Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Blackfaw #1

The journey from Illinois was long but the journey from Westport to MacPherson seemed to be even longer. MacPherson barely existed but it had ample land for farming which was what beckoned Jonathan Anderson to Kansas. Jonathan brought his eldest son, 17-year-old Nathaniel, and 14-year-old Emma to the prairie. His wife, Abigail, and youngest daughter, Lucy, stayed behind in Illinois while the three of them got settled.

The wooden cabin sat on 30 acres half a mile from town. It was here that Jonathan, Nathaniel and Emma would stay while they farmed the land and built a new house. The first few days were uneventful but in the afternoon on the third day, a group of men came up to the cabin while Nathaniel was splitting wood and Jonathan and Emma were getting ready to start plowing the back field.

“You’re from Illinois?” one of the men asked.

Jonathan looked at the men uneasily. “Yeah,” he answered.

“One of them damned abolitionists?” another asked.

“I’m not here for any politics,” Jonathan answered. “I just came here for the land.”

“But you’re gonna vote,” another man sneered. “So who you gonna vote for?”

“The man I think will do a good job,” Jonathan shrugged. “What do you want?”

“You out if you’re one of those free-staters.”

“I don’t care which way the territory blows. I’m just here for the land,” Jonathan assured and went back to helping Emma.

“Well, you better pick a side,” one of the men threatened. “Cuz if you ain’t with us, then you have no business being here.”

“I’m going to kindly ask you to get off of my land,” Jonathan said.

“We’ll be back,” another man said.

Shortly after the men left, Nathaniel came over to Jonathan and Emma. “What side are we on?”

“We will respect whatever the people decide but, for what it’s worth, I’m personally opposed to slavery. I don’t think it’s right nor do I really see a reason for it. Was I going to tell them that? Not a chance. The whole thing will be decided soon and, honestly, even if slavery is chosen, I don’t see it lasting much longer.”

Another week had went by. The house and farm were coming along nicely and it would be only a couple more weeks before Jonathan would send for his wife and daughter. It was a cool night when the horses came riding up to the house. The men hopped off their horses and began lighting tree branches for torches. They each went to a corner of the house and rested the torch near. Within minutes, the house was engulfed. The men each stood by a possible exit with their guns aimed. A figure came running for the back door, the man fired and the figure went down.

The other men came around to that side to look and see who he shot. They carefully approached the burning house and saw that the person they shot was Nathaniel. They watched as the body in the doorway of the house.

“Think we got everyone, George?” one of the men asked.

“No one could survive that,” George spat. “Come on, men. Let’s get out of here before the sheriff arrives.”

The men climbed back on their horses and rode away from the burning house and town. Several hundred yards from the house was a small creek. Emma waited on the banks of the creek for nearly an hour after the men rode away watching, through her tears, her family’s new house burn. When she saw the townspeople trying to put out the fire, she walked back up the house.

“Good lord, we thought the fire got everyone,” the sheriff said. “Do you know how this started?”

“Those men started it. Those…buckwackers or whatever they are called. They started the fire and they shot Nathaniel as he tried to escape,” Emma started crying harder. “They rode off that way about an hour ago,” she pointed down the road, past the creek.

“Well, they’re long gone now,” the sheriff sighed. “We know who you’re talking about but there’s no way we could catch them now.”

“What am I supposed to do? No one is going to bring them to justice, my father and brother are dead, I have no home and my mother is back in Illinois,” Emma sobbed.

“Figure out a way to get back to Illinois, little girl,” the sheriff said. Most of the crowd had dispersed as the house smoldered. The bodies of Jonathan and Nathaniel were loaded onto a cart and it was being wheeled away toward town. “There’s nothing here for you anymore.”