James M. Arthur

James Arthur was a 38 year old farmer from Indiana who emigrated to Sugar Creek in Linn county in August 1854. He was appointed as an election judge in the March, 1855 election by Governor Reeder. Arthur told the Howard Committee that he wanted to swear the voters but was overruled by the other two judges and consequently resigned. Although there were not more than 35 residents on Sugar Creek, over 100 votes were cast. Henry Younger, who was said to have a claim three or four miles below Arthur's, was elected. Younger had built a small shanty on his claim a few days before the election, but had not roofed or floored the building and never lived in it. Arthur remained all day to watch the voting and had several discussions with Younger, whose position on the franchise was that all who happened to be in Kansas Territory on election day had a right to vote under the "Douglas Bill." Arthur testified the Missourians brought a wagon load of rifles to the polling place and stacked them in the yard. On their person, they carried bowie knifes and pistols. [Howard Report, 232]

Fort Montgomery 1855

Jayhawker Fort built after James Montgomery's Linn county house was burned by Missourians

Because he had testified before the Howard Committee, Arthur was set upon by pro-slavery men. In November 1856, his house was burned and his stock driven off. [Everett, Letters, 154] His wife was threatened while Arthur hid beneath a bench. Mrs. Arthur was forced to "get up an elaborate dinner" for six men who "showed their appreciation after eating...by threatening to blow her damned head off unless she told the hiding place of her husband." The shock she suffered caused her "to become a physical and almost a mental wreck." [Mitchell, Linn County, 111] One account said she was "so shamefully abused that for two years she was insane." [Cutler, History, Linn County, Part 2]

Arthur remained a staunch free-state man, though. He was at the Big Spring Meeting and was elected to the Topeka Convention. A journalist describes him in Topeka as a "western man," the "very specimen of the quiet members of the convention" who spoke occasionally, "but never inflicted speeches."[Phillips, Conquest, 133] He voted with the free-state majority against striking the word "white" from the constitution, thus barring African- Americans from Kansas. [Cutler, History, Linn County, Part 2]

Arthur took up arms himself in December 1856, signing a receipt for "six U S. Breach loading Rifles and two U S muskets one box U S Caps and six Bullet molds for Rifles Said arms to be returned on the order of Said Kansas Central Committee." [KSHS, Item Number: 101319] Linn county was the home of the Jayhawkers and leaders James Montgomery and Charles Jennison were active in the neighborhood.

Arthur's political life included election as Chairman of Supervisors for Centerville Township, to the 1856 Free State Legislature, to the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention and to the 1866 Kansas State Legislature. All the while, Arthur lived in very modest circumstances. A visitor to his cabin in January 1859 wrote:

"I stopped the next (night) with Mr. Arthur, and such another place doesn't exist in Kansas. The door space was near me, and all night long the wind and snow blew on me, and in the morning snow was three inches deep all over my bed."[Hutchinson, Sketches, 399]

Charles Clark