One of the last violent battles in the border war between Kansas and Missouri took place in June 1860 at the home of Joseph Gardner in Douglas County. Gardner, born in Indiana, came in May 1855 to Kansas Territory. He settled near Lone Star in Douglas County.
Gardner was an abolitionist and employed two African Americans who had escaped slavery in nearby Jackson County, Missouri. Fearful of retribution, Gardner wrote a letter to his friend, George Stearns, asking for weapons and ammunition.
. . . there is an effort being made in the vicinity to induce citizens of St. Jo. Mo. to come and make war upon my house.
The next day Gardner visited Stearns’ agent in Lawrence, who fulfilled his request. A few nights later a group of men looking to capture the former slaves approached the Gardner home.
. . . three or more men came to my door demanding admission, and to the question as to their names and business I got only curses with a renewal of the demand to open the door. I then discharged my revolver at the person . . . This was the signal for hostilities. My shot was answered with promptness and vigor on both sides.
Gardner wrote that his sons and hired hands joined the gunfight. Napoleon Simpson, one of the men who had escaped slavery, was killed in the battle.
. . . While he was weltering in his blood I went to him and asked if I could do anything for him, expressing a regret that I still had to watch. His
only reply was fight! Fight hard!!
After a failed attempt at lighting fire to the Gardner home, the attackers fled.
In July 1861 Gardner enlisted with the Third Kansas Infantry at Fort Leavenworth. In 1 summer 1862 he was discharged to accept a commission as a first lieutenant in the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry. One of the men under his command was brother-in-law to the deceased Napoleon Simpson. Gardner died in August 23, 1863, at a field hospital at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory.
Entry: Gardner, Joseph
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2010
Date Modified: June 2011
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