Stories about Silas

Episode in Palmyra

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"Every Sunday afternoon on the east side of the Santa Fe Hotel the boarders and many of the neighbors were treated to a sermon by Silas Soule. Each creed was delivered with all the earnestness of an ordained minister of each denomination.

Not only was Silas a wag and punster, but a fearless free-state agitator.  On one occasion when a report was circulated that the border ruffians were on the way to sack and burn Lawrence, every available man in Palmyra and vicinity took the trail for Lawrence to aid Lawrence in repelling the Missourians.  Silas was left as guard to the women and children.  One afternoon while the "men folks" were absent, a band of some twenty men on horseback came marching on the Santa Fe Trail east of town.  Silas met them on the trail near the head of the ravine-now filled in by erosion on the Clarridge farm, then a part of Palmyra.  The blue stem prairie grass in the ravine was considerably higher than a man's head.  As the cavalcade came within range, Silas gave the command "Halt" and brought his Sharps rifle to position to shoot.  The command was obeyed and Silas began to question their business.  The commander of the posse stated that they were on the hunt of runaway "niggers". Silas truthfully told them that there was not an escaped slave in Palmyra, but the leader of the band did not believe him and said that they would see.  Before the band could get in motion Silas issued a command to his imaginary men. "Lay low, boys, but don't shoot until I give the orders. I'll shoot first."  His orders-supposedly to a band of men hidden in the high grass, impressed the slave hunters that there was danger not only in the high grass ahead of them but on both sides.  After a few seconds of consideration among the band, they turned their horses' tails around about and soon disappeared eastward bound."

From an account of a paper written by Arthur W. Webster for the Old Settlers Meeting in Baldwin, Kansas in 1935.  Supplied by Katharine Kelley of Baldwin, Kansas in 1994.

Palmyra is part of what is now Baldwin City, Kansas

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