Pastoral scene belies bloody history

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

Mention the town Trading Post, Kan., and you’ll more than likely get blank stares from whoever you are talking to at the time. The tiny hamlet on the Missouri/Kansas border, roughly 30 miles north of Fort Scott, is no more than a bend in modern day Highway 52 on the banks of the Marais Des Cygnes River.
Translated from the French, the name means “Marsh of the Swans.” In this pre-WWI postcard published for Jim’s 10-cent store, J.E. Gover proprietor in Ottawa, Kan., shows a pastoral scene near Ottawa.
During the spring of 1858, however, the Kansas/Missouri border skirmishes came to a bloody and murderous head at what became known as the Marais Des Cygnes Massacre, culminating the Bleeding Kansas era prior to the American Civil War.

Charles Hamilton, a Georgian native and pro-slavery sympathizer, was dispatched to the border area in 1855 to ensure that Kansas entered the Union as a slave state. Tiny Trading Post had become a local hang-out for pro-slavery forces in the area. On one occasion, Kansas Free Staters cleared out the headquarters, dumping all the whiskey and warning all pro-slavery rebels to leave the area. Hamilton, incensed by the involuntary evacuation, sent a message ordering all pro-slavery sympathizers “to come out of the territory at once, as we are coming up there to kill snakes, and will treat all we find there as snakes.”

On May 19, 1858, Hamilton went “snake hunting.”  Leaving the Butler area with roughly 30 men on horseback, he rode for Kansas. The gang arrived in Trading Post with 10 or 11 captured Free State men, none of whom were reported to have been involved in any border violence.
Most who knew Hamilton thought he was not capable of the kind of violence they had witnessed on other farms and towns in the area during the run up to the war. They were tragically wrong as Hamilton lined the men up and ordered them shot – Hamilton firing the first shot. Five Free Staters were killed in the fracas.

Hamilton and his band quickly escaped back into Missouri. Only one of the gang, William Griffith of Bates County, Mo., was brought to justice for the brutal actions during the raid. Arrested in 1863, Griffith was hanged on Oct. 30 of that same year.

Charles Hamilton returned to Georgia after the war and died in 1880. The bloody action inspired poet John Greenleaf Whittier to write a poem entitled “Le Marais du Cygne,” which appeared in the September 1858 Atlantic Journal.

The final stanza reads:
“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.”

The site is listed as a national Historic Landmark and a large sign bears a description of the events of that fateful day in May,1858.

Comments are closed.

  • REMEMBER THIS? Ink Blotter

    9 hours ago
    by

    Dorri Partain Northeast News A handy companion to the fountain pen, the ink blotter prevented smears and blotches that often […]


    Brush Creek synonymous with Plaza living

    9 hours ago
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News This Kodachrome postcard published in the late 1950s shows the numerous apartment buildings built on the […]


    Remember This? Petticoat Lane

    May 15th, 2019
    by

    Dorri Partain Northeast News Downtown shoppers, hang on to your petticoats! At the turn of the 20th Century, when ladies […]


    Sharp Building stood downtown

    May 15th, 2019
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News This week’s postcard, published by the South West News Company of Kansas City, Mo., features a Real […]


    Swope Park – a home to exotic animals

    May 8th, 2019
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News “An idea to create the largest zoological garden in the United States. There will be nothing […]


  • Remember This: Casey The Elephant

    May 8th, 2019
    by

    Dorri Partain Northeast News Who was Casey, and where was his place? Casey, an African bull elephant, arrived in Kansas […]


    Remembering stock yards’ glory days

    May 1st, 2019
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News About two years after the opening of the “new” Hannibal Bridge over the Missouri River, Kansas […]


    Remember This? The Golden Ox

    May 1st, 2019
    by

    Dorri Partain Northeast News Whether you like your steak well done or medium rare, this Cowtown could offer a fine […]


    Remember This? Junior Flight Wings

    April 24th, 2019
    by

    Dorri Partain Northeast News What do you want to be when you grow up? For young travelers flying the friendly […]


    The Golden Age of air travel

    April 24th, 2019
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News “Providing the very finest in airline service between major cities from coast to coast, this newest […]


  • What’s Happening

    CID: Scavenger hunt on Independence Avenue

    Doing your election homework

    It’s certainly been an interesting ride on the Mayoral campaign trail with each candidate releasing “key” endorsements. For those unfamiliar […]

    Faces of Northeast: Diego Barrios

    This week’s Face of the Northeast is Diego Barrios, Youth Development Coordinator at the Mattie Rhodes Center. Originally from Venezuela, […]