J.H. Stringfellow, Speaker of the House

John H. Stringfellow was born in Culpepper County, Virginia in November 1819. He was educated at Caroline Academy in Virginia, at Columbian University in the District of Columbia and graduated from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1845. After medical school he moved to Carrollton, Missouri and married Ophelia Simmons, niece of Missouri Governor Edwards. Stringfellow's brother, Benjamin, was Attorney General of Missouri at the time. During the cholera epidemic of 1849, when boats coming up the Missouri River unloaded cholera patients, Doctor Stringfellow converted a warehouse into a hospital and devoted three months to caring for the victims. In 1852 both Stringfellow brothers moved to Platte County where John set up his medical practice in Platte City. [Blackmar, Kansas, 770]

John Stringfellow

John Stringfellow was among the first of the many Platte County citizens to move to Kansas in 1854. A small group from Platte City formed the Atchison town company, named to honor the senator. They had not agreed on a location when they set out in July 1854. Near Independence Creek, they found two men named Million and Dickson had staked claims. Dickson had built a small cabin on his claim but Million lived in Missouri though on the day the prospectors arrived he was on the Kansas side. Frank Blackmar told the story:

"As all the men in the party, except Dr. Stringfellow, had already taken claims in the valley of Walnut creek, he was the only member of the party who could select a claim. He therefore took a tract north of Million's. The proposition of forming a town company for the future city was laid before the first settlers. Dickson was willing, but Million did not care to cut up his claim. He offered to sell his claim for $1,000--an exorbitant price for the land--but the men from Platte City had determined to found a city on that particular spot, and the purchase was made. A town company was formed and a week later a meeting was held under a tree on the bank of the river, about a half block south of where Atchison street now runs. There were eighteen persons present when the town company was formally organized by electing Peter T. Abell, president; James Burns, treasurer; Dr. J. H. Stringfellow, secretary." [Blackmar, Kansas, 771]

In February 1855, Stringfellow and Robert S. Kelly issued the first edition of the Atchison Squatter Sovereign, which became the strongest proponent of the pro-slavery position in Kansas. The Squatter Sovereign advocated driving eastern settlers from the territory; for they were not real settlers, they were mere hirelings of the Emigrant Aid Society and were inherently lazy. As Southern whites understood laziness, the concept meant refusing to do the rough work needed to maintain personal independence. Upon discovering that their benefactors were willing to abandon their New England emigrants,

"As many as are able return. Those who are unable to do so, are obliged to labor--such as are unaccustomed to. They are not used to it, nor have they the physique, to handle the marl and wield the axe with the brawny sons of the west."

In June 1855 the paper published a letter urging that the territorial legislature to make advocating abolition a felony. If passed, the author suggested,

"We will soon rid ourselves of the Emigrant Aid men. They don't like work, and if the legislature will only make the penalty...a six or 12 month-service on a chain gang, these lazy meddlesome fellows will soon find their way back to some more congenial clime." [Cecil-Fronsman, [Death to All Yankees , 22ff]

Stringfellow and his brother Ben were in the inner circle of the Atchison faction. John Stringfellow was one of the organizers of the Law and Order Party in October 1855 and on its resolutions committee. In February 1856 he was commissioned captain in the Atchison company of the Third Regiment, Kansas Militia and in April became Colonel of the regiment. He led his group in the Sack of Lawrence in May 1856. It is said Stringfellow wanted only the best cigars from Stearn's store as his part of the looting.

In 1858 Stringfellow returned to Virginia to settle his father's estate and remained there until to outbreak of the Civil War. He had decided the pro-slavery cause in Kansas was lost. In 1858 he wrote a letter to the Washington Union advising Congress not to admit Kansas to the Union under the pro- slavery Lecompton constitution:

"To do so will break down the democratic party in the North and seriously endanger the peace and interests of Missouri and Kansas, if not the whole Union. The slavery question in Kansas is settled against the South by immigration." [Wilder, Annals, January 7, 1858]

Stringfellow entered the Confederate Army as captain of a Virginia infantry company, but was at once detailed as a surgeon and served the length of the war in Confederate hospitals. In 1871, he returned to Atchison and remained there until 1876; then moved to St. Joseph, Missouri where he died in 1905. [Coffin, Settlement of the Friends, 322ff]

Charles Clark