Smuggling Arms into “Bleeding Kansas”
Some folks here will be familiar with Arabia, a Missouri riverboat that was snagged and sunk near present-day Parkville, Missouri in September 1856. In the late 1980s, treasure hunters located the wreck under a farmer’s field and hauled out most of the boat’s cargo. Although they didn’t find the treasure they sought, it did lead to the creation of a museum in Kansas City that has a genuinely remarkable collection of materials, all originally headed upriver for the frontier. If you’re traveling through KC, set aside a couple of hours for a visit.
While looking for an article about the sinking, I came across this story, from the Macon Weekly Telegraph of 1 April 1856, that reveals another aspect of Arabia‘s history that I’d never heard of. The Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society (or Company) was a group that encouraged slavery opponents to move into Kansas and Nebraska to help support those territories’ admission to the Union as free states. In 1856, Sharp’s rifles were modern, high-caliber weapons that would be particularly dangerous in the hands of guerrillas, and it was John Brown’s weapon of choice during his 1856 campaign in Kansas.
I wonder whatever happened to those arms, and who exactly “Start” was.