William Clark Quantrill, was born at Canal Dover, Ohio, July 19, 1837. His father was Thomas Quantrill, of Hagerstown, Md. His mother was a native of Chambersburg, Pa., her maiden name being Caroline Clark. These two people were married October 11, 1836, and moved to Canal Dover, in the following December. Thomas Quantrill died December 7, 1854, being at the time, principal of the Canal Dover Union Schools. Mrs. Caroline Quantrill is still living at Canal Dover, and is respected by all.
William C. Quantrill was educated at Canal Dover Union Schools, of which his father was a Director and afterwards superintendent. William C. himself became a teacher in one of the lower grades of the school in the fall of 1853. He then went to Fort Wayne and studied Latin, trigonometry, philosophy, and surveying. Early in 1856 he returned to Canal Dover, and on the 25th of February, 1857, started to Kansas with H. V. Beeson, who paid his fare to St. Louis. Here Mr. Beeson waited for Mr. Torrey, who leaving Canal Dover on the 23rd of February, had started to Kansas via New York city.
Upon Mr. Torrey's arrival at St. Louis, the party proceeded on their way to Kansas. Mr. Torrey paying Quantrill's fare the balance of the way. They arrived in Lykin's County, and settled near Stanton on the 22nd of March, each one of the three taking a claim, or rather buying a pre-emption right of a squatter, Beeson and Torrey each paying $500 for their claims, and also paying $250 for the claim standing in Quantrill's name. Some time afterwards Quantrill desired to sell out his interest in the claim; and as he and Mr. Torrey could not agree as to what was rightly due Quantrill, the matter was submitted to a "squatter's court" for arbitration.
The court decided that Beeson and Torrey owed Quantrill $63. The financial relations between Messrs. Beeson and Torrey were such that the understanding was reached between then that the latter should pay Quantrill the $63. Torrey had no money to pay with, and in order to raise the money it was necessary for him to go to Lecompton to sell some land warrants he held. On account of sickness he was unable to go to Lecompton. In consequence of this delay Quantrill became impatient, and in order to get his pay, stole a yoke of cattle belonging to Mr. Beeson.
Some few days thereafter Beeson met Quantrill about sunrise on the prairie. Quantrill turned to avoid Beeson, when the latter, bringing his rifle to bear upon the former, who was about ten rods distant, hailed him with "Bill, stop! I want to see you." Quantrill turned towards Beeson, when the latter again commanded, "Lay your gun down in the grass!' This order was also obeyed, when Beeson said, "You must bring my oxen back by three o'clock this afternoon, or I shall shoot you on sight!" Quantrill promised to return the oxen, and did so about four o'clock that day.
In the winter of 1857-58, he taught school in Judge Robert's district in Stanton Township, and in the following spring went to Salt Lake City. In 1860, he returned to Kansas, making Lawrence his headquarters, and going by the name of "Charlie Hart." While here he made frequent incursions into the country, kept bad company, gambled somewhat, and became a suspicious character. This drew upon him the surveillance of the civil authorities. Up to this time his sympathies had been with the Free-state men; but his downward course which drew upon him suspicion and surveillance, as naturally led him towards the Missourians.
In order to ingratiate himself into their affections and confidence, he conceived and carried out one of the basest betrayals of confidence known to the annals of history. He induced three or four young men, one of them a distant relative of Capt. Snyder, of Marais des Cygnes Massacre fame, to join him in robbing a Mr. Walker's house, in Jackson County, Mo. Having completed his plan for the attack, he next informed Walker that he had discovered a plat among certain parties in Kansas to rob him (Walker) of his money and slaves, and that he had joined the party for the purpose of defeating its object.
Upon approaching Walker's house at the head of his little company of dupes, they with the real purpose, he, with the pretended purpose, of robbing it, he went on ahead to "enter the house and get matters properly arranged for the attack." Upon the attack being made, he stepped to the porch and shot one of the attacking party with his own hands. All were killed but one, who severely wounded, crawled away and recovered. As a reward for this enterprise, undertaken to gain the confidence of the slaveholders of Missouri, he was presented by Walker with a magnificent horse and saddle.
Soon after this affair he came to Miami County, and stopped at the house of John Benning, near Stanton. Capt. Snyder, with a company of men surrounding Benning's house, with the purpose of taking Quantrill out and killing him for the part he had played in betraying the above mentioned young men to their death, but failed to accomplish his purpose. Snyder, however, did succeed in arresting him on a charge of grand larceny and having him confined in the Paola jail for a time. Being furnished by his friends with his pistols and bowie-knives, he made an attempt on the life of his jailor. April 2, 1861, he was released on a writ of habeas corpus. At the court house door he found his horse awaiting him, and in a few hours he was safe among his friends in Jackson County, Mo.
Accounts of his raids upon Aubrey, Olathe, Lawrence and Baxter Springs, will be found in their proper connections. This sketch may properly close with an account of his death, copied from a Louisville, Ky., paper:
"On the 1st of March, 1865, Quantrill stopped at Wakefield's barn, near Fairfield, in Nelson County, in order to find shelter from the rain, which was pouring down. His command was then reduced to fifteen men. While in the barn, and not suspecting the enemy, Capt. Ed Terrell, at the head of forty-five Federal guerrillas charged down upon him which took the whole party completely by surprise. Just as Quantrill was coming out of the door he received a mortal wound. Richard Glasscock, who had rejoined him after making his escape from Louisville, and Clark Hockersmith, while attempting to Quantrill on his horse were killed. All the balance of the guerrillas succeed in getting away.
Quantrill was left at a farm house close by and his wounds were considered of such a dangerous character, that Terrell left no guard over him. He was afterward visited by one of his own men, who endeavored to get him to escape, but he declined, saying that he knew he was mortally wounded, and desired to be left quiet. He was soon after removed to Louisville and in about a month, died of his wounds. He was generally known here in Kentucky as "Captain Clark" and that was the name he gave when he was captured. His men also created the impression through the country until after his death, when they acknowledged the "Captain Clark" was none other than Quantrill, the famous guerrilla of Missouri."
The following letter is introduced as showing that at the time it was written the writer had in him somewhat of a noble ambition.
Stanton, Kansas Territory,
February 8, 1860
My Dear Mother
It is a pleasant morning this; the sun is just rising, its light causing the trees, bushes and grass to glitter like brilliants, while the hanging sheets of frost drop from them, announcing his warmth, then silently melting away. I stood in my schoolroom door alone, and viewing this it made me feel a new life, and merry as the birds. But these feelings and thoughts are soon changed and forgotten, by the arrival of eight or ten of my scholars, who come laughing and tripping along as though their lives would always be like this beautiful morning, calm and serene. And I wish that I could always be as these children. But I have been so no doubt, and I have no reason to expect it a second time. Every year brings its changes and no two are alike.
School is now closed for the day, and I am again left alone with my thoughts. I am thinking of home and all the happy days I spent there; and then of the unhappy days I have spent since and those you have spent. In a few days it will be three years, though it only seems like a few months. The sun is shedding its last rays, and the chill of the air of evening still declares that summer has not yet arrived. Every now and then a blast from the north holds all nature in check, in spite of the warming influences of the sun to revive it.
How different now to me it is from one year ago, when I was amidst the snow-covered mountains of Utah. It seemed that a summer of sunshine would not be sufficient to break the icy fetters of winter. We should have died of ennai in the Mormon society if it had not been for the excitement attendant upon a camp of soldiers.
You perceive, I suppose, that I am writing at different time between my school hours, which causes my letter to be somewhat broken.
It is now noon, and the sun shines warm, with a pleasant south wind; and my scholars are enjoying themselves as scholars did when I was one. And they, like all children, are enjoying more happiness now than they will at any other period of their lives. I sometimes wish that I was again a scholar in the old brick schoolhouse at Dover; and again with my companions on the playground. But scholars and companions are far from me now, and I am left alone to contemplate. It all seems to me but a dream, a very little of which I ever realized; or, more like a sheet of paper on the first page of which there are a few signs, showing that something has commenced, and then all the rest left blank, telling you not what was the purpose of the writer, and leaving you to surmise; though if it had been continued it might have been of benefit to some one. Thus my mind is ever recalling the past, and my conscience tells me that if something noble is not done in the future to fill up this blank, then it had better be destroyed, so that none may take it for an example.
But as this is leap year, I think it advisable for those who intend to turn over a new leaf, to take their leap with the year, and then keep moving with it, and then probably they may have something more than a blank. I think I can insure it if there is a firm resolution.
I can now see more clearly than ever in my life before, that I have been striving and working really without any end in view. And now since I am satisfied that such a course must end in nothing, it must be changed, and that soon, or it will be too late. All the benefit that I can see I have derived from my past course, is that I have improved my health materially, which was none of the best when I came here. I have also learned to do almost any kind of outdoor work which experience will serve in the future to preserve my health, and also enable me to get along much better than if I was only fitted for the schoolroom or other indoor business.
When my school if finished, I will be able to tell you better what my plans are for the coming year. One thing is certain: I am done roving around seeking a fortune, for I have found where it may be obtained by being steady and industrious. And now that I have sown wild oats so long, I think it is time to begin harvesting; which will only be accomplished by putting in a different crop in different soil.
There is no news here but hard times, and harder still coming, for I see their shadows; and "coming events cast their shadows before" is an old proverb. But I do not fear that my destiny is fixed in this country, nor do I wish to be compelled to stay in it any longer than possible, for the devil has got unlimited sway over this territory, and will hold it until we have a better set of men and society generally. The only cry is :"What is best for ourselves and our dear friends".
I suppose Dover has changed a great deal since I was there, but no more than I have, and probably not as much; for I think there are few there who would know me if I were to come unexpectedly. I suppose the boys have grown to be almost men and likely I should hardly recognize them if I were to see them any place but home. Well, surely I have changed around a great deal the last three years, and have seen a great many people and countries, and enough incidence to make a novel of adventures.
When I get a letter from you, and some of the others, I will write again, but now I must close, hoping that this bit of scribbling may find you in as good health as the one who is writing. My love to you all, and respects to those who inquire of me.
W. C. Quantrill
To Mrs. Caroline Quantrill, Dover, Tuscarawas County, Ohio