of the many skirmishes of the
Kansas-Missouri Border War, this attack occurred
on the night of May 24, 1856 near a place called Dutch Henry's Crossing on
Pottawatomie Creek in Franklin County. Five men were killed, and it would have
been regarded as ordinary murder had it been ordinary times, but it was in a new
country, at a time when civil war practically existed in the border counties of
Early in 1855, the five sons of
John Brown came to
Kansas and settled on
the north side of the Pottawatomie, about two miles southwest of the present
town of Lane. Between the Pottawatomie and Mosquito Creeks was a pro-slavery
settlement, just north, between the Mosquito and Marais des Cygnes Rivers, was a
free-state settlement, while south of the Pottawatomie was a mixed complexion of
politics. The Browns lived right in the heart of the pro-slavery element.
John Steuart Curry's Tragic Prelude mural hangs in the
Kansas Statehouse illustrating John Brown
and the clash of forces of Bleeding Kansas.
Among the pro-slavery men
were Allen Wilkinson, who kept the post office; James P. Doyle, who took up a
claim north of the Pottawatomie in the fall of 1854; Henry and William Sherman,
who settled on an abandoned Indian farm at the ford of the creek, which became
known as Dutch Henry's Crossing. Some of the free-state men regarded Wilkinson,
Doyle and the Shermans as harmless pro-slavery men, but as the first had been
elected by fraud and violence to a legislature where he
voted for a black code; the second had his sons, William and Drury, keep
free-state men from the polls by force, and the Shermans entertained lawless
invaders, this view was not held by all.
On May 21, 1856, the
Pottawatomie Rifles were called together, when it was heard that an attack was
to be made on Lawrence, for the purpose of going to the defense of the town. On
the way they learned that Lawrence had been destroyed and were in camp when,
according to the narrative of James Towsley, one of the eye-witnesses, news was
brought that an attack was expected on the Pottawatomie. Owen Brown, and later
John Brown, asked Towsley to take a party down there to watch what was going on.
The party consisted of
John Brown, his four sons -- Frederick, Oliver, Owen and
Watson -- his son-in-law, Henry Thompson, Theodore Weiner and James Towsley.
They left Shore's about 2 o'clock of May 23. They went into camp about a mile
west of Dutch Henry's Crossing and after supper
John Brown revealed his plan,
which was to "sweep the Pottawatomie of all pro-slavery men living on it."