Biography of Andrew H. Reeder, Governor

Pennsylvania had long been noted for her distingnished men in all walks of life. This is particalarly true of the Pennsylvania bar, and the current and popular phrase “a Philadelphia lawyer,” denoting unusual ability and intellectual acumen, illustrates the fact that it was thoroughly recognized both in and out of Pennsylvania that the lawyers of this commonwealth were worthy of the pre-eminence claimed for them.

The bar of Northampton County shared this preeminence, and for more than a century it had maintained its prestige in the front rank of the profession in the commonwealth. Its roll contains the names of many distinguished and able lawyers who have also been in high official station. It is not my province in this paper to catalogue them but it will suffice to mention Samuel Sitgreaves, Judge Hopewell Hepburn, Judge Joel Jones, George Wolf, governor of Pennsylvania, James M. Porter, twice president judge and secretary of war in President Tyler’s cabinet; Richard Brodhead, a member of Congress and senator of the United States; Peter Ihrie, Henry D. Maxwell, Sr., Henry Green, chief justice of Pennsylvania, Judge Kirkpatrick, attorney general of Pennsylvania; Howard J. Reeder, judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and General Frank Reeder, secretary of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The subject of this paper, Hon. Andrew Horatio Reeder, was one of the most distinguished and ablest lawyers of our bar. His fame was not confined to the county or to the state but was nation-wide, and in the stirring period just prior to the outbreak of the Civil war he played a large and important part.

Governor Reeder belonged to a family of English origin. John Reeder, one of his ancestors, emigrated to this country before 1656 and settled at Newton, L. I. His son, John Reeder, came to Ewing, New Jersey, not far from Trenton, in the early part of the eighteenth century. A grandson, also named John, married Miss Hanna Mershon and among the children born of this marriage was Absalom Reeder. Absalom Reeder married October 16, 1788, Christiana Smith of Easton, Pennsylvania, and after his marriage Mr. Absalom Reeder and his family continued to reside in Easton, and his last resting place is in Easton Cemetery, the body having been removed there at the time of the removal of bodies from the burial ground of the First Presbyterian Church.

Andrew Horatio Reeder, a son of Absalom Reeder, was born July 12, 1807, in Easton. He received the rudiments of a common school education such as was attainable in the place of his birth. He completed his preliminary education in the high school at Lawrenceville, New Jersey, out of which had grown the splendid preparatory school at Lawrenceville of this day. Mr. Reeder graduated with honor from Lawrenceville but did not have any collegiate education. Having selected the law as his profession, he entered the law office of Hon. Peter Ihrie, then one of the leading lawyers of Easton. Peter Ihrie’s law office was located on the east side of the public square in the stone building at present owned by the Hay estate.

Mr. Reeder was admitted to the bar of this county in 1828 and three years later he was married to Miss Amalia Hutter, a daughter of Christian J. Hutter. Mr. Reeder soon gained prominence at the bar. He was industrious, amhitious, persevering and rose rapidly in the public esteem as one of the leading advocates at the bar of Northampton County. His praetice was not confined to this county, but he was frequently called upon to try cases in many of the adjoining counties. In a letter to President Franklin Pierce, he refers to the fact that he had cases pending in six of the counties of Pennsylvania and a large number of cases in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Governor Reeder gave strict attention from the time of his admission to the bar in 1828 until 1854 to the practice of his profession. As a good citizen he recognized his obligation to take part in political affairs. He was an exceedingly able speaker and his services were demanded in many of the state campaigns.

He belonged to the democratic party and was an active participant in its councils, both in the state and nation prior to his appointment as governor of the Territory of Kansas. He believed, however, that the law was a jealous mistress and that he ought not to seek office. His rule of action in this respect was once stated by him, in the form of advice to a young friend, thus: “First succeed in your profession. Acquire it you may by honorable means, such fortune as will enable you at all times to maintain yourself with dignity, irrespective of public emolument. If then an office suitable to your taste and capacity seeks you, accept it, but do not allow any thought of public employment to occupy your attention until that period shall have arrived.”

Had Governor Reeder’s fame rested alone on his reputation as an able lawyer it would have been secure. He was engaged in nearly all the important cases that were litigated in this county and in adjoining counties during the period in which he was in partnership with the Hon. Henry Green, afterwards chief justice of Pennsylvania, and this firm enjoyed a large clientage.

During the most of this period. Governor Reeder resided in a building on the site of the present Easton Trust Company Building at the corner of Centre Square and South Third Street, and his office adjoined the house. He later built a brick dwelling on East Northampton Street and an office building just south of the Trust Company Building.

He was a man of great industry. General Doster in an address made some years ago described his habits thus:

“His habit was to come to the office about ten o’clock in the morning, stay there continuously until six or seven when he dined. By eight or half past eight he returned and stayed usually as late as one o’clock, seldom going home before midnight.”

It is well authentieated in his family history that the governor did not always stop work as early as Mrs. Reeder thought he should, and when she would wake up in the small hours of the morning and discover that he had not yet come to bed would knock on the floor with a cane and remind him that he was spending too much time at his work and not enough in sleep.

In personal appearance Governor Reeder was thus described by General Doster:

“The Governor was muscular, rather portly, and stood six feet in height, although his commanding air gavo the impression of being taller. His shoulders were square and broad, his corriage crect and proud, with a look of determination but kindness in his face. He received me with politeness, and impressed me at once as a man of great physical and intellectual force, cautious, resolute, of sound judgment, agreeable manners, and careful in his dress. His conversation was sonsible, sympathetic, and to the paint, and inspired me with confidence that he was not only doing the best thing that was to be done, but was giving me the best service that was in him.”

After Governor Reeder returned from Kansas, the New York Times in its personal column gave this description of him:

“The Governor is not quite such a looking man as we should have imagined that an interior town of Pennsylvania would have been likely to have furnished as a Governor over the band of ruffians of our most remote territory. Governor Reeder is a gentlernanly looking person, of easy manners, apparently about 45 with a sprinkling of grey hair on his head and a handsome moustache.”

The incident in the life of Governor Reeder which brought him greatest fame and prominence was his appointment as governor of the Territory of Kansas in 1854. The Missouri Compromise which was enacted in 1820, it will be remembered, provided a line north of which there were to be no slave states. This question had arisen in connection with the Territory of Missouri, as it was then, and the contest between the pro-slavery and the anti-slavery men was most intense. They finally agreed that Missouri should be a slave state, but the anti-slavery men succeeded in effecting this compromise.

In the early ’50s the agitation as to slavery which had never been finally adjusted, was again renewed and the famous Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, which was in effect a repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Senator Stephen A. Douglas was largely instrumental in the passage of this act, and Mr. Reeder as a Democrat and as a man with southern connections (for through Mrs. Reeder he was related to Virginians), heartily approved of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Mr. James Ford Rhodes in his “History of the United States” quotes Governor Reeder as having said shortly after his appointment as governor of Kansas, “That he would have no more seruples in buying a slave than in buying a horse.”

In the year 1854, Franklin Pierce was President of the United States. His secretary of war was Jefferson Davis and he was a most influential member of the administration. Asa Packer was then a member of Congress from this district, and Hon. Richard Brodhead was United States senator from Pennsylvania. When the question of the appointment of a territorial governor for Kansas was being considered, Judge Packer suggested the appointment of Governor Reeder.

Governor Reeder was acceptable to the extreme southern men represented by Jefferson Davis. They believed that if he were appointed as governor of Kansas that he would support their views and do nothing that would militate against the establishment of slavery in the new territory. This is well illustrated by an abstract from the Washington Sentinel of June 24, 1854, which shows what the southern men then in power thought themselves justified in expecting after the passage of the Territorial Acts:

“It is said that the President had tendered or is about to tender, that office to an individual from a non-slaveholding state, whose opinions upon the Territorial Bill are either unsound or unknown. To such rumor we give no credence; we cannot, we do not believe that the President can for a moment think of frustrating by his patronage the design of a bill which he countenanced in all its stages, and to which he gave his ready sanction as a law. Recent developments have shown that Kansas Territory is in the highest degree suited to slave labor, and that the equal laws of labor must inevitably introduce the institution of slavery there.”

As had been said, Mr. Reeder was in full sympathy with Senator Douglas and it is probable that at that time he had, with the great majority of the American people, regarded himself as precluded by the Constitution from raising questions as to the abstract right or wrong of negro slavery where it existed.

He was welcomed with great warmth by the politicians of Missouri on his passage through that state and was doubtless prepared to see slavery legally introduced into Kansas, if that should indeed be the lawful result of the elections.

Immediately upon his arrival in Kansas there was such a display of violence and lawlessness on the part of those who favored the introduction of slavery that this fact caused him to think more deeply than ever before upon the moral aspect of that question, and it may be said that the pro-slavery zeal of Western Missouri was the chief instrument for converting a democratic governor, of Pennsylvania training and Southern sympathies, into a warm and devoted friend of the slave and an opponent of a practice which required the support of such violent and unlawful means. Shortly after his arrival in the territory he ordered an election for territorial delegates and for the election of the Legislature.

The Territory of Kansas was sparsely settled. Many of the settlers had been induced to locate there by a society in New England known as the “New England Emigrant Society.” It was alleged that this society really was a society for the propagation of anti-slavery sentiment and that the people who were located in Kansas were not bona fide settlers. On the other hand, when the election was held, large numbers of men who lived and voted in the adjoining state of Missouri, the day before the election, left their homes in Missouri and came over to Kansas and by intimidation and threats of violence required the election officers to receive their votes. These Missouri men so far outnumbered the actual residents of Kansas that the vote in favor of their candidates who were pro-slavery men was very largely in excess of the anti-slavery vote.

A committee came to Governor Reeder and asked him to sign certificates of those claiming to be cleeted members of the Territorial Legislature. He courteously but decidedly refused. “Governor Reeder,” said the committee, “we give you 15 minutes to sign these certificates, resign or be hanged.”

Governor Reeder replied, “Gentlemen, I need no 15 minutes, my mind is made up, I shall hang.” The boldness of his answer and his remarkable courage probably saved him for the time from violence.

In the spring of 1855, Governor Reeder came East. He went first to Washington for the purpose of conferring with President Pierce, the Hon. William L. Marey, secretary of state, and other high officials. From Washington he came to Easton and was accorded a public reception and a great ovation. He was met at the train by a large concourse of people, escorted to the courthouse, where an address of welcome was delivered by Judge James Madison Porter fully approving his course. Governor Reeder replied in a lengthy address which, unfortunately, is not reported, but which was a justification of his course in Kansas, and an exposure of the methods which were resorted to by the pro-slavery men in Missouri and in Kansas.

He then returned to Washington for further interviews with President Pierce, and his testimony relating to those interviews was taken by a congressional committee which was later appointed to investigate Kansas affairs. He said in the course of his testimony “that President Pierce criticised his Easton speech because he had omitted all allusion to the illegalities of the Emigrant Aid Society and thought that perhaps it was unnecessarily strong in his denunciation of the Missouri invasion. in vasion. He said that the President told him that the Kansas matter had given him more harassing anxiety than anything that had happened since the death of his son; that it haunted him day and night and was the great overshadowing trouble of his administration.”

He testified further as to the President:

“He was profuse in his expression of approval of my course, but expressed himself deeply solicitous as to the probable consequences of my return to the Territory. He declared that in the excited state of the community he was fearful of personal violence to myself and that if violence was committed upon me the whole North would be infiamed, civil war would probably ensue, and no man could predict the result. He repeated this and enlarged upon it much and often; said that it would be a fearful calamity, the beginning of the end, concluding with the opinion that it would be unsafe for myself, and for the country, that I should return to Kansas in the canacity of governor. I told him promotly and decidedly that I would not resign the office; that two considerations forbade me to think of it, that, as things now stood, the executive office in my hands was the only means of protection for the people against the persecutions and oppressions which had been perpetrated, and would be continued, from the state of Missouri; that it would be base and dishonorable in me to betray and abandon them, and that considerations of personal danger to myself would not induce me to think of it; that besides this consideration, the whole country had resounded with threats against myself in case I should return and that a resignation of my office under such circumstances would be attributed to pusillanimity and cowardice.”

It was apparent to Governor Reeder that Gen. Jefferson Davis, the secretary of war, and the southern slavery men were determined that he should be removed from office by fair means or foul. President Pierce was a compromiser and was endeavoring in his interview with Governor Reeder to secure his resignation. He suggested to Governor Reeder that he would remove him from office for the purpose of allaying the existing excitement and to bring about a more calm and sober state of public feeling, and at the same time he offered to appoint him to some suitable post that would indicate his full confidence in Governor Reeder. He offered to make him minister to China. The negotiations between Governor Reeder and the President continued for several days, but they were without result, and the last proposition made to the governor he regarded as so offensive that he says: “I was insulted by the proposition to such an extent that I dared not trust myself to reply. I was conscious of a state of temper so angry and excited as to leave only the alternative of silent contempt or an angry and indecorous reply. I chose the former, and, as I was standing near the door with my hat in my hand, I bade him good morning and left him.”

The pro-slavery party had resorted to every means within their power to get rid of a man whom they recognized as an opponent of determination and courage. They had threatened him with violence and did not succeed, They decided to resort to trickery, misrepresentation and falsehood. They preferred charges against Governor Reeder that he had speculated in the purchase of real estate in the Territory of Kansas from what was known as the “half-breed lands.” The fact was that Governor Reeder had with some others entered into a contract for the purchase of land, but, as he occupied the position of territorial governor, be felt that the contract should not be carried out except with the full knowledge of his superiors, and he, therefore, wrote to the President and secretary of the interior acquainting them with the facts and asked whether, under the circumstances, he should purchase the lands or not, content to be guided by their approval of his act, if they did approve, or not to purchase the land if they disapproved.

This was seized upon by the pro-slavery men as a ground for his removal, and President Picrce, who was weak and in the control largely of the pro-slavery and southern men, after Governor Reader had left Washington, decided that he would remove him. This was a mere pretext, but the pro-slavery men succeeded in accomplishing their purpose.

Notwithstanding this fact, Governor Reeder returned to the Territory of Kansas. He felt that he was needed there to support his friends and to do what he could to frustrate the designs and evils of the establishment of slavery in that territory.

The Daily Pennsylvanian, of Philadelnhia, a democratic organ of great influence at that time, contains the following:

“We will give below an extract from a letter to a gentleman of this city, from one who had battled long and well for the rights of the South, and who will still aid it in all that justly belongs to it. But it is very evident that his feelings have been soured at the condnct of the Missourians:

” ‘Washington City, May 30, 1855.

” ‘Governor Reeder had a proud yet most critical position. The murderers in Missouri pursue him alone, because he will not yield to their demand for slavery by illegal votes in Kansas. Had he done so there would not be the skeleton of a Democratic party left in the free states. He might have purchased ease and place by letting the slave-owners of Missouri take charge of Kansas; he might have been governor or senator; but he thought of Pennsylvania and the North, and of his own honor, and he acted as an honest and patriotic Democrat. He goes back, and will sell his life dearly, if any effort is made to do him personal injury. The fact is, the South asked too much of us. I am sick of their arrogance, sick of their violence, and resolved that, however ready I am to stand by their rights, I will not sustain their wrongs. Slavery is not God descended; it is not a divinity; it is a load to carry, and we must not have it made heavier by arrogant exactions.’ ”

The New York Tribune, prohably from the pen of Horace Greeley, thus discussed the removal of Governor Reeder:

“It is pretonded that he was removed because he had engaged in certain purchases of land. Of course this was only a sham. Certain judges were also to be removed; but there is nothing heard about them. They will be allowed to keep their places–at least as long as they are faithful to slavery. But a better time is coming. Even Franklin Pierce may yet live to know ‘There is a North: the slave drivers cannot always rule this country. Kansas will come into the Union as a free state or it will never come at all.’ ”

These excerpts will give some idea of the secthing political feeling of the time and will cast light upon that beginning of discontent among prominent democrats in the North, which finally ended in the breaking off of the greater portion of that party in solid mass from its southern associations, when Mr. Davis and his friends, moving logically forward from the position which they had taken in respect to Kansas, announced the secession of the South and the opening of the War of the Rebellion.

After his return to Kansas Governor Reeder was nominated by the convention as a delegate to Congress, and at an election held he received 2,849 votes as against the pro-alavery candidate, who received 2,721 votes, but the larger part of these votes were cast by Missourians who had come for the sole object of voting and who were in no sense citizens of Kansas.

At an assembling of Congress, Governor Reeder proceeded to Washington and claimed his scat upon the ground that he had been elected by a majority of the legal votes cast in the territory. A committee was appointed by Congress, consisting of William A. Howard of Michigan, John Sherman of Ohio and Mordecai Oliver of Missouri, to investigate the question as to whether be should be seated. The committee and Governor Reeder returned to Kansas for the purpose of making the investigation, and a large mass of testimony was taken.

While this hearing was in progress before the congressional committee, the chief justice of the territory, Judge Lecompte, came to the aid of the pro-slavery party. He charged the grand jury in session at Lecompton “that the laws passed by the pro-slavery Territorial Legislature were of United States authority and that all who resist these laws resist the power and authority of the United States and are, therefore, guilty of high treason.”

This man Governor Reeder deseribed as “a man of frivolous mind, little ability, less integrity, great perversity and indolence, and limited knowledge of the law, who, having neither property, practice, nor reputation at home had been appointed Chief Justice of the unfortunate Territory.”

The grand jury without taking any testimony at all indicted Governor Reeder for treason. The plan which was openly discussed in the jury room was to arrest Governor Reeder under whatever charge it was possible, with other free-state men in the territory and keep them in confinement for a few months so that the free-state party would break down.

An attempt was made to arrest Governor Reeder at Lawrence, where he was examining a witneas before the congressional committee, but he put himself upon his privilege, claimed the protection of the committee and told the marshal that if he attempted to arrest him he would do so at his peril as he had a revolver on the table. The officer deemed it prudent to relinquish his purpose.

By this time all possibility of Governor Reeder romaining with safety to participate in the investigation before the committee was, in the opinion of his friends, at an end. Respectable pro-slavery men, together with all his friends, assured him that his life would not be safe if he should remain openly in the territory. It was determined that he should get to Kansas City as speedily as possible.

Colonel Buford, of Alabama, with a regiment of well-armed “roughs” which he had recruited in South Carolina, had come there for the purpose of aiding in making Kansas a slave state. They encamped close at hand and watched for Governor Reeder.

Governor Reeder during that eventful period from Friday, May 9th, to Friday, May 30th, kept a diary of his experiences which is most thrilling in its interests, descrihing the perils that he encountered in his efforts to escape from Kansas. On the evening of the first day he says:

“First night’s travel will be dangerous as we must pass through the enemy’s scouts. I preferred to go down at night to Kansas City, if creeks can be forded; Lowrey and McClure to go along. Three horses tied in the ravine. At hotel found men who agreed with me; and decided to hide till the next evening and then start for Kansas City.”

He finally arrived at Kansas City at 2 o’clock in the morning on Sunday, May 11th, and went to a hotel where he was concealed for two wecks. They were weeks of anxious care and watching on the part of his friends. There were always sick people upstairs to whom meals were carried; in this way the Governor’s appetite was appeased. Those who were in pursuit of him resorted to burning a hotel in which they thought he was concealed.

Some other extracts from the diary are interesting:

“Tuesday, May 20th. 11 A. M. An awkward occurrence happened indoors. Having not been out of my room for several days, Mrs. Eldridge called me out into No. 26 to clean up, and as No. 26 had no lock, the chambermaid stepped in, and, though called back at once, probably saw me. Afterwards she knocked at the door, and I opened it and met her face to face. She stepped back and said she would come again. This is very awkward, and makes it necessary for us to decide whether we will trust her in full and bribe her. Edward Eldridge says he will talk to her. He had done so, and I have done the same, and have applied the universal argument. She promises well and I have some confidence. Coates and Conant are exceedingly anxious I shall take a wagon fitted as for an emigrant, and pass through Missouri to Iowa, and they have engaged a man to go. I regret they have done so, for I do not consider it at all safe.”

“Thursday, May 22. A note from Coates is thrown over my door, saying that Lawrence is taken. Hotel destroyed. A messenger from the enemy’s camp came in and took boat immediately down the river; would give no particulars except to say that Colonel Eldridge and family were safe. The mob will probably be here tonight or today, and will be very likely to attack or search the house. What will become of me? How bitterly I realize that if I had a thorough, efficient, sealons friend outside, I would now be safe in the States. For three or four days have I been seeking to get the particulars of the plan to cross Missouri to Iowa, and in vain. Last night Coates did not know them himself. My poor, dear wife. She is uppermost in my thoughts. How I reflect much on the agonizing suspense that now makes her nights restless and her days miserable; day after day look in vain for letter or dispatch; with trembling hand opening each day the newspaper, only to be left in the same uncertainty and misery. And should I be murdered by this crazy, drunken mob, as is probable if they should discover me, she will probably first learn it from a newspaper.”

It finally became apparent that it was no longer safe for the governor to remain even in conccalment and it was decided that he should emerge from the hotel and go into the streets in a disguise. He was furnished with a costume which was that of a wood chopper. In his diary he says:

“After they left I lit my pipe and walked boldly down the front stairs. through the office, which was crowded with people. Elbowing through them I passed into the bar room and out on the steps. Dozens of people were sitting and standing about the door and on the sidewalk, many of them the most obnoxious men, and who were well acquainted with me. I stood quite unconcerned on the steps until I saw a vacant chair, and went to it and sat down, My friends were all about, and by my previous directions engaged those in conversation who were nearest and most dangerous; after sitting some minutes, J walked deliberately up the road, unmolested and unrecognized with a sense of great relief.”

“Saturday, May 24. About 7:30 o’clock we shouldered our axes and bundle and sack, and trudged up the road past the few houses that constitute Randolph. As we passed the principal house a man hailed us to know if we were wood-choppers. Adams replied ‘Yes.’ Had we got a job engaged? I whispered to Adams to say ‘yes’ but too late. He said ‘no.’ The man then walked out into the road and offered us a job. I stopped; and asked the price. He said 75c to $1 a cord. I told him it was not enough; that we were going up to Eldridge’s job above, where we could get, as we were told, $1.12 ½c; but that if we did not succeed we could stop and see him on our way back.”

In a letter written by one who was an eye witness the same incident is thus described:

“That evening, just before dark an Irishman was seen to enter the office of the hotel dressed in a slouch hat, hickory shirt, blue overalls, so short as to expose a heavy pair of brogan shoes on his feet, carrying an axe on his shoulder and smoking a short elay pipe. He stopped, inquired for work, any wood to cut, or if he could be informed where he could get work. Not getting a satisfactory answer he sauntered out on the sidewalk and repeated the inquiry to the bystanders, then moved up the river and disappeared behind the bluff. At 11 o’clock that night Elwood S. Eldridge, brother of the landlord of the hotel, strolled out for a walk, going up the river around the point of the bluff. Nearing the mouth of the cave he encountered the Irishman holding his axe in an attitude of attack. Eldridge called out to him not to strike; with that he dropped his weapon and approached. They know each other. After a moment of hasty conversation they went down to the water’s edge, got into a boat and floated quietly down the stream to a landing about five miles below the city. The steamer which was expected to take Governor Reeder down the river was to have returned that night but it did not reach Kansas City until near noon the following day. The captain stood by the side of the pilot as she curved her way out into the stream. Near Randolph landing the captain ordered the pilot to ’round her to.’ The pilot could see no signal but the captain insisted that one had been made. The captain was one of the antislavery men and ready to serve the Governor. On nearing the landing our Irishman inquired if he could get a passage to St. Charles. The captain to keep up the illusion eursed him for delaying his boat and said ‘get aboard, you old sculawag, I won’t wait two minutes for you.’ He threw his axe ahead of him and clambered on board and Governor Reoder cscaped from Kansas.”

He was by no means in safety as yet and as the boat passed down the river toward St. Louis, one of his enemies who was on the boat evidently watching for him left the boat at a point where it would be possible for him to reach St. Louis by train ahead of the boat and thus succeed in arresting Governor Reeder. At St. Charles, a city above St. Louis on the left bank, he left the vessal and entered the woods to seek his own safety. A viulent thunder storm came up just as they started, they struek through the woods, lost the road twice, traveled on, and about 8 o’clock A. M. struck the Mississippi River, fifteen miles above Alton. He thea hired a man to row him in a skiff across the river to Illinois and in a short time arrived in Chicago, where he speedily telegraphed the good news of his escape to his family in Easton.

During the time that Govornor Reeder was hiding in the hotel he made his last will and testament, the first words of which are as follows:

“I, Andrew H. Reeder, being in danger of being murdered by a set of ruffians and outlaws, who are outside of all the restraints of law, order, deceney, and all social obligatious, and who are below the savage in all the virtues of civilization, and who will probably kill me for opinion’s sake, and in furtherance of that scheme for which already a number of
lives have been sacrificed, to wit: the making of Kansas a slave State by violence and force of arms, do, in view of my death which may happen today or tomorrow, make this last will and testament.”

The Kansas City Star of February 7, 1915, published a most interesting article on Governor Reeder, recalling the early history of that territory in the form of an interview with a Mrs. Stinson, who chatted pleasantly with the interviewers as follows:

“So you want to know about the time they came to kill Governor Reeder, eh!” Mrs. Stinson queried. “My, I could never forget those days. Governor Reeder had been appointed by President Pierce and had come out from Pennsylvania to take charge of things. Here in Tecumsch and over at Lecompton was the headquarters of the slavery men. They hated Governor Reeder like poison.

“Lawrence was the headquarters of the Free-State men, and the governor stayed there and over at Shawnee Mission most of the time. The trouble got worse and worse and there was talk that they were going to kill the governor and get rid of him and his Free-State government.

“Whenever Governor Reeder would come to Tecumseh he would stay here at this house because it was about the only one around in this part of the country, and because the slavery men wouldn’t take him in. They were camped down near the river, and that day when the Governor came they heard about it.

“After supper the Governor asked me to play a game of chess like we always did when he was staying at the house. I told him I would as soon as I got the baby to sleep. We sat down to play here in this room, and pretty soon we heard a mob a-coming. There must have been three hundred of them, and every one of the crowd was full of liquor.

” ‘We want Reeder! We want Reeder!’ they were shouting. ‘We’re going to ride him on a rail. We’re going to kill the Free Stater.’ They were cursing and shooting off their guns something terrible.

” ‘You go out and talk to ’em,’ I told my husband, and he opened the door and tried to quiet them. They were mad with the liquor and wouldn’t listen.

” ‘We don’t want you; we want Reeder,’ they were yelling.

“The Governor was hid back here in my room, becauss I knew if they once caught sight of him there would be no use trying to save him. Then Mr. Stinson came back, white as a sheet.

” ‘I can’t do a thing with ’em,’ he said. ‘You go see what you can do.’

“I was pretty seared but I tried it. I saw right away that telling them they couldn’t have the Governor wouldn’t do any good, so I began to flatter them.

” ‘What does a bunch of nice looking men like you want to be running around like this for?’ I asked them. ‘I know that gentlemen like you wouldn’t do such a thing as to come in my house when I hadn’t asked you.’

“At first they yelled and shot their guns and said they wanted Reeder, but after I had talked to them a while they began to get a little quieter. Then I told them to wait outside and they could get Governor Reeder when he left in the morning. They finally agreed to that and the leader ordered the rest to surround the house and lie there until morning. They all laid down on the grass and we could hear them talking to each other for a long time.

“It must have been after 12 o’clock when the last of them fell asleep. The liquor wouldn’t let them stay awake any longer, and pretty soon you could hear snoring all round the house like the buzzing of a saw mill. I told my husband to slip out and go get Governor Reeder’s driver and tell him to bring the buggy down by our spring.

“In a little while the other two women and myself put on shawls and started to go down to the spring like we were going to get water. We told Governor Reeder to put a shawl over his head, too, and he took a pail and started out with the rest of us. There were sleeping men all around and we had a hard time stepping over them and their guns without wakening them up.

“We got to the spring and found that the buggy wasn’t there. We stood there in the dark a long time before it came. Governor Reeder climbed into it and just before he started he told us good-bye and leaned over and whispered to me:

” ‘You remember how those chessmen stood, Mrs. Stinson. When this trouble’s over I’m coming back to finish that game.’ With that he drove off as fast as he could go to Lawrence.

“My, but those men were furious in the morning when they found that he had escaped. They came in and searched the house, and when they couldn’t find him they were going to take my husband out and hang him. Then I had to go on out and plead for his life and tell them they could catch the Governor if they would get on their horses and ride after him.

“They did, but they didn’t know that he had a good many hours’ start.” * * *

Nor did the governor forget his promise to Mrs. Stinson.

“It must have been nearly ten years afterwards,” she said, “when one day we heard a big commotion out in front of the house. We went out and there was a stage coach just stopping at the gate. Out jumped a man and a woman. It was Governor Reeder, and the lady with him was his wife.

” ‘I’ve come back to finish that chess game,” he said. ‘I’m to beat you.’

” ‘We’ll see about that,’ I told him, and that afternoon we started in to play.

“Mrs. Reeder wanted me to beat the Governor the worst way. She insisted on doing all the cooking and taking care of the baby so I could put in all my time on the game. We had remembered just how we stood and started off with the men just like he’d left them.

“For three days we played that game, stopping only for meals and to get some sleep. Mrs. Reeder was pulling for me to beat her husband. When I got checkmate on the third day she just jumped up and said ‘Hurray for Kansas.’

“The Governor took it all right and said he was satisfied now that the game was finished. He stayed with us for about a week and then went back home again. He never came out to this country again.”

The congressional committes continued their investigations after Governor Reeder was obliged to withdraw and made a very full and comprehensive report which sustained Governor Reeder in the attitude which he had taken as to the elections, but did not recommend his taking his seat as a congressional delegate. He was subsequently elected United States senator from Kansas, but never took his seat.

In 1856 the republican party for the first time nominated a candidate for the Presidency, and Governor Reeder entered into the campaign in favor of John C. Fremont, as against James Buchanan, thus breaking away from his old party and party associates. His experience in Kansas had convinced him that the abuses of slavery in the United States would not be remedied by the democratic party.

Govornor Reeder was in great demand all over the Union as a public speaker. In the years that followed he attained great prominence as the champion of Northern ideas. His wonderful exhibition of courage and bravery in Kansas, and his strict adherence to what be believed was right brought him great admiration and fame,

In 1860 the republican party met in convention at Chicago to nominate a candidate for President and vice president. Abraham Lincoln was made the candidate for President, and Governor Reeder received the third highest vote among the candidates for vice president, Hannibal Hamlin being nominated after Governor Reeder had withdrawn his name.

Immediately on the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion, he was appointed as a brigadier-general in the regular army, being one of the first appointments of that rank made by Abraham Lincoln. He was possessed of high natural qualities for a soldier, courage, endurance, power of discipline, but he was without such experience as in his opimion was necessary to justify any conscientious man in assuming an important military command. He declined the appointment, expressing publicly his opinion “that no man had a right to learn a new trade or profession at his time of life at the possible expense of the lives of other men.”

He promptly offered his services to the Government, however, in any other capacity in which they would be useful and afterwards was employed in various important services not strictly military during the war.

All three of his sons, George M. Reeder, Howard J. Reeder and Gen. Frank Reeder entered the army and served during the war.

Governor Reeder resumed the practice of his profession in Easton after his return from Kansas and continued to actively engage in the work of his profession up to the time of his death, which occurred after a very short illness on the 5th of July, 1864. He left to survive him, his widow, Mrs. Amalia Reeder, who was one of the leaders of society in her day, a woman of rare charm and most active in all charitable work; his sons, George M. Reeder, for many years the editor of the Easton Daily Express; Howard J. Reeder, for ten years a judge of the courts of Northampton County and afterwards a judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, and Gen. Frank Reeder, who occupied many official positiens, including the office of searetary of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and of banking commissioner, and who distingnished himself by rare gallantry in the Civil war, and two danghters, Mrs. William W. Marsh, of Easton, and Mrs. Charles Ferriday, now dead.

Thus it will be seen that Governor Reeder is well worthy of a place not only in local history, but in our national history as well. This most inadequate sketeh of his life reveals him as a man far above the ordinary. His high character, unquestioned integrity, great bravery and courage, superior intellectual powers mado him a man of distinction. In his private life he was equally admirable. The domestic circle was his delight, and the entries in his diary during his terrible experience in Kansas, just prior to his escape, show his great devotion and love for his dear ones. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Easton and most punctillious in the discharge of his duties there. He was a man of faith and when he thought he was about to be murdered, in referring to his affection for his family, he said in his diary:

“How these ties drag me down! If not for them how boldly and proudly could I not denounce and defy my pursuers, and die in conflict with a thousand of them. But God’s will be done. If I am taken from the dear ones He had given me it will be for the best, and He will care for them.”

Of him it may well be said:

“No ruler who ever founded empires, no statesman who ever raised the weary hope of fallen nations, no conquering captain who ever drew a sword, could leave behind to those who loved him the memory of a name more stainless.”

This is a biographical sketch of Governor Andrew H. Reeder, written by E. J. Fox, of Easton, Pennsylvania. Mr. Fox married a grand-daughter of Governor Reeder.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

Search Military Records - Fold3

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top