Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
Pardee Butler

Part 6 out of 6

sophistries of the various polytheisms, immersing the converts and
exhorting the saints, the thirty-five years he spent in Kansas were
years of severest mental, moral and physical labor; and from which he
asked no respite until God called him.

Truthfully this Scripture may be written as his epitaph: "Blessed are
the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit,
for they rest from their labors and their works do follow them."


The following tributes of friendship were published
in the _Atchison Champion_, after father's death:



Rev. Pardee Butler, who died at his old home, near
Farmington, on Saturday last, was, for a full generation
past, one of the most prominent figures in Kansas history.
He was a minister of the Christian Church, and located in
this county early in 1855. He came to Kansas to fight
slavery. He was a sincere man. He was a brave man. He had
in him the stuff of which martyrs are made. He
deliberately chose, on coming to the young Territory, the
county in which the advocates of slavery seemed to be
strongest and most violent. He made no secret of his
opinions on the question of slavery, nor of his purpose to
oppose the attempt to make Kansas, a slave State. He was
not a fighting man, in the worldly sense of that word; but
in its broader and higher significance, he was an
aggressive, fearless, tireless fighter. He would not kill,
but he did not hesitate to brave death. He would not
shoot, but he did not quail or cower before guns, for
knives, or ropes.

The _Champion_ publishes, this morning, some extracts from
its own columns, when it was a newspaper with another name
and other principles, narrating some of the incidents of
his early life in Kansas. They are historic. During a
marvelous era they stirred the heart and aroused the
conscience of the Nation. This humble preacher, coming to
the Territory for a cause, and bravely enduring the pangs
of martyrdom for his opinions, became, at once, the
representative of millions of men. The story of his wrongs
was told in every newspaper of the land, and was discussed
around the firesides of a million homes. The brutal
pro-slavery mob of Atchison saw in him only an impudent
and absurd opponent of an institution that controlled
courts, legislatures and congress; the awakening Nation
saw that he stood for Free Speech, for Liberty, for Law,
and for Humanity; and the indignities heaped upon him
touched and stirred the heart of the North in its
profoundest depths.

Pardee Butler, facing the drunken, ignorant, howling,
brutal pro-slavery mobs of Atchison, must have been, to
them, a unique figure. They could not understand him. The
writer has heard men who were present, but not
participants, when the mob had him in charge, say that the
mingled hatred and respect with which the ruffians
regarded him, was singularly manifest. He bore himself
with quiet dignity and composure. He did not attempt to
resist, nor, on the other hand, did he manifest the
slightest evidence of fear. To their loud and violent
threatenings, he made answer with quiet, manly dignity. It
would have gratified the ruffians beyond measure if they
could have induced him to recant, or to make some pledge
that would compromise his frankly expressed opinions--some
promise of silence concerning or acquiescence in, or
non-interference with, their cherished purpose to
establish slavery in Kansas. If he had yielded even so
much as this, they would gladly have let him go. But never
for a moment did he falter, or waver, or equivocate. He
refused to make any promise. He stood upon his rights as
an American citizen. He was opposed to slavery in Kansas,
and intended to oppose it as long as he lived. He came to
Kansas to aid in making it a free State, and no fear of
personal injury would change his purpose, He was one man
among hundreds, but he intended, then and at all times, in
Atchison or elsewhere, to express his convictions, and
with voice and vote maintain his opinions. All this he
said, quietly and without a trace of boasting, but with a
firmness that won from the mob a most unyielding respect.

And this saved him from a worse fate. If he had quailed or
equivocated, they would have triumphed; if he had boasted
or threatened, they would have hanged him. He did neither.
And so they first set him adrift on a raft, and again
tarred and feathered him; and on both occasions manly
courage and sincere faith were victorious over brute force
and mad passion.

Mr. Butler lived his life, during all the years of his
residence in this county, illustrating the same lofty
purposes and sincere convictions. He was not always
correct in his judgments, but he was always earnest. He
was interested in every good cause. During his whole life
he was an ardent temperance man. He was a practical, as
well as an ardent, advocate of temperance, and the
organization of the so-called "Third party"
prohibitionists, excited, at once, his indignation and
contempt. He was one of the first prohibitionists of
Kansas to distrust St. John, and to denounce him as a
self-seeking, ambitious demagogue. He had no use for any
man who was not entirely sincere, or who was not willing
to subordinate his own personal interest for the sake of

Among the free State pioneers, of Atchison County, Pardee
Butler and Caleb May were first in influence and
usefulness. The latter died only a few weeks ago, in
Florida. The _Champion_ made notice of his death at the
time. The two men, in their personal characteristics, had
nothing in common. Col. May was a man of very limited
education; Mr. Butler was schooled in books. Col. May had
lived all his life on the frontier; Mr. Butler came from
one of the oldest communities in Ohio. Col. May believed
in the weapons of carnal warfare; Mr. Butler put his faith
in the power of reason. Both were men of approved and
unquestionable courage, but if the pro-slavery mob had
attempted to capture Col. May, a revolver, held with a
steady hand, would have blazed his defiance; Mr. Butler
submitted, without resistance to the mob's will. The
ruffians did not understand this peaceful but resolute
antagonist, but they were compelled to respect his
determined purpose. When Col. May wrote to their leader a
letter telling the pro-slavery rulers of Atchison that his
home was his castle, and if any man attacked it, he would
meet with a bloody reception, and that he (May) intended
to come to Atchison whenever he pleased, and meant to come
armed, they laughed at his rude chirography, and made
merry over his "spelling by ear," but they understood his
meaning perfectly, and knew, also, that he would do
exactly what he said. And they never disturbed him. In his
personal appearance Col. May was an ideal
"Leatherstockings." He might have sat for a portrait of
Cooper's famous frontier hero and Indian trailer. Over six
feet in height, angular, muscular, somewhat awkward in
repose, with cool, bright gray eyes, deep set under shaggy
eyebrows, and having immense reach of arm--his was an
imposing figure. Mr. Butler was a born Puritan; Col. May
was a born frontiersman. [7] Mr. Butler opposed slavery on
moral grounds, and because he hated injustice or wrong in
any form. Col. May hated slavery, and fought it, because
he believed the institution was detrimental to his own
race. Born in Kentucky and reared in Missouri, he had seen
the effects of slavery all about him, harming him and his,
and so he hated it.

Kansas owes both of these pioneers a debt of respect and
gratitude. The world was better that they lived in it.
Freedom found in them devoted loyalty to her cause. They
both loved Kansas, and their lives were inseparably
associated with the stirring events of the most momentous
years of her history. They served her well. Brave and
strong and useful, they fought a good fight and kept the
faith. Honor to their memory.



Formerly Pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Atchison, Kan.

EDITOR OF THE CHAMPION:--Having read, with much interest,
your sketch of Pardee Butler, I am moved to lay a wreath
of tribute upon the grave of the old hero. He was a man of
most invincible courage. Earl Morton, by the open grave of
John Knox, said, "Here lies one who never feared the face
of man." Mr. Butler was a John Knox sort of man. Those who
have visited him at his home of late years will remember
how modestly, yet with some pride, he would tell the story
of that day in Atchison when the mob started him down the
river on the frail raft, and how he would exhibit the
banner so carefully preserved. It would be of much
interest if we could have the full story, told by himself,
of the raft journey; of the after "tar and cotton" affair;
and also, of the night, some time after that, when some of
the very men who helped to mob him, assisted him across
the river with his loaded team when he was in some

He lived to see the overthrow of the slave power, which he
hated with all the intensity of his nature. He also
witnessed the revolution in Kansas as to the liquor power.
The files of the _Champion_ for the spring of 1885, have
an account of a notable meeting in the court-house at
Atchison of the friends of law and order. The friends of
the saloon, for nearly five years after prohibition was
the law of the State, had ignored the law, and challenged
its enforcement. This convention was the first general
gathering of the citizens of Atchison County to protest
against this lawlessness, and demanded that the officers
of the law close the saloons. Pardee Butler was one of the
leading spirits in the convention. Many will recall his
fiery speech of that day. He spoke of the thirty years of
his life in Kansas, and of the great events that had
happened. He then denounced the actual rebellion then in
existence, and called for its suppression. That convention
was the beginning of the end of the downfall of the
organized saloon power in Atchison.

Pardee Butler was in sympathy with good men in every good
cause. While a born controversialist, and strong in his
convictions, he was glad to work with Christians of any
name in building up the kingdom of God in the world. He
identified himself heartily with the Sunday-school work,
and was anxious that everything should be done for
children and youth, not only to make them believers, but
good men and good citizens. I agree heartily with what
Noble Prentis has recently said of him: "We knew him well
in his later years; a brave and earnest man; full of ideas
for making this world better, and confident that they
would succeed. He has gone to the company of those who, on
every field for these hundreds of years, where the battle
for the sacred rights of man was to be fought out, have
cried, _'O Lord, make bare thine arm!'_ and have bared
their own."

MANHATTAN, KAN., October 26, 1888.


[1] When they were making the raft father noticed that one of the logs
was sound and the other rotten. They fastened them together by nailing
shakes--shingles--from one to the other. Some one remarked that the
nails would pull out the first time the raft struck a snag. Then they
said they would drive in long wooden pins. But father noticed that the
long pins were driven into the sound log, while the ends on the rotten
log were only fastened by the nails.

One of the logs of which the raft was made was much longer than the
other, and on the end of the longer log they put the flag. And over the
rough swift current father walked the dizzy length of that single log
and took down the flag. Mother still keeps that flag as a precious
relic. Several years ago one of the men engaged in that mob ran for
office in Northern Kansas. His opponent borrowed the flag, to use in the
campaign, and returned it in good order. But we have since learned that
he had several copies of it painted, and that one of them is now in the
rooms of the Kansas Historical Society, in the showcase with John
Brown's cap, and is shown as the veritable flag that was on Pardee
Butler's raft.

[2] The Thirteenth Kansas Regiment, which was raised in 1862, was
composed of Atchison County men. They voted to request father to
become their chaplain, and they sent him word, requesting him to apply
to Gen. Lane for the appointment. He did so, and received a letter
from Gen. Lane, asking, "How much will you pay for the place?" Father
replied, "If the position of chaplain is sold for a price, I do not
want it."

[3] Bro. Garrett not only gave freely of his money to the church, but he
gave freely of time, and trouble, and anxious watching. He also gave
liberally and constantly of provisions and other necessaries to his
poorer neighbors. His brother-in-law, Dr. Moore, complained that he was
spoiling the church by taking such constant care of it. "O well," said
Bro. Garrett one day, "every church has to have a wheel-horse, and I
might as well be the wheel-horse as any body."

[4] When father took this letter to Lawrence, he met Mr. Redpath, the
_Tribune_ reporter, who requested permission to copy it for the _New
York Tribune_.

Before Mr. Redpath had completed his copy, the editor of the _Herald
of Freedom_ demanded the manuscript to put in type. The edition of the
_Herald of Freedom_ containing it was destroyed, and father only
obtained a mutilated copy of it. But from that portion printed in the
_Tribune_, and what was left of the _Herald of Freedom_, he secured a
complete copy of the letter.

[5] When Col. Sumner's soldiers were asked what they would do if they
were ordered to fire on the Free State men, they replied, "We would
aim above their heads."

[6] When father reached the east bank it was so slippery that the oxen
would not go down. So he hitched them to the back of the sled, and,
with a handspike, pried it to the edge of the bank, and started it
down. Of course it slid down the hill, and pulled the oxen with it.

[7] Mr. May was not the blustering rough that many people suppose a
frontiersman to be. He was a quiet, hard-working farmer, kind and
neighborly, but ready to defend his own rights, and those of his
friends, or of the poor and down-trodden. His proverbial phrase was,
"Whatever I do, I want to do it so well that the world will be none
the worse for my having lived in it." His son, E. E. May, says that he
used to say that he learned from his Bible to hate slavery. He could
lead a prayer-meeting as easily as he could lead a regiment, and he
could defend the Scriptures as readily as he could defend his home. I
once heard him say that he had never kept a hired man for any length
of time, but that he succeeded in persuading him to join the church
before he left him. MRS. R. B. H.


Back to Full Books