Pottawatomie Township

Created in 1855

From a series of articles detailing visits to Franklin County townships in the
Ottawa Republican, August 30, 1877



Mosquito Creek, along which the Proslavery settlers killed in the Pottawatomie Massacre lived

Mosquito Creek, along which the Proslavery settlers killed in the Pottawatomie Massacre lived

A Region Rescued from the Border Ruffians

How it Derived its Name


Remains of Early Missions

Henry Sherman and His Famous Crossing


The Potawatomie Rifle Company

Squelching BOGUS Laws

How the Early Elections Were Run

John Brown and the Potawatomie Tragedy

Why He Didn’t Go To Lawrence

Persecution of Captain John Brown, Jr.

Who the Early Settlers Were

Physical Character of the Township

Brief Mention of Farm Establishments

The “Missouri Compromise,” it will be remembered, drew the line between free territory and slave territory, on the line 36 dg. And 30 min., all north of that being prohibited ground to the infernal practices of slavery.  In order to keep the desirable lands lying adjacent to this “color line” from the hands of free laborers, the dominant party policy was to locate them as Indian Reservations, and various tribes, the Sac and Fox, the Shawnees, the Delawares, and other bands were placed on those beautiful lands.  In 1837 the Potawatomie tribe was removed from Indiana to a tract south of the Marais des Cygnes river, on Potawatomie creek, a stream which rises in Anderson county, flows through the eastern and northern part of that county and traverses the southern portion of Franklin county,.  In 1854 these Indians were removed to Potawatomie county, where they owned large tracts of land, and the country was open to the adventurous squatter.

This south-eastern corner of Franklin county comprised what is now


one of the richest agricultural and stock subdivisions.  In this time—1854—a white face was an exceptional sight.  To be sure there had been several missionary charges established there by the Methodist and Baptist Churches, and occasional pale faces, in the interests of these missions, visited this section.  On Boucher branch, a tributary to the Potawatomie, the Baptists early established a mission charge—at what date is unknown, for as far back as 1756 but very slight traces of it could be found.  These traces consisted of a nearly decayed fence, and a few charred boards, erstwhile the tombstones of unfortunates who had died in the wilderness.  Perhaps the first white squatter, on Potawatomie creek was Henry Sherman, a German who had squatted on a tract while the Indians still had possession of the country.  It was at his place that a famous ford, known even now as

Dutch Henry’s Crossing

was made. This Sherman was a violent pro-slavery man, and made himself especially troublesome and obnoxious to the free state men by his many acts of daring and meanness.  He came finally, to be considered a tool in the hands of the leading border ruffians, and as might have been expected met a violent death at the hand of two free state men.  This was in March, 1857, and as the worst of the border troubles were over, it has always been supposed that this act was incited by private malice; be that as it may, it was always condemned by the better class of citizens.  The


set in strongest about the year 1857, when the Indian lands were placed in market, and when gentle Peace had permanently spread her wings over the lovely domain.  The settlement of the Potawatomie, or of “Dutch Henry’s Crossing” as it was then called, had not an enviable reputation, at that time, and many pioneers were deterred from going there by the wicked stories spread broadcast by rival point, yet those who did persist in going thither—and their number was after all considerable—were so delighted with the situation of the country that the settlement grew rapidly despite the odium which attached to its name.  This very “ill name” had a beneficial effect, for as it had a political tinge all democrats shunned it as they would a pestilence, while radical free state men sought it as a congenial asylum.  As a consequence for many years there was but one family that cast a democratic ticket, in the settlement, and the head of this old line Bourbon party could neither read nor write, while he labored under the somewhat expressive title of “Demijohn W—“

Early Scenes and Incidents

The Spring of 1856 saw a very considerable settlement along the Potawatomie, but these advance agents of civilization were doomed to anything but peaceable possession of the lands of their choice.  The proslavery element, determined that the black should be considered a chattel in Kansas, and furious that free state men were actually getting a foothold in this the very garden of the State, organized the rule of “Slavery or your life,” and inaugurated the bloody struggle which has made this part of our county so rich in reminiscences.  In this year the


with John Brown Jr. as captain, was organized.  This company was composed of free state men.  One of the acts of this company is thus related by Judge James Hanway:

“A vote was taken by the Company to visit Judge Cato’s Court, then in session in Henry Sherman’s house.  Our fire-arms were left in a log cabin.  Our object in visiting the court was to satisfy ourselves in regard to the position the judiciary intended to pursue in relation to the laws passed at the Shawnee Mission by those who were elected by the slave-holding rabble from Missouri the year before.  This election was held at the house of Sherman, March 30th, 1855, and it may be proper to state that there were about fifty legal voters in the district, while the poll-book returned to the Governor showed that 199 votes were reported in the district.  As most of the legal voters did not attend the polls, considering that it would be a farce and a mockery, of course the great majority of those who did vote were resident voters of the State of Missouri.  They came on horses, in wagons and carriages; they were well supplied with whiskey, bowie knives, shot-guns and revolvers.  This election was for councilman and representative, and resulted in placing the political power of the territory in the hands of our Missouri neighbors.

Our company proceeded to the spot, and we found Judge Cato delivering his charge to the grand jury, which was filled up with several of minor age.  The room was small and only a few of us could obtain entrance.  We were about thirty in number.  Our visit doubtless was unexpected, for it produced what might be called in parliamentary language “a lively sensation.”  As we came as citizens, without any of the outward signs of war, the Court continued its charge to the jury.  After Cato concluded his charge, Captain Brown left the house and remarked that the instructions to the jury were as he expected; that the laws passed at the Shawnee Mission were to be enforced and recognized as the statutes of Kansas.  Your correspondent remarked that he thought that the court had said nothing in his charge to the jury, but what were the recognized principles of the common law—that he had not referred to the “bogus laws.”  As this lead to a conversation Capt. Brown remarked that it would be best to have that point decided, so he re-entered the court room, and wrote on a slip of paper:  “We the citizens of this part of the Territory, would thank the Court if he would state if he intended, in his charge to the jury, to be understood as recognizing and enforcing the acts or laws of the Shawnee Mission so called.”  Cato took the paper and read it, flung it across the table, and evidently much agitated, said:  “The Court cannot permit itself to be disturbed by outside issues.”  Capt. Brown, in the yard below, cried out with a loud voice: “The Potawatomie Rifle Company will meet on the parade-ground.”  That settled Judge Cato and his court—the next morning judge, jury and sheriff took wing for Lecompton, nor did they return to interest themselves in subsequent judicial proceedings in that part of the vineyard.

The Potawatomie Tragedy

Old John Brown was prominently and very actively connected with many stirring and important events in the early history of Potawatomie township, and certain newspaper history relates false records of his connection with the killing of certain pro-slavery men near Potawatomie Creek, in 1856.  The various accounts and histories of this affair extant assert that Brown was not present at the commission of this act, but Judge James Hanway, who is in possession of proofs, entertains a contrary opinion.  In his life of John Brown, Redpath says:  “On the 24th of May, 1856, an old man and his two sons [J.P. Doyle], Wm. Sherman and Wilkerson, an acting Justice of the Peace, and member of the bogus legislature were taken from their homes and killed.  They all resided on the Potawatomie Creek, near Dutch Henry’s Crossing.  All the published accounts by free-state men, say that John Brown was not knowing to the fact till after the occurrence.”  In this Judge Hanway replied:  “We [the Rifle Company, and Old John Brown and his sons, and son-in-law] went in to camp near the residence of Capt. Shore, on Ottawa Creek.  While there, a messenger arrived from the Potawatomie settlement with the information that the pro-slavery men in the neighborhood had ordered Squire Morse, who had a small store near the crossing of the creek, to leave in five days as a punishment for furnishing our military company with ammunition on our trip to Lawrence.  The messenger also reported that Mr. Grant, who now lives [when written] four miles south of Lawrence, and others, were ordered to leave or abide the consequences.  This aroused old Brown.  A short consultation was held, and in a short time he commenced packing up his camp equipage.  Eight others composed the parts.  Few there were who knew the object of the expedition, and much speculation existed in camp * * *  In a short time, old Brown loaded up his camp kettles and started from our camp in a wagon, and not as represented by Mr. Hollaway’s History of “John Brown starting out to begin the war,” with “sword upraised, calling upon all who willing to being the war in earnest to follow him: * * *In the fall of 1858, during his last visit to Kansas, John Brown tarried at my house about a week.  Of course we conversed on the troubles of ’56.  One evening he asked me, “what do the old settlers on the creek think now about the punishment inflicted on the Sherman’s, Doyle’s etc.?”  I replied that a considerable change in public sentiment had taken place; many who condemned it at first, now endorse it, and consider it a justifiable act under the circumstances.  “Oh,” said the old man, “I knew the time would come when people who understood the whole circumstances attending it, would endorse it.”  He repeated several times, “if it was murder, I am not innocent.  The life of a good man is worth more than the life of a wicked, bad man.”


During May of 12856, the Potawatomie Rifle Company, in response to a message to the effect that the pro-slaverites were about to attack Lawrence, assembled on call at Winer’s store, four miles from Dutch Henry’s Crossing, and concluded to go to the assistance of besieged Lawrence.  Old John Brown and his sons were of the party.  While crossing the Marais des Cygnes, they heard, for the first time that Lawrence had been sacked.  That hurried the party, and they advanced rapidly, but while breakfasting at Ottawa Creek were met by a messenger with the information that they were too late—Lawrence had been taken. The messenger also stated that the town was short of provisions, and that the company had been requested not to go there. Old John was very much excited over the matters, and was anxious to advance despite all circumstances.  Some of the party dissented, and a vote was taken, at first favorable to brown’s proposition to go.  But a reconsideration was taken, and it was decided not to go.  Brown was afterward glad, and so expressed himself, that the reconsideration was taken.

Added Tribulations

The Rifle Company returned from the trip towards Lawrence, to find Winer’s store, and the cabin of John Brown, Jr. on north Middle Creek, in ashes, burned by the proslaverites.  Brown’s extensive library, was carried away, or what of it was not burned.  Several bogus officials, it is said, were implicated in this act.  Winer was a German, active in the promulgation of free state ideas.  His store contained a large quantity of provisions, and the loss of these was a severe blow, not only to the owner, but to the settlers.  About this time a public “conciliation meeting” was called by both parties, and it was held in a grove on Partridge branch.  The pro-slavery element was largely represented, at this meeting, while the free-state men, fearful of some “put-up job,” were apprehensive, and not many attended.  By a vote the recent acts of violence were condemned, and the meeting pledged itself to discountenance all outside interference in the affairs of the territory.  Just how much this was worth, is known by the fact that in a few days a bogus marshall and a posse of 150 “law and order” men went all over the country, and arrested every free state man they could find, and “pressed” every horse and mule they could lay hands on.  In the meantime, John Brown, Jr. had resigned as captain of the Rifle Company, and H.H. Williams had been elected his successor.  They were both arrested by the bogus marshall and taken to LeCompton, where they were confined with Gov. Robinson, Detzler, and Jenkins.  Others, members of the military company, were taken to Paola, and there examined by a military officer.  Of Capt. Brown’s treatment, while a prisoner, Mr. Gehon, Gov. Clary {Geary}’s secretary says: “Capt. John Brown, Jr. is a maniac in consequence of the cruel treatment he received while a prisoner of Pate.  His arms were so firmly bound with cord, as to cut into the flesh, in which condition he was compelled to travel in front of the horses for a number of miles under the burning sun, and often forced to run to keep from under the horses’ feet.  He was also kept without food or water.”


In a former article—that respecting Cutler—we said that John Brown, Sr., never had a cabin in Kansas.  The cabin, which is represented to have been his, acquired its notoriety from the fact that in it were secreted for a month, eleven fugitive slaves whom Brown had in charge.  This cabin was owned by Charles Severns, and was located as follow:  Northwest quarter, Sec. 13, T. 19, range 20.  It was built of round hickory poles, and had never been chinked or daubed, and was without door, floor or window.  The cabin of which so many photographs have been sold, is, or was, for it is now decayed, the property of Judge Hanway.  In it Col. Montgomery found refuge when hard pressed by pro-slavery officers from Linn county, and other “Jayhawkers”—Kagi, Jerry Anderson, and others, found an asylum within its hospitable door.

Settlement Chronologically

The first settlers in the township were the two brothers, Henry and William Sherman, who both located while the country was occupied by the Indians.  As we have recited, William Sherman was killed in May, 1856, Henry was killed the following year, in April.  Allen Wilkerson came in ’54 or ’55.  He was the first postmaster, and was also a member of the bogus Legislature.  Old man Doyle and his family came about the same time.  These two settlers were killed during the difficulties of May, 1856.  Rev. David Baldwin came in 1854.  He is now a citizen of Garnett.

In 1855 the following persons located:  Joshua Baker, Robert, David and Dan’l Sturgen, John Blunt, Sr. (father of Gen’l Blunt), Eldridge Blunt, John S. Blunt, David Watt, Wakeman Partridge, Wm. Partridge, Geo. Partridge, (killed in battle of Osawatomie in ’56), John Boucher, J.A.B. White, the Kilborne familyIn 1856, James Hanway, John S. Hanway, Brougham Hanway, Wm. War, Robt. Hodson, Robt. Hamilton, Capt. J.G. Reese, John Y. Yerkes, John Powell, Wm. Fitten, James Fitten, Wm. H. Ambrose, L. Dunham.

In 1858, among others, Saml. Holiday, Asa Holiday, Dr. Holiday, Barton Needham, and John White.  [Those in italics are dead.  There were other settlers, but they removed in an early day.]


The surface of Potawatomie is rather more broken than that of many other townships in the county, for it is crossed by numerous streams—the Potawatomie, and its branches, and Mousquito creek, but for all that it is inferior to no subdivision in Franklin.  There are other townships where agricultural farming may be conducted more extensively, perhaps, but its ranges of sweeping hills, its rich bottom-land deposits, and its unsurpassable water privileges make it a paradise for stock farming.  It is settled up by a class of men of wonderful industry and enterprise—on every hand may be seen well regulated establishments, full stocked yards, good substantial buildings, and complete indications of well founded prosperity.  We doubt if there is a community in the west where the general prosperity of farmers will average higher than in Potawatomie.

[In preparing this article, we have drawn largely upon interesting records and chronicles kindly furnished us by Judge James Hanway, of Potawatomie, a gentleman who has been very prominently connected with all the leading events of the township from its first settlement, and upon whose statements the most complete reliance may be placed.]

Farmers and Their Homes

Mr. John H. Yerkes, near the west line, has 180 acres, 120 of which are improved.  He produces corn principally—no small grain.  Has 43 head of cattle, 7 horses, 40 hogs.  Has a five acre orchard and a neat two story frame house.

Erastus Dickinson, Esq., who also lives near the west line, owns 160 acres, all improved.  He raised, this year, 24 acres of wheat and oats.  Has 50 head of cattle, 5 horses and mules, and about 40 hogs.  His orchard comprises about 200 apple trees and 150 peach trees.  His house is a good frame.

D.L. Cunningham, a neighbor to Mr. Dickinson, owns 80 acres, all improved, and principally devoted to corn.  He raised some oats and millet this year.  He has 5 head of cattle, 2 horses, and 20 hogs.  He has a neat frame house.

Robt. Tippin, at the south-west corner, operates Mrs. Culbert’s farm of 53 acres.  He raises corn mostly.  He owns 8 head of cattle, 3 horses, and 14 hogs.

A.H. Rigdon has 73 acres of wild land near the south line.  He intends to build a residence thereon this fall and make preparations for opening the farm.

Geo. T. Hodson, a young man in his “teens” affords an example worthy of emulation by the youth of Kansas.  He has worked his mother’s place this season, doing a man’s duty.  Has in cultivation 14 acres of corn, and on the place there are 17 head of cattle, 5 horses and 6 hogs.

J.W. Aiken, who operates Geo. T. Brown’s farm on Sac branch, has but recently arrived from Pennsylvania.  We found him to be a very entertaining gentleman.  The farm is one of the best in the vicinity, and bears 40 acres of corn we have not seen beaten in the county.

J.H. Rowland, also on Sac branch, has 80 acres, 30 of which are improved.  He raises corn principally.  Has 16 head of cattle, 2 horses, and 32 hogs.  This is one of the best stock locations we have seen in our travels over the county.  We return thanks to Mr. R. and his estimable lady for courtesies extended.

C. Barhan, in the neighborhood of Mr. Rowland’s farm, has 120 acres, 35 fenced.  He also raises corn.  Has tried small grain with indifferent success for several years, owns 19 head of cattle, 5 horses, and 10 hogs.

Capt. J.G. Reese, an old friend and patron of the REPUBLICAN has a very fine farm, and one of the handsomest locations in Franklin county.  He has 160 acres, 70 improved.  Owns 40 head of cattle, 8 horses, and 40 hogs.  His orchard, comprising 400 apple trees, and a number of peach trees, is one of the oldest in the township, part of it having been planted 18 years.

W.L. Luther, on the south line, has 160 acres, 45 improved.  He produces corn generally—had a small field of wheat this season, and 5 acres of oats.  Owns 13 head of cattle, 4 horses, 25 hogs, and 30 sheep.

Mrs. Maria White owns 160 acres, 45 in cultivation.  She owns 15 head of cattle, 10 horses, 11 hogs, and 30 sheep.  Has a fine orchard.

Mr. S.P. Boucher, whose farm lies near the south line, owns 80 acres, about 40 of which are improved.  He raises corn principally.  Owns 14 head of cattle, 5 horses, and about 25 hogs. He has a fine young orchard started.

We had the pleasure of meeting A.J. Gillam, of Mound township, Miami county, and found him to be a very agreeable gentleman.

Wm. H. Ambrose, whose farm lies near the south-east corner of the township, owns 160 acres, 60 of which are improved.  This is in corn principally.  He has 22 head of cattle, 4 horses, and 22 hogs.  His orchard comprises 250 apple trees, and 150 peach trees.  Mr. A. has been a resident of the township nearly 21 years.

S.S. Blair, lives near the south line.  He had 80 acres, 30 of which are improved.  Owns 17 head of cattle, 3 horses, and 23 hogs.  Has lived in Kansas 19 years and in the township 12 years.

The Hanway boys, J.S. and B., carry on 580 acres—their own and father’s land.  They have in about 145 acres of corn, which they raise exclusively for feeding purposes.  They own 85 head of cattle, about 60 of which will be fated next winter, 10 horses, and 150 hogs.  The Judge Hanway farm was settled in 1859, and Dr. Jennison, the famous Jayhawker, was the first man to take dinner thereon.  The Judge began planning fruit trees in an early day.  He has nearly 600 apple trees, and about 700 peach trees. He also has an acre in grapes.  On John Hanway’s farm there is also a most excellent orchard, containing some 200 apple and 150 peach trees.

We were taken through the marble works of Messrs. Hanway Bros., and saw as finely executed work in that line as was ever our fortune to see anywhere.  They employ the most skillful workmen, and use all the mechanical appliances of an improved order.

Mr. Joseph Whytle, near the east line, owns 80 acres, 50 being improved.  His farm is well hedged, and he has a commodious stone house, and a large orchard.

Robt. S. Hamilton, at Lane, owns 320 acres—80 of which are at Lane.  He has 80 acres under cultivation, almost exclusively to corn.  He owns 12 head of cattle, 4 horses and 20 hogs.  He has between 200 and 300 apple and peach trees.

While at Lane we were honored with an introduction to Mr. John D. Moore, the good looking and affable gentleman who conducts the mercantile establishment in that burg.

N.H. Jackson Esq. near the north line, operates 40 acres, 30 of which are in corn, and 10 in beans.  He owns 5 head of cattle, 2 horses and 7 hogs.

T.J. Pyle, a well known former citizen of Ottawa, has just sold 80 acres of his 160 acre farm near the north-east corner of the township.  He has 50 acres in corn, and 20 in beans.  We observed about 100 tons of stacked hay, also.  He owns 80 head of cattle, 10 horses, and 14 hogs.  There is a good frame house on the place, and a fine orchard of 250 apple trees160 peach and a number of cherry and pear trees.  To Mr. and Mrs. Pyle we are indebted for favors.

Mr. J.N. Baker, an old resident of 22 years standing, has a fine farm establishment in the “Baker Settlement” near the north-western corner.  He owns 140 acres, 70 of which are fenced, and raises corn principally.  Owns 15 head of cattle, 3 horses and about 50 hogs, of the Poland China and Berkshire breeds.  Has 100 apple trees, and 50 peach trees.  Is remodeling and finishing his residence.

A.M. Akin Esq. we found to be an agreeable gentleman.  He owns 80 acres, and cultivates 23 acres, in corn principally.  Owns 6 head of cattle, and 8 hogs.  Has a box frame house, and has lived in the township eight years.

Joshua Baker Esq. is one of the oldest and best respected citizens of the township.  He cultivates 60 acres, and has 45 acres in corn this year.  He has a considerable stock, and a good orchard of 80 bearing trees.  He also has a considerable vineyard.

A.A. Alward cultivates 80 acres—70 to corn.  He owns 3 horses, 32 head of cattle and 34 hogs.  He has an orchard containing 150 apple trees, 70 of which are in bearing.

E.W. Allen has 40 acres—28 in corn, this season.  He owns 2 head of cattle, 3 horses and 3 hogs.  Has 100 fruit trees—apples, peaches and cherries.  His house is protected on the west by a wind break of magnificent walnut trees, 19 years old, planted by his father.

Sam’l Rowland has 40 acres in corn, 8 in beans, and 1 1/2 in sorghum. Owns 9 head of cattle, 2 horses and 28 hogs.  His corn is of a superior quality.

Charles Bartling, Esq., has 80 acres—10 acres in corn.  He owns 2 head of cattle, 2 horses, and 6 hogs.  Mr. B. has been living here about ten years.

Geo. Ramsey, Esq., we found to be an industrious farmer.  He owns 100 acres, 32 of which he has devoted to corn this year.  He owns 13 head of cattle, 6 horses, and 16 hogs.  His orchard comprises 70 apple, 50 peach and 15 pear trees.

M. Hurst, Esq., has 80 acres—65 in a very fine field of corn.  He owns 7 head of cattle, 2 horses, and 2 hogs.

W.A. Wasson has 50 acres, mostly in corn.  He has 10 acres devoted to blue grass.  Owns 35 head of cattle, 2 horses and 3 hogs.

The Duncan Holiday farm is operated by Mr. Sam’l Holiday who has a large field of corn of superior quality.  He has 12 head of cattle, 5 horses, and 86 hogs.

Mr. Joseph Meador, owns 307 acres, 160 of which are in cultivation—70 to corn, 60 to beans.  He also has 7 acres of orchard.  Owns 9 head of cattle, 3 horses and 13 hogs.

Joseph Bayson, Esq., is a cooper, and a new comer.  He intends to open a shop this winter, at Lane.

We had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Welch, who owns a fine residence and property at Lane.  The doctor has an extensive practice.

Mr. John Byrne has purchased the Partridge and S. Hanway farms, and has 480 acres.  He contemplates going into the stock business.

D.K. Watkins owns 320 acres—60 being in cultivation.  Of this 12 acres are in beans, and the rest in corn.  He owns 30 head of cattle, 3 horses, and 20 hogs.

John B. Cornelius, who lives near the north-east corner of the township, owns 95 acres, which he devoted to corn and beans, the latter crop leading.  He owns 15 head of cattle, 8 horses, and 13 hogs.

J.P. Baffrey has a fine place of 80 acres, 35 of which he cultivates in corn.  He owns 30 head of cattle, 4 horses, and 18 hogs.

*The spelling used in the 1877 article.

The following link is to a memoir of Pottawatomie Township by Joseph Baker, oldest son of Joshua Baker, one of the first settlers:

Early History of Pottawatomie Township, Franklin County, Kansas

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