Thursday, December 30, 2010

Woodsdale: Hutchinson News Story July 24, 1920 about the Stevens County Seat war


Thirty-two years tomorrow,
.July 25, 1888, occurred one of the
tragedies of southwestern Kansas,
the Hay Meadow" Massacre, In
•which Sheriff Cross, of Stevens
• county, and a posse of four, were
all shot down In cold blood, four
of the five being killed outright,
by another posse headed by City
Marshal Sam Robinson, of Hugoton.
Tho following story of that frontier
tragedy of 32 years ago was written
by Tom -McNeal, of the Topeka Capital,
who was living in the southwest
at that time:

"The men who wore responsible for
the bill forming the county of Stevens
were the organisers of the first county
seat, Hugoton, but it was jut. to have
a clear field. Five or six miles north
was located the town of Woodsdnlo,
It's master spirit Col. Sam Wood.
Some miles south of Hugoton was located
the town of Vorhees and the fertile
brain of Sam Wood devised a
scheme by which the forces of Woodsdale
and Vorhoos might bo united
against Hugoton. There was no railroad
In the newly ofgitnlased county
but a proposal was made to build two
lines east ^nct west through Vorheos,
leaving Hugoton in a pockot without
hope of a railroad, tor it was also proposed
to vote the limit of county bonds
to aid the two prelected linos. Palling
to get a railroad it was figured that
Hugoton would certainly lose the
county seat and Woodsdalo would become
the seat of government.
Imported Gun Men.
"Each town Imported a gun man of
unsavory reputation to uphold the majesty
of tho law, Hugoton brought In
a Kentuckian by the name of Sam
RobKison, who had already made a
record for himself 88 a six shooter
/artist In Pratt and Barber counties
and who wa»-probab!y about as cold
blooded a murderer ns ever drew a
g'jn. He was made city marshal of
the new town of Hugoton. /Woodsdale
Wlected as guardian of the law one
Ed ritiorl, who 1 believe had achieved
some reputation In and around Dodge
City in an earlier day.
"South of Stevens county lies a strip
or country at that time known as "No
Man's Land," now Beaver county, Oklahoma,
but then supposed to bq without
the jurisdiction of either the state
of Texas or the United States.
"Here was the setting for the bloody
drama on which the curtain wan to be
rung down lour years later.
Ruled With Pistol.
"A meeting was being held in the
town of Vorhees, a Joint debate on the
proposition to vote bonds for the twolino
railroad projuet. Col. Sam Wood
was to have been the principal speaker
for the bonds but for some reason
could not be present. A deputy sheriff,
James Geraud, undertook to read
the Colonel's wrllten speech but was
knocked senseless by a blow from the
pistol of Sam lloblnson, who from that
time on dominated and broKe up the
CA warrant was sworn out before a
Woodsdale justice of the peace for the
arrest or Robinson, charged with' assault
with intent to kill. Ed-Short,
the Woodsdalo city marshal, rode to
Hugoton to serve the warrant. He
t aw JWWnson sitting in front of his
alleged drug store and decided to
shoot first and serve the warrant afterwards.
His aim wan bad and Robinsofi,
unharmed, got his gun and returned
the fire. A posse of Hugoton
men gathered at once and chased
Short back to Woodsdale after a running
fight, in which A good deal of ammunition
was wasted, but no one injured.
Then the Massacre.
"A few days afterward, July 25,1S88,
Robinson, * chamberlain7 and Cyrus
Cook and wife, of Hugoton, went to
No Man's Land to gather plums. Ed
nnort and "Bill" Housely, of Woodsdale,
started after them with the intent
of arresting Robinson. They
found him in a claim house, his. hone,
a celebrated racer, stabled in a halt'
dug-out near by. Robinson succeedod
In mounting his horse and escaped.
Short sent back to Woodsdalo for reinforcements
and the -sheriff of the
county, Cross, organized a possi? composed
of himself, Theodoctous Eaton,
Herbert Tonny, Bob HiVbard and
Rolla Wilcox, and BtarteJ for No
i i a n ' s I-and. They passed through the
town of Vorhce3>where»llved a young
attorney, JCKSB Dunn, They invited
him to join ihem. He was willing, but
had no saddle for his horse and It was
too long a ride to take bareback.
t./unn afterward became'a memuer of
the supreme court of Oklahoma Instead
of n victim of the Hay Meadow
massacre. What trivial things often
change the entiru current of a man's
Shot to Death.
"Sheriff Cross rode on to tho claim
house whore Robinson had. been,
found him gone and turned to ride
homo. Three miles below the'Kansas
line, they camped for the night
with a party of men who had gone
down there to cut and gather,„,bay.
Without apprehension of danger they |
lay down to slaeii by tho stacks of;;
new mown haywhen a Hugoton posse';
led by Robinson surrounded them..
They woke to face the guns 'of their
captors and standing In line disarmed
and helpless they were shot to death,
all of them with one exception falling
before tho gun of Sam Robinson.
Young Tonny managed by a quick
uhlf t of position .just an the gun airm'd
at his breast was fired, to receive the
bullet in his shoulder instead of
through his vitals. Ho fell and feigned
death so well that his would-be executioners
left him weltering in his
blood supposing him dead. Cross.
Hubbard, lOatoa and Wilcox were
dead. After Robinson and his crowd
had departed Tony, desperately
wounded as he wua, managed to get
on a horse and rode north until he
reached friends and surgical aid.
Six Sentenced to Death.
Nearly two years later at the end of
one df the most sensational trials in
the history of the country, six Hugoton
men, Cyrus K. Cook, O. J. Cook,
J. II. Chamberlain. Cyrus Frecae, .1. J.
Jackson and Jack Lawrence were
convicted of the murder of Cross and
the others. Col. Sam Wood had bean
most active in tb,e prosecution and on J
the Fourth of July, 1890. made the
closing-argument for t h e government,
speaking for eight hours. Sentence of
death was passed on the six Hugoton
men and the date of their execution
set lor t he following December,
; ' Never Again Tried.
"Through the Influence of tho two
Kansas senators, Ingalls and Plumb, a
stay ot execution was granted, the
case was appealed to the supreme
court of the United States and a new
trial granted. The case never again
came to trial. Sam Robinson, who
had done nearly all of the killing, had
been convicted of train robbery In
Colorado, where he had gonir^aftor the
Hay Meadow massacre, and was safe
in the Colorado penitentiary when the
trial was being held at Paris, Texas.
"But the last act of the bloody
drama had not yet been played. Judge
Theodoclus Botkin, Sam Wood's enemy,
had been impeached by the ldwer
house of the Kansas legislature, but
acquitted by the senate, and returned
to his district more bittef than ever
against the inan most responsible for
Iris. Impeachment,
Charge of Bribery.
"A charge of bribery was filed in
Botkln's court against Wood and on
JUTte 23, 1891, In company with his
wire he drove to Hugoton to face the
charge. It was reported that a little
boy playing in the street of the frontier,
town was heard to tell his companion?,
"They are going to kill old
Sam Wood today." The court was
being held in a church. About the
timo Wood and his wife approached
court was adjourned, the judge left the
church and stepped across the street.
Colonel Wood got out of his buggy
and started to enter the church, when
a Hugoton man, Jim Hrehnan, drew
his gun and shot Wood in the back.
The colonel turned to run out of 'the
church when Brennan shot him twice
more, the last Bhot through the brain,
and Wood fell dying at the feet of his
Wife, who, standing over the body of
ner husband, pointed dramatically at
Judge Botkin, and In the language of.
Nathan, the prophet, to King David,
said: 'Thou art the man.'
The Slayer Gave Up.
Brennan, with his smoking'pistol In
hand refused to surrender to the sheriff
of Stevens cdunty, but gave himself
up to the Bheriff of Morton county. Ho
was arraigned, charged with murder.
The Populist attorney general of Kansas,
J. N. Ives, went to Hugoton to assist
in the prosecution. Judge T. B,
Wall, of Wichita, was selected to preside
at tho trial but it was found Impossible
to secure a Jury to try the
case In Stexens county and Bronnan
was released on ball.
Hard times came in Stevens county;
the tide of immigration rolled back.
Most of the homesteaders abandoned
the country. The towns of Woodsdale
and Vorhees faded away entirely and
Hugoton at ono time was reduced to
eleven weather-beaten houses. Sam
Robinson was In the Colorado penitentiary
and Ed Short WBS killed in
Oklahoma by a desperado he had
taken prisoner. The silence of desolation
ruled where men had striven and
fought and died and gained nothing
from the bloody sacrifice and ruthless
And Then Went Free.
"Twenty years later a requisition
was issued for the arrest of Jim,Brennan,
tho slayer of Col. Sam Wood.
Brennan had located at the town of
Qotebo, Okla. The extradition was resisted
on tho ground of former Jeopardy
and Brennan went free.
"In the years since than a now prosperity
has come to the southwest. The
abandoned homesteads are again being
cultivated and Hugoton ts taking
on a new growth. In all the wide expanse
of United States territory there
Is no more peaceable and law-abiding
comrnuully that Stevens county In
which was played to a finish one of the
bloodiest dramas in frontier'history.'

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