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Ross party journey on the Jim Lane trail to Kansas

From Glen Noble, John Brown and the Jim Lane Trail, Purcells, Inc., 1977

Arrivals at Iowa City men who had attempted to reach Kansas aboard the Steamer Star of the West. Their weapons, provisions and equipment had been confiscated and the party sent back down the Missouri river. A company from Massachusetts, under Dr. Calvin Cutter, on board the Sultan, also stopped by the blockade, went to Iowa City to start the land route.

Arriving from Wisconsin well equipped and early on the scene was the unit organized by Edmund G. Ross and W. W. Ross under the auspices of Edward Holton, Milwaukee Banker. Later in the United States Senate, Edmund G. Ross would cast the deciding vote against removal from office of President Andrew Johnson, creating a precedent in the development of the Federal Government.

The Ross outfit was headed by a surrey pulled by two horses. There were twenty-four head of oxen, six large covered wagons, a cow, an extra horse and a team and a small covered wagon. On the Kansas journey, joined by others, the caravan consisted of the Ross, Coffin, Hutt, Smith Lathrop families, the Lymes party, one was John Restall, a sixteen-year-old employee of the Milwaukee Sentinel, who made himself useful by driving ox teams.


The two main assemblages of emigrants took the Lane Road to Kansas in 1856. The first left Iowa City in July and the second from Mt. Pleasant in September. The principal departures were: The Milwaukee party under Ross, Conductor; Wisconsin Pioneer Company, Janesville, reinforced at Iowa City, Hildreth Conductor." Many other Emigrant companies from Illinois and Iowa. "A total of 396 were accounted for in the July Caravans.

Shortly before departure of the companies, a bold stroke strengthened Kansas free sate weaponry. Richard Hinton, then a member of a company that came mainly from Boston and Worchester County relates that 1500 guns were taken from the Iowa State Arsenal. The key had been found on the desk of Governor Grimes according to Hinton's statement.


As the wagon train traveled or stopped for the night, curiosity developed regarding an object carried by one of the wagons and concealed under a tarpaulin. Questions were answered with assertions that it was a new type of breaking plow to be tried out on the prairies of Kansas. Plow-minded farmers or skeptics with the temerity to investigate at night while the travelers slept found a cannon under the cover. It was chambered to fire an eight pond ball.