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THE BATTLE OF THE SPURS AND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN JACKSON COUNTY


Jim Lane's road was established in 1856 to provide an overland route for free-state settlers to enter Kansas. By this route settlers were able to avoid Missouri and the Missouri River as proslavery forces in Missouri had placed an embargo on free-state persons entering Kansas. The route was focused on Tabor, Iowa.

For those on the underground railroad the route began at Topeka and headed nearly due north through the Holton and Netawaka communities in Jackson County (at that time named Calhoun County). From there it proceeded to Nebraska, entering at Pony Creek.

The route, which had a terminus near Chicago, was used by many others as well. Preston B. Plumb, a very prominent Kansan during the Civil War period and afterward, came to Kansas by this route in 1856. He was only nineteen years old at the time, bringing a load of arms for the free staters.

In February 1857 some of John Brown's conspirators made a trip up the trail with several free slaves. After the initial trip other trips were made by way of stations along the route. The normal process was for personnel of a station to escort the slaves to the next station.

In December 1858 John Brown made several raids into Missouri and gathered eleven slaves, mostly women and children. In January he proceeded to Topeka where he secured shelter, food and clothing for the cold fugitives. By noon on January 29 they had reached Holton where all were fed. There were now twelve African-Americans in the contingent as a new baby was born during the trip. After eating, the party continued north in their prairie schooners, covered wagons drawn by horses. It is said that these wagons had false bottoms where those fleeing slavery could by hidden if necessary.

When they reached Fuller's Cabin, the stream of Straight Creek was swollen with flood waters and it was necessary to halt for a time.

In the meantime, Governor Medary of Kansas Territory had asked the commander of Fort Leavenworth to support the effort to capture Brown who was in Calhoun (Jackson) County. Already a deputy U.S. Marshall, Marshall John P. Wood, from Lecompton, had taken a posse to catch Brown.

When the posse was sighted, Brown sent a farmer named Wasson to Topeka for help. Marshall Wood also sent to Atchison for reinforcements. By January 31, the reinforcements were in place. Brown now had about 21 men with three or four male ex-slaves as well as their dependents. The Marshall's posse had grown to about 45. Some of Brown's reinforcements were from Holton. Most, however, were from a church in Topeka that recessed to go to Brown's relief.

John Brown was a strong-minded, fearsome man and he elected to proceed although the water was still threatening and the posse had dug some protective positions across the stream. He had some trouble crossing the wagons but when the posse saw him coming toward them, posse members began to mount their horses and depart. All soon fled except four. These four surrendered to Brown but stated that they stayed just so he would know that everyone was not afraid of him.

Not a shot was fired. The name of the incident, the Battle of the Spurs, was applied by an eastern correspondent in jest as spurs were the only weapon employed.

This was John Brown's departure from Kansas. When he was later executed after the Harper's Ferry, Virginia incident, his two key companions of the spurs incident, Aaron Stevens and J. H. Kagi, were killed with him. Aaron Stevens was so feared on the Missouri border that he changed his name in Kansas to Captian Charles Whipple.

Albert Fuller's Cabin on Straight Creek was a station on the Underground Railroad. The Fuller homestead was located in the northeast quarter of section 10, township 6, range 15, approximately one and one-half miles south of the present marker site at U. S. 75 highway and 286th Road.


For more information on Jackson County history stop by the Jackson County Museum in Holton, Kansas located at Fourth (highway 16) and New York Avenue. Telephone 785-364-4991 or 785-364-2087 or visit the Jackson County Historical Society Research website.


This information provided by the Jackson County Tourism Council, 416 Pennsylvania Ave, Suite Two, Holton, KS 66436, 785-364-2101.


The site is maintained by the City of Holton