Full of Fight

I sometimes perform a site search of my own blog to see if I’m repeating myself.  Astonishingly enough, I found no mention of J. M. Hagaman before this past May when his name came up as a contributor to Cutler’s “History of Kansas.”  This lapse genuinely astonished me, because ever since I started researching the life and times of Thomas Lovewell, James Manney Hagaman seemed to dog me at every step.

As I have mentioned previously (in fact, quite often), upon their return to Kansas in 1866, the Lovewells and Davises camped in the neighborhood where Indians began their pursuit of the Castle and Collins wagons along Buffalo Creek, before finally overtaking both parties and slaughtering all six buffalo hunters from Clifton and Lake Sibley.  Hagaman had taken part in one of frontiersman Lewis Castle’s previous escapades.  They reconnoitered for a group of indignant settlers who accosted a party of Indian horse thieves at gunpoint, relieving them of horses stolen at Elm Creek, plus a few more steeds of unknown origin along with several assorted trinkets.  It was one of the incidents that may have fueled a blood-feud between Castle and local tribes, culminating in the Castle/Collins massacre.

The following year Hagaman joined the search for Mary Ward, the White Rock settler taken prisoner during the Jewell County Massacre.  Whether they were part of the same team of trackers or not, both James Hagaman and Thomas Lovewell came to the same conclusion, that the trail left by Mary Ward and her abductors went cold where Limestone Creek empties into the Solomon River.  The search ended and the fate of Mary Ward was lost to history.

As editor of the Concordia Blade, Hagaman contributed to the history of the region, often from his own vantage point, as when he described his first encounter with a cloud of grasshoppers that descended out of the Kansas skies while he was en route from Topeka to Clyde in 1865.  Although he specialized in Cloud County history, he made occasional exceptions for incidents occurring in Jewell County, such as the 1867 massacre, possibly because he had raced to the scene only a day or two after the bodies were discovered and had tried to pick up the trail of the Indians who had carted off Mary Ward.  He also covered the ordeal of Elizabeth Marling in July 1866, a harrowing story that gained national attention.

As noted in yesterday’s blog, he prosecuted the peddlers alleged to have shot Ark Bump and Vinson Davis, and was rumored to have had a hand in lynching them.  One item from the “Jimtown Chemise’s” laundry list of transgressions that I didn’t touch on last time, “Bought off his father’s murderer,” involved an incident that occurred one year after the shooting of Bump and Davis and the lynching of Kennup and Zacharias.  The story received scant mention in Kansas papers of the day:

We are informed by a gentleman from Clay county, that Mr. Hagaman, a very old gentleman, and father of J. M. and N. D. Hagaman, of Cloud county, was killed one day last week by a neighbor with whom the family had a quarrel.  Hagaman was hit on the head with a club, from the effects of which he died.  The prisoner was taken to Manhattan last Saturday.

E. F. Hollibaugh’s 1903 “Biographical History of Cloud County, Kansas” contains the only detailed report of the story I’ve ever seen.  If anything, it shows that James Manney Hagaman came by his truculence naturally.

On July 11, 1868, J. N. Hagaman was murdered by William Harman (sic).  After some litigation over a calf they had agreed to settle the matter of ownership by turning the cow into the herd on the principal (sic) that the calf would find its mother.  J. N. Hagaman, who was herding the cattle on the Thorp place, had received orders to not let any of them go as the deputy sheriff, Bowen, had come to take them, and had deputized Harmon to go with him to attach the cattle in accordance with the decision of the court.  An eye witness related to the author that after skirmishing a few moments while on their ponies, he saw Harmon ride up to a fence and pick up a club that almost seemed made for the occasion.  His assailant struck Mr. Hagaman over the head with this weapon, killing him almost instantly.  After a number of trials and the lapse of a number of years the case was dropped.

Harmon with his wife lived at Manhattan and while he was supposed to be incarcerated had his freedom.  The result of his crime going unpunished was a laxness of the law in those days, when people seemed a law of themselves.

In his own history of the county written in 1884, James Hagaman avoided details surrounding the homicide which showed his father appearing to obstruct law officers in the performance of their duties, narrowing his focus to what happened afterward.

On the 11th of July, Joseph Nicholas Hagaman, father of N. D., W. H. and J. M. Hagaman, was brutally murdered by William Harmon.  Harmon was arrested and examined before Justice of the Peace Sears and committed to the Riley county jail to await his trial for murder in the first degree, but owing to the laxity of the criminal law and the venality of the sheriff of that county he escaped from the jail and was never again apprehended.

 James Hagaman is known as the founder of Concordia, platting the town in a fit of pique, fuming that he would never allow Clyde to become the county seat, even if he had to invent the town that would.  He was, in short, a man who was spoiling for a fight.  

Along with many other hopeful gold-seekers he headed to Cape Nome in 1900 only to be forced to head home at the point of a bayonet.  The U.S. Army rounded up codgers such as Hagaman, who seemed unlikely to survive the coming winter, and put them on ships headed for Seattle.  Fuming that he had been forced to leave his gear behind and was nicked by a bayonet, upon setting ashore at Seattle he headed to a lawyer’s office bent on suing someone, walked into an empty elevator shaft and broke his leg in the fall.

James Manney Hagaman died in 1904, a passing that barely created a ripple in his hometown.  According to his Wikipedia entry, Mrs. Hagaman had him buried in an unmarked grave.


© Dale Switzer 2023  dale@lovewellhistory.com