Thomas W. Barber,
Free State Martyr

Barber, Thomas W., one of the Free State martyrs in Kansas, was a native of Pennsylvania and a son of Thomas and Mary (Oliver) Barber.


In the early 1830s he located at Richmond, Ind., where he was engaged for some time in operating a woolen mill. Soon after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, he removed to Kansas and settled on a claim some seven miles southwest of Lawrence. Being a sober, honest and industrious citizen, he made friends among his neighbors. Early in Dec., 1855, when the pro-slavery forces were threatening Lawrence, Mr. Barber decided to go to the assistance of the town. He had no family except a wife, who seems to have had a premonition of impending danger and begged him to remain at home, but he laughed at her fears and set out on horseback for Lawrence.

On the morning of Dec. 6, in company with his brother Robert and Thomas M. Pierson, he started for his home, unarmed, promising to return as soon as he had arranged matters at home so as to permit his absence. When about 4 miles from Lawrence, on the California road, they saw a party of 14 horsemen approaching, two of whom rode on in advance of the others for the purpose of holding a parley with Barber and his companions. These two men were George W. Clark, agent of the Pottawatomie Indians, and a merchant of Weston, Mo., by the name of Burns. They tried to induce the Barbers and Pierson to join them, and meeting with a positive refusal, one of them drew his revolver and fired twice, mortally wounding Thomas W. Barber.

He concealed the fact that he was shot until they had ridden about a hundred yards, when he informed his brother, who at first thought such a thing impossible, but a few minutes later the wounded man was seen to reel in his saddle. His associates eased him to the ground, where a little later he breathed his last. The poet, Whittier, wrote a poem on "The Burial of Barber," beginning:

"You in suffering, they in crime
Wait the just reward of time,
Wait the vengeance that is due;
Not in vain a heart shall break,
Not a tear for freedom's sake
Falls unheeded; God is true."

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