W.P. Richardson

W.P. Richardson

William P. Richardson was born in Kentucky in 1802 and lived for many years in St. Joseph, Missouri. One of the oldest men and most influential in the legislature at age 53, he was closely associated with Atchison.

Richardson was subagent for the Great Nemaha Indian Agency between 1842 to 1854. He directed the construction of the first permanent log structures one-half mile south of the Iowa/Sac & Fox Mission for the agency. The government supplied blacksmiths, millers, gunsmiths and farmers for each tribe. It became a full agency in 1852. [Barry, Annals 1015] In 1853, Richardson paid Henry Thompson for "ferriage of agent, etc." across the Missouri." Some accounts say that Henry Thompson had illegally established a trading post and ferry on the "Kansas" side of the river, opposite St. Joseph, in the fall of 1852. Daniel Vanderslice (Richardson's successor) in a December 6, 1853 letter mentioned the house "in the bottom opposite St. Joseph which is occupied by Henry Thompson..." Vanderslice said he had told Thompson to move, as the trading license issued him by Richardson had been withheld or suspended; and that Vanderslice was not going to grant him one. In 1855 the legislature, upon a motion from W.P. Richardson of the Council, granted Thompson a 15-year ferry charter at the same location. [Barry, Annals,1142]

The Reverend John McNamara, an Episcopal missionary in Western Missouri, disliked his parishioner W. P. Richardson intensely:

"W. P. R. has been for many years a resident of St. Joseph, Mo. He is a large property holder. He is a frontiers-man in every sense of the term. He was Indian Agent for several tribes during the administration of Taylor and Fillmore. He is the father-in law of a late Member of Congress from the Platte district. Among all my acquaintances on the border, I do not know of one who would carry the law of brutality so far in forcing slavery upon the people of Kansas, as W. P. R. He is a large, fierce-looking man, long accustomed to kick and cuff poor negroes and Indians, and abominates an anti-slavery white man more than he does either negro or Indian." [McNamara, In Peril, 152]

Richardson's reputation for hitting Indians was apparently well deserved. In 1845, he resigned his agency to the Iowas in protest of charges of brutality that had been made against him by the Iowa chiefs, only to be re-appointed by the commissioner in St. Louis in 1849. Richardson used flogging as a punishment of uncooperative Indians and advocated its use in a letter to his subordinate, John Forman. [Blaine, Ioway Indians,216,245]

Richardson had a land claim in Kansas Territory and was active in the squatters' organization of Doniphan County, serving as chair of the first meeting in September 1854. [Caldwell, Whitehead District, 16ff] On election day May 1855, he was at the polls when he threatened the Free- State candidate Doctor Cutter with throwing the doctor and his medical office in the Missouri River if Cutter objected to the result.[Sara Robinson, Interior and Exterior, Ch. 2] When asked by the Congressional Investigating Committee about the secret nature of the Missouri political organization, Richardson refused to answer. [Howard Committee, 901] When the Law and Order Party was organized by pro-slavery politicians, Richardson was chosen as an officer. [Connelley, Standard History, Ch.27]

At the sack of Lawrence in May 1856, Richardson, then overall commander of the Kansas Militia, was supposed to be in charge, but there were many generals:

"General William P. Richardson, of the territorial militia, was ostensibly in command. At the head of the regiments and companies rode all the notorious Border Ruffians. With one of the first battalions came George W. Clarke, Indian agent and alleged murderer of Barber. With other units rode dignified A.G. Boone, the Westport merchant. Ex-Senator Atchison led the Platte County Rifles. Dr. J.H. Stringfellow, the editor, rode with the Kickapoo Rangers, apparently unashamed of Brown's murder. Then came Henry Clay Pate, editor of the (Westport) Border Star, with colors presented his company by the females of Westport." [Monaghan, Civil War, 57]

Richardson died while a member of the second session of the Bogus Legislature and his death was memorialized by the Council, meeting at Lecompton on February 14, 1857. [KHC 7:338]

Charles Clark