Born:1837, Mississippi Died:September 30, 1859
Place:Cane Hill Cemetery Burial:Cane Hill, Washington County, Arkansas
In an unmarked grave in Cane Hill cemetery, the fire, fury and turmoil from the days of “Bleeding Kansas” lie with Rufus Doak. He and his brother, William rode into the teeth of the blood and fighting in 1850’s Kansas and were the brothers-in-law of Kansas pro slavery border ruffian, General George W. Clarke. Together, they ravaged eastern Kansas through raids and attacks that left a swath of damage and devastation. Among the more known events that Rufus participated in was the Fall 1856 raids into Linn and Bourbon counties in Kansas. Clarke led over four hundred men into depredations of various forms. Robbing, plunder, burning businesses and homes to the ground and running people off of their land. But perhaps the most famous is the 1856 sacking of Lawrence, Kansas. Here, over eight hundred pro slavery ruffians descended on Lawrence with motivation to see it wiped off the earth. Clarke and the Doaks participated in this raid with well known Kansas / border war personalities such as Senator David Rice Atchison, Henry Titus, Sheriff Samuel Jones, Henry Clay Pate and a future Confederate general named JO Shelby. When all was said and done, Lawrence was a town of utter ruin and waste. Here is a small description of that raid:
“The newspaper offices were the first objects of attack. First that of the Free State, then that of the Herald of Freedom, underwent a thorough demolition. The presses were in each case broken to pieces, and the offending type carried away to the river. The papers and books were treated in like manner, until the soldiers became weary of carrying them to the Kaw, when they thrust them in piles into the street, and burnt, tore, or otherwise destroyed them. From the printing offices they went to the hotel. . . .
As orders were given to remove the furniture, the wild mob threw the articles out of the windows, but shortly found more congenial employment in emptying the cellars. By this time four cannon had been brought opposite the hotel, and, under Atchison's command, they commenced to batter down the building. In this, however, they failed. The General's 'Now, boys, let her rip' was answered by some of the shot missing the mark, although the breadth of Massachusetts-street alone intervened, and the remainder of some scores of rounds leaving the walls of the hotel unharmed. They then placed kegs of gunpowder in the lower parts of the building, and attempted to blow it up. The only result was the shattering of some of the windows and other limited damage. At length, to complete the work which their own clumsiness or inebriety had rendered difficult hitherto, orders were given to fire the building, in a number of places, and, as a consequence, it was soon encircled in a mass of flames. Before evening, all that remained of the Eldridge House was a portion of one wall standing erect, and for the rest a shapeless heap of ruins.”
In retaliation for this particular raid, abolitionist John Brown along with four of his sons and two other men carried out the Pottawatomie massacre in Franklin County, Kansas.
Living in the Lecompton area of volatile Douglas County, Kansas, Rufus witnessed first hand the tension and corruption of Kansas voting. Namely the March 30, 1855 voting for territorial legislature. The Missourians came into Kansas by the thousands to vote and intimidate the outcome for the pro slavery side. Events like this is what led to the historical term, “Bogus Legislature.”
Rufus made his way to the voting polls in his territory that day and walked right into a ruckus. This is from a deposition he gave regarding the March 30th voting turmoil and those he encountered during the turbulent times:
“The undersigned, Rufus P. Doak, states, on oath, that I emigrated from Arkansas to the territory of Kansas in September, 1854, and settled near Lecompton, in the second district, and still reside there. I was present at the election of the 30th of March, 1855, held at Mr. Burson’s house, in the second district. As I went up to the house I saw two persons taking the poll books away; Judge Wakefield was with them. After a while the voting commenced again and I voted. The voting went on without difficulty. I saw Mr. Burson and Mr. Ramsey go away just as I got to the election, and they did not come back anymore. There was no voting going on when I got there. There was no violence done or threatened towards any one, as I saw, there that day. I was not much acquainted with the people of my district; but I saw a good many persons at the election that day that I know now to be residents of the second district. Sometime early in December, 1854, as I was going home to my claim, near Lecompton, from Westport (Mo.), where I had been on business, I met a large number of persons travelling a foot, carrying carpet sacks. I talked to some of them. They told me that they had come out to the Territory of Kansas to vote; had voted, and were then returning home to the east. They said that they had been sent out and had done what they came for. I often came down to Westport then as it was our nearest market; and shortly after the election of the 30th of March, I was going home, travelling on the Lawrence road, I met a number of men who said they were in favor of a free State. These men which I met in December before said that they were from the east, and those whom I met shortly after the March election, also told me that they were from the east. These last named said that they were brought out by the Emigrant Aid society, for the purpose of making Kansas a free State. They said that they had voted, and that was all they promised to do, and were going home and would not come back any more; but that the Emigrant Aid society had not fulfilled their promises, and they cursed the Aid society. Captain Leonard, of Boston, who resides in Douglas County, between Lawrence and Lecompton, told me, last winter, that he had been sent out to the Territory by the aid society, and others had been sent with him, and that Sharp’s rifles had been placed in their hands to aid them in making Kansas a free State; that they intended to make it a free State, and would fight, if it was necessary to do so. And he said he believed it would be necessary, and that he had a large company of men that were ready at any minute. They were in the habit of drilling, and I have seen them go out to drill frequently. A Mr. Conner told me that Captain Walker, who resides about halfway between Lawrence and Lecompton, had a large company, armed with Sharp’s rifles, Colt’s revolvers, and sabres; that it was intended by them to make Kansas a free State or die in the attempt. I understood from Conner that this company, at first, was a secret organized company. Lieutenant Herd, who belonged to Captain Walker’s company, told me that he was lieutenant, and that they drilled regularly, and after drill would deposit their arms at Walker’s. I think all the troubles and difficulties in Kansas have been produced by the operation of the Emigrant Aid societies. I have frequently, during the fall and winter last past, seen numbers of free Sate men have Sharp’s rifles. It was common for them to carry Sharp’s rifles along with them. Last winter I heard Captain Leonard threaten the pro-slavery people. He said he would drive the pro-slavery party from the Territory, men, women, and children and all. From my knowledge of the resident voters in the second district, I am satisfied that the pro-slavery party had a decided majority."
RUFUS P. DOAK
In short, Rufus lied through his teeth about March 30th as there was a great deal of violent threats being made with bowie knives and guns being brandished. It’s a safe bet that he wasn’t about to give up the behavior of those he was friends with and with whom he shared the same opinions.
Rufus’ life was cut short as he died on September 30, 1859 in Cane Hill, Arkansas of an undisclosed reason at the age of twenty three. “The Arkansian” newspaper mentioned his time in Kansas in a brief obituary…“Mr. Doak was with Gen. Clarke of this city in all his Kansas campaigns; at the time of his death he was Deputy Marshal of the Western District of Arkansas.”