John William Reid (1821-1881) was a prominent Jackson County attorney who led the pro-slavery forces in the Battle of Osawatomie in August, 1856. Reid was born near Lynchburg, Virginia, moved to Missouri in 1840 and started practicing law in Jefferson City in 1844. He served as a captain in the Mexican War under Alexander Doniphan and was cited by the General for gallantry at the Battle of Sacramento. [Documentary History of the Mexican War, Battle Reports] Reid was serving in the Missouri General Assembly at the time of the Kansas troubles.
Hannibal Railroad Bridge
The first bridge across the Missouri River in 1867 was the making of the city of Kansas City.
[Western Historical Manuscript Collection]
In the "most memorable battle of the Border War," Reid led a party of 400 Missourians in an attack on Osawatomie on August 30, 1856. With the Reverend Martin White, a pro-slavery Baptist minister, as a guide, Reid's troops approached the town at daylight. John Brown's son Frederick in an advance party of free-state men was killed and the alarm was sounded in the town. John Brown led about 40 men in a defense from the timber-lined bank of the Marais Des Cynges River. Brown was greatly outnumbered and soon retreated. Reid's men then looted and burned the town. [Cutler, History, Miami County, Part 2] Six free-state and two pro-slavery men died in the battle. [Watts, How Bloody was Bleeding Kansas, 127] Later, Reid was the titular head of the troops camped outside Lawrence when Governor Geary ordered them to disperse in September, 1856. [Gihon, Geary and Kansas, Ch. 24]
Reid bought a tract in the developing Kansas City, Missouri in 1856. He was an organizer of the Chamber of Commerce in the city in 1857 and influential in obtaining the Hannibal Railroad Bridge, the first crossing of the Missouri River and the making of the town in 1866. [Brown, Frontier Community, 209] He was elected as a Democrat to the United States Congress and served for a few months in 1861, withdrawing from the House in August before being formally expelled in December for having taken up arms against the Union. During the Civil War he served in the Confederate Army as volunteer aide to General Sterling Price. After the war he resumed his law practice in Kansas City, also acting as a banker and real estate developer in the booming city.