Saturday, August 21, 2010

Personality Spotlight: Samuel Jones

Yet another of the pro-slavery Kansans was Sheriff Samuel Jones. Unfortunately there are not a lot details known about Jones's early life. He was born in Virginia about 1820 and moved to Westport, Missouri in 1854 with his wife and children. Jones was named sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas in August of 1855 by acting governor Daniel Woodson, who was also a pro-slavery Virginia native.

One reason Jones had been named sheriff of Douglas County was partly due to his proven pro-slavery stance. In March of 1855 he had led a contingent of Missourians that had destroyed the ballot box at Bloomington, Kansas. Jones took to his role as sheriff seriously and used his position to suppress free state actions. One contemporary described Jones as, "tall, muscular, athletic...clad in the Border Ruffian costume-blue military overcoat, large boots, skull cap and cigar in mouth."

Jones's tough-handed measures were partly to blame for the enmity that developed between free state and pro-slavery forces that developed into the bloodless "Wakarusa War" in 1855. In late 1855 a free state man was murdered by a pro-slavery settler. Shortly thereafter a friend of the slain man was arrested for attending a free state meeting, but was rescued by his friends. Free state men started organizing, arming, and fortifying Lawrence, the center of free state activity, to prevent future arrests. Soon, Lawrence was besieged for about a week by pro-slavery men intent on suppressing free state sentiment. Fortunately a peace was brokered by free state leaders James H. Lane and Charles Robinson and the Southern-sympathizing territorial governor Wilson Shannon.

On April 23, 1856 Jones was shot in the back by unknown gunman while attempting to arrest free state men in Lawrence. Although the injury did not prove fatal it would have severe repercussions. Only a month later Jones would help lead a party of about 800 pro-slavery men in raid on Lawrence that saw the destruction of the free state newspaper the Herald of Freedom and the burning of the Free State Hotel. The raiders carried with them that day a red flag that had single white star and the words "Southern Rights" embroidered on it. After witnessing the destruction of the Free State Hotel, Jones was heard to say, "This is the happiest day of my life, I assure you." Only one person was killed in the raid on Lawrence; a pro-slavery man that was hit on the head by a piece of fallen masonry from the Free State Hotel.

Jones would not hold the position of Douglas County sheriff much longer. In January of 1857 he resigned over a spat with then territorial governor John W. Geary (a future Union Civil War general) about using balls and chains on imprisoned free state men held at Lecompton. Shortly after his resignation he left Kansas and moved to New Mexico Territory where he served as collector of customs at Paso del Norte. There he also started a ranch where he farmed until he died around 1880.

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