mrs. Chapman had always invited objections; but she was sure to make an
endless talk over them. I said, "We will not have an endless
confabulation to-night; but I will quote one passage of Scripture, and
on that I will rest my case. Any other person may then quote one passage
of Scripture and on that rest the case. I have preached one sermon; the
other party has preached twenty. So far we will count ourselves even,
and it only remains that I should quote my Scripture, and let the other
party quote the one Scripture on the opposite side, and then we will be
dismissed." I gave the views of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees as
detailed by Josephus, and then quoted Luke in the Acts of Apostles: "The
Sadducees say there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit; but
the Pharisees confess both." And Paul says, "Men and brethren, I am a
Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee." So I also say, I am a Pharisee, the
son of a Pharisee, and hold to the existence of human and angelic
When I announced that I should call for objections, I saw Mrs. Chapman
take up her Bible in a flutter and nervously turn over its leaves. When
I sat down all eyes were turned on her, and there was a death-like
stillness in the house. Then she rose up, and in a moment was out of the
house. She left the town the next morning and never came back. Then it
was "Old Bob Burton's" turn to speak. He said to Billy Green, "Your
chest is locked, and the key is lost in the bottom of the sea."
The brethren were gratified that the power of this "soul-sleeping"
delusion was broken. Billy Green never recovered from his infatuation.
He afterwards built a house that, in the number of rooms it contained,
was wholly beyond his necessities. But he thought that when the Lord
should come, and he should own all the land that joined him, and should
have children to his heart's desire, then he would need all the room.
From Ripley I went to Mt. Sterling, the county-seat of Brown County.
This church had fallen into decay for want of the care of a competent
evangelist. Here I remained some weeks; and the church was very much
revived, and there was a large ingathering. This was originally the home
of Bro. Archie Glenn, now conspicuous in building up the University at
Wichita. From the first Bro. Glenn, though modest and unobtrusive, was
known as a solid and helpful member of the church. He always had the
confidence of the people of Brown County, and was by them elected to
various public offices, at last becoming Lieutenant-Governor of the
State. But his business not prospering to suit him, he removed to
Wichita, which was at that time a straggling village of uncertain
fortunes, situated on a river of doubtful reputation, and located in a
country concerning which the public were debating whether it should be
called "The Great American Desert," or a decent place, where civilized
men could live and thrive.
But Bro. Glenn did not lose faith in the Lord nor in his country. He
went to his new home to be a live man. Wichita has decided to be a city,
and not a straggling village of doubtful and cow-boy reputation; the
Arkansas River has agreed to behave itself and to co-operate with human
hands in giving fertility to its valley, and the geographers have
unanimously agreed to strike the "Great American Desert" from the map of
the United States. Sister Shields has grown up since these old days to
be a woman, then a widow, and now a true yoke-fellow with her father in
these great undertakings.
Bro. Lewis Brockman was pointed out to me, when first I came to Mt.
Sterling, as a disaffected member; but, on a better acquaintance, it
became apparent that his disaffection was that the church members had
made a solemn vow to keep the ordinances of the Lord's house, and did
not do it. When better order was obtained, he was once more in harmony
with the church; came to Atchison County, Kansas, and died, a pattern of
fidelity to his conscience and to every known duty.
During the period of three years in which I remained preaching in the
Military Tract, I visited almost all its churches. The number of
disciples was large. They had a large amount of wealth at their
disposal, and were not averse to using it to promote the advancement of
the cause. But the children of this world are, in their generation,
wiser than the children of light, and there is a certain practical
wisdom that has been abundantly learned by other religious communities
that has only come to our churches through a sore and bitter experience;
and it was through the fire of this experience they were passing at the
time of which we write. "Billy Brown" had been a notable evangelist
among them. Indeed, he had been the father in the gospel of the churches
in Brown and Schuyler Counties. He was popularly described as having a
head "as big as a half bushel," surmounted by a great shock of hair. He
was an iconoclast, and devoted his life to the business of
image-breaking, and, of course, the breaking in pieces of the idols of
the people created a great tumult. There was this difference, and only
this difference, between the work of Billy Brown and Sam Jones; Sam
Jones declaims against sins already condemned by the popular conscience,
but Billy Brown assailed convictions enshrined in the innermost
sanctuary of the hearts of the people. He did so because these popular
superstitions stood in the way of the acceptance by the people of the
apostolic gospel. Of course, the work of such a man carried with it an
inconceivable excitement. At Mt. Sterling a man in the audience made
"What is your name?" said Billy Brown.
"My name, sir, is Trotter."
"Well, come forward, and I will knock your _trotters_ out from under
But Billy himself sometimes found his match. At Ripley he had been
preaching after his accustomed style, and riding away from the place of
meeting--it was in the spring of the year when the mud was deep--he saw
an old man painfully and with difficulty making his way through the mud.
Knowing that he was a preacher from his white cravat, his broad-brimmed
hat and single-breasted coat, he said to him:
"Well, old Daddy, how did you like the preaching?"
"Haven't heard any," stiffly replied the old gentleman.
But when the tumult and excitement of this conflict had passed away, and
his converts were brought face to face with the grave duties of a
religious life, and with the serious work of keeping the ordinances of
the Lord's house, they did not know how; they had been born in a
whirlwind and could only live in a tempest. Notwithstanding, they loved
the Lord's cause, and they trembled for themselves and their children,
if they should not be found faithful.
If these churches are not able at the present time to exhibit a growth
adequate to their opportunities, it must be remembered, on their behalf,
that they have sent to the West an incredibly large number of disciples
to serve as the nuclei for other churches throughout that mighty empire
that within the past thirty years has grown up between the Missouri
River and the Pacific Ocean.
The days I spent in these churches are the golden days of my life. There
has been no field in which my labor as an evangelist has yielded a
richer harvest; none in which there have been bestowed on me more
flattering or more kindly attentions. It was the bright and joyous
sunshine of a spring morning, before the bursting of the storm.
Though each year increased my attachment to the people, and apparently
added their good-will to myself, there had been coming to the front a
difficulty that could not any longer be thrust aside or disregarded. I
was one hundred and fifty miles away from home, and from my wife and
children. On holding a council of war to consider our future tactics, in
which Mrs. Butler, was commander-in-chief, and myself, second in
command, she said to me, "Pardee, I am willing to go wherever you say,
only when we go there we must go to stay. We must not put our house on
wheels. We must not leave our children without settled employment,
exposed to all the hazards of a city life, or a life without a permanent
Under such circumstances the settling on a home in reference to which it
could be said, "Here we are to stay," was not an easy matter. The
people of the Military Tract were, almost all of them, Kentuckians.
There were evidently impending storms in the political horizon. I could
not bend my sails to suit every favoring gale; and if, in the future,
there should come a time that my conscience should lie in one direction,
and my popularity and pecuniary interest in the other, I did not like to
invite such a temptation. At any rate, I did not like to place myself in
such a position that to bring down on my head popular odium would be to
invite pecuniary ruin. These counties in the Military Tract were old
settled counties, and land was high; and I was not rich. At this time
the Kansas-Nebraska bill had been adopted by Congress, and Kansas had
been opened for settlement. It was certain that Eastern Kansas, in the
matter of fertility of soil, and all the elements of agricultural
wealth, would be a desirable location.
"But there might be a political and social conflict." Yes, and there
might be a political and social conflict in Illinois; or, for the matter
of that, it might cover the West as with a blanket. It was certain that
Eastern Kansas would be early settled from Missouri; and in no State was
there a larger percentage of the people known as Disciples. I would,
therefore, be among my brethren; and, if I had kept the peace for three
years with Kentuckians in Illinois, could I not do the same thing with
Missourians in Kansas? In any case, there was a fair prospect of gaining
in Kansas a position of pecuniary independence; and any man can see that
such a position was worth all the world to Alexander Campbell, when he
was constrained by his conscience to bring down on his own head the
utmost wrath of his Baptist brethren.
I started in the spring of 1855 to ride on horseback through Missouri;
but was soon made to feel that there were more things in this world than
were known in my philosophy. I had determined to remain over Sunday in
Linnville, Linn County, Missouri, the county-seat of the county, as here
was a congregation of Disciples; and called on a merchant of the place,
who had been mentioned as one of the leading members. He remarked that
he had become acquainted with me through the _Christian Evangelist_,
published by Bro. Bates, in Iowa; but, on learning my destination,
seemed strangely oblivious that anything more should be due from him to
me. And so, having waited patiently about for a goodly time, I mounted
my horse and rode on till dark; then seeing a light, and having called
at the house, I found an old man who kindly received and lodged me. In
the morning it appeared that his house was surrounded by negro cabins.
Having inquired my destination, he began to talk to me concerning the
subject that seemed to be in every man's heart. I replied, submitting to
him such views as were held by a majority of Northern men. To my
surprise he flared up in anger, and said:
"If you talk that way when you get to Kansas you will never come back
again; they will hang you."
The thing was so absurd I only laughed in the old man's face,
and said to him:
"Well, you can not teach an old dog new tricks. I have spoken my mind so
long that I shall continue to do it if they do hang me," and so bade him
It was Sunday morning, and it was eighteen miles to Chillicothe.
Arriving at the hotel, the people were getting ready for meeting. On
questioning them where they were going, the landlord replied:
"To the Christian Church. Will you not go along with us?"
On asking my name he said:
"O yes; I have seen your name in the _Christian Evangelist._ You have
been preaching in Illinois. I will introduce you to our preacher, and we
will make an appointment for you this afternoon."
This landlord was a brother to that Congressman Graves that shot Cilley,
a member of Congress from Maine, in a duel with rifles, at Washington.
The people described "mine host" as one of "fighting stock "; and spoke
of him as being as thoughtful of the comfort, health and welfare of his
slaves as of his own children. To me he seemed simply a genial, jovial,
friendly and traditional "Boniface," chiefly intent on furnishing
comfortable fare and an enjoyable place for his guest.
By the members of the Christian Church I was kindly received, and was
invited to take dinner with the preacher. After dinner two brethren came
in, to whom I had been introduced at the meeting-house. After some
desultory talk, they asked me:
"_Are you an abolitionist_?"
I was both angry and confounded. I had never in my life made myself
conspicuous in this controversy that was going on between North and
South, and why should I be insulted with such a question. I did not
answer yes or no, but proceeded to give my views on the subject in
general. They listened and remarked that they did not see anything
offensive in such views; then made this apology for their seeming
rudeness: An old man, a preacher, whom they called Father Clark, had
come from Pennsylvania to Chillicothe to live with a married daughter,
and had said something concerning slavery offensive to the people, and
they had called a meeting of the citizens, and he had been driven out of
town and ordered never to return. They had, furthermore, resolved that
no abolitionist should thereafter be allowed to preach in the city.
These brethren explained that, as I would be called on and interrogated
by a committee, they thought it would be better that this should be done
by friends, than that I should be questioned by strangers.
"_Are You an Abolitionist_?"
I was angry with myself for having consented to preach a sermon after
being met with such a question. But by mine host, Bro. Graves, I was
treated with the most frank and manly courtesy, albeit that he was
brother to the man that shot a brother congressman in a duel with
rifles. He seemed to feel like the town clerk at Ephesus: "What man is
there that knoweth not that the city of the Ephesians is a worshiper of
the great goddess Diana, and of the image that fell down from Jupiter?
Seeing then that these things can not be spoken against, ye ought to be
quiet and do nothing rashly."
The Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad was just being located through the
city, yet the town was a dead town, though it was surrounded by a
fertile and prosperous country. Bro. Graves seemed awake to all its
advantages, and pressed me to remain, pointing out the rapid advance
that must take place in the value of its property. But I kept thinking
of the question: "Are you an abolitionist?" and bade him farewell.
At nightfall I found myself beyond Gallatin, on the road to St. Joseph.
As there were no hotels I called at a private house and was hospitably
received. This man, on whom I had called, had come from the State of
Pennsylvania, and had grown to a prosperous farmer. There seemed to be
no books or newspapers about the house; but he was shrewd and sagacious
to a proverb, and was eager to hear from the land of his fathers, and of
what was the cause of all this din and clamor and excitement of the
people about him. What was the meaning of the Kansas-Nebraska bill? What
were the intentions of the Black Republicans? What was the _New York
Tribune_ doing, that it should raise such a tumult? And what were the
purposes of the Emigrant Aid Society that it should be such an offense
to the people in Missouri?
On my own part, I also had much to learn from this man, so shrewd and
well-informed, and yet so ignorant. What did it mean that citizens of
Missouri should go over in force and vote in the Territory of Kansas? We
had heard something of this in Illinois, but supposed it was something
done by that turbulent and somewhat lawless element that gathers along
the borders of civilization; but now it was apparent that this movement
was under control of leading citizens of Missouri, and had been
participated in by conscientious men, members of the various churches of
Missouri, who would in no wise knowingly do anything wrong. What did it
The reader will not be surprised that we should sit up to a late hour of
the night, nor that we should renew the subject again in the morning.
When I had got ready to leave this man, who had so hospitably
entertained me, he explained that he had business on the road on which I
was traveling, and that he would accompany me a number of miles.
This emigrant from Pennsylvania, now a citizen of Missouri, who carried
his library in his brain and read his books when he conversed with men,
and kept his own counsel and lived in peace with his neighbors, was now
about to say farewell. With some hesitation he said: "Mr. Butler, I
thank you for all you have told me. I feel just as you do; but I must
advise you to be careful how you talk to other men as you have talked to
me. There are many in this country that would shoot such a man as you
It is said, "There are two sides to every question." In my association
with men in the free States I had learned one side of this question; now
I was learning the other side, and began to be able to put in
intelligible shape to myself those reasonings by which these men
justified their action. They reasoned thus: "War is a state of violence
and always involves a trenching upon what we call natural rights; and
its decisions depend not so much on who is right or wrong, as on who
wields the longest sword and commands the heaviest battalions. And if in
carrying on a war some evil comes to innocent parties, this is only one
of its necessary consequences, and is justified by the final result;
provided always that the war, as a whole, is right and just. And in such
a strained and unnatural condition of affairs men can not be governed by
the same scrupulous regard for others' rights by which they are governed
in time of peace. But the North and South are already practically in a
state of war. This comes of the mistakes made at the formation of our
government. Thomas Jefferson and the fathers of the Revolution were
mistaken in holding slavery wrong. It is a rightful and natural
relation, as between an inferior and superior race. The black race is
far better off here in America, in slavery, than they would be in
Africa, in freedom and in paganism; and if there is something of
hardship in their lot, it is only because there is hardship in the lot
of every human being."
These men also said: "Consequent on these erroneous views held by Thomas
Jefferson and others, the settlement made as between the North and South
has been wrong, from the beginning, It was wrong to close the Northwest
Territory, embracing Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, against
slavery. So also it was wrong to close Kansas against this institution
by what was called the Missouri Compromise Line, agreed upon on the
admission of Missouri into the Union."
So these men reasoned, and they said: "Now we propose to go and take by
the strong hand those rights of which we have been wrongfully deprived
since the beginning of the American Government. A little severity now--a
resolute seizing on our rights now, in this golden opportunity--will be
worth more than the shedding of rivers of blood by and by. Therefore the
primary and rudimental legislation of this infant Territory will be
worth everything to us in the final settlement of this question. It is
certain that the law is against us; but the law itself is wrong, and has
been wrong from the beginning. The right that belongs to us is the
material and inalienable right of revolution."
We have no right to assume that a majority of the people of Missouri
held the sentiments we have here indicated: probably they did not. But
the dissent was generally unspoken. The men of this stamp commonly
adopted the policy of the man with whom I had just parted. But there was
dissent in some cases, bitter and vehement, followed sometimes by
Before I had gone to Iowa, and while I yet lived in Ohio, I had visited
Kentucky. An Ohio colony had gone down into Kentucky and located in the
counties of Wayne and Pulaski, on the Cumberland River. A brother of
mine had gone with them, and I had made him a visit. I thought then, and
think now, that there is no region on which the sun shines, more
desirable to live in than the region of the Cumberland Mountains. At
Crab Orchard I found a man that was born in the State of New York. He
had been a soldier at Hull's surrender, at Detroit, in the war of 1812,
with Great Britain. From Detroit he had made his way into Kentucky, had
married a rich wife with many slaves, and had become a vehement partisan
for slavery. But because he was born in the same State with myself, and
because I could tell him much about that people that were once his
people, he was glad to have me stop with him. Being old and choleric, he
would go off into a fierce passion against the abolitionists. He would
say: "These men are thieves! Our niggers are our property, and they
steal our property. They might as well steal our horses." After awhile
he would begin to talk about his children. He would say: "These niggers
are ruining my children! My girls are good for nothing! They can not
help themselves! They are so helpless they can not even pick up a
needle. And my boys! These niggers are ruining my boys! My boys won't
work!" And then he would _go_ on to tell the nameless vices the young
men of the city were drawn into through their intimacy with the blacks.
I thought, but did not say, "My dear sir, if slavery is working such a
ruin on your own children, would not the abolitionists be doing you a
kindness if they would steal every nigger you have got?"
But there was a still graver aspect that this question was beginning to
assume: A woman that is a slave has neither the motive nor the power to
protect her own virtue; and the land was threatened to be filled with a
nation of mulattoes. But this mixed race would possess all the pride,
ambition and talent of the superior race; at the same time they would
feel all that undying hatred that a subject people feel toward the men
by whom they are subjugated. We would then be sleeping on a volcano,
such as may at any hour engulf the empire of Russia.
All this I pondered in my heart as I slowly made my way toward St.
Joseph, on the Missouri River, which flows along the western border of
Kansas. And now this question was coming to the front and forcing a
settlement, and in Kansas would be the first real conflict. In Congress
they had only paltried with, it; now the people were to try their hand.
And what should I do? Had I any right as a Christian and as an American
citizen, when providentially called to this work, to withdraw myself
from aiding in its settlement? And should I turn my horse in the
opposite direction, go back to my Bro. Graves at Chillicothe, and say to
him: "You are a man of undoubted courage, but I am a paltroon and a
coward, and I am going to hunt a hole and hide myself, where I will be
out of danger when this battle is fought between freedom and slavery."
I did not turn back, but revolving all these matters in my mind, reached
the city of St. Joseph. Here I had been commended by a friend to a
merchant in the city, a member of the Christian Church. He received me
kindly and treated me courteously, but his partner in business did not
seem to be of that mind. He was all out of sorts, and gruffly said,
"Kansas is a humbug. It will not be settled in thirty years."
In revolutions men live fast. I had been ten days on my journey, and the
man that now crossed the Missouri River at St. Joseph was not just the
man that ten days before crossed the Mississippi at Quincy. He was a
wiser and a sadder man.
On the Kansas side the first company I met was a two-horse wagon load of
men that had been exploring the Territory and were returning. They
seemed thoroughly disgusted, and said: "The wind blows so hard in
Kansas, it would blow a chicken up against the side of a barn and hold
it there for twenty-four hours."
"Kansas will not be settled in thirty years." So said my not very
amiable friend in St. Joseph. It is now somewhat more than thirty years,
and Kansas has more than a million of inhabitants. But the State has a
higher boast to make than that it has so increased in wealth and
population. It has been the first State in the Union--indeed, it has
been the first government in the world--to incorporate prohibition into
its fundamental law; and this is the best possible criticism by which to
mark its comparative progress in a Christian civilization.
After crossing the Missouri River I visited some of the principal
settlements in the Territory, such as Atchison, Leaven worth, Lawrence
and Topeka. Lawrence, Topeka and Manhattan were settlements made by men
from free States, and with an eye single to making Kansas a free State.
There was no town located on the Missouri River, and no settlement made
in the counties bordering on the Missouri River, that were properly free
State settlements. I thought this was a mistake. These counties had by
far the largest population, and as these counties would go, the
Territory would go; and I thought that no considerations of personal
danger ought to hinder, that these counties should have respectable
settlements of avowed Free State men among them.
What is now the city of Atchison was then a small village that was being
built among--the cottonwood trees on the banks of the Missouri River,
about twenty miles below St. Joseph, and the same distance above Fort
Leavenworth. It had been named after the notable David R. Atchison, who
had been a Senator from Missouri, and acting Vice-President of the
United States. D. R. Atchison and Gen. B. F. Stringfellow had at this
time won a national notoriety in this struggle now going on in Kansas;
and both were leading members in the Atchison town company. Dr.
Stringfellow was deputed to act as editor-in-chief of the _Squatter
Sovereign_, a paper at that time started in Atchison; but the editor was
Robert S. Kelly. Bob Kelly, as he was popularly called, was a born
leader among such a population as at that time filled Western Missouri.
The towns along the Missouri River were the outfitting points for that
immense overland freighting business, that was at that time carried on
across the western plains, to Santa Fe in Mexico and to Salt Lake,
Oregon and California; and here congregated a multitude of that wild,
lawless, law-defying and law-breaking mob of men, that accompanied these
expeditions, and were the habitues of these western plains, or were
among the gold seekers of California.
Bob Kelly was left an orphan at an early age, and was from his youth
surrounded with such a population. In person he was handsome as an
Apollo, broad-shouldered and muscular, with fair complexion and blue
eyes, and was the natural chief of the dangerous men that were drawn to
him by his personal magnetism. Moreover, he possessed so much native
eloquence, and such an ability to make passionate appeals, as made him a
fit person to fire the hearts of these men to deeds of violence,
I obtained a claim to 160 acres of land, twelve miles from Atchison, and
on the banks of the Stranger Creek. This claim I would be at liberty to
buy, at government price, if I should continue to live on it until it
should come into market. My nearest neighbor was Caleb May, a Disciple,
and a squatter, from the other side of the river. Bro. May was in his
way as much a character as Bob Kelly. He gloried, like John Randolph, of
Roanoke, in being descended from. Pocahontas, and that he therefore had
Indian blood in his veins. Born and reared on the frontier, tall,
muscular, and raw-boned, an utter stranger to fear, a dead shot with
pistol or rifle, cool and self-possessed in danger, he had become known
far and near as a desperate and dangerous man when meddled with. But he
had been converted, and had become a member of the Christian Church, and
according to the light that was in him he did his best to conform his
life to the maxims of the New Testament, and conscientiously sought to
confine all exhibition of "physical force" to such occasions as those in
which he might be compelled to defend himself. Then it was not likely to
be a healthy business for his antagonist.
After securing my claim, and commencing to build a cabin, I began to
look around me. Fully three-fourths of the squatters of this whole
region were from the border counties of Missouri. But in Western
Missouri the percentage of Disciples was perhaps larger than in any
other portion of the United States, consequently I had brethren on every
side of me. These men certainly were not refined and educated men, as
the phrase goes, still they had the qualities that our Lord found in the
fisherman of Galilee.
One thought was in every man's heart, and on every man's tongue. The
name _Squatter Sovereign,_ that had been given to the Atchison
newspaper, indicated the trend of public opinion. They had been
flattered with the idea that if they would come to Kansas they should be
"Squatter Sovereigns," that the domestic institutions of the infant
Territory should be determined not by the nation, nor by Congress, but
by themselves. And yet, when the election day came, every election
precinct in the Territory, except one, was taken possession of by bodies
of men from Missouri, and the elections had been carried, not by _bona
side_ citizens, but by an outside invasion. With pain and shame, and
bitter resentment, my neighbors told me how they had driven their wagons
to the place of voting, on the prairie, and hitched their horses to
their wagons, and were quietly going about their business, when with a
great whoop and hurrah, which frightened their horses and made them
break loose from their wagons, a company of men came in sight, and with
swagger and bluster, took possession of the polls, and proceeded to do
the voting. Meantime whisky flowed like water, and the men, far gone in
liquor, turned the place into a bedlam. In utter humiliation and disgust
many of the squatters went home. Caleb May did not get into the
neighborhood till afternoon. Before he got to the place of voting, he
met Joseph Potter, and on hearing what was done he threw his hat on the
ground, and in a towering rage protested he would no longer vote with a
party that would treat the people of the Territory in such a way as
that. This was done in March, but so far as any public expression of
sentiment was concerned, the people seemed dumb. No public meeting was
called in the way of protest till the next September, and that meeting
was held at Big Springs, sixty miles from Atchison.
But if there was no public protest, there was plenty of it in private.
The men from the State of Missouri grew sick at heart. It was a deep,
unspoken, bitter and shame-faced feeling, for it was their old neighbors
that had done this.
I often asked myself, Can it be hoped that an election can be held that
shall fairly express the real sentiment of the people, if they allow
themselves to be held down under such a reign of terror?
The prevalent sentiment of the squatters from Missouri was, "We will
make Kansas a free white State; we will admit no negroes into it." These
men regarded the negro as an enemy to themselves. They said: "We were
born to the lowly lot of toil, and the negro has made labor a disgrace.
Neither ourselves nor our children have had opportunity for education,
and the negro is the cause of it. Moreover, an aristocracy at the South
has assumed control of public affairs, and the negro is the cause of
that. Now we propose to make Kansas a free white State, and shut out the
negro, who has been the cause of all our calamities."
There was, however, a class of men among them that had pity for the
negro. I will repeat one story, as it was told me by Bro. Silas Kirkham.
Bro. Kirkham belongs to that family of Kirkhams so well known to our
brethren in Southeastern Iowa. Bro. Kirkham was raised in a slave State.
He said: "When I was a boy I had never thought of slavery as being
wrong. There was a black boy in the settlement named Jim. Jim was so
good-natured, faithful and well-behaved that we all liked him. Jim
married a black girl and they had twins--boys--bright, likely little
fellows, and Jim's wife and twin babies were all the treasure he had in
Bro. Kirkham said: "One day I found Jim in the woods, where he had been
sent to split rails. He was sitting down with his face buried in his
hands, apparently asleep. I thought I would crawl slyly up to him, and
spring suddenly on him, and frighten him. I did so, but Jim was not
asleep at all, but lifted up his head with such a look of unutterable
woe that I was frightened myself, and said: 'Why, Jim, what is the
matter?' Jim cried out: 'O, my boys! my boys! Massa sold my boys!'"
Bro. Kirkham said: "_I_ have vowed everlasting enmity to an institution
that will legalize such treatment of a human being."
But while these ominous mutterings were heard in so many of the Kansas
squatter cabins, little did the high and mighty Atchison Town Company,
or the editorial staff of the _Squatter Sovereign_, or the puissant
Territorial Legislature, reck that so soon they must take up the sad
refrain of Cardinal Woolsey:
Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness!
This is the state of man: To-day he puts forth
The tender leaves of hope, to-morrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honors thick upon him;
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
And--when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a-ripening--nips his root;
And then he falls, as I do.
The following extract, from an editorial that appeared at this time in
the _Squatter Sovereign_, will show what a rose-colored view these
gentlemen took of the situation:
SLAVERY IN KANSAS.
We receive letters, by nearly every mail, asking our
opinion as regards the security of slave property in
Kansas Territory. We can truly say that no Territory in
Uncle Sam's dominion can be found where the slave' can be
made more secure, or his work command a higher price. Our
slave population is gradually increasing by the arrival of
emigrants and settlers from the slave States, who, having
an eye to making a fortune, have wisely concluded to
secure a farm in Kansas, and stock it well with valuable
slaves. Situated as Missouri is, being surrounded by free
States, we would advise the removal of negroes from the
frontier counties to Kansas, where they will be
comparatively safe. Abolitionists too well know the
character of the Kansas squatter to attempt to carry out
the nefarious schemes of the underground railroad
Immediately on obtaining my claim, brethren had sought me out and made
my acquaintance, and soon it appeared that there were enough Disciples
in the settlement to constitute a church. But the times were stormy, and
we delayed making any movement in that direction. It had now come to be
the month of June. There had been refreshing showers. The singing birds
had come, and the bright sunshine. The prairie had put on its royal
robes, the forest its richest garments, and the people had become
impatient with their long isolation from religious meetings. The Lord's
day was almost ceasing to be the Lord's day to them, and they demanded a
sermon. We, therefore, came together in the timbered bottoms of Caleb
May's claim, on the banks of the Stranger Creek. The gathering was
primitive and peculiar, like the gathering at a Western
camp-meeting--footmen, and men and women on horseback, and whole
families in two-horse lumber wagons. Some were dressed in
Kentucky-jeans, and some in broadcloth; there were smooth-shaven men and
bearded men; there were hats and bonnets of every form and fashion; all
were dressed in such ways as best suited their convenience or
necessities. In this crowd were those that, as the years should go by,
were destined to grow in wealth, in understanding, in popularity and
high position, and they should be known as the first in the land.
The singing was not in the highest style of the musical art, but it
was hearty and sincere.
Looking up at the thick branches of the spreading elms above our heads
MY FRIENDS AND FELLOW CITIZENS:--I have never seen trees
clothed with leaves of so rich a green as the trees above
our heads, I have never seen prairies robed in richer
verdure than the prairies around us.
Since the year of 1832, it has been known that what is
called the "Platte Purchase," in Missouri, is the garden
spot of the West; and now it is apparent that we have here
on the west side of the Missouri River what is the exact
counterpart of the Platte Purchase on the east side. It is
the same in genial suns, refreshing rains, and unequalled
fertility of soil. It is, moreover, true that, owing to
the peculiar circumstances under which this Territory will
be settled we shall have a population inferior to no
population on the face of the earth.
After the deluge was past, God promised enlargement to the
sons of Japheth. "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall
dwell in the tents of Shem;" and more than 3,000 years the
sons of Japheth have been fulfilling their destiny. They
came originally from the mountain regions around Mount
Ararat, and moving westward, they have filled all Europe;
and these tribes coming from the east have created the
modern European nations. The last and westernmost
settlement was made on the island of Great Britain, and
here they were stopped from further progress by the
Atlantic Ocean; and here, after many generations of war,
they coalesced and mingled their blood together, and thus
became the British nation; and thus out of the commingling
of the blood of the most enterprising races that came out
of the loins of Japheth has grown that nation, that in all
lands has vindicated its right to be known as the foremost
nation of the world.
Christopher Columbus discovered America, and now new
causes began to operate that called for the planting of
new colonies here in America. Martin Luther asserted the
right of a man to stand immediately in the presence of the
Lord, to be answerable directly to the Lord, and to
confess his sins to the Lord alone, and from the Lord to
receive pardon, without the intervention of any pope,
priest, or ghostly mediator. This was counted by the
Catholic Church a horrible blasphemy, and the Diet of
Worms was called, and Luther was commanded to appear
before it and recant. Presiding over this Diet was Charles
V., Emperor of Germany; here were Electors, Princes and
crowned heads, popish priests, bishops and cardinals,
together with the principal nobility of Catholic
Europe--these all came together to compel the recantation
of Friar Martin Luther. But Luther said; "Unless I be
convinced by Scripture and reason, I neither can nor dare
retract anything for my conscience is a captive to God's
Word, and it is neither safe nor right to go against
conscience," and a great multitude of men in Germany,
France, Switzerland, and Great Britain stood beside Luther
and protested that they were amenable to the Lord alone,
and that they could do nothing against conscience. But
these Protestant governments stopped midway between popery
and Protestantism; for each of these nations, while
renouncing the Pope of Rome, assumed that it was the
business of the king to instruct the people what to
believe; and so instead of having one pope they had many
popes, consequently many Protestant sects; and these took
the place of that one apostolic church originally
established by the apostles. Notwithstanding, there were
some, in all lands that remained steadfast to the
principle enunciated by Martin Luther: "Unless I be
convinced by Scripture and reason, I neither can nor dare
retract"; and so it came to pass that there were
Protestant persecutions as well as Catholic persecutions;
and so also it came to pass that men became wearied with
this intolerance, and determined to seek beyond the
Atlantic Ocean a place where they could worship God
according to the dictates of their own consciences, with
none to molest them or make them afraid. It was for such
cause that the Puritans settled in New England, the
Quakers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Scotch and
Irish Presbyterians in North Carolina; and it was for this
cause that the French Huguenots, driven out of France by
the French king, came to South Carolina. The most notable
cause that induced the planting of the thirteen original
colonies here in North America was religious persecution
in the Old World. And as the oak grows out of the acorn,
so out of these colonies has grown this nation of which we
are so proud.
Great Britain became more Lutheran than Germany, the
native land of Luther, and God lifted the British nation
up to become the chiefest nation of the world; the United
States of North America became more Lutheran than Great
Britain, and the eyes of the world are fixed on us in
admiration and astonishment. God blessed the house of
Obededom, and all that he had, because the ark of God was
But there are spots on the sun, and there are exceeding
blemishes in our Protestantism, notwithstanding the fact
that the glory of the American people has grown out of it.
The image that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream had feet
and toes, part of iron and part of potter's clay, partly
strong and partly broken. So it is with our Protestant
sectarianism, and because of it we are partly strong and
partly broken. Compare the Protestant United States with
Catholic Mexico, or compare Protestant Great Britain with
Catholic Spain, and compared with these nations we have
the strength of iron, but judged by our sectarianism we
have the weakness of miry clay.
My friends and fellow citizens, I have the honor to
represent to you a people that have said we will go back
to that order of things originally established by Jesus
and the apostles--we will make no vow of loyalty to any
but Jesus, and we will have no bond of union save the
testimonies and commandments of the Lord as given to us by
the Lord himself and the holy apostles. Out of this we
hope may grow such a union of God's people as Jesus prayed
for when he prayed that all Christians might be one. We
are striving for such an order of things that Protestants
may present a united front against the world, the flesh
and the devil, and against all disloyalty to Jesus.
To this appeal men often make reply: "We can not break
loose from our religious surroundings, dear to us through
life-long and most tender associations." But, my friends,
this objection can have no weight with this audience,
assembled here on this glorious Lord's day, and on this
our first religious meeting. Here we have already broken
loose from these associations. These ties, how dear so
ever to us, we have already sundered. The people with whom
we once met, and with whom we once took sweet counsel, the
churches in which we once worshiped, shall know us no more
forever. Here we are free to act, and to correct the
mistakes that have been unwittingly made by the churches
with which we have formerly been connected, just as our
American fathers were free to frame a better government
than the government of the nations out of which they came.
May I not appeal to you, my friends, and say you owe it to
yourselves, you owe it to Christians in every land, you
owe it to your Lord, you owe it to the future State of
Kansas, to so act as to free the Christian profession from
the trammels that have hindered its progress and glory
ever since the days when our divisions began. If
Protestantism seas done so much in spite of all its
divisions, what will it not do if these hindrances are
taken out of the way?
Kansas is certainly predestinated to be a great State. The
fertility of its soil, the healthfulness of its
atmosphere, and the fact that its population is to be made
up from the bravest, most daring and most enterprising men
in the nation, all look in this direction; you ought,
then, my friends, to see to it that as far as your
influence may go its religion shall be nothing less than
primitive and apostolic Christianity.
In ascertaining what is primitive and apostolic
Christianity, we shall pay supreme respect to the time
when the old or Jewish dispensation came to an end, and
when the new or Christian dispensation began. The first,
or Jewish dispensation, Jesus took out of the way, nailing
it to the cross. The second, or Christian dispensation,
began after Jesus arose from the dead and ascended up on
high, far above the thrones, dominions, principalities and
powers of the world of light, and became the Head over all
things to the church. This was the proposition with which
Peter closed his sermon on the day of Pentecost:
"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly,
that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have
crucified, both Lord and Christ." To this agree the words
of Jesus after his resurrection, as recorded in the close
of Matthew's gospel: "All authority is given to me in
heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and disciple all
nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Luke records some things which Matthew does not record:
"Thus it is written, and thus it behooved the Messiah to
suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that
repentance and remission of sins might be preached in his
name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem; and ye are
witnesses of these things." But Mark records some things
that neither Matthew nor Luke have recorded: "Go ye into
all the, world and preach the gospel to every creature. He
that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that
believeth not shall be damned." In carrying out this
commission, thus recorded by these three evangelists, if
we find an ignorant pagan that knows nothing of Jesus we
shall say to him, as Paul said to the Philippian jailer,
ignorant pagan that he was: "Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house."
But if we find men who already believe, as did the three
thousand who were pierced in the heart on the day of
Pentecost, we shall say to them, as Peter did: "Repent and
be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ
for remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of
the Holy Spirit." If, however, we find a man that not only
believes, but is a penitent believer, such as Saul of
Tarsus was when Ananias found him, we shall say, as
Ananias said: "And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be
baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of
In all this there is nothing human, nothing schismatical.
All can accept it who are willing to accept the Word of
the Lord. In the baptism we administer, we will give no
cause for schism: it shall be a burial, and this, so far
as the action of baptism is concerned, will meet the
conscience of the Greek Church, the Roman Catholic Church,
and of all Protestant churches.
Do not, my friends, attempt to turn aside this appeal
which I now make to you with a laugh or a sneer. This is
the Lord's word, and the word of the Lord is not to be put
aside with a sneer. Do not scoff at this as a water of
salvation. You certainly will not scoff at the word of the
And now, my friends, will you not demean yourselves worthy
of the high place that God has given you? Adam and Eve
carried in their hands the weal or woe of the unnumbered
millions of their children that should come after them.
Abraham, because of his great faith and because of his
high integrity, sent down a blessing upon his fleshly seed
for fifty generations; and for the same cause was
constituted the spiritual father of a spiritual seed as
numerous as the stars of heaven or as the sand upon the
seashore. A few Galileean fishermen have filled the world
with the glory of the Lord. Luther drove back the darkness
of the dark ages and has filled the world with the light
of God's Word. And now, my friends, you are laying the
foundations of many generations, and will you not take
heed how these foundations are laid? Can you repent if you
take God at his word and do as did the apostles and the
That sermon was preached almost thirty-three years ago. It was an
extemporaneous discourse, and no notes were preserved. Nevertheless,
there were circumstances attending its delivery, that have indelibly
impressed its leading points on the memory of the writer.
S. J. H. Snyder was a Lutheran from Pennsylvania, and at that time was a
resident of Atchison county. He had traveled to see the world, and was a
writer of books. He heard the sermon, and was greatly taken with it. He
wrote out a report of it, and handed his report to me for criticism and
correction. He intended to send it for publication to a paper in
Pennsylvania. I said to him that his report left out the most essential
and vital part of the sermon, and proposed myself to write out an
abstract of it for his use. This I did, but my friend Mr. Snyder
concluded: "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?" He was not willing
to be counted unsound in the faith by his brethren in Pennsylvania, and
forwarded the original manuscript.
There were also in the audience two young gentlemen, recently come from
the New England States to seek their fortune. They were just of that age
to think that what they did not know, or at least what the people of New
England did not know, was not worth knowing. Such a meeting in the open
air; such an audience, in which the dress of every man and woman was got
up according to their own notions, and that, too, without consulting
Mrs. Grundy; _such a preacher! and such a sermon_! Certainly these all
were new to them, and did not command their highest admiration. These
young gentlemen kept up a sort of running commentary between themselves,
on what they saw going on, until, becoming tired of their misbehavior, I
turned and said to them in effect: "Young gentlemen, you profess to be
men of good breeding, and it is understood that well-bred people will
behave themselves in meeting." They were very angry, and one of them
wrote me a saucy letter about it. But finding little sympathy in the
settlement, they went to Atchison, and there they found abundant
sympathy and open ears to hear. A man who was a preacher, and a
pronounced free State man, had come from Illinois and had settled on the
Stranger Creek; and who could tell the mischief he might do to his
brethren who were squatters from Missouri? When these same New England
gentlemen were in their turn stripped of all they were worth by the
"Border Ruffians" it changed their feelings toward their free State
And now that feeling of dissatisfaction that had been all along
festering in the hearts of the people, began to come to the surface. An
inside view would have revealed a perpetual murmur of discontent. The
Territorial Legislature was now in session, and doing its work, and
copies of the laws they had enacted were coming into circulation. No
legislature in America had ever been elected as they had been, and we
have already learned what a thrill of horror and pain this caused in
the hearts of the squatters. It would have been a dictate of the most
obvious common sense that a body of men whose claim to be a Territorial
Legislature rested on such a basis should proceed with the utmost
moderation. But they were intoxicated with success. It is an old and a
wise saw, that whom the gods wish to destroy they first deprive of their
reason, and these men were smitten with judicial blindness. No slave
State had ever enacted such savage and bloody laws--laws of such
barbarous and inhuman severity, for the protection of slave property.
And now the people were reading copies of these laws, and nothing could
long suppress the evidences of discontent. The following editorial is
also copied from the _Squatter Sovereign_:
WATCH THE ABOLITIONISTS.
Circumstances have transpired within a few weeks past, in
this neighborhood, which place beyond a doubt the
existence of an organized band of Abolitionists in our
midst. We counsel our friends who have slave property to
keep a sharp lookout, lest their valuable slaves may be
induced to commit acts which might, jeopardize their
Mr. Grafton Thomasson lost a valuable negro a week ago,
and we have not the least doubt that she was persuaded by
one of this lawless gang to destroy herself rather than
remain in slavery. In fact, one of this gang was heard to
remark that she did perfectly right in drowning herself,
and just what he would have done, or what every negro who
is held in bondage should do. We ask, Shall a man
expressing such sentiments be permitted to reside in our
midst? Be permitted to run at large among our slaves,
sowing the seeds of discord and discontent, jeopardizing
our lives and property?
In another instance we hear of a servant being tampered
with, and induced to believe that she was illegally held
in bondage; since which time she has been unruly, and
shows evidence of discontent. Such is the effect produced
by permitting the _convicts_ and _criminals_ of the
Eastern cities shipped out here by the aid societies to
reside in our midst.
The depredations of this fanatical sect do not stop here.
Their crimes are more numerous and their acts more bold.
It is well known that on Independence and Walnut Creeks,
within a few miles of this place, a great number of free
slaves and Abolitionists are settled whose thieving
propensities are well known. We honestly believe that an
organized band of these outlaws exists, whose objects are
pecuniary gain and spite, to rob us of our property, drive
off our cattle and horses, incite our slaves to rebellion,
and, when opportunity afford them facilities for escaping,
to aid them.
Within a short time about one hundred and fifty head of
cattle have been stolen from this neighborhood, driven
off, and sold. Eight or nine horses and several mules have
been taken out of the emigrants' camp, driven to parts
unknown, and the money is now jingling in the pockets of
the Abolitionists. Occurrences of this kind were never
before known in this neighborhood, and prior to the
shipment of the _filth_ and _scum_ of the Eastern cities
our property was secure and our slaves were contented and
The enormity of these offenses, and the great loss of
property, should open the eyes of our citizens to their
true situation. We can not feel safe while the air of
Kansas is polluted with the breath of a single
Free-soiler. We are not safe, and self-preservation
requires the total extermination of this set. Let us act
immediately, and with such decision as will convince these
desperadoes that it is our fixed determination to keep
their feet from polluting the soil of Kansas.
We published in a former chapter the letter of recommendation this
same Robert S. Kelley had written, certifying to the good behavior of
the people of the county, and the facts of the case were not altered
now; save and only this, that a black woman, the slave of Grafton
Thomasson, had drowned herself. This said Thomasson was a drinking
man, and when in drink was desperate and dangerous. What passed
between this man, when intoxicated, and this slave woman the public
have never been informed. An altercation grew out of this between
Thomasson and J. W. B. Kelly, Esq., a young lawyer from Cincinnati, in
which Thomasson, a great big bully, flogged Kelly, who was a small
man, of slender build, and weak in body. A public meeting was called,
in which resolutions were adopted praising this big bully for flogging
this weak and helpless man; and then this Kelly was ordered to leave,
and was not seen in Kansas afterwards. Beyond this, if there was any
of this high-handed stealing and robbery we never heard anything of it
During the month of July, an event occurred destined to have lasting
influence on the Christian cause in Northeastern Kansas. A church was
organized at Mt. Pleasant. It is now known as the Round Prairie Church.
This church, after passing through varied fortunes, has finally issued
in being one of the best and most active churches in Kansas. The last
act in his public ministry was the organizing of this church by Elder
Duke Young, father of Judge William Young. Duke Young was one of the
pioneer preachers of Western Missouri. When in his manhood's prime he
was abundant in labors, and though he was without any scholastic
attainments he had a keen mother wit, good sense, and good natural gifts
as a public speaker; and, working in poverty, exposure, hardship,
misrepresentation, and implacable opposition, he was one of the men
that laid the foundations of the cause in Western Missouri. Becoming
old, he came with his son, William Young, to Kansas, and after
organizing the church at Mt. Pleasant, he failed in health, and ceased
his work in the ministry.
Connected with this church was Numeris Humber. Bro. Humber and his wife
were among the excellent of the earth. Sister Humber was a matronly
woman, comely in person, greatly beloved, and a queen of song. When D.
S. Burnett afterwards held a protracted meeting at this place, it was
the songs of Sister Humber and Stephen Sales, as much as the preaching
of D. S. Burnett, that made the meeting a wonderful success, and one
long to be remembered. Bro. Humber and Bro. Young were slave-holders.
Bro. Humber was also an emancipationist in his views of slave-holding,
and often said that if a position could be secured suitable for
emancipated slaves he would gladly set his slaves free. When at last
they were made free by the results of the war, and went to Leavenworth
to live, it was always a burden on Bro. Humber's heart to watch over
them, and try and save them from the temptations that were laid for
their feet in that wicked city.
It will be readily seen that no scandal would be created in Atchison by
organizing a church at Mt. Pleasant with such men to take the lead in
It was now the middle of August. My cabin was completed, and I was ready
to go back and bring Mrs. Butler and the children to Kansas. Bro.
Elliott accompanied me to Atchison, where I intended to take a steamboat
to St. Louis, thence going up the Illinois River to Fulton county,
Illinois, where Mrs. Butler had been stopping with her sister.
The things that had been happening in the Territory had been so strange
and unheard of, and the threats of the _Squatter Sovereign_ had been so
savage and barbarous, that I wanted to carry back to my friends in
Illinois some evidence of what was going on. I went, therefore, with
Bro. Elliott to the _Squatter Sovereign_ printing office to purchase
extra copies of that paper. I was waited on by Robert S. Kelley. After
paying for my papers I said to him: "I should have become a subscriber
to your paper some time ago only there is one thing I do not like about
it." Mr. Kelley did not know me, and asked: "What is it?"
I replied: "I do not like the spirit of violence that characterizes
He said: "I consider all Free-soilers rogues, and they are to be treated
I looked him for a moment steadily in the face, and then said to him:
"Well, sir, I am a Free-soiler; and I intend to vote for Kansas to be a
He fiercely replied: "You will not be allowed to vote."
When Bro. Elliott and myself had left the house, and were in the open
air, he clutched me nervously by the arm and said: "Bro. Butler! Bro.
Butler! You must not do such things; they will kill you!"
I replied: "If they do I can not help it."
Bro. E. was now to go home. But before going he besought me with earnest
entreaty not to bring down on my own head the vengeance of these men. I
thanked him for his regard for me, and we bade each other good-by.
Bro. E. had come to feel that my life was precious to the Christian
brethren in Atchison county. Except myself they had no preacher, and
they needed a preacher.
The steamboat bound for St. Louis that day had been detained, and would
not arrive until the next day. I must, therefore, stay over night in
Atchison. I conversed freely with the people that afternoon, and said to
them: "Under the Kansas-Nebraska bill, we that are free State men have
as good a right to come to Kansas as you have; and we have as good a
right to speak our sentiments as you have."
A public meeting was called that night to consider my case, but I did
not know it. The steamboat was expected about noon the next day. I had
been sitting writing letters at the head of the stairs, in the chamber
of the boarding-house where I had slept, and heard some one call my
name, and rose up to go down stairs; but was met by six men, bristling
with revolvers and bowie-knives, who came up stairs and into my room.
The leader was Robert S. Kelley. They presented me a string of
resolutions, denouncing free State men in unmeasured terms, and demanded
that I should sign them. I felt my heart flutter, and knew if I should
undertake to speak my voice would tremble, and determined to gain time.
Sitting down I pretended to read the resolutions--they were familiar to
me, having been already printed in the _Squatter Sovereign_--and finally
I began to read them aloud. But these men were impatient, and said: "We
just want to know will you sign these resolutions?" I had taken my seat
by a window, and looking out and down into the street, had seen a great
crowd assembled, and determined to get among them. Whatever should be
done-would better be done in the presence of witnesses. I said not a
word, but going to the head of the stairs, where was my writing-stand
and pen and ink, I laid the paper down and quickly walked down stairs
and into the street. Here they caught me by the wrists, from behind, and
demanded, "Will you sign?" I answered, "_No_," with emphasis. I had got
my voice by that time. They dragged me down to the Missouri River,
cursing me, and telling me they were going to drown me. But when we had
got to the river they seemed to have got to the end of their programme,
and there we stood. Then some little boys, anxious to see the fun go on,
told me to get on a large cotton-wood stump close by and defend myself.
I told the little fellows I did not know what I was accused of yet. This
broke the silence, and the men that had me in charge asked:
"Did the Emigrant Aid Society send you here?"
"No; I have no connection with the Emigrant Aid Society."
"Well, what did you come for?"
"I came because I had a mind to come. What did you come for?"
"Did you come to make Kansas a free State?"
"No, not primarily; but I shall vote to make Kansas a free State."
"Are you a correspondent of the _New York Tribune_?"
"No; I have not written a line to the _Tribune_ since I came to Kansas."
By this time a great crowd had gathered around, and each man took his
turn in cross-questioning me, while I replied, as best I could, to this
storm of questions, accusations and invectives. We went over the whole
ground. We debated every issue that had been debated in Congress. They
alleged the joint ownership the South had with the North in the common
Territories of the nation; that slaves are property, and that they had a
natural and inalienable right to take their property into any part of
the national Territory, _and there to protect it by the strong right arm
of power_, while I urged the terms of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and
that under it free State men have a right to come into the Territory,
and by their votes to make it a free State, if their votes will make it
At length an old man came near to me, and dropping his voice to a
half-whisper, said in a confidential tone: "N-e-ow, Mr. Butler, I want
to advise you as a friend, and for your own good, _when you get away,
just keep away._"
I knew this man was a Yankee, for I am a Yankee myself. His name was Ira
Norris. He had been given an office in Platte county, Mo., and must
needs be a partisan for the peculiar institution. I gave my friend
Norris to understand that I would try to attend to my own business.
Others sought to persuade me to promise to leave the country and not
come back. Then when no good result seemed to come from our talk, I said
to them: "Gentlemen, there is no use in keeping up this debate any
longer; if I live anywhere, I shall live in Kansas. Now do your duty as
you understand it, and I will do mine as I understand it. I ask no
favors of you."
Then the leaders of this business went away by themselves and held a
consultation. Of course I did not know what passed among them, but Dr.
Stringfellow afterwards made the following statement to a gentleman who
was getting up a history of Kansas:
A vote was taken upon the mode of punishment which ought to be accorded
to him, and to this day it is probably known but to few persons that a
decided verdict of death by hanging was rendered; and furthermore, that
Mr. Kelley, the teller, by making false returns to the excited mob,
saved Mr. Butler's life. Mr. Kelley is now a resident of Montana, and
volunteered this information several years ago, while stopping at St.
Joe with the former senior editor of the _Squatter Sovereign_, Dr. J. H.
Stringfellow. At the time the pro-slavery party decided to send Mr.
Butler down the Missouri River on a raft, Dr. Stringfellow was absent as
a member of the Territorial Legislature.
The crowd had now to be pacified and won over to an arrangement that
should give me a chance for my life. A Mr. Peebles, a dentist from
Lexington, Mo., who was working at the business of dentistry in
Atchison, and himself a slave-holder, was put forward to do this work.
He said: "My friends, we must not hang this man; he is not an
Abolitionist, he is what they call a Free-soiler. The Abolitionists
steal our niggers, but the Free-soilers do not do this. They intend to
make Kansas a free State by legal methods. But in the outcome of the
business, there is not the value of a picayune of difference between a
Free-soiler and an Abolitionist; for if the Free-soilers succeed in
making Kansas a free State, and thus surround Missouri with a cordon of
free States, our slaves in Missouri will not be worth a dime apiece.
Still we must not hang this man; and I propose that we make a raft and
send him down the river as an example."
And so to him they all agreed. Then the question came up, What kind of
a raft shall it be?  Some said, "One log"; but the crowd decided it
should be two logs fastened together. When the raft was completed I
was ordered to take my place on it, after they had painted the letter
R. on my forehead with black paint. This letter stood for _Rogue_. I
had in my pocket a purse of gold, which I proffered to a merchant of
the place, an upright business man, with the request that he would
send it to my wife; but he declined to take it. He afterwards
explained to me that he himself was afraid of the mob. They took a
skiff and towed the raft out into the middle of the Missouri River. As
we swung away from the bank, I rose up and said: "Gentlemen, if I am
drowned I forgive you; but I have this to say to you: If you are not
ashamed of your part in this transaction, I am not ashamed of mine.
Floating down the river, alone and helpless, I had opportunity to look
about me. I had noticed that they had put up a flag on my raft, but
had paid no attention to it; now I looked at it and it charged me with
stealing negroes; and it was thought by many to be no sin to shoot a
"nigger thief." Down that flag must come; and then I remembered that
they had said they would follow me down the river and shoot me if I
did pull it down. The picture on the flag was that of a white man
riding at full gallop, on horseback, with a negro behind him. The flag
bore this inscription: "GREELEY TO THE RESCUE: I HAVE A NIGGER. THE
REV. MR. BUTLER, AGENT FOR THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD."
This flag I pulled down, cut off the flag with my pen-knife, and made
a paddle of the flag staff, which was a small sapling which they had
cut out of the brush, and was forked at the upper end. Between these
forks they had carefully sewed this flag with twine, and this part of
the canvas I left and made it serve as the blade of my paddle; and so
in due time I paddled to the Kansas shore. The river was rapid, and
there were in the river heaps of drift-wood, called "rack-heaps,"
dangerous places into which the water rushed with great violence; but
from these I was mercifully saved, and though I could not swim, I
landed a few miles below Atchison without harm or accident, and made
my way to Port William, a small town about twelve miles down the
[Illustration: The flag placed on Pardee Butler's raft.]
At Port William I had already become acquainted with a Bro. Hartman. He
had leased a saw-mill, and was running it, and I had bought lumber of
him. Having reached Port William, I went to Bro. H. and said, "I want to
obtain lodging of you to-night; but as I do not want to betray any man
into trouble, I must first tell you what has befallen me." I then told
him my mishap at Atchison, and said: "Now if you do not want to lodge
such a man, please say so, and I will go somewhere else." He replied:
"You shall lodge with me if it cost me every cent I am worth." He then
went on to say that he had leased that mill of men who were very bitter,
and very ultra in their views, and that they might be angry with him,
and turn him out of the mill. But at last he said: "There is Bro.
Oliphant living in the bluffs; he is under no such embarrassment," and
Bro. Hartman took me there. The next day was the Lord's day, and Oliver
Steele was to preach the first sermon in that little village on that
day. Oliver Steele was a notable citizen of Platte county, Missouri. His
name appears in the early days of the _Millennial Harbinger_ as a
citizen of Madison county, Kentucky. Bro. Steele complains of the
Reformers of Kentucky, that they are too much wedded to Old Baptist
usages to be true to the primitive and apostolic order of things. Then
Bro. Steele came to Platte county, Missouri, and had become one of its
most wealthy and influential citizens. He was an eminent example of a
courtly and courteous "Old Virginia gentleman," and was loved by the
rich and loved by the poor, he was loved by white folks and black; loved
by the mothers and their babies; and the people patronized his
preaching, not because he was a great preacher, for he certainly was
not, but because they loved the man. He was an old Henry Clay Whig, and
like that great Kentucky statesman was an Emancipationist. Bro. S. was
to come over the river and preach the first sermon in this new town, and
it was a great event to the people. On returning to Port William in the
morning Bro. Hartman said that I must take dinner with him, and he would
introduce me to Bro. Steele. It was not until twenty-five years
afterwards, and only after Sister Hartman had died, that Bro. Hartman
told me what so much altered his feelings. She was a sweet Christian
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