George W. Bayless

George W. Bayless (1817-1873)

Learned physician and a founder of the Platte County Self-Defensive Association
[Louisville Past and Present]

George Wood Bayless was born in Mason County, Kentucky and at twenty years of age moved to Louisville to attend the first classes at the Medical Institute, then in the upper rooms of the city workhouse. He excelled in his studies and spent one winter in Philadelphia attending medical lectures. Returning to Louisville in the spring with a medical degree, he began practicing medicine. He was soon elected as demonstrator in anatomy at the Institute. His classes attracted as many as four hundred students and he rose through the faculty quickly. In 1849, he accepted a position at the Medical College of Ohio under his friend, Dr. Daniel Drake. His health failing, he moved to Platte County to farm. [Joblin, Louisville, 91]

Bayless bought 540 acres operating farm and a home called "Hazelwood" on the road between Weston and Platte City in 1850 for less than $11.00 per acre. He appears to have kept the former owner's 15 slaves when he purchased the property and to have added some more. The farm was in the heart of the hemp growing area of Platte county and depended on slave labor for cultivation of the crop. [Historic Weston, Missouri]


The farm between Weston and Platte City George Bayless bought in 1850 []

Bayless was one of the founders of the Platte County Self-Defensive Association in July, 1854, a group dedicated to the expulsion of free Negroes from the county, forbidding traffic between whites and slaves, slaves hiring their own time, and the punishment of all Abolitionists. At the first meeting, he offered what became known as the "Bayless Resolutions:"

"Resolved, That this association will, whenever called upon by any of the citizens of Kansas Territory, hold itself in readiness together to assist and remove any and all emigrants who go there under the auspices of the Northern Emigrant Aid Societies.

"Resolved, That we recommend to the citizens of other counties, particularly those bordering on Kansas Territory, to adopt regulations similar to those of this association, and to indicate their readiness to co-operate in the objects of this first resolution"

In offering his resolutions, Bayless told the group, "I cannot fight much; but I pledge you I will go with you, and you shall have all my skill as a surgeon for your wounded and dying." [Cutler, History, Part 6]

Episcopal Missionary John McNamara said Doctor Bayless was a cultured man:

"He was a member of my vestry when I had a charge at Weston. I considered his house my pleasantest place of resort; the green spot in the desert. He is a gentleman of refinement, rarely to be excelled, of superior education, and of exquisite taste. He has at his place a splendid conservatory of rare plants; and this feature is not a purpureus pannus, but in perfect keeping and consistency with all around him."

Although he admired the Doctor's personal refinement, McNamara chastised Bayless as the chief accuser of the Reverend Frederick Starr, minister of the New School Presbyterian Church, in Weston, before a meeting of the Self- Defensive Association. The "Yankee" Starr, charged Bayless, was teaching Negroes to read, proposing to buy one slave's freedom and riding in an open buggy with another. Although the charges were dismissed that day, the Association visited Starr a few months later and ordered him to leave the county. He quickly did so, moving to Rochester, New York. [McNamara, Three Years, Ch. 9 and 10]

Bayless himself left Weston before the Civil War, returning to Louisville to teach, first at the Kentucky School of Medicine and later at University of Louisville. He had three chairs at Louisville, physiology, anatomy and surgery. He was said to be a conservative surgeon. Bayless was paralyzed by a stroke in 1870 and retired to the mountains for fresh air. He died after a second stroke in 1873. [Joblin, Louisville, 92]

Charles Clark