Home
Advertise
Footsteps of
History
National Business Directory
Mottos, Slogans
and Nicknames
Genealogy Helps


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF SAMUEL NEWITT WOOD
Born 30 Dec 1825 in Mount Gilead, Ohio

Died 23 June 1891 in Hugoton, Kansas

Founder of Woodsdale

SEARCH KEY TO THE CITY or anywhere on the web


Birth of Samuel Enters Politics The Move to Kansas
The Civil War Return to Politics Family Life
Woodsdale A Terrible Fight Death of Samuel

Birth and growing-up years of Samuel

COL. SAMUEL N. WOOD was born in Mount Gilead, Ohio, December 30, 1825.
His grandfather was a native of Rhode Island. He was the son of David
and Esther (Mosher) Wood, who had with their parents emigrated to Ohio
from their Eastern homes as early as 1817. The Woods and the Moshers
were of the peace-loving society of Friends, no less lovers of peace
than humanity, and, as history records, the uncompromising foes of
oppression and of African slavery, always and ever. The subject of this
sketch thus inherited the Anti-slavery sentiments which became the
ruling force in his character and life. His paternal grandfather was a
leader in the meetings of the Orthodox Quakers till the time of his
death. His maternal grandfather after 1828, when the division occurred,
became a leader in the more progressive wing of the brotherhood,
followers of Elias Hicks, and known ever since as Hicksites. Both these
families of Friends were equally intense in their hatred of slavery.
They were from time immemorial Abolitionists of the deepest dye, and ran
successfully through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and all the border States, the
underground railroads to liberty for the escaping slave. In such a
school young Wood was nurtured. He was bred to habits of sobriety and
industry on a Quaker farm, and received his early education in the
schools in the vicinity.

1844 - Enters Politics

He early became interested in the politics of
the country, and, at the age of nineteen, in 1844, was selected as the
Chairman of the "Liberty Party" Central Committee of his county. James
G. Birney was the Abolitionist candidate for the Presidency at that
time. Thus early in life he struck out boldly for conscience and right
against the popular current. Heedless of the applause or reproof of men,
he has fought under the commands of his conscience and his judgment ever
since that time. In 1848 he supported VanBuren as the presidential
candidate, as opposed to Cass who stood on a slavery platform. In 1852
he supported the straight Abolition ticket of Hale and Julian, and
canvassed his section in their favor during the campaign. He was,
during the campaign, challenged to a public discussion of the questions
at issue by Judson A. Beebee, a lawyer of some repute in the
neighborhood. He accepted the challenge, but the discussion never came
off, Beebee declining to discuss such weighty questions with a
non-professional farmer. Mr. Wood soon after entered the office of
Messrs, Stinchcomb & Brumbaugh as a law student, and was admitted to
practice at the bar of Morrow County, Ohio, June 5, 1854.

The Move to Kansas

He was one of the most urgent and uncompromising opposers of the Kansas-Nebraska
iniquity, and on the passage of the bill immediately sold out his
effects and, in accordance with a promise he made while the bill was
pending, "went to Kansas to fight the battle over again." He left
Morrow County, Ohio, June 6, 1854, and traveled with his own team,
accompanied by his family, to Cincinnati; thence embarking on a
steamboat he made the somewhat arduous voyage by way of the Ohio,
Mississippi, and Missouri rivers, reaching Independence, Mo., June 16.
Two days after Mr. Wood, with his wife, entered Kansas on a tour of
observation, and in search of a home. They proceeded leisurely,
stopping at short stages, a day or two in a place. They traveled as far
inland as the present town of Clinton, Douglas County, thence south to
the Santa Fe road, and back on that road to Independence. Shortly after
his return, leaving his family in Independence, he, in company with Mr.
Rolf, again went across the Territory on horseback and selected a claim,
four miles west of the site of Lawrence, in the present township of
Wakarusa, where he resided during the exciting and troublous years of
1855-56-57. He became early distinguished as a bold and outspoken
Anti-slavery man, who was not afraid to show his colors and defend them
at all times. His life during the early days of the Territory is
interwoven in ineffaceable lines with its history. The reader of the
State history will not fail to trace the prominent part he took in the
early struggles. He was both a talking and a fighting man, and, as
such, incurred the intense hatred of the border-ruffian element. He
early became identified with the Free-state party, being a candidate for
election to the first Territorial Legislature. He first started a
branch of the U. G. R. R., at Lawrence, assisting the first fugitive
slave who appeared at Lawrence to escape. This occurred as early as
February, 1855. November 21, 1855, Charles M. Dow was murdered by
Franklin N. Coleman. The circumstances of the murder, the arrest of
Branson for participating in a somewhat turbulent indignation meeting at
which Mr. Wood was the principal speaker, his subsequent rescue by Wood,
Abbott and others, and the "Wakarusa War" which followed, constitute an
exciting chapter in the history of the Territory. Mr. Wood was twice
arrested by "Sheriff Jones" for his participation in the Branson rescue,
and was himself rescued at the time of his second arrest by his
friends. His political career was, from the beginning, such as to place
him in the front rank of Anti-slavery and Free-state advocates. He was
a Kansas delegate to the National Convention held at Pittsburgh, Pa., in
1856, at which the Republican party was first formed as a national
organization and was also a delegate, the same year, to the Philadelphia
Convention which nominated John C. Fremont for the Presidency. He
participated in the following campaign, speaking in Ohio and other
Northern States. He was a warm advocate for the first movement for a
State government, known as the "Topeka" government, and subsequently
advocated the course which prevailed, of open and bold contest with the
Pro-slavery forces, at the ballot-box. In 1859 he removed to Cottonwood
Falls, Chase County, where, May 30, he started the Kansas Press, the
first newspaper published in the county. In October of the same year,
he removed it to Council Grove, Morris County, where as the Council
Grove Press, it became the pioneer newspaper of that county also. He
was the same year elected a member of the Territorial Legislature from
the district comprised of Morris, Chase and Madison counties. While
the Honorable S. N. Wood was representing the county in the Legislature
the hanging of John Brown had aroused the indignation of all
liberty-loving people, he had a bill passed by which the name of the
county was changed from Wise (Wise was the Governor of Virginia and had
signed the death warrant for John Brown) to Morris, in honor of Thomas
Morris, who was United States Senator from Ohio. Samuel Wood was
re-elected in 1860, holding during his term the responsible position of
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Under the State Constitution he
was elected a member of the first State senate, where he was again
honored with the Chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. Soon after
the inauguration of Lincoln, he received from the President an
appointment as Collector of Customs at Paso Del Norte, Texas. The war
breaking out, he declined the appointment, resigned his position as
Senator and enlisted.

The Civil War

As Captain of the "Kansas Rangers," Company I,
Second Regiment, Kansas Infantry, he fought with great bravery at the
severe and hardly contested engagement at Wilson's Creek. He was
subsequently assigned to a battalion of Missouri troops, "Fremont's
Battalion," which he had recruited, serving with distinction, first as
Major, and subsequently being promoted as Lieutenant Colonel. With his
new command he fought at the battle near Salem, and formed a part of the
command of Gen. Curtis in his campaign through Arkansas.

Back to Politics

He resigned in 1863 and returned to Morris County from which he was elected a member of the State Legislature, serving in the session of 1864. He was
re-elected in 1865, but an accident resulting in a fractured leg,
prevented his serving during the session for which he had been elected.
In 1866 he was elected as State Senator from Morris, Chase and Marion
counties. During the session he introduced the first resolution ever
offered in the Kansas Legislature favoring women suffrage. His mother,
a contemporary of Lucretia Mott, and like her a member of the Society of
Friends, had forty years before presided over the first women's suffrage
meeting ever held in Morrow County, Ohio. In 1867 Mr. Wood started the
Chase County Banner which in addition to its record of local affairs,
was the special advocate of the rights of women, including that of
suffrage. It was printed on the first hand-press brought into the
Territory in 1833 by Rev. Jotham Meeker, an Indian missionary, mention
of whom appears in the Indian history. The paper was edited by Mr. Wood
until the spring of 1869, at which time he sold it out to an association
of business men of Cottonwood Falls. In 1867 he was appointed Judge of
the Ninth Judicial District. He himself lived in Texas 1869-70, where
he became engaged in cattle-raising, his family still residing in
Kansas. In 1872, with many other conscientious and leading Republicans,
he for the first time broke from strict affiliation with the party he
had helped to found, and whose fortunes he had followed unfalteringly
through evil and good repute, and ardently supported Horace Greeley on
the liberal Republican platform adopted at the time of his nomination.
Since that time, although still sympathizing with his old party on most
questions at issue, he has independently advocated financial and labor
reforms, taking such advanced and radical grounds as are impossible
within the pale of either of the old parties. He edited the Kansas
Greenbacker at Emporia from 1878 to '79, and since May, 1881, has been
the editor-in-chief of the Kansas State Journal, published at Topeka,
where he has resided since his connection with it. Mr. Wood served in
the State Legislature as a member of the Assembly, in 1876 and 1877,
being elected Speaker of the House, the latter session. As appears in
the railroad history of the State, he was one of the early directors of
the A., T. & S. F. R. R. and has been identified with many other public
enterprises for the up-building of his State. Radical in thought,
upright in his motives, and honest in his purposes, few men in Kansas
have better earned the right to a respectful and considerate hearing
from his fellow-citizens, and few have the ability to plead more
eloquently or argue more efficiently with tongue or pen than he.

Family Life

Mr. Wood married Miss Margaret W. Lyon, daughter of William and Elizabeth
Lyon, October 3, 1850. Their children were: David, born August 25, 1851;
William Lyon, born March 10, 1853; Florence, born January 20, 1857;
Dearie, born July 7, 1865; Dearie died July 12, 1879. David is in
business at Montrose, Colorado. He is engaged in forwarding goods into
the mountain towns. He is unmarried, and in good worldly circumstances.
William L. Wood is a well-to-do farmer in Chase County, Kansas. He has
460 acres of land. His children consist of two boys and a girl. Florence
is married to J. B. Abbott, a mining engineer. They live at Lake City,
Colorado. They have two children, one of each sex.

Woodsdale

By 1885, several dozen hardy families had taken land in this plain,
semi-arid region, and they desired to organize the area into a county.
Many of these early settlers had known each other when they lived around
McPhearson, Kansas, and they became the core of the initial promotion.
The Cook brothers, C. E. and Orin, were the leaders of this group, which
had established a small town in the midst of their claims, called
Hugoton. At the time that they started the campaign, Hugoton was the
only town in the area, and it was assumed that it would become the
county seat. While the Cooks and their followers were maneuvering to
get Stevens authorized as a County, another faction headed by Samuel
Newitt Wood and I. C. Price of Meade, Kansas, started another town,
Woodsdale, eight miles away. Samuel Newitt Wood and Price aspired that
their new town could overtake Hugoton, and have it named the county
seat. To overcome the edge that Hugoton had, from its earlier
inception, they offered city lots free to anyone who would immediately
build at Woodsdale. This enticement prompted a boom and a very heated
contest between the two towns. However, when Stevens County was
established in 1886, Hugoton was named the county seat.

After the election, conflict between the two towns continued.
Frequently, trouble developed as acts of envy and hate were demonstrated
by the feuding factions. In the spring of 1887, while Samuel Newitt Wood
and Price were enroute to Garden City, Kansas, they were overtaken and
arrested by a group of men from Hugoton. This self-appointed posse took
their prisoners to the new county seat and held a mock trial. They were
found "guilty" and sentenced to accompany the posse into No Man's Land
for a buffalo hunt. The purpose of this hunt raised suspicions, as there
had been no buffalo herds in that area in recent years. When the
Woodsdale people heard that their two leading citizens had been taken
under that pretense, they assumed that they were destined to be the
victims of an intentional hunting accident.

S. O. Aubrey, a veteran Indian scout and frontiersman, took charge of
the twenty-four Woodsdale men that volunteered to go into No Man's Land
and rescue Samuel Newitt Wood and Price. Aubrey and his men were not
only successful in saving their leaders, but took the Hugoton men to
Garden City. In Garden City, Aubrey had the Hugoton party charged with
kidnapping, and caused them to loose their arms, horses and wagons.
These charges were later transferred, to be heard in the first term of
Court in Stevens County. The trial was held in Hugoton, in the Fall of
1887. As expected, those charged were found "not guilty."

One of the main leaders in Hugoton during these troubled times was Sam
Robinson. He had originally been attracted to Woodsdale because of the
"free city lot offer" and he built a hotel. Robinson yearned to be the
County Sheriff, and when Samuel Newitt Wood refused to endorse him for
that position, he became irate at the founder and the town. Robinson,
along with some of his supporters, then moved to Hugoton, where he was
elected City Marshal. Wood strongly supported J. M. Cross for County
Sheriff, and Cross was elected to that office.

The intense bitterness of the Sheriff's race set the stage for troubles
between the two elected officers of the law. Sam Robinson enjoyed great
popularity as City Marshal of the county seat.

Early in 1888, the County issued bonds to attract further railroad
development in the area. Robinson was accused of over-stepping his
township authority in processing these County certificates, and a
warrant was issued for his arrest. In an attempt to serve this warrant
in Hugoton several shots were fired, but no arrest was made because some
of Robinson's supporters joined him in defiance of the order. After this
foiled attempt, the citizens of Hugoton prepared for an assault on their
town. They dug trenches and erected barricades at the approaches where
they expected the Woodsdale people to attack. Anxiety was at a fever
pitch, and the State Militia was called in. Each side sat tight. It
appeared to be the "calm before the storm."

A Terrible Fight

In July, it was learned that Robinson, with his family and friends, had
gone into No Man's Land for an extended camping-out. Woodsdale City
Marshal Ed Short was appointed to lead a posse and arrest Robinson while
he was without the protection of Hugoton. When Short and his posse
located the picnicking party, Robinson had gone. Ed Short then sent word
back to Woodsdale that he would continue the search, but needed more
men. County Sheriff Cross, a Woodsdale supporter, had already heard that
Hugoton was aware of Short's mission to arrest Robinson. Therefore,
Sheriff Cross recruited Ted Eaton, Bob Hubbard, Roland Wilcox, and
Herbert Tonney to assist him. The Sheriff and the four men immediately
departed Woodsdale to support City Marshal Short and his posse. Sheriff
Cross and his posse travelled to Reed's camp on Goff creek in No Man's
Land, where Short had sent his dispatch for help. Reed advised the posse
that Short had departed and had left word for the posse to return to
Woodsdale.

While Sheriff Cross and his posse were at Goff creek, Robinson eluded Ed
Short. Robinson obtained a fresh horse and rode to Hugoton. Short was
trailing Robinson when Short and his posse encountered a large band of
Hugoton riders. In a running gunfight, the Hugoton riders chased Short
and his posse back to Woodsdale, Kansas, where the shooting stopped and
the chase ended.

Robinson arrived in Hugoton, unaware that Ed Short and his posse had
been driven from the area. In his capacity as Hugoton City Marshal, Sam
Robinson gathered a posse of fifteen men and led them back into No Man's
Land in search of Woodsdale City Marshal Ed Short.

After the posse of Sheriff Cross rested a few hours at Reed's camp on
Goff creek, they started the return trip to Woodsdale. About dark, they
came upon the camp of A. B. Haas, his two sons, and a friend named Dave
Scott. Haas and his men were gathering hay, and were set up at a site
known as the "hay meadow" because of the lush grass that grew at that
location. Cross and his men decided to spend the night with the haying
crew in No Man's Land.

Not long after the Cross posse had settled down for sleep, they were
abruptly awakened by Robinson and his men from Hugoton. Sheriff Cross
had not expected trouble during the night, and therefore his guns were
not close at hand. Only one member of the Cross posse was able to reach
for his gun, but it was immediately taken from him. All weapons were
taken from Sheriff Cross and his posse. They were held at gunpoint by
Hugoton City Marshal Sam Robinson and his posse.

The Hugoton men fired their guns into the unarmed Sheriff J. M. Cross.
Hubbard was the next to be executed, then Tonney, followed by Eaton and
Wilcox. After all of the Woodsdale men had been gunned down, matches
were lit and held to the victim's faces to confirm their death. Some of
them were shot a second time. Confident that all were dead, the Robinson
posse escorted the Haas haying crew away, leaving the five lifeless
bodies as they fell.

Tonney had been shot through the neck but was not killed. He had been
able to feign death so well that he was not shot a second time by the
Hugoton gunmen. After all had left the site, Tonney raised himself and
checked his companions, but he found no life in them. Tonney then made
his way to his staked horse and with great effort mounted the animal. In
a few miles Tonney came to a buffalo wallow, and his desperate condition
dictated that he lie down in the stagnant, polluted water. A few minutes
in the cool but stinking water renewed his hope for survival. Tonney got
back on his horse and continued north.

At daylight the next morning, Tonney met a rider on the trail who was
Herman Cann, a constable from Vorhees, Kansas. Cann had been advised by
the Haas crew of the "Hay Meadow Massacre" and was on his way to the
site to check the aftermath. Cann delivered the bleeding and weakened
Tonney to a doctor in LaFayette, Kansas, who tended his urgent needs.
Two days later Tonney was taken by wagon to Woodsdale, and in time he
recovered.

The bodies of the four slain men were hauled back and laid to rest at
Woodsdale. This "County Seat War" reached its climax on July 25, 1888,
in a hay meadow, outside of the boundaries of Stevens County, Kansas.

Herbert Tonney filed legal action against the men who shot him. His
intense pursuit of this matter culminated in a trial at Paris, Texas,
over five hundred miles from where the crimes had been committed. The
Federal Court at Paris found Robinson and five of his cohorts guilty of
murder. They were sentenced to be hanged. However, the United States
Supreme Court disallowed these convictions and ruled that the Paris
court had no jurisdiction in the case. No further legal action was ever
accomplished.

Four unarmed men had been wantonly murdered, and the killers had been
identified by witnesses, including one whom had been left for dead. But
no one was ever punished for these crimes. Lack of legal jurisdiction
for the five thousand square miles of land that was frequently but
ironically referred to as the "Neutral Strip" precluded any state or
territory from exercising any authority. Justice was evaded in No Man's
Land.

Death of Samuel Newitt Wood

Three years after the "Hay Meadow Massacre," Samuel Newitt Wood, the
founder of Woodsdale, was killed. Sam Wood was assassinated 23 June
1891 in Hugoton, Kansas by James Brennan. Sam Wood and his wife had
gone to the Methodist Church in Hugoton to answer a summons calling for
his appearance in court. Sam went inside and saw that court was no
longer in session so he started to leave. James Brennan was hiding in
the church. When Sam started to leave the church, James came out and
shot him in the back. Sam collapsed to the ground and James ran up to
him, put his pistol in Sam's face, just below the left eye… and fired a
second time. In good old western style... Sam died in the arms of his
wife Margaret Walker Lyon.


Search Key to the City
Custom Search
or Search anywhere on the Web
Custom Search


Return to the Kansas History page or Choose another city in Kansas
Choose a new state on the States page
Return to the Top USA City Resource Guide and Cities Directory - Key to the City home page

This page was last updated on 14 July 2012 at 5:41 pm

Thanks for dropping by. Be sure to come back soon!!