Samuel Collins

Town of Doniphan 1854-1881

Located in the Southeast corner of the county, the town flourished until a Missouri flood washed out the railroad bed.

Samuel Collins (1810-1855) was born in Gallia County, Ohio and in 1830 moved with his family to Indiana where he married in 1831. In 1842 he and his wife moved to Missouri and then, in the spring of 1855, to the new town of Doniphan, Kansas Territory, on the river downstream from St. Joseph. Collins there built the first steam saw-mill in Kansas, "a very complete affair for the times and [at a] cost not far from ten thousand dollars." He also assisted as a lay preacher in the Doniphan Methodist Church. He was active in free-state politics and was elected to the Big Springs meeting. [Donald Collins,]

Also elected to Big Springs from Doniphan was a tinsmith from Kentucky named Patrick Laughlin. At Big Springs, Laughlin served on the Platform Committee which established the opposition of the Free-State Party to black settlement in Kansas. He was a member of the "Kansas Legion," sometimes called the "Danites," having joined at Crosby's store in Oceana on the way to Big Springs. This secret society of free-state men, patterned on Masonic rituals was prepared to defend their communities with armed resistance to the Missouri border ruffians. Laughlin was charged with spreading the movement to Doniphan County, but at some point he became disaffected and told the group's secrets to the pro-slavery Atchison Squatter Sovereign. [Blackmar, History, 112] Some suggested he had been bribed to betray the free-state side by James Foreman, a Bogus Legislator, with the gift of a cow. [Phillips, Conquest of Kansas, 141ff]

Collins, a volatile man himself, "declared Laughlin should confess that his revelations were lies or die." On the evening of November 28, 1855, Collins met Laughlin and told him he "would come around in the morning tomorrow and one of them would breakfast in hell." The next day, when Collins did not come, Laughlin decided the affair was over and started across the street to his boarding house. There, in the street, he met Collins who attempted to shoot him but the weapon misfired. Collins then drew a knife and stabbed Laughlin, wounding him badly. Laughlin's friend Jim Lynch then shot Collins who turned to strike Lynch with his rifle stock. Collins died shortly after, but both Laughlin and Lynch recovered. [Cutler, History, 474]

The surviving parties were questioned by the Howard Congressional Committee. Patrick Laughlin told the committee of his experience with the Danites:

"On the 27th of August I started from Doniphan for Lawrence.... I stopped at Oceana, a place about ten miles from Atchison and fifteen from Doniphan. I went into the store of Messrs. [Crosby]; I had been told before getting there that these men were Yankees and abolitionists. I went into his house and made known to him my business; he then made me acquainted with a secret military organization, by which he said the free State party was strengthened and enabled to carry out their designs more effectually. After initiating me into this organization, he gave me two books sealed up, also a letter of introduction to a man at Grasshopper... I also had a letter of introduction to G. W. Brown, of the "Herald of Freedom," from Mr. [Crosby] I went on to Lawrence, and delivered the letter to Mr. Brown; I told him that I was a member of the secret order. I then was shown a good number of Sharp's rifles by Mr. Brown, who told me they were sent out by the Emigrant Aid Company. I remained in Lawrence until the 5th of September, when the convention before spoken of met; I went to this convention and together, with Mr. Collins, of Doniphan..." [Howard Committee, 905]

The Danites, borrowing their biblical name from the Mormon group formed in Missouri during the 1838 "Mormon War" in Missouri, were founded by Charles Leonhardt, a German immigrant typesetter for the Lawrence Herald of Freedom. Leonhardt exchanged letters with the Danite traitor, Patrick Laughlin, after Collins death. Leonhardt had gone to Doniphan in early 1858. Laughlin wrote January 30, 1858, asking whether Leonhardt had been sent from Lawrence to kill him. Leonhardt wrote back: "I am not in habit of taking insults, you better not ask that question twice, if you don't want a thrashing." The Herald of Freedom reported: "Pat left at once, and is now in Missouri." [Mildfelt, Secret Danites, 97]

Charles Clark