Pansy Noyes Bryant recorded the family’s connection with Marais Des Cygnes Massacre.

First, a few introductory notes from me. On May 19 1858, Charles Hamilton–who had arrived from Georgia in 1855 with the determination of making certain Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state–with some 30 Pro-slavery Missourians from the neighborhood of West Point, Missouri, set out to Trading Post, Linn County, Kansas where they proceeded to “arrest” Free State settlers. Just what this means that Hamilton and company “arrested” these men, and how they had any authority to do so, I’ve no idea. Such basic points that history takes for granted only baffle me. I read Charles Hamilton had also settled in Kansas and been run out. Elsewhere I’ve read that many of the men were former neighbors of Hamilton’s who didn’t imagine he’d do them any harm. I’m supposing they had been neighbors in Kansas–and if they believed Charles Hamilton wouldn’t do them any harm then they had sorrily misread his character.

Placing the so-called “arrested” in a wagon, they started for the Missouri line, and after about three miles met with others with more Free State prisoners. These 11 men were lined up facing a ravine and shot down. I read that after they were shot, Hamilton got up close with a pistol to finish them off executioner style. John F. Campbell, William Colpetzer, Michael Robinson, Patrick Ross and William Stillwell were killed. William Hargrove and brother Asa Hargrove, Rev. Benjamin Reed, Charles Snyder and Amos Hall were wounded. Austin Hall, brother of Amos, dropped with the others and feigned being dead. That Austin (who was then sun blind) got away with this paints a picture of the bloodiness of the scene. He was likely so covered in it that he appeared to be deathly wounded.

This incident is given as a key one in deciding Kansas’ decision toward being a free or slave state.

Only one man was arrested that year but escaped. In 1863, another was arrested, tried and executed, a William Griffith of Bates County, Missouri. He had been identified by William Hargove in Platte County, Missouri, was taken into custody and returned to Linn County, Kansas where, it’s said, William Hargrove was granted the duty of performing as his hangman.

Charles A. Hamilton returned to Georgia.

These thirty odd men had performed their deed openly and it was known who they were. Yet, if you search around the web, though you’ll repeatedly find the names of the victims, the identities of the other assailants are never revealed. I’ve read that Stillwell was a mason and, some of the assailants being masons, he gave the mason’s sign of distress to no avail. The names of the murderers are perhaps preserved in documents of the time, but I’ve a feeling that they were likely not broadcast and haven’t made it into the history books.

Despite Charles Hamilton’s notoriety, exactly who he was and how he subsequently lived seems also to not merit much attention, which is particularly odd.

From the web, the Marais des Cygnes Massacre,
as portrayed in A. D. Richardson’s “Beyond the Mississippi” (1867)

Pansy’s below story comes to us courtesy of Nancy Benton.

* * * * *

The Marias des Cygne Massacre

Linn County Kansas near Trading Post

by Pansy Noyes Bryant

My great grandfather Hiram Atwell had a sister Olive (born Mar. 21, 1808) who married a man named Clarke Fiske of Eden VT. They had a daughter Caroline Fiske who married Austin Wilbur Hall of Trading Post, Kansas. Caroline Fiske and my grandmother Caroline Atwell Noyes were cousins. They visited each other when they came to Kansas and Missouri to live.

Carolin Fiske Hall once brought my grandmother a gift of a paisley shawl. At my grandmother’s death this shawl was given to my aunt Viola Noyes Harmon and she in turn passed it on to her adopted son and also nephew Robert Harmon.

Austin and Amos Hall came from Eden VT. in 1857 to West point Landing. They were without money and walked to Trading Post Kansas that looked much more promising than Kansas City did at that time.

The bright sun and glare on the tall prairie grass caused Austin to develop a very severe case of sore eyes and he was unable to see any distance.

During the next winter the border warfare over slavery grew very bitter. Most of those on the Kansas side were “Free Staters” and ruffians from the Mo side kept stirring up trouble.

On May 19 1858 a man named Hamilton with 32 men came over near Trading Post and gathered eleven men and took them to a ravine east of town and had the 32 men standing on each side of the slope and shoot the eleven men down like dogs. Amos and Austin Hall were among the 11 men. Austin was driving a team of oxen from the forge and could have gotten away except the sore eyes kept him from seeing the enemy as they came toward him.

Most of the men were killed instantly, but Austin Hall did not get hurt at all. He feigned death and dropped with the man in front of him. The ruffians came down and kicked the victims to be sure they were dead. Austin Hall stayed perfectly still and was declared dead.

As soon as they left Austin went for help. He met a woman who had seen the men led away and had hitched up a ox team to a wagon filled with bedding and water.

Soon after this massacre Austin Hall went back to Eden VT. to have treatment for his eyes. He was very slow recovering his sight and did not return to Kansas until April 14, 1865.

He married Carolin Fiske Nov. 28, 1869 and to this union were born Amos Homer, Carlton Fisk and John Austin Hall. All live fairly close to their old home and are very prosperous.

Austin W. Hall and Caroline Hall are buried in the same cemetery where a monument is erected to the Marais des Cygne Massacre.

* * * * *

In 1982, the Ft. Scott Tribune reported on May 28:


The death today of John A. Hall of Pleasanton serves to bring attention the part the Hall family has played in Linn County history. Austin W. Hall, father of the Pleasanton attorney, came to Kansas in 1857 and established his home two miles east of Trading Post. At that time Kansas was the center of border warfare and Austin Hall, together with his brother, Amos C. Hall, was one of the settlers captured by Charles Hamilton, the notorious perpetrator of the Marais des Cygne massacre on May 19, 1859. The Hamilton gang gathered up eleven settlers around Trading Post, lined them up and shot them. By a miracle, Austin Hall escaped unscathed when the volley was fired, but quick thinking induced him to fall to the ground and feign death. He was left unmolested. His brother was severely injured by recovered from his wounds.

The massacre was memorialized by the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier:

“Le Marais du Cygne”
By John Greenleaf Whittier

A BLUSH as of roses
Where rose never grew!
Great drops on the bunch-grass,
But not of the dew!
A taint in the sweet air
For wild bees to shun!
A stain that shall never
Bleach out in the sun!

Back, steed of the prairies!
Sweet song-bird, fly back!
Wheel hither, bald vulture!
Gray wolf, call thy pack!
The foul human vultures
Have feasted and fled;
The wolves of the Border
Have crept from the dead

Not in vain on the dial
The shade moves along
To point the great contrasts
Of right and wrong;
Free homes and free altars
And fields of ripe food;
The reeds of the Swan’s Marsh,
Whose bloom is of blood.

On the lintels of Kansas
That blood shall not dry;
Henceforth the Bad Angel
Shall harmless go by;
Henceforth to the sunset,
Unchecked on her way,
Shall Liberty follow
The march of the day.

Controversial abolitionist, John Brown, toward the end of June built a small, two-story log fort a couple of hundred yards from the massacre, the intention being to aid in the defense of free-soil citizens against such violence.

The massacre prompted the following, written by John Brown on January 13, 1859.

John Brown’s “Parallels”
Lawrence Republican, January 13, 1859

Trading Post, Kansas, Jan., 1859

Gents:–You will greatly oblige a humble friend, by allowing the use of your columns, while I briefly state two parallels, in my poor way.

Not one year ago, eleven quiet citizens of this neighborhood, viz.: Wm. Robertson, Wm. Colpetzer, Amos Hall, Austin Hall, John Campbell, Asa Snyder, Thos. Stilwell, Wm. Hairgrove, Asa Hairgrove, Patrick Ross, and B.L. Reed, were gathered up from their work and their homes, by an armed forced (sic) under one Hamilton, and without trial or opportunity to speak in their own defence, were formed into a line, and all but one shot–five killed and five wounded. One fell unharmed, pretending to be dead. All were left for dead. The only crime charged against them was that of being Free-State men. Now, I inquire, what action has ever, since the occurrence in May last, been taken by either the President of the United States, the Governor of Missouri, the Governor of Kansas, or any of their tools, or by any pro-slavery or Administration man, to ferret out and punish the perpetrators of this crime?

Now for the other parallel. On Sunday, the 19th of December, a Negro man called Jim, came over to the Osage settlement, from Missouri, and stated that he, together with his wife, two children, and another Negro man were to be sold within a day or two, and begged for help to get away. On Monday (the following) night, two small companies were made up to go to Missouri and forcibly liberate the five slaves, together with other slaves. One of these companies I assumed to direct. We proceeded to the place, surrounded the buildings, liberated the slaves, and also took certain property supposed to belong to the estate.

We however learned, before leaving, that a portion of the articles we had taken belonged to a man living on the plantation as a tenant, and who was supposed to have no interest in the estate. We promptly returned to him all we had taken. We then went to another plantation, where we freed five more slaves, took some property, and two white men. We moved all slowly away into the Territory for some distance, and then sent the white men back, telling them to follow us as soon as they chose to do so. The other company freed one female slave, took some property, and, as I am informed, killed one white man (the master) who fought against the liberation.

Now for a comparison. Eleven persons are forcibly restored to their natural and inalienable rights, with but one man killed, and all “hell is stirred, from beneath.” It is currently reported that the Governor of Missouri has made a requisition upon the Governor of Kansas for the delivery of all such as were concerned in the last named “dreadful outrage.” The Marshal of Kansas is said to be collecting a posse of Missouri (not Kansas) men, at West Point, in Missouri, a little town about ten miles distant, to “enforce the laws.” All pro-slavery, conservative Free-State and doughface men , and Administration tools, are filled with holy horror.

Consider the two cases, and the action of the Administration party.

Respectfully Yours,

John Brown

John Brown would be dead within the year. In October he led the Harpers Ferry Armory raid in which he and his eighteen men had been hopeful of freeing the slaves of that Virginia town and progressing then South, freeing other slaves along the way. The effort ending in failure, they were promptly brought to trial at the end of October. Brown was hung on December 2nd.

Victor Hugo had pleaded for a pardon for John Brown, writing,

“[…] Politically speaking, the murder of John Brown would be an uncorrectable sin. It would create in the Union a latent fissure that would in the long run dislocate it. Brown’s agony might perhaps consolidate slavery in Virginia, but it would certainly shake the whole American democracy. You save your shame, but you kill your glory. Morally speaking, it seems a part of the human light would put itself out, that the very notion of justice and injustice would hide itself in darkness, on that day where one would see the assassination of Emancipation by Liberty itself. […]

Let America know and ponder on this: there is something more frightening than Cain killing Abel, and that is Washington killing Spartacus.”

If I note this, it’s because James Allen Noyes and Caroline Atwell Noyes named their first son, born 1865, Victor Hugo. This has no connection with Austin Hall story. What it does show is the high regard held by the French free-thinker Hugo among American free-thinkers of the time.

If one clicks on the bottom blue dot twice, one will be given directions to Marais Des Cygnes.

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