Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm Pickles Damn It! Part I

One of the Red Legs listed by William E. Connelley, was a man identified as "Pickles" or Samuel Wright. In his book John Brown and his Men, Richard Hinton described Pickles as "a reckless young fellow" who participated in a raid into Missouri in 1858 with John Brown. Hinton also claimed that Charles R. Jennison was one of the raiders. Pickles next appeared in the Linn County Herald in August 1859. The Lawrence Republican copied the report:

"The LINN COUNTY HERALD reported that "Pickles" Wright was decoyed to a grocery store located within a short distance of the Missouri-Kansas line, in the vicinity of Barnesville, on 5 Aug. 1859. The man who lured Wright to the store talked him into a game of "Seven Up." Within a short time the store was surrounded by about thirty armed Missourians. Wright told the man who had lured him into the trap to get out, and then barricaded himself inside. After a long parlay Wright agreed to surrender his two pistols and come out if the Missourians would give him a fair trial for his alleged crimes; to which the men agreed. Once Wright came out, however, the Missourians took three votes on the question of hanging him immediately, but could not decide the issue. Wright was taken across the line to Nevada, Mo., and then later to Fremont, in Cedar Co. "Captain" James Montgomery was contacted and went to the site. Montgomery and his men held a parlay with the Missourians across the borderline. About a forth of the Missourians were in favor of letting Wright go." The newspaper reported on September 29, that Pickles had "escaped from the Missouri jail and returned to Kansas."

Both the Fort Scott Democrat and The Daily Times of Leavenworth reported in February 1860, on the lynching of a man named Guthrie. Guthrie was wanted for horse theft near Barnesville, and was strung up by a mob of forty men. The newspapers reported that "Before his execution he made a confession implicating Pickles, Pat Devlin, [the man who supposedly coined the phase jayhawking in Kansas. I will have more on Devlin at some point], Hugh Carlan and others. A letter was found in [his] possession from a school teacher near Osawatomie [it is possible that this individual is Quantrill], which shows the organization to be very extensive and well regulated."

Pickles was arrested by a United States Marshal in May 1860, and taken to a penitentiary on the east coast. By July 1861, however, "Quill," a reporter for The Kansas State Journal submitted the following report from Washington D.C.:

"In my rambles, yesterday, I met with Mr. Wright, or 'Pickles,' of Kansas fame, in full military costume. His term in the penitentiary here expired about a month ago, when he immediately joined...Col. Butterfield's - New York regiment now on duty in the city. He is anxious to be transferred to one of the Kansas regiments, but says he is unwilling to go with any party that will follow plundering on any pretense. He admits that he was led astray when in Kansas, and often committed theft, but thinks his last year's experience the most profitable of his life. He claims to be a better man now, and it is said that he has joined an orthodox church here, a few weeks before he left prison. He was formerly from Pennsylvania, where his family have ever borne a rank of more than ordinary respectability; and this last step will accord far more with his parental training than did his Kansas life..."

By 1862 Pickles had returned to Kansas. The Daily Times in Leavenworth reported in October 1863, that Pickles was fined twenty dollars by the Mayor's Court for "visiting [a] house of ill-fame." A will have the rest of Pickles' story in part II of this blog post.


  1. Stuff like this makes me wonder what he found in Kansas. He could not have lived here that long*, so after spending a year in a DC prison, why come back to Kansas, especially if people here want to kill you. Why not Texas? Colorado? California?

    * Kinda like Grandma in "Josie Wales." When she says (it would be circa 1865), "We're from Kansas," she's not telling the whole truth. She must have lived far longer somewhere else before coming to Kansas.

  2. Matt, thanks so much for your efforts with this blog. You are providing me some fascinating insights into the Border War that I would otherwise never get.

    In a (perhaps feeble) attempt to contribute, here is an excerpt from Robley’s history of Bourbon County (1894)that touches on Pickles:

    In May, 1860, the notorious "Pickles" of Linn County, a general all-round thief; was arrested and brought to Fort Scott for trial for theft. His real name was Wright, but he got his nickname of "Pickles" for having, in one of his expeditions, stolen a two-quart jar of pickles and devoured them as he rode along. When taken into court he plead guilty to the charge of horse-stealing, and was at once sentenced to the penitentiary, as an act of discretion, to avoid falling into the hands of an Osage Vigilance Committee, who had assembled in town, headed by old Billy Baker with a rope. Some of Pickles' gang came down as far as the Osage and endeavored to raise a rescuing party, after the Ben Rice fashion, but they soon abandoned the project. The day for that sort of thing had passed. The vigilance committee mentioned, or anti-horse thief society, as they called themselves, which had been formed up about Mapleton, came into town to look after the Pickles trial, with an eye open for a possible attempt at rescue.

    Pickles fared better than did a man named Guthrie, who, some time before this, was found with a horse supposed not to belong to him, and was taken from the hands of a constable and hanged by this committee. They also got hold of Hugh Carlin, who had given the settlers on the Osage a good deal of trouble, and in the early part of July he was taken from the house of A. F. Monroe, without giving him time to dress, and that was the last of Hugh Carlin.

  3. I will venture a question. How is Robley's work regarded by the expert historians of today? Is Robley considered to have any particular bias on the events of the period? Are the "facts" presented in his history considered relatively reliable presentations of the actual events? I assume he relied to a great extent on hear-say, with the benefit of getting that input from folks who might have acutally heard or saw. Is there any document that examines Robley's methdology or provides a review of his work? Thanks to anyone who might be able to enlighten me a bit.