The Doy Rescue

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On Friday, July 22 1859, ten men from Lawrence, Kansas arrive in St. Joseph, Missouri pretending to be cattlemen, gold miners, travelers and business men. Their purpose- to break Dr. John Doy out of the St. Joseph jail before he was taken to the penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo. to serve a five-year sentence for slave-stealing.

 Early in the year, January 25, John Doy, his son Charles, age 25, and a driver, Mr. Clough in two wagons, were transporting 13 free Negroes from Lawrence, north toward Holton and away from danger. There had been several raids kidnapping freemen and selling them into slavery. The passengers were eight men, three women and two children. All the adults except two had their free papers, and the other two were known to be free. About 12 miles out of Lawrence the group was ambushed by about 20 armed men on horseback. They were taken to Weston, Mo. and then to Platte City, where Doy and his son were imprisoned and the Negroes were sold into slavery. Mr. Clough was allowed to return to Lawrence with the horses. After 2 months of harsh conditions in the jail, the two men were put on trial. At their request of a change of venue they were sent to St. Joseph on March 24. There the jury could not agree on a verdict and Doy's son was released, but Doy remained in jail. In late June John Doy was convicted of slave stealing. He appealed, lost his appeal, and waited in the St. Joseph jail to be transported to the state prison.(1)

 By Saturday, July 23, the ten Lawrence men had investigated the circumstances of the jail and the route to the river. Silas Soule was detailed to enter the jail with a supposed message for Doy from his wife. While there he carefully took note of the surroundings, and "succeeded in turning the attention of the jailer away from him long enough to pass to Doy, through the grates, a ball of twine and a paper, on which was written, 'Tonight, at twelve o'clock' ". Late in the evening Soule and Senix were detailed to keep an eye on the watchman, and about 10:45 PM the group started toward the jail. Because there had been a thunderstorm, and they were past the business district, it was so dark they had to hold hands to keep track of one another.  Willis and Gardner brought  Simmons, playing the part of a horse thief, to the door of the jail, and roused the jailer, demanding that the "horse thief" be placed in jail until morning. When the jailer complied and they got into the main part of the jail, Gardner said, "This is but a ruse to take the Doctor to his family." When the jailer "saw three powerful men with deadly weapons in their hands and determination on their faces, he saw that resistance was useless, and he permitted Doy to come out..."(2)

 After threatening the jailer against raising an alarm, the group moved toward town. The moon now provided them some light, then the street lights of town aided their escape. They reached town just as the theater was getting out, so they mixed with the crowd and made their way toward the river where they had hidden some boats. Crossing the river to the community of Elwood, Kansas, they made their escape and arrived in Lawrence on Monday the 25thof July, 1859 where they had several photos taken by photographer A.G. DaLee. There are at least 3 poses. Copies are owned by the Kansas Historical Society, Topeka, and at least one by the Colorado Historical Society, Denver. Apparently a lot of copies were produced. In the back of Doy's book (reference 1, below) there is an ad for "Portraits of Dr. Doy and his Rescuers. Any party sending by mail twenty-five cents in postage stamps, will obtain a fine likeness of Dr. Doy, and also the grouped picture of the heroic Kansas men who rescued him. Price at wholesale, $5.00 a Hundred. Address, R.B. Weddle P.O. Box 1844, New York City."

                             The Doy Rescue Party

                                                                                                                                    Anne E. Hemphill Collection

               Left to right: Maj. James B. Abbott, Capt. Joshua Pike, Jacob Senix, Joseph Gardner, Thomas Simmons, Dr. John 

            Doy (seated), S.J. Willis, Charles Doy, Capt. John E. Stuart, Silas S. Soule, George R. Hay




(1)  The Thrilling Narrative of Dr. John Doy of Kansas, Slavery As It Is, Inside and Out Boston, Thayer and Eldridge, 1860

(2)  "The Rescue of Dr. John Doy", Maj. James B. Abbott, Kansas Historical Collections, 1886-1886, v. 4, (Topeka: State Printer, 1890)

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