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The Prison at Lecompton, Kansas

  • Dodge County Citizen [Beaver Dam], October16, 1856
  • Chicago, Oct 11
    A number of prisoners were arrested by Gov. Geary and confined at Lecompton on a charge of murder in the first degree on the 1st instant. There are 107 of them as follows:
    From Maine3, N. Hampshire 10, Vermont 3, Massachusetts 12, Rhode Island 2, Connecticut 1, New York 10, Pennsylvania 3, Ohio 12, Michigan 5, Indiana 12, Illinois 23, Wisconsin 5, Iowa 9, Missouri 6. All of these were mostly under the charge of Col. Titus. J miles and Moore from Leavenworth and en route for the east were arrested without process at Kansas City and carried to Wyandotte city and imprisoned.

  • Dodge County Citizen [Beaver Dam], October 23, 1856
  • A letter from Kansas to the St. Louis Democrat, dated Lawrence, October 14th, says that Colonel Cook, at the head of 400 dragoons, had arrested 240 emigrants, near the Nebraska line. The report that a writ had been issued for the arrest of Sheriff Jones was unfounded. A special court, for the trial of Free State prisoners convened on the 14th. Not one pro-slavery man has yet been arrested by order of Gov. Gray (Geary).

  • The Black Hole of Calcutta Revised in Kansas, Fond du Lac Commonwealth Weekly, November 12, 1856

    Lawrence Kansas Territory---October 21, 1856: Yesterday witnessed a sad spectacle in Lawrence. The body of a young man named Bowles, who emigrated to the Territory from Wisconsin last summer was brought from the prison camp in Lecompton, and interred in the Lawrence Cemetery. He was of the company of one hundred upwards who were took by the U. S. Dragoons, under orders of Gov. Geary, and who have been confined ignominiously under border ruffian Titus and his "militia" at Lecompton. Although the deceased has been confined for weeks it is altogether uncertain whether there would be any indictment found against him, as it is also doubtful whether a particle of testimony can be found against the large portion of his companions. Like those companions, he endured much, and in his case exhausted nature sank beneath its sufferings. No medical attendant waited on him to alleviate his miseries, or give hope to the young life, which sank, under a cloud. No communication as his condition was made by the wild and reckless guard of the unfortunate prisoners. The brother of the deceased--- a young daguerrean artist of this city, and the only relative that the deceased had in the Territory--- received the startling intelligence of his death the first intimation of his illness.

    Recently the crowd of prisoners (numbering still well high a hundred) have been huddled in a small building at Lecompton. Human nature may endure much with fresh breezes of Kansas blowing around even such a prison, but memory recalls the frightful story of the Black Hole of Calcutta and hard facts insist on drawing the parallel. The wild history of unhappy Kansas has recorded many a more startling and horrifying death than this, but there is something in its peculiar character, which writes "despotism" in letters of fire upon the crime. It out Jesuits Jesuitism in refinement of cruelty with the affectation of innocence; and in becoming familiarized with such sad fate of the Free settlers in Kansas, we forget that we live in Republican America, or that freedom and civil rights are the national inheritance

  • Was Lecompton Kansas A Political Prison for Abolitionists? (From The Englishman in Kansas, or Squatter Life and Border Warfare, 1857)
  • But would we know what spectacle Kansas has presented during the rigor of the past winter under and under the present governorship, let the voices from the POLITICAL PRISONS of Lecompton answer. I have never before me an address of the American people, signed by ninety-eight Free-state men, who were suffering a long and wretched imprisonment for their political offences.

    "We come now, at last, to speak of a subject too immediate, too vial, to admit of our passing it in noticed, yet too full of horror to dwell upon. We allude to our treatment and condition since our confinement here, and any description of which must come far short of the terrible reality. A few of our guard will ever be remembered by us with emotions of the deepest gratitude for their kindness; but the greatest portion of them are drunken, brawling demons, too vile and wicked for portrayal. Times without number have they threatened to either shoot or stab us, and not infrequently have they attempted to carry out their base and hellish threats. Several nights have the guard amused themselves throughout their different watches, by cursing us, throwing stones at the house, breaking in glass, sash and etc. Two large cannon stand planted but a few yards from our prison, and two nights has the match been swung several hours in the hands of the gunners, with orders to discharge both, heavily loaded with shot and slugs, upon us, in case our friends should come in sufficient force to avenge our wrongs. These, however, are only slight, compared with other insults and sufferings heaped upon us daily. Most of us are poorly clad-few have bedding. Our prison is open and airy, yet small; without, surrounded with unearthly filth; within, all is crawling with vermin, all, everything, mixed with misery. When youths, we listened with doubt to the dark stories of the jersey prison-ships, and the Black-hole of Calcutta, never dreaming that we should at last be a sad, actual part their counterpart. More than once have we prophesied to one another, that all would not leave this charnel house alive? Our assertions have been verified; several have been dangerously sick, one has died. His name was William Bowles, and formerly from St. Charles. Mo. He labored with us nobly for our God-given rights, and it was with feelings of unutterable sorrow that we parted with him. After an illness of two days, he left his sufferings this morning, at one o'clock. Before his death, we requested the officers of the guard to have him removed to a place quiet. We talked and became tired; yet nothing was done. Last night all the physicians in town were sent for, and each refused to come. Dr. John P. Wood, who is also judge probate and committal justice, could not come, " because he was sick;" yet he was seen that evening, as well as the following morning, doing hard labor. Others had reasons, we know not what. Dr. Brooks was sent for five times; but he was at a card-table playing poker, he swore he "would not leave the game to save every-----Abolitionist in the territory.

    "Sickness and death of the most horrid forms are in our midst; scrapings of Pandemonium surround us; we can see nothing left us but appeal to the last tribunal, with God as our judge, and our jury the great American people.

    "But it is in the Prison alone that the unoffending settlers of Kansas have had to endure fearful suffering. A gentleman from Chicago, who visited the territory in the winter on behalf of a committee of relief, whilst he confirmed the preceding statements, reported further that he found many of the settlers reduced by these acts of political oppression to the verge of starvation. In on district he met with forty families entirely destitute, some of the fathers being confined in the LECOMPTON PRISON; their food green pumpkins and green Indian corn, grated by the hand. In another he found a family of five motherless children, the eldest only seven years old, in a state of starvation, their father a prisoner at Lecompton. In a third he discovered a hundred families, so destitute of clothing that they were ashamed to be seen. Again, a neighborhood where nearly every nearly every person was sick; and another place where family had subsisted for weeks on nothing but wolves' meat. This gentleman visited all settled portions of Kansas, and everywhere he had visible proof that sickness and hunger had followed, as is usual, in the train of war.

Newspaper clippings and excerpt courtesy Kevin Dier-Zimmel.