Allen Wilkinson

Allen Wilkinson was born in Tennessee in 1820 and moved with his wife and family to a claim on Pottawatomie Creek in Franklin County, eight miles west of Ossawatomie, in November 1854. He soon became the first postmaster for the area. Samuel Adair, a free-state settler with family connections to John Brown, thought Wilkinson a trouble maker: "...Wilkinson, originally from Tennessee, started his career in the territory as a Free-Soiler, but ended up being elected to the bogus legislature on a proslavery ticket. As postmaster, he caused the free-staters great annoyance by intercepting their newspapers -- the National Era, the New York Tribune, and the like: He hailed the Alabamians on their arrival,... and was supposed to be privy to their plots and threats." [SenGupta, God & Mammon, 112]

Although not a lawyer, Wilkinson was appointed as lay prosecutor in the first session of Federal Judge Cato's court held in Dutch Henry's tavern in Franklin County in 1856. John Brown, Jr. went to the first day of the court session with a question for the judge in the form of a note -- would the Bogus Laws passed by the illegal legislature be enforced? Judge Cato was evidently "much agitated." He glanced over the note, then flung it to the deputy marshal across the table. "The court cannot permit itself to be disturbed by outside issues," the judge snapped. John Jr. promptly led his escort outside, where he announced in a loud voice (for the benefit of those inside): "The Pottawatomie Rifle Company will meet on the parade ground." Allen Wilkinson is said to have afterward threatened to "shoot and exterminate" Brown's Pottawatomie Rifle Company. [Oates, To Purge This Land, 117ff]

John Brown (1800-1859)

"Old Brown" was 56 years old during the Pottawatomie Creek Massacre. He never acknowledged taking part. Brown was hanged in December 1859 after the Harpers Ferry Raid.

On May 25, 1856 Wilkinson was murdered, one of five men killed by John Brown's followers in the famous "Pottawatomie Creek Massacre." Wilkinson's wife told her story to the Howard Committee:

"On the 25th of May last, somewhere between the hours of midnight and daybreak, cannot say exactly at what hour, after all had retired to bed, we were disturbed by barking of the dog. ...(When asked who was there?) Some one replied, I want you to tell me the way to Dutch Henry's. (Wilkinson) commenced to tell them, and they said to him, "Come out and show us." He wanted to go, but I would not let him; he then told them it was difficult to find his clothes, and could tell them as well without going out of doors. The men out of doors, after that, stepped back, and I thought I could hear them whispering; but they immediately returned, and, as they approached, one of them asked of my husband, "Are you a northern armist?" He said, "I am." I understood the answer to mean that my husband was opposed to the northern or freesoil party...When my husband said "I am," one of them said, " You are our prisoner. Do you surrender?" He said, "Gentlemen, I do." They said, open the door. Mr. Wilkinson told them to wait till he made a light; and they replied, if you don't open it, we will open it for you. He opened the door against my wishes, and four men came in, and my husband was told to put on his clothes, and they asked him if there were not more men about; they searched for arms, and took a gun and powder flask, all the weapon that was about the house. I begged them to let Mr. Wilkinson stay with me, saying that I was sick (with measles) and helpless, and could not stay by myself. My husband also asked them to let him stay with me until he could get some one to wait on me; told them that he would not run off, but would be there the next day, or whenever called for. The old man, who seemed to be in command, looked at me and then around at the children, and replied, "you have neighbors." I said, "'so I have, but they are not here, and I cannot go for them" The old man replied, "it matters not," ...Next morning Mr. Wilkinson was found about one hundred and fifty yards from the house, in some dead brush. A lady who saw my husband's body, said that there was a gash in his head and in his side; others said that he was cut in the throat twice...The old man, who seemed to be commander, wore soiled clothes and a straw hat, pulled down over his face. He spoke quick, is a tall, narrow-faced, elderly man. I would recognize him if I could see him."[Howard Report, 1197ff]

Charles Clark