William Barbee was born in Kentucky and was 29 years old in 1855. Another member of the Platte County bar, he left Platte County in September 1854 with the Leavenworth Town Company but moved on to the Fort Scott area when Governor Reeder appointed him census taker for the southern region. [Paxton, Annals, 188] Barbee at some point had spent some time in Illinois, for he told the Howard Committee that Governor Reeder had mistakenly thought Barbee was a free-state man from Illinois when Reeder appointed him census taker. [Howard Report, 243]
Barbee told the committee he planned to live in Ft. Scott and form a law partnership with House member Joseph Anderson, but they both became so absorbed in politics that they had not had a chance to practice law. An old Bourbon county settler said Barbee "was a fair man, who lived here several years. And Barbee Street in Ft. Scott is named for him." [Robley, History of Bourbon County, 36] On the other hand, the old settler wrote, Barbee in 1855 directed the election fraud in the Marmaton Valley:
"Many of (the legal) voters would have to travel forty or fifty miles to the polling place. It was not reasonable to suppose that they took such a journey to vote. Most of the votes cast came from covered wagons camped on the Marmaton bottom, "for one day only" which..."just swarmed over form Missouri.."
The Divided town of Fort Scott
Former officers' quarters became free-state hotel and infantry barracks, the pro-slavery hotel.
During the border troubles, Barbee was both a Brigadier General in the Kansas Militia and prosecuting attorney for the Second Judicial District in southern Kansas. Wearing his prosecutor's hat, he asked the notorious pro- slavery Judge Cato for a warrant to arrest John Brown, Jr. and others on a charge of treason against the United States. [Malin, Hoagland Examination, 144]
As a lawyer and a legislator, Barbee was often invited to speak. On the 4th of July 1856 at the new town of Cofachiqui, a pro-slavery stronghold, the Reverend Rice had to step in:
"Everbody in the country, fully twenty persons, was on hand. We proposed to make our first Fourth in the territory a big thing, and we did...We mashed down the tall bluestem and seated ourselves a la Indian to hear a young lady read the Declaration of Independence, and to hear General William Barbee, of Ft. Scott, deliver an eloquent oration. We soon learned, however, that he was so drunk and had the hiccoughs so bad that he could not talk. Some of the men gathered about me and said "You must make a speech. I had never tried before to pluck the eagle and sought to excuse myself, but the crowd began to cry for Rice, and more Rice, and I had to say something." [Rice, Experiences, 409]
Barbee died in an accident at Ft. Scott in December 1856. He was 31 years old. [Leavenworth Kansas Weekly Herald, January 10, 1857]