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Kansas Family History

The Samuel Collins - Patrick Laughlin Incident

The Samuel Collins - Patrick Laughlin Incident
Summary: a complilation of accounts from various sources concerning what has 
been called the first political murder in Kansas in which Samuel Collins, a 
supporter of the free-state cause, was murdered in Doniphan, Kansas in the 
fall of 1855 by Patrick Laughlin who had posed as a free-state supporter, 
but in fact was a spy for the pro-slavery forces.

The Heritage Server would like to thank Don Collins for providing this 
information about his great, great grandfather, Samuel Collins. 21-NOV-1994.

Donald E. Collins, 5400 W. Hustis Street, Apt. E, Milwaukee, WI 53223
e-mail: dcollins@earth.execpc.com

The Samuel Collins - Patrick Laughlin Incident

Summary: a complilation of accounts from various sources concerning what has 
been called the first political murder in Kansas in which Samuel Collins, a 
supporter of the free-state cause, was murdered in Doniphan, Kansas in the 
fall of 1855 by Patrick Laughlin who had posed as a free-state supporter, 
but in fact was a spy for the pro-slavery forces.

The Heritage Server would like to thank Don Collins for providing this 
information about his great, great grandfather, Samuel Collins. 21-NOV-1994.

Donald E. Collins, 5400 W. Hustis Street, Apt. E, Milwaukee, WI 53223
e-mail: dcollins@earth.execpc.com

My great great grandfather, Samuel Collins, was born October 28, 1810 in 
Gallia County, Ohio, the youngest child of Jesse Collins and Jenny Ewing. In 
1830 the Collins family moved with others to Madison County, Indiana later 
settling in Hancock County. On September 4, 1831 Samuel Collins married 
Sidney Ingels, the daughter of Joseph and Nancy Crooks Ingels, in Madison 
County. Later in 1842 Samuel and Sidney Collins moved to Gentry County, 
Missouri and still later, about 1853, to Andrew County. Then in the Spring 
of 1855 they moved across the river to Doniphan, Kansas where Samuel, 
perhaps under the auspices of the Massachusetts Immigrnt Aid Society, set up 
the first steam saw-mill in Kansas. One history of Doniphan County calls the 
saw mill "a very complete affair for the times and cost not far from ten 
thousand dollars." He is also said to have assisted, perhaps as a lay 
preacher, the Rev. A. L. Downey who established the first Methodist Church 
in Doniphan.

Samuel Collins was very active in Free-State politics and during the summer 
of 1855. Several of the special elections held his section of Doniphan 
County mention his name, sometimes as an election official and sometimes 
because his saw mill served as a polling place. During that summer he was 
one of several persons elected to be delegates to a Free State party 
convention to be held in October at Big Springs. Another delegate elected 
from Doniphan was a man from Kentucky by the name of Patrick Laughlin. 
Laughlin was also elected as a free-stater. He and Samuel Collins attended 
the Big Springs Convention together passing through Potawatamie on their 
journey to pick up another free-state delegate who was a son of the famous 
John Brown who would arrive in Kansas a few months later. Samuel Collins and 
Pat Laughlin both served on the Platform Committee at the Convention and 
from the report of the committee, it is clear that he and many of his 
free-state colleagues, while opposed to slavery, still held very prejudiced 
views of blacks.
As the documents below will show, Laughlin was in reality a spy for the 
pro-slavery forces and revealed himself as such a few days later in the 
incident at the office of Dr. Oscar Brown in Doniphan. This argument led to 
the confrontation the following morning on the main street of Doniphan in 
which Samuel Collins was killed by Laughlin and his friends. Following are 
several accounts of the incident at Doniphan which took place prior to the 
better known Coleman - Dow episode. Most of the many accounts of Samuel 
Collins' death are written from either a free state or a pro slavery point 
of view. It seems likely that a more object ive idea of what actually 
happened emerges when one reads them all together.


From Annals of Kansas by D. W. Wilder, Kansas Publishing House, Topeka, 
Kansas, 1886.
Samuel Collins killed by Patrick Laughlin, new Doniphan. Laughlin claimed 
originally to be a Free-State man, and became a member of the "Kansas 
Legion". He afterwards exposed this Free-State organization, and became a 
violent Pro-Slavery man. Gladstone thus describes the murder: "Mr. Collins, 
who owned a saw-mill at Doniphan, was shot on political grounds by a violent 
Pro-Slavery man, named Patrick Laughlin. Laughlin cane, it is said, 
originally from Ireland, and had rendered himself famous by an exposure, as 
it was termed, of the Kansas Legion. Laughlin was aided in this attack by 
three or four
armed as sociates, and Mr. Collins's sons were present, and sought to defend 
their father. There was considerable interchange of bowie-knife cuts and 
pistol-firing on this occasion, and the murderer himself was wounded. But 
the victim being a Free-State man, the law took no cognizance of the murder, 
and Laughlin found protection, and was rewarded by a situation in a shop in 
Atchison." This is the first political murder in Kansas, and the victim is a 
Free-State man. 


The following account is from the November 7, 1855 edition of the Daily 
Kansas Freeman:
We learn by a gentleman who has just arrived from the North part of the 
Territory, that a serious affray occurred on Thursday last at Doniphan city. 
The parties were Patrick Laughlin and Samuel Collins. Laughlin professed to 
have made known to the public the secrets of a Free State organization in 
Kansas. Collins charged him with being a traitor &c.;--whereupon Laughlin 
drew a pistol and shaped it at Collins. Collins then drew a bowie knife and 
rushed towards Laughlin, and cut him severely. Laughlin then shot Collins 
dead on the spot. Laughlin was wounded severely and is not expected to 
survive. It is also reported that several other persons were engaged in the 
affray, and a few of them were wounded. 


From Gray's Doniphan County History:
"In the spring of 1855, Samuel Collins set up the first saw mill. In 
November of the same year he was killed in a political quarrel." 


From page 474 of the History of the State of Kansas published in Chicago in 
1883 by A. T. Andreas:

In 1855 an association was formed by certain disaffected parties in Doniphan 
for the purpose of opposing obnoxious laws. This body was known as the 
Danites; Patrick Laughlin, a tinsmith of the town, joined this Society, but 
on becoming aware of its full purpose became disgusted and openly proclaimed 
all of its secrets. For this the Danites vowed vengeance, and Samuel 
Collins, who was the owner of a saw-mill on the river, declared that 
Laughlin should confess that his revelations were lies or die. On the 
evening of November 28, 1855, Collins met Laughlin but was unarmed, and 
after repeating his threats said that he "would come around in the morning 
and one of them would breakfast in h--l." The next day, after waiting some 
time, Laughlin concluded that Collins had forgotten the matter and started 
to cross the street to his boarding house; in the middle of the street he 
was met by Collins who at once attempted to shoot him but failed through his 
weapon missing fire. Collins then drew a knife and stabbed Laughlin so 
severely, as to bring him to his knees. Before the could proceed further a 
friend of Laughlin, named Lynch, stepped from the sidewalk and fired a 
"yager" at Collins. Although mortally wounded, Collins clubbed his gun and 
struck his assailant a terrible blow on the head felling him to the ground. 
Collins was then picked up by his friends and died in a short time; Laughlin 
and Lynch, although both badly hurt, recovered. This was the end of the 


From Chapter 4 of John Brown: The Making of a Martyr by the late Poet 
Laureate of the United States, Robert Penn Warren. Published by Payson & 
Clarke Ltd. New York, 1929 and reprinted in 1970 by the Scholarly Press in 
St. Claire Shores, Michigan:

Up near the town of Atchison lived an Irishman by the name of Patrick 
Laughlin, who for a while had been active in one of the secret societies 
with which the region abounded. He had been elected as delegate to the Big 
Springs Free State convention, and had attended along with Samuel Collins, 
the vociferous proprietor of a sawmill at Doniphan. After the convention had 
finished its business Laughlin returned by way of Lawrence, where G. W. 
Brown, editor of the Herald of Freedom, exhibited to him Sharpe's rifles, 
blue jackets, white trousers, drums, and all the paraphernalia of freedom. 
Mr. Brown gave him four sealed books containing the constitution and ritual 
of the grand encampment of the "Kansas Legion," which Laughlin was to 
administer to Free State sympathizers at his home of Don iphan and in the 
country north of that town. Laughlin was also to take statements from Free 
State men concerning the conduct of elections and Missouri interference; 
later he maintained that the men who gave him this information admitted it 
to be exaggerated. Laughlin did not organize the project encampments of the 
"Legion," and after he suffered this change of heart, his sense of honor 
somehow did not impel him to keep the secrets of the brotherhood to which he 
had belonged.

On the night of October 24 Pat Laughlin went to the office of Dr. Oscar 
Brown--the Territory seemed full of Browns--to get medicine. Samuel Collins, 
who had heard of Laughlin's disclosures, dropped in. Collins remarked that a 
certain James Foreman had given Laughlin a cow to change his politics, and 
the accused made an appropriate retort. The lie was passed several times. A 
friend of Collins, James Lynch, tried to smooth matters out and got a threat 
for his pains. "God damn you, I will kick every rib in you out of you!" 
Lynch was a sensitive chap and once said that this embarrassed him very much 
coming from the mouth of a friend. Collins left the office with a promise to 
Laughlin: "You or I will land in hell before breakfast tomorrow morning." 
Mr. Lynch overcame his embarrassment and rushed out to get a peace warrant 
on the fire-eating Collins; he told the constable that the specified time 
was before breakfast. The night was cold, with the hardest fall freeze John 
Brown had ever seen south of Elba, but Laughlin was in the street before 
breakfast with a bucket of flour on his arm. Collins rushed out from his 
sawmill, brandishing a double-barrelled shot-gun, and demanded that Laughlin 
take back a variety of his previously expressed sentiments. "I haven't got 
anything to take back, said Laughlin, and his adversary aimed at the 
point-blank range of six yards. The gun clicked. There was a little 
one-sided knife play, with Laughlin dodging around, dangling his bucket, 
until Collins stabbed him in the left side. Collins again raised the gun 
with the idea of finishing his job. This time the gun went off, but Foreman, 
the alleged donor of the political cow, had knocked down the barrel so that 
the charge entered the ground at Laughlin's feet. Lynch, who had been 
aroused by the shout that Collins was going to kill everybody in town, fired 
from a doorway. The shot spattered on a board wall, Collins laid his 
sensitive friend out with the butt of his shot-gun and charged Laughlin. The 
victim of Collins' bowie knife now ran no chances. He got his pistol out , 
took cool aim, and fired. Collins dropped his upraised gun-barrel, and 
clasped his arms about his chest, crying, "O Lord." He wavered in his tracks 
for a moment and then sank dying to the ground. Mr. Collins' son clubbed 
Laughlin. His nephew threw a half-brick at the prostrate Irishman. 
Laughlin's brother got hold of the pistol, fired at the nephew, and 
deliberately presented it at the son. Young Collins threw up his hands. 
"Don't shoot me. He's killed my father!" Laughlin's brother lowered his gun. 
"The ground was covered with blood," said a witness, like one had been 
butchering a hog."

The excitement did not die down quickly. No one took out a warrant for 
Laughlin, but there were threats of summary justice for both him and Lynch 
from Free State sympathizers. The house where he lay was guarded, and as 
soon as possible he was moved over the Missouri line to St. Joseph. The news 
of the bloody matter must have reached Brownsville just before John Brown 
wrote his letter home on November 2: "I feel more and more confident that 
slavery will soon die out here,...and to God be the praise!" It is 
interesting to speculate what John Brown's sentiments were in the light of 
his own Masonic adventure and the murder of William Morgan; it is not at all 
unlikely that those sentiments were, logically, somewhat inconsistent. In 
any case the incident became grist for the Free State mill. 


The following account is from the pro-slavery "Squatter Sovereign" published 
at Atchison by J. H. Stringfellow, from Weston, Missouri and Robert S. Kelly 
from Newport, New Hampshire:

On Monday of last week a fight came off at Doniphan, in which bowie knives 
were used freely. The difficulty arose out of a political discussion, the 
combatants being a pro-slavery man and a free soiler. Both parties were 
badly cut, and we are happy to state that the free soiler is in a fair way 
to peg out, while the pro-slavery man is out and ready for another tilt. 
Kansas is a hard road for free soilers to travel. 


The following account is found in a chapter of The Illustrated Doniphan 
County History about the founding of Methodist churches in area:

"The same year that Reverend Goode was made Presiding Elder of the 
Kansas-Nebraska District, 1854, the first Methodist service was held in 
Doniphan County in the tent of Chief Wathena on Peters Creek. The Indians 
were fervent converts, once the idea of religion was thoroughly understood 
and imbued. The following year three churches were organized; one at 
Smithton by Rev. Hiram Burch, one at Doniphan by Rev. A. L. Downey, and one 
at Palermo, but the name of the pastor is not obtainable, although it was 
probably one of the above. Rev. Downey of Doniphan was ably assisted in his 
work at that place by Rev. Samuel Collins, who set up the first saw mill in 
that town. Politics were a serious issue in those days, and Mr. Collins met 
a tragic death in the autumn of 1855, being shot to death by an unseen 


Another account of Samuel Collins' death comes from a book entitled, The 
Conquest of Kansas by Missouri and Her Allies by William Phillips, who was a 
special correspondent of the New York Tribune, for Kansas:

Early in the summer of 1855, a young Irishman, named Patrick Laughlin, who 
lived in the territory near Doniphan, became an active participant in the 
free-state movement. He had been reputed a proslavery man at first, but 
affected to be impressed in favor of freestate principles out of sympathy 
with the free-state men, and condemnation of the conduct of Missouri. After 
the March election, meetings were held in all parts of the territory to 
discuss the state of affairs and devise a remedy. Into these meetings
Laughlin intruded himself under pretense of being a convert to the cause. 
Mr. Laughlin is a young man under thirty. He has resided in Kentucky, in 
which state I believe he kept a grocery for a short time. His person is 
rather under middle height, and thick-set. His head is large, face rather 
flabby, red and pimpled. He exhibited some little ability, had received a 
good common education, would speak passably well, and was possessed of an 
unusual amount of cunning. In the free-state meetings he pretended to have 
been converted from the pro-slavery faith by the outrages of the 
Missourians, and was, under the circumstances, willing to work to make 
Kansas a free state. During the summer he was elected one of the delegates 
from Doniphan precinct to the Big Springs Convention....

Several secret military organizations were formed. The most important of 
these was the Kansas Legion. Its object was to enroll men to be ready at any 
moment for the defense of the territory. It also had signs and passwords, by 
which one member could appeal to others for assistance in case he was 
attacked by the common enemy. They were bound by an obligation to secrecy. 
This organization, which has acquired some celebrity, never held the 
position in the territory which it is often supposed to have held. It was 
short in its duration, and, while most flourishing, was limited in extent as 
regards the territory. Many of those who enrolled in it disapproved of its 
unnecessary secrecy, got tired of its useless requirements and formality, 
and, while they saw nothing really improper in its character or objects, 
contended that these would be better served with independent companies. 
Besides, its secrecy and mode of operating gave an opportunity of filling 
important places in it to men who had not the confidence of their respective 
communities. It was, to some extent, an imitation of the Blue Lodge of 
Missouri, although unlike that body, it did not proposed to interfere with 
the rights of others, but only to defend its own. From the secret character 
of the organization, and the causes I have enumerated, it fell into 
disrepute a few months after it was organized.

Into this Kansas Legion Pat Laughlin was admitted, and succeeded so far in 
gaining confidence that he was chosen to form several new encampments, and 
did so. At the Big Springs Convention he made most zealous declarations in 
favor of free-state principles, and was placed on some of the most important 
committees. Returning to Doniphan, Laughlin formed an encampment or branch 
of the Kansas Legion, and administered the oath of secrecy to a considerable 
number of the citizens of that place, whom the necessity for defense and the 
novelty of the mode proposed induced to join it. Amongst those thus 
initiated was a Mr. Collins, who had a saw-mill in Doniphan. Mr. Collins was 
a Western man, a prominent free-state man in that locality, and became an 
officer in the Legion referred to.
At what particular moment Pat Laughlin concluded to desert the cause in 
which he was thus actively engaged, or whether he had been all along a spy 
and a traitor, is and must remain a mystery. His own statements, about an 
awakened conscientiousness and sudden opening of his eyes to the evils of 
this organization , are clearly incredible. His neighbors in Doniphan do not 
hesitate to state that he was bought up, and even specify, amongst other 
articles received, a cow. Whether such purely mercenary motives prevailed 
with him, or if he felt that he could, in the position and with the power 
entrusted to him, make more by going back to the pro-slavery men than by 
remaining, is a matter of no consequence. He began to covenant with the 
pro-slavery men, not only about Doniphan but in Atchison and over in 
Missouri, and after due deliberation published his expose, which obtained no 
little notoriety at the time, from the fact that the pro-slavery press were 
anxious to publish anything that would, or might, militate against the 
free-state men. In this publication Laughlin not only distorted the facts, 
but made many mis-statements; still a perusal of his expose offers noting 
particularly remarkable.

Had Laughlin remained content with making the expose, it probably would have 
elicited nothing more than the hearty contempt of all with whom he had been 
acting. He was taken by the hand, patronized by the pro-slavery leaders, who 
doubtless intended to turn his peculiar qualities to account. While thus 
acting with these men he was secretly intriguing with the enemies of the 
free-state men about Doniphan, and fomenting in the bosoms of the violent 
borderers hostility to these men, thus endangering their personal safety. It 
was at this stage of affairs that Mr. Collins chanced to meet Laughlin in 
the office of a physician. As was natural, violent words passed between 
them, and there would probably have been violence of some kind but for the 
interference of the bystanders.
It was on the ensuing morning, the 25th of October, that the unhappy 
recounter took place. Laughlin's pro-slavery friends assert that Collins was 
armed and seeking Laughlin when the affair happened, but the fact of its 
occurrence close to the saw-mill of Mr. Collins, where the latter gentleman 
and his sons were employed, and the fact that Laughlin and three or four 
other pro-slavery men were there, armed, makes it certain that they came 
there armed. That Collins was also armed and prepared for a conflict is 
likely. After they had come together, and warm words had passed between 
them, it is probable that they might have parted peaceably had not Laughlin 
thrown an insulting remark towards Collins. The latter instantly turned on 
him. A pro-slavery man, who stood thirty yards off, fired at Collins, and it 
is supposed hit him. Collins discharged his gun without effect, and as 
Laughlin drew a pistol and pointed it at Collins, the latter grasped his gun 
by the barrel and advanced on him, when Laughlin fired. Collins fell dead, 
and his sons and nephews fled, but not till there had been some more firing 
and fighting with bowie-knives, in which several were wounded on both sides. 
Laughlin was seriously wounded with a knife early in the scuffle.

Meanwhile, Laughlin was taken to the town of Atchison, where, after he had 
recovered, he was employed as a salesman in a pro-slavery man's store. 


Because of the magnitude of the events in Kansas and their importance for 
national politics in this decade just before the outbreak of the Civil War, 
a special committee of the Congress was empaneled to investigate the 
"Troubles in Kansas". The report of the committee comprises a volume of more 
than 1200 pages which was published in Washington in 1856. Most of the 
testimony concerning the murder of Samuel Collins is biased due to the fact 
that those interviewed by the committee were all part of the Pro-Slavery 

John Lynch called and sworn. 

To Mr. Scott: 

I reside at Doniphan city, in this Territory, and have resided there since 
March, 1855. I was there at the time of the difficulty in which Samuel 
Collins was killed. I was in Dr. Brown's office the night before Collins was 
killed. Up to that time Mr. Collins and myself had been on very friendly 
terms, though we were of different politics. I was sitting down in a chair 
with my legs crossed, in Dr. Brown's office, when Collins was advancing 
towards me, as I supposed, to attack Laughlin, who was behind me, and 
between whom and Collins some very hard words had just passed, the lie being 
several times passed between them. Mr. Collins was standing close to me, and 
I thought Laughlin, from the sound of his voice, was almost directly behind 
me, which made me afraid to change my position. I requested Mr. Collins not 
to run over me. He said, "Damn you, I will kick every rib in you out of 
you." I could not say anything I was so embarrassed at that. I still 
remained in the chair, and did not leave the office until Mr. Collins had 
left it. As Collins left the house, he stood in the door and shaking his 
finger at me, he said "Damn you, I will take your life." I made no reply to 
him and he left. I also left and went with Mr. Laughlin to Squire Vandevere 
and got out a peace warrant against Collins, and then I put in the hands of 
a constable, and told him where I understood the threats would be put in 
execution, and requested him to be in before that time.

I was at my breakfast the next morning in one of the rooms of the hotel, 
when I heard some yelling out of doors. I heard some one say that Mr. 
Collins was going to kill everybody in town. I looked out of the window and 
then rushed out of the door, supposing I was one of the threatened. When I 
got out of doors I saw Mr. Collins flourishing a knife before Mr. Laughlin. 
I could not say what Mr. Laughlin was doing, but I thought he was dodging 
behind Mr. Foreman, who seemed to be trying to intercede between them. This 
was between thirty and forty feet from the hotel, perhaps fifty feet. As my 
life had been threatened the night before, I seized my gun when I got up 
from the breakfast table, and took it with me out of doors, and when I got 
to the corner of the hotel in sight of the parties, I fired it in the 
direction of Mr. Collins. I then advanced, and we met each other and struck 
at each other with our guns, which we had clubbed, and I fell, and I know 
nothing of what took place there afterwards. From the threats that had been 
made against my life, I shot at Collins in what I considered a necessary 
defence of my life. I cannot tell whether I hit Mr. Collins or not. 

Cross-examined by Mr. Howard: 

My gun was a smooth bore shot gun. I do not know what it was loaded with, as 
it had been loaded by some one else, and I suppose had been brought home 
loaded. I do not know who had borrowed it, but I frequently loaned it to 
persons to go duck hunting. I suppose I was between forty and fifty feet, 
perhaps sixty feet, from Collins when I fired on him, and then we both 
advanced towards each other. 

James Lynch Leavenworth City, K.T., May 26, 1856. 

Allen B. Lyon called and sworn. 

To Mr. Scott:

I reside at Doniphan city, in Doniphan county, in this Territory; and was 
there building a house in October and November, 1855, and was there at the 
time of the difficulty between Patrick Laughlin, James Lynch, and Samuel 
Collins, residents of Doniphan; in which difficulty Collins was killed. The 
circumstances of the killing of Collins, so far as I know them, were these: 
On the evening prior, I was in the office of Dr. Oscar Brown, where I slept. 
Mr. Laughlin came in inquiring for the doctor. Mr. Collins came in about 
fifteen minutes afterwards. Laughlin was lying on the bed, complaining of 
being sick. Several gentlemen came in with Mr. Collins. After they had been 
there some time, Laughlin got up and walked around near Collins, and 
inquired of him why he had hailed him on the street the day before when 
passing Collins' mill, and insulted him in the manner that he had. Collins 
denied having done so. Laughlin declared he had, and he could not be 
mistaken in the man at that distance. Collins then told he was a a damned 
liar, and a damned perjured scoundrel, that he had published infamous lies 
to the world, and that he (Collins) would make him take them all back; "or," 
said he, "you or I, one will land in hell"--or eternity, I forget 
which-"before breakfast to-morrow morning." Laughlin told Collins he was a 
damned liar; upon which Collins rose from the sofa upon which he was sitting 
by my side, and advanced towards him. I caught Collins by the arm, and tried 
to persuade him to desist. He sat down, but soon got up again; told Laughlin 
to prepare himself; that he would be up in the morning early, and that he 
would make him take back all he had said and published, stating that he was 
not then armed, and he knew Laughlin was armed. Collins did not say what 
publications of Laughlin's he alluded to. This was a few days after Laughlin 
had published what purported to be an exposition of a secret military 
society in the Territory; and, so far as I know, there was no other 
publication of Laughlin's made at or about that time. Mr. Laughlin replied 
to Collins that he had nothing to take back of what he had stated, and what 
he had published was true; and has he had done nothing more than what every 
honest man ought to do, he was not afraid to meet Collins in any way. 
Collins made a statement in regard to Laughlin, that he understood James 
Foreman had given Laughlin a cow to change his politics, and publish this 
exposition. Laughlin told him he was a damned liar, and Collins started 
towards him, as though he intended to attack him. Mr. Lynch, who was sitting 
between the two, threw up his hands, and requested Mr. Collins not to 
advance. Mr. Collins threatened to kick every rib out of Lynch's body; and 
told him, damn him, he would kill him. Mr. Lynch immediately left the room, 
and a few minutes afterwards Mr. Collins left, saying, as he went, that he 
would certainly be back in the morning, and Laughlin should be ready. A 
short time afterwards, we heard the report of a gun, and then while we 
looked out of the window, I saw the flash and heard the report of two guns, 
apparently in the yard of Mr. Collins' house. Mr. Lynch and Mr. Laughlin 
went that night to get out a peace warrant against Collins. Early the next 
morning, somewhere about sunrise, young Mr. Collins came over and told me he 
wished to re-measure some lumber his father had sold me, stating that he 
thought it had not been measured correctly. He went to the lumber pile, and 
measured some small quantity, not one half of the lumber, and then young 
Collins went back home. Laughlin at that time was standing in the main 
street of Doniphan, about twenty steps from me, talking with Mr. James 
Foreman and some others. A few minutes afterward, I started to breakfast. 
When I got to the corner upon which the hotel stands, I met Mr. Collins, his 
two sons, and a nephew. Mr. Collins had a double-barrel shot gun in his 
hand, both barrels cocked. Mr. Laughlin was walking directly from Collins, 
about twenty yards in advance, with his back towards Collins. I tried to 
attract the attention of Mr. Collins , but he paid no attention to me. He 
called to Laughlin, and said, "stop God damn you, and take back everything 
you have said, or I will put sixteen through you," and kept advancing on him 
all the time, frequently repeating his demand to Laughlin to take back what 
he had said and published. Laughlin turned round, and stood with a bucket of 
flour on his arm, and told Collins he had nothing to take back, and nothing 
that he could take back. When within about six yards of him, Collins drew up 
his gun, pointed it at Laughlin, and pulled one trigger; the gun did not go 
off. He then rushed upon Laughlin, cursing furiously, drew a large knife 
from his breast, flourished it in front of Laughlin's neck two or three 
times, demanding that he should take back what he had said. Laughlin 
refused, and he plunged the knife into Laughlin's left side. Laughlin 
staggered several steps back, retreating from him. Collins then drew up his 
gun again, and presented it at Laughlin; and as he pulled the trigger, Mr. 
Foreman got his hand upon the barrel of the gun, and forced the muzzle down, 
and the contents entered the ground between Laughlin's feet. At this moment 
a gun was fired from the bar of the hotel. I heard the shot strike against 
the fence on the opposite side of the street. Mr. Collins immediately 
wheeled round, throwing up the breach of his gun, and advanced. Mr. Lynch 
met him with a shot gun in his hand, holding it by the barrel. Mr. Collins 
struck at Mr. Lynch who received the blow on his gun, and the breeches of 
both guns were broken off. The next blow Mr. Collins knocked Mr. Lynch down. 
It was not until Mr. Collins' attention was drawn towards Mr. Lynch that Mr. 
Laughlin attempted to draw a weapon. I had been watching him very closely, 
wondering why he did not do it before. After Mr. Collins had knocked Mr. 
Lynch down, he turned round and advanced towards Laughlin, with the barrels 
of his gun raised as for a blow. Mr. Laughlin had his pistol out and fired 
at Mr. Collins, wo dropped his gun barrels and clasped his arms around his 
breast, and cried out, "Oh, Lord!" He soon sank down on the ground, and died 
in a few minutes. Mr. Laughlin was knocked down with a club, just after he 
had fired his pistol, by son of Mr. Collins, I think. After Laughlin fell, 
Mr. Collins' nephew threw a piece of brick at him, which just brushed his 
hair. Mr. Laughlin's brother ran up at this moment, and seized the pistol 
which had fallen out of the hands of his brother, and fired at Mr. Collins' 
nephew, who was running away, and the ball just grazed the side of his neck. 
He then turned and presented the pistol and young Collins, who had knocked 
his brother down, who threw up both hands and asked him not to shoot, that 
his father was dead, and he desisted. I then went up to Mr. Collins, opened 
his bosom, saw that he had received several shot in his right side. The 
fight then stopped, and those who had been shot and knocked down were then 
carried away. The ground was covered with blood, like one had been 
butchering a hog, and I thought there were at least three persons 
killed--Collins, Laughlin and Lynch.

The town was in a state of disquiet and alarm for some weeks afterwards, in 
consequence of what had taken place, and the threats that were made against 
the lives of Laughlin and Lynch. While Mr. Laughlin was confined to his bed 
at the house of Mr. James Foreman, some excitement was caused by the report 
that some one had attempted to break into the house, whereupon a guard was 
placed around the house to protect him. As soon as possible, Laughlin was 
removed to St. Joseph, Missouri. I did not myself hear any threats made 
against Laughlin and Lynch, but such was the rumor. The officer told me that 
a peace warrant was taken out and placed in his hands to be used on Collins 
the night before the fight, and he got into town a few minutes after the 
fight had taken place. Collins was notorious for being a free State man. 

Cross-examined by Mr. Howard:

I understood that Mr. Collins had been living in that neighborhood for some 
months, and at the time he was killed was running a steam saw mill. I also 
understood, that Mr. Laughlin had been living there for some months; both of 
them were comparatively old residents, and had been free State men and 
acting together up to a short time before this difficulty, when Laughlin had 
changed his politics and published to the world what he styled an exposition 
of a secret military organization, and had implicated Mr. Collins in it, as 
colonel of the Doniphan regiment in that organization. Mr. Collins was from 
Andrew county, Missouri, where I had been acquainted with him. Mr. Lynch was 
from Kentucky, and was a pro-slavery man. Collins' two sons and his nephew 
were free State men. Mr. James Foreman was a pro-slavery man. Mr. Foreman 
tried to stop Mr. Collins as he first went towards Laughlin, and succeeded 
in pushing down Collins' gun as he fired. He seemed to be using every effort 
to prevent the shedding of blood. I think that this was a political 
difficulty. Mr. Lynch and Mr. Collins seemed to be friendly up to the time 
of the altercation in Mr. Brown's office. All seemed anxious to prevent the 
shedding blood except Mr. Collins, his sons, and his nephew. On the morning 
of the fight, one of the young Collins had a dogwood club in his hand about 
four feet long, and as large round as a man's wrist. I did not notice 
whether the other two young men had anything or not. I never learned why the 
guns were fired in Collins' yard after he had left Brown's office. 

A. B. Lyon

Leavenworth City, K.T., May 26, 1856. 

Two days later, May 28, 1856, Patrick Laughlin himself testified before the 
same Congressional Committee. The following are relevant excerpts from 
Laughlin's testimony found beginning on page 905 of the report. 

I came to Kansas Territory, from Kentucky, in May 1855, and settled at 
Doniphan in June. When I first went there I was a pro-slavery man. I heard a 
great deal of complaint by free-soilers of the laws being violated and 
people coming over from Missouri to the election; sympathized very strongly 
with them, and endeavored as far as I could to vindicate their cause. I 
became notorious in the neighbor hood for vindicating their cause, and I 
avowed myself a free-soiler about the middle of August,1855. We had a 
district meeting of our party at the house of A. Larzelere. This meeting was 
for the purpose of sending delegates to a free State convention, to be held 
at Big Springs the 5th of September following. I acted as secretary of that 
meeting, and elected as a delegate to go to that convention. I was solicited 
the day following the meeting by several of the delegates to go ahead of 
them several days, for the purpose of having some printing done, and seeing 
what state the party was in, in other portions of the Territory. On the 27th 
of August I started from Doniphan for Lawrence, where I was to remain until 
the rest of the delegates came up. I stopped at Oceana, a place about ten 
miles from Atchison and fifteen from Doniphan. I went into the store of 
Messrs. Crosty; I had been told before getting there that these men were 
Yankees and abolitionists. I went into his house and made known to him my 
business; he then made me acquainted with a secret military organization, by 
which he said the free State party was strengthened and enabled to carry our 
their designs more effectually. After initiating me into this organization, 
he gave me two books sealed up, also a letter of introduction to a man at 
Grasshopper, all whose name I do not remember. I went there to deliver the 
letter and books to the gentleman, whose name I now believe to be Whitney, 
who was to gather a company together, and in the presence of this company I 
was to open the seal around these books. The company was gathered the next 
morning, about fourteen in number, and I broke the seal and administered 
according to the directions of Mr. Crosty. I not having time to remain among 
them, left them to elect their own officers, and organize their company. I 
also had a letter of introduction to G. W. Brown, of the "Herald of 
Freedom," from Mr. Crosty. I went on to Lawrence, and delivered the letter 
to Mr. Brown; I told him that I was a member of the secret order. I then was 
shown a good number of Sharp's rifles by Mr. Brown, who told me they were 
sent out by the Emigrant Aid Company. I remained in Lawrence until the 5th 
of September, when the convention before spoken of met; I went to this 
convention and together, with Mr. Collins, of Doniphan, was put by our 
delegation on the committee on platform, and several other committees. I was 
also made a member of the executive committee, and was appointed it (sic) in 
company with two (sic) Atkins, to act as a kind of governing committee, for 
the north side of Kansas river. It was the duty of this committee to see 
that all mails belonging to free State men of Kansas were to be carried 
through with safety, and in order to do this it was necessary to appoint 
mail carrier and other facilities....

After the convention was over I returned to Lawrence, and got four more 
books of the same kind I got of Crosty, there being two packages of each. 
These books contained the constitution and ritual of the grand encampment of 
the Kansas Legion. I received them from G. W. Brown, editor of the "Herald 
of Freedom," with instructions that I was not to break the seals until I had 
organized two subordinate encampments, when I was to break the seals, and 
deliver one package to the colonel of each encampment. I was to organize one 
at Doniphan, and one in the territory north of Doniphan, at any place I 
might think to be a suitable point. I organized one at Doniphan the day that 
I returned, and delivered as directed. I then went out into the Territory to 
organize another, but after being out about six miles I returned back to 
Doniphan, where I broke open the seal and read the constitution and ritual 
for the first time. I did not organize any in the county afterwards. At the 
meeting at which I was appointed delegate to the Big Springs convention the 
arguments of Dr. G. A. Cutler, C. W. Steward, A Larzelere, B. Harding, and 
others, were to urge the necessity of a secret society, something on the 
order of the Know-nothings, by which they could unite their force and labor 
more effectually against the pro-slavery party. This idea was received with 
acclamation by all of them except myself. I being an Irishman myself by 
birth, was opposed to the measure, as it was too much like Know-nothingism, 
and told them it they pressed it they would find me their most inveterate 
enemy. They said they had better do without it; that they were too feeble to 
have any disturbance in their ranks. We had several speeches from those I 
have named, together with S. Collins, John Free, and B. G. Cady. They told 
us we must do all we could to keep slavery out of Kansas, and sooner than 
permit slavery in Kansas, or even submit to the repeal of the Missouri 
compromise, they ought to go for a disunion, and to take up arms against the 
authorities, and, in order to effect this purpose, they would shed the last 
drop of their blood, as they out to do. Those speeches were received with 
applause. When Mr. Brown showed me the rifles at Lawrence he told me that 
they would continue to send arms, men, and means to make Kansas a free State 
by force, if necessary. He told me that these arms and munitions of war were 
sent as dry goods to the agents of the Emigrant Aid Society, who received 
them and gave them out to the people, and gave as a reason why there were 
thus secretly sent was that they might not be detected by the United States 

It was immediately after I returned from the convention at Big Springs that 
I turned back and would not organized a regiment back of Doniphan. After 
that I took the statements I have referred to. I did not communicate my 
intention not to organize any more regiments to any one until some time in 
October, when I left the free State party and have since acted with the 
pro-slavery party. I was present at the siege of Lawrence when the free 
State hotel was destroyed, and would have been present at the first if I had 
been able. I have held no office in the Territory except under the executive 
committee of the free State party. 

To Governor King:

I am the individual who had the difficulty with Samuel Collins, at Doniphan, 
about the first of November last, which resulted in his death. I know that 
that difficulty grew out of the fact that I made such disclosures to the 
public as I have referred to in my testimony. 

Pat Laughlin

Leavenworth City, K.T., May 28, 1856. 

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