Recollections of Kate D. E. Riggs as told for her Grandchildren.
The evil days of our Civil War have passed into history and many stories of only individual interest will pass into oblivion unless recorded by those taking part in them, so I have thought it best to write out my recollections of the Quantrell raid upon Lawrence, Aug. 21st, 1863 and the days that followed, thinking it would interest my grandchildren to know this part of our history.
In July, during the light of the moon, a rumour had been circulated that Quantrell intended to attack Lawrence - the mayor, Gen. Collamore, made an effort to secure arms and ammunition for the men but failed. However, guards were stationed about town, your grandfather standing near our home on Rhode Island St.
He brought home the musket and it remained standing in our dining room-had one load of ammunition. Nothing coming from this alarm, the people grew careless, I suppose, and thought the attempt would not be made. Be that as it may, we were completely taken by surprise when on the morning of Aug. 21st, 1863 we were awakened just at dawn by shots fired rapidly. I sprang up, exclaiming "Why what can the boys be doing?" for it sounded like a lot of big fire crackers, but your grandfather ran to the window which was raised and one-half the blind open, looked out to see these men rushing across the street a couple of blocks south towards the town. He turned, saying "Quantrell's band as sure as you live." We began dressing hastily - in a few minutes I went into the west bedroom to get some clothing when I saw the first horror - a man on horse back was riding towards our back gate when a man lying in the grass that I had not at first seen, raised himself on his arm, swore at the other and said "You have shot me." The man on the horse got down, went close to the man on the ground and fired two shots into him, and we waited our fate next. We could see the men riding up and down the street swearing and shooting. They were in blue clothes, and negroes were shot on sight. I thought of the musket in the dining room and crept to the bedroom door and then ran down and carried it to the cellar where I hid it behind the potato bin, so we waited for what seemed an age, knowing that the house next door was burning, and the one across the way where Mr. Lowe was living, sending out smoke from the windows while they were carrying out their goods, only to have these men pull them over and appropriate what they wanted. Your grandfather said to me earlier that these men would probably take the men of the town prisoners and place a guard over them while the others pillaged. He had about Fifty Dollars in his purse and a fine gold watch. These he carried up into an attic which was accessible only by a ladder and into which I had never gone, and left them there, but I objected, saying when they took him prisoner I was going with him, so I put his watch about my neck and the money in my pocket, then he said it would not do to be without any money, and I bethought me of change for five dollars I had in my drawer, I had bought some apples the day before and as all our money was paper, no silver or gold to be had, it made quite a roll.
We have wondered many times why it was that not one of these men had come into our yard, even when the street seemed full of them. They never once approached the house and I have concluded that they were afraid of it. The house was of stone with blinds to windows and doors. The back building it is true was a wooden shanty structure, which might have been easily burned. After a while we talked the matter over and concluded it was hardly right that we should stay in the house, when our neighbors needed help, but I begged your grandfather to stay in while I went out, for the women were not molested apparently, so I went out the side door and crossed to Mr. Lowe's to give what assistance I could. Mrs. Lowe and her little son - about six years old - were standing near some of the goods, I suppose with a hope of protecting them from destruction. As I came near the boy called out, "Oh, Mrs. Riggs, isn't this a great day?" I did not want my name known to these men, for your grandfather had prosecuted Quantrell several times for horse stealing, robbery, and other crimes, and I felt that he would be a marked man, so I cautioned Mrs. Lowe not to speak it and went on into the house to help carry things out. Mr. Lowe told me that the men had made a pile of mattresses and dresses and set it on fire and then gone out of the house; but he said "I am putting on water and just keeping this smoking and will try to save the house." Mr. Lowe had gone out when he was first awakened and turned his horse loose, when the men came to the house he met them, pleasantly went with them to the barn to show them that his horse was out, helped them to some things and had so far escaped with his life. I worked for a little while here, then Mrs. Lowe came and told me that your grandfather was out of the house helping Mrs. Lewis, who lived next door to us, and I went over there too. The house (a double one) Mr. Rollins living in the south half, was already burned down. Mr. Lewis was not at home and many of their things were burned up, but we helped secure some. These men came and went, riding up and looking on for a few minutes, demanding money, watches, revolvers &c, and riding off again. Presently your grandfather said to me that he had heard some of them talking together and that they meant to burn every house in town, and he thought it better for me to go back into our own house and see if I could not plan to save the best things we had. He told me that he had put my two silk dresses together and wrapped a white skirt carelessly about them, thinking they might be thrown from the window and escape burning. Acting on this suggestion, I went into our own house and put some things which could be easily thrown out, and finally thought of a new pair of blankets and concluded I would roll them up inside the hair mattress, (our possessions were not many) and make an effort to get that out. I had gone into the front room to do this, when I heard a rough voice speaking and looking out, saw one of these men across the street in front of Mr. Lowe's house talking to Mr. Burt, one of our business men who had boarded with Dr. Lewis, next door to us. The man was mounted on a big powerful horse and was evidently asking the usual questions, money first, watches, revolvers. I saw Mr. Burt spread his hands out and was told afterwards that he had given to others everything he had had. Immediately the man shot him in the breast evidently aiming at the heart. I drew near the window to see if I could see your grandfather; he was standing just in front of our own gates. With a call to him to come in, I ran down stairs, going around to the side door and down the yard before I reached the gate, the same man stood in front of your Grandfather, talking to him. I can see the picture now. Mrs. Rollins had been sitting on some of her goods in the street with her baby in her arms, and had started towards them as soon as she saw your grandfather's danger. I went outside the gate and stood just behind Mr. Riggs. The man had asked for money and your Grandfather handed him the roll (about four dollars and a half) he had in his pocket. The man took out his pocket book and was just putting it in his pocket when I came up. Your grandfather was replying to something the man had said, for he said, "I not here at that time and took no part then." "Well," said the man, "You are a damned black Republican anyhow," and turned his revolver on him. For some reason it would not go off and he took it to change it, when your grandfather sprang at him and caught at the revolver, but he wrenched it away and your grandfather started to run across the street towards the Lowe house, thinking he could dodge behind the houses. The man turned his horse and swearing dreadfully said he need not run, he would shoot him down anyway, and with the first motion made by the horse an inspiration, not a thought, made me spring forward and catch the bridle with both hands, there was a rope in my hands too. My weight on that side had given a new impulse to the horse. The women who were about with one accord screamed, and your grandfather, thinking the man was upon him, turned to face him, telling me afterwards he did not want to be shot in the back. He had not known that I was near him until he turned and saw me running with the horse, and instead of going across the street, as the man intended, we went straight up the street. I saw your grandfather turn just as we passed. We went quite a little distance straight before the man could bring his horse around. It was open prairie north of the Lowe house, and we turned and went towards the back of the Lowe house. Here we found a panel of fence out and a load of wood had been thrown in so close that I went over the wood still holding on to the horse; we went around the house, coming up to the front fence, then we saw your grandfather again running across the street and aiming to get behind the still burning and smoking Rollins house. The man sat on his horse and took deliberate aim at your grandfather. I pulled the horse around so that it faced east, but the man turned himself on the horse and fired his revolver after your grandfather. Up to this time this man had not seemed to notice me any more than he would have noticed a fly that had alighted on his bridle, but now he turned back, and with a fierce oath, he lifted his revolver high in the air to strike me over the hands compelling me to let go. Before the blow descended, I let go and turned to the fence again to see if I could see anything of your grandfather. The smoking building was concealing him from view. The man came around into the street and said to Mrs. Rollins, "Where did that man go?" "I don't know," she replied. Then he stopped and turned back towards our house and said "Damn him, then I'll burn his house." "Oh," she said, "That isn't his house, the man who owns that house is away" which was true, for Dr. Woodward owned the house.
As I went out the gate to go over home, I stopped by the side of Mr. Burt, whose life was fast ebbing away. Mrs. Lowe and Mrs. Lewis were trying to do what they could for him. Mrs. Lewis' baby was creeping out into the street and she asked me if I would not hand it to her. I picked the child up and said I would take care of her, and carried her about with me in my search for your grandfather; I could see nothing of him. Mr. Rollins and his brother-in-law came out of their hiding places and tried to comfort me, but it was some little time before Mr. Lowe, who had fortunately gone away from his house a little before the killing of Mr. Burt, came across the Prairie back of our house and through our gate. He whispered, as he came up, "Mr. Riggs is all right, he is in the little corn crib." This was at the extreme end of our lot and was large enough for a wagon load of corn. We were then using it as a chicken house. We bought a dozen chickens at a time and kept them there. Your grandfather came to this place, turned the chickens out and took refuge there. He had heard me, but was not able to make me hear. As Mr. Lowe passed his place of concealment, he called to him to tell me where he was. I then looked in every direction but all the armed horsemen had disappeared and I went out on to the prairie and standing with my back to the corn crib, I told him this and that he had better get to the house while no one was in sight which he did. I urged him to go to the cellar while I kept watch. Then I again went outside and walked up and down the yard, still holding the baby. A man rode up to the fence and calling me, asked me where Mr. Riggs was. He did not find out from me. He went on to tell me about friends who had been killed and talked to me quite a while. Some one told me later that it was Frank Guest, but I did not know him, and so had no confidence.
Very shortly after Mrs. Judge Smith came in. She had heard that your grandfather had been killed and said she must go to me for I had no one here but her, so watched until some one was coming by in a wagon and asked them to bring her in, for as soon as the firing ceased, people began to come from the farms to help, in fact some men gathered up shot guns and rode in sooner. The man who shot at your grandfather rode east to go out the way he had come in and was met on the Haskell place by such a band. They demanded his surrender and gave him a hard chase. He begged for mercy, told them he had no ammunition, but was captured by them. On their way into town he boasted he had killed 13 men that morning, which so enraged his captors that they riddled him with shot. The report that your grandfather had been killed arose from the fact that a boy of that name among the recruits had been killed. The camp of recruits was on Massachusetts St. in the 900 block. We could see it from our back window as we were close to the north end of the 700 block on Rhode Island St., and very few houses were scattered on the intervening streets, almost open prairie.
Of course it was soon learned that the raiders had really left town; they had been in town four hours, killing, plundering, and burning. Only one or two business houses were left standing. 180 men had been killed and many people had been left homeless.
My first thought was to get a cup of coffee for us. I had a fire and borrowing a coffee pot from Mrs. Lowe we filled both hers and mine and she brought all her bread, then Mr. Lowe and your grandfather went out into the street and invited the homeless in. We must have fed 25 people. Mrs. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Lowe, your grandfather and I waited upon them, then we sat down together and had a cup of coffee and some bread and butter, then Mrs. Smith went over to see how Mrs. Shannon had fared. Mr. Lowe and your grandfather went to see what could be done for others less fortunate than themselves. I had set bread the night before that was running over the pan and I went to work to try to get it into shape, knowing it would be needed for there was no place to buy anything.
About an hour later Mary Anderson and Emma Eldridge came into the kitchen to tell me that Mr. Lowe was dead. I could not believe it, but they said Mrs. Collamore, herself had come to tell Mrs. Lowe and then was in Mrs. Lowe's house. Gen Collamore and his hired man, one of the Keefe's, had gone down into the well for safety. The well was close to the house and enclosed. The raiders set fire to the house, it burned to the ground and of course over the well. Mr. Lowe, who was a friend of the Collamores, had gone there, found Mrs. Collamore frantic with grief, and he tried to rescue the men. Of course the air was foul and he too lost his life. I went at once to Mrs. Lowe's to find that the girls had been right. The two sorrowing women were together in the house that had been dismantled and partly burned. Mrs. Collamore told me she had lost everything, her husband dead and her oldest boy had been shot, and was lying in a house further down Rhode Island St. and she had no where to take him. I told her to go and see to having him brought to our house and I would go home and have a bed brought into the parlor for him. This I did and it was not long until they brought Hoffman Collamore in. He was a fine boy about 18 years of age, and so it came about that the Collamores were settled between our house and Mrs. Lowes. There were four boys and one girl in the family. Mrs. Collamore and the girl slept at Mrs. Lowes, while I found places for the boys. It was no easy matter to find something to eat for there were no stores left where we might buy. On Saturday the farmers brought in wagon loads of produce, tomatoes, potatoes, &c., and distributed without pay. With these home cares I saw nothing more of the horrors of that day. The men cared for the dead and wounded; they carried them into the churches. Some of the bodies had been charred in the burning houses. Judge Carpenter, who was a near neighbor had been killed and I felt we must go there, but of the other horrors I saw nothing. My work was for the living. Friday, Saturday and Sunday passed in much the same way. Mrs. Collamore and Mrs. Lowe looked after Hoffman during the day and I had been with him for two nights.
Friday morning Mr. Davis, a farmer living on Mr. Burt's farm, his wife being Mr. Burts cousin, came down to see your grandfather and brought us a large roast of beef already cooked; he had, as he said, "Killed a critter" on Saturday and probably distributed to others also.
No services were held in the churches.
After dinner your grandfather and I walked over to Mrs. Griswold's where Mr. Thorpe, your grandfather's partner, lay dead. He had been wounded on Friday and lived until Saturday. We went in to see Mr. Baker who had been shot three times and still lived. We then returned home; a great many persons called at our house that afternoon to see Hoffman. Among others, Mr. and Mrs. Cordley.
Although in August, it was beginning to blow up cold and looked to us as though a storm was coming up. Mr. and Mrs. Cordley had lost everything but the clothes they had on on Friday, and she spoke of the cold, asking me if I could not lend her something to throw around her. I had already loaned my shawl and your grandfather's shawl, but I had a long cloth circular which she took. Your grandfather told me to say to Mrs. Collamore that she must find someone to stay with Hoffman that night as I had not rested since Friday morning. He went away with Mr. and Mrs. Davis, having been appointed administrator to Mr. Burt's estate to open up an iron safe which had passed through the fire and save its valuable contents. This safe had been taken to Mr. Davis farm the day after the raid.
I gave my large family their supper. Visitors dropped off, Hoffman fell asleep for the first time since he had been wounded. The Rev. Mr. Starrett had come in to sit up with Hoffman and everything had become very quiet. I had not lighted the lamp yet and was trying to keep myself awake until your grandfather came, when suddenly Clarke, the colored man who did our chores, came to the dining room door and spoke, asking for your grandfather. The tone of his voice told me something was wrong and I exclaimed, "Oh, Clarke, what is it?" He said, "The armory bell is ringing to call the men together. There is a report that the rebels are coming back again. I am going to take my pony and go and scout." I turned to speak to Mr. Starrett and found that he had heard and gone out the front door. I stood appalled for a few seconds, wondering how and where I could hide the boy alone, but I thought I would have to go out and as I had on a thin white waist, and as I said before, it was growing cold, I lighted a lamp and started up stairs to get the cape to my cloak, the only wrap I had left to put about my shoulders. The wind was coming in fearful gusts and my light was blown out. I came back, put the light down and went up to close the window, then I heard Mrs. Collamore coming, screaming, "Oh, my boy will be killed." I ran down again quickly and met her at the dining room door, caught her by the shoulders and pushing her into a chair told her to be quiet, that Hoffman was sleeping quietly, and must not be startled, then I lighted the lamp and went to the bedside and awakened him, then told him quietly what the report was and that we wanted to take care of him. I had hardly done this when it seemed to me the room filled with people. Mr. Starrett returned, bringing Russell Whitman, a friend of Hoffman's, Mrs. Collamore and her boys. They got Hoffman up, wrapped him in the blankets, carried him out to a buggy they had drawn to the door, put in pillows around him and so carried off everything of that kind that I owned. I was kept running so that it seemed but a minute until they were all out. Mrs. Collamore had a pillow in her arms and said to me, "there is not enough." I thought of a marseilles quilt that had been over the boys and ran up to get it, came down and went out the front door, locked it, and started up the street with Mrs. C. By this time it was so dark that we could not see each other, and the wind blowing a gale, and we seemed the only ones left in that part of the town. We had gone but a little way up the street when we saw a light in a house on Connecticut St. Mrs. Collamore exclaimed, "Oh, those poor people don't know of this alarm." I handed her the quilt and said, "Wait while I run down there and tell them." I came to the back of the house and looking in the window saw an old gray headed man reading quietly at a table. I tapped on the window first, he paid no attention to that, so I spoke, asking him if he did not hear the alarm bell ringing. That was all that was necessary. A woman jumped out of bed in the corner and ran to dress, neither of them speaking. I hurried back to Rhode Island St. to find Mrs. Collamore gone. I knew not whither, for I had had no time to ask, however, I concluded it must be the armory, which was a small building north of Winthrop and so went on alone. I tried several times to get over to Massachusetts St. but found that dangerous cellars yawned blacker before me, so I kept on until I reached Winthrop. Just as I turned into Winthrop St. a man came running from the east, who stopped as he saw me and asked what the alarm was. I told him; he said he had just come from Eudora, and while he saw a barn burning in that direction, he did not think it was done by these men, and that he did not believe they would come on such a night. On Massachusetts St. torches and bonfires were burning to light up an odd scene. The men of the town were ranged along the west side of the street with all sorts of fire arms that could be picked up. Not a woman in sight. As I walked out into the glare of the light I was easily recognized and your grandfather came to me at once saying, "Why, Kate, what on earth brought you here?" Other friends gathered round (Mr. Horton, John Rankin, Dr. Lewis and others) to hear. I told my story and at once they said that Mrs. Collamore had gone over the river and everyone said I must go too. I said I did not want to go, but I was fairly carried to a buggy. Dr. Williams drove me down to the ferry, here was a great crowd waiting to go over in the ferry. I had grown quite cool and calm by this time and I tried to persuade Mrs. Collamore and her escort to go back to the house. I spoke of the danger of exposure to Hoffman as there were but two or three Indian houses on the north side. It was then the Delaware Reservation, but I could not move any of them. I had made up my mind not to go in any case, as your grandfather was the only one belonging to me and I was not going to put the river between us. So I let the ferry boat take on its load, some one called out as I stood there, "A woman on the bank. Come on." I replied, "The woman is not going." Just then some one came up from behind me and looking in my face said, "It is Mrs. Riggs?" "Yes," I replied, as I recognized Sheriff Brown, "I am not going over the river, I think I will go back to the house." "No," he said, "Do not do that, come up to the street and wait for Mr. Riggs." So I went back and sat down on the step of a shop near Pickney and waited until your grandfather came for me. He had been put in command of a squad of men to stand guard at the lower end of the street then the 900 block. From there I crossed alone to the house, the latter part of the way on a run as I saw a blaze and great chunks of some burning stuff flying about from the cellar of the Rollin's house. I drew the bolt of the kitchen door and getting a couple of pails pumped and carried water until I succeeded in quenching it. Then I went in, lowered the blinds and lighted my lamp, then scarcely dared to sit down lest I fall asleep, however, it was not long until I heard a step and knock to my call of "Who is it?" Clark, the colored man, answered. He had been scouting in every direction and had heard and seen no enemy. He could not get into his own house, and so had come to us. We had not talked long together until the rain began to come in torrents and soon we heard the patter of feet and Dr. Lewis, your grandfather, and one or two men of his squad came running for shelter. Then we disposed of them for the night, Clarke on the floor, one on the lounge in the dining room, Dr. Lewis and another in the bed in the parlor. It was after midnight when we went to bed. We had no springs on our beds then, only slats and a husk mattress, not a pillow left in the house, nor a quilt to cover us. I no sooner laid down than I was asleep, to find myself the next morning, doubled up, one or two of the slats having fallen down in the night. Those who had gone over the river fared badly for all were crowded into two houses and Mrs. Collamore had so distributed the bed clothing that it was several months before we recovered it.
Riggs, Henry Earle, Our Pioneer Ancestors - Being a record of available information as to the Riggs, Baldridge, Agnew, Earle, Kirkpatrick, Vreeland and allied families, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1942
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