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A Dodge County Man in the Hands of the Ruffians

A Dodge County Man in the Hands of the Ruffians
Dodge County Citizen [Beaver Dam], July 11, 1856

We commend the following letter to the careful perusal of the people of this country. Mr. Voorhees, the writer, is a resident of Burnett, in this county, and is a man universally respected and esteemed; his statements can be relied upon.

He is also a subscriber to the Citizen and called at our office a day or two before he set out for Kansas, when he informed us of his intention of going there, not as a settler, but merely to see for himself how matters stood. His letter shows how matters do stand, and that a free citizen of Wisconsin, traveling on his own business must attempt to enter Kansas. Oh, how long must we submit to this humiliating sacrifice of freedom for the sake of fostering and extending Slavery! How long will men and presses in our State continue to bow submission to the tyrant; who thus waylay, rob, and drive back freemen from the national domain; and how long will those be found who uphold a government that encourages and aids those desperate outlaws.

June 25,1856, Messr. R. King & Company

Thinking you would like to hear from one who has seen the Elephant almost to his satisfaction; I take this opportunity to inform you of some of his movements. I started from Horicon, Dodge County, Wisconsin, where I reside, June 20th for the purpose of visiting Kansas, to see for myself the situation of affairs in that place. I arrived at St. Louis on the 24th; took passage on the steamer Sultana for Leavenworth City.

There were about 50 passengers on board, nearly all expecting to become actual settlers in Kansas. On the 27th we met the Star of the West with a company on board from Chicago. They hailed our boat; said they had been robbed of all they had; were forbidden to land; were returning; two men went on board to learn the circumstances, when armed guard made their appearance; forbade another man from coming on board, and their boat left immediately with two of our men. I then learned that forty of our passengers were from Massachusetts under the direction of Dr. Colvin Cutler, of Warren, Worchester County. They had on board their farming utensils and arms for defense. All went well until we arrived at Waverly, just after dark, when a gang of men came on board, and demanded all the rifles on board. On looking upon the shore we saw from two to five hundred men all armed with muskets. On consultation the Doctor concluded to give up a box of rifles upon the express condition that they would be delivered up on our return, for we had been [told] that we would not be allowed to land....

They left a committee on board, and we proceeded. The next morning we [were] aroused by the roar of a cannon. It was soon all confusion in the cabin; about fifty men rushed on board, armed with knives and revolvers. They acted like perfect madmen. A bloody fight seemed inevitable, but by the firm coolness of the Doctor order was restored, and the boat proceeded to Independence Landing, where again saluted with cannon, and another company commanded by captain Shaw and C. H. Bledsoe two of the most blood thirsty villains imaginable. Their principle conversation was Hurrah for old Buck-damn the Abolitionists-we'll give you hell!" They determined to sack the boat; the boys immediately secreted all the arms on board that they could, and threw the balance (about thirty) overboard. Every room was searched; two or three rifles and a few pistols were found. They placed a strong guard in every quarter of the boat, and thus we proceeded on, and were again most outrageously insulted at Kansas City. I had paid my fare to that place, but was not allowed to go on shore. What disposition will be made of us, I cannot tell-most probably we shall be sent down the river in the same boat that we are on. I will give the full particulars as soon as I return home. I am too much excited at present to write intelligibly. There is a steamer now coming along aside. I shall send this to St. Louis by that boat if possible.

Yours, Alex Voorhees

Notes: The Voorhees name is associated with an African American college (Voorhees College) in South Carolina. The Voorhees from Burnett, Dodge County, Wisconsin were involved with the abolitionist movement and Wisconsin Emigrant Aid Society for Kansas.

Notes and news clipping courtesy Kevin Dier-Zimmel.