William A. Heiskell was 47 years old in 1855. Born in Kentucky, he had been in Kansas Territory for six years. Since 1852, he had held a license to trade with the Miamis at the Osage River Agency, issued by Indian Agent A. M. Coffey. [Barry, Annals,426] A resident eligible to do so, Heiskell voted for Thomas Johnson for Congressional Delegate in 1854, establishing himself as a member of the Atchison camp. [Connelly, Provisional Government, 52]
Paola in 1860
Heiskell stayed after the free-state triumph.
Soon after the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Heiskell and his brother-in-law David L. Peery were among the half dozen first residents of the area that would become the town of Paola and Heiskell was Paola's first postmaster at his trading post-store. Paola was laid out in the spring of 1855, and incorporated by the Bogus Legislature. The Paola Town Company members were Baptiste Peoria, Isaac Jacobs, A. M. Coffey and David Lykins, authorized to acquire title to land not exceeding 600 acres. The Board of Trustees appointed by the company to do the work of building the city that consisted of Heiskell and four others. Sue Heiskell, daughter of William and Emmeline Peery Heiskell was the first child born in Paola on May 31, 1857. [Cutler, History, Miami County]
Heiskell was appointed Brigadier General in the Kansas Militia and was in the field commanding Missouri volunteers when Governor Geary arrived in Kansas in September 1856. He was acting pursuant to Acting Governor Woodson's proclamation of August 25 that declared free-state men were:
"...engaged in murdering law-abiding citizens of the territory, driving others from their homes, and compelling them to flee to the states for protection, capturing and holding others as prisoners of war, plundering them of their property, and in some instances burning down their houses and robbing United States post offices..."
General Heiskell was poised and eager to attack Lawrence. He wrote promptly to the new Governor:
"TO HIS EXCELLENCY, J. W. GEARY, Governor of Kansas Territory.
Sir: In obedience to the call of Acting-Governor Woodson, I have organized a militia force of about eight hundred men, who are now in the field, ready for duty, and impatient to act. Hearing of your arrival, I beg leave to report them to you for orders. Any communication forwarded to us, will find us encamped at or near this point. I have the honor to be, respectfully your obdt. servant,
WM. A. HEISKILL, Brig. Gen. Commanding First Brigade, Southern Division, Kansas Militia.
But Geary had other plans. The Governor replied immediately commanding General Heiskell to await his personal visit. Geary then ordered the Militia disbanded and by the end of 1856 a semblance of calm prevailed in the territory. [Gihon, Geary, Ch. 21 and 22]
Heiskell served as the first clerk of the Lykins (later Miami) County Tribunal (county commission) by appointment by Governor Shannon in 1855. [KHC3: 286] In 1857, he was elected county register of deeds. [Blackmar. Miami County] He was also elected in 1857 as a delegate to the LeCompton (pro-slavery) Constitutional Convention, along with David Lykins and two others. The free-state voters boycotted the delegate election so only 58 votes were cast of the 413 eligible in Lykins County. [Cutler, History, Miami County] Although Heiskell held no public office after the free-state triumph, he continued to live in Paola until his death in 1870 when he was buried in the Oak Grove Addition to the Paola Cemetery. He was 63 years old.