Martin Van Buren Jackson was an early Kansas pioneer who was a witness to the violence of the Border War.

He offered an interesting perspective on the Pottawatomie Massacre in an interview with William E. Connelly in Topeka on March 13, 1908.

Jackson stated to Connelly during the interview that “Weiner, Benjamin and Bondi were called Hungarians, Bondi was probably an Austrian. They had been in revolutionary movements in the old country and were intense Free State men, having come to America to enjoy their freedom. Weiner owned the store on Mosquito Branch, and Benjamin attended it for him. Bondi sometimes worked around the store. Weiner was an enthusiastic swordsman very expert in its use. Weiner had lived in Texas before coming to Kansas.”

Jackson’s statement offers an interesting insight into the actions of John Brown’s Free State guerilla fighters during their raid on pro-slavery advocates along Pottawatomie Creek on May 24th, 1856.

It informs us as to a motivation for John Brown to order his men to use artillery swords to kill the pro-slavery activists who lived along Mosquito and Pottawatomie creeks near modern day Lane; the inclusion of Theodore Weiner, an expert with a sword.

Weiner either delivered the fatal blows or directed Brown’s other men in the proper techniques of swordsmanship in the effort to kill the pro-slavery advocates that John Brown had targeted.

Jackson stated that Weiner had indicated motive to attack the pro-slavery activists because William Sherman had previously repeatedly threatened Weiner and his family’s lives if they didn’t leave the territory, and Weiner was “Tired of living in terror and would stand it no longer.”

Jackson’s statement about the sword blows that killed the five pro-slavery activists indicate that an expert with a sword inflicted them, and according to Jackson, Theodore Weiner was the only expert with a sword in John Brown’s guerilla group.

“Jackson and Glenn went up to ‘The Crossing’ to see the slain and looked at them closely. All but one had their heads split open, and he was shot in the side of the head — no other wounds on him at all. Those killed with swords had their heads split open almost to the neck, apparently done with a single sword stroke, and there were no other wounds on them. Did not see a single cut on the arm or on any other portion of the body of any of the dead.”

Jackson stated that, “It was said openly and publicly that Old John Brown and his men had done the killing and there was no attempt to conceal that fact-that it was always known who had done the killing. He also says that Weiner was an expert swordsman and always practicing the sword exercise.”

The Pottawatomie Massacre is complex, and Martin Van Buren Jackson’s statements add interesting insight into the actions of John Brown’s Free State guerilla fighters.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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