On of two photos of Dan Vaughn (1839-1913) known to survive. Dourtesy of Jack Hollenshead, 3rd great-grandson of Dan Vaughn

A Quantrill Raider’s Revenge on the Border and Beyond

Dan Vaughn was a predatory man with a deep tie to the Grandview, Martin City and New Santa Fe areas of Jackson County, Mo.

By Diane Euston

  Gangs. Violence. Vendettas. Harbored feelings blossomed into hatred when torches were lit, shots were fired and families were forever torn apart. Even before the Civil War, men were willing to sacrifice everything over the institution of slavery.

  During the Civil War, some Southern sympathizers didn’t comfortably “fall” into the Confederate ranks; their ideals, ethics and morals were more questionable. In the southern Jackson County area, many families merged themselves into a much, much deeper connection that grew under the principles of a notorious leader.

  These families, many living minutes from the border between a free and slave state, followed, protected and praised an Ohio-born school teacher named William Clarke Quantrill (1837-1865). 

  Let’s take a step back in time and travel to a farm in Washington Township in present-day Grandview, Mo. where the rebels ran rampant. One Kentucky-born farmer and his adult sons had a tremendous impact on guerrilla violence under Quantrill.

This 1877 atlas map shows the location of the Vaughn farm and where current-day Grandview and Martin City would be located.

The Vaughn Family

  Josiah Vaughn, born in 1810 in Green County, Ky., married his wife, Mary in 1832. By 1848, he and his young family had moved to Jackson County, Mo. onto land off current-day Arrington Rd. east of Martin City and southeast of downtown Grandview. Josiah built a log cabin and tilled the land, and his wife, Mary, reared their 10 children. 

  Life as a Jackson County landowner during this tumultuous time in history was far from peaceful. By the time Kansas Territory was opened up to white settlement, the battle over the border began. While most states had a clear division of “free” and “slave,” Jackson County and other border counties wrestled with the notion that slaves were steps away from freedom in Kansas.

   Blood was boiling in these border states, and as more and more people settled from the north into Kansas Territory and landowners from Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee laid claim to land on the border in Missouri, a recipe for disaster was quickly unfolding.

  The Kansas-Nebraska Act had these early settlers of Jackson County shaking in their boots. Even though many farmers, including Josiah Vaughn, didn’t own slaves, it didn’t mean they were crazy about the fact that these northerners were moving into Kansas and were vehemently opposed to slavery. In the mid 1850s, this was seen as a huge problem.

  By 1860, Josiah’s two oldest boys, William and John, traveled to California and built lives there. Josiah’s remaining sons, Thomas (b. 1838), Dan (b. 1839) and Jim (b. 1842), remained in Jackson County.

William Clarke Quantrill (1837-1865). Courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

Blood on the Border

  Hostility on the border had been going on for years, and raids from Jayhawkers (anti slavery Kansas settlers who stormed the border) had residents up in arms. 

 In January 1861 – months before the outbreak of the war – the Jayhawkers stormed into Missouri with torches in-hand. They headed to Southern sympathizer’s houses and burned them down. This included the Vaughn home. 

  Fearing further attack, slaveholders in the area took the enslaved and moved them south. After being introduced to William Quantrill, then just a school teacher, Marcus Gill of the town of New Santa Fe (122nd and State Line) decided to take off with his family and slaves to Texas.

Quantrill wasn’t a household name by this point, but his reputation as a good shot and protector was reason enough to hire him. He returned in late 1861 and was inspired to form his own unit in December 1861. The Quantrill Raiders operated in the border area between Kansas and Missouri, targeting Union forces.

  The Vaughn brothers, Thomas, Dan and Jim, loaded their guns and joined the Confederacy. Like many of his neighbors, Dan served in the Missouri State Guard in 1861. But staying in organized service was short-lived. Instead, they became bushwhackers, raiding Kansas homes, killing people and terrorizing the border.

    Mary Vaughn later told the Provost Marshal, “In 1861 rebels frequented my house and I had to feed them. I left home to get rid of them.”   

  This was a common excuse that women gave at the time. As their male relatives went “into the brush,” they had to be fed and have access to supplies.  The kinfolk of these guerrillas was essential to the domestic supply line, and Mary Vaughn is one of many women in the area that aided them. In fact, two of her daughters were arrested for being spies and sent to Fort Leavenworth.

  So much happened on the land near where the Vaughns lived. Some evidence of these undocumented skirmishes, likely involving Quantrill, can still be found. According to residents, Minie balls are still burrowed into trees, a permanent scar of the seasons when Quantrill sought protection from these pioneers.

  By 1862, Thomas Vaughn was allegedly robbed, shot and killed as he was traveling down a road.

  In early March, bushwhackers, most likely including Dan and Jim Vaughn, raided the small Kansas town of Aubry, near present-day Stilwell. The Olathe Mirror reported in March 1862 that “Quantrill’s band murdered four men in Aubry, drove off horses and destroyed private property.”

This map from 1877 is marked with various locations noted.

The Skirmish at the Tate Farm 

  On March 22nd, Quantrill and his men rode into familiar territory- New Santa Fe. He and 25 to 30 of his men stopped and rested at David Tate’s home near present-day Red Bridge. Many of his men, including the Vaughn brothers, stayed at homes of sympathizers nearby.

  Quantrill and his gang didn’t know that the Second Kansas Cavalry, led by Col. Mitchell, was hot on their trail. From the town of New Santa Fe, Mitchell sent a squadron led by Maj. James Pomeroy to arrest David Tate. They’d received word that he was known to harbor bushwhackers, but they had no idea they were about to meet Quantrill face-to-face.

  Pomeroy banged loudly on Tate’s door, unaware that over two dozen heavily-armed men were asleep inside. The bushwhackers inside began to fire, a Minie ball barreling through the front door.

  Pomeroy demanded that the women and children be sent out. He waited, and when no one removed from the home, officers began to open fire. Soldiers could hear cries of women and children inside before they ran from the home. Pomeroy was shot, and the officers set fire to the home in order to smoke them out. Two men surrendered. 

  Quantrill and his men inside busted through the weather boarding in the back of the house and ran to the woods nearby. Only two of Quantrill’s men were killed as they fled, but Col. Mitchell ascertained that at leave five died in the flames.

  Pomeroy’s group of men headed to the Wyatt farm, just a few farms north of Vaughn’s house. As they drew nearer to the home at daybreak, six or seven of Quantrill’s men ran from the homestead and into the brush.

  This intense event in the scheme of things was quite minor, but it was covered nationwide in the papers and gave Quantrill recognition in the South as being a fierce leader.

  Quantrill, Dan and Jim Vaughn narrowly escaped – for now.

Camp Union in Kansas City at 14th and Central was the location of the hanging of Jim Vaughn, notorious bushwhacker from southern Jackson County. Courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, KCPL.

Martial Law and Mass Killing

  Jim Vaughn was just shy of 22 years old when his second year with Quantrill came abruptly to an end.

  While in Wyandotte County, Kan. on May 17, 1863, Jim opted to alter his appearance to hide from the Union and shave off his facial hair. Thinking he wouldn’t be recognized, Jim took off his pistols in the barber shop. While getting a close shave, he was arrested by Union officers.

   Wanting to send a clear message to Quantrill, the Union army opted to hang Jim from the gallows at Fort Union, a temporary military fort built at 13th and Central. Less than one week after being caught, Jim was hanged.

  As he mounted the gallows, he addressed the crowd below. “You may kill me, but you’ll never conquer me, and taking my life today will cost you a hundred lives and this debt my friends will pay in a short time.” Jim was buried 100 yards north of the garrison in an unmarked grave.

  Bushwhackers, including Dan, promised to avenge his death. On June 16, they ambushed the Ninth Kansas near Westport and killed 20 of them. Soldiers who arrived later found a note that said, “Remember the dying words of Jim Vaughn.”

  While the war continued, Quantrill’s band of guerrillas grew. Famous future outlaws Jesse and Frank James, the Younger brothers were guerrillas by 1863, occasionally visiting neighbors in the Grandview area to collect supplies from their allies.  

  Quantrill’s men, especially Dan Vaughn, had it in his mind that he would avenge his brother’s hanging and the harsh treatment of women – mostly kinfolk – who aided them.

  The domestic supply line was a problem, and in order to squash it, General Order No. 10 was enacted. This made it illegal to aid bushwhackers, and hundreds of people were arrested- including all of Dan’s family. The collapse of a makeshift prison at 14th and Grand, killing some of these prisoners being held, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

  Women, the bushwhackers believed, were off-limits. On August 21, 1863, these guerrilla outlaws including Dan rode into Lawrence and killed between 160 and 190 men and boys and burned a bulk of the town.

“Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence”. This was illustrated and printed in Harper’s Weekly Magazine September 5, 1863.

  The response by Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing was a controversial policy designed to kill the domestic supply line of the bushwhackers. General Order No. 11, issued four days after the massacre, forced all residents in rural Jackson, Cass, Bates and part of Vernon County to evacuate in 10 days. It is estimated that 20,000 civilians were evicted from the area.

  The move worked, and Quantrill and his men were forced to leave the area due to a lack of support in the countryside. In October 1863, they to Texas for the winter. On their way, they stopped at Baxter Springs. Dan Vaughn and the rest of the men wore Union uniforms so they could travel incognito.

  They happened upon a group of Union men. Due to their disguises, Quantrill’s men were able to surprise the small group of Federals and began to fire on them. 103 people were killed, including men that tried to surrender.  

  On the way out of town, Quantrill’s men tacked a note to a tree that read, in part, “Stop and turn your eyes to Lawrence and Baxter Springs, and see what your amiable policy has brought you to- see what you have done for your fellow soldiers- and then remember the dying words of James Vaughn.”

  Quantrill’s days were coming to an end as the Confederate cause slowly lost footing. Over 400 bushwhackers spent the start of 1864 in Texas, and the internal fighting caused a permanent break of the men.

  Dan headed back to Missouri. Dan’s family was arrested again in August 1864 “for the purpose of saving the two soldiers captured by D. Vaughn, a bushwhacker.” Dan sent letters threatening to kill two soldiers captured if his family wasn’t released. 

  This plan worked, and his family was released in a prisoner exchange in November 1864.

Dr. Simeon Bell (1820-1913), founder of KU Medical Center

A Connection to the University of Kansas

  In December 1864, a man named Fred Wellhouse (1828-1911), known as the “apple king” due to his extensive apple orchards in Kansas, rode with a Fort Scott man to Aubry in southern Johnson County, Kan.

  At this time during the war, Dr. Simeon Bell (1820-1913) owned a store in Aubry. According to historian John McCool, “During the war years, the outspokenly pro-Union Bell was a favorite target of cross-border marauders, known as ‘Bushwhackers,’ from the slave state of Missouri. Time and again, they pillaged his property, stole his horses, looted his store, and sent him fleeing from his home before a hail of bullets.”

  Wellhouse arrived at Dr. Bell’s store in Aubry. His friend from Fort Scott was nowhere to be found. He entered the store, and seven or eight men, described as looking like “country people,” came in behind him. The leader was Dan Vaughn, and he searched him and demanded he give up all his money. 

  Wellhouse only gave him the $6 in his pocketbook, but he had $50 more hidden in his vest. 

Another bushwhacker searched Wellhouse again and found the hidden money, and this enraged Dan Vaughn.

  He ordered that everyone but Dr. Simeon Bell leave the store at once. He set fire to the building with Dr. Bell inside. If Bell tried to evacuate the store, Dan warned, he’d be shot.

  Wellhouse begged Dan and the bushwhackers to let Dr. Bell out.

  “Shut up!” the bushwhackers screamed.

Reunion of the William Quantrill Band in Jackson County. Photo courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum

  Finally, as the building was completely in flames, Dan yelled, “Come out if you’re alive!” Amazingly, Dr. Bell emerged from the flames.

  It turned out Dr. Bell was a smart man; he put his mouth up to a knothole in the wall inside the store and was breathing as much fresh air as he could while flames roared around him.

  Dan’s plan was to march Dr. Bell to the woods and hang him.

  Wellhouse recalled in 1904, “Suddenly I heard a revolver click and, turning quickly, I saw the bushwhacker’s gun cocked and leveled at my head.”

  Just in the nick of time, a woman screamed Dan’s name from the street. The woman acquainted with Dan begged him to spare the lives of Wellhouse and Bell.

  Dan decided showed mercy and let the men go. Wellhouse spotted his friend from Fort Scott dead on the side of the road as they rode out of town.

  Thirty years later, Dr. Bell offered to give $75,000 to the University of Kansas to build a medical school in current-day Kansas City, Kan. Legislators at first weren’t thrilled with the idea of the medical school being so far from the state capital. Dr. Bell sweetened the pot and added even more money and land to the deal that couldn’t turn it down.

  The first KU hospital was named and built in honor of Dr. Simeon Bell’s late wife, Eleanor Taylor Bell and was the future site of world-renowned KU Medical Center.

One of two photos of Dan Vaughn (1839-1913) known to survive. Photos were graciously supplied by his descendants. Courtesy of Jack Hollenshead, 3rd great-grandson of Dan Vaughn

The Lasting Impact of History

    Dan’s family was released from prison for a short period of time, but the Vaughn’s neighbors signed statements that the family was aiding the bushwhackers and were still helping their son, Dan.

  In order to get rid of the problem, the Union army decided to move the entire family – prisoners of war – to Gratiot Prison in St. Louis. They remained there until the close of the war.

  Dan Vaughn’s own Confederate Pension record filed in 1902 states he served the last 12 months of the war in the 12th Missouri Cavalry, although no records exist.

  Quantrill died on June 10, 1865 after being shot in the back and paralyzed. 

  After the war, Dan, once a trusted companion of Quantrill, returned with his new wife to his father’s farm. Josiah Vaughn, the first man to till the land on Arrington Road, died in 1873. Shortly after his father’s death, Dan returned to Texas and settled in Fort Worth where he worked as a saloon keeper and furniture mover. He was a charter member of the Robert E. Lee Camp of United Confederate Veterans in Fort Worth. He died in 1913.

  Dan Vaughn was a predatory man with a deep tie to the Grandview, Martin City and New Santa Fe areas of Jackson County, Mo. His future was solidified when he watched from a little farm in southern Jackson County as his family suffered during the violence of the border wars.

  Without this history, the landscape would look completely different today. We can’t condone the actions of Dan Vaughn, but we must acknowledge the past so it is never repeated.

Diane writes about the history of the area. To read more of the stories, go to http://www.newsantafetrailer.blogspot.com. 


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